The update, called Windows Server 2003 R2, is a paid upgrade for users of Windows Server 2003. The software should make its way to customers within 60 days, the company said.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gatesin an interview with CNET News.com last year. The company announced .
The update includes improved branch office and storage management abilities and other capabilities, some of which have previously been released as feature packs. R2 is based on the core of Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, which was.
By adding features while leaving the core of the operating system intact, Microsoft said it has designed R2 to require less testing before companies can deploy the software. "If you deployed (Windows Server) 2003, no worries about deploying R2," said Bob Mulgia, senior vice president of server and tools at Microsoft.
Microsoft plans to release R2 for standard, enterprise and datacenter editions and for both 32-bit and 64-bit x86 chips, but not for Intel's Itanium processor.
To upgrade to R2, customers will need to purchase a new server license, said Muglia. The pricing for R2 is the same as for the existing release of Windows Server. Customers under Microsoft's Software Assurance licensing program will not need to pay for the update.
Also, existing client access licenses will not need to be updated in order to access R2, Muglia said. Those won't need to be updated until the next major release of Windows Server, code named Longhorn, ships in 2007, he said.
As reported earlier, the update includes better storage management tools, along with improved connectivity to Unix-based systems. The update also includes a cross-company identity management scheme, previously code-named.
As part of the R2 release, Microsoft will include the .Net Framework 2.0, the "run-time" software needed to run Windows applications, as well as version 6.0 of Microsoft's Internet Information Server Web server. For developers, the .Net Framework includes a number of productivity enhancements, including the ASP.Net 2.0 for Web applications.
A second service pack for Windows Server 2003 is expected late next year, Muglia said.
The Longhorn version of Windows Server is currently in limited testing and is expected to debut in 2007. Muglia said a second test version, which will be distributed to a greater number of customers, will ship later next year.
Also on Tueday, Microsoft said it plans to ship an update to its Small Business Server bundle, which combines Microsoft's Windows server operating system with its Exchange e-mail management tool and other server-based software.
The update, called Small Business Server 2003 R2, will ship in the second quarter of next year, the company said.
Muglia said a new release of Microsoft's Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, a version of the operating system for storage systems, was also sent to manufacturing on Tuesday and is expected to debut early next year.
Muglia also confirmed that a version of Windows for high-performance computing, called Windows Server 2003 Compute Cluster Edition, is slated to ship in the middle of next year. That release was originally scheduled to debut last month, but MicrosoftCompute Cluster Server to respond to early customer reactions.