Microsoft Releases .Net Server 2003 RC2

With release candidate 2, Microsoft completes final packaging for its four editions of .Net Server 2003.

Microsoft Corp. on Thursday announced that it has delivered the second release candidate for Windows .Net Server 2003.

Customers can register to obtain a trial version of RC2 through the Customer Preview Program at www.microsoft.com/windows.netserver/default.mspx.

Microsoft on Thursday also made available the second beta for its new Group Policy Management Console (GPMC), which is also available through the Customer Preview Program.

GPMC eases the management of Group Policy operations and will be available to Windows .Net Server 2003 customers as a free download.

"With RC2, Microsoft has completed final packaging for each of its four editions of Windows .Net Server 2003," said Bob OBrien, group product manager for Windows .Net Server. "This includes activated support for 64-way large multiprocessing systems with support for 512GB of memory for the high-end Datacenter Edition, enabling greater performance capacity and making it suitable for the most demanding applications and systems."

Information on each of the .Net Server 2003 editions can be found at www.microsoft.com/windows.netserver/evaluation/features/featuresorter.aspx.

The final product is scheduled for next April, and will also bring certain licensing changes. Among these is a move away from the per-server and per-seat Client Access License (CAL) option currently in place to a model that allows per-user and per-server usage.

The benefit of the per-user option, according to OBrien, is that it will allow a user to access their applications through the server using any of their devices. Up until now, users had to pay a separate CAL fee for every device.

"Microsoft wants to provide better predictability, consistency and continuity in its licensing and licensing terms. Our customers wanted the option of a single CAL tied to an individual, which would also be less confusing and make it easier for them to administer. So we gave them that," he said.

Microsoft is also replacing its Internet Connector for both Windows .Net Server 2003 and Windows .Net Server 2003 Terminal Server with the External Connector, allowing corporations to extend access in both an extranet scenario as well as via the Internet to their business partners and customers already supported by the current Internet Connector.

Windows .Net Server 2003 will also introduce new Terminal Server functionality—essentially ways of accessing Windows desktop and server applications through terminal emulation—but access to it from all Windows client devices will now require a Terminal Server CAL, OBrien said.

This is a shift from the previous situation where users with NT 4 workstation and server were automatically granted user access rights to Terminal Services in NT 4 server, at no cost. If the server and client were then upgraded to Windows 2000, they could continue to access Terminal Services on the Windows 2000 server at no charge.

"To assure an effective transition, customers who have already purchased Windows XP Professional, currently have their Windows desktop under Enterprise Agreement or Software Assurance, or complete their purchase of Windows XP Professional before the servers availability, will be granted a Windows .NET Server 2003 TS CAL," OBrien said.

However, he declined to comment on the financial effect of these licensing changes until official pricing is announced for the .Net Server.

Some customers and consultants are not impressed by the move. An IT consultant told eWEEK that he felt Microsoft was "making hay while the sun shines. Microsoft is only getting businesses to agree to the new licensing scheme because of the horrific cost of converting all their Windows boxes at once.

"But there is a growing push away from Microsoft towards Linux., which will only increase as they continue to try and force these licensing changes on customers," he said.

Editors Note: This story has been updated since its original posting to include details of the release of Windows .Net Server 2003 RC2.