Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 R2 is a big attempt by the software giant to streamline all things virtual. The most highlighted features by Microsoft are those that improve Hyper-V and integrate the virtualization capabilities of Windows 7.
We encounted a warning message during the upgrade from Server 2008 to 2008 R2.The compatibility report kept insisting that Hyper-V was still running (even though it didn't appear as if it were), and the upgrade process halted. Microsoft explained this message to CRN Test Center reviewers by pointing out that VM snapshots and saved states have changed between RTM and R2. The reason for the warning is to prevent a data loss for the customer during the upgrade, and that the warning will appear if the Hyper-V Role is not disabled. Per Microsoft, this gives customers the opportunity to handle snapshots and saved states appropriately, as outlined in Knowledge Base article kb957256.
Windows Server 2008 R2 left us impressed. It is a summation of all the technical features that are in demand right now: virtualization, green aspects and high performance.
This is, in short, Microsoft's best server operating system to date.
|Slide Show: Inside Server 2008 R2|
Terminal Services has been renamed and revamped. Now known as Remote Desktop Services, RDS has been integrated as part of Microsoft's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI. Installing the Remote Desktop Services Roles gives the option to install six role services. They include: Remote Desktop Session Host, formerly known as Terminal Server; the Remote Desktop Virtualization Host, which requires installing Hyper-V; Remote Desktop Licensing, which replaces TS Licensing; the Remote Desktop Connection Broker -- formerly the TS Session Broker -- which supports session load balancing and access to RemoteApp programs and virtual desktops; Remote Desktop Gateway, formerly TS gateway and, finally, Remote Desktop Web Access -- formerly TS Web Access -- which allows users to access RemoteApp and Desktop Connection via Windows 7 or a browser.
Remote Desktop session includes a new method of authentication, Network Level Authentication. Microsoft describes it as a security enhancement that requires user authentication before a full Remote Desktop connection to the RD Session Host is established.
Remote Desktop user sessions can be enhanced with the Desktop Experience Feature. This is to provide a better remote user experience playing audio and video or by providing remote users the Windows Aero interface.
Installing all of these roles and Hyper-V took a scant few minutes (of course, we tested on a server with Intel's Nahalem processors and 24 GB RAM, so that helped out quite a bit on the performance front).
Windows Server 2008 R2 also introduces Internet Information Services 7.5, which has been re-engineered for more streamlined Web server management, better .NET support and the ability to do more with IIS via PowerShell. There's also heftier auditing with a new Configuration Logging feature. IT shops with Web sites running on IIS 6.0 can use the IIS 6 management compatibility feature.
Hyper-V has undergone some significant improvements. Hyper-V in Server 2008 R2 supports up to 64 logical processors. This is important in two ways: First, it means Hyper-V can support a greater number of virtual machines, a vast number in fact. Second, administrators have greater flexibility in allocating CPU resources in a virtual environment.
The Live Migration in Server 2008 R2's Hyper-V allows moving virtual machines between two hosts without any interruption of service of that VM. To do live migrating, the Failover Clustering Role has to be added to the source and destination servers running Hyper-V. Cluster nodes also need shared storage like a SAN. Live Migration also uses a Cluster Shared Volumes feature within Failover Clustering. In a nutshell, this means all cluster nodes have access to the same volume.
Other enhancements in Hyper-V in Server 2008 R2 center on increased performance of virtual network settings and power consumption and management.
There are numerous under-the-hood changes. One of the more viewable of changes is on Active Directory management. There's a new AD Domain Services management console, called Active Directory Administrative Center. Deleted AD objects can now be recovered via a Recycle Bin feature within AD. There is also now support for joining computers to a domain while they are offline from the domain.
There's a lot to like in Server 2008 R2, and it is sure to be a welcome addition in WinTel data centers. If Windows 7 follows suit, the two can combine to make a powerful desktop/server platform.