Microsoft Group Policy Tool Enters Broad Beta

In rolling out Release Candidate 2 of Windows .NET Server 2003 on Thursday, Microsoft Corp. also offered the bulk of its user base a first look at a new tool for the prickly problems of Group Policy management.

Users who sign up for the Corporate Preview Program to get RC2 of Windows .NET Server 2003 will also get the Beta 2 version of the Group Policy Management Console. Microsoft first introduced the GPMC to a limited group of testers in August.

"GPMC significantly eases the management of Group Policy operations and will be available to Windows .NET Server 2003 customers as a free download," a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

Group Policy was introduced in Windows 2000 to provide administrators a policy-based method for setting security management, user management, data management, software access and configuration management. While offering powerful capabilities, Group Policy in complex configurations often made it difficult for administrators to predict how rules would propagate through the network and affect an individual user or object.

Several third-party tools, such as FAZAM 2000, cropped up to provide such functionality as determining the impact of Group Policies on target entities and providing what-if simulations on the effects of Group Policy settings.

Microsoft's new Group Policy Management Console will provide some of those same functions. The new tool combines new capabilities for Group Policy management with Group Policy-related elements of several existing tools. It consists of a Microsoft Management Console snap-in and scriptable interfaces for managing group policy.

At the launch of Windows .NET Server, GPMC will be available as a separate, free component. While it will only run on Windows .NET Server 2003 or Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1, the tool will be capable of managing both Windows 2000 and Windows .NET Server 2003 domains.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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