Top 15: Windows Server Innovations During the Past 15 Years

From Active Directory to Hyper-V and beyond

Since the time Microsoft released Windows NT back in 1993, the company has made huge improvements and added literally hundreds, if not thousands, of new features and capabilities to the OS. Back in 1993, Windows NT initially competed with OS/2 as a native 32-bit desktop OS. Since that time, Windows Server has evolved into the 64-bit server standard that’s used by almost all businesses. Let’s check the top innovations in the evolution of Windows Server. Although this column is titled Top Ten, in recognition of Windows IT Pro's 15 years of publication, this month you'll get a full five extra points as I present the top 15 innovations in Windows Server over the past 15 years.

Michael Otey discusses top Windows Server innovations.

1. Active Directory (AD)—First released as a part of Windows 2000 Server, AD remains one of Windows' core systems management features. AD is now used in all but the smallest of Windows networks for user and group management as well as central desktop management.

2. Group Policy—Group Policy was another core Windows innovation that was part of Windows 2000. Group Policy is a set of rules used in AD that manage users, groups, and computer accounts. Group Policy provides the centralized management and configuration of OSs, applications, and user settings.

3. Resultant Set of Policy (RSOP)—After AD and Group Policy had been available for a while, it became clear that IT pros needed a way to diagnose the order in which policies are applied. With Windows Server 2003, Microsoft released RSOP, which let IT administrators troubleshoot how Group Policy settings are applied across the network.

4. Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS)—Another vital innovation with the Windows 2003 release was the introduction of VSS, which enables Windows to take live snapshots of data from running applications such as Microsoft SQL Server, Exchange Server, and Hyper-V.

5. Windows SharePoint Services—Windows 2003 R2 marked the first time that Microsoft began their major/minor release cycle. Probably the most significant feature in the Windows 2003 R2 release was the inclusion of Windows SharePoint Services. Since that time, SharePoint has become incredibly popular, and Microsoft has pulled it into its own product line with SharePoint 2010.

6. Server Manager—Windows Server 2008 marked a huge change for Windows Server management. The new Server Manager enables the administrator to easily change a server's configuration. It also surfaces important system events and lets the administrator drill down into the event details.

7. Server roles and features—Closely related to the new Server Manager interface, Server 2008 also introduced a new set of server roles and features that made it far easier to configure a Windows Server system to act as one or more roles. Example roles include File Services, Hyper-V, and Web Services. Example features include Failover Clustering and Windows PowerShell. One really great feature is that all of the required binaries are installed on the system. As a result, there's no need for switching media in and out to install the new features and roles.



8. Server Core—The addition of the new Server Core role for Server 2008 addressed a long-standing customer pain point for using Windows Server as a network infrastructure server. Server Core enabled Windows Server to run in a minimal configuration with no GUI. Server Core reduces the security attack point and the need for patching.

9. Hyper-V—The initial release of Hyper-V with its bare-metal hypervisor in Server 2008 put Microsoft in the same ballpark as VMware. Although the initial release of Hyper-V lacked some of the advanced features in VMware's ESX Server line, Hyper-V provided a comparable level of performance. And being included as part of Windows Server made the price right—especially for organizations just getting into virtualization.

10. Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption—Perhaps more important for laptops than servers, BitLocker was also introduced in the Server 2008 release. BitLocker provides an enhanced level of physical security by encrypting the hard disk. This encryption prevents data loss in the event the system is stolen.

11. Support for 256 cores—Server 2008 R2 brought Windows to the level of scalability that compares to the largest of systems. Server 2008 R2 is able to scale to systems with 256 cores and up to 16 physical sockets.

12. Hyper-V Live Migration—The initial release of Hyper-V didn't include the ability to move virtual machines (VMs) between hosts with no downtime. The second release of Hyper-V that was introduced with Server 2008 R2 added the Live Migration feature. Live Migration is Microsoft's answer to VMware's VMotion technology.

13. Core Parking—Green computing has become an important trend in IT, and Server 2008 R2 offers a new core parking capability. Core parking lets Windows Server automatically power off CPU cores when the workload is low and the processing power of the cores isn't needed. Cores are reactivated when the workload increases. Core parking immediately reduces an organization's power requirements.

14. RemoteFX—A couple of important Windows innovations are included in the upcoming Server 2008 R2 SP1 release. The new RemoteFX feature promises to be an important enabler for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) because it enables 3D video to be sent to thin or low-powered network client systems. RemoteFX also supports USB 2.0 redirection and high quality audio.

15. Dynamic Memory Allocation—Server 2008 R2 SP1 will also add the ability to dynamically add and remove memory from a running Hyper-V VM. This ability will help organizations create dynamic infrastructures where VMs can scale up or down in response to workloads.



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