Microsoft Gives Peek At Windows Server 2008 R2

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In a Thursday keynote speech, Bill Laing, corporate vice president of the Windows Server & Solutions Division, said Microsoft is developing Windows Server 2008 R2 in conjunction with Windows 7, and this combination reflects the trend of companies shifting resources toward branch offices. "The boundaries of work locations are blurring," Laing said.

A new feature called Direct Access provides a seamless, VPN-like functionality for remote workers, giving them the same security and user experience on the road that they'd have inside the corporate network. "It used to be very difficult for administrators to manage laptops outside the domain, but Direct Access lets them be accessed securely as part of the corporate network," Laing said.

Other new features stemming from the Windows Server 2008 R2-Windows 7 pairing include branch caching, which saves bandwidth by checking locally for content before accessing the network, and the ability to lock down data on Flash drives using BitLocker.

Windows Server 2008 R2 will complete Microsoft's transition to 64-bit server technology, and will support x64 processors from Intel and AMD, according to Laing. In addition to increased scalability, R2 will enable data center automation, better remote management and an Active Directory administrative center that includes a GUI built on the popular PowerShell language.

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Windows Server R2 and SQL Server 'Kilimanjaro,' due in the first half of 2010, will boost support for logical processors from 64 to 256, and is being developed with hardware partners HP, IBM and Intel. Kilimanjaro will improve scalability and allow for even and consistent distribution of server loads on processors, Laing said.

Laing also demonstrated the much ballyhooed Live Migration feature in Hyper-V, which will be included in Windows Server 2008 R2. In a demo that elicited 'oohs' and 'ahhs' from the audience, Laing highlighted Live Migration's ability to move running virtual machines from one physical host to another without dropping connections or resulting in user downtime.

For Microsoft channel partners, Live Migration will be a welcome improvement, but many have found that the so-called 'Quick Migration' feature that's included in the current version of Windows Server 2008 meets the needs of most of their customers.