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WinInfo Daily UPDATE, October 18, 2004

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In the News

- Microsoft to Ship Windows Server 2003 SP1 RC by Year's End
- Microsoft Again Pares Down Windows Server 2003 R2

==== In the News ====

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft to Ship Windows Server 2003 SP1 RC by Year's End

Originally scheduled for a late 2003 release, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1) is now on track for the first half of 2005, Microsoft tells me, but the company will soon ship a release candidate (RC) version, setting the stage for the final release. Windows 2003 SP1 RC is due by year's end, Microsoft says. Windows 2003 SP1 includes the standard bug and security fixes that Microsoft typically ships in its service packs. But the release also includes several important product updates and will form the basis for future versions of Windows Server, including Windows 2003 Release 2 (R2), which is also due in 2005, and the 64-bit versions of Windows 2003 that will run on x64 platforms.
Chief among the new SP1 features is the Security Configuration Wizard (SCW), which uses the roles-based administration policies in Windows 2003 to lock down unneeded ports and services, making the product more secure. Windows 2003 SP1 will also include some "relevant" changes that Microsoft first introduced in Windows XP SP2, including the low-level data execution prevention (DEP) functionality that helps prevent buffer overruns and similar errors. In related news, Microsoft told me in a briefing Friday that the Windows 2003 installed base has finally surpassed that of Windows NT, making Windows 2003 the second most prevalent Windows Server version, after Windows 2000 Server. Microsoft expects the Windows 2003 installed base to surpass Win2K Server by the end of 2005. The company also noted that Windows 2003 deployments are up 375 percent this year.

Microsoft Again Pares Down Windows Server 2003 R2

On Friday, I spoke with Bob Kelly, a general manager in the Windows Server Group, about changes the company is making to Windows Server 2003 Release 2 (R2), the upcoming revision to Windows 2003 that will ship in 2005. Originally slated to include a network quarantine feature called Network Access Protection (NAP), R2 will now ship without that feature. Instead, Microsoft will include NAP in Longhorn Server, currently expected in 2007.
"When we announced our Windows Server roadmap earlier this summer, one of the features we discussed was NAP, which included 25 industry partnerships," Kelly said. "However, customers told us that we had a hole in our strategy, and that hole is Cisco Systems. So \[today\], we're announcing a partnership with Cisco around NAP. We have an agreement with Cisco to make our quarantine technologies interoperate." To make that strategy work, however, Microsoft will need to delay NAP until the Windows Server release that follows R2.
Before Microsoft releases NAP and deploys the Cisco compatibility strategy, the company will ship VPN Quarantine, a limited quarantine feature, in Windows 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1). This solution will let customers build VPN-based system-inspection tools that can quarantine machines--primarily laptops--that connect to an enterprise and don't meet the organization's security standards. While in quarantine, the systems won't be able to access any internal network resources but will be able to install security patches and other necessary updates. However, the VPN Quarantine feature will be difficult to implement and isn't expected to see wide deployment. NAP will solve this problem with simple deployment tools that make network quarantine a core part of the OS.
By integrating NAP with Cisco's Network Admissions Control (NAC) technology for network security and health assurance, Microsoft is ensuring that customers will be able to choose a single, integrated solution or mix and match the products and services they need, Kelly told me. "We'll pass policy decisions between the two \[technologies\] so that customers can deploy both and get the best of both worlds if they want. Customers who do so will get quarantine from us and switch-based enforcement from Cisco."
Earlier, Microsoft also decided to remove the upcoming Bear Paw version of Terminal Services from R2. That technology, which will now ship in Longhorn Server, reportedly offers major enhancements over today's Terminal Services functionality.

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