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Issue Date: April 2008

AnalystWatch: Windows Server 2008 worth the wait?

April 2008
Roy Illsley, Butler Group analyst

In a recent Butler Group OpinionWire article, Alan Rodger covered the launch of Windows Server 2008. However, Alan did not comment on whether or not the long wait was worth it. So was it?

Windows Server 2008 is a surprisingly diverse product, with some very small new enhancements that could be easily overlooked, and some large high-profile additions that Microsoft is certainly not allowing anybody, including the media, to overlook. However, what is the balanced view on Windows Server 2008?
First, it will have, by 2 August, an inbuilt Hypervisor - a Hypervisor enables the virtualisation of the commodity server hardware so that it can support the execution of multiple virtual machines.
Hyper-V, as it is known, is not the most technically advanced Hypervisor on the market (that award goes to VMware), but it is a very good basic Hypervisor with a couple of interesting features. These include the ability to execute a Xen-based Virtual Machine, and the concept of synthetic device drivers - the synthetic device drivers are the new high-performance device drivers that are available with Hyper-V - rather than emulating an existing hardware device Microsoft exposes a new hardware device that has been designed for optimal performance in a virtualised environment.
One of the smaller and easier to overlook features of Windows Server 2008 is the ability to have a finer grained password policy, which may sound dull, but consider the IT department that is supporting 'C'-level executives who do not necessarily have the time, or inclination, to maintain a complex alphanumeric 10-character password that is forced to be changed every 30 days.
This finer control allows for these users to have different rules to, for example, a database administrator, which enables IT to ensure that password policies are designed appropriately for the role/purpose of the account.
The other big feature of Windows Server 2008 is the introduction of server core, a stripped-down operating system. This, according to Microsoft, requires up to 40% fewer patches to be applied, and occupies significantly less disk space than for the full Windows Server 2008.
Butler Group considers this to be a major advancement, which will enable organisations to install server core on systems such as file and print servers, reducing the maintenance required, and hence the operational cost.
Other features that are worthy of a mention at this stage include role-based installation of features; simplified clustering using the Wizard concept; read-only domain controllers; a modified boot process that brings the firewall up earlier and so reduces the window of vulnerability; and the use of Network Access Protection so that a health policy can be set for anything connected to the network.
Butler Group considers that unlike its code-based cousin, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 actually provides system administrators with the capabilities needed to make their operational lives easier.
We are not predicting a massive up-take for Windows Server 2008 this year, but we believe that as organisations plan to refresh their technology, Windows Server 2008 will be selected because it has been designed to make management simpler, and hence reduce operational costs.


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