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Windows Server 2012: Ascending Beyond the Cloud

System Administrators are going to have a lot to get used to in 2012.

Much like the upcoming release of Windows 8 later in the year, the next edition of Microsoft’s server operating system, Windows Server 2012, is following suit and is a vast departure from its ancestors. Server Intellect recently obtained a copy of the now-public beta for internal testing, and so far we like what we see.

As of yet, the follow-up to the highly successful Windows Server 2008 does not have an official release date, so it may not be until later in the year when administrators all around the world need to start planning if they want to move to the new platform. However, if they do, they will find it to be a much different experience than working with previous versions, especially when it comes to systems running on cloud infrastructure.

The biggest change up front is the redesign of the user interface, and the ultimate dismissal of a traditional ‘Start’ button. It’s still present, however hidden, and doesn’t look anything like it has in just about every version of Windows Server since NT. Not only that, but the Server Manager and Task Manager applications have undergone complete redesigns, with much more functionality and versatility. Server Manager is now more focused on managing multiple servers at once easier than with Server 2008, and making every facet of administering a Windows server available from the Server Manager interface. Task Manager is getting essentially the exact same makeover it is receiving with Windows 8, becoming much more modular and easy to customize, combining processor, memory, hard disk and network performance graphs all into the same tab.

One of the revolutionary changes implemented with Windows Server 2012 is a new file system. NTFS has been the standard for Windows Server operating systems dating back to 1993; however it looks to have finally been surpassed with ReFS, or the Resilient File System. Using 64-bit numbers for file size, volume size and the numbers of files and directories, ReFS allows file sizes that are almost incomprehensible to average users at this point. It also has multiple checksums, one referred to as an “integrity stream” which greatly reduces data corruption.

Though many traditional NTFS features, such as Encrypting File System and disk quotas, will not be available for servers running ReFS, other features such as BitLocker encryption and Access Control Lists will remain functional.

As for the hardware compatibility changes, Server 2012 will increase the maximum supported hardware of its predecessors exponentially, including almost tripling the amount of supported logical processors to 640 up from 256, doubling the RAM ceiling from two terabytes to four, and quadrupling failover cluster nodes from 16 all the way up to 63. This will easily allow enterprises to have much wider breathing room when it comes to establishing and optimizing a fault-tolerant cloud infrastructure.

Administrators who are fond of using Windows PowerShell to automate daily tasks and other operations are going to happy to learn that Windows Server 2012 increases the amount of available command-lets from 200 all the way up to 2,300. They’ll also be pleased to know it will feature a command auto-completion feature, so, much like the questions on the almost countless Microsoft Certification exams, they will be able to accomplish more tasks with less administrative effort.

Whether it ends up being released in succession with the Windows 8 client operating system, Windows Server 2012 is going to have much in common with it, leaving many trappings of previous versions of Windows Server in the past and focusing on a future where cloud computing reigns supreme.

Better start taking a look at it now, Admins. It’ll be here before you know it.

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