Though Microsoft on Tuesday released a "blocker" for IT administrators who want more time before downloading Window Server 2003 Service Pack 1, it's not entirely clear how many large enterprises will actually need the tool.
The download will be available on July 26 through Automatic Updates. The service pack itself has been available since last March, so the blocking tool will be effective until March 30, 2006, Microsoft said.
Many IT professionals who use Windows Server 2003 are hesitant to install a service pack, or anything that Microsoft may be trying to push out aggressively, so many may want to block an automatic installation.
However, most large companies use update servers to approve or block such downloads, and even smaller companies are probably installing the service pack, said Kent Smith, chairman of the Boston Area Windows Server User Group and an independent consultant.
"In the case of [Windows] XP SP2, where Microsoft also issued a blocker, you had millions of home users," he said. "XP SP2 was a significantly more invasive service pack than Window Server 2003 SP1.
"Maybe people are used to getting things from Microsoft so they've been badgering for this, but Windows Server 2003 is a completely different world from XP SP2."
Some application incompatibilities found early
Windows Server 2003 SP1 includes fixes and changes in the core operating system to bolster security. It has a security-configuration wizard that helps administrators cut the attack surface of their servers by tuning each one to its proper configuration.
There were a few reports of incompatibilities with other applications reported since March, but nothing widespread. Ironically, one of the problems found involved a bug in the Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) server software. Microsoft quickly developed a workaround for MOM administrators.
Using the blocking tool, IT administrators can determine when and how to download Windows Server 2003 SP1 without having to disable Automatic Updates.
According to Microsoft, there is no additional testing necessary to validate the delivery-disabling mechanism. The tool relies on a new registry key that is used only for the purpose of disabling and re-enabling the delivery of the service pack.
The tool only blocks delivery of the service pack through Automatic Updates. SP1 can still be deployed using Systems Management Server (SMS), Software Update Services (SUS) and the successor to SUS, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), the company said.