Top 10 Reasons to Upgrade To Windows Server 2008 R2

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Should You Upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2?

If you are using a Windows Server, you will find upgrading to Windows Server 2008 R2 an issue worthy of serious consideration. The latest version of Windows Server has some great new features that can provide superior client and administrator experience, lower your server operating costs, and above all, deliver better business results. R2 has improved fault tolerance, lowers energy consumption, makes security and compliance management more effective, and automates routine administrative tasks in a customizable manner.

Reduce Power Consumption and Carbon Footprint

R2 has enhanced the power saving feature ( monitoring processor utilization levels and dynamically adjusting processor performance states to limit power to workload needs) introduced with Windows Server 2008. R2 has added granular abilities to monitor and adjust power consumption of CPU and other elements. R2 has also extended the power saving feature to the client desktop computers through Group Policy settings for power management.

Using the Active Directory® Domain Services Group Policy of Windows 2008, administrators had the ability to control the power consumptio0n of client PCs. With Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows® 7, the deployment scenarios can be controlled even more precisely to achieve greater power savings.

And considering that reduction in power savings translates to reduction in the carbon footprint, and that computers tend to proliferate in datacenters at ever increasing rates, the R2 release is contributing to the green cause.

Desktop Virtualization with VDI and RDS

Hyper-V, that creates several virtual servers for one physical server can also work with client computers using Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Applications residing on the server will appear to the client computer as if they are on its local system and can be accessed just like local programs from the Start Menu. The server has control over the applications being run on the client’s PC.

Remote Desktop Services (RDS) separates processing from I/O functions such as graphics, keyboard, mouse, and others. The latter continue to be handled at the desktop while the processing takes place at the server end.

Desktop resources are utilized better in the environment outlined above, and graphics and audio performance are also improved on the desktop. Desktop costs also go down.

Eliminating Perceived Downtimes during VM Migration

Under the earlier Windows Server 2008 environment, when a virtual machine had to be moved from one physical machine to another owing to some problem with the former, a short downtime resulted. Even this short downtime resulted in user complaints as connections were lost at client computers. With the R2 version, the VM transfer happens in milliseconds and the user never perceives any downtime.

This feature, known as Live Migration, is probably the most outstanding feature of Windows Standard 2008 R2. It is made possible through improvements in the new version’s virtualization technology, Hyper-V. Along with the invisibly fast migration, enhancements to Hyper-V have also made it possible to include a processor compatibility feature. When this feature is on, migration is possible not just between machines running on the same processor but also between those using other generation processors from the same vendor.

The new Hyper-V can work with up to 64 logical processors, and also takes advantage of the Second Level Translation feature available in new generation CPUs, enhancing CPU performance. Finally, Virtual Machines can add and remove storage without needing a reboot.

Using System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, it is possible to manage multiple Hyper-V servers.

Server Management Made Easier and More Effective

Server and computer systems tend to proliferate in datacenters; additionally, the increasing power and capabilities of newer generation servers come with a price in the form of increased complexity of administration and increased workload.

Windows Server 2008 R2 has been designed with this scenario in mind. It seeks to reduce management complexity and workload through a number of specific features.

  • A power management console that helps you keep track of power consumption and manage it more effectively
  • Enhanced remote administration tools that include a remotely-installable Server Manager
  • Enhanced Active Directory Domain Services and Active Directory Federated Services that enable and simplify better management of identities.

The enhanced PowerShell 2.0 comes with a new graphical user interface (with color syntaxing, new script debugging, and new testing tools) making it easy to develop new cmdlets that can automate tasks of a routine nature that are done repeatedly. The new PowerShell also comes with more than 240 pre-built cmdlets. As any server manager would be aware, routine administrative tasks that are repeated again and again take up a lot of administrative time and automating them is a real advantage.

Better Management of Today’s Work Environment

Workforce is getting more and more mobile these days with such developments as work-from-home; and laptop carrying travelers have been on the scene for quite some time now. This increasing mobility of the workforce results in new IT demands.

Managing remote computers has always been a challenge, with wide area network bandwidths being low and connection problems disrupting desktop management sessions of longer durations. Tasks such as Group Policy changes and keeping patches up-to-date typically suffered in such a scenario.

Windows Server 2008 R2 seeks to replace the traditional, less reliable VPN connections with a new type of connectivity, DirectAccess. The new option does not require installing any VPN software at the client end, and the connection is always on from the start of the session (unlike in VPN where you have to establish connection over the public network).

Provided the client is using a system running Windows 7, administrators can now establish a basic connection by configuring SSTP and iPv6 across R2 and the client, using simple management wizards. This basic connection is then augmented with R2 management and security tools.

DirectAccess treats all clients as remote and users don’t have to manage things differently depending on whether the desktops are local or remote. This is also done without compromising on security.

Improving Data Access at Branch Offices

Bandwidth constraints of WAN affect data access at branch offices. As a result, productivity of branch office clients tend to suffer as they might have to wait for data to download from corporate office. Providing needed bandwidth at branches also costs a significant part of the IT budget.

Both the productivity and cost issues are tackled with the new BranchCache solution offered in Windows Server 2008 R2. The solution involves monitoring file requests from branches, and storing the requested files at the branch itself to meet future requests. If a file has been requested before, the requester is directed to this local repository for a much speedier access to the file.

The files can be stored in one of the local Windows 7 client PCs at the branch (and accessed peer-to-peer) or in a dedicated local BranchCache server if the volume of requests is high. This solution leads to a significant reduction in the WAN bandwidth usage, and costs of providing it.

Making Things Easier for Small and Medium Businesses

System management tools that makes life easier for the SMB IT administrator is one of the goals Microsoft has set for itself with the new range of servers, including Small Business Server, Windows Essential Business Server, and Windows Server 2008. All these servers now sport improved management consoles. For example, Active Directory’s new Active Directory Administration Center now hosts all the formerly disparate graphic user interfaces in a single interface based on PowerShell.

The new servers come with Best Practice Analyzers for all the server roles. Your server configurations are thus synchronized with the latest know-how.

The new Windows Server Backup utility has been upgraded to allow greater granularity for designing backup jobs. Additionally, it has been optimized to run faster and occupy less disk space.

An Enhanced Web Server

The upgraded Internet Information Server, IIS 7.5, incorporates features that empower Web administrators to deploy and manage Web applications more easily and reliably. Developers and authors also will find that their publishing experience has improved.

The capabilities of IIS Manager have been extended through new management modules. The Windows PowerShell Provider has been implemented in IIS to automate common administrative tasks. The Server Core now supports .NET enabling ASP .NET and remote management through IIS Manager.

Better troubleshooting through features such as configuration logging and a dedicated Best Practice Analyzer makes the administration tasks even easier.

Powerful Hardware and Scaling Features

Windows Server 2008 R2 was designed to perform as well or better for the same hardware base as Windows Server 2008. In addition, R2 is the first Windows Server operating system to move solely to a 64-bit architecture.

Windows Server 2008 R2 also has several CPU-specific enhancements. First, this version expands CPU support to enable customers to run with up to 256 logical processors. R2 also supports Second Level Translation (SLAT), which enables R2 to take advantage of the Enhanced Page Tables feature found in the latest AMD CPUs as well as the similar Nested Page Tables feature found in Intel’s latest processors. The combination enables R2 servers to run with much improved memory management.

Components of Windows Server 2008 R2 have received hardware boosts as well. Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008 R2 can now access up to 64 logical CPUs on host computers. This capability not only takes advantage of new multicore systems, it also means greater virtual machine consolidation ratios per physical host.

Managing Data Not Just Managing Storage

Storage volume is increasing at a 51% compounded annual growth rate between 2008 and 2012 according to IDC*. To keep pace and stay competitive, organizations must begin managing data, not just disks. Windows Server 2008 R2 gives IT administrators the tools for precisely this kind of initiative with the new File Classification Infrastructure (FCI). This new feature builds an extensible and automated classification mechanism on top of existing shared file architectures; this enables IT administrators to direct specific actions for specific files based on entirely customizable classification. FCI is also extensible to partners, which means Windows Server 2008 R2 users can expect to see additional capabilities around FCI being delivered by ISVs in the near future.

There are very good reasons indeed to upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2!

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