A day after the release of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Microsoft has unleashed the beta for its next-generation flagship server operating system, Windows Server 8.
We covered Windows Server 8 last year after visiting Microsoft’s Redmond campus for a hands-on Reviewer’s Workshop. We geeked out over the improvements that were made in Hyper-V; however, virtualization isn’t the only thing that will grab your attention.
Here’s a quick list of some of new and improved Windows Server features we saw back in September:
- Enhanced Server Manager for multi-machine management
- Server Core being the predominant environment
- DHCP Failover
- PowerShell 3.0 and its 2300 cmdlets
- Enhanced CHKDSK
- Built-in IP Address management (IPAM)
- Rapid deployment of Domain Controllers
- IIS 8
In addition to all of that, Microsoft packaged up additional features into the current rev, including:
- The “Always Offline” feature which lets users get near-local performance when working with cached files.
- Introducing ReFS, or the Resilient File System, designed for enhanced performance in enterprise storage.
- End-to-end encryption of SMB file systems to protect data from external threats.
- SMB2 file shares can now use VSS for volume backups during continuous disk writes.
- Cost-aware synchronization that lets you get results on bandwidth usage for metered connections.
- Windows Server cluster aware updating for patching nodes remotely or automatically
- PowerShell web interface
Though released not too far behind Windows 8, one thing that’s immediately apparent in the latest rev of Windows Server 8 is the updated user interface (UI) and a “Metro-like” interface. Microsoft basically said the Windows 8 Metro UI isn’t ready for the current Windows Server 8’s release, so it settled for a “Metro-like” look that uses tiles, such as what you’ll find in the new Server Manager.
Since the focus of administrating the updated OS will be client based, there may be less of a need to access the server directly. So the UI, as is, shouldn’t be that bad. Remember, Server Core is this newer version’s preferred UI, and using remote administrative tools to manage server services is all part of Microsoft’s new “manage many (servers) from one (interface)” paradigm.
In regard to PowerShell, Microsoft did try to follow through on its promise to have equivalent cmdlets for all its UI capabilities, but—according to a recent web conference—this fell through. Perhaps there was just too much to do in the time they had allotted. The game isn’t over yet, however. Windows Server 8 is still beta and a lot can happen between now and the release candidate.
That said, one nice thing about PowerShell in Windows Server 8, is that Microsoft did get a chance to build out a web UI (WUI) for remote administration using a browser-enabled PowerShell environment. That should come in handy for remote administration.
Now, as I mentioned, Microsoft’s put a lot into the Windows Server 8 packaging.
For small businesses, having built in IPAM is great. With limited budgets, SMBs try to get all they can for the best price. For ease of use, they can also fall back on the desktop UI and forego the Server Core configuration. That way, less experienced administrators can depend on the handy UI to manage their machines.
For the enterprise environment, I see them fully utilizing the stripped down Server Core installation. Using Hyper-V, IIS 8 and Server Manager in conjunction with management suites like System Center, machine delegation would fare well as you wouldn’t want to put too many eggs in one basket. You can have dedicated machines running dedicated services.
Also, I’m not too convinced that built in services like IPAM, DNS or DHCP would work that easily with non-Microsoft products. There are probably better products out there that would cover more needs that enterprises may want address.
Nevertheless, this has been an exciting time for Microsoft. With Cloud computing on the rise, Windows Server 8 has to be ready to serve as the foundation for what corporate Clouds are to be based on. Ease of use, fast performance, high-availability and disaster recovery, coupled with the right hardware and IT infrastructure are the things that enterprises rely on to stay running and stay afloat.
Julio Urquidi is the Technical Editor at Tom's IT Pro. Previously, he spent 17 years in healthcare-related enterprise IT. Julio’s most recent responsibilities centered around virtualization, but he is also well-versed in Linux, Windows and systems administration. Specializing in articles that help small companies with limited budgets leverage technology, he has been a contributing editor to Tom's Hardware. See here for all of Julio's Tom's IT Pro articles.