The code for RC0 (release candidate 0) can be downloaded from Microsoft Corp.s Web site.
This is the first release candidate since the product was in beta, and will be followed by RC1, a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK.
The final Windows Server R2 code is scheduled for release by the end of 2005, and Microsoft officials say it brings improved branch office server solutions, identity and access management and storage management, and better enables application development inside and outside an organizations traditional boundaries.
Microsoft Watch reported earlier this month that Microsoft announced the availability of the "first escrow build of RC0" on Aug. 15.
"Microsoft is warning testers that the RC0 escrow, like all escrow builds, will have only a limited lifespan. Microsoft is planning to accept feedback on the near-final cut for approximately two weeks. If the Softies like what they hear, release to manufacturing (RTM) for R2 could be just around the corner," it reported.
The Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK the company is seeing strong customer interest in R2, with the R2 Café newsgroup ranking as the companys No. 1 beta newsgroup this year and in the top 5 percent of all its public, private or beta newsgroups and forums.
An interview with Iain McDonald, director of Windows program management, about R2 and other topics can be viewed on Microsofts Channel 9.
The Windows Server development team is not sitting still.
While the team is working on the next version of Windows Server, code-named Longhorn and due to ship in 2007, the company already has a team working on Longhorn Release 2 and is looking at the potential feature set for Blackcomb, the version that follows Longhorn.
Bill Hilf, Microsofts director of platform technology, also briefly addressed the release of Windows Server 2003 R2 at the recent LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, in a session titled "Managing Linux in a mixed environment ... at Microsoft? A look inside the Linux/Open Source Software Lab at Microsoft."
Hilfs Q&A with Slashdot readers has been posted to the Slashdot Web site.
R2 would take a step forward in Unix interoperability, including a full subsystem for Unix applications, which resides at the same level as the Win32 subsystem, he said.
"The key message is that this is part of the operating system for us and a key part of what we are providing. This is a powerful tool for those looking to move their applications to a new platform," Hilf said.