Version Comparisons

Version Comparisons

There are four different versions of Windows Server 2003. Here is a quick list, followed by a detailed examination of the differences:

  • Standard Edition. This version is intended for file-and-print services and general purpose application support. It can also act as an Internet gateway and dial-in server.

  • Enterprise Edition. This version is the upgrade path for Windows 2000 Advanced Server. It has greater memory and processor capacity than Standard Edition, along with support for clustering and advanced certificate services. It is intended for high-end applications and high-availability services. It also supports services that are no longer included in the Standard Edition package.

  • Datacenter Edition. This version comes as part of a hardware/software package supplied by authorized value-added resellers. It doubles the memory and clustering capacity of Enterprise Edition and contains features that support superior availability. It is intended for large, critical datacenter applications.

  • Web Edition. This new addition to the Windows server family has been tailored for web services and web hosting applications. It lacks many of the features in the Standard Edition in return for an attractive price and a simple-to-manage platform that is easier to keep secure.

Standard and Web Editions come in 32-bit (IA32) versions only. Enterprise and Datacenter Editions come in both IA32 and IA64 (64-bit) versions. The IA64 version runs only on the Intel Itanium family of processors. There is no Alpha version of Windows Server 2003.

Figure shows the minimum recommended hardware requirements as defined by Microsoft. I emphasize recommended because the minimum requirements published by Microsoft do not yield satisfactory performance in a production environment.

Microsoft also recommends a minimum operating system partition of 1.5GB (2GB for IA64 versions), but my recommendation is to set aside no less than 4GB for the operating system partition. This gives room for application support files and provides sufficient free space for defragmentation.

Figure Minimum Recommended Hardware Requirements for Windows Server 2003

Hardware Variable

Web Edition

Standard Edition

Enterprise Edition

Datacenter Edition

CPU Speed

550 MHz

550 MHz

733 MHz

733 Mhz


256 MB

256 MB

256 MB

1 GB

Maximum RAM

2 GB

4 GB

32 GB (64 GB for IA64)

64 GB (512 GB for IA64)




4 node

8 node


1 or 2

1 or 2

Up to 8

8 to 32 max (64 for IA64)

The IA32 versions of Enterprise and Datacenter Editions are able to access memory above the 4GB limit imposed by the 32-bit operating system using a set of technologies jointly developed by Microsoft and Intel. See Chapter 3, "Adding Hardware," for a discussion of these extended memory technologies.

Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition

In addition to the features shown in Figure, Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition, has several other significant differences when compared with Windows 2000 Server:

  • Processors. Standard Edition only supports up to two processors, compared to the four processors supported by Windows 2000. If you have a four-way SQL server currently running on Windows 2000 Server, you must upgrade to Enterprise Edition to get support for all four processors.

  • Memory. Maximum physical memory is limited to 4GB, just as with Windows 2000 Server, but Standard Edition supports the 4GB Tuning option currently available only in Windows 2000 Advanced and Datacenter Server. This permits you to give an additional 1GB of physical memory to applications running on the server.

  • Network load balancing. Standard Edition supports Network Load Balance (NLB) clusters. This contrasts to Windows 2000, where you had to pay for Advanced or Datacenter Server to get NLB.

  • Terminal Services. Standard Edition includes support for Application mode terminal services but it cannot act as a Terminal Server Session Directory in an NLB cluster.

  • Certificate Services. A Certification Authority (CA) running on Standard Edition can only issue the same certificates issued by Windows 2000 CAs. To get support for newer version 2 certificates and for automatic user enrollment, you must purchase the Enterprise or Datacenter versions. See Chapter 18, "Managing a Public Key Infrastructure," for details.

Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition

You pay a premium for the Enterprise Edition if you need any of the following services. The price difference is significant, but as with all Microsoft products, volume discounts are available:

  • IA64 support. The 64-bit version of Enterprise Edition gives you access to the next generation of Intel processors.

  • Processors. Enterprise Edition supports up to eight processors in both Symmetric Multiprocessor (SMP) and cache-coherent Non-Uniform Memory Access (ccNUMA) configurations.

  • Memory. The IA32 version of Enterprise Edition supports up to 32GB of physical memory. This compares to 8GB of RAM supported by Windows 2000 Advanced Server. The IA64 version of Enterprise Edition supports 64GB of physical memory.

  • Clustering. Enterprise Edition supports 8-node clusters, compared to 2-node clusters in Windows 2000.

  • Hot add memory. For servers that support this feature, you can add more RAM to a running server. This feature is available in the Datacenter Edition, as well.

  • Metadirectory support. If you need to consolidate multiple directory services, Microsoft Metadirectory Services (MMS) version 3 is slated for shipment upon release of Windows Server 2003, but it is only supported in the Enterprise Edition. See for more information.

Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition

This product is intended to support high-end applications such as data warehouses, graphic and econometric modeling, and Online Analytical Processing (OLAP). In addition to the features in the Enterprise Edition, here are the features supported by Datacenter Edition:

  • IA64 support. The 64-bit version of Datacenter Edition takes better advantage of the scalable features in IA64 servers, including support for 512GB of physical memory (with supporting chipsets) and 64 processors.

  • Processors. The IA32 version of Datacenter Edition supports up to 32 processors in both Symmetric Multiprocessor (SMP) and cache-coherent Non-Uniform Memory Access (ccNUMA) configurations.

  • Memory. The IA32 version of Datacenter Edition supports up to 64GB of physical memory.

  • Clustering. Datacenter Edition supports 8-node clusters, compared to 4-node clusters in Windows 2000.

You cannot purchase just the Datacenter Edition software. Datacenter Edition comes as a complete package from authorized VARs such as IBM, HP, Groupe Bull, Hitachi, and Unisys, along with Intel stalwarts Dell, Gateway, and NEC. For a full list of partners, go to Microsoft's web site,, and look under Datacenter Edition.

When you buy a Datacenter Edition system from one of these vendors, you are actually buying a package of hardware, software, and services. Each system is tested before shipment using a Microsoft certification test suite. The VAR provides 7 x 24 support with Microsoft engineers available around the clock for consultation. The partner must provide these services:

  • Guaranteed minimum 99.9 percent uptime (which permits about nine hours of downtime in a year)

  • Installation and configuration services

  • Availability assessments

  • 24 x 7 hardware and software support

  • Onsite hardware and software support

  • Change management service

As you can probably imagine, these platforms and services come with a hefty price tag. In the stratospheric world of high-availability, high-capacity servers, though, a fully equipped Datacenter Edition system can cost much less than a comparable RISC solution.

Windows Server 2003, Web Edition

You may see this version referred to as "Blade Server" because it was designed to work on compact, high-density server farms popular with web service providers.

In addition to a 2GB RAM limitation (virtual memory limit remains at 4GB), Web Edition lacks several of the features commonly associated with Windows servers. It has been stripped down to function as a nimble web platform that can be more easily secured. Here is a quick rundown of the reductions in the feature set:

  • Routing and Remote Access. Web Edition only supports a single VPN connection intended for management use. It cannot function as a dial-in server or an Internet gateway.

  • Active Directory. Web Edition cannot be a domain controller. It can join a domain.

  • File-and-print. Web Edition can accept Windows client connections and it can host a Dfs volume. You can encrypt files on it. It does not support Shadow Copy Restore (Chapter 21, "Recovering from System Failures"). It cannot act as a Remote Installation Services (RIS) server.

  • Certificates. Web Edition does not support Certificate Services and cannot be a Certification Authority.

  • Terminal services. Web Edition supports two-session administrative remote access but it cannot function as a full-fledged Application-mode Terminal Server.

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