Today, Microsoft shipped the first release candidate (RC) build for Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1). Known as Windows 2003 SP1 RC1, the update is available to the public as a 316MB download for 32-bit x86-based systems or as a 396MB download for 64-bit Itanium systems (see the URLs below). Microsoft expects to ship the final version of Windows 2003 SP1 in early 2005.
"Windows Server 2003 SP1 isn't the huge architectural leap that Windows XP SP2 was," Microsoft Group Program Manager Iain McDonald told me last week. "But there are some major new features, like the Security Configuration Wizard. It doesn't get forced on you. You have to install \[the wizard\] separately after you've installed SP1. And we put the \[Windows Firewall\] on by default during clean installs. It's not on all the time, of course. But during an install and during boot-up, Windows Firewall protects the system against electronic attacks. It's a blunt instrument."
Windows 2003 SP1 RC1 includes an enhanced security infrastructure that borrows the pertinent low-level security features from XP SP2, including the data execution prevention (DEP) technology and Distributed COM (DCOM) restrictions; a new roles-based Security Configuration Wizard (SCW) that makes it easy to close unneeded services and ports given the tasks a server is assigned to perform; Windows Firewall, which provides boot-time and setup-based protection against electronic attacks; and the post-setup Security Update Wizard, which prevents client network access to the server until it's properly configured. I'll review Windows 2003 SP1 RC1 soon on the SuperSite for Windows.
Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 Release Candidate (32-bit)
Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 Release Candidate (64-bit Itanium)