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.  

Microsoft Lashes Out at EU 

Stung by European Union (EU) regulator comments over the past week, Microsoft officials on Wednesday charged that the EU has not provided the company with the information it needs to effectively defend itself against antitrust charges. As a result, Microsoft is now asking for another extension to the date when it has to supply technical information about its OSs so that it can mount its defense. Previously, Microsoft had been given an extension until February 15, 2006.

"All Microsoft is asking for is access to our file," a Microsoft spokesperson said Wednesday. "This is a basic question of fairness and transparency."

Although we might cynically view the (ahem) transparency of this request, let's examine Microsoft's complaint. Microsoft says that 71 of the 100 documents in the EU's case file against the software giant are categorized as internal or confidential and therefore can't be turned over to the company. Also, Microsoft says it should be allowed to view the correspondence between the company's rivals and the EU.

The absence of access to these documents is seriously prejudicing Microsoft's right of defense, a Microsoft lawyer wrote in a letter to the EU this week. The position taken by the European Commission (EC), the EU's antitrust body, is particularly troubling because it contradicts the Commission's stated commitment to increased transparency and due process in antitrust investigations.

An EU spokesperson says that the EC is considering Microsoft's request.

"It is premature for Microsoft to claim that the Commission has prejudiced their rights of defense," the spokesperson said, noting that the companies who discussed Microsoft with the EU expected that communication to remain confidential. "Microsoft is very attached, as you know, to business secrets," he added. "Its own business secrets"