Have a question about Windows Server 2008 R2? You're not the only one. Below you'll find answers to some of the most common questions posed about the new server operating system from Microsoft.
What does "R2" even mean? Is this really a new OS?
Yes and no. As with Windows Server 2003, Microsoft has released an R2 version for Windows Server 2008. This means that while the operating system maintains the same codebase, it includes a lot of new features and functionality not present with the original release.
In other words, imagine Microsoft took an extra year-and-a-half or so to release Windows Server 2008. That OS would generally look like what we now call R2.
Say I wasn't terribly impressed with the new features for Windows Server 2003 R2. Will I feel the same about this new release?
Well, opinions tend to vary, but there is no denying that Windows Server 2008 R2 brings a lot more to the table than we've seen in past releases. This includes plenty of new functionality in the areas of virtualization, file management and Active Directory, to name a few.
It's also the first OS release from Microsoft that is available only as a 64-bit installation, a considerable change from Windows Server 2008.
What should I know about how R2 works with Microsoft's other new OS – Windows 7?
The folks at Microsoft have gone out of their way to promote R2 and Windows 7 together. They were even released on the same day. Still, the prospect of upgrading client and server environments at the same time isn't really reasonable for most organizations.
That being said, Windows Server 2008 R2 has some intriguing new features that can only be used when run with Windows 7, such as BranchCache, VPN Reconnect and DirectAccess. Terminal Services has also been redubbed Remote Desktop Services with R2, bringing with it a host of new functionality for Windows 7.
(You can find more details on how R2 works with Windows 7 from the Microsoft website.)
What's new with virtualization, particularly in regards to Hyper-V?
Hyper-V with R2 has grown up a lot in key areas since its initial release. First, you might remember that the original Hyper-V didn't launch until 180 days after the release of Windows Server 2008. There was no such wait this time around, and Windows Server 2008 R2 has all the built-in functionality of the standalone Hyper-V Server 2008 R2.
There are two notable changes with Hyper-V R2. First, Quick Migration – a topic of criticism with the first release – is a thing of the past, as the R2 version now includes Live Migration functionality that is more on par with VMware's VMotion technology.
Secondly, Cluster Shared Volumes (CSVs) are also available with Hyper-V R2, which account for Microsoft's initial step toward improved cluster awareness of disk resources.
I've heard a lot about Windows PowerShell lately. Do I need to know PowerShell to get the most out of R2?
Not necessarily, but it helps. One thing that's clear with Windows Server 2008 R2 is that Microsoft is very high on PowerShell, so admins who understand it will most certainly be able to get the most out of R2 and other Microsoft technologies going forward.
Case in point: Windows Server 2008 R2 includes more than 240 brand new PowerShell cmdlets, with notable enhancements for Active Directory and Group Policy. That's not to say the GUI is going anywhere. Still, while you can do pretty much everything through PowerShell that you can with the GUI, the OS has a lot more to offer from the command line than you can get otherwise.
What's something I probably don't know about R2?
One thing that has flown under the radar a little bit is that Windows Server 2008 R2 is a greener OS. Put simply, if you had Windows Server 2008 and Windows 2008 R2 running side by side on the same hardware, the R2 machine would use less power than the other. As IT writer and consultant Jonathan Hassell put it, "This isn't a gimmick, but a proven 10% to 15% reduction on identical boxes, just with a different operating system."
I have more questions! Where can I find the answers?
First, you can do some research. We have a host of content around Windows Server 2008 R2 on SearchWindowsServer.com, with details on all of the new features and functionality. You can also get plenty of resources at the Microsoft website.
If you still can't find the answers you are looking for, you can always post your questions to our IT Knowledge Exchange forum for fast responses from your peers and industry experts.
This was first published in February 2010