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Windows Operating Systems - Windows 2003

Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition packs a whole lot of power and leverages some key business needs within this package. Some key features are the Advanced Networking Authentication Service (IAS), the Two-way symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) and support of up to four gigabytes (GB) of RAM. Microsoft .NET Server 2003 Standard Edition is built upon the Windows 2000 Server core and is a dependable and reliable “out of the box” solution and would be an optimal choice for most small businesses.

The next level is the Enterprise Edition which packs in many more features for the use of medium to large businesses. It is the platform of choice for high resource applications such as networking, messaging, inventory and customer service systems, databases, and e-commerce Web sites. This server supports eight processors, eight node clustering and up to 64 GB of RAM depending if you are using the 32 or 64 bit version. Additionally, the increased performance of the Enterprise Edition makes this server perfect for those who need more availability and scalability than is found in the Standard Edition.

Datacenter Edition is built for mission-critical and high-volume applications that demand the most extreme levels of scalability, availability and reliability. Only available through Microsoft’s Datacenter program, you can be assured of the highest levels of service and support only offered by OEMs and other qualified vendors.

The Web Edition is a powerful server that is able to host your web applications, web sites, etc. in a single Internet solution. This system explores the realm of advanced web application development and hosting with integrated features such as ASP.NET, IIS 6 and more. Microsoft Windows .NET Server 2003 is designed to host a single web site or to be specifically used to deploy specific functionality. Since all of the features in the Web Edition are also available in the other editions, it will only be available through selected partners and will not be available for retail sale.

Improved Security

Microsoft have at last taken security seriously in Windows Server 2003. Back in 1995 Bill Gates suddenly realised that the internet was the way of the future; this transformed Microsoft's products from IIS service to IE browsers.

The following securityimprovements are made:

  • Trustworthy Computing - a strategy to make it hard for viruses to attack
  • Common Language Runtime - checks applications will run without error before letting them execute
  • Software restrictions - Administrators can prevent executables running on a computer
  • Passport Integration - Map Passport to Active directory, useful for business partners
  • Cross Forrest Trusts - Explicit trusts with your subsidiaries or suppliers
  • Credential Manager - Secure store for passwords and certificates, useful for roaming users
  • PKI support - Autoenrollment, useful for smart cards and secure wireless connections
  • Improved IIS security - Default installation is 'Locked Down'

Active directory

In Windows Server 2003 you can change the domain name.Administrator's can control the information that is synchronised between Domain Controllers. Users benefit by being able to logon with cached credentials at remote sites. The ADMT (Active Directory Migration Tool) was first seen in Exchange; next it appeared in XP Pro and now an improved version is provided in Windows Server 2003. What the ADMT can do is to copy users and passwords from NT4.0 or Windows 2000 into active directory.

IIS v 6.0 (Internet Information Services)

The first security improvement is that IIS is not installed by default. This means that IIS is not just sitting on your server waiting to be attacked. Administrators have been asking for years for a secure installation option, well now they have it as the default installation of IIS 6.0 is 'Locked Down'.

NT 4.0 was always open to criticism that it did not scale, and this particularly applied to IIS 4.0; with IIS 6.0 Microsoft have made the web server as secure, dependable and scalable as Apache. This has been achieved through a new kernel driver HTTP.SYS, there is also a new request processing architecture and ASP.NET integration.

The XML metabase will make it easier and faster to restore a web site. There is also an Authorization manager to control and configure URL access. Finally, look out for the new command line tools.

Application Services

This is an area for database connectivity and developers to produce dynamic applications. As anticipated Windows Server 2003 has native XML support and integration with COM and Microsoft Message Queuing. There is also support for web services standards e.g. SOAP, UDDI (Universal Description Discovery and Integration) and WSDL (Web Services Description Language).

Developers are also catered for with .NET Framework which contains a uniform set of Windows Forms, Microsoft ADO.NET and ASP.NET.

(Wireless) Networking

Windows Server 2003 improves IEEE 802.1x reliability and security which have so limited wireless deployment in the past. Windows Server 2003 improves and brings together lots of technologies that could make wireless networks commonplace:

  • VPN and RADIUS load balancing
  • PPPoE (Point to Point Protocol over ethernet)
  • IPv6
  • IPSec over NAT (Network address resolution)
  • Bridging and ICS
  • Check out the Connection Manger Administration Kit (CMAK) if you are going down the wireless route.

Terminal Server

It's about thin client technology where the applications run on the server and all the client does is pass keystrokes and receive screen refreshes across the network.

It is unusual for Microsoft to change the name of an item from version to the next, but Terminal Server has suffered more than most. In NT 4.0 it was Terminal Services. The latest name change is for the 'Remote Administration mode', to become called 'Remote Desktop for Administration' in Windows Server 2003.

There is more than just name changes in Terminal Server, and we now have True Color and up to 1600 X 1200 resolution to see all the new features. The RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) now extends the local devices from just the printer in Windows 2000 to include smart cards and the client file system.

As expected, you can get more users on a server than with Window 2000, and Microsoft's load balancing is about the same as 'Server Farms' of Citrix.

General Improvements

Your perspective on Windows Server 2003 will depend on what system you are running now. If your network is NT4.0 you will have to master Active Directory, but if you are at the Windows 2000 stage then Windows Server 2003 is more of a point upgrade rather than a radical change:

  • 64-Bit support
  • More wizards, e.g. to set up server roles, to set resource usage
  • Reduced TCO, faster everything
  • Easier deployment e.g. AD replica installed from backup
  • The Resultant Set of Policy (RSoP) tool lets you see the effect of Group Policy