Windows Server 8: An Inside Look

We drill into the good and bad of Microsoft's forthcoming OS and share exclusive survey results on IT deployment plans.
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Windows Server 8, scheduled for release in mid-2012, is Microsoft's first operating system built with the virtualized data center at its core. Microsoft has added critical capabilities to Hyper-V--its hypervisor, which is included with Windows Server 8--in an effort to compete with VMware. It also added features aimed at making operations and management easier. InformationWeek reviewed a developer edition of Windows Server 8 and finds it's an ambitious effort to head off VMware, whose virtualization and management software aims to take over much of what a server OS has traditionally done. We also conducted an exclusive InformationWeek Windows 8 Survey of 973 IT professionals at companies with 500 or more employees that shows Microsoft has its work cut out for it. For instance, nearly half of respondents, 48%, have no plans to upgrade to the new OS. Some of that reluctance is attributable to the relatively short release dates between Windows 7 and Windows 8. Windows 7 came out in the fall of 2009. According to our survey, of those with no plans to upgrade, 50% say they plan to stick with Windows 7 for as long as possible. Meanwhile, another 30% refuse to give up Windows XP.

That said, Microsoft has always been adept at giving engineers good technical reasons to ditch their existing server OS and upgrade, and Windows Server 8 is no exception. IT shops tend to deploy server upgrades ahead of PCs because the impact can be felt immediately and broadly across the company. Our survey finds 42% of respondents who are upgrading to Windows Server 8 are cautiously optimistic about the upgrade, and 14% "can't wait."

Asked about deployment timelines, 18% say they will upgrade as needed to replace retired servers and 17% don't have a timeline. A smaller percentage, 8%, expect to roll out Windows Server 8 as soon as it's available, while 27% will deploy within 24 months.

Once in place, Windows Server 8 will take up a lot of real estate in the data center: 39% with upgrade plans say the OS will run on 76% or more of their servers, and 24% will run the OS on 51% to 75% of servers.

Hyper-V Gets Hyped Up

While Hyper-V is a distant second in market share to VMware's hypervisor, Microsoft has made a concerted effort to catch up. The latest version of Hyper-V has noteworthy enhancements so it can be used in more complex virtualized environments. This may get IT leaders to take a second look. Of six features we asked about in Windows Server 8, a revamped Hyper-V will have the most significant impact on respondents' organizations. Built-in disk deduplication and the ability to cluster DHCP servers were close behind.

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