Resellers, system builders and integrators should be looking forward to the upcoming release of Windows Server 2003, says a Microsoft Canada official.

“”They’ll sell new servers, disk space for consolidating servers, architecture, integration and support services and training,”” Kevin Hunter,

the company’s senior product marketing manager for Windows servers said in an interview.

However industry analysts caution that the new operating system is coming out at a time when the American and Canadian economies are slowing down, corporate spending is tight and there’s a war in Iraq.

One of them, David Freund, an analyst with Illuminata, a Nashua, New Hampshire-based technology research and consulting firm, shrugged off WS03 as not much more than a bunch of fixes for Windows Server 2000.

“”It’s like the service pack from hell,”” he said in an interview.

While Hunter said moving to Windows Server 2003 “”is not huge”” for an NT user, he objected to Freund’s description.

“”They haven’t seen the reviewer’s guide and don’t know the context of the operating system,”” he said.

“”A new version of a product is not a service pack.””

Others were more complimentary. “”It’s a good piece of work,”” said Michael Cherry lead analyst for operating systems at Directions on Microsoft, in Kirkland, Wash. “”It’s got a lot of incremental improvements.””

“”We’re anticipating it should be a strong product, if not immediately than within a year of launch,”” said Warren Shiau, senior software analyst at IDC Canada.

The six versions of WS03 were released last week for manufacturing, meaning system builders can put hardware with the new operating system on the market in advance of the April 24 official launch.

At the same time it will also launch Visual Studio .NET 2003 for building and managing applications.

Windows Server 2003 will be offered in two Datacentre Editions (32- and 64-bit for Itanium2 systems only) two Enterprise Editions (32- and 64-bit) a Standard Edition and a Web Edition.

The Web Edition is aimed at taking on Linux and the Apache HTTP server.

Microsoft promises that WS03 is “”the company’s best performing, highest quality Windows server operating system ever released”” in part thanks to a revamped Internet Information Services. IIS 6.0 (not available on the Web edition) offers increased reliability because each application will have its own resource pool, Hunter said.

Improvements have been made to Active Directory to make installation and management easier. New features include domain rename, cross-domain and cross-forest management and backup.

Some features, however, such as Windows Rights Management Services, will ship later in the year. With the new version of Office, RMS will let users put security limits on documents, images and e-mail.

With an estimated 30 per cent of the Intel servers in Canada still running the venerable Windows NT, one of Mi

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