Q&A: Release of Windows Server 2003 R2 Brings Additions to Integrated Products and Technologies

REDMOND, Wash., February 1, 2006 – Today Microsoft announced that Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2, an update release of the Windows Server 2003 operating system, has reached general availability. The company also announced enhancements to other products, initiatives and technologies that integrate with Windows Server 2003, including Service Pack 2 for Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server, all of which are designed to create a better and more secure server offering for midsize businesses, customers with branch office operations and those with robust storage needs.

Based on Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2003 R2 delivers new capabilities and value for customers, including a more efficient way to manage and control access to local and remote resources, while easily integrating into existing Windows Server 2003 environments. The R2 release also provides a scalable, security-enhanced Web platform, simplified branch server management, improved identity and access management, and more efficient storage management.

To get a better handle on what today’s announcements will mean for customers and partners, and how the enhancements in Windows Server 2003 R2 can help create more efficiency for midsize organizations, PressPass spoke with Jeff Price, Microsoft’s senior director for the Windows Server Group.

PressPass: First off, there were several things announced today. Can we walk through those announcements?

Price: The biggest thing we’re announcing today is the general availability of Windows Server 2003 R2, which is an update to our Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 product. With R2, we’re adding specific functionality for customers in four areas: Better branch-office efficiency, improved identity management, more efficient storage management, and a better Web platform. We released the R2 product to manufacturing last month, and today we announced that it’s now available.

General availability of Windows Server 2003 R2 means that customers will now be able to purchase Windows Server 2003 R2 pre-installed on hardware through companies such as Dell, HP and IBM. Additionally, Enterprise Software Assurance customers can expect to receive their Windows Server 2003 R2 updates shortly. Also, as we announced last month, the Virtual Server Purchase Promotion is available to customers who acquire one license of Windows Server 2003 R2, Enterprise Edition – they can obtain Virtual Server 2005 R2 Enterprise Edition, at the reduced price of US$99 through June 30, 2006.

Today, we are also announcing the availability of ISA Server 2004 Service Pack 2, which includes specific enhancements for branch office security and management. ISA Server 2004 SP2 integrates with Windows Server 2003 R2 to provide advanced policy-based protection for branch office servers and clients.

Related to that is the release of an update to Microsoft’s Branch Office Infrastructure Solution Guide (BOIS), which is guidance to our customers and industry partners on how to build, deploy and operate Windows Server, ISA Server and related products in a branch office environment. Version 2 of this guidance will include downloadable, customizable templates based on improvements in Windows Server 2003 R2.

From a storage perspective, Windows Server 2003 R2 enables storage partners to further enhance integration and compatibility efforts through the Simple SAN program with new features such as Storage Manager for SANs (SMfS) and File Server Resource Manager (FSRM).

Lastly, we’re also announcing an update to what we call our Windows Server System Midsize Business Promotion, which was formerly announced at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July 2005. As of today, customers who take this promotion, which currently includes Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, will now get Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard Edition because the ability to efficiently manage branch offices, storage and Web platforms is critically important for midsize businesses.

PressPass: Can you tell us a bit more about the Windows Server System Midsize Business Promotion, and the benefits it offers to customers and partners?

Jeff Price, Senior Director, Microsoft Windows Server Group

Price: Last fall we introduced a promotional offering combining the core infrastructure products that midsize businesses (defined as those with those with between 25 and 500 PCs, or 50 to 1,000 employees) typically need – Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition as the foundation and for security, manageability and file sharing; Exchange Server 2003 for messaging and collaboration, and our Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) Workgroup Edition, which allows for very efficient operations management. The promotion puts that three-server configuration together with great prescriptive guidance, 50 midsize business Client Access Licenses (CALs) for a discount of 20 percent off Open license prices, to help midsize businesses, which typically have limited IT staff and resources, take advantage of this technology.

The Windows Server 2003 R2 technologies announced today add to this in three big areas:

We know that 75 percent of midsize organizations in the U.S. have branch offices – and the average number of locations per company is six. It’s critical for these customers to have better manageability and efficiency, as most midsize organizations have limited IT staff. Features like better file sharing using the distributed file system and a large increase in the efficiency of data replication over wide area networks can really help save money in branch office installations for midsize businesses and are now offered in R2.

And then there’s storage management. We have seen a large increase in the deployment of what is called a “storage area network,” which is hardware to provide storage for multiple servers. What we’ve done in Windows Server 2003 R2 is make it much easier to deploy and manage storage on a SAN using Windows Server.

With regards to Web-platform improvements, the new inclusion of Windows SharePoint Services in Windows Server 2003 R2 and 30 new application templates make it very easy for organizations of any size to offer self-service, customizable Web sites focused on document collaboration, information sharing, and team productivity.

Lastly, there’s the inclusion of Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 Workgroup Edition. MOM gives IT professionals a single console to view the status and health of their entire network, which gives them an easy, unified way to keep tabs on what’s going on. We’ve heard from customers and partners that inclusion of MOM 2005 Workgroup in this promotion has led to immediate and significant efficiency increases and cost savings.

With the availability of this integrated solution, partners also have increased opportunities to provide additional value to their customers, which leads to additional revenue through value added and customized services. Microsoft remains committed to training and educating industry partners on selling and deploying this solution as a clear opportunity for business growth and improved customer satisfaction.

PressPass: What kind of response have you seen from customers and partners so far on the promotion, and what else are you doing to spur adoption with midsize organizations?

Price: We’re very pleased with the interest we’ve seen from both customers and partners in the promotion so far. In fact, we’re doubling in sales every month, and receiving very positive and helpful feedback that’s helping us determine the direction of future products aimed at midsize businesses, such as “Centro.”

We know that cash flow is critical for midsize customers and partners alike, so as of Jan. 1, 2006, partners and customers can take advantage of 60-day payment deferment through the end of March 2006 when they obtain the promotion in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

Also, starting on Dec. 15, 2005, partners could take advantage of the Midsize Business Partner Incentive by taking a no-charge training course through Microsoft or profiling themselves on the Microsoft Solutions Profiler.

In return, partners receive a Microsoft Press Guide to Windows Server System Midsize Business Deployment, a sales and marketing resource CD and an evaluation kit for Windows Server System Midsize Business Promotion. Our goal is to help partners be more successful in marketing and implementing technologies in midsize businesses.

PressPass: You’ve said that Windows Server 2003 R2 includes great improvements for customers with branch offices. How does this fit into Microsoft’s overall approach to branch management?

Price: Branch offices represent a big management challenge, as well as an efficiency and security challenge in moving information around between the branches. Windows Server 2003 R2 includes new technologies distributed file system and remote differential compression (RDC), which provide a highly available and centralized management experience for branch office data and really improves the efficiency and speed of replicating data – up to a 90-percent decrease in network utilization for replicating data around the network between branches.

PressPass: What features have been added with the release of ISA Server 2004 SP2?

Price: Customers have told us that they like ISA Server 2004’s unique combination of advanced protection, fast secure access, and ease of use. ISA Server 2004 with SP 2 complements Windows Server 2003 R2 to provide customers with advanced policy-based protection for branch office servers and clients, more efficient branch office connectivity, and better protection internally and externally for their application infrastructure, services and data. We’re particularly excited to announce that this service pack delivers BITS caching, and further extends HTTP Compression and traffic prioritization. In addition to protecting customers from attacks, ISA also provides an integrated VPN, firewall and web caching solution for better performance and bandwidth management

PressPass: Tell us about storage-related improvements with Windows Server 2003 R2 and Windows Storage Server 2003 R2.

Price: There are several areas of improvement regarding storage. With Windows Server 2003 R2, storage partners are able to further enhance integration and compatibility efforts through the Simple SAN program with new features such as Storage Manager for SANs (SMfS) and File Server Resource Manager (FSRM).

And that’s where our Simple SAN initiative comes in, which provides a consistent Windows experience for configuring external storage through partners like EqualLogic and Hitachi, which have both achieved full solution designation, meaning all products are fully compatible with the Windows Server operating system. The end result will be a streamlined, consistent experience for customers and lower management costs.

The other thing in this area is that we have a specific version of Windows Server designed and optimized for storage scenarios. We call that Windows Storage Server 2003 R2. The R2 release of Storage Server will have all the improvements and the other R2 related features, optimized for the storage workload. Windows Storage Server is acquired by customers typically on hardware from our partners who build storage appliances, and will be available later this year through a variety of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).

PressPass: How can customers who are interested in Windows Server 2003 R2 get more information or evaluation code?

Price: Customers and partners who are interested in evaluating Windows Server 2003 R2 or getting more information can visit the following online resources:

R2 Evaluation Code: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/evaluation/trial/default.mspx

R2 General Information: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/default.mspx

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