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Review: Windows Server 2008 R2 RTM

Hyper-V, power savings improvements are key new features

By Jonathan Hassell
July 22, 2009 06:30 PM ET

Computerworld - This afternoon, Microsoft announced that it has finished the development work on Windows Server 2008 R2. The company released gold code to manufacturing, which means that customers, partners, OEMs and subscribers to TechNet and MSDN services will receive the code over the coming few weeks.

I have written extensive previews on a variety of aspects of Windows Server 2008 R2 during the beta and release candidate process. But now that the product is fully baked, in this RTM review I'll focus mainly on areas I haven't yet touched on, including Hyper-V 2.0, enhancements to Remote Desktop Services (also known as Terminal Services) and improved power management and power-use reduction.

Before I get into more specifics, though, let's step back and consider the whole package for a moment. Overall, I think Windows Server 2008 R2 provides a modest but interesting set of enhancements and upgrades over previous versions of Windows on the server. There are certain customers that will absolutely find this a compelling upgrade:

Companies that have an extensive investment, or plans a complex deployment, of Hyper-V-based virtualization. Hyper-V is now a very serious competitor to VMware -- and once you have purchased your Windows license, the price is unbeatable because Hyper-V is bundled into the server OS.

Firms that have vast swaths of Windows servers in data centers where space, power or both are becoming tight. The power-usage improvement can add up to serious savings. Couple this with the virtualization capabilities offered by Hyper-V 2.0, and Windows Server 2008 R2 staves off a very serious scaling and capacity problem for some companies.

Firms planning on deploying Windows 7 on a wide scale sooner rather than later. With Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, you enable some scenarios that are truly useful, like DirectAccess and other services for Remote Desktop Services users. Of course there is considerable expense involved in going down this road, which puts this type of deployment out of reach of many businesses, at least for the moment.

Customers with older hardware and no plans to upgrade that hardware in this economic environment should put off any plans for R2, as it is a 64-bit only operating system. Additionally, while there are certainly notable and important upgrades and improvements to features in this edition, for a large number of customers there is probably nothing barn-burning about this release. Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 (the original version) were and will remain suitable for many companies.

With that said, Windows Server continues to get better and better. Here are a few reasons why.

Hyper-V 2.0

Microsoft's initial release of Hyper-V, introduced with Windows Server 2008 in June 2008, was an attractive -- if limited in comparison to VMware -- entrance to the virtualization marketplace. Hyper-V lacked a live migration feature, scalability and some cluster integration features.

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