LOS ANGELES — After devoting the first day of last week’s Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) to the client, Windows 7, day two was centered around Windows Server 2008 R2.
It might seem remarkable that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has a second service pack in the works, considering the OS shipped only this year. But even though it’s talking up the release — and handing out beta copies to WinHEC attendees and those who attended last week’s Professional Developer Conference (PDC), R2 isn’t expected until 2010.
Still, the early talk of a release is part of a strategy first promised in 2003 by Bob Muglia, senior vice president of servers and tools at Microsoft. The idea is that every four years would see a new operating system, and there would be a significant overhaul at the halfway point to add new technologies and keep it reasonably fresh. So if R2 is on time, it will come two years after the release of Server 2008.
New features include support for up to 256 logical cores, enhanced power management, and direct access for laptops that splits the tunneling — one securely to back-end services and one that goes out to the Internet — Ward Ralston, group product manager in the Windows server and solutions division, told InternetNews.com.
Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 will share the same core and many features. That means Server 2008 R2 will have DeviceStage and Device Smart for easy hardware management, while Windows 7 will, at least in theory, support 256 logical cores.
“That’s a hell of a laptop,” Ralston joked.
The definition of a “logical core” comes down to the total number of threads. Intel’s most cutting-edge generation of Xeon handle one thread per core — as do the AMD (NYSE: AMD) Quad-Core Opteron processors. Intel’s (NASDAQ: INTC) i7 (née Nehalem) will handle two threads per core. That means R2 will support a server with 64 quad-core Xeons (64 processors with four cores each) or 32 quad-core i7 processors (32 processors, sporting four cores each, with two threads per core).
Server 2008 currently supports 64 logical cores, which means it maxes out at 16 quad-core processors.
The killer app for that operating system is “Kilimanjaro,” a future, highly scalable version of SQL Server. With R2 and Kilimanjaro, Microsoft thinks it can take on mainframe-class, mission-critical database jobs.
“There is nothing out there that has been written for greater than 64 [logical cores], so I think those two in combination are going to be a compelling offering,” Ralston said.
Power management and .NET improvements
Ralston said Server 2008 gained about 10 percent power efficiency from Server 2003 through aggressive hardware tuning, and with R2, it expects another 10 percent gain. Helping that along are features like Core Parking, which puts idle cores into a low-power standby mode, varying the voltage to each chip and deciding which devices to turn on or off.
There is also the new “powercfg” utility that works with the new PowerShell 2.0, Microsoft’s two-year-old command-line shell. The new powercfg cmdlet — a utility that runs on the command line — offers a detailed analysis of which devices are consuming power on a server and which may not be falling into proper sleep states.
From there, managers can create a power profile to shut down devices or machines when they are idle.
“We’re just starting to see the tip of the iceberg of power efficiency,” Ralston said.
R2 also is seeing a major change in another area. It will include a large chunk of the upcoming release of .NET Framework — but not all of it.