Skip to comments.Why Windows 8 server is a game-changer
Posted on 10/22/2012 10:54:40 AM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
Sysadmin blog Windows Server "8" beta is out, and everyone reading this should sit up and take notice. This isn't a boring iteration on a previous server operating system wherein a few tweaks have been achieved and nothing really changes. Server 8 - along with the suite of associated 2012-ish server applications - is nothing short of a complete redefinition of the server landscape.
Microsoft hasn't named the operating system yet, and I hope they name it anything except "Windows Server 8". Whereas Windows 8 is about radically redefining and limiting how we work (for our own good), Windows Server 8's equally radical approach is to provide us with the ability to do whatever we want to do in as open and standards-compliant a manner as is possible. It is such a fundamental change in attitude that I don't think anyone fully understands the long-term repercussions just yet.
The storage team in particular is due some "open" accolades. They are pushing standards-based storage management. They've been very active participants within the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), which involves working closely with all major storage players (including open source teams) to ensure that SMB 2.2 did not end up a proprietary protocol.
Windows 8 includes an NFS stack rewritten from the ground up*. It solves a lot of the compatibility issues suffered by previous implementations and offers massive performance increases.
The storage team have also produced the best PowerShell reference sheet yet. Interesting, as PowerShell scriptability is another important marker of Microsoft's growing commitment to openness and standards.
Compared to its precedents, Server 8 was designed backwards; everything in Server 8 can be manipulated via APIs and PowerShell scriptlets. GUIs are simply ease-of-use layers that offer a visual method of scriptlet control.
That means that anyone can build an interface to control any aspect of Server 8 from any operating system they wish. If you want to run a fleet of Windows 8 servers from Linux, Microsoft is not only happy to help, it built components for that.
Server 8 is also set to start breaking down some very important barriers by commoditising traditionally proprietary (and expensive) technologies and integrating them into the core OS. Long overdue features like NIC teaming join game-changers like deduplication, virtual HBAs and a thoroughly tested, enterprise-ready iSCSI target. Storage Spaces offers Drobo-like functionality, and Cluster Shared Volumes have moved beyond "Hyper-V only."
There are of course Microsoft-centric advances to Server 8 as well. Hyper-V, now supports Hyper-V Replica, Cluster Aware Updates, SMB 2.2 storage, and more. Start putting the pieces together and you get affordable HA Scale Out Storage something that will radically redefine midmarket virtualisation deployments.
Hyper-V has gained forward momentum; live migration has been enhanced to the point where clustered storage is no longer a requirement. Branch Cache has improved significantly: it now uses bittorrent-esque technology to access files that may live on the local client, a nearby file server or out across the WAN. CHKDSK has been redone it's faster, smarter and better. Bitlocker now supports clustered disks.
There's more. A lot more. Windows Server 8 beta has only been in my hands for a week, but it is already completely changing the way I think about IT. Technologies that last year were only accessible to most well-funded of enterprise IT departments, (or the most dedicated of open source administrators,) will now be available to everyone.
Microsoft's newly found openness means that no one is forced to use Windows 8 for administration. What's more, Windows Server 8 is a versatile and feature-rich backend for non-Microsoft client operating systems. Whether your business chooses Linux, Windows, Apple or BYOD client deployments, the case for Windows Server 8 as the backend is easily made. ®
* The Reg is happy to clarify that the Windows 8 NFS 4.1 server was developed in-house by Microsoft and not by a third party, as the article originally suggested. Redmond did pay the University of Michigan to develop the NFS 4.1 client - which is obviously distinct from the server - under an open-source licence.
Date on this linked article by the same author is 22nd October 2012 .
I will always think of Microsoft as the GM of computing...beta tests on the customers, always behind the state of the art, and never ever completely develops anything.
The new server manager is really nice. I’m not a powershell fan as I was just getting comfortable with vbscriting but will have to learn it I guess. Be nice if MS would stick to one scripting language. Kinda amazing that their selling point was turning windows into unix...hehe
Guess they are being forced to do it for profit motives.
Not so in the consumer world....sounds like it is the same ole same ole.
In NO WAY are they going to let the Consumer Windows User escape into anything but their creation.
But they may have botched that up....see the link at post #2.
Will hyper-V be enterprise only...bet it will not be allowed on non enterprise platforms.
I just did a migration to Server 2012 standard this weekend and so far I LOVE IT. There will definitely be some pains in getting used to the new interface but so far, its outstanding. It boots and shuts down very fast. Hyper V VM’s migrated right over from 2008r2 without any issues. It really is a step forward and almost feels like a desktop OS. After you install the Desktop experience, it is basically windows 8 on steroids.
Are you doing this for an “enterprise IT”?
One Windows Server version that was close to many of our readers' hearts is Windows Home Server. This too is being left behind. The current version, Windows Home Server 2011, is the last ever version. It's not going to disappear overnightit will be available for OEM preinstallations until an astonishing and not entirely plausible December 31, 2025, though hobbyist system builders only have until December 31, 2013 to buy standalone copiesbut it won't receive any new features or upgrades.
Naturally, Windows Home Server's die-hard band of advocates is annoyed by this news.
Windows Home Server was always something of an odd fish, and it led a short and trouble-filled life. The idea was that you would have a server hidden away in a closet or under a desk somewhere, and it would provide a central place for storing backups, sharing media files, and remotely accessing your network.
WHS's killer feature was arguably something called Drive Extender. This allowed multiple hard drives to be pooled together to create large storage volumes. To protect against disk failures, Drive Extender would copy data to multiple disks, ensuring that if any one disk died, you'd retain your data.
The trick here was that Drive Extender was dynamic. If you were running low on disk space, just plug in a USB hard disk, and Drive Extender would do the rest. You'd have more storage space, and it would still take care of mirroring data to protect it for you. It made storage management simple. Instead of RAIDs, with their strict disk size requirements and static sizing, you could let the storage grow on an as-needed basis.
The Windows Home Server idea was tremendously popular among a small group of fans, but it never won much mainstream appeal.
Things took a turn for the worse with Windows Home Server 2011. The original Drive Extender was actually a crude hack that never really worked properly. It worked by copying files automatically between NTFS volumes. Sometimes it would copy files that hadn't been completely written yet, resulting in broken files and data loss. Even after these issues were ironed outwhich took many monthsDrive Extender could sometimes change file metadata.
Microsoft's plan was to produce a trio of new server productsWindows Home Server 2011, Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentialsthat would include a new, improved Drive Extender, one that didn't have the fragility of the original version. This new Drive Extender would work at a level below the file system, rather than merely copying files around on the file system, so would solve all the Drive Extender problems in one fell swoop.
Unfortunately, Microsoft couldn't get this new Drive Extender working in time, so decided to remove it from those three products entirely. Windows Home Server 2011 could still manage backups and remote access, but it no longer had the pooled storage that made it so convenient in the first place.
And now it turns out that sad and deficient version of the product will be its last.
So the home server dream is dead, and the nearest direct equivalentWindows Server 2012 Essentialscosts substantially more ($425, compared to about $50).
This is upsetting for those who had bought in to the home server dream, but for everyone else, it's not such a disaster.
Microsoft never gave up on the Drive Extender-type technology. In fact, the company has now got it working, and it's an integrated part of both Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012: it's called storage spaces. We don't need a dedicated home server to have expandable redundant storage made of whatever disks are convenient; a Windows 8 desktop will do the job just fine.
Those Storage spaces make pretty good destinations for backups, too. Windows 8 has a new backup tool that provides periodic snapshots of your data, similar to Apple's Time Machine system. Now, I don't like everything about this new backup system, because Microsoft has used it as an opportunity to discard one of Windows' best little-known features, Shadow Copies, which also provided periodic snapshots, but overall it's a great solution for home networks. Point all your computers at a network location, and they'll automatically back themselves up, and they'll automatically keep those backups up-to-date.
Remote access to network files is nicely handled with the new and improved SkyDrive client. Not only can you directly place files into "the cloud" for remote access, you can also see non-cloud-synced files on any machine running the client (subsuming similar functionality from Microsoft's old Live Mesh client).
Local media streaming and sharing is now, for the most part, built-in to Windows and Xbox, with the "Play To" DLNA features that Microsoft introduced in Windows 7.
This isn't to say that every feature from Windows Home Server has a neat replacement. If you want a more traditional backup system, you'll need to configure it all by hand. Windows Home Server worked as a Terminal Services gateway, simplifying remote desktop access to machines on your LAN; that's not found in Windows 8, so you'll have to come up with some other alternative.
But overall, most of what Windows Home Server didand, I'd argue, all of the really useful stuff it didis still possible, and still easy, without Windows Home Server. And when it comes to creating great big pools of redundant disk space that you can expand as and when you need to, Windows 8 does the job better than Windows Home Server could ever hope to.
Listing image by Travis S. / Megan Geuss
by Peter Bright - July 7 2012, 11:45am PDT
A totally unsolicited big-picture prediction:
PCs and tablets as we know them will within a few years be small-volume specialty items.
Most people’s data manipulation and storage will be handled in their phones, which they always have with them anyway.
The present notebook and tablet hardware will survive, but with little or no on-board computing capacity. They will be almost entirely a means of data input and display, which connects automatically and wirelessly with your phone when turned on. I assume this means a tablet, for instance, could be a great deal cheaper, possibly $100.
So you will be performing essentially the same procedures, using the same data, whether it is accessed via a desktop large monitor, a notebook, or a tablet. I seriously doubt most people want to learn separate operating systems for their PC, the phone and their tablet. One system that operates on all three seamlessly, with work automatically backed up online, is where we are heading.
The OS that makes doing this easy and seamless will be the big winner, and from what I’ve read about it I think W8 is a step in that direction.
This prediction is, of course, worth exactly what you are paying for it.
I was just looking a phoronix today and there was a note about the intel developers working hard to get driver code into the Linux kernal.