In this post I thought I would highlight some of the features and functionality that has impressed me the most about Windows Server 2012 so far. This list is by no means complete nor listed in any particular order. I would however like to dive a bit deeper into some of these features in future posts to help others understand them in more detail.
- Hyper-V 3.0: Virtual Machine Replication – its just so easy to configure and in comparison to the competitors in terms of cost savings it’s a no-brainer. I particularly like the option to keep version history of your replicated VM; just in case the most current replicated data is damaged during an unplanned failover you have the option to select an earlier version.
- Hyper-V 3.0: Live Migration – this feature is another that really shows how Microsoft have raised the bar in terms of a serious enterprise virtualisation alternative. Exactly as it suggests the feature lets you move your virtual workloads around from host to host seamlessly, and/or storage. The more impressive the hardware the better the feature works. E.g SAN and or new NIC chipsets that support larger bandwidth and offloading increase the performance of Live Migration in Hyper-V 3.0; best part is that you don’t need all the fancy gear to still have the migration functionality.
- Hyper-V 3.0: True multi-tenant capable hypervisor – now Hyper-V supports true multi-tenantancy with support for complete virtual networking and proper isolation enables the robustness expected by hosting providers to ensure shared infrastructure is no longer problematic with adventurous tenants creating networking nightmares that interfere with other tenants virtual networks on the same hardware. Also with this now the option to fully migrate the tenants networking over in the event that a site failover or migration occurs.
- File Services: De-duplication – this is logical and impressive at the same time. File server administrators are constantly against the wall with the ongoing issue of data growth in todays busy world. Data consumers will generally be very un-considerable when it comes to data storage. With the new de-duplication feature built-in to Windows Server 2012; file server administrators now can attempt to combat some of this behavior by turning on de-duplication for data volumes. This feature ensures that only one copy of the same data ever gets stored. My guess is that with all that we have learnt from storage virtualisation technologies and dynamic-growing disks this feature was born.
- Networking: Interface teaming straight out of the box – finally Microsoft now have general support straight out of the box for interface grouping without the need for the NIC manufacturers device driver support. Traditionally server applications such as Active Directory Domain Services never supported teamed server adapters and now with this out-of-box feature you can group interfaces with out the worry of breaking support for services like ADDS.
- File Services: Server Message Block v3 (SMB3.0) – this update is long-awaited and will greatly enhance the options/reliability that Windows can provide to services. SMB is the heart of most of the Windows networking stack, it’s improvements in version 3 enable new scenarios such as the ability to use a shared volume as an iSCSI target without any further add-ins and also allows the Live Migration feature in Hyper-V 3.0 to work without the need to have a SAN in place. SMB3.0 overall improves the networking stack significantly and might be an area that I can expand on in a future post.
- File Services: iSCSI Target – as mentioned above; due to the introduction of SMB3.0 Windows Server 2012 now allows you to host iSCSI targets directly from a shared folder or volume effortlessly. This will greatly aid those who are looking for a low-cost option in replacement for some entry-level SAN solutions.
- Active Directory: Active Directory Recycle Bin – ok before those hardcore directory administrators jump on me; yes I know this feature is not really ‘new’ as such; although in my opinion most will first discover it after rolling up their schemas to Windows Server 2012 and discovering the options in the new Active Directory Administrative Centre tool. Windows Server 2008 R2 first introduced the option to restore back deleted objects via management interfaces such as powershell, it required that your forest and domain-functional levels were Windows Server 2008 R2 but the option wasn’t as complete as it now is in Windows Server 2012. Now all logically-linked values to an object including the object itself can be fully restored from the ‘recycle bin’ without the DC needing to be in Directory Restore mode to perform the proceedure. This new functionality is only possible once your domain-functional level is raised to Windows Server 2012. The feature is however non reversable once enabled and for those not following; the feature now stands out as it appears as a GUI option in the new management tool rather than only being available via PowerShell.
- Active Directory: Fine-graded Password Policies – this is another neat feature that has surfaced into the new management tool for Active Directory that again was available in Windows Server 2008 R2 but manageable only via PowerShell. Fine-grade password policies allows directory administrators to have more control over who a specific password policy applies too and enables further control on the policy complexity requirements.
- Remote Desktop Services: VDI out of the box (Citrix: I’m not stealing your trademark!) – finally; well only to stay fair with the post title (top 10) is the new functionality surrounding the deployment of Remote Desktop Services role in co-operation with Hyper-V. RDS role deployment now has a very easy to use wizard that enables new VDI scenarios that make your BYOD (bring-your-own-device) strategy gain some traction. If your planning a BYOD strategy at the moment but finding your running into some financial brick walls; already have a Microsoft VL agreement in place with SA, I would highly suggest checking out the new RDS role and it’s deployment options for VDI. After assessing it’s worth; you may find the solution speaks for itself.
As I stated in the title of this post “my top 10 likes”; I could keep going on. The new ways Microsoft has designed the user interface and server management console are just further areas I could comment on. I hope to write some more on some of these topics above and dive a bit deeper into the new wave of Microsoft products in the near future, please comment on anything listed here or send me a request if you would like some further posts on a specific topic not covered in this post. Happy to blog about it if the interest is there!
Update: I don’t know how I forgot to make mention to Storage Spaces – So now the list is technically 11 features long, read the preceding post where I talk more about the Storage Spaces feature some more.