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2005 is winding down. Where's R2?

The year 2005 is coming to a close, but Microsoft still has one big shoe left to drop. Windows Server 2003 R2 is still promised before the end of the year.

Like everyone else, IT administrators are starting to think about holiday time off and upcoming projects for 2006. But before checking out for the parties, IT pros are expecting one more big release from Microsoft that is right up their alley -- Windows Server 2003 R2.

Windows Server R2, which is an interim release before Longhorn Server operating system ships in 2007, is expected to be treated like all new operating system releases in that IT administrators will not rush the software into production.

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Nonetheless, operating system releases from Microsoft are still a big deal. A second release candidate came out in October, and Microsoft is expected to release R2 to manufacturing at any time.

Aside from combining the gold version of Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1, customers will be getting Active Directory Application Mode (ADAM), Automated Deployment Services, software to enable Active Directory using SOAP over HTTP, Identity Integration Feature Pack, Rights Management Services, and storage management features, among others.

As is often the case, IT managers are less interested in all of the features than in what they consider to be more important -- keeping up to date with security features.

It's likely we will roll it out next year. It's a low-impact way to stay on the latest version [of Windows Server].
--Paul Edwards, PHH Arval, a fleet management subsidiary of PHH Corp.,

"The OS has as many features as we need," said George Defenbaugh, manager of global IT infrastructure projects at Amerada Hess Corp., the New York-based energy company. "But we struggle with keeping the machines patched."

Still, Defenbaugh said he is considering the merits of using ADAM for certain applications. "We have two or three groups that want to interface different Active Directory attributes with their applications."

As for the identity management features? Hess has a plan for an ID management project, but it won't start until 2007, he said. Hess will be receiving R2 as part of its licensing agreement and through its Software Assurance contract. The company will begin testing it next year and roll it out after it is carefully tested.

Some IT administrators are characteristically blasÉ, particularly those who don't have Software Assurance and won't receive R2 as a freebie. "R2? We'll investigate it, but it's too early," said Vito Palmeri, a project director at the municipality of York, Ontario. "A lot of our servers are underutilized, and we don't see a need."

At PHH Arval, a fleet management subsidiary of PHH Corp., in Mt. Laurel, N.J., the IT staff didn't do a comprehensive upgrade to Windows Server 2003, so switching up to R2 will be fairly easy. "It's likely we will roll it out next year," said Paul Edwards, a Windows administrator. "It's a low-impact way to stay on the latest version [of Windows Server]."

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