Windows expert sizes up Server 2008

Microsoft Windows Server 2008 is no Vista. IT shops are indeed checking out the new server with interest. Don Jones, a Microsoft MVP shares his thoughts on the server and on its future direction.

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While Microsoft's virtualization strategy and its recently released Hyper-V hypervisor will hog center stage this week, it's easy to forget that many IT shops are actively checking out Windows Server 2008. There is a lot to consider in this release and a lot to wish for if Microsoft releases a Windows Server 2008 R2 in the not too distant future.

Industry expert Don Jones is a Microsoft MVP who has written more than 30 IT-related books and helped launch many community sites such as ScriptingAnswers.com, PowerShellCommunity.org, Realtime-WindowsServer.com and, most recently, an Active Directory site in conjunction with software vendor NetPro Computing Inc. called TurboChargeAD.org. He shared his thoughts with SearchWinIT.com about Windows Server 2008 now and in the future.

SearchWinIT.com: What are you seeing as far as people's migration plans for Windows Server 2008?

Don Jones: They are either looking at it and planning or they have put a couple of servers in production to see how it goes. People are definitely actively engaged. I've only had a couple of companies that have completed a migration.

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[Windows Server 2008] lives alongside [Windows Server] 2003 so well that there isn't a lot of pressure to do a whole migration. So people are just picking spots that Windows Server 2008 can solve and focusing on that.

Where are some of those spots?

Jones: Infrastructure. DNS servers [and] DHCP servers are areas they're looking to address and Server Core really makes that possible. Virtualization is another big one that people are looking at for things like legacy applications. [For] companies that are widely distributed, Active Directory and the read-only domain controller feature really take care of some of their concerns. The read-only domain controller is trickier and requires more planning so it will be a little slower coming.

What about Active Directory? Is there a gap as far as functionality?

Jones: If there's something conspicuously missing, it's change control and workflow. More and more companies are implementing business management frameworks and processes. They're looking for products that enforce and enable those processes. Microsoft hasn't done a lot to help build frameworks based on things like ITIL into the base operating system, although [the company is] building them into some of their other products that run on Windows. Over time, you'll see Microsoft being more sensitive to improvement in IT service management.

With Hyper-V available, has that heightened interest in Windows Server 2008?

Jones: People are looking at [Hyper-V], but until somebody reputable publishes some benchmarks, companies are going to spend a lot of time doing their own benchmarks. The majority of the companies that have made a commitment to virtualization probably have VMware in place already. Before they're going to do anything with Hyper-V, they're going to want to see some performance benchmarks.

We're getting closer to a time when we would normally hear about a service pack for Windows Server 2008. What is needed in that service pack?

Jones: Windows Server 2008 has had relatively few patches. It's scary when Microsoft doesn't have a lot of bugs to roll up -- you worry that they're going to start to add new features. The big thing everyone's talking about now isn't so much a service pack but Windows Server 2008 R2, which hopefully is going to be a feature rollup. There hasn't been a big screaming flameout with Windows Server 2008 that makes you say [Microsoft] clearly has to work on a certain area.

What direction would you like to see Microsoft go with Windows 7?

Jones: Something in their common engineering criteria for Windows has specified that future versions need to support Windows PowerShell for management. So we know that will start filtering into the operating system. This means improvements to IT service management.

It means giving IT administrators the ability to automate things their way and on their terms, rather than relying on Microsoft to develop a particular tool for a particular process in a way that Microsoft's developers think needs to be done. Building things like PowerShell as an API into the operating system opens things up for administrators and third-party software developers to customize the operating system more effectively for niche markets.

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