Companies planning to move to Longhorn Server may want to wait and not upgrade, but for those staying with Windows Server 2003, Microsoft on Tuesday released Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, encompassing hundreds of patches and fixes to the server operating system.
The 32-bit version is a 372-Mbyte download, making Service Pack 2 no featherweight. Still, that hasn't stopped companies from downloading. Thousands have downloaded the release candidates of the software, which, according to Microsoft, is twice the number that downloaded the release candidates of Service Pack 1 before its full release in March 2005.
In addition to previously released updates, hotfixes, and security patches, the service pack, which applies to all versions of Windows Server 2003, also includes some significant upgrades that could be valuable to IT shops. Arguably the most important is Windows Deployment Services, the operating system deployment method that will be built into Longhorn. Since it's file-based rather than disk- or sector-based, it can replace only certain files. That's a big upgrade for companies used to wiping users' personal files with every new install.
Windows Server 2003 SP2 also includes the Scalable Networking Pack, which offloads some CPU-intensive networking functionality to devices that can better handle it and load-balances traffic across multiple CPUs, offers more granular control of firewalls, version 3.0 of Microsoft Management Console, group policy support for more types of wireless access, and support for new wireless security standard Wi-Fi Protected Access 2.
For the next three months, Windows Server 2003 SP2 will be an optional update rather than an automatic update. That could be good news for IT managers, as Microsoft owns up to a few trouble spots in release notes for the service pack. Included in Windows Server 2003 SP2 is Hotfix Scan Tool, which identifies hotfixes that may not work after installing the service pack. The company also warns that businesses moving to Windows Small Business Server 2003 may have to remove or hold off on Service Pack 2 until completing that transition and notes problems with Active Directory Application Mode and Internet Explorer 7.