The Windows Server 2003 Family

Windows Server 2003 is an incremental update to the platform and technologies intro­duced in Windows 2000. If you are coming to Windows Server 2003 with experience from Windows 2000 servers, you will find the transition a relatively easy one. If your experience is with Windows NT 4, welcome to the new world!

But don't let the incremental nature of the updates mislead you; behind the upgrades are significant and long-awaited improvements to the security and reliability of the operating system and to the administrative toolset. In many books, this would be the place where you would get a laundry list of new features. Actually, the Windows Server 2003 list is extensive and there are features that make upgrading to Windows Server 2003 an obvious choice for almost any administrator. However, the particular features that appeal to you may be different from those that appeal to another IT pro­fessional.

You may be drawn to the significant features and improvements added to Active Direc­tory, the new tools to support popular but complex GPOs, the enhancements to enter­ prise security, the improvements to Terminal Services, or a number of other enhanced capabilities of the new operating system. If you are considering a move to Windows Server 2003, take a good look through the Microsoft Web site for the platform, at http: //www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003 and judge for yourself which improvements are, in your environment, truly significant.

Although the list of new features is extensive, the evaluation of the operating system becomes more interesting because Windows Server 2003 is available in multiple flavors including the 32-bit, 64-bit, and embedded versions. But the most important distinctions are those among the four product editions, listed here in order of available fea­tures and functionality, as well as by price:

  • Windows Server 2003, Web Edition
  • Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition
  • Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition
  • Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition

Web Edition

To position Windows Server 2003 more competitively against other Web servers, Microsoft has released a stripped-down-yet-impressive edition of Windows Server 2003 designed specifically for Web services. The feature set and licensing allows customers easy deployment of Web pages, Web sites, Web applications, and Web services.

Web Edition supports 2 gigabytes (GB) of RAM and a two-way symmetric multiproces­ sor (SMP). It provides unlimited anonymous Web connections but only 10 inbound server message block (SMB) connections, which should be more than enough for con- tent publishing. The server cannot be an Internet gateway, DHCP or fax server. Although you can remotely administer the server with Remote Desktop, the server can- not be a terminal server in the traditional sense. The server can belong to a domain, but cannot be a domain controller. The included version of the Microsoft SQL Server Data- base Engine can support as many as 25 concurrent connections.

Standard Edition

Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition, is a robust, multipurpose server capable of providing directory, file, print, application, multimedia, and Web services for small to medium-sized businesses. Its comprehensive feature set is expanded, compared to Windows 2000, with Microsoft SQL Server Database Engine (MSDE), a version of SQL Server that supports five concurrent connections to databases up to 2 GB in size; a free, out-of-the-box Post Office Protocol version 3 (POP3) service which, combined with the included Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) service, allows a server to function as a small, stand-alone mail server; and Network Load Balancing (NLB), a useful tool that was only included with the Advanced Server edition of Windows 2000.

The Standard Edition of Windows Server 2003 supports up to 4 GB of RAM and four- way SMP.

Enterprise Edition

The Enterprise Edition of Windows Server 2003 is designed to be a powerful server platform for medium- to large-sized businesses. Its enterprise-class features include support for eight processors, 32 GB of RAM, eight-node clustering (including clustering based on a Storage Area Network (SAN) and geographically dispersed clustering) and availability for 64-bit Intel Itanium-based computers, on which scalability increases to 64 GB of RAM and 8-way SMP.

Other features that distinguish the Enterprise Edition from the Standard Edition include:

  • Support for Microsoft Metadirectory Services (MMS), which enables the integration of multiple directories, databases, and files with Active Directory.
  • Hot Add Memory, so that you can add memory to supported hardware systems without downtime or reboot.
  • Windows System Resource Manager (WSRM), which supports the allocation of CPU and memory resources on a per-application basis.

Datacenter Edition

The Datacenter Edition, which is available only as an OEM version as part of a highend server hardware package, provides almost unfathomable scalability, with support on 32-bit platforms for 32-way SMP with 64 GB of RAM and on 64-bit platforms for 64-way SMP with 512 GB of RAM. There is also a 128-way SMP version that supports two 64-way SMP partitions.

64-Bit Editions

The 64-bit editions of Windows Server 2003, which run on Intel Itanium-based com­puters, provide for higher CPU clock speeds and faster floating-point processor opera­tions than the 32-bit editions of Windows. CPU coding improvements and processing enhancements yield significantly faster computational operations. Increased access speed to an enormous memory address space allows for smooth operation of complex, resource-intensive applications, such as massive database applications, scientific anal­ysis applications, and heavily accessed Web servers.

Some features of the 32-bit editions are not available in the 64-bit editions. Most nota­bly, the 64-bit editions do not support 16-bit Windows application, real-mode applica­tions, POSIX applications, or print services for Apple Macintosh clients.

To summarise

  • Windows Server 2003 is available in 64-bit as well as 32-bit versions.
  • The primary distinctions among versions of Windows Server 2003 are the product editions: Web Edition, Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, and Datacenter Edi­ tion, each of which supports a subset of features honed to a specific purpose.
  • Taken as a whole, Windows Server 2003 is an upgrade to Windows 2000. How- ever, the feature and security improvements are significant, and you are likely to find that particular upgrades provide critical enhancements for your particular environment.