CIOs: There’s much to love in Hyper-V 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012 R2 At TechEd 2013 last week, Microsoft announced to the world something that is always music to a CIO’s ears: The company is releasing the first update to its version 1 efforts entitled Windows Server 2012. However, this was a different kind of update announcement. The announced update is not a service pack. Instead, Microsoft announced that its R2 edition of Windows Server 2012 will be released in late 2013 as a full release.
The status quo isn’t the status quo anymore
CIOs have a lot to think about here. First, if Microsoft stays true to its plan to have significant releases every year, it could spell the end for organizations that play the “wait until Service Pack 1” game to deploy new Microsoft services. This is especially true if Microsoft continues to pack more and more new features into every release. It’s clear that Windows Server 2012 R2 is a substantial release in its own right and is certainly not something that would have constituted a service pack in the past.
What I see happening in this new paradigm is this: As Microsoft adds new features to its annual release, organizations will wait until year two (or even three) before deploying services based on those new features. This will provide companies with the opportunity to allow others to determine the potential pitfalls in those features so that they can be shored up in the next annual release.
A lot to love in R2
Deployment considerations aside, CIOs have a lot to consider in the Windows Server 2012 R2 release, particularly around virtualization, but also around other trends that we’re seeing in today’s shifting IT strategies. Microsoft executives made sure all of the big buzzwords were hit with this release of Windows Server.
Disaster recovery/Hyper-V Replica enhancements
Windows Server 2012, Microsoft introduced Hyper-V Replica, a feature that can help organizations achieve their disaster recovery goals. With R2, Microsoft is adding the Hyper-V Recovery Service, an additional management tool which enables the failover of workloads between locations. This is a full orchestration tool enabling administrators to define the order of service recovery, so that dependent services can be restarted first. This tool operates from within Azure, so that organizations have built in service isolation, which could present recovery issues.
For CIOs, this provides additional opportunity for Hyper-V to become a potential replacement for vSphere, particularly since all of the new features in Hyper-V are included in the base price.
For a while now, users have clamored for BYOD support from IT so that they can use personal devices (read: tablets and smartphones). As evidenced by the sheer volume of articles out there addressing this topic, supporting these user demands can be a difficult challenge. While a mix of strong policy backed by strong technology will aways be needed to provide these services, Microsoft appears to be making an attempt to help with Windows Server 2012 R2.
As things stand now, many BYOD policies dictate full device wipes in the event that a personal device is lost. CIOs can’t be blamed for this; after all, it’s critical to ensure that corporate data remains safe and secure, and the cost is sometimes the family photos. It’s not ideal. Microsoft is aiming to draw a line between personal and professional in Windows Server 2012 by compartmentalizing the two types of information.
This article at SearchWindowsServer does a fantastic job of explaining how Microsoft intends to help CIOs address the BYOD challenge. In short, Microsoft is adding a feature named Workspace Join, that is a mini version of a full join, to a domain. This enables organizations to continue to leverage Active Directory while also meeting users’ BYOD demands.
You can’t open a tech magazine these days without seeing or hearing discussions on the merits and drawbacks of the cloud. Whether or not you want to embrace the cloud for your organization, Microsoft is making it easier to do so with various hooks in its new software releases that couple the company’s traditional on-premises tools with those that run in the cloud, including Windows Azure, Active Directory, and Office 365.
First, Windows Server 2012 R2 will also have available a free add-in pack that brings the Azure management interface to on-premises data centers. For those considering Azure as a platform, this administrative consistency might be a valuable addition.
Windows Server 2012 R2 – most notably Hyper-V when coupled with System Center 2012 R2 – enables customers to shift workloads between on-premises Hyper-V installations and virtual machine services in Azure. This is thanks to the fact that Server 2012 R2 and Azure share a common foundation. There will be much more about Hyper-V 2012 R2’s cloud integration coming.
From a business perspective, though, this integration makes it much easier for customers to be able to leverage the cloud without having to redefine the entire IT strategy to do so.
Microsoft made significant enhancements in Windows Server 2012 around storage, adding a storage virtualization technology called Storage Spaces. In addition, the company included the all new SMB 3 communications protocol which promises faster and more reliable storage communications. In R2, Microsoft continues its foray into storage with enhancements to Storage Spaces, including the ability to support tiered storage, which enables organizations to target workloads at storage with appropriate performance characteristics.
In addition, Microsoft has extended its relatively new storage deduplication technology to virtual hard disks, which can provide both space and performance savings.
Although it’s still not likely to supplant a full-fledged SAN in many environments, Microsoft’s continued efforts to push into the storage realm could eventually lead to a tipping point, as has happened (to a point) with Hyper-V. This may benefit CIOs at some point and may provide a good solution now for a test/dev environment.
Action Item: Microsoft is not being shy about its future intentions and desire to own the data center of today and the cloud of tomorrow. Windows Server 2012 R2 is a continued push in this direction and provides CIOs with some new operating methodologies as well as ample opportunities to consider overall direction without having to just throw out the existing playbook.