Some days ago, I discussed a couple of features that only come into play if Vista and Server 2008 work together. Today, I stumbled across another Microsoft page listing several of these features. Unfortunately, it also contains features that are available as extensions for Windows XP. However, some of them seem to be Vista/2008 only features.
First of all, I should note that I was quite surprised how difficult it is to find out what these “better-together features” really are. Microsoft’s marketing texts give hints, but they also do their best to disguise the real benefits of Vista+Server 2008. Journalists tend to just copy Microsoft, often without really understanding what it is all about.
I should also mention that my first post about this topic was not 100% correct either. In a comment of my original post, Aaron pointed out that NAP has indeed a feature you can’t have on Windows XP. The NAP agent for XP is not able to verify if Windows Defender is up-to-date. However, he was wrong about the support for Cisco’s NAC. He was probably also wrong about the support of network level authentication in RDP 6.1. I didn’t try this feature, but at least Remote Desktop Connection 6 for XP seems to have it. Aaron was right, though, about the lack of Aero support in RDC 6 for XP. Aero is certainly not available for XP. I think, this demonstrates how difficult it is to get correct information about this topic. And the main reason certainly is that Microsoft wants to push Vista sales with Windows Server 2008.
Anyway, here are the additional Vista+Server 2008 features I found:
Transactional NTFS and Transactional Registry
Vista and Windows Server 2007 both support Transactional NTFS and Transactional Registry. This feature enables applications to group together sets of file and registry operations with a so-called transaction. Basically, that means that a whole set of file system or Registry related operations is executed or none at all. So if the computer crashes before the transaction is completed, you’ll get a system in a consistent state after the reboot. The point is that the operations included in a certain transaction might run on a Server 2008 machine and on a Vista computer. Thus, this feature will improve reliability of applications running on the server and the client if they support Transactional NTFS and Transaction Registry.
Policy-based Quality of Service (QoS)
Vista and Server 2008 allow you to prioritize network traffic using Group Policy. You can assign priorities for applications, IP addresses, and TCP ports. In networks with limited capacity, traffic throttling can turn out to be quite useful if you have to deal with bandwidth sensitive application such as real time conferencing. Even though you don’t need Windows Server 2008 to work with QoS on Vista, there might be cases where you want to prioritize network usage on the server and the client. More information about the QoS feature of Vista can be found in this white paper.
Caching of server resources
Microsoft listed other features which I am unsure what they actually do or what makes them special in a Vista-Server 2008 environment. For instance, the fact that Server 2008 allows clients to cache locally “server resources” “so that they are available even if the server is not”. I have absolutely no idea what these “server resources” are supposed to be. The first thing that comes to mind is the caching of a network share. But that is already possible with Windows Server 2003. Please, let me know if you know more about this topic.
Another feature often mentioned is Windows Search. Vista and Server 2008 come with a new indexing service allowing you to not only search for files on the desktop but also on network shares much faster than under XP/Server 2003. This is certainly a nice feature. However, if you look at this comparison table, you will see that you can have the same feature with Windows Desktop Search. Of course, you have to install it first on your clients and your servers. With Vista/Server 2008 you save this work.
Terminal Services Gateway
TS Gateway is a new feature of Windows Server 2008 that allows RDP clients to establish an encrypted connection to a Terminal Server via HTTPS. That is certainly also a nice feature, but it is supported by Remote Desktop Connection 6 for Windows XP as well. So if this is the only new feature you need, it probably won’t be enough reason to convince you to move your clients to Vista.
The strategy of Microsoft’s marketing seems to be just randomly listing features of Vista or Server 2008 to convince customers that both operating systems work better together. You could as well include Internet Explorer 7 or the Windows Firewall which Windows XP/2003 RTM lack.
Anyhow, there are certainly some interesting Vista+Server 2008 features. My research about this topic just showed that you shouldn’t just buy anything you read about it in IT magazines and especially if it comes from Microsoft.