DirectAccess is a feature in Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 that Microsoft hopes will revolutionize remote access. The DirectAccess goal is for IT to be able to manage telecommuters, remote access, and virtual meetings, without having to deal with VPNs. DirectAccess connects the user automatically to corporate computer resources anywhere, anytime. Like a VPN, it's secure and can be managed. Unlike a VPN, it's always on, which means admins can manage road warriors' computers anytime the computer has Internet connectivity, updating Group Policy settings and distributing software updates. DirectAccess can authenticate users and supports the use of smart cards and other multifactor authentication. It uses IPv6-over-IPsec to encrypt communications transmitted across the Internet and can use split-tunnel routing to reduce corporate network traffic.
A new feature in Windows Server 2008 R2 called BranchCache promises to reduce WAN traffic by caching HTTP and SMB content on a branch office network, reducing costs associated with WAN bandwidth and accelerating delivery of encrypted content. BranchCache locally caches frequently used content on an existing server in a branch office (aka hosted cache) or on clients in a branch office. Each client keeps a cache of retrieved content and makes it available to other clients upon request. The server at the data center is responsible for authenticating and authorizing requests among the clients, and ensures the content sent is always the most up to date. In the case of a branch office with a hosted cache, that server stores all the cached data. Besides supporting HTTP and SMB protocols, BranchCache also is designed to accelerate response times for requests for multimedia content such as Windows Media Player files.
To learn more about BranchCache and DirectAccess, see http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/enterprise/windows7.mspx?Tab=BranchCache and https://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/R2.aspx
and take a deeper dive in with these beauties:
"FAQ: What are the new features in Windows Server 2008 R2?"http://windowsitpro.com/article/articleid/100754/q-what-are-the-new-features-of-windows-server-2008-r2.html
"Securing Windows Desktops Using Group Policy," http://windowsitpro.com/article/articleid/100264/securing-windows-desktops-using-group-policy.html
"Windows Server 2008 Review," http://www.itprotoday.com/reviews/win2008.asp
"Command-line Tools in Windows Server 2008," http://windowsitpro.com/article/articleid/99119/command-line-tools-in-windows-server-2008.html