Microsoft reveals Windows Server 2008 R2

In preparation for the launch of Windows 7 on the client, Microsoft readies a major update to its most recent server operating system with new features and bug fixes.

WinHEC

If PDC 2008 was Windows 7's coming out party, Windows Server 2008 R2 took centre stage at WinHEC 2008 in Los Angeles as Microsoft revealed final details for the release of its next server OS edition.

Microsoft made much of its 64-bit server operating system's key features, especially its DirectAccess alternative to VPN connections to business networks. DirectAccess is Microsoft's push to deliver a compelling IPv6 application, as well as use that technology alongside IP SEC security to provide a direct route through firewalls into the data centre, replacing DMZs with trusted links between domain PCs and servers that you can manage through group policy.

Other Windows Server 2008 R2 features include a branch office cache and support for more than 64 logical processors. Both Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 share a kernel and a number of features. For example, both offer optimisation for SSD drives.

In demonstrations at WinHEC, Microsoft demonstrations showed an HP Itanium server running Server 2008 R2 with the equivalent of 256 cores, using the next version of SQL Server, currently code-named Kilimanjaro.

Virtualisation remains an important server feature, and Microsoft showed the live migration feature built into the next release of Windows' Hyper-V hypervisor, which can allows you to hot-add or remove storage for VMs without rebooting. Hyper-V R2 will also increase the number of simultaneous virtual machines to 32, and will run with a much lower processor overhead one per cent instead of the current five per cent. It also saves another 10 per cent on power use, on top of the 10 per cent improvement Microsoft is claiming for Server 2008 SP2.

Like Windows 7, Server 2008 R2 will be able to boot from Microsoft's Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) files as well as standard disk partitions. VHD files will also be able to be used as deployment images, signalling the potential end of the WIM image format.

IT professionals will be able to standardise on one image format for their physical and virtual servers, as well as using existing virtual machine VHDs on physical servers. "If you have a VHD that gets beyond the capacity of the machine, for example you want to go beyond four processors or address more than a terabyte of RAM, you can take the VHD and put it in a physical environment and allow it to grow," explained Ward Ralston, group product manager for Windows Server.

R2 brings some parts of .NET to the server core role. "With Windows Server 2008 the .NET framework was monolithic; we had hooks into the user interface and that went away from the whole idea of server core, "said Ralston. "With R2 we have been able to bring in only the pieces we need like the Common Language Runtime (CLR) and Windows Communication Foundation (WCF)." That componentisation of .NET will grow in future versions.

Windows Server 2008 R2, like Windows 7, appears to be shaping up into a key server release for Microsoft, with features that target many different use scenarios. However, Microsoft is expected to continue selling the same number of versions as Windows Server 2008.

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