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Windows Server 2012 RC review

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Windows Server 2012 Metro start screen

This is a major re-work of the Windows server platform designed to make it more scalable, resilient and flexible. It will thus be of most interest to large enterprises intending to go build private clouds, although those with more modest needs will find value in features such as storage pooling and the revamped hypervisor.

 

Pros:

Server Manager tool; Hyper-V 3.0; VM failover; SMB 3 file sharing; Resilient File System; Storage spaces, pooling and thin provisioning

Cons:

Metro user interface a major upheaval; some features only available if Windows Server 2012 is widely deployed by an organisation

Overall Rating:

5 Star Rating: Recommended

Price: To be announced

Manufacturer: Microsoft

Windows 8 isn’t the only new kid on the Microsoft block, as the company's server platform is also scheduled for a refresh later this year.

Now officially named Windows Server 2012, the latest version is much more than just an update, with Microsoft positioning it as a must-have platform for organisations looking to implement their own private cloud infrastructure.

A beta of Windows Server 2012 came out last year, followed by a Release Candidate made available at the end of May, alongside the Windows 8 Release Preview for client systems.

The Release Candidate (RC) we duly downloaded and put through its paces, finding that some things haven’t changed much but, elsewhere, it’s become a completely different beast altogether.

The final release code is set to be essentially the same as this version, with the only changes likely to be bug fixes. 

As with its predecessor, Windows Server 2008 R2, the new 2012 server supports only 64-bit hardware, but differs in that it can now be deployed only on x86 systems, with Microsoft ditching the Itanium platform.

Exact requirements have yet to be made public, but the pre-requisites are expected to be similar to those for the previous version. We certainly had no problems getting it to run either on physical platforms or inside a VM. In fact we ran it both as a Hyper-V VM and on a VMware ESXi hypervisor.

The install procedure hasn’t changed that much, with the default being a Server Core setup with the option for a GUI install, which typically calls for 4GB more space.

With a little extra work a so-called minimal server interface can also be implemented without the desktop, start screen and Internet Explorer, just Microsoft Management Console (MMC), Server Manager, and a subset of Control Panel applets.

Windows Server 2012 install options

Server Core with its minimal command line interface (PowerShell) is fast becoming the way to go here, especially where large numbers of real, and increasingly, virtual servers are concerned.

Moreover, PowerShell is very much the preferred interface, with a huge increase in the number of available cmdlets (effectively ready-made management scripts) in this release, along with access to extra features and more precise controls using PowerShell over the GUI.

On large networks, System Center 2012 can also be used to manage Windows servers. Customers serious about implementing a private cloud will also need System Center 2012 to provide the necessary on-demand provisioning and automation services, with a service pack due out soon to cope with the new 2012 version of Windows Server. 

For smaller enterprises without the funds for System Center and those not into command lines, it is still possible to manage Windows Server 2012 in other ways. Either remotely using RSAT (Remote Server Administration Tools) or locally through a graphical front end, just as with previous Windows Server versions.

Full system requirements not available at time of writing

Requires Intel/AMD 64-bit processors (Itanium IA-64 not supported) otherwise requirements expected to be similar to those for Windows Server 2008

The RC requires a minimum of 1.4GHz processor, 512MB RAM (more is recommended) and 32GB of disk space

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