Microsoft will plug the gap between versions of its server software next year with the release of an update for Windows Server 2003 - a move that might offer some measure of relief for corporations with annuity licensing contracts.
The update will come between the release last year of Win 2003 and the expected arrival of its successor, Longhorn Server, potentially in 2007. The Win 2003 Update might help spark renewals and new sign-ups for Microsoft's Software Assurance software maintenance program. Key to the two- and three-year Software Assurance contracts is access rights to the latest software upgrades.
Next year, Win 2003 will be two years old, and Longhorn Server won't be available potentially for another two years or more.
"A lot of customers are saying 'Wait, I spent a lot of money on Software Assurance, and what did I get for my money?'" an analyst with The Yankee Group, Laura DiDio, said.
The server update also will align security features between the client and server operating systems and include a handful of upgrades and tool enhancements for Active Directory.
At its 13th annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, Microsoft's group vice-president in the platforms group, Jim Allchin, said Win 2003 Update, known internally as R2, would align the server with security enhancements that were part of the forthcoming Windows XP Service Pack 2, specifically its personal firewall.
Allchin said the server upgrade highlight is the concept of "isolation".
He compared the technology to the personal firewall, and said that before a laptop could connect to a network, it would be put in isolation and run through a series of IT-configurable tests.
The tests would check for things such as missing system updates or anti-virus signatures.
Microsoft would not provide any other details on the server update but said that it would clarify its server road map in the coming weeks. In addition to the Win 2003 update, Microsoft also plans to release, in 2005, a version of Windows Storage Server, code-named Storm.