Windows Server 2012 R2 includes more than 300 new or enhanced features that address critical IT issues such as Cloud readiness, virtualization, scalability and performance, identity and security, Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) support, availability and disaster recovery, application development, and manageability. Windows Server 2012 R2 includes further enhancements in availability, storage versatility and affordability, performance, mobile device support, and ease of management. Licensing for Windows Server 2012 R2 is simpler than in past generations of Windows Server. Microsoft has reduced the high-end product line to two editions, Datacenter and Standard, with identical feature sets. The only functional difference between these two versions is that the Standard Edition supports two virtual instances and the Datacenter Edition supports unlimited virtual instances. The trimmed-down Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials Edition is available for very small businesses (up to 25 users) and a Foundation Edition is reserved for original equipment manufacturers.
Progent's Microsoft-certified consultants can help you assess the business value of Windows Server 2012 R2 for your company, plan and implement pilot and production deployments, optimize your network infrastructure for local, multi-site, Cloud-based, and hybrid environments, train your IT support staff, develop a corporate-wide security strategy, automate network management, assist with application development, and create and test a disaster recovery/business continuity plan.
Important New and Enhanced Features of Windows Server 2012
Windows Server 2012 offers major innovations that impact practically every aspect of information technology. Combined with System Center 2012 and Windows 8.1, Windows 2012 effectively redefines the datacenter for organizations of any size. Many of the most significant improvements in Windows Server 2012 focus on optimizing Cloud functionality and performance. Because Cloud computing depends heavily on large-scale virtualization, many of the enhancements offered by Windows Server 2012 center around advances in Microsoft's Hyper-V 3.0 technology.
One enhancement to Hyper V 3.0 of particular importance to smaller organizations is "shared nothing live migration." This feature makes it possible to move a virtual machine (VM) non-disruptively from a physical host with conventional, direct attached storage to a different physical server with direct-attached storage. Previously, Hyper-V live migration required storage area networks (SANs), which are far more expensive to deploy and manage than ordinary direct-attached storage. The process required for executing a shared nothing live migration can be time consuming because it requires physical storage to be copied, so this feature is best suited for eliminating the planned downtime associated with processes such as scheduled maintenance as opposed to disaster recovery.
Cloud computing is becoming the new reality for information technology because it enables ultra-efficient utilization of IT resources by dynamically reallocating available processing power, memory, and storage while sharing the substantial costs associated with creating and maintaining high-availability datacenters. Windows Server 2012 supports private Clouds, public Clouds, and hybrid on-remise/Cloud-based environments by providing a variety of features that allow network managers to pool computing resources seamlessly and securely across physical boundaries.
Windows Server 2012 Supports Private, Public, and Hybrid Cloud Environments
New and enhanced features of Windows Server 2012 that facilitate environments with any combination of local and Cloud-based infrastructure include:
- Multitenancy Support allows Private Virtual LANs (PVLANs) and enables the connection of multiple virtual machines (VMs) to the network with full isolation and security policy enforcement while ensuring workloads the availability of a minimal level of resources
- Hyper-V Network Virtualization allows entire network topologies to be moved between premises and Clouds without the need for VLANs or updates to network adapters, switches, or appliances
- Live Migration Across Subnets allows workloads from servers running Windows 2012 in one subnet to be live migrated to servers in a different subnet without changing the workload IP addresses
- Self-service Provisioning across Clouds through service catalog and role-based access to System Center 2012's simplified self-service catalog
- Resource Metering facilitates implementation of private Cloud services and usage-based billing
- Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) and claims-based authorization simplifies access management and maintains a thorough audit trail for information governance and compliance
Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V features major improvements that benefit both Cloud-based and on-premises datacenters. Key enhancements impact resource consolidation, availability and recoverability, and performance. New or improved Hyper-V features include:
Scalability and Performance
- Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) to remove restraints of VLANs and overlapping IP address hierarchies and reduce the workloads for switches
- VHDX Virtual Hard Disk format supports up to 64 terabytes, helps protect against corruption due to power failures, and prevents performance deterioration on large-sector physical disks by optimizing structure alignment
- Shared Nothing Live Migration allows moving VMs non-disruptively across cluster boundaries and between stand-alone servers that are not members of a cluster and that have direct-attached storage rather than SAN storage
- Live Storage Migration makes it possible to move a virtual machine's storage without shutting down the virtual machine
- Multiple concurrent Live Migrations are now supported, with no limits to the number of concurrent Live Migrations that can take place
- Live Merge allows users to merge snapshots back into the virtual machine while the VM is running
- Dynamic Memory allows the assignment of minimum and maximum memory for VMs, enabling more efficient VM memory utilization and improved VM consolidation ratios
- Smart Paging provides a solution for keeping VMs operating even when they run out of physical memory
Windows Server 2012 includes significant improvements in expandability and performance for on-premises, Cloud-based, or hybrid environments. New or improved features include:
Identity and Security
- Improved Scalability with support for up to 320 logical processors on hardware, 64 virtual processors and 1 terabyte of memory on a virtual machine, plus up to 64 nodes and 8,000 VMs in a cluster
- NUMA Support in Hyper-V allows guest operating systems and applications to access local memory faster than remote memory
- Single Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV) Support in Hyper-V allows network adapter to be assigned directly to a VM to increase throughput by reducing network latency and host CPU overhead
- Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX) Support uses SAN copy offload to reduce CPU workloads and allow fast VM provisioning and migration
- Virtual Fibre Channel in Hyper-V enables Fibre Channel with Multipath I/O (MPIO) functionality to connect directly from within VMs for high performance and availability
- Quality of Service (QoS) Minimum Bandwidth allows the assignment of specific bandwidth for different types of traffic to deliver services with predictable network performance and avoid bottlenecks
- Storage Spaces provide an economical mechanism for virtualizing storage by allowing customers to use industry-standard storage for single-node and scalable multinode deployments
- BranchCache offers improved performance and scalability for optimizing bandwidth for remote network connections
- Data Deduplication provides significantly higher storage efficiency than Single Instance Storage (SIS) or NTFS file system compression
Windows Server 2012 includes enhancements to identity and security that are in keeping with the focus on Cloud support and virtualized networks. Windows Server 2012 makes it easier to define and enforce security policies, establish secure remote connections, protect sensitive data, and comply with government and commercial standards. New and improved features include:
- Federated Identity maintains security for applications that reside either on-premises or in the Cloud with consistent, centrally-managed authentication and authorization services
- Centralized Certificates provides a single SSL certificate store for a server farm and simplifies the management of SSL bindings
- Remote Access Server Role allows for centralized administration, configuration, and monitoring of both DirectAccess and VPN-based remote access services
- VPN Site-to-Site Functionality allows enterprises to use their existing networking equipment to connect securely to hosting providers using the industry-standard IKEv2-IPsec protocol
- Dynamic Access Control supports central audit policies for compliance reporting and forensic analysis plus control over file access by applying centralized safety-net policies
- Encrypted Hard Drive use high-speed Microsoft BitLocker Drive Encryption to improve data security and simplify management
- Kerberos Version 5 authentication protocol and extensions for public key and password-based authentication
Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) support
Handheld personal computing devices such as smartphones and tablets are now a part of life for IT managers and can not realistically be marginalized simply as ongoing security threats or distracting synchronization hassles. Windows Server 2012 provides technologies to maximize the business value of consumer computing devices by making them easy to integrate into the corporate network so they become manageable, secure, and productive tools.
- RemoteFX provides rich graphics on smartphones and tablets, detects end-to-end network bandwidth, and includes congestion control technology
- Support for USB and Multi-touch Devices allows users to connect USB-based devices their client computer and see it within their Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) desktop
- User Profile Disk maintains personalization and application data across user logons
- Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) provides anywhere, anytime access to corporate applications from virtually any authorized device
- Microsoft User State Virtualization (USV) keeps user data and settings of mobile devices on a centralized server
- Configuration Manager provides a single platform for inventorying Windows, iOS, Android, and other Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (EAS)-compliant devices to simplify mapping devices to users, implementing user-specific policies, and deploying applications
Availability and Disaster Recovery
Windows Server 2012 has continued the momentum established by Windows Server 2008 R2 in eliminating planned and unplanned downtime and speeding up recovery time. New and improved features that address availability and disaster recovery include:
- Active-Active File Server Clusters provides transparent failover across server clusters by moving file server clients without interrupting service
- Windows NIC Teaming provides transparent NIC failover
- Online Corruption Repairs isolates and repairs file system corruption while the volume is online and unaffected portions of the file system remain available
- Hyper-V Replica allows asynchronous replication of VMs for virtual machines to a remote recovery site for fast failover and restoration
- Cluster-aware Updating makes it possible to apply software updates to clustered servers with little or no service disruption
- Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) 2.0 can integrate with storage arrays for replication and hardware snapshots to simplify the configuration and operation of VMs, enhance security, and improve performance
- DHCP Server Failover provides non-stop availability of DHCP server service on large network
Windows Server 2012 benefits from Microsoft's vast library of familiar development tools such as Visual Studio and .NET and also supports open-source technologies and programming languages including REST, JSON, PHP, and Java. New or improved features in the area of application development include:
- Support for Multiple Development Platforms including Microsoft .NET languages, Java, PHP, Node.js, or Python
- Hybrid Application Support allows the creation of applications with multiple components that can span traditional datacenters and heterogeneous private and public Cloud runtime environments
- Cloud-aware Languages and Tools available for building applications include Microsoft Visual Studio and Microsoft .NET Framework
- Internet Information Services (IIS) 8.0 for Windows Server 2012 allows running both ASP.NET 3.5 and ASP.NET 4.5 applications
- Enhanced Support for PHP and MySQL through IIS 8.0 extensions
- HTML5 Support in IIS 8.0 allows writing managed WebSocket protocol applications that provide real-time bidirectional client-server communications
Network administration and management dominate IT budgets, and as server and network virtualization intensifies and users mobilize, legacy management solutions no longer fill the bill. Windows Server 2012 offers substantial improvements and innovations in management tools for the new Cloud paradigm and is supported by Microsoft System Center 2012. Microsoft claims that Windows Server 2012 offers server-to-administrator ratios of 500:1 for Cloud datacenters vs. the typical 50:1 ratio for traditional enterprise datacenters. New and improved management features in Windows Server 2012 include:
- Server Manager centralizes management of multiple servers and includes IP Address Management (IPAM) for managing IP addresses and associated infrastructure roles such as DHCP server and DNS server
- Windows PowerShell 3.0 includes 2,300 new high-level cmdlets that manage all elements of a datacenter and supports workflows so long-running tasks can be repeated, made parallel, interrupted, and restarted
- Hyper-V Virtual Switch allows programmable management of tenant isolation, traffic shaping, protection against malicious virtual machines, and troubleshooting
- Resource Metering in Hyper-V allows managers to monitor the volume of data transferred per IP address or virtual machine
- Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) Support simplifies configuration of network virtualization and isolation policies
- Application Monitoring allows monitoring for services and event logs within VMs and provides automatic remediation of known issues to deliver higher availability to workloads that do not support clustering
- Support of the Open Virtualization Format (OVF), a Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) standard for packaging and distributing virtual machines
- Failover Cluster Manager provides GUI tools to streamline management and operation of large-scale clusters
Enhancements Available in Windows Server 2012 R2
Windows Server 2012 R2 includes enhancements to Windows Server 2012 that streamline management, minimize downtime, reduce the cost of storage, and make it easier for mobile and remote users to access line-of-business (LOB) applications. Among the major enhancements are:
To find out more about the new and improved features incorporated into Windows Server 2012 R2, see Windows Server 2012 R2 consulting services.
- Tertiary Replica Site: You can add an extra, or tertiary, replica site where your running virtual machine, including applications and data, is automatically replicated. The tertiary replica site can be located anywhere. In addition to offering you enhanced high availability by having two backup copies of your running virtual machine instead of just one copy, Windows Server 2012 R2 also gives you the option of specifying a time interval of 15 minutes, 5 minutes, or 30 seconds for replicating changes.
- Storage Spaces Tiering: This enhancement to Storage Spaces technology allows you to make optimal use of fast but costly solid state disk (SSD) devices that are running in conjunction with more affordable serial-attached SCSI (SAS) drives. Storage Spaces Tiering lets you assign the SSD storage devices on the fly to handle your heaviest workloads. This maximizes performance without breaking your budget. Prior to Windows Server 2012 R2 this feature was only available only in high-end SAN products.
- Virtual Machine Live Cloning: You can now export and clone a running virtual machine, avoiding the downtime associated with shutting down an application's VM. This can minimize or eliminate lost productivity while you are performing maintenance or resolving issues such as misconfigured software or a misbehaved patch
- Storage Quality of Service (QoS): You can specify a maximum input/output operations per second (IOPS) value for an individual virtual hard disk (VHD/VHDX). By throttling storage assigned to a virtual hard disk you can keep a single VM from using up all available bandwidth.
- Virtual Receive-side Scaling (vRSS): vRSS makes efficient use of the latest multi-core computers to handle intensive workloads.
- Work Folders: Users can store their work files on mobile devices such as Apple iPhones or Android smartphones as well as on corporate PCs. Organizations can store these work files on centrally managed file servers in a folder called a sync share, where the files can be accessed from anywhere. Mobile users can work offline and sync with the central file server when they are back online. Administrators have the option of specifying user device policies such as encryption and lock-screen passwords
- Enhanced Server Manager: Server Manager now lets you provision servers and offline virtual hard disks from your desktop without physical access to the system or a Remote Desktop Protocol connection to every server. Server Manager also now lets you collectively administer groups of servers from a common integrated management console, simplifying training and cutting management costs.
- Remote Desktop app: This feature makes it easy for mobile or remote workers to access corporate desktop computers and business applications from personal computers including smartphones, tablets, and netbooks powered by Windows, Windows RT, Apple iOS, Apple OS X and Android operating systems.
- Desired State Configuration (DSC): This new PowerShell management option lets you automate deployment and manage configuration data for Windows Server. DCS can ensure consistency when you install or remove server roles and features or when you manage other configurable items including registry settings, local groups, user accounts, files, directories, and environment variables.
- Improved Support for Linux: Windows Hyper-V now includes support for the synthetic 2D frame buffer driver for faster Linux graphics, dynamic memory for higher VM density per host for Linux guests, and Live Virtual Machine Backup Support for Linux.
How Progent Can Help You with Windows Server 2012 R2
Progent offers extensive consulting, project management, and technical support services to help businesses of any size get the most out of Windows Server 2012. Progent can provide the services of temporary Chief Information Officers to help you assess how Windows Server 2012 can contribute to your bottom line and Progent's Microsoft-certified engineers can help you set up test environments for Windows Server 2012 to verify the platform's suitability for handling your current and planned workloads. Progent's project management experts can assist with developing and executing a Windows Server 2012 migration plan, and Progent's disaster recovery experts and business continuity planning consultants can show you how to create, document, and test the procedures required to keep your Windows Server 2012 R2 ecosystem running and your company operating even under worst-case scenarios. To improve the fault tolerance of your network, Progent can provide Windows Server 2012 failover clustering design and support. If you are running a legacy version of Windows Server and are considering an upgrade to a version still supported by Microsoft, Progent offers comprehensive Windows Server 2012 R2 migration and upgrade services.
Progent's Hyper-V virtualization consultants can show you how to utilize Windows Server 2012 R2 to set up and manage virtual servers, desktops, and networks to cut hardware and management costs. Progent's ProSight suite of network management outsourcing services includes ProSight WAN Watch network monitoring service to provide 24x7 tracking, instant alerts, and comprehensive reporting on network health and performance. Progent can also help you understand the potential advantages and risks of cloud computing and assist you to set up private clouds, connect reliably to public clouds, or build a hybrid environment that incorporates on-premises as well as cloud-based applications. Progent can also provide the services of Linux consultants and Apple technology experts to show you how to create and maintain an integrated IT environment that supports multiple operating systems.
Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1 introduce major innovations and enhancements in the areas of security, reliability, performance, usability, storage, and connectivity. Microsoft has also removed some features in their latest server and client operating systems. These changes present businesses with an opportunity for improving productivity and lowering IT costs, but they also bring with them the inevitable compatibility issues associated with new technologies. Progent's Windows 8.1 consultants can help you anticipate and resolve compatibility and connectivity issues you may encounter running Windows 8.1 in conjunction with Windows Server 2012 R2 and can help you integrate legacy applications with these newer platforms. Progent's consultants can also provide Windows 11 planning and migration consulting and Windows 10 integration expertise and can help you deploy Windows 11 and Windows 10 with Windows Server 2012 R2.
Progent's smartphone and tablet integration consultants can help you integrate Apple iPhones and iPads, Android phones and Windows Phones with Windows Server 2012 R2 to build a secure, easy-to-manage and collaborative BYOD environment. Progent can help you deploy and administer a network that makes it simple for smartphone and tablet users to share resources located at your onsite datacenter, in the cloud, or distributed across a hybrid network with local and cloud-based infrastructure. Progent can resolve smartphone synchronization and management issues and can help your organization enforce policies that are consistent across all mobile devices. Progent's Microsoft Intune consultants can help your organization to use Intune for cloud-based management of mobile devices and applications. Progent's smartphone and tablet integration services include iPhone and iPad integration, Android phone configuration and management, and RIM BlackBerry integration support.
If you are considering the creation of a hybrid network model that integrates on-premises resources with public cloud services like those offered by Microsoft Azure, Progent can help you evaluate and deploy an up-to-date release of Windows Server which incorporates important elements of Azure technology and is designed to support hybrid networks. See Progent's Windows Server 2019 migration consulting and Windows Server 2016 hybrid cloud solutions.
Progent can provide a variety of support services that include remote online troubleshooting, comprehensive Help Desk services, outsourced or co-sourced network management, and full-time or part-time staffing. Progent can provide the expertise of CISM, CISA, GIAC, and CISSP-certified network security engineers to assess the security of your environment, validate regulatory compliance, perform penetration testing, establish business continuity plans, and verify disaster recovery procedures.
Progent's Cisco-certified network professionals, including high-level CCIE consultants, can help you design, configure, manage, and troubleshoot a hardened network infrastructure that offers the performance and security your business requires without breaking your IT budget.
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