The release of Windows Server 2003 has prompted email from readers who ask me whether there are specific client problems they should know about as they evaluate the new server software. I'm guessing that part of this concern comes from longtime Windows 2000 and Windows NT users who know that the Windows 2003 release is the first time Microsoft has released server and client code bases simultaneously that are on different development schedules.
One of the best reasons for separating client and server development cycles is that doing so allows features present in both OSs to be widely deployed. Client-side features therefore reap the advantage of millions of user hours before they go into production use on the generally more critical (at least from an IT perspective) server side. This advantage is particularly important for a crucial feature such as System Restore: Earlier versions of the Windows Server OS made available during the beta cycles automated system recovery tools that were stripped out of the release to manufacturing (RTM) software. The abundance of data that user employment of the recovery tool generated gave the server development teams something real to evaluate when deciding to implement the feature set on the server side.
I've done limited testing of the release level code for Windows 2003: I've configured three servers and six clients, performing server upgrades and clean installations of Windows 2003. From this experience, I can say that no problems exist when you use Win2K Professional or Windows XP Professional with the new Active Directory (AD) schema that Windows 2003 contains. Unfortunately, I can't provide information based on experience about using Windows 9x clients with Windows 2003, but I would assume that if you have a Win9x client that works with AD in Win2K Server, you'll have few, if any, problems upgrading to Windows 2003. This latest Windows Server release isn't the first to make large changes to the AD schema: Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server also adds to and modifies the schema--although not on such a sweeping scale as Windows 2003's roughly 400 changes.
If you plan to upgrade or migrate to Windows 2003, I recommend that you run XP Pro on your personal desktop because many of XP Pro's features are in Windows 2003. In addition to features such as Remote Desktop and System Restore, XP Pro's command-line improvements are available in Windows 2003.
I've also been hearing from many NT Server 4.0 users with a lot of questions about making the move to Windows 2003. All I can do right now is point you to Microsoft resources. The company expects the majority of NT 4.0 users to migrate to Windows 2003 and has provided a wealth of information about doing so on the Microsoft Web site. You can reach the central location for this data at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/evaluation/whyupgrade/nt4/default.mspx