Last week I attended a Microsoft conference about the upcoming interim release of Windows Server 2003, code-named R2, and I came away believing that R2 is sorely underappreciated. Several R2 features could have a significant effect and are essentially free for companies that have enterprise agreements. Here are five features that I think are cool.

DFS Replication—Imagine being able to keep disk-image ISOs, such as standard builds for software distribution, scattered across your network, and when you need to make a small change (to the legal text, for example), only the changed portion of the image—maybe 16K—replicates across the network instead of the entire 700MB ISO.

Important updates to Unix services for Windows—R2 will let you seamlessly access UNIX file servers from Windows and vice versa. You'll also be able to to recompile literally thousands of UNIX programs under Windows and administer them from there.

Storage Manager for SANs—Many small and midsized businesses (SMBs) need to implement a SAN but are too intimidated to do it themselves. This R2 feature will make it easy to set up and configure a SAN.

Useful storage management tools—Tools such as quotas, reporting tools, and utilities that prevent users from saving certain kinds of files on your servers will be much improved. You'll no longer need third-party tools to do these things.

AD Federation Services (ADFS)—ADFS is a complex and somewhat limited technology at the moment, but it's where the enterprise will be going for identity management. Stay tuned.