Microsoft has announced a preview of Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, the upcoming version of its server line targeted at SMEs.
While the new version continues to focus on offering value for smaller businesses, Microsoft said it has added capabilities to allow it to scale to larger deployments, while making it easier for customers to take advantage of virtualisation and cloud services.
Microsoft unveiled previews for its mainstream Windows Server 2012 R2 releases at its TechEd conference last month, but the Essentials R2 preview has only just been pushed out.
Essentials itself was only officially released last October, replacing the former Windows Small Business Server (SBS) product as Microsoft's small business offering.
New features include tools to make it easier for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to use virtualisation and cloud computing resources, and a revamped Dashboard to keep management as simple as possible, Microsoft said.
Writing on Microsoft's blog, Jason Anderson, group programme manager for the Windows Server Essentials team, said that Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials continues to be the best option for small businesses that need to have a physical server.
"One of the reasons SMBs are hesitant to move to virtualisation has to do with the complexity of properly configuring and managing virtual instances of the operating system," he said.
To address this, Essentials R2 makes it possible to host a guest instance of itself that can be set up manually or via a simple wizard to guide customers through the setup process.
Likewise, Essentials R2 has configuration options available to deliver an optimised experience in a hosted deployment, where features such as client backup and storage spaces are turned off by default
These configuration settings are designed to help customers deploy on both Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud, but also in private clouds. Essentials R2 is also designed to work with the recently announced Windows Azure Pack, for example.
The Dashboard in Essentials R2 has also been enhanced with a services integration status page that shows the services that are available, and whether the customer's server is attached to these services.
New services include support for Windows Azure Active Directory, providing SMEs with single sign-on and user authentication integration between their local Active Directory and cloud services such as Office 365.
Essentials R2 also integrates with Microsoft's Windows Intune cloud-based management service, enables an administrator to manage users, security groups, and licenses for Windows Intune services from within the Dashboard. Microsoft is also making it possible for larger firms to deploy Essentials R2 as a server role within their data centre.
"Many of the key features that have been in the Windows Server Essentials product to date have not been available in [other] Windows Server editions. We have consistently heard from many of our customers in larger organisations that they too want the value that Windows Server Essentials offers," said Anderson.
Microsoft stresses that Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials is still under development, and that this is just a preview release. Like the existing version, it is limited to 25 users, with minimum system requirements a 1.4GHz 64-bit CPU with 2GB memory and 160GB hard drive.
Cotton seedling freezes to death as Chang'e-4 shuts down for the Moon's 14-day lunar night
Fortnite easily out-earns PUBG, Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2 in 2018
Meteor showers as a service will be visible for about 100 kilometres in all directions
Saturn's rings only formed in the past 100 million years, suggests analysis of Cassini space probe data
New findings contradict conventional belief that Saturn's rings were formed along with the planet about 4.5 billion years ago