Microsoft released Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 (SP2), which adds new features and tools to the server platform.
One big change that's bound to be welcomed by IPsec users is the new "Simple Policy," which helps eliminate dozens of filters. Microsoft said that administrators can potentially reduce the number of required filters to just two. Microsoft also introduced per-port authentication in the firewall to help secure IPsec connectivity.
Other security improvements include the addition of Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) security for wireless connectivity as well as support for nonbroadcast networks. WPA2 uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption and 802.1x authentication for strengthened security. The new service pack also helps protect wireless clients by disallowing automatic connections to peer-to-peer networks even networks on the preferred networks list.
To help with ACLs, Windows 2003 SP2 also gives administrators a new icacls.exe tool, which is an upgrade to the previous cacls.exe tool. The new Icacls properly handles ACL inheritance, which cacls.exe didn't handle correctly.
Microsoft also updated its Remote Installation Services (RIS). Beginning with SP2, the service is now called Windows Deployment Services (WDS). This particular update adds support for Windows Vista and the upcoming Longhorn server. Other improvements include native support for the Windows Imaging (WIM) file format and support for Windows Preinstallation Environment (PE) as a boot OS.
Other features and benefits are included, such as improved performance of SQL Server 2005, particularly when it's under intensive workloads. Microsoft also added a new "lite" XML parser as well as new XML output controls for the dcdiag.exe domain controller (DC) diagnostic tool.
Microsoft said that the new service pack is designed for Windows XP Professional x64 Edition too because it shares a common code base with Windows 2003. Windows 2003 SP2 is available for download (372MB) at Microsoft's Download Center.