Microsoft Set to Deliver New Windows Service Pack Beta

Updated: The forthcoming test build of Windows Server 2003 SP1 will include some new functionality, including a security configuration wizard.

Microsoft is poised to deliver a new interim build of its Windows Server 2003 SP1 (Service Pack 1) to testers.

Windows Server 2003 SP1 is the server complement to the recently released Windows XP SP2 (Service Pack 2). SP1 includes new security features plus bug fixes. Windows Server 2003 SP1 also provides the foundation for the forthcoming 64-bit Windows Server releases, as well as R2, the next version of Windows Server thats due to ship in the second half of 2005.

The final release of Windows Server 2003 SP1 will ship sometime in the first half of 2005, Microsoft officials reiterated Monday. They said a near-final "release candidate" beta would go to testers before the end of calendar year 2004.

The latest build of SP1—No. 1247— is not release candidate 1 (RC1), Microsoft officials confirmed late Monday. But it is a step on the road to RC1.

Beta testers are discussing Build 1247, in anticipation of Microsoft making it available for download on its Betaplace Web site.

Build 1247 is expected to include new features and functionality not included in previous SP1 builds, according to the Windows enthusiast site

WinBeta is reporting that Build 1247 includes new support for IIS (Internet Information Services)-specific settings, clustered environments and multilevel rollback. It also includes support for a new feature that Microsoft has been promising, called the SCW (Security Configuration Wizard).

One beta tester said SCW is designed to help administrators and users increase security by disabling unnecessary services and IIS Web extensions, blocking unused ports and reducing protocol exposure.

The final release of Windows Server 2003 SP1 also will include the VPN network-quarantine feature that Microsoft originally had planned to include in its R2 release of Windows Server, as officials acknowledged Monday.

On the security front, Windows Server 2003 SP1 will include a number of enhancements to Windows RPC (Remote Procedure Call) and DCOM (Distributed Component Object Model) features.

Microsoft has told testers it will reduce the attack service of RPC and add new RPC registry keys that will enable server applications to restrict access to the RPC interface. And officials have said they are adding new access-control restrictions to DCOM to help reduce the risk of a successful network attack.


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