For those of you who have been long time subscribers to TechTalk you know that I am not a fan of Microsoft Windows Vista. In fact I think it is the one piece of Microsoft software that actually hinders business productivity. I have clients who switch almost every week from Vista back to XP, because of performance issues. More than a year after its release it is still not production ready. No wonder so many people are switching to the Mac. With that said, not everything that comes out of Redmond lately hurts productivity.
I have been working with Windows 2008 Server for about two months now in its pre-release format and I have to tell you, that they have got it right. Sure there are bound to be bugs, but it will be well worth the upgrade. If you want to skip this email and get on with your day, feel free knowing that my recommendation will be to upgrade to 08 in 08. I just want you to wait until the second quarter.
Faster File Sharing
The SMB (Server Message Block) protocol has been upgraded to version 2. The previous version that is still in use today was developed 15 years ago and had some serious shortcomings. SMB 2.0 will more than double the speed of your file transfers. The big problem is that the only desktop operating system that runs SMB 2.0 is Windows Vista at this time. I expect that this will trickle down eventually into other operating systems, but who knows. For those of you who are running Vista, the speed increase will be immediately noticeable.
I have already written about Server Virtualization but now Microsoft has made it part of the operating system. No more third party tools required to experience the benefits of virtual servers. There are third party tools that will help to round out their offering, but they will be more cost effective than the VMWare alternative. Having virtualization built into the heart of the operating system will increase its stability and really help this technology thrive. If you are going to use virtualization, make sure that you remember it requires a 64Bit CPU, my suggestion would be the Intel VT or the AMD Pacifica.
Everyone including me knocks Microsoft for the lack of security in their products. The pendulum then swings that other way with their ultra paranoid security in Vista. Yes, the annoying security alerts are still there and they are maddening but 2008 takes its queues from Linux and Unix and suggests that an Administrator do most of the functions from a less privileged account and only use the Admin account in special circumstances like software installation or patching. We have been using this technique for our clients for a few years, it helps to keep servers secure and trouble free. Its nice that Microsoft is shifting to balance security with usability. We know there are a lot of Admins who would have removed this security feature because it is just so annoying. I am happy with the compromise.
The new terminal services will provide the ability to access specific applications from the server without the need to view the entire desktop. For the past ten years Citrix was the only vendor to provide this functionality. These applications can be run securely by any user without the need for a VPN. Citrix is still more bandwidth efficient, but I see Terminal Services as the way to provide remote users access to all network resources without having to spend thousands on additional software. Well worth the upgrade.
One of the most anticipated features of 2008 is the fully integrated Server Manger that allows for a single interface to configure services and computer roles. Unlike Windows 2003 Server, all of the tools are just a menu click away and the interface is very user friendly. This will simplify administration and cut time when configuring the server for roles like an Application Server, Print Server or Web Server.
The backup process has been dramatically improved. The Automated System Recovery integrates seamlessly into the main server management console. Microsoft makes it easy to backup your data to a tape drive, and their system restore feature will rival the competition like Acronis and Norton in features. It should make most server disasters easier to recovery from and bring the servers back online within a few hours. I have mentioned before that most of my customers are switching to offsite backup services that use the internet to backup files to a secure and off site location. The backup software in 2008 is not going to mimic that functionality so don’t worry about duplicating efforts.
In an attempt to emulate the success and security of Linux, Server 2008 will ship with the ability to install a stripped down version of the Operating System without a Graphical Interface and some of the additional functionality of a full install. This mode will be fantastic for DNS servers, domain controllers, file and print servers, web server and virtualization servers. You get all of the good and very little overhead. In this mode you will not get the .NET Framework, Internet Explorer or any other features that are not critical to the essential server operations. This setup will increase the server security and the uptime. The hardware will spend less time servicing unneeded requests and spend more time staying up. Also the less software that is installed, the less that needs to get patched. I see this as a great strategic move. Your IT group WILL complain but for most environments I see the Core Installation as the way to go.
If you are in the process of buying a new server and are not going to wait for the release of Server 2008 in 35 days then make sure that you buy a 64 bit server. Your IT people know what this means, but basically more power to do more processing a whole lot faster. Some new software requires that the machine be 64Bit capable like Exchange 2007, even if you end up installing the 32Bit version of Windows make sure your CPU is 64Bit.
The bottom line is the new functionality and productivity tools in Windows 2008 Server creates a compelling reason to upgrade. I suspect that 2008 Server will have a higher percentage penetration in its first year than Windows Vista. 2008 has already earned a place in our server room. If a new server is in your 2008 IT plan, consider upgrading for added stability, security and speed.