Simplify IT management and improve data security with Windows Server 2012

Feb 08 2013

Windows Server 2012 is designed to optimize and satisfy business needs faster and more efficiently by providing high availability, being easy to manage, and providing a multi server platform. It empowers IT managers to provide users with flexible access to data and applications from virtually anywhere with a rich user experience. It simplifies IT management and improves data security, control and compliance.

1. New Server Manager: Create, Manage Server Groups

Windows Server 2012 Server Manager Windows Server 2012 Server Manager uses a dashboard view to show roles and server groups.

One of the benefits of Server Manager Interface is the capability to create server groups, which are collections of servers that already exist on your network and can be managed through the new user experience. Creating new server groups lets you manage tasks among each server with common attributes—a server group containing all machines running IIS, for example, a group of all database servers, and so on—and provide specific information on any of them as you wish. This is a big bonus for organizations without dedicated monitoring software in place.

2. Better Edition, SKU Selection

The core OS is now the same, and the edition you buy—Standard or Datacenter—depends on whether you want to run up to two virtual machines as guests or if you’d like unlimited guest virtualization.

3. A Command-Line First, GUI-Second Mentality

The emphasis for Windows Server has changed from a GUI-first philosophy to a GUI-optional mindset. Indeed, when you first install the OS, you are asked to choose between a core and a full installation. Core is the preferred and encouraged option. Once you install a core version of Windows Server 2012, you can flip on a GUI simply by installing the GUI role, and you can then choose to take it off without a full reinstall.

This is a great feature when you first deploy a server. You can use the GUI to take care of all configuration tasks, but when the machine is ready for production, you can flip the GUI off and deploy. This offers a number of benefits, including reducing the attack surface, resource load and energy requirements.

4. Hyper-V Replication

The Hyper-V Replica feature allows you to replicate a virtual machine from one location to another with Hyper-V and a network connection—and without any shared storage required. This is a big deal in the Microsoft world for disaster recovery, high availability and more. VMware does this, too, but the vendor charges new licensees extra for the capability.

This makes standing up instances of services all around the world just a one- or two-click affair (assuming network connectivity exists). The new Hyper-V Replica interfaces within Hyper-V Manager include a much simpler interface for setting up a replication sequence and better monitoring of the process and the overall health of replication systems and partners.

Windows 8 Hyper-V 3.0 Windows 8 uses Hyper-V 3.0, which comes with Windows Server 2012.

5. Storage Spaces: Using inexpensive drives

Storage Spaces is an innovative feature that basically takes commodity storage hardware—inexpensive drives and their controllers and turns it into a pool of storage that is divided into spaces that are in turn used just like regular disks.

Each of these pools can contain hot standby disks, and each of the Spaces in the pool can have availability policies such as mirroring and RAID-style redundancy. You can even perform thin provisioning, which is specifying a volume that’s bigger than you actually have space for. That way, when you do need the additional room, just pop in a few more drives; no reconfiguration is required. It takes the complexity and expense of network-attached storage and SANs. You can just get a bunch of disks together and get really flexible in carving them up where you need additional space.

6. Direct Access: An easier to set up VPN

Direct Access allows VPN-like secure tunneling from any endpoint back to the corporate network without the overhead and performance hit of a true VPN. There is also no management agent on the client. When the technology is configured correctly, it just works—users have seamless connectivity to file shares, on-premises equipment and other resources just as if they were on the corporate network. In addition, group policy objects get applied and administrators can manage machines wherever they are, not just when they come to headquarters or when they connect up to the VPN. This technology had previously been difficult to set up, but easy to set up in Windows Server 2012.

7. Dynamic Access Control: New Way of Thinking

Dynamic Access Control (DAC) is a suite of facilities that really enhances the way you can control access to information. It’s no longer about taking files or folders and making decisions about who can access them. Instead, it’s about abstracting away the individual data and making larger assignments about the types of data that live on your system, as well as the types of users that should and should not have access to it. It’s a new way of thinking that very much complements the strong abilities of the file system to secure data.

8. Resilient File System: Next step ahead from NTFS

The Resilient File System (ReFS) was designed as an evolution of the New Technology File System (NTFS) with a focus on availability and integrity. ReFS writes to different locations on disk in an atomic fashion, which improves data resiliency in the event of a power failure during a write, and includes the new “integrity streams” feature that uses checksums and real-time allocations to protect the sequencing and access of both system and user data.

Problems identified by Windows Server 2012 on volumes protected with these features can be automatically repaired without bringing the disk or volume offline in most cases—and in many cases without any administrative intervention either. ReFS is also built to scale further than NTFS as well, which is an important point in the age of big data and private cloud operations.

9. Out-of-the-Box IP Address Management

In the box with Windows Server 2012, you will find a complete IPAM suite. This is something many medium-sized businesses simply don’t have access to. With the IPAM suite, you can allocate, group, issue, lease and renew IP addresses in an organized fashion, as well as integrate with the in-box DHCP and DNS servers to discover and manage devices already on your network. It’s free with the OS license.

Below are some Windows 2012 presentation links for more details:

If you’re looking to implement Windows Server 2012 for your business, contact us for a consultation.

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