Windows Server 2012: What it will do for You and the World

10 August, 2012 DotNetNukeLinuxSoftwareTechnologyWindows

Since Windows Server 2012 was Released to Manufacturing (RTM) by Microsoft on August 1st, the internet has been buzzing with news and speculation about what this will mean for businesses, hosting companies, and those who want the best for their website. Microsoft has made major improvements with Windows Server 2012, focusing their attention on some key areas: performance, reliability, storage, Hyper-V,  and cloud. Here are some of the ways that Windows Server 2012 will impact the hosting world:

Performance and Reliability

.NET 4.5
Windows Server 2012 includes .NET 4.5 out of the box.  In addition to new tools which make writing multithreaded applications easier, the JIT compiler has received a significant update that enables multi-core compiling.  This will allow .NET to use more processing power in order to reduce your website’s “first load” delay by as much as 50%.

NIC Teaming
NIC Teaming allows you to combine multiple network adapters into one faster, more reliable network adapter.  In previous versions of Windows, this required special software from your NIC manufacturer and tended to only work with identical NICs.  In Windows Server 2012, this has been added into the OS.  You can combine different NICs from different vendors without special drivers.

Storage Pools
Microsoft is working very hard to make storage more reliable and affordable.  Storage Pools allow you to combine multiple hard drives into faster, redundant hard drives with extra features.  Prior to Windows Server 2012, this type of storage management would require a $300 RAID controller or a $150,000 SAN.  Storage Pools allow you to use JABOD (“just a bunch of disks”) to achieve similar functionality at a much better price point. You just pay for your hard drives.  Additionally, Storage Pools can be easily resized, de-duplicated, and thin-provisioned to allow you to use disk space much more efficiently.

In conjunction with Storage Pools, Microsoft is introducing ReFS – a modern file system which is faster and more reliable than NTFS, which was released in 1993.  ReFS uses an allocate-on-write strategy in order to ensure that data is always reliably written to the hard drive.  If a file has a problem, it can be repaired through the new integrity stream or deleted and restored without having to run a CHKDSK on the entire volume.  ReFS also uses new data structuctures (B+ Trees) to organize data more efficiently on disk.

Cloud and HyperV

Bigger Cloud Servers
In Windows Server 2012, HyperV 3.0 was updated to handle even larger workloads.  Now each cloud server can have up to 32 vCPUs (previously limited to 4), 512GB of RAM (previously 32GB), and 16TB of Disk Space (previously 2TB).  This allows you to wrap even bigger workloads into the cloud structures.

Cloud Network Management
HyperV 3.0 introduces the “HyperV Extensible Switch”, a new, software-based virtual switch for managing cloud networks.  It ensures that cloud servers receive the right amount of network resources.  Microsoft has also included a “monitor port” which allows you to view the server’s  network activity.

No More Maintenance Windows!

HyperV could always take a snapshot (checkpoint) of a cloud server so you could to revert back to it.  However on Windows 2008 and Windows 2008 R2, there were multiple scenarios that would require scheduled maintenance windows in order to complete.  If you no longer needed a snapshot, you could delete it. But the snapshot wouldn’t actually go away until you shut down the cloud server and HyperV merged all of the snapshot’s data into the base VHD.  A couple gigabytes may take a few minutes but, if you need to delete a couple snapshots, merging could take up your whole evening.

HyperV 3.0’s live merge capability solves this irritation. It enables two new features that make HyperV cloud servers more reliable and more feature-rich than actual hardware.

First, there is Shared-Nothing migrations. Shared-Nothing migrations allow you to move a cloud server from one HyperV host to another HyperV host that has completely separate storage. You can move a cloud server from one server’s internal storage to another server’s SAN and back with no downtime.

Similarly, the new HyperV Replica feature allows you to create a “warm backup” replica copy of a cloud server.  If you have a super-critical server, HyperV Replica can duplicate it to another server or even another datacenter and keep it automatically up to date.

Much, Much More

Windows Server 2012 is a major update with an incredible range of new features; this blog post barely scratches the surface.  Keep your eyes open for my next blog post where I’ll talk about additional new features as well as our rollout plan.