First look: Windows Server 8 improves scalability and scope

Windows 8 on the server is just as radical a change as the client is on PCs.

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High-performance applications detect NUMA and communicate with the OS. With guest NUMA, Hyper-V presents NUMA topology within a virtual machine, allowing the guest OS and applications to make intelligent NUMA decisions about thread and memory allocations.

Indeed, virtualization in Windows Server 8 even one-ups physical hosting. With new predictive failure-analysis capabilities, through firmware or processor signaling, the operating system can find out when errors are occurring. In this way, virtualized workloads actually exceed physical capabilities since the OS can do some intelligent page analysis when memory is virtualized and not physically allocated. In essence, the very fact that you're running Hyper-V in the first place means you have an extra layer of resiliency that isn't present with physical hardware.

There's a lot more to talk about specifically in this area; I'll find out more as I spend more time with the developer preview.

Networking enhancements

Overall, the Windows Server 8 team has attempted to marry the provision of networking services with the right level of storage and management. This manifests itself in the brand new Hyper-V virtual switch that handles network traffic between virtual machines, the external network and the host operating system.

This virtual network switch allows for deep content security and filtering, traffic monitoring and analysis, very deep integration with your existing network infrastructure, support for virtual appliances and, on top of it all, an intuitive management interface. It's also extensible, so your partners can easily build high-quality extensions for capturing traffic, filtering that data and forwarding that traffic elsewhere in the network.

Even in the core networking sense, improvements abound. For example:

  • DHCP availability is business critical, and in a lot of senses, it's a single point of failure. Windows Server 8 delivers DHCP failover support in the box.
  • DHCP has been improved, with policy-based IP address assignment. You can provision differentiated network parameters based on client/device classification. You can also assign IP address ranges to clients based on what type of device they're using, and assign lease durations to clients based on the same criteria.
  • There's a complete IP address-management solution in the box in Windows Server 8, saving you from the monolithic spreadsheets that comprise your IP address management nightmare. Fully integrated with Active Directory, with complete IPv6 support, this software is agentless, supports automatic network discovery, allocates addresses and tracks those allocations, and supports easy migration from your current tracking tools whether that's automated, or just in an Excel spreadsheet.

More of course to come on all of the different facets of networking that the new release touches.

Storage improvements

As we say in the south, there are more storage improvements than you can shake a stick at in Windows Server 8. The Windows team has been closely working with cohorts at Microsoft Research to improve the efficiency for data storage. They've come across new de-duplication technologies -- kind of like Microsoft Exchange's single-instance storage -- that can reduce storage on any given volume by anywhere from 30% to 90%. This isn't compression; this is searching for like components of files and removing duplication across volumes.

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