Microsoft has released the second service pack for Windows Server 2003, which includes new deployment and networking tools, as well as upgrades to a handful of other helpful administrative features.

The service pack includes the Scalable Networking Pack and XmlLite, two new features for Windows Server 2003 among its collection of current critical, non-critical and customer-requested updates.

The Windows Server 2003 Scalable Networking Pack is designed to help eliminate operating system bottlenecks associated with network packet processing. The goal is to improve performance and scalability of network-based server loads such as file storage, backup, web servers and media-streaming.
XmlLite helps developers build XML-based applications that interoperate with other applications based on the XML 1.0 standard. XmlLite works with any Windows language that can use dyanamic link libraries, but is tuned for C++.

Microsoft made the release candidate of the SP2 available in November. The next server release on Microsoft's road map is Longhorn, which is expected to ship by year-end.

In addition to the new features SP2 adds to the server environment, it has an update to Windows Deployment Services that includes improvements to Remote Installation Services that ease the setup of new computers through network-based installation. Deployment Services is tuned for upgrades to Vista and the forthcoming Longhorn Server.

Microsoft also has replaced its CACLS tool with ICACLS, which is used to reset and back up account control lists.

Also in SP2 is Wi-Fi Protected Access 2, which includes support for the new Wi-Fi Alliance certification for wireless security that is key to Microsoft's future wireless access tools; IPsec Filter Management, which reduces the filter set to as few as two; Microsoft Management Console 3.0, which features new and enhanced command-line tools; enhancements to MSConfig; firewall per port authentication; and performance improvements tuned for virtualization and SQL Server.

The service pack also includes all the updates from Windows Server 2003 SP1.

Microsoft says the service pack is needed to support the upcoming service pack 1 for Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003. That service pack is slated to be available in the next 30 days, according to the company.

Windows Server 2003 SP2 can be applied to all editions of Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2 and Windows Storage Server R2. It also can be installed on Windows Unified Data Storage Server, Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 SP1, Windows Small Business Server 2003 R2 and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.