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Windows Server 2012: An Upgrade Only a Geek Could Love

Microsoft has a problem. A marketing problem. That problem's name is Windows Server 2012.

You see, as an operating system, Windows is pretty dang robust already. There's not a lot that we need it to do that it doesn't do. So Windows Server 2012 doesn't come with a flash-bang set of features. There are no massive changes to AD. Printing is still printing. Clustering works fine. Sure, it's probably "the most secure version of Windows ever," but I don't think anyone's dumb enough to try and sell that line anymore.

This means a lot of organizations -- a lot of decision makers --  are going to look at Windows Server 2012, say "meh" and ignore it.

Bad move. Windows Server 2012's improvements aren't skin-deep -- they're geek-deep. They're critical, yet evolutionary changes that make this a more robust, more stable and infinitely more usable operating system.

SMB 3.0
Yeah, maybe it's really Server Message Blocks 2.2, but it should be 3.0, and I'm glad MS is positioning it that way. Massively re-structured, this is a SAN-quality protocol now, capable of moving close to 6 gigaBYTES per second. Yes, gigabytes, not the usual gigabit measurement of bandwidth. It's got built-in failover, too, meaning clustered file servers are now a no-brainer. It lets file servers scale out, too -- something which has never before been possible. There's a geek-speak explanation of all the new hotness in this Microsoft blog, and you gotta believe this is going to be a game-changer for the OS.

Dynamic Access Control
While this will be limited, initially, to the access controls on shared folders (rather than on files, AD or something else), this is showing us what the foundation for ACLs looks like in the future. Imagine complex ACE definitions like "must be a member of Admins, but NOT of HR, or can be a member of Execs" -- and that statement is evaluated on the fly. This truly enables claims-based access control, because it doesn't have to be built on user groups any more. "User must be in the department 'Sales' in AD, and must not be in the Denver office." Keep your AD attributes up to date and suddenly access control got easier -- and much more centralized. This will still layer atop existing NTFS access controls, as share permissions always have, but it's a big deal. Start wrapping your head around this now, because it's a model you'll see creeping further in future releases.

This is the version of Windows we were told six years ago was coming. Almost completely manageable via PowerShell (if not completely completely; it hasn't shipped as I'm writing this, so it's tough to say), this is the version of Windows that starts to deliver on the PowerShell promise: Automate Everything. Combined with PowerShell v3 foundation features like more robust Remoting, Workflow creation and more. Windows Server 2012 is taking a page from the Unix book and rewriting it for the Windows world. That's a good thing because it truly enables enterprise-class sensibility in our server OS.

Server Core
Explain it to me as many times as you want, and I'll never understand why folks RDP into a server to perform basic day-to-day management rather than just installing the GUI consoles on their admin workstation. But Win2012 raises the stakes, providing a "GUI-free" server console that doesn't have the limitations and caveats of the old Server Core installation mode. Take heed: Whether this excites you or not, it's Microsoft's direction. Start thinking about managing your servers from your clients, because that's going to be the only option in the not-too-distant future. Oh, and as for installing all of those admin consoles on your client? Maybe not: PowerShell Remoting means the admin tools can "live" in the server, but "present" on your client.

Get You Some Win 2012
"The right tool for the right job" is the mantra all of IT should live by, and Win 2012 is shaping up to be a better tool for many jobs. It's worth looking at. Even if you think your organization won't have any 2012 goodness well into 2014, at least familiarizing yourself with the tool's capabilities will put you in the driver's seat. You'll be prepared to help make recommendations about this new OS, speak knowledgably about its capabilities (and about what it can't yet do) and be the one to lead its adoption and deployment. Better to be driving the bus than to be run down by it, eh?

Posted by Don Jones on 06/22/2012 at 1:14 PM

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Reader Comments:

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 forgottentuna Missouri

Some of you don't realize that Linux runs most of the internet. Large data centers mostly do not hold MS servers, most run on Linux, Red Hat or Centos. I don't like Linux much myself, I prefer something that isn't so confusing to use. Only some nerds that never see the light of day can remember all those commands. Apple can keep their trendy symbols of status. I like my phone, where I can utilize more than one cable to power it up. It makes me sick how many people rush out to spend $600 for a phone, then they have to fork out another $200 for cables that have changed for it's brand new port selection. But, stupid is as stupid does and the sheep go buy what they tell them. Funny, when I am monitoring servers they only devices that have consistent issues syncing email would be iphones.. Just saying, you don't always have to be different (it doesn't make you special). Server 2012 isn't too bad for what i have done with it so far. Finding things is a pain, but it's not impossible to locate. I think that with some getting used to it will be much like the other versions of server I use every day, at work and home. I only suggest that some people do a little research before they subject Linux to remotes and can openers.. It probably runs this site and many others that you use constantly.

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 BladeRunner Florida

LOL Linux...really?? Linux is SOO convoluted it's insane. Linux is great for my remote or Bluray player but in the real world, Linux is a fad for Microsoft haters. Just like Apple computer and iPhone are a status symbol for when only the rich could afford to buy them. Apple has catered to the ego and that's about it. A low powered internet browser, e-reader and email reader. Lemmings abound with Apple. Case in point.. everytime a new iPhone drops regardless of its new features, the lemmings but it no matter if the one that have was released last week. Good luck with the linux thing... Maybe you can find a use for it like to power an automatic can opener or something. Someone will buy it I'm sure.

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 WhiteSites Houston, TX

Unless Microsoft plans on releasing an Admin client for every device out there ( IPhone, Android, ext ) There will still be a need for RDC support. Ballmer is smoking crack if he thinks I am going to buy a Windows Phone just to access my server.

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 David

Don't forget, all the, er, "upgrades" a geek would *hate* too! Like Windows Server 2012 eliminates the "Remote Control" option in Remote Desktop Services. Seriously?

Sun, Jan 6, 2013 weaktech

Wed, Dec 19, 2012 The Contentious Otter Upstate, NY you must be kidding.linux does not even have 1 1000th of the market share. u must live in some small dark room in ur moms house delution yourself on a daily basis. if you had a job you would know that microsoft rules the corporate world. whether you like it or not. o sure i would like to use linux (not) for my business... cos im stupid as hell. what a wanker.

Wed, Dec 26, 2012 ROb

When I read things like "Take heed: Whether this excites you or not, it's Microsoft's direction. Start thinking about managing your servers from your clients, because that's going to be the only option in the not-too-distant future." ...this indicates a tone-deafness that doesn't listen to its customers. Take heed, lest you lose most of your customers. There are others who want to de-throne you and all it will take is for you to take your eye off your customers. What works really well for administering mega-farms of cloud servers stinks for most other environments.

Wed, Dec 19, 2012 The Contentious Otter Upstate, NY

Server 2012 is still just a necessary evil for those of us who use Linux machines at home because we don't feel like dealing with Windows crap once we leave the Office. The Windows Operating system is on its last legs and can no longer compete with newer versions of Linux like Ubuntu 12.10 and Mint 13. It's only a matter of time until the Windows operating system will be regarded as being entirely defunct. Claiming that geeks will "love" anything put out by Microsoft does nothing but prove that the author is suffering from a severe case of cranial-rectal inversion.

Mon, Nov 26, 2012

Although I prefer powershell-based remote server management myself, I can make a case for the GUI clients on admin workstations. GUI clients on admin workstations are not as secure as RDP-based management as they require additional ports and protocols to go over the WAN. Yes you could configure IPSEC to tunnel and encrypt that insecure traffic over secure ports and protocols, but then you're adding more overhead to the systems and the network. In many cases you also have to trust administrators to securely configure roles like IIS using certificates, and unfortunately those configurations are typically wrapped in 3rd party installers with default IIS installs. Unfortunately until MMC snapin communications are secured, this security flaw will always drive secure organizations to segmented management and force the use of using RDP to manage servers.

Mon, Jun 25, 2012 Techiedude Orlando

Also of note is the AD Recycle Bin will now have a GUI front-end in W2k12. Yes, it's still based on PowerShell but it makes it infinitely more usable for the masses that have an admin with slippery fingers on the delete button.

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