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It's time for Windows Server admins to look ahead to 2013. Experts and SearchWindowsServer contributors last year predicted that PowerShell would find increasing importance, in 2012 and they may have been right on the mark.
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So, what which Windows predictions will they (hopefully) be right about in 2013?
Bridging the cloud gap
For the last year, Microsoft has hammered home the "Cloud OS" message: Cloud is Microsoft's future and it should be in the mind of every admin. Windows Server 2012 attempted to deliver on bringing cloud functionality to the on-premises operating system.
We'll need to be on guard for [employees] bringing in new devices that sport Win8, whether as part of an official BYOD program or -- worse -- not.
In 2013, this will be just as important.
"I think we'll continue to see the evolution of the operating system in terms of bridging the gap between on-premises installations and cloud deployments, and bring some of the wisdom of running [a data center] scale down to on-premises installations, too," said Jon Hassell, consultant at 82 Ventures LLC.
"Microsoft has done a good job of answering the question, 'How do you bake the knowledge of running thousands of servers in a scalable and reliable way (in accordance with 99.95% SLA) into the product?' For instance, one might recall the Windows Azure outage on the leap day in 2012. Microsoft says that the disaster illuminated 40 to 50 processes that can be improved, and that logic made it way down into Windows Server 2012," said Hassell.
"This creates a really rich feedback cycle -- from service to product back up to service -- that helps everyone. I think in 2012, we'll see the payoff of that feedback loop continue to throw off dividends as more and more make their way to Windows Server 2012," he said.
"I see an increased use of scale-up x86 servers with hundreds of logical processors able to access up to 4 TB of RAM in Windows Server 2012," said Bruce Mackenzie-Low, SearchWindowsServer contributor. "They will be heavily used as Hyper-V hosts in failover cluster environments with highly available scale-out file sharing."
Windows 8 rollout, with a BYOD twist
The consumerization of IT has woken up departments dealing with rogue iPhones and tablet devices. With the rollout of Windows 8 late this year, there's a potential it could cause headaches. It's better to be prepared.
"One thing admins should be ready for is Windows 8 -- but not in the form of a formal rollout, since official/corporate IT interest in it is minimal at best. Rather, we'll need to be on guard for those bringing in new devices that sport Win8, whether as part of an official BYOD program or -- worse -- not," said Serdar Yegulalp, SearchWindowsServer contributor.
"End user uptake for Win8 may be less dramatic than for Windows 7, but it will exist, and it might manifest all the more unexpectedly because of it being that much further off the conventional corporate IT radar. On the other hand, if you already have a good BYOD security model in place, one that's process- rather than device-centric, you should be better equipped to handle it than most," Yegulalp said.
Security improves, but some old threats loom
Security is a constant concern for IT, or at least it should be: Administrators read about threats all the time and anticipate Patch Tuesday with bated breath.
In 2013, that all goes away. Wait, no, of course it doesn't.
"In 2012, we saw more of the same: the same flaws being exploited by the same threats leading to the same predictable business risks. How long we're going to continue down this path remains to be seen, but we clearly have more work to do," said Kevin Beaver, SearchWindowsServer contributor.
"It can be argued that Microsoft is doing its part to set us up for success with its security improvements in Windows Server 2012, SQL Server 2012 and Windows 8. Even BitLocker -- Redmond's full disk encryption technology that I've railed against in the past -- has seen some nice improvements that could make the product enterprise worthy," he said.
"Maybe it's time to take the plunge in 2013 and upgrade your operating systems, applications and databases. We just have to remember that, like the government, Microsoft is not responsible for -- nor the solution to -- our problems. It's up to each and every one us to ensure our ducks are in a row and we keep it that way," he said.
And, if you're planning an upgrade, Beaver is in favor of streamlining security policies.
Ditch XP in 2013 (or sooner)
Let it sink in: There are still businesses running the tired but not yet retired Windows XP. Microsoft will mercifully end its extended support for the operating-system-that-just-won't-die in 2014, but a security expert says it's better to do it sooner rather than later.
"Get off Windows XP and onto the newer platforms," said Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys Inc., an IT services firm based in Redwood Shores, Calif. "Those are much better in terms of manageability."