Windows Server 2003 service pack 2 is out – find out what’s new

by ron on March 15, 2007

Microsoft have released Windows Server 2003 service pack 2.

This is a cumulative service pack that includes updates and fixes for Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2 editions, as well as a few new additions.

Microsoft’s new strategy is that they plan to mainly provide updates/fixes with the release of service packs. Feature packs, on the other hand will provide extended functionality.

Many would argue (myself included) that Windows 2003 R2 was really a feature pack addition to Windows Server 2003. But no, Microsoft decided to call it a new version of Windows Server, and therefore can now charge for this feature pack…..I mean version.

Why do this? A little something called Software Assurance. This is where you buy a combination of a license (eg Windows Server 2003) together with this software assurance license that allows you to spread your payments out over a number of years and allows you to get free upgrades during this term.

The rule of thumb is that if you end up upgrading from one version to the next over the span of 3 to 4 years, then it’s worth going down the Software Assurance path.

So where does that leave Windows Server 2003? Well it was released in 2003 (obviously) so that means you need to go to a new version of Windows Server (eg the upcoming Windows Longhorn Server) before 2007 in order for Software Assurance to have paid off. Longhorn is due to be released by in the 3rd quarter of 2007, if all goes to plan.

Now you can see why the cheeky marketing people at Microsoft decided to call Windows Server 2003 R2 a new version, rather than just being a free feature pack download. People that purchased Software Assurance can now feel warm and fuzzy about the fact that they made a “wise investment”. The lesson here is that you need to be very aware of the upcoming releases of Microsoft software before making the decision regarding whether or not to purchase Software Assurance licenses.

A second issue is that Microsoft claim that customers themselves were saying that new features being implemented into service packs made testing and deployment more difficult. That seems fair enough. If I’m an IT admin and I’m perfectly happy with my systems as they stand, I may not want to be forced to have to implement new bells and whistles; I just want my systems patched, secured and optimized. So not having new functionality within service packs can be a good thing.

So in keeping with the new Microsoft Soup Nazi strategy of “no new functionality in service packs for you!”, this means that Windows Server 2003 service pack 2 is chock full of updates and fixes (52 screens worth), but has almost no new functionality. Here is Microsoft’s list of the top 10 reasons you should update to service pack 2.

The only slight thing of note is that Remote Installation Services (RIS) has been replaced by the more powerful Windows Deployment Services (WDS), and that the MMC has been upgraded to version 3. If you’ve got Windows Server 2003 R2 installed, then you’ll already have MMC v3.

Other than that, we now have a new event log entry (event id 1239). Fantastic!

And the one you’ve all been dying for: a new XML parser with a small footprint. That one was on my Christmas list.

Jokes aside, feel free to check out Windows Server 2003 service pack 2, download it, and put it out on your test systems to ensure that everything works as expected.

Ok, I’m off to enjoy the new XML parser that has a small footprint….


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