Windows Server 2008 R2 is slated for release on Oct. 22, which is in step with Windows 7, and offers a host of new features that solutions providers can introduce to their clients. More than a service pack, R2 comes with significant enhancements that can help drive business opportunities for VARs. They include major changes to virtualization capabilities and improved backup. And Server 2008 R2 is focused on facilitating server management, which is a great advantage for solutions providers.
Server 2008 R2 is the first operating system (OS) release from Microsoft to support 64-bit processors only. This shouldn't be a problem for most VARs, because most server-class systems are sold with 64-bit support anyway, and 32-bit has long been unavailable. Additionally, Server 2008 R2 now supports up to 256 cores, which is a big jump from the previous limit of 64 cores. This change significantly improves the scalability of the OS.
New virtualization features in Windows Server 2008 R2
Virtualization capabilities have improved as well. Server 2008 R2 includes the new version of Hyper-V, which has key new features that the previous release lacked. Hyper-V now gives users support for up to 64 logical processors, up from the previous limit of 32. This increase pushes hardware even harder than before, allowing for support of large enterprise workloads.
Hyper-V also now allows for up to 32 cores per virtual machine and has improved network performance via the use of TCP offload and jumbo frames.
Hyper-V's most anxiously awaited feature is Live Migration. Live Migration allows for the movement of virtual machines between hosts with no downtime. It is built upon Windows Server 2008 R2's new Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) technology, which supports multiple cluster nodes running concurrently across the same logical unit number (LUN). With Live Migration, Microsoft has finally answered VMware's VMotion technology, and the changes to the virtualization layer make Microsoft a much better match to VMware and allow VARs to offer a wider range of service offerings.
Microsoft has also added a processor compatibility mode with Windows Server 2008 R2, which permits virtual machines to migrate from one physical server to another, despite different CPU versions. Previously, Hyper-V restricted migrations to only similar CPU types, and with this change, solutions providers are able to sell different types of hardware to clients without worrying about compatibility issues.
As part of Microsoft's virtualization strategy around Presentation Virtualization, the company has changed the name of Terminal Services to Remote Desktop Services. The new Remote Desktop Services component has support for Aero Glass, multiple monitors and DirectX 11, 10 and 9.
Windows Server 2008 R2 and PowerShell 2.0
IIS 7.5 is included as part of the new product and adds more than 50 new cmdlets to PowerShell. It has WebDav integration, which opens up remote authoring and versioning, and URLScan 3.0 integration, which allows for restriction on the types of HTTP requests. FTP server services are integrated into the IIS administration interface, and a new .NET XML-based configuration format is available. Virtual host names have additional support for FTP sites.
Server Core was a significant new feature in Server 2008, but it lacked support for the .NET Framework. That meant that technologies such as PowerShell and ASP.NET, which are well suited for Server Core, would not run. Microsoft has addressed this problem with the inclusion of a subset of the .NET Framework, which supports both ASP.NET and PowerShell.
PowerShell 2.0 now has improved Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) cmdlets and support for running scripts on remote systems. This allows solutions providers to create ScriptCmdlets and run background jobs. R2 also has a new graphical user interface for developing and debugging PowerShell scripts. PowerShell 2.0 is compatible with PowerShell 1.0, and solutions providers do not need to rewrite any existing PowerShell scripts. Server 2008 R2 is even easier to manage and maintain, and with more scriptable pieces, managed services providers can continue to automate their maintenance.
More new features in Windows Server 2008 R2
Server 2008 R2 also has improved power management via the new core parking feature. Core parking lets the OS suspend cores that aren't in use, thus saving the power required to run those cores. Users can reactivate parked cores in milliseconds to respond to increased workloads.
A welcome addition in Server 2008 was Server Manager, which provides centralized management access to core functions. With R2, you can install Server Manager on clients and use it to manage remote Server 2008 systems.
For administrators, the new Active Directory Administrative Center (ADAC) is a massive change that replaces the older Active Directory, Domains and Trusts, Sites and Services and Users and Computers management tools. Built on top of PowerShell, actions performed by these tools are entirely scriptable.
Microsoft has enhanced Windows Server Backup to allow for the backup of specific files and folders rather than having just the volume as the minimum unit. You can configure backups to exclude specific files, folders or file types. With the new version, you can also back up system state data only, including incremental system state backups. You can schedule these backups and push them to network shares as well. And best of all, the backup utility is entirely scriptable with PowerShell.About the author
Dave Sobel is CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based solutions provider that offers virtualization, networking and security services to small and medium-sized businesses. He is a regular speaker at industry events and an active member of Heartland Technology Groups in the United States and Europe.