* The Windows Server ‘Longhorn’ beta 3 is now available, giving you a chance to help your customers spend less time on day-to-day tasks and more time adding real value to their business.
As you know, it is people who drive business results. If people are equipped with the right tools they can overcome even the most complex business challenges and contribute more effectively to the bottom line. Enter Windows Server ‘Longhorn’, now known as Windows Server 2008 – the next generation server operating system which will be released towards the end of this year.
Windows Vista and Windows Server “Longhorn” originally began as part of a single development project. As such, they share a number of new technologies across networking, storage, security and management. Although the development of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 have branched into separate releases with different release cycles, many of these enhancements apply to both Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. When organisations deploy both operating systems, they will see how the combined client-server infrastructure provides even greater advantages.
Because of its powerful new management technologies, reliability features and ease of use, Microsoft Windows Server 2008, will reduce the time server administrators spend on day-to-day activities, so they can use their time for high-value work that benefits their organisation.
IT administrators spend an estimated 70% of their day on network maintenance and only 30% on new activities aimed at moving the business forward, according to IDC Research.
Windows Server 2008’s goal is to help tip the balance, so more time can be spent on strategic activities, which are ever more important as the economy tightens.
So how can Longhorn help your customers? Its overarching promise is to provide greater flexibility, more control and better protection, in order to amplify the positive impact of people.
* Achieving greater flexibility
Change is always a constant in business and, as needs evolve, so do the demands placed on servers. Recognising this, Windows Server 2008 enables an organisation to modify its infrastructure while still remaining agile.
For those typical New Zealand organisations with remote workers and branch offices, Terminal Services includes some exciting improvements which facilitate seamless integration of remote and local applications on client computers; access to these same remote programmes via web browsers and a means to access remote terminals and applications across firewalls.
Added to this, Terminal Services RemoteApp completely integrates applications running on a terminal server with users’ desktops in a way that they behave as if they were running on an individual user’s local computer. Terminal Services Web Access grants an even wider variety of ways people can access and use programmes executing on a terminal server. These features, in conjunction with Terminal Services Application Gateway, allow users to access remote desktops and remote applications via HTTPS in a firewall-friendly manner.
The new Terminal Services Application Gateway brings changes to how we interact with colleagues and business associates outside of the network. If an email link to a document on the network is sent to someone sitting outside the organisation, they can now open it. They are not granted access to anything else on the network, so there is no security risk, but it means that shared information can now be given to appropriate people more easily.
Most customers need to roll out several servers and PCs at the same time, which in the past was potentially complicated and certainly time consuming. The new Windows Deployment Services (WDS) helps organisations quickly and easily add new computers to the network using image-based deployments, which speeds up the process substantially.
WDS allows network-based installation of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 to “bare metal” computers (no operating system installed), and even supports mixed environments including Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Windows Server 2003.
For real flexibility administrators can use Server Core to install Windows Server with only the services required to perform the DHCP, DNS, file server or domain controller roles. This means non-essential services and applications don’t need to be installed, so the base server functionality can be there without any extra overhead. A Server Core installation typically requires less maintenance and fewer updates as there are fewer components to manage.
Windows Server 2008 will also offer built-in virtualisation for multiple operating systems – Windows, Linux and others – on a single server. With virtualisation included in the operating system and with simpler, more flexible licensing policies, it’s now easier than ever to take advantage of all the benefits and cost savings of virtualisation.
* Taking control
IT infrastructure is a critical strategic asset of any organisation. Therefore, maintaining control of the servers on a network – and, more importantly, access to the servers on a network – is a priority for network administrators.
To this end, Windows Server 2008 contains new features and functionality to help administrators extend and maximise their control over access to network servers.
For example, Server Manager is a “one-stop-shop”, guiding administrators through the end-to-end process of installing, configuring, and managing server roles and features that are part of Windows Server 2008.
Windows PowerShell is a command-line shell with over 130 tools and an integrated scripting language. The beauty is how easy it is to adopt, learn and use, because it does not require a background in programming, and works with an existing IT infrastructure, existing scripts and existing command-line tools. PowerShell helps to move many of the tasks performed by IT administrators from manual to scripted with the ultimate goal of full automation.
The popular online community MySpace has used PowerShell to great advantage. Allen Huff, vice president of engineering at MySpace says: “The benefit of adopting PowerShell is that ad-hoc tasks that used to take upwards of 10 minutes can now run in five seconds or less, all the while providing better reporting, greatly increased accuracy and much less manual labour.”
For organisations that need domain controllers in physically less secure locations, Read-Only Domain Controller (RODC) is a new configuration option, which makes it possible to easily deploy a domain controller in locations such as branch offices.
* Increased Protection
Windows Server 2008 hardens the operating system, protecting the server with security innovations that reduce the attack surface area of the kernel, resulting in a more robust and secure server environment. This increased protection means all users, regardless of location, are able to get the full complement of services from the network, securely – very useful for New Zealand organisations with staff who work from different locations.
As well as helping the IT administrator to maintain control of remote servers, Read-Only Domain Controller (RODC) is also a security feature. RODC hosts a read-only replica of the Active Directory directory services database for a given domain. It acts as if the main server has an extra arm, so if someone breaks into an office and steals the server, they only steal the arm, not the whole body. Plus, it is a read only version, so your information is not only saved safely on the main server elsewhere, but if someone turns the stolen server on in another location, there is no information there for them to access.
Windows Server 2008 also includes Network Access Protection (NAP) – a new framework that allows an IT administrator to define health requirements for the network and to restrict computers that do not meet these requirements from communicating with the network. It can help network administrators define the baseline level of protection all computers should carry when connecting to the network.
For example, if someone goes on holiday and takes their laptop, but their security certificates and anti-virus haven’t been updated, they can still access the network without compromising the company’s security. If they try to access the network and their computer is not fully up-to-date, they will be directed to a server outside the perimeter of the network. If the server can provide the necessary updates, they will be allowed onto the network. If not, they will be given limited access to the network, while still outside of the firewall, and once they come into the office their PC will be updated and full access granted. It’s certainly easier and more workable than returning in the middle of a holiday to update security certificates on your laptop!
Your customers can evaluate the future of their organisation, by downloading Windows Server Longhorn Beta 3 from www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008