Windows Server 2012 Hits General Availability, Marks Microsoft's 'Cloud OS' Era

After four years of development, Microsoft announced the general availability of Windows Server 2012 in a launch event on Tuesday.

Microsoft's newest server marks the beginning of the cloud operating system era, noted Satya Nadella, president of Server and Tools Business at Microsoft, who led the first part of the four-part webcast that comprised the launch event. The development of Windows Server and Windows Azure has broadened access to the cloud, Nadella said. This cloud-based world will support multiple connected devices, as well as an explosion of data and the growing need to deliver continuous services, he contended.

Hardware products running Windows Server 2012 now can be purchased from Microsoft's OEM partners, including Acer, Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM and NEC. There are four editions of Windows Server: Datacenter, Standard, Essentials and Foundation. The Essentials edition is the one edition that's not expected to be available Tuesday; Microsoft expects it to be generally available by the end of this year.

Microsoft narrowed the licensing of Windows Server 2012 to just two editions, Datacenter and Standard. The two editions are the same except that Datacenter affords "unlimited" virtualization rights (subject to hardware limitations), while the Standard edition allows running as many as two virtual machines per license.

Virtualization and Storage Benefits
Bill Laing, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, emphasized the scalability of Windows Server 2012, adding that it can virtualize more than 90 percent of all SQL databases. He announced a new statistic for Windows Server 2012 -- that it is capable of running 8,000 virtual machines per cluster, which Laing called "the largest in the industry." He also highlighted the software defined networking aspects of the server, saying that it helps isolate workloads on shared infrastructure. Laing talked briefly about the storage options, including the use of "storage spaces," which lets users leverage industry-standard hardware to create pools of storage. The storage spaces feature lets users swap out disks and scale storage on the fly.

Jeff Woolsey, a principal program manager for Windows Server and Cloud at Microsoft, said that Windows Server 2012 supports up to 320 logical processors per server, up to 4 terabytes of memory per server and up to 64 TB per virtual disk. He also described the improved Hyper-V "live migration" feature of Windows Server 2012, which allows IP portability across subnets. He demonstrated the live migration of a virtual machine from Seattle to New York. Live migration used to be limited to functioning just within the same server, but now it can be performed between clusters. Woolsey said that it is possible to perform 120 live migrations at a time using NIC teaming and SMB 3.0, which are part of Windows Server 2012.

Laing noted that Windows Server 2012's shared-nothing live migration capability allows users to update and patch servers without affecting the service. He also noted that Microsoft focused on enabling automation with Windows Server 2012, adding more than 2,400 PowerShell commandlets. Another Windows Server 2012 feature noted by the speakers is its scale-out file server capability, which enables nodes to be added automatically as needed, such as after a node failure.

IIS 8.0 and .NET 4.5 Improvements
Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, talked about Internet Information Service 8.0 on Windows Server 2012, saying that it is optimized to support multitenancy in the cloud. Users can dynamically expand the number of servers across the network and use CPU throttling to provide better isolation. IIS 8.0 also enables better management of the Secure Sockets Layer, he said. Windows Server 2012 comes with .NET Framework 4.5, which adds support for ASP.NET 4.5, HTML 5, Web APIs and WebSockets, as well as better support for asynchronous programming. Scott Hunter, principle programmer lead, demonstrated how to add three lines of code to modify an app for use on mobile devices.

Guthrie also stressed the portability of code from Windows Server 2012 to Windows Azure. Using Windows Azure is also a way to expose data to multiple users, he said. His main point was that Microsoft was offering a platform that enables public, private and hybrid cloud environments, along with the ability to scale resources as needed.

BYOD and VDI Support
Brad Anderson, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the Management and Security Division, talked about bring-your-own-device (BYOD) scenarios enabled by Windows Server 2012. The key is Microsoft's use of Active Directory, both for the server and for Windows Azure. He claimed that Microsoft enables user productivity on any devices anywhere, as well as security and management. Direct Access technology in Windows Server 2012 can be used to extend access to the network by devices globally. Control over access to content by devices can be established using Microsoft's dynamic access control technology, which classifies data and specifies who can access the data. Anderson talked a little about governance and control as being necessary for the BYOD, an idea he previously offered up during a Tech-Ed Europe session.

Windows Server 2012 supports virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) scenarios, which can be set up in "13 clicks" in combination with the use of System Center Configuration Manager, according to Anderson. He acknowledged that storage issues tend to dog VDI deployments, but claimed that Windows Server 2012 can help reduce those storage costs.

To view the Windows Server 2012 launch event talks, see Microsoft's webcast portal page here. An evaluation copy of Windows Server 2012 can be accessed at this page.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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