Release is a signal that Windows 2003 SP1 is near

Microsoft's new release candidate for Windows Server 2003 SP1 is a tune-up for the operating system's first service pack, which is on track for the first half of 2005.

The first service pack for Windows Server 2003 is moving closer to completion.

Microsoft today posted a release candidate for Windows Server 2003 SP1, which focuses primarily on adding new security enhancements such as the Windows Firewall, a component of the XP Service Pack 2 released earlier this year.

You know what a big deal SP2 was for XP? Well, this is the same for the server.

Brett Hill, consultant, IIS Training

"This service pack is a must do," said Brett Hill, a Windows expert and president of IIS Training, a Boulder, Colo., consulting firm. "You know what a big deal SP2 was for XP? Well, this is the same for the server."

Windows Server 2003 SP1 also includes other boosted security enhancements such as an Internet connection firewall, which replaces IPsec for port filtering. There is also an ambitious security configuration wizard that can be used to lock down servers based on existing server roles.

The software also offers support for 64-bit server hardware, among other things.

Windows Server 2003 SP1 is due in the first half of 2005.

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