Migrating to Windows Server 2012 R2

The end of support for Windows Server 2003 could signal the beginning of a new stage in your company’s evolution to a cloud based environment. Learning about the new features and improvements in Windows Server 2012 R2 will help you make the transition to this new environment smoother and less burdensome. Here are a few benefits to Migrating to Windows Server 2012 R2.

Windows Server 2012 R2 Benefits.

Windows Server 2012 was the product with which Microsoft really got serious about supporting cloud based deployments of Windows Server. The first major release of an operating system since Windows Server 2008 R2's release in 2009, Windows Server 2012 brings with it a variety of features to the data center, making it possible for admins to deploy highly available cloud applications. And with features such as PowerShell 3.0, the improved virtualization hypervisor, Hyper-V, SMB 3.0 and more, the potential benefits of the latest release are irrefutable.

PowerShell 3.0 added an additional 2,300 cmdlets, allowing for more granular control over the operating system. PowerShell remoting allows wider control of a data center by executing commands from a remote computer.

Virtualization has made notale strides in Hyper-V 3.0, which supports 64 processors and 1 TB of memory. Introduced with Windows Server 2012, the VHDX format has a larger disk capacity and is more resilient than its predecessor.

Server Core which allows for command-line & remote administration, has greater security than running the graphical user interface (GUI) environment. New in Server 2012, users can switch between the Server Core view and the GUI Server Manager view by installing a role.

Dynamic Access Control (DAC), helps IT pros create more centralized security models for access to network resources by tagging sensitive data both manually and automatically, based on factors such as the file content or the creator. Then claims based access controls can be applied. Read more about DAC in my "First Look" article over on Windowsecurity.com.

SMB 3.0 Server Message Block protocol has significantly improved in Windows Server 2012. The new version of SMB supports new file server features, such as SMB transparent failover , SMB Scale Out, SMB Multichannel, SMB Direct, SMB encryption, VSS for SMB file sharing, SMB directory leasing, and SMB PowerShell. SMB also works with Hyper-V, so that VHD files and virtual machine configuration files can be hosted on SMB 3.0 shares. A SQL system database can be stored on an SMB share, as well, with improvements to performance.

Storage Spaces is a new feature in Server 2012 that lets you use inexpensive hard drives to create a storage pool, which can then be divided into spaces that are used like physical disks. They can include hot standby drives and use redundancy methods such as 2- or 3-way mirroring or parity. You can add new disks any time, and a space can be larger than the physical capacity of the pool. When you add new drives, the space automatically uses the extra capacity.

Hyper-V Replica. Hyper-V is Microsoft's answer to VMware. Microsoft's virtualization is a replication mechanism that is a disaster recovery advantage to SMBs. Hyper-V Replica logs changes to the disks in a VM and uses compression to save on bandwidth, replicating from a primary server to a replica server. You can store multiple snapshots of a VM on the replica server and then select the one you want to use. It works with both standalone hosts and clusters in any combination (standalone to standalone, cluster to cluster, standalone to cluster or cluster to standalone).

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) With Windows Server 2012 you no longer need a dedicated GPU graphics card in the server to use RemoteFX, which vastly improves the quality of graphics over RDP. Instead, you can use a virtualized GPU on standard server hardware. USB over RDP is much better, and the Fair Share feature can manage how CPU, memory, disk space, and bandwidth are allocated among users to thwart bandwidth hogs.

DirectAccess was designed to be Microsoft's "VPN replacement," a way to create a secure connection from client to corporate network without the performance drain and with a more transparent user experience than a traditional VPN. You can apply group policy using the same tools you use to manage computers physically located on the corporate network. In Windows Server 2012, DirectAccess works with IPv4 without having to fool with conversion technologies, and the server running DirectAccess at the network edge can now be a Hyper-V virtual machine.

ReFS Windows Server 2012 brings us our long-awaited new file system, ReFS (Resilient File System). ReFS gives us data verification and auto correction, and it's designed to work with Storage Spaces to create shrinkable/expandable logical storage pools. ReFS is all about maximum scalability, supporting more than 270 billion terabytes.

Simplified licensing Server 2012 is offered in only four editions: Datacenter, Standard, Essentials, and Foundation. The first two are licensed per-processor plus CAL, and the latter two (for small businesses) are licensed per-server with limits on the number of user accounts (15 for Foundation and 25 for Essentials).

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