Why You Should Care about Windows Server 2008

After more than 5 years of development, Microsoft is releasing another version of its flagship server OS. This version's new features will create a major impact on the IT industry.
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Microsoft is releasing another operating system (OS). This time, it is focused on the backend or the servers in your datacenter. Will it be like Windows Vista and hit the market running only to flop later on? No. Not this time.

Windows Server is Microsoft’s most solid operating system and with Windows Server 2003, especially the R2 version, it became the most popular server OS in the world, with reason.

What Microsoft has done with Windows Server 2008 (WS08) is bring together a series of different releases that were tied to its server OS—add-ons, service pack features, separate downloads—and integrated them to the core Windows Vista code to produce a rock solid release of its flagship server OS. There are lots of reasons why this should be a release you should look into and consider integrating into your datacenter over the course of the next year.

Here are three key factors you should consider in your deliberation about replacing or at least integrating WS08 with your existing Windows Server 2003 systems.

Reason #1: Integrated and ‘Free’ Virtualization

2007 was the year of virtualization with dozens of vendors coming out with products tied to the virtualization wave in the datacenter. Some will be failures and others will thrive, but one thing is sure, each and every one of them will have a tough job of trying to dethrone the current virtualization king: VMware Corporation.

One contender that will definitely make waves this year is Microsoft’s Hyper-V. Hyper-V is the product name for Microsoft’s hypervisor—the core engine that is designed to expose all server hardware to virtualized operating systems—and will be integrated directly within the operating system.

Of course, Hyper-V is not going to be released at the same time as Windows Server 2008 because the development team needs to have final OS code to finalize the build of Hyper-V itself. The release version of Hyper-V should come within six months of the official release of WS08, but a first beta is available now.

In fact, in addition to being shipped with a series of different editions as well as 32-bit and 64-bit versions, WS08 has been released in two different flavors: with or without Hyper-V.

Those who do not want to deploy release code including the Hyper-V beta code will opt for Windows Server 2008 editions without Hyper-V and those who are willing to try out the beta along with the release code, will obtain Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V. Note that the version with Hyper-V has no mention of the hypervisor in its name.

One of the greatest features of WS08 is Server Core, or a windowless version of Windows as odd as it sounds. Why did Microsoft release such a version of its server OS?

You could believe all the hype and think it is because it is more secure, it supports key server roles or it is in competition with other, non-Windows character-based OSes, but in reality, Server Core has been designed with one primary purpose in mind. If you want to run a hypervisor, you can’t do it on a ‘bloated’ operating system that is chock full of graphics and other unnecessary code.

No, when you run a hypervisor, especially one that will compete with VMware’s ESX Server, you need to be lean and mean. Hence Server Core which is the only way you should even consider running Hyper-V.

In addition, Hyper-V, while a powerful hypervisor on its own, will not have all of the features of its competitors. You won’t be able to move a machine from one host to another while it is running. Instead, you need to pause the machine, causing service interruptions, move it and then restart it.

But will that stop Hyper-V from making the biggest virtualization bang on the market. Absolutely not! Integrating a hypervisor into Windows and basically make it ‘free’ will popularize virtualization more than ever before. This can only be good for the entire virtualization industry. After all, 90 percent of servers out there are still taking up physical space.


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