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Windows Server 8: Microsoft's Game-Changing Technology

Brien shares the renewed faith in Microsoft that Windows Server 8 has given him in the future of Microsoft (and for Windows admins).

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I have to be honest with you: For about the past year, I've had some serious doubts about Microsoft's place in the technology world. Don't misunderstand me, Microsoft has many fantastic products and technologies, but with the shift to the cloud (and fears of outsourcing for IT pros) and Microsoft not gaining share fast enough in very important areas (mobility, virtualization, etc.), I was beginning to question Microsoft's place as well as my place in the Microsoft ecosystem.

But then something happened: I saw Windows Server 8.

Right before the Build conference last month, I was in Redmond for a few days for a "reviewers workshop" to learn all about Windows Server 8. Windows 8 directly addresses many of the shortcomings that I had been concerned about. I honestly don't think I'm overstating it here when I say Windows 8 is exactly what Microsoft needs in order to re-establish itself as a dominant market leader.

Before I tell you my reasoning behind this statement, I want to put my take in perspective. At the time of the workshop, all of the information that I was given was under NDA, which prevented anyone at the workshop from blogging about their opinion of Windows Server 8. On the day that the NDA was lifted I had to fly back to Redmond for something unrelated and have been vacationing in the Alaskan wilderness ever since. At the time I'm writing this (note that it will be published a few weeks later) I just got back home from vacation; I have not been on any of the technology blogs and have absolutely no idea what anyone else is saying about Windows 8. The opinions that I am about to express are unshaped by anything that any of the other industry analysts might have written.

One reason I think that Windows 8 is going to be a complete game changer for Microsoft is because the company has invested heavily in virtualization. The Windows 8 version of Hyper-V will finally make it possible to perform live migrations without the need for shared storage. VMs are simply replicated across the network. Based on what I have seen of Windows 8 so far, it seems that the new version of Hyper-V will include many capabilities that are not available in VMware or any of the other competing products. The Windows 8 version of Hyper-V is also far more scalable than anything that was previously available. Most importantly perhaps is that Microsoft has been able to incorporate the new capabilities without sacrificing Hyper-V's simplicity.

While the new version of Hyper-V might be better than anything offered by VMware, that alone isn't enough to call Windows 8 a game changer. Another reason why I believe that Windows 8 will be a game changer is because the client version is designed to run on desktop computers as well as tablets and smartphones. Tablets and smartphones are notoriously difficult to manage in enterprise environments. However, if such devices are running the same OS as desktop computers then it seems reasonable to assume that it will be possible to join phones and tablets to Windows domains and to manage them with the next generation of System Center. This should drive more businesses to adopt Windows-based mobile devices.

There are a number of other Windows Server 8 features that could potentially make Windows Server 8 (and related Microsoft products) very appealing to network admins who may express frustration with upgrade fatigue. While space limitations prevent me from talking about all of the great new features individually, I will say that Microsoft is introducing some much needed and long overdue improvements to the basic operating system and networking architecture. For example, the virtual network switch is going to be extensible so that vendors can create plugins for it. Microsoft has also created a native storage deduplication engine that will make replication much more efficient. Some of the other design changes should make it a lot easier for users to remotely access network resources from just about any device.

At the beginning of this article I mentioned that one of my big concerns was the perceived push to outsource everything to the cloud. I have long feared that this type of outsourcing will put many IT pros out of work. However, this concern might just be unfounded.

When I was in Redmond for the Windows Server 8 Reviewers Workshop one of the main concepts that Microsoft repeatedly stressed was private clouds. Although it is too early to say for sure, it seems as if Microsoft plans to try to get its customers to deploy private clouds based on Windows Server 8 rather than pushing everyone to subscribe to Office 365. To the best of my recollection, nobody at the workshop specifically mentioned Office 365. Even so, I got the impression that Microsoft may start trying to market Office 365 to smaller companies while marketing Windows Server 8 to larger organizations.

Windows Server 8 is going to have some really great new features. I am very looking forward to spending some time getting to know Windows Server 8. The product seems completely revolutionary (much like Windows NT Server or Windows 2000 Server were) rather than being an evolutionary release like Windows Server 2003 or 2008.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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