Active Directory tops the list of hot Windows Server 2008 R2 features

IT pros are more excited about the new Active Directory features in Windows Server 2008 R2 than anything else, including Hyper-V with live migration

When IT pros are asked which Windows Server 2008 R2 features are most important to them, it isn't Hyper-V with...

Live Migration – not by a long shot. IT pros are hot for the new Active Directory features.

IT pros who responded to the 2009 Windows Purchasing Intentions Survey conducted by said they are more interested in Active Directory features than anything else in the next Windows Server operating system, despite the hype surrounding new Hyper-V capabilities like live migration.

Over 65% of more than 650 survey respondents said Active Directory improvements in Windows Server 2008 R2 are most important to them, followed by Remote Desktop Services (48%). Live Migration with Hyper-V came in as the third priority (35%).

David Reynolds, systems manager at the Rhode Island Blood Center, said there is anticipation among his peers for Active Directory enhancements and Remote Desktop Services, but not a lot of interest in Hyper-V.

Doug Spindler, president of the Orinda, Calif., based user group PacITPros, said that Hyper-V's value in large IT shops is minimal. "Hyper-V is so Server 2008, and live migration is one of those things most IT pros will do just a few times, if at all," he said.

And Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft analyst Michael Cherry wasn't surprised by the low priority IT admins put on Hyper-V compared to Active Directory. "Let's be realistic about Live Migration. Yes Microsoft needed to do it to compete with VMware, and large shops will likely use it, but the changes to Active Directory make my every day administration easier."

Hyper-V wasn't a top priority when it made its debut in Windows Server 2008, either. Active Directory and Group Policy improvements topped the priority list for that OS as well, with more than 55% of respondents listing it as the most important feature. About 42% of respondents answered Microsoft Hyper-V, about 32% said Server Manager and 23% said Server Core features.

New Active Directory features impress

Mike Walsh, an IT architect with the Plymouth Meeting, Pa.-based IT services firm Interphase Systems, said the new Active Directory features will give IT pros better management of native accounts and the ability to get more granular with policies and it extends Active Directory beyond the Windows infrastructure.

"If you are a large enterprise, you are probably dealing with partners, vendors and clients that need to access resources within your environment, and you want to provide controlled access to those resources without having a third arm," Walsh said. "It is inter- and extra- enterprise Active Directory and will potentially be the Active Directory of choice."

One of the most interesting new capabilities of Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) is the Recycle Bin feature, which lets administrators undo accidental deletions of Active Directory objects.

"Many an IT pro has been fired for intentionally or accidentally deleting Active Directory objects," Spindler said. "To recover deleted objects…wasn't pretty. It sold a lot of deodorant as IT pros were sweating it out waiting to see if they could recover."

Companies burned by deleted objects have had to purchase "costly" third-party software products to prevent it from happening again, Spindler said.

Let's be realistic about Live Migration; yes Microsoft needed to do it ... but the changes to Active Directory make my every day administration easier.
Michael Cherryanalyst, Directions on Microsoft

In Windows Server 2008 R2, a deleted object is put into a new state called a logically deleted object, and all of its links and attributes are preserved, according to Cherry, who wrote a report on Active Directory enhancements.

"Deletion still moves the logically deleted object to the Deleted Objects container, where it will remain for the duration of the deleted object lifetime, [but] at any point during the deleted object lifetime, an administrator can recover it from the Recycle Bin."

At the end of the deleted object's lifetime, Windows Server makes a logically deleted object into a recycled object by stripping away most of the object's attributes, Cherry said.

Another important Active Directory enhancement in Windows Server 2008 R2 is the transition to PowerShell for script- and console-based administration.

Scripting has typically been done via the Windows Scripting Host (WSH) and Active Directory Services Interface (ADSI), which was a time-consuming process for IT. Windows Server 2008 R2's new AD PowerShell module includes more than 75 cmdlets to manage AD domains and AD LDS configuration sets and a new AD provider for PowerShell enables file system-like navigation of the AD database, according to Cherry.

Other important improvements include a Best Practices Analyzer, offline domain join, managed service accounts, and improved management packs for System Center Operations Manager, he said.

The new features and improvements to AD DS in Windows Server 2008 R2 are available in the Foundation, Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter editions.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer

More on Active Directory

  • Inside Active Directory for Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Will AD have your back in R2?

Dig Deeper on Windows Server storage management