Software used to simply "ship" when it was ready for public consumption. But instead, as Network World Senior Editor John Fontana noted last week, Microsoft "...made generally available Windows Server 2003 R2 to users and partners..." Actual shipments of the product, in the traditional sense, for volume licensing customers with Software Assurance maintenance contracts has begun, but will take some time to complete.The difference, to my cynical mind, is cash flow. Microsoft has provided R2 masters to its OEM partners (Dell, HP, etc.) so that hardware shipped today will include R2 as the installed version of server software. Thus, Microsoft can begin bringing in the revenue from those new servers right away. There's also a savings involved, since those customers would most likely be entitled to a free upgrade to R2 once Microsoft begins to ship that to those customers with maintenance agreements. Given the choice "get some cash" vs. "incur some expense" there's no question what would be the choice of the bean counters.Still, there's no real rush for you to upgrade your servers. Hopefully you got a copy of the beta release in December and have been putting it through its paces in your network lab. If so, you'll still want to remove the beta and install the released product as soon as you have it. But you'll be ahead since you should only need to test to see if it behaves the same as the Beta Release Candidate (RC) software. If it does, then rolling out to production can follow rather quickly.If you haven't been testing R2, then you'll need to do so now (or at least as soon as it arrives), and do so thoroughly. Really bad things can happen when a server update goes wrong.The benefits of R2 are many, such as Active Directory Federation Services, better branch office support, tighter integration of services for Unix into the core operating system and more. Beginning next week, we'll explore them in more depth.Before that, however, I want to briefly note a new shipment from our old friends at ScriptLogic - Installer Design Studio (IDS). This evolved from ScriptLogic's purchase of MaSaI, a New Zealand producer of applications including the MaSaI Installer, the direct forebear of IDS. In a nutshell, IDS streamlines how desktop software is packaged for installation across an enterprise. It allows you to repackage, edit, and manage existing Windows Installer Files (.MSI files) as well as the tools to create new ones designed for your network and users. Head to the ScriptLogic Web site to read about all of the features, then download the free 15-day evaluation of IDS so you can test drive it for yourself.