Windows Server 2003 R2 is an interim release of Windows Server built on top of Windows Server 2003 SP1, which was released two weeks ago. R2 will include most of the feature packs Microsoft released since the initial Windows Server 2003, new storage management capabilities and features such as branch server management and Active Directory Federation Services.
The interim release is intended to fill the gap between Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server Longhorn, which is set to ship in 2007. Microsoft in May last year clarified its Windows Server road map. Plans call for a major release roughly every four years and an incremental update two to two-and-a-half years after each major release.
Microsoft gave a preview of Windows Server 2003 R2 at its Tech Ed user conference in San Diego last May. The vendor demonstrated several features, but in October revised its ambitions for the Windows Server update by axing some of those.
For example, at Tech Ed Microsoft showed off Network Access Protection (NAP), which lets administrators ensure a computer joining a network meets security and configuration requirements. NAP now won't ship next year, but instead will be included in Longhorn Server. Microsoft is taking its time to make its NAP feature work with a similar technology that is being developed by Cisco Systems Inc., the company has said.
While service packs are available at no charge, the R2 update will not be, Microsoft has said. Companies that bought individual licenses for earlier Windows Server products will have to buy a new license for R2. Customers who have purchased Software Assurance, Microsoft's software maintenance plan, will receive the update at no extra charge.