Microsoft Releases Windows Server 2008 R2 - InformationWeek

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Microsoft Releases Windows Server 2008 R2

The new server operating system, released to business users, includes a number of integration points with Windows 7.

Microsoft has released Windows Server 2008 R2 to volume licensees who subscribe to Microsoft's Software Assurance program.

The new release, which came last Wednesday -- a week earlier than scheduled -- follows up on Windows Server 2008 and includes a number of integration points with Microsoft's latest client operating system, Windows 7.

The most anticipated new feature of Windows Server 2008 R2 is likely Live Migration, the ability to move virtualized server workloads around a data center on the fly. This feature's absence from Windows Server 2008 was one of the main disadvantages Microsoft had to vmWare. Users can now also 'hot add' or remove virtual storage and boot the system from VHD,

Two other major new features in Windows Server 2008 R2 require Windows 7. DirectAccess combines IPv6 and IPSEC to eliminate the need for a VPN. That means users will no longer have to connect to a VPN to access corporate resources, since DirectAccess connections are made automatically. As soon as Windows 7 boots up on a corporate PC set up to work with DirectAccess, it authenticates with a DirectAccess server.

"The thing with consultants, every day they're on a different jobsite, dealing with Wi-Fi, firewalls and everything else they typically deal with on a day-to-day basis," says Rand Morimoto, CEO of Convergent Consulting and an early tester of Windows Server 2008 R2. "This just makes it easier for the mobile users."

Another feature that's reliant on Windows 7, BranchCache, includes some of the functionality of WAN optimization and application acceleration appliances. Meant for use in branch offices, it caches downloaded content and accelerates HTTP and SMB traffic, freeing up network bandwidth. Convergent Consulting estimates it has saved $40,000 on new networking equipment by using BranchCache.

Microsoft has also added new application and data security measures with BitLocker to Go, which encrypts USB keys, and AppLocker, which allows administrators to centrally control which applications can be installed and run on corporate-managed PCs. Terminal Services has gotten an overhaul and has been renamed Remote Desktop Services. With Server 2008 R2, .NET apps can run in Server Core mode, and PowerShell has gotten an upgrade.

One under-the-radar new feature that Morimoto especially likes is Active Directory Recycle Bin. In older versions of Windows Server, accidentally deleting a user or group from the corporate directory meant following an arduous process to recover them. Now, however, groups and users can easily be restored from the command line.

Volume licensees won't have to buy any new client access licenses to get Windows Server 2008 R2, regardless of whether they are SA customers. Windows Server 2008 R2 will be available in 64-bit only, though Microsoft has a program that allows 32-bit apps to run on the new operating system if necessary through the server OS' Windows-On-Windows feature.

Volume licensees who don't have software assurance are scheduled to be able to get Windows Serve 2008 R2 on September 1, while it goes to retail on September 14. Microsoft's series of business launch events for Windows Server 2008 R2 (along with Windows 7 and Exchange 2010) begin in October.

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