1 Apr 2007

On SP2 and Avoidance

Author: q | Filed under: Frustrations, SBS

For what it”s worth, I now have an official stance on Windows Server 2003 SP2:

Don”t install it. At least not yet.

I keep running into folks who have issues with their servers following the installation of SP2. the majority of issues seem to be cause by the enabling of Receive Side Scaling in SP2. This is more than just my experience, too. The Official SBS Blog also notes that RSS may be at the core of a number of problems seen in the SBS community following the installation of SP2. MS has posted KB927695 which gives a registry hack to disable RSS on the server, but the description of the problem in the KB doesn”t correlate to the behaviors we”re seeing in the field, so the average bloke trying to figure out why he suddenly can”t get to external FTP sites or the iTunes Music Store isn”t going to find this KB directly.

Though the KB tells the reader to disable RSS in the registry, I”ve been able to get resolution in all cases I”ve handled thus far by going into the Configuration properties of the NICs on the server and setting Recive Side Scaling to Disabled. This is a far more palatable resolution for most people than going in and modifying the registry. 

Another common thread we”ve seen in blogs and newsgroup posts is that ISA is also a factor in the mix. My recent experiences have not had ISA involved, which is why I”m looking at RSS as the core culprit. It”s the common thread that leads to the core resolution – disabling RSS seems to take care of a vast majority of issues.

Plus, I have yet to see a real business case for pushing ahead with the installation of SP2, especially in the small business arena. In fact, of the Top Ten Reasons to install SP2 listed at the TechNet site, I see exactly one reason, ironically listed as #1 in the list,that I might want to install SP2,but that”s only for sites that I haven”t been keeping up to date with Microsoft Updates – SP2 does offer a single rollup for all the updates that have been released since SP1, and if a bunch haven”t been installed, then yeah, it could be easier to install SP2 than to singly install all the updates. But given that reason #3 is causing a lot of grief out in the community and that the other “reason” just really seem more like marketing spin than actual technical/business benefits, I cannot in good conscience install this product on my client”s servers, nor can I recommend that anyone take the plunge right now and see what”s happening. That stance will change once we get a better grip on the breadth of the problems that are being caused by SP2 and quick access to the resolutions for them, but I”m nowehere near that point yet.

One request from you, the gentle reader. If you have encountered a problem followin the install of SP2 that was resolved by disabling Receive Side Scaling, please take a moment and either drop me a note with a brief description of what the problem was, or just leave a comment here on the blog. I”d really like to get an idea of what”s out there that”s really getting hit, because I don”t think all of the possible scenarios have bubbled up to the top just yet. 

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