Microsoft’s long-awaited Windows 8 was officially released just last week, but Windows Server 2012 has been up for public analysis and use for almost two months. The server update -- the first in three years for Microsoft -- may not appear to have received the same major makeover that the new operating system did, but a glance under the hood reveals a slew of additions and improvements. Here is an overview of the most significant upgrades from Windows Server 2008 that you may want to consider for your organisation’s next technology renovation.
1. Windows Server 2012 is simply more powerful than Windows Server 2008
Microsoft set out to build a new server that would both embrace virtualisation and complement a new breed of scalable, workable data centres. Whereas Windows Server 2008 R2 allowed users to support up to 64 logical processors on hardware, Windows Server 2012 upped the number to 320. Overall memory jumped as well, with 4 terrabytes of physical memory available now, versus 1 in Windows Server 2008, and up to 1 terabyte of memory on a virtual machine, up from 64 gigabytes previously. These increases present in Windows Server 2012 can translate to higher-quality platform performance and an overall longer lifespan for your enterprise devices.
2. Windows Server 2012 is more secure than Windows Server 2008
With the global movement toward cloud and virtualisation, security is the top concern for individuals on their personal phones and tablets, but even more so for the IT department and the infrastructure it oversees. Microsoft recognised this concern and applied it to Windows Server 2012, which now offers a fully isolated data centre network layer for better separation between virtual machines, as opposed to the more limited privacy of Windows Server 2008. A new safety feature in Windows Server 2012, unseen in Windows Server 2008, is support for private virtual local area networks (PVLANS), which prevent interaction between virtual machines on the same server without sacrificing network connectivity for each.
3. Windows Server 2012 is more flexible than Windows Server 2008
Technology, like your business, is always transforming and growing. Flexibility is critical to ensure that a server can adapt to your organisation’s fluctuating needs; Windows Server 2012 seems to have a better grasp on this expectation than Windows Server 2008 did. Server management is even more centralised and customisable with Windows Server 2012 Server Manager, which lets administrators control all locally and cloud-hosted servers from one, sleek dashboard. The Windows Server 2008 version used virtual LANs to virtualise networks, albeit in a complicated fashion when done on a large scale.
With Windows Server 2012, Microsoft’s Hyper-V Network Virtualisation isolates network traffic without VLANS, letting users switch virtual machines at will within the infrastructure, with no extra servers, switches or maintenance necessary. Performing a live migration or storage migrations is much simpler in Windows Server 2012, which supports multiple, simultaneous VM migrations across cluster boundaries and allows storage migration even while the machines are running.
Deciding to overhaul your organisation’s entire data centre won’t happen overnight. Now, however, is the time to evaluate your business needs and goals, and determine if the switch from Windows Server 2008 to Windows Server 2012 is justified. Feel free to reference this spec sheet for more information on how Windows Server 2012 measures up to Windows Server 2008.
With Windows Server 2012 seven weeks out in the market and Windows 8 due for release Friday, Datacom this morning hosted an informational event on both products for enterprise customers at the Microsoft Australia headquarters just outside Sydney.
Microsoft IT Pro Evangelist Jeff Alexander gave an overview and live demo of the features of both products. A full video of Jeff's presentation will be available next week (find out how to get a copy at the end of this post). For the time-being, here are some of the highlights of the Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 event.
Windows Server 2012
- Allows scaling and securing of workloads through a multi-tenant infrastructure
- Automation enabled across the data centre through cross-platform capabilities
- Active Directory is at the core of what Windows Server 2012 offers, enabling large-scale cloud deployments
- Offers a complete virtualisation platform, with the ability to do network virtualisation as well
- Unlimited ability to do live migrations
- More virtual machine storage without downtime
- Windows Server 2012 has 64 virtual processers per VM compared with four in Windows Server 2008 R2
- Users can still access workloads on original host while moving VM data to a single location
- Failure recovery happens in minutes and there is secure replication across networks
- New local Resilient File System (ReFS) increases data availability and scalability, offers rapid recovery and is resilient to power outages
- Windows 8 is an attempt to answer to the "blurring" of work and life and BYOD
- Made for touch, but users can still use a keyboard and mouse
- Devices optimised for Windows 8 will be available on the OS's release date Friday -- there will be midnight sales through select hardware vendors
- All apps are front and centre, can be squashed to allow for a smaller, longer view of the app stream
- Segmented by Start, the apps used every day, News and Games
To sign up for a link to a video of the full presentation on Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, enter your details into the contact form in this link.
What are you eager to learn about Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012?
When it comes to new IT investments, the benefits – including cost savings – often depend on how well you use and take care of the technology or infrastructure. Akin to a new car, organisations could easily wind up spending more money if they quickly run the technology purchase into the ground. If your organisation is wondering why it isn’t seeing as great of an ROI on server virtualisation as expected, look to how well the IT staff is managing the physical servers and virtual machines.
1. Use more of your physical servers
Technology and business research firm Forrester reports that one of the chief reasons organisations don’t maximise their virtual infrastructure investment is because they fail to put enough virtual machines on their physical servers. It is tough to strike a balance between too few VMs and too many, as the latter can inevitably lead to poor performance. But setting a strict utilisation percentage is not the answer either, as the organisation might get stuck in a cycle of buying more servers to host the VMs earlier than should be needed.
In Forrester’s research, many companies reported stopping at three to five VMs per server when some of these servers could actually host up to 15 VMs. While how many VMs IT runs will depend on factors such as resource-heavy apps, organisations can typically run three to five virtual machines for each core on a new Intel or AMD processor, according to a CIO report. One Sydney council was able to reduce the number of physical servers in its data centre from 24 to four and save more than $100,000 with a server virtualisation project implemented by Datacom.
2. Avoid virtual sprawl
Of course the danger of creating more VMs on your servers is that you’ll spawn server sprawl. It’s now so easy to create VMs that everyone wants one when they want it. This may not seem as dangerous as physical server sprawl, but it is. Too many VMs lead to an over-allocation of resources, which drives up costs; there's also the risk the organisation might have to purchase another physical server when they shouldn’t need to. VM sprawl also drains the IT department’s management abilities.
VM sprawl is a sneaky beast – it happens quietly and slowly, so the best defence against it is regularly monitoring how resources are being used and how many VMs are in the data centre one month compared to the next. VMs should have a lifecycle, and careful reporting will help IT departments determine when VMs are no longer needed. Going forward, IT should demand justification for VMs when they are requested to avoid creating them just because it's easy. IT could also turn off an unused VM every time someone asks for a new one.
3. Replace your physical servers on time
Yes, it can be a drag when you have to potentially fork over thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to replace your physical servers. IDC figures have shown that organisations that upgrade their servers within three-and-a-half-years make back the amount of their investment within 12 months and receive an ROI of more than 150 per cent over three years. Sticking to this refresh cycle can unearth some of the virtualisation benefits your organisation initially sought out, such as improved maintenance and better energy efficiency.
How does your organisation plan to fully realise the cost-saving benefits of server virtualisation?
The bulk of IT costs goes toward maintaining creaky infrastructure and complicated, often archaic systems. Three quarters of the average IT budget is spent on legacy systems alone, according to Microsoft. IT departments pay a steeper price. IT staff bogged down in keeping legacy systems a few steps from death’s store and tuning up old infrastructure have no time to innovate or be strategic. This creates a vicious cycle in which the department keeps the status quo without ever having a chance to prove both its technical and business power.
Organisations that can simplify their IT environments – standardise hardware, better manage applications and keep the data centre uncluttered – can reduce costs, better pool resources and help IT leverage technology to drive business results.
One issue: Years ago, it was server sprawl causing a headache in the data centre. Now, it’s virtual machine sprawl. The latter might sound innocuous, but taking server virtualisation too far – basically, creating VM after VM just because you can – might result in a mess of too many VMs that overtax your infrastructure and cause the cost of licenses to soar.
One solution: Virtualisation management technology and services can help IT better manage and contain the virtual environment. Through our managed services team, Datacom can oversee server management and monitoring so you keep virtual sprawl in check. The process begins through automation, which helps streamline the virtual environment and more quickly provision virtual machines. The end result is a self-service method that allows IT to routinely provision, secure and manage VMs so they don’t spiral out of control.
One issue: Legacy systems maintenance can keep IT from developing innovative new applications that could boost system efficiency and end-user satisfaction. There’s also research demonstrating that the more apps a business runs, the less efficient it is. The organisations with the best performance run an average of 20 applications, according IT research by The Hackett Group; lesser-performing companies run 39 apps on average.
One solution: Many organisations keep legacy systems going because they fear the cost and challenge of updating them. Leveraging the help of an IT outsourcer to plot and execute your legacy system modernisation or transformation can take the headache out of revamping your business-critical applications so you can get better use out of them. The first part of the process involves conducting an audit of all the apps running in these systems. Identifying which ones are critical to the business will the set the wheels in motion to clean up the clutter.
How have you planned to reduce IT complexity in your organisation?