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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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