Windows Server 2012 Ships With New Cloud, Virtualization Capabilities

Windows Server 2012

The new edition is the latest in a wave of significant product updates Microsoft is releasing this year, leading up to the launch of Windows 8 late next month. Already this year Microsoft has shipped major upgrades to such core products as its SQL Server database and business intelligence server and System Center IT management toolset.

"Anytime there's a product refresh, it's a huge opportunity for the channel," said Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing, a Walnut Creek, Calif.-based systems integrator and Microsoft partner that works with such Microsoft products as Exchange, SharePoint and System Center.

[Related: Analysis: Did Licensing Changes Spur VMware vs. Microsoft? ]

Microsoft is touting Windows Server 2012's expanded virtualization capabilities and its ability to work with the Windows Azure cloud computing platform to deliver more than 200 public, private and hybrid cloud services.

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"We're really opening the door to any application on any cloud," said Michael Park, corporate vice president for the Microsoft Server and Tools Business, in an interview. "Agility is the name of the game in IT these days."

"The operating system has always been the heartbeat of IT and is now undergoing a renaissance in the new world of continuous cloud services, connected devices and big data," said Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft Server and Tools Business, in an online launch broadcast.

Convergent Computing has been installing the server software at customer sites for more than a year under an early adopter program. "It's been one of the cleanest and most reliable products that I've seen shipped out of Microsoft," Morimoto said in an interview.

While customers in the past might have upgraded to a new software release whenever one became available, businesses today are "looking for value" and the return-on-investment provided by an upgrade, Morimoto said.

Case-in-point is the new virtualization capabilities in Windows Server 2012 that Morimoto said reduces virtualization costs and complexity. "We've been working with customers to swap out their VMware," Morimoto said, citing eight customers who have recently made the switch.

Other new capabilities Morimoto sees as major selling points are Windows Server 2012's deduplication features, which he said can save 40 or 50 percent in storage space, and the built-in data classification tools.

Park also touted the product's new automated IT management capabilities, such as the ability to manage a large number of virtual machines. Another significant enhancement is the ability to synchronize identity, security and virtualization policies across public and private cloud systems, based on Windows Server 2012 and Windows Azure, to better manage mobile devices.

Microsoft is offering Windows Server 2012 in four editions, and Park said the Essentials edition, which has a 25-user limit, would particularly provide VARs and solution providers with opportunities in SMB markets.

In a controversial move, Microsoft decided to discontinue the once-popular Windows Small Business Server edition, saying that more small businesses today are turning to cloud computing for email, backup and other services, rather than running those applications on-premise.