Nice article in Server 2008 from PC Mag!
The new Microsoft Server is coming: Should you care?
Eleven months left in 2008, and the year’s recurring tech theme is already resounding loudly: Windows Server 2008. Get used to it, because you’ll be hearing it over and over for the foreseeable future. The new server OS promises a load of fresh goodies for Microsoft-platform devotees, with more stuff to follow. Does this really apply to small and midsize businesses? You bet, and as ever, there’s good and bad.
VIRTUALIZATION: You might think this feature has “enterprise” written all over it, but Microsoft’s virtualization package is going to give expensive platforms like VMware a run for their money. SMBs will be able to deploy more servers with fewer headaches, less hardware, and lower costs.
A BETTER NETWORKING STACK: That means better bandwidth-to-traffic management, faster network processing, and support for the latest network hardware (including faster RAM and 10-Gbps connections right to the server). Happily for SMBs, much of this happens under the covers, especially remote access.
POWERFUL MANAGEMENT: Way more than the basic Microsoft Management Console here, folks. The freshly baked Server Manager has a new look, new rules built on an XML-based rules engine, and the ability not only to manage individual server functions but also to thread them together for custom tasks. This means squeezing more out of what you already have, rather than simply layering more software on top of it.
CHEAP RELIABILITY: A new high-availability feature is like automatic failover for mere mortals. Server 2008 is optimized to keep two servers in sync, not just bring up one to take over for another. Beyond that, it can react based on rules (not just situations) and do it all as part of the base OS. You’ll do far less worrying about sudden server death syndrome, since the tool to combat it is built into the OS—instead of for sale from some high-priced consultant.
COUGAR AND CENTRO: Small Business Server 2008 (code name Cougar) won’t make the same splash as Windows Essential Server 2008 (code name Centro). Like its predecessors, Small Business Server is designed for companies with fewer than 50 users—and has a hard-license limit to enforce this. Centro, however, scales to 250 users and across three or more physical servers. Despite this, Microsoft has maintained a straightforward management interface that lets your in-house IT geek configure features that once would have required expensive consulting help.
VIRTUALIZATION: First, virtualization isn’t included as part of the initial release; it will arrive up to 180 days afterward, according to Microsoft. Second, there’s still no definite word on how Microsoft will license virtual servers, except to say that the Data Center SKU (the most expensive, of course) will have unlimited virtual licenses.
NEW HARDWARE: It’s a 64-bit world, and Server 2008 is no exception. Companies looking to upgrade should take this into account. Not only will you need to ensure your upgrade coincides with new server hardware purchases, but you’ll also have to institute a thorough testing and upgrade plan for all server-side software.
TRAINING: Server 2008 incorporates lots of tools to make specific features easier. But 2008 is a huge departure from 2003, so the learning curve will exist, no matter what. The new Centro interface helps with the basics, but accessing all that advanced functionality is still going to require consulting help or IT staff training.
NEW LICENSING: Hey, Microsoft is the richest software company on the planet, so you knew this wouldn’t be free. But get set for an all-new licensing scheme with new possibilities for virtual machines, as well as new restrictions for straight hardware deployments—the range of costs has yet to be announced.
The Bottom Line
We’re looking at more good news than bad—especially for midsize businesses with decent hardware budgets. Still, most SMBs should wait a bit before deployment. And not just until Server 2008’s initial bugs have been worked out. We caution SMBs to move slowly until they’ve fully investigated Centro (due out later this year) and taken into account exactly how much all this new glitz is going to cost: beyond the price of Server 2008, there will be outlays for things like new client-access licenses, virtual machine licenses, and new hardware, too. “Windows Server 2008” may be Microsoft’s mantra for the year, but mine is “Look before you leap.”