Microsoft has announced the general availability of Windows Server 2012, the latest version of its server platform, which it hopes will help more firms take advantage of cloud computing.
Windows Server 2012 is available now to download for evaluation and purchase by all Microsoft customers around the world, the firm said, so organisations can get to grips with its features aimed at making it easier to build out private cloud infrastructure.
Among the new features is an updated version of Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor, which now includes network virtualisation capabilities to enable multiple network configurations to co-exist on the same physical LAN, an essential requirement for multi-tenant datacentres.
Also debuting on Windows Server 2012 is a new Resilient File System (ReFS), which introduces greater reliability features such as an allocation-on-write policy for metadata. This is intended to reduce the risk of data becoming corrupted if writes are interrupted
Windows Server 2012 also shares the Storage Spaces technology introduced with Windows 8, which provides for disk pooling, disk virtualisation and thin provisioning of storage directly from the operating system.
However, Windows Server 2012 only really comes into its full potential when used in conjunction with Microsoft's System Center 2012 management platform.
System Center 2012 provides the tools to bare-metal provision servers, join these into resource pools to build a private cloud, and then automate the allocation of resources to deliver services from the cloud.
Changes to licensing mean that Windows Server 2012 will only be available in four editions: the Datacenter edition supports unlimited virtualisation rights for cloud environments while the Standard edition is for lightly virtualised environments, according to Microsoft.
These editions are licensed based on a per two processor basis, as most modern servers are twin-socket, with Datacentre edition costing $4,809 and Standard edition $882.
Meanwhile, Windows Server 2012 Essentials is a replacement for the previous Small Business Server (SBS) product line and costs $425 per server.
Windows Server 2012 Foundation meanwhile is a general-purpose server platform with no virtualisation rights, available only pre-installed on server hardware.
Satya Nadella, the president for Microsoft's servers and tools business, said in a blog post that the firm had focused on four key areas.
"First is the transformation of the datacenter. We want to bring together all of the resources provided by a traditional datacenter - storage, networking and computing - into one platform that scales elastically with an organisation's needs," he said.
"Second is offering the APIs and runtimes to enable developers to create modern applications - for mobile, social and big data. A third important aspect is ensuring personalised services and experiences, so that any user on any device can access all of their data and applications.
"Lastly, data of any size or type, stored anywhere and processed in any style, must be a first-class citizen of the Cloud OS."
Daniel Robinson is technology editor at V3, and has been working as a technology journalist for over two decades. Dan has served on a number of publications including PC Direct and enterprise news publication IT Week. Areas of coverage include desktops, laptops, smartphones, enterprise mobility, storage, networks, servers, microprocessors, virtualisation and cloud computing.