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Making the business decision to move to Windows Server 2008, Part 2

PowerShell and virtualization are two of the reasons that make good business sense when thinking about migrating to Windows Server 2008. Some features in Microsoft's newest OS can boost productivity and save money.

Gary Olsen
Gary Olsen
This is part two in a two-part series on making the business decision to move to Windows 2008. For explanations on product support lifecycle, read-only domain controller, Server Core and Terminal Services, read Making the business decision to move to Windows 2008, Part 1.

Understanding the new features in Windows Server 2008 will help you respond to questions from CEOs about why your organization needs to upgrade to Microsoft's newest operating system. A strong argument will help strengthen your case.

Russell Olsen
Russell Olsen

After you clear that hurdle, you can get back to worrying about the technical implementation. Additional information on Windows 2008 features can be found on the Microsoft Web site, including a link to download the current Beta 3 version of the product so you can begin testing.

Here are a few of the top reasons to migrate to Windows Server 2008:

  • Product support lifecycle
  • Read-only domain controller
  • Server Core
  • Terminal Services
  • File System Improvement
  • PowerShell
  • Windows Hardware Error Architecture
  • Virtualization
  • This article will review File System Improvement, PowerShell, Windows Hardware Error Architecture and virtualization.

    File system improvements

    Although Microsoft axed the much anticipated new file system, called WINFS, for Windows Server 2008, there are still some significant improvements in the existing file system.

  • NTFS Self Healing: One of the most obnoxious and dangerous problems in a Windows environment is a file system error. Up to now, IT managers would have to take the volume offline, run chkdsk.exe and repair the errors. In Windows Server 2008, when there is an error or corruption in the data structure, NTFS can repair those corrupted files online. The files would be unavailable for a time, but they would eventually become available. This can be a great benefit not only because it avoids having to take the volume offline, making all files inaccessible, but also for diagnosing and then repairing the error. Although this may not fix all file corruption, and you still may have to take the volume offline for repair, it will certainly reduce those instances and protect your data.
  • SMB2: SMB, or Server Message Block, has lived as the Windows file system forever but has needed some performance improvements especially with huge media files, database files and others that are transferred regularly. Windows Server 2008 has implemented SMB2, the next-generation SMB. Mark Russinovich, technical fellow in Microsoft's platform and services division, said at Microsoft's WinHEC 2007 conference that SMB2 performance is 30 to 40 times faster than SMB in his testing on media servers. This translates to a 3,000% to 4,000% performance increase.
  • Business value: Less downtime for repairing disk errors translates into better productivity because data loss is reduced and repairing errors will not typically affect users. There will still be cases of downtime, but they will be much less frequent. SMB2 could have a dramatic effect if users are copying large files frequently. Again, that can easily translate into a productivity increase.

    PowerShell is a powerful scripting language that has the Windows technical community excited. While scripting administrative tasks took a big jump in Windows 2003, it was limited. PowerShell is loaded natively to the OS -- although it is limited in Server Core installations. It provides an easy-to-use command line feature set that even permits scripting-challenged administrators the ability to script admin tasks -- or to just query for information. Exchange 2007, released earlier this year, has made PowerShell knowledge a requirement for most Exchange admins. Many Exchange features are not available in the GUI, but they are available in PowerShell.

    PowerShell will make it easier to automate functions and extract information, but it will require some training. The good news is that it is fairly intuitive with a good cheat sheet. Even a programming-challenged administrator can easily use it for basic needs.

    Business value: This is a productivity tool for admins. With proper training, it allows them to gather information, especially for troubleshooting, without a lot of research. PowerShell might even reduce support calls. It does require training, so there is a cost to using it.
    Windows Hardware Error Architecture

    Anyone who has experienced the misfortune of having a new hardware installation cause a critical server to crash knows how frustrating it is to debug it. Analyzing log files is difficult because devices report errors in different ways, which makes for tricky troubleshooting. With the new hardware error detection tool, Microsoft provides a common protocol that is now used to report errors. That means shorter troubleshooting time and shorter downtime for these failures. Shorter downtime means greater cost savings.

    Business value: Hardware Error Architecture has the potential to make it easier to deal with troubleshooting hardware problems, which translates into shorter downtimes. Even if your staff can't debug the problem, it will be easier for your technical support provider to identify the cause much faster – again saving downtime.

    It's nearly impossible to list OS features in today's market without talking about virtualization. After all, reducing hardware is a popular way to save costs nowadays. Microsoft is a late player in the virtualization game, playing catch-up to VMware Inc. In a recent Windows Server 2008 demonstration, all the cool features of Windows Virtual Server were touted. Many either caught up with VMware or put Virtual Server ahead, but many of the features have been cut.

    Business value: While virtualization itself has tremendous value, it is not a panacea for all situations. If you haven't explored it, you certainly should. However, virtualization alone will not be a reason to upgrade to Windows 2008 because VMware is still the leader.
    For explanations on product support lifecycle, read-only domain controller, Server Core and Terminal Services in Windows Server 2008, read Making the business decision to move to Windows 2008, Part 1.

    Gary Olsen is a systems software engineer for Hewlett-Packard in Global Solutions Engineering. He authored Windows 2000: Active Directory Design and Deployment and co-authored Windows Server 2003 on HP ProLiant Servers. Gary is a Microsoft MVP for Windows Server-File Systems.

    Russell Olsen is the CIO of a medical data mining company and previously worked for a Big Four accounting firm performing technology risk assessments. He co-authored the research paper "A comparison of Windows 2000 and Red Hat as network service providers." Russell is a CISA, GSNA and MCP.

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