In Pictures: 10 things we love about Windows Server 2012 R2

In Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft has released a compelling operating system update that’s targeted directly at its virtualisation and Cloud competition. Here are 10 things we like about Windows Server 2012 R2.

  • In Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft has released a compelling operating system update that’s targeted directly at its virtualization and cloud competition. Here are 10 things we like about Windows Server 2012 R2.

  • Microsoft offers Azure Pack as a free add-in for Windows 2012 R2 to connect cloudlike constructs. In our testing, we found Microsoft has made it almost fiendishly consistent and easy to join Windows 2012 R2 to Azure Clouds.

  • Through gritted teeth, Microsoft is supporting specific instances of commonly used Linux distros as manageable guests within the Hyper-V virtualization and Azure cloud infrastructure.

  • Hyper-V V3 has received much work, and Microsoft considers it a “Generation 2” hypervisor VM-hosting platform that delivers a higher degree of para-virtualization and cuts away much hardware layer specific driver emulation, although other OS versions/distros of hosted VMs can still find connection points.

  • If you’re looking for a control plane, Microsoft attaches System Center 2012 R2 releases of Ops Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, and Configuration Manager that are deeply intertwined into the depths of Server 2012 R2 and Hyper-V.

  • Hyper-V V3 and its Windows 2012 VMs boot UEFI, rather than traditional memory-location-specific BIOS. This gave us a few fits, but works. There is the capacity to move virtual machines from host to host using compression, and where compatible hardware is available to support it, very fast transports -- 10GBE, Infiniband, and other faster-than-10GBE connections. The high-speed connections are crucial to VM movements among hosts in hypervisor fabrics.

  • Hyper-V V3 resources can be aggregated into clusters, and through the use of new VHDX sharable disk stores, can create islands internally-- or for cloud-hosted purposes, external clouds whose resources should be opaque to other cloud components. The VHDX format can also be dynamically re-sized as the need arises; we found that the process is fast, although during that period, disk and CPU resources can peak until the modification is over. Heavy CPU/disk-imposed limitations thwart resizing by slowing it.

  • Microsoft includes IP Address Management/IPAM in Hyper-V, and it’s heaven-sent for those with genuine desires to form virtualization platforms where VMs can be easily transported from host to host for either performance or isolation within a defined fabric/VM farm. IPAM allowed us to define a base allocation of routable and/or non-routable addresses, then allocate them to VMs hosted on Hyper-V hosts or other hosts/VMs/devices on our test network. We could in turn, allocate virtual switches, public private or internal, connected with static/blocked and sticky DHCP.

  • The SDNs inside Hyper-V V3 are more easily manipulated by System Center 2012. Software Defined Networks/SDNs cross a turf that is divided in many organizations: virtualization and network management teams. SDN use means that what were once separate disciplines are now forced to work together to make things work inside the host server's hypervisor. What we like is that the SDN primitives and IPAM can work well together. We could create clouds easily, and keep track of address relationships.

  • In Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft has improved usability. There are fewer sharp edges. And Microsoft has strengthened the networking, storage and hypervisor features of the operating system.

  • We tested Microsoft's virtual network switching component, and found it easy to manipulate, although we disconnected several remote hosts by making inept choices. The instructions weren't clear to us, and we were able to crater the communications of two of our test servers with ease.

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