Microsoft had added the Hyper-V hypervisor to Windows Server before Release 2, but the R2 version will include Hyper-V virtual machine live migration, a popular feature of virtualized environments that Windows Server was lacking.
Live migration, said Laing, can be used to load-balance virtual machines across servers, save power by shutting down a server after moving its virtual machines to an underutilized neighbor, and fail-over the workload of one server to another in the event of a server glitch.
"Live migration is the most significant, most visible new feature" of Release 2, he said.
In part, that's because it brings Microsoft a step closer to competing with VMware in virtualizing the data center. Microsoft already has an advantage in its Systems Center suite of products, which manage the physical Windows server setting. With live migration, the Virtual Machine Manager component of Systems Center can do a better job of managing the virtual environment as well, he said.
Live migration is also a key aspect of implementing better power management for Windows servers. If a server's virtual machines can be shifted from one physical server to another at the click of button, then underutilized servers can offload their VMs and get shut down, he added.
The live migration feature can be implemented across up to 16 hosts (physical servers running multiple virtual machines) that share the same storage file system, he noted.
At the same time, Hyper-V has been enhanced to allow a server hosting virtual machines to be managed as if it can supply 64 virtual processors, allowing either more virtual machines per server or more virtual processors available to each virtual machine, he said.
When it comes to Windows Server working with Windows clients, the combination of Release 2 with the new Windows 7 offers remote workers a connection method called DirectAccess. Through DirectAccess, IPsec security is invoked in the background and used to connect over the Internet to the corporate network without the user needing to activate a virtual private network.
DirectAccess is integrated with Active Directory and imposes policies that match the user's role and identity and determine what he has access to on the corporate network. Direct Access substitutes user-identity management as a basis for security instead of user location and device identification.
DirectAccess can apply policies so that they govern what servers and even which applications on a server the user may access, Laing said. At the same time, a remote user communicating over the Internet is sending only encrypted information onto the corporate network, as if he were working inside a VPN.
"I really feel we delivered customer value with Release 2," Laing said.
He was accompanied by a Microsoft partner and early implementer of Release 2, Rand Morimoto, CEO of Convergent Computing, an IT consulting firm in Oakland, Calif. Morimoto said Convergent has implemented Release 2 and Windows 7 for its consultants, and they can access the firm's 12 servers from wherever their work takes them. DirectAccess eliminated the need to use VPNs and a $40,000 security appliance, he said.
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