Tech Ed North America 2013 just recently wrapped up on June 6 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Microsoft announced a list of new features included in Windows Server 2012 R2. Each new feature falls into one of seven categories: Server Virtualization, Storage, Networking, Server Management and Automation, Web and Application Platform, Access and information protection, and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

Microsoft has provided a datasheet and white paper at their Windows Server 2012 R2 product overview page that outlines the new features.

Here are my top 10 new features added. You’ll notice that a lot of the improvements are related to virtualization.

1. Live migration compression
VHD and VHDX files are compressed before transfer and then decompressed upon receipt improving Live Migration performance.

2. Dynamically grow or shrink VHDX while running without downtime
Demands on a server can vary greatly over time and sometimes includes a reduction in the resources required. The ability to change VHDX size, and especially reduce the size, is a great addition to Hyper-V.

3. Hyper-V Replica configurable replication frequencies from 30 seconds to 15 minutes
Hyper-V Replica could be used for many different purposes with greatly different replication frequency needs. Replicating to another server on your LAN might be something you’d want to do every 30 seconds. In contrast, replicating over a relatively slow WAN interface to a disaster recovery site might only need to take place every 15 minutes.

4. Improved Hyper-V support for Linux guests
More robust support is now provided for Linux guests than previously offered. Windows Server 2012 R2 adds dynamic memory. RHEL, SUSE, CentOS, and Ubuntu will now include Linux Integration Services (LIS) in their standard disbributions.

5. Storage Tiering
With Storage Tiering, tier solid state drives (SSD) and hard disk drives (HDD) in the same storage pool. Often used “hot” data is moved to the SSD tier optimizing performance. Infrequently accessed “cold” data, is moved to slower HDDs. This is done at the sub-file level, so “hot” and “cold” parts of a VHD file or database could reside on different drives.

6. Storage QoS
Storage QoS allows an administrator to dynamically throttle disk IO for VMs. This can be helpful when you want to control minimum or maximum throughput.

7. VHD De-Duplication
Nice feature that de-duplicates common parts of VHD files saving drive space.

8. Resource Metering
Resource metering, a feature targeted towards larger-scale providers, enables the use of logical containers that collect all VM resources belonging to a single client. This provides a central location for querying of resource use.

  1. Average CPU (MHz)
  2. Average, Lowest, and Highest physical memory (MB)
  3. Highest Disk Space Used (MB)
  4. Total Incoming or Outgoing Network Traffic (MB)

9. Remote Device access
A few features have been added making domain resources more acceptable to BYODs.

Workplace Join provides a mechanism for users to register their personal device for single sign-on and access to corporate data. What is interesting is that a certificate gets installed on the device and a new object is created in Active Directory. The device object links the device to the user easing administration for IT.

Work Folders allows a remote user to synchronize files located on a file server. The white paper suggests leveraging Active Directory Rights Management services to the protect the user’s files

Automatic VPN connections launch a VPN connection whenever the user application requires a VPN to access organization data. The process prompts a user for credentials rather than relying on the user understanding the need to go outside the application to create the VPN connection.

10. Active Directory Virtualized
Active Directory has been enhanced to be more “virtualization aware” including the support for using snapshots adding flexibility.

I’ve picked out some of the enhancements mentioned in the white paper (skip right to page 9) that seem appealing to me. What are your top 10?

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Windows Server 2012 R2 is scheduled for release sometime at the end of 2013 with a preview due out sometime in the next few weeks.

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