Windows Server 2003 R2 Family Products Now Generally Available

On Wednesday, Microsoft announced the general availability of Windows Server 2003 Release 2 (R2), the replacement for the original Windows Server 2003 release, as well as an R2 update to the Windows Server System Midsize Business Promotion. Microsoft finalized Windows 2003 R2 in December 2005 and pledged to make the product generally available within 90 days. Server partners such as Dell, HP, and IBM are already offering R2-based server solutions.

"Windows Server 2003 R2 builds on the proven reliability and security of Windows Server 2003, and introduces new functionality and benefits in key workloads and scenarios," Microsoft Senior Vice President Bob Muglia said during an R2 release to manufacturing (RTM) Web conference call. "R2 presents our customers with an array of new ways to reduce cost and complexity, boost end-user productivity, and increase the strategic value of their IT systems." R2 is a minor update to Windows 2003 that adds code and security updates and optional functionality related to branch management, identity and access management, and data storage. It is replacing the original Windows 2003 version in all sales channels, Microsoft says.

The new version of Windows Server System Midsize Business Promotion now includes Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard Edition, Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition, Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 Workgroup Edition, and 50 midsize business client access licenses (CALs). This promotion is essentially a cost-effective way for midsized businesses to purchase these products as a bundle, but unlike Microsoft's Small Business Server (SBS) product, it doesn't include any customized management tools or an integrated installer.

Also, it's worth mentioning that along with the release of R2, Microsoft's new virtualization licensing kicks in. This means that Windows 2003 Enterprise R2 users can install as many as 5 additional instances of this R2 OS on virtual machines that reside on a single server at no additional licensing costs. (You can run these virtual machines on Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 or on other virtualization platforms, such as EMC's VMware.) Plus, customers that purchase Windows 2003 Enterprise R2 can also purchase Virtual Server 2005 Enterprise Edition for $99 until June 30, 2006.

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