Virtualization improvements are among the key new features of Windows Server 2008 R2. Another new feature, Processor Compatibility Mode, will allow Windows Server instances to move between machines with different CPU types. That will improve the usability of one of Windows Server 2008 R2's other new features, live migration of virtual machines.
Key virtualization improvements include support for 64 logical processors (up from the previously announced 32).
Over at Ars Technica, meanwhile, the story was how Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will work together with new features such as DirectAccess and BranchCache.
Together, those new features could change the way remote and branch offices communicate with each other. Right now, it's a process of connecting VPNs and/or using Wide Area Networking (WAN) optimization solutions from vendors such as Riverbed. But DirectAccess and BranchCache will use encryped tunneling to allow companies using both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 Windows users to reduce bandwidth usage and avoid the need for VPN connections to branch offices.
According to PC World: DirectAccess "promises to keep users connected to the corporate network whenever they are online -- without the use of a VPN, making it easier to manage remote workers. BranchCache, meanwhile, "will speed up access to remote files for workers in branch offices by caching a copy of files locally after the workers access them from the corporate network."
Despite the competitive implications, though, Riverbed used the occasion tout the strength of its relationship with the Redmond giant. Riverbed participated in the Microsoft announcement -- with its own announcement that BranchCache can be run in a virtual environment on the Riverbed Service Platform (RSP) running on the company's Steelhead appliance. "Riverhead has been knocking on the door of Microsoft," said Apurve Dave, vice president of product marketing for Riverbed. "Now Microsoft has embraced Riverbed."
And Riverbed's announcement quotes Julius Sinkevicius, director Windows Server Marketing at Microsoft: "Having the support of Riverbed is crucial to the success of our branch office strategy. We are both committed to working jointly to provide our customers with a comprehensive WAN optimization offering by joining complementary solutions."
At the same time though, Riverbed was careful to position the BranchCache announcement as complementary and not a replacement to its own WAN optimization solutions. Dave called BranchCache a "limited case scenario," affecting only configurations that will be running only Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7, and noted that users will have to turn on BrancheCache.
Riverbed is designed for the more heterogenous environments, Dave said, that are found in most enterprise branch offices. But he acknowledged that smaller companies are more likely to but running the kind of all-Windows shop that could use Microsoft's new technology.