Windows Server 2012 Thoughts

Windows Server 2012, for many IT pros, is far more relevant than Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 or even Office 2013.

The new server OS just shipped and we want a hands-on look. Did you beta test Windows Server 2012? Are you using the finished version? Care to share your thoughts in a Redmond magazine article?

If so, e-mail me at dbarney@redmondmag.com and I'll be in touch.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/10/2012 at 1:19 PM9 comments


Doug's Mailbag: Skipping Windows Generations 

Can you skip Windows 7 and migrate straight to 8 from XP? Here's what some readers think:

I think that you'll have a smoother experience by upgrading to each OS once it fits your business needs. The bigger question is why are we upgrading? What problems does it solve/create? Are there alternatives? How will applications work? Do they need to be upgraded? Does the upgrade require new hardware? How much user training is required? Etc.
-Craig

In your opinion piece on Gartner's recommendation that IT not skip Win 7, you said this:

'Ever since I've known Microsoft it has told IT not to skip operating systems, that skipping one level only makes moving to the next harder. Of course it doesn't hurt that Microsoft gets paid for each step along the way.'

Sorry, but that's flat-out wrong. Microsoft enterprise licenses have included downgrade rights pretty much always. A Win 8 license allows an enterprise to install Win 7 today and Win 8 next year without paying Microsoft 'for each step along the way.'

Just plain sloppy, and straight-up Microsoft-bashing. You're better than that.

Disclosure 1: I work for Microsoft.
2: I am not an authorized spokesman for the company.
3: I recall recently reading that current EAs were modified by Microsoft to include downgrade rights from Win 8 to Win 7 but I do not have a handy reference to cite.
-Jason

In this case, where the two OSes are very similar, I can see no structural reason to not skip Windows 7 and go straight to 8. However, I do agree that changes in Windows 8 make testing and evaluating essential. Apart from the interface change there seem to be some AD Domain networking related quirks in Windows 8 that weren't there in 7, and I am not sure that program compatibility is exactly the same between the two either. Of course end user training must be considered given the significant change in the interface. Some wish to downplay that part but experience has taught me that changes much smaller than this one are enough to create havoc.
-Andre

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/05/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


October Ultra Easy on Patches

I've been writing this newsletter for seven years and can't remember a Patch Tuesday with only one "critical" fix (although last month's patch beat that with 0 critical updates). But that is what Microsoft is planning to do next Tuesday.

The critical fix is for a remote execution flaw in Windows Server and Office. Hackers gain entry through a malicious file that is either viewed or opened. Not exactly original.

While there is just one critical fix, there are six important bulletins hitting SQL Server, Windows, Lync and Office.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/05/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Microsoft Store Rapper Backfires

A rapper named Machine Gun Kelly (he probably was born this way) was invited to perform at Microsoft's new store in Atlanta.

Microsoft should have done some research. A simple Google or even Bing search would have revealed the guy is an attention-seeking nut. Seems Machine Gun has a habit of getting arrested during publicity stunts (he needs a few more stunts as I had never heard of the guy).

One store opening attendee filmed the performance in which Kelly leapt on a table, stomped on computer and released a flurry of expletives denigrating the computers he was hired to promote.

He eventually came down from the tables (not sure when he came down on whatever he was possibly on besides a monster ego trip) and was led away by security.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/05/2012 at 1:19 PM3 comments


Paul Allen's View on Win 8 Sounds Just Like Yours!

Paul Allen is two things we aren't: he's a billionaire and Microsoft co-founder. For those reasons I'm paying attention to what Allen has to say about Windows 8. And what he says is surprisingly like what you all told me when I wrote a Win 8 review based entirely on the experiences of Redmond Report readers.

Allen generally likes the new OS, whereas my readers were entirely mixed. But he has the exact same concerns about the schizophrenic interface that jumps between the iPad-like UI to the more familiar traditional Windows interface.

Like you, Allen finds this confusing. As a life-long techie, Allen has a few workarounds such as tweaking Windows 8 to always open IE 10 as a desktop rather than a Metro app -- a browsing interface preferred by Paul.

Microsoft developers probably should have pulled Allen in early in the process as he found one disconcerting problem: bookmarks saved in Metro don't appear in Desktop (and vice versa).

Posted on 10/05/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


F5 Helps Move VMs to Windows Server 2012

F5 has a networking device with one of the coolest names in the business. While Cisco might name a network WAN tool Cisco BPX/IGX/IP WAN Software, F5's core product is BIG-IP.

Big-IP is a suite of networking products focused on application delivery. Now there is a related tool, the Microsoft Virtualization Gateway, that moves virtual machines (VMs) to Windows Server 2012 where they can run under Hyper-V.

The tool can be standalone,  work with Hyper-V and can be added to the BIG-IP application delivery controller suite.

However, you can't just rush out and buy the gateway -- you'll have to wait until Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 first service packs ship.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/03/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Q&A with Bruce Mackenzie-Low: Avoiding Private Cloud Disruption

A growing number of shops are building private clouds on top of Windows Server. Yet like all datacenter platforms, IT pros must ensure uptime of private clouds. As a Master Consultant at Hewlett-Packard Co., Bruce Mackenzie-Low provides third-level support for applications running on Windows and specializes in clustering and crash-dump analysis. Ahead of his Live! 360 worshop, Bruce answers some questions on how to keep your private cloud up and running.

Q: How do we keep our cloud running with as many nines of reliability as possible?
A: Use Windows failover clustering technology! Nothing provides better uptime than leveraging Windows failover clusters to keep your applications up and running.

Q: Do OS or app problems most often take down cloud apps?
A: Most OS problems that you may run into have already been encountered by someone else. So most likely there's a corresponding hotfix that will address your OS issue. Application outages, however, can be more challenging to troubleshoot due to the custom nature of most installations and the interoperability with third-party components.

Q: What are your three top tips for analyzing and preventing cloud crashes?
A: Use the new Windows Performance Toolkit to monitor and troubleshoot hangs and slowdowns. Proactively install recommended hotfixes from Microsoft. The No. 1 cause of system outages is outdated drivers exploiting known issues with existing hotfixes. There are recommended hotfixes for many components of the OS such as Windows Server 2008 R2-based failover clusters and System Center Virtual Machine Manager, to name a few. Most crashes are caused by outdated antivirus software, so be sure to update yours anytime you update Windows.

Don't forget to catch Bruce's workshop, "Minimizing Cloud Service Disruption by Analyzing Application and OS," during Microsoft's Live! 360 in December. Mackenzie-Low will explain how to configure Windows servers to capture system and process memory dumps; how to force memory dumps when the OS or app is hanging; and how to set up the Windows debugger to analyze systems and process crash dumps to discover failing components or drivers.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/03/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Gartner Says Don't Skip Windows 7

IT vets sometimes pay Gartner thousands of dollars for its advice, and vendors pay multiples of this to work with Gartner (in hopes to get the huge research house on their side). I don't think this puts Gartner in the pockets of vendors necessarily, which, if the case, would be a good reason not to believe it. But I don't generally believe Gartner because it is so often wrong.

Ever since I've known Microsoft it has told IT not to skip operating systems, that skipping one level only makes moving to the next harder. Of course it doesn't hurt that Microsoft gets paid for each step along the way.

Gartner loves this Kool-Aid and just released a report suggesting that exact same thing, that XP shops should not go directly to Windows 8 but move to Windows 7 first. In all other upgrades I'd say this is poppycock. Two upgrades are both twice as hard and expensive.

But Windows 8 is different, very different. Here Gartner is arguing that Windows 8 is not ready to be a mainstream upgrade, and for the time being should serve IT as a niche operating system for "special projects."

Here's Gartner's rationale: There are two types of Microsoft OS upgrades. Some, like Windows 2000, are "plumbing releases" because the underlying technology is so different. The release that follows is generally a "polishing release." This turns the plumbing release into something IT actually trusts and wants to use. Windows 8 is both a plumbing and polishing release. Windows XP was a "polishing release."  Apparently so is Windows 7.

One reason Win 8 is polished is because its applications compatibility is generally good with Windows 7 (and Windows 7 is generally good with XP). But good is not perfect, and both OSes require some new apps or some fiddling to get old apps to work. If you go from XP to Win 7 to Win 8, you'll have to do this twice.

My view, for which I require no hefty consulting fee, is to look at Win 8 on its own. If you like and trust it, why bother with a Win 7 interim step? But because Win 8 is so different in user interface, give it a lot more testing and thought than you ordinarily might. Make this the basis of your decision rather than some Gartner theory.

Do you believe you have to upgrade OS by OS without skipping a generation? Answers readily accepted at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/03/2012 at 1:19 PM13 comments


Microsoft's Turf War

With the opening of two new stores near New York City last week, Microsoft now has 25 physical locations up and running.

Most notably is that one of these stores now resides three doors down from an Apple store. While Microsoft said this was inadvertent, it did say that choosing locations that are in close proximity to direct competitors has been a practice of the company.

Microsoft has certainly taken a page out of the Apple playbook with the design of its stores, with their modern décor, Apple-esque layouts and their very own version of Apple's Genius Bar called the Answer Desk.

The company hopes to have partners use these locations as a sort of clubhouse to develop relationships with consumers and other partners.

Look for even more stores to pop up in the coming months. Microsoft is planning to open up 34 temporary stores in malls across the country to sell its Surface tablets.

Have you been in a Microsoft store? How do they compare to Apple's retail locations? Let Doug know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

-- By Chris Paoli

Posted by Chris Paoli on 10/01/2012 at 1:19 PM2 comments


Windows 8's Media Bug

Brace yourself for this bombshell: Microsoft is releasing a new OS that has some bugs.

Now that that the initial shock has worn off,  know that Redmond columnist Brien Posey still likes Windows 8 -- even with the (near to) launch-day bugs that we have all grown accustomed to.

Brien found the biggest issue he had in his short time with the new version of Windows was with Windows Media Player. He said that the sound would play without the video for both saved movie files and DVDs. This issue was found in both the Metro-style (for a lack of a better term) UI and the more familiar Desktop interface.

But Brien found the easy solution of using a third-party app for media takes care of this.

As someone who has always used a third-party app for videos (VLC Media Player), this doesn't sound like a near enough of a deal breaker to turn off some from upgrading. And if this turns out to be one of the more severe launch issues, Windows 8 may have one of the smoothest launches in recent memory (ignoring the constant Metro bashing).

I typically wait until the first service pack is released before making the switch. But with Microsoft offering Windows 8 for $40 to Windows 7 users, I am contemplating picking up a new OS on or around launch for the first time.

While your shop may be happy with sticking with Windows 7 for a while, what are your plans for your personal computer? Also, have any entertaining stories of Microsoft launch-day bugs? Share with us in the comments below.
-- By Chris Paoli

Posted by Chris Paoli on 10/01/2012 at 1:19 PM14 comments


Exchange 2010 To Get Third Service Pack

If you want to run Exchange 2010 on Windows Server 2012, you'll need Service Pack 3, which may not arrive until the first half of next year.

I'm sure Windows Server 2012 product managers (all 100 of them, if I were to guess) aren't happy with the wait. That means Windows Server 2012 must be quite a bit different than Windows Server 2008. It also means these product managers are going to have a hard time selling their new server to shops with Exchange, which is nearly every Microsoft shop I know of.

It may be that this service pack will ship around the time Exchange 2013 releases, which some are guessing could be in February (but others expect later).

Are you using a mail system other than Exchange? Tell your tale at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 09/28/2012 at 1:19 PM13 comments


Windows Server 2008 Given Support Lifeline

Windows Server 2008 is about four years old, which would normally mean next year it would enter "extended support." This would mean that free incident support  would end and the warranty would expire  (but you would still get patches).

Instead, mainstream support is prolonged for an extra year and a half -- all the way 'til January 2015.

The timing of Windows Server 2012 is behind the support extension, Microsoft explains in a blog. "The Microsoft policy provides a minimum of five years of Mainstream Support or two years of Mainstream Support after the successor product ships, whichever is longer."

Don't expect the same leeway with XP. Support for that is still set for April 2014.

Posted by Doug Barney on 09/28/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


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