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Microsoft Posts .NET Server 2003 RC2

Inching closer towards next year's release, Microsoft Thursday officially posted its second release candidate for Windows .Net Server 2003 software. Testing will continue, but barring any major last-minute changes, the final product is scheduled for next April.

The latest test version of its server software completes final packaging for each of its four editions of Windows .Net Server 2003 - Standard, Enterprise, Data Center and Web Editions. The changes include activated support for 64-way large multiprocessing systems and support for 512GB of memory for the high-end Data Center Edition.

The family supports server clusters for up to eight nodes. If one of the nodes in a cluster becomes unavailable because of failure or maintenance, another node immediately begins providing service, a process known as failover. Windows .NET Server 2003 also supports network load balancing, which balances incoming Internet Protocol (IP) traffic across nodes in a cluster.

New security features and improvements include common language runtime, a software engine that claims to reduce the number of bugs and security holes caused by common programming mistakes. The engine also verifies that applications can run without error and checks for appropriate security permissions, making sure that code performs only appropriate operations. RC2 also updates Internet Information Services to version 6.0 (The default installation is "locked down.").

Microsoft has also replaced its Internet Connector for both Windows .Net Server 2003 and Windows .Net Server 2003 Terminal Server with the External Connector. The change lets system administrators extend access business partners and customers that they support over both extranets or over the Internet.

The new server family also contains several important new automated management tools including Microsoft Software Update Services (SUS) and server configuration wizards to help automate deployment.

Windows .Net Server 2003 will also introduce new Terminal Server functions that allow access to Windows desktop and server applications through a terminal, but will require a controversial Client Access License (CAL).

Previously, users with NT 4 workstation and server were automatically granted user access rights to Terminal Services in NT 4 server, at no cost. If the server and client were then upgraded to Windows 2000, they could continue to access Terminal Services on the Windows 2000 server at no charge.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant says customers who have already purchased Windows XP Professional, currently have their Windows desktop under Enterprise Agreement or Software Assurance, or complete their purchase of Windows XP Professional before the server's availability, will be granted a Windows .NET Server 2003 TS CAL.