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Rolling Review: Windows Server 2008 Makes Upgrade Sense For Some

Sites that need basic terminal services or server consolidation have the most to gain--for now.

Is it worth it to upgrade to Windows 2008 Server now? After nearly a year of kicking the tires on this release, our short and anti-climactic answer is, "It depends."

For basic terminal services or server consolidation needs, Server 2008 is worth upgrading to immediately. All other improvements, including network access control, are nice value-adds, but are no reason, in and of themselves, to make a fast leap to Server 2008.

Unlike any server operating system that Microsoft has released to date, Windows 2008 Server comes chock-full of new enterprise features that go well beyond the file, print, directory, and core network services of old. In the previous editions of our Longhorn Rolling Reviews, we profiled some of these new capabilities: TS 2008, Windows PowerShell, Network Access Protection Server Core, and Hyper-V.

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Terminal Services is not new to the Windows Server line, but TS 2008 is unrecognizable compared with previous editions. New features -- such as the ability to run individual applications via a seamless TS window, instead of having to launch an ugly TS session in order to execute an application -- make TS 2008 much more Citrix-like than before. In addition, you can now launch an application or a full desktop directly from the Internet via a TS 2008 Gateway server. Getting TS Gateway to work in the lab was somewhat cumbersome, but once we configured it properly on the back end, and after we deployed the new Remote Desktop Protocol client to our Vista machines, we saw impressive and steady performance as we scaled up to 50 simultaneous connections on a single box. And TS 2008 now provides a Web-based portal that allows corporate or third-party users to access internal applications remotely and without need for a VPN client.

Longhorn and Vista modifications make more efficient use of network resources.
The Web Application Portal feature is the major difference between TS and Citrix. With TS 2008, you either present an application on the Web portal or you don't. The Citrix-supplied Web portal provides management and security capabilities that allow you to control which applications are available based on login credentials. Also, to serve applications to contractors or third parties, you'll need to buy an External Connector license (which lists for $7,999) for Terminal Server.

TS 2008 is a great solution for small to midsize enterprises with relatively small TS needs, yet it's still versatile enough to service midsize organizations. However, larger sites that have more complex load-balancing and performance needs should continue to make the incremental investments in Citrix.

Longhorn Vs. The Competition
Product Price Comments
>> List price to provide Network Access Protection for 100 clients
Microsoft NAP $4,793 Server 2008 Standard needed to run NAP with 100 client access licenses
Cisco NAC Appliance Server for 100 users $3,683 Cisco sells through partners; pricing obtained from PC Connection
>> List price to virtualize four instances of Windows Server 2008 with 100 CALs
Server 2008 Enterprise with Hyper-V $6,993 100 CALs included; Enterprise edition allows a max. of 4 instances
VMware ESXi Hypervisor only $0 Free, but Gold/Platinum support costs $495 or $595 for the license
ESX running Microsoft server with100 CALs $15,996 Each Windows Server running in a VMWare instance must be licensed
>> List price for enterprise VM management
VMware Virtual Infrastructure Enterprise $5,750 Add $1,208 for Gold-level support, $1,438 for Platinum
Enterprise Server 08 with Hyper-V, VM Manager 08 $8,297 Note: VMware commands a premium because of its edge in enterprise management features.
VMware ESX/Virtual Infrastructure with Windows Server licensing and CALs $21,746 As a result, this pricing data is not an apples-to-apples comparison

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