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Hyper-V's Network Manager also can create internal and VPNs, including managing multiple VLANs on one network stack. Solution providers will be able to create multitier network topologies on one Windows Server 2008 running the Hyper-V service. For instance, a Web server running on a virtual Windows 2008 server can be configured to work with an external virtual switch. That same external switch can control the external root network stack. Other tiers running on separate VMs like a database tier can use an internal switch that connects to the Web server. From the outside, only the Web server will be visible. Both VMware and Xen can create this network topology scenario. In fact, VMware's virtual network switching is more feature-rich because it supports port-based VLANs as well as policy-based and MAC-based VLANs. Like Hyper-V, VMware's virtual switch can be configured with internal and external network connections.
Virtual switches only unhook individual physical adapters on a server. Therefore, solution providers will be able to create dedicated physical adapters to Windows Server 2008 while keeping virtual switches running behind the scenes. This scenario allows solution providers to take advantage of the new Layer 2 switch features in Windows Server 2008.
Through the Network Manager, solution providers will be able to map out entire network topologies even before attaching VMs to the switches. Network Manager has a clear and simple interface, so solution providers will be able to create descriptive names for each switch. During testing, however, it turned out that the names for the switches inside Virtual Network Manager do not match the names in the Windows Server 2008 Network Manager. The virtual switch adapters created in Windows Server 2008 can only be identified by how they are configured inside the Virtual Network Manager. Because the names do not match, it became a mind-bender to figure out how other Windows Server 2008 services were connecting to external networks.
To maximize throughput, Microsoft also uses an optimized file system for virtual machines, which can either use fixed size virtual files, dynamically spanning file sizes or delta size files that increase in size based on changes to master files. Reviewers chose the fixed size files when testing virtual machines.
To simplify migration between physical and virtual machines, Microsoft will be making a tool available that will automate the transition. Solution providers will not have to make any changes to the physical OS so that Hyper-V accepts the install. The tool will be ghosting OSes and creating Hyper-V's virtual machine file format, the VHDs as they are called. No doubt, Microsoft will be making a tool, or at least a method, to help solution providers migrate VMware VMs to Hyper-V.
Microsoft also added a lightweight version of System Center to manage multiple physical and virtual servers in small data centers. Microsoft's higher-end System Center product will be able to convert physical-to-virtual and virtual-to-virtual OSes. It's not yet clear to CMP reviewers what deployment and management features will be available in the lightweight version.
Beyond Hyper-V, Windows Server 2008 is greener, thinner and far more sophisticated than its predecessor. What's more, Microsoft has added every conceivable service that an OS can support at this time. And they are all free.
Like Vista, Windows Server 2008 has been retrofitted with the SMB 2.0 protocol. With SMB 2.0, the new Windows network stack has been totally revamped to squeeze the most bandwidth out of a network. SMB 2.0 scales up to maximize network throughput. The protocol supports multiple file handles. Windows Server 2008 has eliminated a lot of dependencies between its services. For instance, Terminal Services works independently of Internet Information Services (IIS). Reviewers enabled Terminal Services without having to initiate any other service. On Windows Server 2003, many services require file and execution of other services.
The Windows Server 2008 Deployment Services and installation processes will change the way services and OSes are installed. For instance, Windows' services are now kept on a hidden partition. The Windows Server uses a service modeling language to track all file and service dependencies for each service. Once a service is installed, the SML script only opens the required ports on the firewall and installs any other dependencies automatically. With Deployment Services, solution providers will be able to create boot images and install them remotely. The service uses Multicast to capture images remotely as well. What's awesome is that solution providers will be able to patch the images and install new drivers on the fly without having to deploy the OS on physical servers. Essentially, solution providers will be able to browse right to a staged image and change it.
It's easy to view this as Microsoft's most audacious product ever. With all of its automation and transformative potential, Windows Server 2008 could turn into this century's Henry Ford, assembly-line moment: the point in which business changes drastically and permanently. Certainly, it will impact solution providers up and down the enterprise—and sooner rather than later.