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11/3/2008
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Windows Server 2008 R2 Perks Up Virtualization

In addition to Hyper-V, Terminal Services, the company's presentation virtualization technology, gets a significant boost and a new name.

When Microsoft lifted the veil on Windows Server 2008 R2 last week, the company's big push into cloud computing and Windows 7 largely trumped the server update. However, with a series of improvements to things like virtualization and performance, the well-received Windows Server 2008 gets a notable tune-up.

Server virtualization made its first appearance as an operating system feature in Windows Server 2008's Hyper-V, but Microsoft still had some catching up to do to meet the level of sophistication of competitive offerings. In Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft has made a few tweaks to Hyper-V and added some much-desired features.

Microsoft has added live virtual machine migration, a pre-condition for an automated data center and something competitors like VMware already have in their products, to Windows Server 2008 R2. With live migration, companies can move virtual images between host machines in "less than two seconds," providing no-downtime migration and better manageability.

The company has also done a bunch of work under the hood on Hyper-V. "We tend to talk about features, but a lot of infrastructure work is going on in Hyper-V too," Bill Hilf, Microsoft's general manager of Windows Server marketing and platform strategy, said in an interview. Microsoft claims the new Hyper-V will be more reliable, faster, and able to run in more configurations.

Hyper-V isn't the only virtualization technology in Windows Server 2008 getting some work done. Terminal Services, the company's presentation virtualization technology, gets a significant boost and a new name. Terminal Services becomes Remote Desktop Services. It's now supports full-on Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and gets enhanced remote management capabilities as well as Web-based access to a remote desktop instance.

Remote Desktop Services users will see significant improvements as well, though some of them will require Windows 7. New user support includes better multimedia, multiple monitor support, improved audio support, the ability to run Windows' AeroGlass user interface, and single sign-on.

Among the recent networking technologies to get big play, few have been as popular as WAN optimization and application acceleration, which seek to improve the performance of applications and data served over the network. In Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft adds branch office file caching and optimization of a few protocols, such as its proprietary Server Message Block protocol. That follows up on a jointly developed appliance from Cisco and Microsoft announced last month.

Several other new features demand some close attention as well. A new feature called DirectAccess will allow VPN-less connection to corporate networks for Windows 7 users. Microsoft's Web server, Internet Information Services, gets support for PowerShell scripting. And Windows Server 2008 R2 will support more than 64 processing cores.

It's unclear whether it will be included in Windows Server 2008 R2, or if it will be relegated to future versions of the OS, but Microsoft last week also released the first test version of its new application server technology, code-named "Dublin." Dublin blends some features of application servers and Web servers and, Microsoft says, makes it easier for developers to deploy and manage composite apps.

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