Microsoft Windows Server 2008 is the next generation of the Windows Server operating system, scheduled to be officially released during Q1 2008. Formerly known as “Longhorn Server”, Windows Server 2008 is designed to help IT Professionals to maximize control over their infrastructure, while providing enhanced availability and management capabilities, leading to a significantly more secure, reliable server environment than ever before. This is not just one of Microsoft’s sales pitches, over exaggerating the benefits for the new OS. The benefits included in Windows Server 2008 are real, and they are already available today (this article was written while Windows Server 2008 was in RC0 phase). Windows Server 2008 is the most flexible and robust Windows Server operating system to date.
Quoting from Microsoft’s site, Windows Server 2008 builds on the success and strengths of the award-winning Windows Server 2003 operating system and on the innovations delivered in Service Pack 1 and Windows Server 2003 R2. However, Windows Server 2008 is far more than a refinement of predecessor operating systems. Windows Server 2008 is designed to provide organizations with the most productive platform for powering applications, networks, and Web services from the workgroup to the datacenter with exciting, valuable new functionality and powerful improvements to the base operating system.
By making all these functional and architectural changes, Windows Server 2008 is designed to deliver new value to organizations by ensuring that all users regardless of location are able to get the full complement of services from the network, with lower risk to data integrity and availability. Windows Server 2008 also gives IT Professionals greater control over their server and network infrastructure, allowing them to spend more time adding business value, rather than spending most of their time on administration tasks.
Windows Server 2008 is designed to help the IT professional in these areas, also called “scenarios”: Server Virtualization, Centralized Application Access, Branch Office, Security and Policy Enforcement, Web and Applications Platform, Server Management, and High Availability.
- Server Virtualization: With its built-in server virtualization technology, allowing you to host multiple operating systems—Windows, Linux and others—on a single server, Windows Server 2008 enables you to reduce costs, increase hardware utilization, optimize your infrastructure, and improve server availability. The virtualization role provides an entirely new deployment and licensing paradigm to enable multiple operating system instances to run in a virtual infrastructure separated from the hardware by a slim “hypervisor” of virtualization technology. The benefits of virtualization are accomplished using server consolidation. This helps reduce the total number and cost of server ownership by maximizing hardware utilization and consolidating workloads. Improved management capabilities allow IT Professionals to create a “dynamic data center” to move virtual machines without impacting the users and to provide flexible test and development environments.
- Centralized Application Access: Windows Server 2008 provides secure anywhere access to business applications over the Internet using Terminal Services. New in Windows Server 2008 – Terminal Services RemoteApp integrates applications running on a terminal server with users’ desktops such that they behave as if they were running on an individual user’s local computer, including Task Manager and toolbar integration, and even balloon tip pop-ups. Users can run programs from a remote location side-by-side with their local programs without knowing that these applications are in fact not run locally. Redesigned Terminal Services Web Access permits this same flexibility of remote application access via Web browser, allowing the user to connect to the TS without the need to install the local Remote Desktop client. With Terminal Services Gateway, Terminal Services provides secure access to both remote and network-based users to applications that are centralized and secured in the data center. This access removes the need for application servers at distributed locations and provides secure access to terminal services without needing to enable full network access using VPN or other mechanisms.
- Branch Office: Windows Server 2008 fits in a branch Office scenario with several features like better remote deployment and administration. Windows Server 2008 allows organizations to improve security, server deployment, system administration, and the efficiency of WAN communications in branch offices. Enhancements to branch office features are enabled by Active Directory with Read-Only Domain Controller – allowing the creation of a read-only DC that can service users’ logon requests but does not cache security-sensitive information locally on its drive. Furthermore, restartable Active Directory allows the branch office administrator to stop and start AD-related services on the DC without the need to re-boot the server into DS Restore Mode. SYSVOL replication using DFS; File Services with SMB 2.0 and read-only DFS members allow for better traffic control and reduced WAN overhead. BitLocker Drive Encryption, Server Core (see related articles on my site), and Windows Server Virtualization are also parts of this scenario
- Security and Policy Enforcement: Security is greatly enhanced in the Windows Server 2008 operating system through security roles, Network Access Protection, central policy management, and secure wireless and remote access solutions. With Windows Server 2008, IT Professionals can check the health of computers, and enforce application layer data inspection by checking for malware; simplify administrative tasks, such as system updates and application installations; and enable one-to-many management of users and computers throughout the enterprise. The IT staff can also create a Group Policy to control access, use policy-based quality of service to prioritize and manage the sending rate for outgoing network traffic, and filter outgoing and incoming traffic. Group Policy settings can also provide enhanced secure wireless network access to networks. Security and policy-enforcements in Windows Server 2008 are enabled by Network Access Protection, Internet Protocol security (IPsec) improvements, network authentication methods (IEEE 802.1X, VPN, DHCP, RADIUS), a Network Access Protection (NAP) Administration Server, System Health Validator / System Health Agent, a Health Certificate Server, and Group Policy features.
- Web and Applications Platform: Windows Server 2008 provides a secure, easy-to-manage platform for developing and reliably hosting applications and services to run on the server or over the Web. With Windows Server 2008 enterprises will enjoy more efficient application and services management, quicker deployment and configuration of Web application and services across server farms, and a more secure, streamlined, customized Web platform. Windows Server 2008 provides greater performance and scalability of Web applications and services, and offers fine control and visibility into how and when applications and services utilize key operating system resources. Windows Server 2008 delivers a unified platform for Web publishing that integrates Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0, ASP.NET, Windows Communication Foundation, Windows Workflow Foundation, and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0.
- Server Management: Windows Server 2008 improves the management experience of single and multiple servers across an enterprise. The new Server Manager console in Windows Server 2008 is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in that eases the task of managing and securing multiple server roles in an enterprise. Server Manager replaces and consolidates a number of features from Microsoft Windows Server 2003 such as Manage Your Server, Configure Your Server, and Add or Remove Windows Components. Server Manager provides a single source for managing a server’s identity and system information, displaying server status, identifying problems with server role configuration, and managing all of the roles installed on the server. Information provided by Server Manager gives IT Professionals the specific information they need to control and manage their environment. Multiple servers can be automated using Windows PowerShell, which consists of a new command-line shell and scripting language designed specifically to automate administration tasks for server roles, such as IIS and Active Directory. Using Windows PowerShell that enables administrator to more easily control and securely automate routine system administration tasks, especially across multiple servers. Another means of server management is the Windows Remote Shell (WinRS) tool, allowing IT Pros to remotely manage servers, or to obtain management data through Windows Remote Management (WinRM) and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) objects on remote servers. Server Core provides a minimal installation option for certain server roles, offering a smaller server footprint and attack surface to reduce management and servicing needs. While the Server Core installation option is a fully functioning mode of the operating system supporting one of the designate roles, it does not include the server graphic user interface (GUI). Read more about Server Core on my related articles section.
- High Availability: Windows Server 2008 provides increased system availability to maximize system uptime and increase productivity. By actively monitoring the state of installed roles and displaying proactive data about potential failures, it helps IT Professionals reduce potential downtime. Failover Clustering as part of Windows Server 2008 provides new features that an organization can use to implement a High Availability strategy, making cluster servers a smart business choice for the enterprise. A new cluster creation wizard and management interface provides the IT professional with a simple interface to create, manage, and use clustered servers. New tools reduce cluster configuration setup and maintenance issues. By using the new Validate Tool in failover clusters, you can perform tests to determine whether your system, storage, and network configuration is suitable for a cluster. New functionality allows implementation in geographically dispersed environments, allowing the technology to adapt to the customer’s environment.
Windows Server 2008 provides new functionality and powerful improvements over Windows Server 2003. Notable improvements include networking, advanced security features, remote application access, centralized server role management, performance and reliability monitoring tools, failover clustering, deployment, and the file system. These improvements help IT Professionals maximize the flexibility, availability, and control of their servers.