There are quite a few new features in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 that can only be used if both operating systems work together. Microsoft markets these features as better-together-features. They did something similar with Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. However, this campaign just listed features that both operating systems have in common. Most of Vista’s new features don’t require Server 2008 and vice versa. This will be different with Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. It is hard to tell whether this is for technical reasons or if it is only about marketing. Perhaps it is a little of both.
I wonder if this is the reason why Ballmer “recommended” skipping Vista recently. Maybe that was just a Freudian slip. It is also possible that Microsoft will change its attitude later when customers who just migrated to Vista start complaining that they can’t use the Server 2008 R2 features.
There is already some confusion about the better-together-features. For example, some sites reported that BitLocker To Go, the ability of Windows 7 to encrypt portable drives, requires Windows Server 2008 R2. Technically, this doesn’t make sense, and it would mean that this feature wouldn’t be available for the consumer editions. In my Windows 7 installation (build 6801) BitLocker To Go works without Server 2008 R2.
Anyway, here are the features that can only be used if Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 play together. Since I’ve already discussed these in my series about the new features in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, I will only list them here with a short note.
Direct Access: Automatically establishes a secure remote connection to the corporate network without requiring VPN
BranchCache: Caches content from remote file and Web servers on a server in a branch location
Read only Distributed File System (DFS): Supports read-only copies of files stored in DFS; this feature improves security in branch offices
Desktop and Application Feeds: Allows end users to launch remote applications on Windows Server 2008 R2 via RDP from a central location on a Windows 7 desktop
Agile VPN: Multiple network paths between points in the VPN tunnel; if one network path gets disconnected, Agile VPN automatically uses another network path.
(BitLocker keys in Active Directory: Allows you to store a backup of the BitLocker key in Active Directory. I suppose this works only if you raise the functional level of Active Directory to Windows Server 2008 R2.) (see comments)
Offline Folders enhancements: Offline files are copied to the Offline Files cache and then synchronized in the background with the server. This saves bandwidth and improves performance.
AppLocker: Restricts program execution on user desktops based on publisher signature
RDP 7: The version number of the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) will probably be 7 in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. The build 6801 still has RDP 6.1. RDP 6.1 is also available for Windows XP, but it seems as if RDP 7 will only run on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. There are many interesting new features in RDP 7.
If you know another better-together-feature, please post a comment below. I will then update this article.