This widespread availability follows the December 2005 release to manufacturing of the final code for this server software.
Microsoft customers will now be able to buy Windows Server 2003 R2 pre-installed on hardware through companies such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, and Microsofts enterprise Software Assurance customers will get their Windows Server 2003 R2 updates in the near future.
With R2 comes new functionality such as better branch office efficiency, improved identity management, more efficient storage management and a better Web platform, Jeff Price, Microsofts senior director for the Windows Server Group, said Feb. 1.
Windows Server 2003 R2 will also allow storage partners to enhance integration and compatibility efforts through the Simple SAN (storage area network) program, with new features such as SMfS (Storage Manager for SANs) and FSRM (File Server Resource Manager).
"Hitachi Data Systems is the first Fibre Channel vendor to reach the full solution designation," Price said.
Bob Muglia, Microsofts senior vice president for Windows Server, said at last years Professional Developers Conference that R2 would bring features such as Services for Unix, the WS-Management (Web Services-Management) standard, along with the next generation of the management console, MMC 3.0.
"Closing the loop between developers and operational systems still has a long way to go, but delivering MMC 3.0 is the first deliverable in that regard," Muglia said.
Microsoft is also offering a copy of Virtual Server 2005 R2 Enterprise Edition at the reduced price of $99 through June 30, 2006, to customers who acquire a license of Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition.
The company also said on Feb. 1 that the ISA Server 2004 Service Pack 2 is now available and includes three new feature enhancements: Microsoft Update and BITS (Background Intelligent Transfer Services) caching; HTTP compression; and application traffic prioritization.
"ISA Server 2004 SP2 integrates with Windows Server 2003 R2 to provide advanced policy-based protection for branch office servers and clients," Price said.
The new service pack is available via automated distribution from Microsoft Update, or can be downloaded at the MSDN Download Center.
Microsoft also updated its Windows Server System Midsize Business Promotion, announced at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference last July.
"As of today, customers who take this promotion, which currently includes Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, will now get Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard Edition, because the ability to efficiently manage branch offices, storage and Web platforms is critically important for midsize businesses," Price said.
Microsoft also released an update to Microsofts BOIS (Branch Office Infrastructure Solution Guide), which is essentially the companys guidance to its customers and industry partners on how to build, deploy and operate Windows Server, ISA Server and related products in a branch office environment.
"Version 2 of this guidance will include downloadable, customizable templates based on improvements in Windows Server 2003 R2," Price said.