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Eight steps to Longhorn planning

By John Brandon
June 27, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - For data center managers, nothing spells "doom and disaster" quite like a server infrastructure change. Whether it's a new virtualization technique, an upgrade to network access-control software or new command line parameters -- enterprise server management is a daunting proposition.

But what if those changes occur all at once? That's the scenario with Windows Server 2008 (WS2008). Formerly known as Longhorn, WS2008 is set to be released later this year. Just this week, Microsoft made available the Community Technology Preview of the operating system, which includes installation and some other options in addition to what's available in the Beta 3 release.

When it does become available, WS2008 will definitely have an impact on the infrastructure of most large companies, at least at some point.

The question is, How much of an impact will it have?

The answer depends greatly on when you start planning, how quickly you deploy and which WS2008 features you want to make part of your technology infrastructure.

For example, Houston-based Continental Airlines Inc. is using a phased implementation strategy. The company started working with Microsoft early, testing the server operating system in the airline's own data centers and evaluating the release in Microsoft test laboratories in Redmond, Wash.

Continental traveled up to Microsoft's offices in Redmond at the end of April and tested the schema extensions and deployment with Continental's main Active Directory database file. "We created our entire forest architecture in the Redmond, Wash. lab," says Jason Foster, a systems architect and senior technology manager at Continental. A forest architecture is a type of networking model, in this case for Continental's Active Directory structure.

The key for Continental is that it will control which services it will deploy, and when.

"We are taking a phased implementation approach where Phase 1 is limited to 10 Active Directory domain controllers in the Houston data center," Foster explains. "We feel that phasing in the technology helps absorb some of the exposure, while adding the 10 new servers to the infrastructure allows the existing Active Directory to provide authentication services uninterrupted," so the company's security exposure is limited as it begins rolling in the new operating system.

In addition to the phased approach he described, Foster plans to deploy the Read Only Domain Controller (RODC) capability right away in most of Continental's regional locations at airports and in its two primary data centers in Houston and Charlotte, N.C. Continental will use RODC to enforce security policies in regional and remote offices and prevent unauthorized intrusions.

Meanwhile, Ward Ralston, a senior technical manager at Microsoft, downplays the coming data center

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