InfoWorld - Sometimes, deciding which IT course to follow can feel like a U.S. presidential election cycle: You never have more than two options, and neither one seems quite right. You find yourself wishing there was a viable third-party candidate, if only to keep the two front-runners on their toes.
Fortunately, in the case of Windows XP versus Vista, a third way has indeed emerged. Thanks to the musings of a (hopefully still employed) Microsoft engineer, some disaffected Vista users have discovered that Windows Server 2008, properly configured and tweaked to be more Vista-like, makes a killer workstation OS. In fact, recent benchmark testing shows that Server 2008 runs circles around Vista (up to 17 percent faster) at a variety of business productivity and client/server computing tasks.
As I noted in my Enterprise Desktop blog, I made the switch myself about two weeks ago. What I found was an OS that boots quicker and feels more responsive than Windows Vista. All of my applications load faster under Server 2008, while certain classes of application -- specifically, managed code -- are finally tolerable. For example, Event Viewer no longer runs like a slug in a molasses bath.
Some technical observations:
1. My "Workstation" 2008 (x64 edition) installation has a lower initial memory footprint after booting. This is true even after I manually hacked the Registry to get SuperFetch working. I also set the Windows Search/Indexing service to start automatically so that my Outlook e-mail is searchable.
2. Disk I/O, in particular, seems smoother. Heavy paging operations, when they do occur, have less of an impact on foreground applications. And, of course, the UI just feels snappier.
3. Some things are moved around a bit. For example, there's no System Restore mechanism. You have to manually enable Shadow Copies for each disk volume.
One benefit of running Server 2008 is that you get to use the wonderful new Server Manager utility. Server Manager is like a central control panel for all the important features and roles that the OS supports. Having all these options in one place saves time and lets you avoid all those extra clicks that the "improved" Vista interface introduced.
Another advantage to running Server 2008 is that you can install virtually any Microsoft server application or infrastructure service (Active Directory, Exchange Server) locally. As a developer, having these services and resources local is a real time-saver. There's nothing more annoying than logging into a remote server or booting into a VM to test an application, only to discover that some minor source code typo is sending you right back to the drawing board. Running Windows Server 2008 as my workstation OS lets me avoid all that and test my code directly from the IDE.
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