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Windows Server 2008 and virtualization dominate in 2008

IT managers in Windows shops say the high-impact technologies next year will be Windows Server 2008 and virtualization.

Ask any IT manager which technology he thinks will bring about the most change at his company and the industry at large, and virtualization immediately comes to mind.

Some are just starting to envision how virtualization can solve desktop management issues, like Brian J. Uzwiak at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. Uzwiak manages network and information services there.

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"We're looking at application virtualization with SoftGrid because it will help us fill in the gap between what Citrix [Systems Inc.] and SMS [Microsoft's Systems Management Server] can do for us as far as software deployment and application incompatibility issues," he said.

Office 2007 is a likely candidate for virtual deployment, he added.

With Windows Server 2008 and its Network Access Protection (NAP) feature, which isolates a device to check for security risks before allowing the user to connect to the network, Uzwiak might have finally found a way to secure his desktops.

The medical center's IT shop has already been testing out NAP on its Windows servers and clients. "This technology is covered under Software Assurance and we won't have to go with third-party [security] layers on top of our investment in 802.1x [wireless technology], which have been a huge investment already," Uzwiak said.

Often, the medical staff and physician assistants are off campus. Wireless access combined with NAP will give the center a secure way to access the network and update clients, he said.

Virtualization to the extreme

If there is a possibility to swap out a physical device, Bob Williamson over at law firm Eisenhower & Carlson PLLC in Tacoma, Wash., has it virtually covered.

Practically a one-man band at the firm, Williamson has embraced the technology to the point where 80% of the firm's IT is running virtually using VMware Inc.'s ESX Server and an iSCSI storage area network. "Everyone is talking about virtualization, but I'm living it," Williamson said. "Whether [IT shops] like it or not, it's coming and it helps significantly for numerous reasons."

Looking ahead at 2008, Willliamson wants to give users anywhere access to applications from virtual XP machines through new capabilities in Windows Server 2008.

"I'm looking forward to getting my hands on [Windows Server 2008]. "We'll be able to have users just double click to access applications through a seamless window in Terminal Server," Williamson said. "These new remote desktop capabilities [in Windows Server 2008] will let users go to a Web site and access a remote desktop. They won't need laptops."

Virtualization built into the hardware will not only open up new configuration possibilities, but it also stands to change how companies buy technology licenses.

Configuring virtualization into the system BIOS

Thomas Intemann, lead systems programmer, data center operations at Citrix Systems in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he believes that virtualization may do away with costly third-party software and licenses.

"I see hardware vendors becoming involved where virtualization is built into the BIOS of a system, not just the chip," Intemann said. "When you initially configure a server you'll be able to specify if a server is a virtual host or a standalone server."

By building the virtualization deeply into the hardware, Intemann said he believes individual third-party licenses will go away and just become part of the hardware purchase.

Virtualization stands to "revolutionize" companies' resource allocation and hardware refresh cycles, giving IT shops quicker access to new technology breakthroughs, said Christopher Steffen with Kroll Factual Data, a subsidiary of risk consultancy Kroll, based in Loveland, Colo.

Principle technical architect Steffen estimates that virtualization almost cuts in half the need to buy new hardware resources within his organization, but that money will be used to buy advanced technology. It's a prospect many IT shops can look forward to as a result of virtualization across many layers, including desktops and applications, Steffen said.

"Not to mention the crazy amount of redundancy you gain [through virtualization]," Steffen said. "Imagine the impact on users of just being able to swap over to a different box when a client goes down. It's all the same to the user."

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