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.

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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.

Windows Search ^

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.

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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.

9 Comments
  1. Dan Shappir 14 years ago

    Michael,
    You are correct in stating that TS Gateway is available for XP as well. Indeed, many of the new Terminal Services features are also available for XP, provided you have RDP6.1 installed on it. Some features also require .NET Framework 3. For a list of which feature work on XP and which require Vista see this post at my blog:
    http://ericomguy.blogspot.com/2007/10/are-windows-server-2008-terminal.html

  2. Aaron 14 years ago

    Where have you seen information about NAC support in the Windows XP NAP agent? Everything I've read states that the Cisco NAC agent is still required for XP machines running the NAP agent.

    http://download.microsoft.com/download/d/0/8/d08df717-d752-4fa2-a77a-ab29f0b29266/NAC-NAP_Whitepaper.pdf

  3. Dennis Harders 14 years ago

    Michael,

    Also a great improvement is the complete rewriting of the TCP/IP stack. Microsoft calls it: The Next Generation TCP/IP Stack.
    The Next Generation TCP/IP Stack in Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 is a complete redesign of TCP/IP functionality for both Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) and Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) that meets the connectivity and performance needs of today's varied networking environments and technologies.

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/network/bb545475.aspx

  4. Leonardo 14 years ago

    Argh! Marketing-speak!

  5. Dan, thanks for the link. I didn’t know that only the RDP client of Vista supports single sign on and plug-and-play devices. Where did you get this information?

    Aaron, I didn’t say that the NAP agent for XP includes the NAC agent. The point is that you can use Cisco NAC together with NAP on XP. You only have to install the NAC agent for this which is not required for Vista. The question is, will you have less functionality on XP if you install both agents? Do you know something about this?

    Dennis, the topic of this article wasn’t common improvements of Vista and Server 2008. My concern was the features of Windows Server 2008 that would make you want to move your clients to Vista. IPv6 isn’t such a feature because you can have it for XP, too. However, the new TCP/IP stack has indeed “better-together features”. I discussed this in my .

    Leonardo, seems we share the same aversion. 😉

  6. Dan Shappir 14 years ago

    Michael,
    We (Ericom) are in the Terminal Services business, and we are a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and a Terminal Services partner. Therefore we make it our business to know which Terminal Services functionality is or isn't available in Windows Server 2008, and what the requirements are.

    Specifically to your questions:
    1. Single Sign-On: "You can only use single sign-on for remote connections from a Windows Vista®-based computer to a Windows Server® 2008-based terminal server. You can also use single sign-on for remote connections from a Windows Server 2008-based server to a Windows Server 2008-based server" - http://technet2.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/library/e97073f7-98b0-44a8-babd-5832996fb6aa1033.mspx?mfr=true

    2. Plug-and-Play: "Device redirection over Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) has been enhanced in Windows Vista and Windows Server codename “Longhorn” with the introduction of the new Plug and Play Device Redirection Framework" - http://blogs.msdn.com/ts/archive/2006/12/05/terminal-server-plug-and-play-device-redirection-framework-in-vista-and-longhorn-part-1.aspx

  7. Aaron 14 years ago

    SIngle-Sign On what what I should have said instead of Network Level Authentication back on the other post.

    As I understand, the Cisco NAC support in the Vista NAP agent will give you the same level of functionality as the Cisco's own NAC agent. On XP, if you have both the NAP agent and the NAC agent you should have the same level of functionality as you would see on Vista.

  8. Dan, thanks a lot for the information. This just comes in handy since I am currently working on an article for a German magazine about this topic. 🙂

    Aaron, thanks for clarifying this issue.

  9. Armando 12 years ago

    I must agree with the author, and that is Microsoft has a massive campaign stratagy to boost sales of new operating systems. I also have recently researched the comparative differences between Server 2003 r2 & 2008 r2 and found nothing but vague discriptions and buzz-words that say nothing and promise everything. I'm sure that everyone reading this article is intelligent enough to know that Microsoft likes to tell users and especially upper-management what they want to hear to make the sale. Seems that the writers for Microsoft should also write for politicians.

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