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September 12, 2013 / Infinet Network Solutions

Windows Server 2012 – The top reasons businesses should upgrade today

Windows Server 2012 is Microsoft’s latest addition to the Server family of operating systems and they have made huge improvements over previous versions and added hundreds of features. These will benefit everyone from the enterprises in datacentres, right down to the SMB’s running off a single server. Today I will cover some of the best features and show you why you should upgrade to Server 2012 today.

1.      Server Manager

This essential console has been drastically reworked and is better than ever. It is very easy to see the health of the local server, and remote servers, from the new console. With the new multi-server capabilities you can manage multiple servers from the one console and create server groups so you can deploy roles and features to multiple servers at the same time. This can save administrators countless hours.

This TechNet article shows the new Server Manager in great detail and with plenty of pictures.

 2.      Hyper-V

Hyper-V is Microsoft’s own virtualisation platform that comes included with Windows Server 2012 and it has many improvements over earlier versions which outperforms Vmware’s low-cost ESXi offering in many areas. Here are some of the latest specifications:

  • 4TB of max RAM per host
  • 320 logical processors per host
  • 64 nodes per cluster
  • 8,000 virtual machines per cluster
  • 1,024 powered-on virtual machines per host
  • Hyper-V now supports SMB (Server Message Block) for file-level storage, along with the previously supported iSCSI and Fibre Channel.

One of the biggest benefits over ESXi though, is the options available live migration and replication. Live migration supports both the migration of the virtual machine and the underlying storage. It can take place as long as a network SMB-shared folder on a Windows Server 2012 system is visible to both the source and destination Hyper-V hosts. You can also move a virtual machine between hosts on different cluster servers that aren’t using the same storage.

Hyper-V Replica is a simple, inbuilt Disaster Recovery solution for SMBs. It works by replicating virtual machines from a primary server to a replica server by logging the changes to a disk in a virtual machine and uses compression to save on bandwidth so it can even be used across a WAN. It works with both standalone hosts and clusters in any combination (standalone to standalone, cluster to cluster, standalone to cluster or cluster to standalone).

Much of this was only capable by using 3rd party products. Switching to Hyper-V will save you money. More information and pictures can be found here.

3.      Data De-duplication

Duplicate data is a problem for almost any business. It wastes storage space which then also needs to be backed up. All that storage space can cost big money. Windows Server 2012 now has data de-duplication built right into the operation system.

Individual files are replaced with stubs pointing to data blocks stored within a common “chunk” store. Data compression can also be applied to further reduce the total storage footprint. All data processing is done in the background with a minimal impact to CPU and memory.

With this feature enabled, 30-90%+ savings can be achieved with de-duplication on most types of data. File shares are generally around 30% and the biggest savings are for virtual machine libraries. It can also be integrated with BranchCache to further reduce the amount of data traveling over your WAN links to branch offices. Another cost savings possibility.

Detailed information can be found here.

4.      SMB 3.0

Server Message Block 3.0 delivers big value in making it possible to use commodity disk drives to deliver high-end storage features. SMB 3.0 shares in Windows Server 2012 support both Hyper-V and SQL Server workloads that previously required block-based storage.

VHD files and virtual machine configuration files can now be hosted on a SMB 3.0 share, which opens up migration options. A SQL system database can also be stored on a SMB share. For a full list of improvements, head over to this blog.

5.      DirectAccess

This is essentially an always on VPN connection. There is no configuration required by the user. When the device recognises that there is an internet connection, it will automatically establish a secure connection to the company network. It is transparent and seamless to the user.

This also allows administrators far better remote management of these devices as group policies can apply before the user has even logged on or during log on just like a local computer.

DirectAccess was available in Server 2008 R2 but it required the use of IPv6 and was very difficult to get setup and configured. In Server 2012, it works with IPv4, it can be virtualised, it can be NAT’d and most of the configuration is now done through a simple wizard.

More details on DirectAccess can be found here.

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