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Microsoft toughens up Windows Server

The software giant puts finishing touches on Windows Server 2003 in an effort to show big businesses that the high-end operating system is industrial strength.

Microsoft wants to assure big companies that its upcoming Windows Server 2003 operating system is ready to handle complex business applications.

The software giant on Thursday detailed a series of features it has added to Windows Server 2003 to improve the reliability of the server operating system and cut down on the amount of unplanned downtime for servers. Windows Server 2003, which is due in April, will compete with variants of the Unix operating system from companies like Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and IBM.

With the release of Windows Server 2003, Microsoft will be casting the operating system as an alternative to Unix as well as a compelling reason for its customers to upgrade from older versions of Windows. The company has delayed the release of the operating system three times, partly due to an effort to hone its security and reliability.

The company is touting reliability features both in Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition, which is a version of the operating system aimed at top-end machines with dozens of processors.

The Datacenter High Availability Program, targeted specifically at Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition users, will introduce pre-tested configurations of the operating systems on different hardware companies' servers. Customers can also get 24-hour, 7-days-a-week support services from Microsoft or Microsoft partners.

Microsoft has also tweaked how Windows Server 2003 handles drivers, which is one of the primary causes of system crashes, according to the company. The systems will block the installation of drivers with known problems and will allow administrators to revert back to a working state once an error occurs.

Other reliability enhancements include the ability to isolate different application processes to prevent one crash from causing another. Administrators can also configure clusters of servers without bringing the system down.