Microsoft has taken a leap forward with Windows Server 2012, for all users from system administrators to Chief Information Officers, and even for end users. Windows Server 2012 is Microsoft’s biggest step forward since Windows Server 2000.
The list of enhancements and top features is huge—the features below have been selected to show the impact it will have.
1. Fewer versions allows for easier licensing
Microsoft has made life easier, with only two versions to choose from: Standard and Datacenter. The key difference between the two choices is the number of virtual machines (VMs) you’re able to run.
|Edition||Ideal for…||Licensing Model||Feature Comparison|
|Datacenter||Highly virtualized private & hybrid cloud environments.||Processor + CAL*||Full windows server functionality with unlimited virtual instances.|
|Standard||Non-virtualized or low-density environments.||Professor + CAL*||Full windows server functionality with two virtual instances.|
|Essentials||Small business environments||Server (25 user account limit)||Easy-to-use interface, pre-configured connectivity to cloud- based services, and no virtualization rights.|
|Foundation||Economical general purpose server||Server (15 user account limit)||General-purpose server functionality with no virtualization rights.|
For example, if you’re a medium-sized business with limited hardware and a few instances of key servers, then Windows Server 2012 Standard is a great choice. However, businesses with a highly virtualized environment, that requires the ability to scale out servers quickly, will prefer Windows Server 2012 Datacenter.
Smaller companies with up to 25 employees will find Microsoft Server 2012 Essentials to be helpful, and companies with less than 15 users will benefit from Windows Server 2012 Foundation. However, the Foundation version will only be sold through original equipment manufacturers such as Dell, or preinstalled on hardware.
2. Data Deduplication
Over the last decade, nothing has grown as fast as data has, and storage has become the number one IT expense for companies of all sizes. The storage market continues to grow at a surprising 30% per year!
While deduplication was available in Windows Storage Server, it’s also been embedded into the core Windows Server OS. Deduplication eliminates the duplicated space by as much as 90% across operating system installations, resulting in hundreds of gigabytes, even terabytes of space reclaimed.
3. Thin Provisioning and Trim
Instead of dedicating a large amount of storage to a VM that may take a year or more to use, you should start small and let it grow in controlled amounts. This will reduce the storage waste and make the most of your resources.
Once a project is finished and the data is archived, your storage may shrink. In order to support the reclamation of storage, Microsoft has created a Trim feature that locates unused storage, and pulls it back into the central pool for applications to use.
4. Storage Spaces
Many organizations struggle to afford expensive hardware Storage Area Networks (SAN) or even their software counterparts. Instead of buying third-party tools or expensive storage solutions, organizations can throw all of their cheap disks together into a large software pool, and create a virtual SAN and serve up virtual disks.
5. Diskless Boot
By removing the hard disk out of the server and booting across the network, an organization can save money and have a more flexible data center. In Windows Server 2012, a diskless boot is supported as an OS feature.
This also has an advantage from a management perspective. For example, an administrator wants to create a master image for his webservers. The administrator can simply download that image whenever he needs an additional webserver. In this way you only need to patch and maintain the master image, as opposed to each installation.
6. Shared Nothing-Live Migration
With Windows Server 2012, the new, shared nothing-live migration allows you to move a VM between servers, however, the servers must be able to see each other via an Ethernet connection. Any changes during a shared nothing-live migration are logged, and once the original copy is complete, the updated version will be applied to the source and destination virtual hard disk (VHD) files.
Once the sync is complete, the copied VM on the destination host is brought online, and then the copy on the source is erased.
7. Hyper-V 3.0
VMs have the ability to support the following:
- 64 processors
- A 1TB of RAM
- 1,024 active VMs per host
- 8,000 VMs per cluster
- 64TB VHDx with 256 disks per VM
There are very few applications that can’t be run at scale in a Hyper-V VM, which makes this an important step towards full virtualization of the data center. Incidentally, Windows Server 2012 now enables you to virtualize your domain controller as well.
8. GUI (Graphical User Interface)-less Install Options
Microsoft has made Server Core the default installation for Windows Server 2012. This GUI-less environment means that resources will be free for VMs and applications; as well as reducing the amount of resources being used, Server Core delivers other benefits as well.
With a reduced footprint, security is improved through a smaller attack surface. Reducing the space required by the operating system also makes each VM smaller and lightweight.
For example, deploy the server with the GUI for easier setup and configuration. Once you’ve configured the server, remove the GUI using a PowerShell command.
9. Dynamic Access Control
Network security has become increasingly difficult to maintain. In Windows Server 2012, security is no longer at the basic file and folder level. Additional options are available, such as enforcing access at the domain level and applying policies to user roles, departments or even to users who connect for a specific connection.
Many organizations have started to use collaboration, which could lead to the accidental posting of confidential information. Thankfully, Windows Server 2012 has designed some serious upgrades to control this.
ReFS (Resilient File System) brings Windows Server 2012 into the future, with important capabilities such as support for large terabytes of data, and improved and automated healing. ReFS uses metadata to store information about files, and provides various features for auto correction and data verification.
Also, ReFS supports much larger volumes of data, which will be important with the rise of big data (a massive volume of data that is so large that it’s difficult to process using traditional database and software techniques).
11. PowerShell 3.0
Recently, PowerShell has gained a lot of credibility among administrators who want to script how reoccurring tasks are carried out. With Windows Server 2012, Microsoft has released 2,300 new PowerShell cmdlets, which means that busy administrators can reduce their workload.
Also, for those system administrators who haven’t written a script before, there’s a new PowerShell console and IntelliSense. These features make writing PowerShell script a lot easier, and getting started is quick and easy! Just visit here and here.
12. Server Management
Windows Server 2012 supports GUI and non-GUI interfaces, and includes the same tiled interface of Windows 8 and Windows Phone. It’s very simple to use a tile as a dashboard widget, which means that companies have the ability to build a flexible, easy-to-use management dashboard that reflects the state of the data center as well.
System administrators can get a single view of the server health, and they also have the ability to deploy new roles to an immediate or remove server, manage VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) clients, DAC (Discretionary access control), and storage and networking.
Interested in Windows Server 2012? Have questions if Windows Server 2012 is right for your business? Contact us today. As your team of trusted Microsoft Professionals we are here to help with any Microsoft support you may require. Our team of trained and certified Microsoft consultants can tackle any Microsoft networking or desktop challenge you may have.
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