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FAQ: Making sense of Windows Server 2012

Windows Server 2012 is out. Haven't had the time to read up on new features? Catch up and have your questions answered.

You've got Windows Server 2012 questions? We've got answers. This is the one-stop shop for all of your lingering questions about release dates, features and more.

Keep up with the latest tips, news and more on our Windows Server 2012 topic page, or follow us on Twitter (@WindowsTT).

Is the final version of Windows Server 2012 out yet?

Yes, Windows Server 2012 is generally available as of Sept. 4, 2012. It wraps almost a full year of development in public.  Microsoft delivered developer preview bits last year at its Build conference.  In February it released a beta version of its software.  Then, in June it delivered a release candidate and followed in August with an announcement that it completed development and released to manufacturer.

How many versions are there and how much will it cost my business?

While we're not in a position to give a one-sentence answer because it would be a mile-long run-on, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to make Windows Server 2012 licensing more simple.

There are two major editions – Standard and Datacenter – that are both feature complete and have single licenses that cover two physical processors. The only difference between the two is that Datacenter features unlimited virtualization rights, while Standard allows just two virtual machines. The Datacenter edition costs $4,809 and the Standard edition costs $882 under the Open No Level volume licensing bracket. Microsoft moved to a similar model with its System Center 2012 licensing.

There are two other editions, Foundation and Essentials, which should serve the needs of small businesses that run business apps on-premises. Essentials costs $425, while foundation is an OEM-only product. Finally, the Essentials edition is not out yet; it'll ship before the end of the year.

What are the new features in Windows Server 2012?

There are too many to list all of them, but there are some of the new features to know about. Beyond refinements in the user interface, here's a quick rundown of the most important ones:

  • PowerShell. If you don't use PowerShell already, get ready to use it. It's an extensible command scripting that can help with automation throughout your system. The newest revision, PowerShell v3, has over 2,300 cmdlets.
  • Hyper-V 3.0. The virtualization platform receives a major overhaul in Windows Server 2012. Boasting features like extensible switch and Replica, it adds to the growing competition between Microsoft and VMware.
  • There's more. Check out our rundown on IIS 8 in Windows Server 2012 and learn more about SMB 3.0.

I can probably clear this with my CFO, but I've already got a few Windows Server 2008 R2 machines going. Should I upgrade?

This is a tough one. By all accounts, Windows Server 2012 has seen measurable increases in performance over its three-year-old predecessor. However, if you've got simple needs, Jon Hassell writes that it may not be best to upgrade right away.  If you've got Software Assurance, you're already paying for it; why not test it out? If you've got old hardware, however, it's probably best to stay away from Server 2012.

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