Windows Server 2008 - New Features
In a nutshell, Windows Server 2008 is a combination of improved W2K3 (Windows Server 2003) with a Vista front end. The change from W2K3 is not huge, but there is a relentless accumulation of small improvements. It is only when you go back to W2K3 from Server 2008 that you really miss the benefits. My mission on this page is to explain the new features and to help you evaluate which will help you the most.
Topics for Windows Server 2008 New Features
Overview Windows Server 2008 New Features
Every new edition of a Windows server brings innovative features, and invariably, smarter ways of doing old tasks. Let us open our minds to fresh ideas and embrace the latest methods of configuring your server and network. The hardest part is to cast-off old habits that have become superseded by better ways. In my case, thinking, 'Go to the Server Manager' when ever I want to add a new feature.
Server Manager (ICT, add Roles and add Features)
While the Server Manager is not a new feature, it's been promoted from a bit-part in W2K3 to a starring role in Server 2008. As soon as the GUI is installed, the next reboot directs you to the ICT (Initial Configuration Tasks). This is where you set the Administrator's password, rename the machine and possibly, join a domain.
While you are in the Server Manager note 'add Roles' for configuring specific job such as Domain Controller, now called 'Active Directory Directory Services'. When you have selected the roles, turn your attention to 'add Features', these settings were formerly controlled through 'Add or Remove Programs' in older versions of Windows Server.
Virtualization with Hyper-V
Perhaps it's worth restating one of Microsoft's goals for Server 2008, to provide better service at lower costs. The cynic in me says - haven't I heard that before? However, the pragmatist in me realizes that a good company, will always strive for improvements in its products. Hyper-V falls into the category of reducing costs from hardware savings, to the need for fewer Enterprise licences.
The best feature of this new this new version of SolarWinds VM Monitor is that it checks Windows Hyper-V. Naturally, it still works with virtual machines on VMware ESX Servers. VM Monitor is a clever desktop tool that not only tests that your server is online, but also displays the CPU and memory utilization for each node.
It's easy to install and to configure this virtual machine monitor, all you need the host server's IP address or hostname and the logon info. Give this virtual machine monitor a try - it's free.
Group Policy Preferences
Another trend in the Windows family of servers has been improved scalability, the desire to take on jobs previously associated with main-frame computers. For this high-end role, Windows Server 2008 has better support for failover clustering than W2K3.
Next Generation TCP/IP Stack - IPv6 Support
Just as DNS is geared up to register IPv6, so Windows Server 2008 provides support for IPv6. E.g. NAP benefits.
WPF (Windows Filtering Platform) provides a unified well designed packet filtering platform, which operates at all levels of the famous protocol stack (Transport, Network and Frame). Microsoft provide APIs for third party firewall companies to build drivers to manage and secure the TCP/IP stack.
SMB (Server Messenger Block) v 2.0 is used to create a balanced system Microsoft has removed the bottleneck of SMB v1 by increasing the buffer size, and reducing the number of packets by including more instructions in the headers.
Here are Microsoft's benchmark figures for file transfer on a LAN or WAN.
Plain XP --> Vista gives a 2.5x improvement in file transfer rate
I suspect that the numbers maybe an exaggeration for a real working network, but nevertheless the pattern is clear, to get maximum benefits you need both Vista and Windows Server 2008.
SolarWinds' Network Performance Monitor will help you discover what's happening on your network. This utility will also guide you through troubleshooting; the dashboard will indicate whether the root cause is a broken link, faulty equipment or resource overload.
Perhaps the NPM's best feature is the way it suggests solutions to network problems. Its second best feature is the ability to monitor the health of individual VMware virtual machines. If you are interested in troubleshooting, and creating network maps, then I recommend that you give this Network Performance Monitor a try.
Improved Print Server Management Tools The Print Management Console (PMC), first shipped in Windows Server 2003 R2, is enhanced in Windows Server 2008. The PMC in Windows Server 2008 includes support for print server migration from Windows 200x to Windows Server 2008. It also features an improved Network Printer Installation Wizard, which reduces the number of steps that an administrator performs when he adds network printers to the print server. It does this by automatically locating printers and installing the driver when it's is available.
While RemoteApp has been trialled in earlier operating systems, the ability to run programs from the server alongside those of the local machine, has come of age in Server 2008.
ServerMangerCMD.exe Cmdline options - like PowerShell
Here are features that you may have seen or heard about in Vista that make even more sense to use on a server.
Even though servers have always been more secure, and less flashy, than clients like Vista, Microsoft has made security their number one priority for Windows Server 2008. To gain maximum benefits I have always preached match clients and server, thus XP and W2K3 and now, match Windows Server 2008 with Vista. Perhaps the killer reason for the latter association is DHCPv6 and IPv6. At present Windows Server 2003 does not support DHCP for IPv6.
Because Windows Server 2008 gains in speed, efficiency and security over W2K3, so there will be knock-on improvements for their clients, particularly for Vista. Talking of Vista, features such as NAP (Network Access Protection), BitLocker and UAC are as relevant for Windows Server 2008 as they are for Vista.
Here are features where you need both Vista and Windows Server 2008 to maximise the benefits.
Windows Server 2008 features that speed up the Vista desktop client
The Combination of Server 2008 and Vista
Most consultants recommend installing the client first, then upgrading the server sometime later. Guy says don't make the 'sometime later', too long. In fact, if it were me I would upgrade the client and server together.
The combination of Windows Server 2008 and Vista ensures that you get all the advertised client-server benefits of the latest server (Longhorn) technology.
Many of the visible changes incorporated into Windows Server 2008 come from the Vista front-end. However, I get the sense that the Windows Server 2008 team have had fun improving almost every aspect of W2K3. Most of the minor improvements are not going to make the headlines, but added together they make a significant step forward in Windows Server design.
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