3 Key Reasons to Upgrade: Server 2012 versus 2008

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If recent surveys cited by tech blogs and mainstream media are to be believed, then Windows Server 2012 is a win. Microsoft reveals that according to one survey, 65% of customers were satisfied with the new platform, which was released on August 1, 2012.

The company also says that the new hypervisor is getting raves, with 77% of companies already using Hyper-V or open to using it. This could be a sign that even if you have Server 2008, it might be time to upgrade.

So how is Windows Server 2012 better? Microsoft explains that Windows Server has a host of new features and improvements over Windows Server 2008 R2, such as:

1. More Secure Multitenancy

The security of a multi-tenant environment is one of the biggest concerns of cloud users today. There's the notion that if your data resides in the same computer system or database as another company's data, then your data is more vulnerable to being exposed. This could happen if there is a breach or a system bug that would allow a user from the other company to access your data.

Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 provided some solutions to that problem by allowing you to isolate two virtual machines through server virtualization. But the network layer of your data center may not be fully isolated.

In Windows Server 2012, server virtualization not only covers the machines but also the network layer of your data center. You can restrict access to a virtual machine while also isolating your network and storage.

Private Virtual Local Area Network or PVLAN

More than that, Windows Server 2012 also has PVLAN capability, which allows administrators to isolate virtual machines over your network but public network resources are still accessible.

This feature was not found on Windows Server 2008.

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol Guard and Router Guard

A Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol allows various devices to communicate on your IP network. The problem with DHCP is that it does not allow for authentication, which exposes it to different types of attacks. Windows Server 2012 has the DHCP guard feature that disconnects any unauthorized DHCP servers and automatically drops traffic from other switch ports. In short, you are protected from unauthorized DHCP servers connecting to your network and providing wrong information to clients, among other things.

Windows Server 2012 also has the Router Guard feature, which gives you more security as well as authorization checks for virtual machines. This feature drops redirects and advertisement from rogue routers. Windows Server 2008 does not support these features.

Hyper-V Extensible Switch.

Another feature that is found exclusively on Windows Server 2012 is the Hyper-V Extensible Switch that gives you an open platform that allows you to install plug-ins from third-party developers.  This lets you to extend the capabilities of your network and virtual machines.  It also allows you to gain functionality without having to code it yourself.

Each of these extension configurations is unique to every Hyper-V Extensible Switch instance and is therefore more secure.

Supported extensions on Windows Server 2012

Extension monitoring allows you to easily see traffic statistics relating to different layers.

There are extensions that are able to learn the flow of traffic to your network by looking at the workload life cycle of your virtual machines. This helps you to optimize the network for it to perform better.

Further, there are extensions that can deny stop state changes that are harmful.  These extensions provide you with the tools you need to improve management, diagnostics and performance.

Lastly, one Hyper-V Extensible Switch can host multiple extensions.  This lets you to cut on costs while also giving you better security and ease in management.

2. Infrastructure Flexibility

Robert Mullins at eWeek.com wrote that Microsoft has announced that its Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V will enable them to get VMware users into the fold.

With Windows Server 2008, you are able to use VLANs to isolate your networks but as you grow larger, this becomes more and more difficult and complex.  So much so that it becomes very difficult to manage your networks on a larger scale. Windows Server 2012 takes care of this problem by foregoing the use of VLANs by using Hyper-V Network Virtualization.

Hyper-V Network Virtualization enables you to move virtual machines when you need to. You do not have to worry about hierarchical IP address provisioning across your virtual machines.  This means that you would not need new hardware such as switches, appliances and servers.

Other features that are present on Windows Server 2012 and that are not to be found on 2008:

  • IP Address Rewrite
  • Generic Routing Encapsulation - allows you to lessen the burden on your switches
  • Live storage migration - allows you to migrate virtual hard disks without shutting down the machine.

Features that were partially supported on Windows Server 2008 that are improved in Server 2012:

  • Live migration: allows users to move a live machine from one VM to another without having any down time.  In Windows Server 2012, however, you will be able to migrate several machines simultaneously.  What's more, unlike in Windows Server 2008, live migrations are no longer limited to a cluster.
  • Importing virtual machines: Windows Server 2012 gives you an easier way to import and copy virtual machines.
  • Snapshot merging: Windows Server 2012 provides a way for you to merge snapshots into a running virtual machine.
  • Automation support: There are over 150 Hyper-V cmdlets that are built into Windows Server 2012 so you do not need to have development skills to automate tasks.

3. Higher Capacity Servers

With Windows Server 2012 you can now configure:

  • 320 logical processors, up from 64
  • 4 terabytes of physical memory, up from 1 terabyte
  • 64 virtual processors, up from 4
  • 1 terabyte of memory, up from only 64 gigabytes

You can also support 64 nodes and 8,000 virtual machines, up from only 16 nodes and 1,000 VMs.

Unlike in Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012:

  • Allows for non-uniform memory access that improves performance on large VMs
  • Supports single-root I/O virtualization that reduces network latency
  • Hyper-V smart paging is now available
  • Allows you to revise your dynamic memory configurations even when the VM is running
  • Allows you to easily monitor your usage of resources such as network, CPU, storage and memory
  • Allows you to format virtual hard disks
  • Uses offloaded data transfer
  • Joins together multiple types of traffic on your network
  • Has Multipath I/O functionality
  • Increases your capacity and reliability by supporting 4KB disk sectors

Windows Server 2012 also ensures high levels of availability by:

  • Reducing the size and cost of backups, disk space and network bandwidth use
  • Making it easier to have a disaster recovery plan and solution; it can actually recover business functions in minutes.
  • Lessening the chances of network failure
  • Protecting you from downtime by enabling access to server side applications
  • Providing faster migration by using higher bandwidth during live migrations
  • Securing your physical devices by encrypting cluster volumes

Aside from these improvements, Windows Server 2012 also boasts a new Windows Task Manager with a new file system. It also has IP address management. If you have an Itanium-based system, however, you might want to stay with Windows Server 2008 as Server 2012 does not support Itanium systems. This is a pretty exhaustive comparison

It's hard to imagine how Microsoft could have improved on Windows Server 2008, which Remondmag.com described as having features that are "showstoppers." This is a pretty exhaustive list of how the new Windows Server compares to its predecessor, so get started with it yourself to see how Microsoft has changed things up.

Learn how to install and configure your own Windows environment by watching Server 2012 Training taught by Microsoft MVP Ed Liberman.

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Michael Gabriel Sumastre

Michael Gabriel Sumastre is a skilled technical blogger and writer with more than seven years of professional experience in Web content creation, SEO and research paper writing. He has written more than a thousand articles related to tech and gadgets, cloud computing, IT management, SEO, SEM and software solutions. He ghostwrites books / e-books and has a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science. Michael is also an expert in webmastering and loves to ride his sportsbike. He maintains his portfolio and personal blog at TheFinestWriter.com