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Microsoft: Windows Server 8 Is Its 'Most Cloud-Optimized OS'

Day 2 of Microsoft's Build conference turned part of the spotlight on the company's next-generation server technology, code-named "Windows Server 8."

The main takeaway from Wednesday's keynote by Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, is that Windows Server 8 is "the most cloud-optimized OS" being developed by Microsoft. At the very least, it's the most cloud-optimized since Windows Azure, with which Windows Server 8 has some things in common, Nadella said.

Microsoft is making changes in Windows Server 8 to address how cloud or virtualized infrastructures are provisioned to support workloads. Improvements to Windows Server 8 will let it leverage high-availability infrastructures using high-scale clusters. Nadella also said Microsoft is continuing to invest in supporting scale-up infrastructures, without going into the details.

A new Windows Server 8 capability highlighted on Wednesday is "storage spaces," which will let users take just-a-bunch-of-disks (JBOD) collections and carve out a space or pool that shows up as drive using the new Server Manager. Users can use this feature to simply attach JBODs to Windows Server 8, explained Brian Surace, a senior program manager on the Windows team. No external storage array was used to create the pool. The improved Server Message Block 2.2 (SMB 2.2) protocol was used to help make this pooled storage available, he said.

With regard to Windows Server 8 networking using Hyper-V, Surace noted that the system drive for a virtual machine can be supported by a remote file share in Windows Server 8, which is a new feature. Performance can be improved by using the SMB 2.2 protocol and remote direct memory access (RDMA) technology along with multiple high-speed network interface cards (NICs). Surace demonstrated how the data transfer rate of a 1 GB NIC can bump up to 2 GB via the use of SMB 2.2 and RDMA technologies. The improved throughput was accomplished by using only 15 percent of the NIC's throughput and one percent of the CPU processing power on the server, Surace said.

On the virtualization front, Microsoft has improved its live migration feature that was first delivered in Windows Server 2008 R2. Live migration in Windows Server 2008 R2 allowed users to move virtual machines from one physical computer to another with little service disruption. However, the migration presumed that "the virtual hard disk always remained consistent on shared storage," Surace explained.

"Now, with Windows Server 8, we can actually move that virtual hard disk from one storage device to another without any service downtime or interruption." In the demo, he showed how to move a virtual hard disk from local storage to a remote file share without disrupting services.

The Windows Server 8 details discussed on Day 2 just scratched the surface of what to expect when it is finally released. Nadella indicated that Microsoft will have a lot more to say about Windows Server 8 in the near future. The bits for the new server, which are currently available at the "developer preview" stage, were released today just for Microsoft's MSDN subscribers.

Bill Lang, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Server and Tools Division, has given some hints about the efforts that have gone into building the Windows Server 8 in a blog post Wednesday. Microsoft used multiple customer surveys and meetings to formulate its plans, which were based on receiving more than 6,000 customer requirements, he indicated.

Lang, who spearheads the engineering efforts on Windows Server and Windows Azure, had kicked off a two-day Microsoft event called the "Windows Server 8 Reviewer Workshop," which was held late last week in Redmond, Wash. The event featured presentations by Windows Server 8 team members. More details from that event will be described.

It's not clear when Windows Server 8 will be available, but it may arrive close to the Windows 8 client product delivery schedule since the server and client share a common code base. Microsoft has released no details, but experts have pointed to April 2012 as an early estimate for delivery of the Windows 8 product, or sometime in 2013.

More from Build:

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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