Microsoft RTMs Windows Server 2003 R2, Cuts Price

Updated: The long march to Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2 is over, as the company releases to manufacturing the final code for this long-awaited server software, throwing in a $100 price cut on its Virtual S

The long march to Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2 is over, as the company on Tuesday released to manufacturing the final code for this long-awaited server software, throwing in a $100 price cut on its Virtual Server for a little holiday bling and to get the cash registers ringing in a sluggish economy.

In a prepared Webcast that featured customer testimonial, Senior Vice President of Server and Tools Bob Muglia emphasized that while 2003 R2 packs plenty of new goodies, its still built on plain old Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1. Therefore, R2 wont throw enterprises for a loop with the need to test the heck out of a new beast.

"R2 is built entirely on Server 2003 Service Pack 1," Muglia said during the Webcast. "It is literally the same software. … You can be assured complete compatibility with your environment. If youre deploying 2003 today, you can feel confident to deploy 2003 R2 without having to go through a long test cycle."

In fact, this release fits in with Microsofts newly conceived roadmap, wherein major new releases will be out every four years, while minor releases will fit in between at the two-year mark.

"We want to provide releases of Windows and server software on a regular, particular cycle for our customers," Muglia said.

R2 is in fact one of the minor updates, he said, although its compatibility surpasses that of a service pack update.

"Its more compatible than a service pack update would be," he said. "In fact, our compatibility test shows we were 100 percent compatible with existing applications.

Muglias need to reassure on the compatibility front comes after Microsoft Corp. faced embarrassment with 2003 R1, which broke several key Microsoft and third-party applications after it was released in the spring.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts struggle with Windows Server 2003 R1.

Its client counterpart, Windows XP Service Pack 2, also misbehaved in the same manner when it was released earlier.

In the R2 Webcast, Muglia described the latest release as representing a large leap forward for the companys five Windows Server customer promises—areas in which Microsoft has committed to pushing through fundamental changes in customers infrastructures over the coming five to 10 years.

Those areas are branch management, virtualization and WS-management, storage management, Unix interoperability, and identity and access management.

When it comes to making it easier-to-manage branch offices, R2 features faster data replication and advanced compression technologies.

Such features are targeted at overcoming the WAN bandwidth issues that afflict remote offices and the limited IT resources under which they typically suffer.

Muglia pointed to a new set of algorithms in R2 that he said "dramatically" reduce the amount of WAN bandwidth thats utilized, by what can be many factors of reduction.

"Fifty percent is typical, but if you have a very large PowerPoint file, [say] you make changes to a few slides, you just have to send a few tens of K of data. So your costs go way down while the ability to manage this and control this go way up," he said.

Muglia said that many beta customers have implemented R2s distributed file system in production and that theyre seeing "tremendous" results in bringing down costs in backup infrastructure with the distributed file system feature.

"We estimate that Windows Server 2003 R2 will eliminate the productivity losses caused by server downtime—worth an estimated $240,000," said Craig Fletcher, IT operations manager for ARCADIS, a global engineering and construction company with 76 U.S. branch offices, during the Webcast.

"Companywide backup-related productivity savings amount to an estimated $222,383 per year."

Next Page: On the SMB front.