Windows Server 2003 'R2' beta on standby

Testers will be able to download the public beta of the warm-up for Longhorn after Microsoft works out some administrative kinks.

Though the beta code for the version of Windows Server that will precede Longhorn is complete and will be ready in about two weeks, Microsoft is working through some administrative tasks before it can get the code into the hands of anyone who wants to take it for a test drive.

Windows Server 2003 Release 2, or R2, is currently available for a limited number of beta testers on Microsoft's BetaPlace. It will be publicly available in "a couple of weeks," according to Samm DiStasio, director of product management in the Windows Server division at Microsoft.

The brief delay is because Microsoft is in the process of "securing the number of product activation keys required that need to be in place before the code is publicly released," the company said in an e-mail message. There have been more than 700,000 downloads of the recently released Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, so the company wants to be sure it can handle the large volume of downloads for R2, Microsoft said.

R2 more tangible than Longhorn

During Microsoft's recent WinHEC event in Seattle, Longhorn's technology was discussed in bits and pieces. But the server version of Longhorn won't be ready until 2007 -- too far off for most IT executives to get excited about.

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R2, on the other hand, is more tangible, said Steve Dougherty, a Windows systems manager at Jarden Consumer Solutions, a division of Jarden Corp., in Rye, N.Y. Jarden sells a variety of consumer products, including those sold under the Sunbeam brand.

R2 will include some new intelligent storage management features as well as numerous directory improvements, including Active Directory Application Mode, Active Directory Federation Services and Identity Integration Feature Pack.

There are improvements to branch server management, as well, including centralized backup and management of remote file-and-print services in R2. Dougherty said his company has many remote locations, so he's hoping these features will eventually help ease the daily backup routine.

R2 will also offer some Unix interoperability components, which will be integrated with the operating system. The server software is still on track to ship later this year.

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