Setting the stage for what it hopes will be a "breakout year" for its server operating systems, Microsoft has announced it will ship the first Release Candidate of its Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows Server 2003 by year's end as well as a SDK for the High Performance Computing version of Windows Server in November.
Amidst the typical collection of bug and security fixes, a new feature in SP1 is the Security Configuration Wizard, designed to help administrators define or redefine a specific role for a server, or a collection of servers that all do the same thing.
"This utility can allow you to go in on a policy basis and turn off protocols, services, and features at a much more granular level than you can today," a manager of Microsoft's Windows Server products, said. "The cool thing about the wizard is once you have configured a very specific role for a server, you can take that XML-based configuration and use policy or another distribution method to do it to hundreds of servers that fit that same role."
The other bug and security fixes in SP1 addressed many of the same problems that were addressed in the mammoth Windows XP Service Pack 2, although some of the security fixes in SP1 were tailored to address server-specific functions, DiStasio said.
In the preliminary testing Microsoft has done on SP1, DiStasio and other company officials said there had been marked performance gains including a 50 per cent performance improvement in SSL workloads and a 17 per cent gain in running 32-bit data base applications.
As part of the announcement Microsoft also said it remained on track to deliver Windows Update Services by the end of the first half of 2005, the first beta for which is expected in November, along with a version of Windows Server 2003 with 64-bit support. And still on track for delivery by the end of 2005 was the High Performance Computing edition of Windows Server 2003, Release 2 of the Windows Storage Server, and the first solid beta of the server version of Longhorn.
Taking out its marketing drum, Microsoft said that sales of Windows Server 2003 had now surpassed those of its Windows NT4 server base, and that new deployments of the server had grown by 375 per cent. Company officials quoted market researcher IDC as predicting that Windows Server 2003 would overtake all other versions of Windows by the end of 2005.
Researchers at IDC acknowledged the fast uptake of Windows Server 2003, but said some of its success was tied to the company's priority for fixing and updating the product at the expense of others and some users who are locked into volume licensing deals.
"We are seeing a swifter than normal transition to Windows 2003, but this could be attributed to a number of things," vice-president in charge of system software research at IDC, an Kusnetzky," said. "Microsoft does seem to be delivering security and service patches to Windows 2003 while other products are not getting them. Some users are getting concerned about that. Another reason is some users are under contract to accept it as part of their Select Agreement."