The Windows Server 2012 news from TechEd you can't ignore

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Tech conferences don't exist in a bubble. Information shared at them isn't just something you take notes on and then forget about. It's important to think about how what's said will impact your job in the near future and beyond.

Microsoft's TechEd 2013 North America conference was held in New Orleans June 3-6. I've only had the chance to absorb some of the information that has been posted online since the conference ended nearly a week ago. Even so, there are quite a few things that have stuck with me so far, particularly with Server 2012 news and what it means for IT departments moving forward.

“Blue” becomes “R2”

There was quite a bit of hype leading up to the conference thanks to Windows 8.1 (aka “Blue”).  I'm busy enough as it is, so I don't really spend a whole lot of time paying attention to the Windows client.

But I was very interested in Windows Server “Blue” and also what we were going to learn about the System Center suite.  Microsoft waited until the last day or so to give official titles to some of the TechEd sessions, with several listed as “Windows Server session to be announced.” Eventually, the official titles included “Windows Server 2012 R2,” giving a new name to the update.

Release cycles

One of the things that has come to light recently is that Microsoft wants to release more often, possibly even on a yearly cycle.  Windows Server 2012 officially launched last October, and Microsoft is talking about a release date for R2 around the end of the year.

What are the implications? This seems to suggest a “new OS” every year.  I'm left wondering what kind of implications this will have to IT and vendors who need to adjust.

A few have recently suggested that this would push people to the cloud since IT departments wouldn't be able to keep up. That could eventually happen, but, taking the example of a virtualized environment, I think the biggest hurdle in “keeping up” is to update a guest VM. Updating a guest VM will have its challenges whether it is on premise or in the cloud.

I've not seen any references to updates in Server App-V, which seems to be the key missing piece here to be able to detach and mobilize applications and easily move them to a newer OS, otherwise OS upgrades are pretty involved.

I do wonder if this will somewhat force us to begin to accept “in-place upgrades” of the operating system.  It's always better to upgrade by starting with a new operating system, but if there's any way to increase the reliability of doing direct upgrades to the OS, that could be a big time-saver.


I'm struggling a bit to understand what the new support/end-of-life agreement will look like. Windows Server 2012 is currently listed as being supported until 2023.

You may notice that previous Windows Server version lifecycles were dependent on the “service pack” installed. Microsoft has suggested that we've seen the end of the “service pack,” but the company seems to have put more effort into creating “cumulative update rollups.”

What does the possible end of the service pack mean? Will Windows Server 2012 RTM (Release To Manufacturer) be fully supported by Microsoft until the 2023 date? I know (or at least hope) the vast majority of enterprises are applying security updates to their servers, but I understand improvements and bug fixes will only be in the update rollups.

There's also some information emerging on these rollups and how they will be dependent on each other.  For example, you could have a June 2013 rollup and a July 2013 rollup, and you will have to install them in that particular order.

“Software Defined”

Of all of the sessions that I've had the chance to listen to so far, the biggest investments/updates seem to have been with Hyper-V and Virtual Machine Manager 2012 R2.

Every release of VMM continues to impress me, and this VMM 2012 R2 seems to have a lot to offer, and I'm just beginning to learn just how powerful it is and how it makes managing a complex Hyper-V infrastructure a lot easier.

Windows PowerShell version 4

My biggest interest with Microsoft over the last five years or so has been with anything related to Windows PowerShell.

Since the introduction of Windows PowerShell version 1, the biggest improvement in my opinion has been the remoting functionality added in v2. To me, remoting beats out version 3's workflow, and version 4's new Desired State Configuration (DSC).

On the Windows PowerShell front, DSC was pretty much all I heard about as far as core engine updates.  At this point, I'm not sold personally on either workflow or DSC, but I'm more of an IT generalist. I could see an IT person specializing in big cloud environments appreciating the version 3 and upcoming version 4 additions though.

The PowerShell OS

“PowerShell” was thrown out during all kinds of sessions, and that has me excited.  Unfortunately, we are still a long way away from the PowerShell OS. By that I mean the day when we can do everything in Windows PowerShell to manage the Windows Server OS.

I don't know if we will ever see the big leap we saw from Windows Server 2008 R2 (300-ish cmdlets) to Windows Server 2012 (3,000-ish cmdlets), but I still wonder if the day will ever come when we will be able to do 100 percent of the administration from a Windows PowerShell prompt.

The future

I think we can safely assume that TechEd Europe 2013 (June 25-28) will be mostly a copy of the North American agenda, with a little bit of local flavor. I am looking forward to the BUILD 2013 conference (June 26-28), since that's when Microsoft is supposed to release beta builds of Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2. I'm also excited about the upcoming beta of SQL 2014 and am hoping that BUILD might have a bit more information on the next updates to the Office suite. No matter what comes out of BUILD, I'll be watching.

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Marco Shaw

Marco Shaw is an IT consultant working in Canada. He has been working in the IT industry for over 12 years. He was awarded the Microsoft MVP award for his contributions to the Windows PowerShell community for 5 consecutive years (2007-2011). He has co-authored a book on Windows PowerShell, contributed to Microsoft Press and Microsoft TechNet magazine, and also contributed chapters for other books such as Microsoft System Center Operations Manager and Microsoft SQL Server. He has spoken at Microsoft TechDays in Canada and at TechMentor in the United States. He currently holds the GIAC GSEC and RHCE certifications, and is actively working on others.