Microsoft’s “tag line” for the Windows Server 2012 release is “built from the cloud up.” I’m guessing the “c” word is in the tag line because cloud has become such an important focus area for businesses trying to leverage cloud architectures and processes for competitive advantage. But, a cloud conversation is about more than just cost. It’s about increasing agility and flexibility, enabling new user experiences and new business models.
Within the context of this, the Windows Server 2012 release is a significant release with over 100 new features touching almost every part of the operating system. While sorting through the long list of updates and improvements, it became clear to me that the folks at Microsoft have spent a great deal of time building an operating system specifically suited for cloud environments. Microsoft’s hypervisor, Hyper-V, is core to their private cloud platform and gets a big boost in Windows Server 2012. From a cost-benefit standpoint, this release puts Hyper-V at least on parity with VMware’s hypervisor. The following are just a few of the key features supporting the flexibility of scale, reduced cost, and IT efficiency inherent in a cloud environment:
- Hyper-V Network Virtualization enables you to virtualize your networks and configure software-defined networking. This allows you to move networks in your datacenter or to a hosting provider without reconfiguration. It also provides network isolation among the VMs running on different virtual networks, enabling multitenant environments.
- You get support for new storage scenarios which offer high availability on commodity hardware (no costly extra-special hardware). This means you can get more “bang for your buck” by pooling diverse storage resources, and abstracting them for flexible usage in your datacenter.
- Speaking of storage, the addition of “Shared Nothing” live migration to Hyper-V closes a feature gap with VMware’s VMotion, letting you move a VM’s virtual disk, configuration, and snapshot files to a new storage location with no interruption of end-user connectivity to the VM.
- The new Server Manager dashboard in 2012 is also user friendly and supports management of multiple servers, letting you drill down into local and remote servers.
- Enhanced PowerShell automation provides more than 2,300 PowerShell cmdlets for managing Hyper-V.
In addition to the new cloud-enabling features, there are many other improvements that can help organizations operate more efficiently and support improved employee productivity, including:
- Centralized desktops and remote access solutions that have been made easier to deploy and to manage, providing an easier way to give mobile and remote users more secure access to corporate infrastructure.
- The caching and transfer improvements available for file services also make sense for branch offices and other satellite operations where connectivity back to headquarters isn’t great.
Bottom line – this is a significant Windows Server release. However, before you rush to upgrade, there are some factors to consider:
- If you’re a small to mid-size IT shop, with 30 or fewer servers, you might not necessarily gain significantly from the more advanced feature set and cloud capabilities.
- If your hardware is older than about 4 years, and your IT budget is tight, you might want to wait until you can afford to upgrade your hardware to run Windows Server 2012. At some point, you might also want to consider adopting cloud services for some of your workloads.
- If you’re not yet “moving to cloud” in your datacenter, then you might want to wait.
In any event, we’re seeing many organizations move to private cloud solutions in order to gain better agility in operating their IT networks and applications while maintaining control and financial oversight over their entire IT environment. A good private cloud solution should enable agility, empower organizations to gain insights into IT resource usage and costs, and help improve process and compliance controls. As always, we value our ongoing discussions with customers around the latest technologies, processes and how we can best help them optimize their businesses with IT solutions that meet their individual needs.