At the April monthly meeting of AITP Nashville chapter we enjoyed a presentation by Matt Hester of Microsoft (Twitter @matthewhester). Matt’s presentation was part of a tour he conducted during the spring of 2010 to both promote Microsoft technology and his recently published book on Server 2008 R2.
Matt lives in Cincinnati Ohio and travels extensively with his role as IT Pro Evangelist. He moved from Dallas, at first he had mixed feelings regarding the move but later it was a blessing in disguise since now he can spend more time with his father. It’s good to see a professional make a move based on factors in addition to obvious career goals. Matt’s role as an evangelist is to support and grow the IT community and promote the adoption of technology. Matt’s focus at our last meeting was on Windows Server 2008 R2 and he has written a book recently on that subject.
Matt spent the first part of his dialog with us explaining Microsoft’s road-map for some of its major product lines.
- Microsoft is committed to providing a solid platform for directory services with their active directory extensions and improvements.
- Virtualization of computers, both servers and desktops is a rapidly growing sector in IT and Microsoft is extending the capabilities of their Hyper-V technologies to take on the market leader VMware.
- Webservices provided by IIS have seen some significant improvements. Microsoft claim that their IIS product now out performs Apache and has been re-engineered to be interoperable with Linux servers running SUSE, Ubuntu and also support for PHP as an adjunct to their .NET platform.
- Cloud computing is becoming increasingly popular with corporations and Microsoft have recently brought to market their Azure product line. The primary selling point to IT departments and corporations is that Azure can transform a corporations IT division from a cost center into a strategic asset. Currently 80% of companies operate their data centers as cost centers, Azure allows corporations to relocate the local data center to ‘the cloud’ or a data center operated by a company that specializes in hosting and managing large data centers. Microsoft are of course such a provider along with other leading providers such as Amazon EC2/S3, Google Apps, GoGrid, ElasticHosts etc.
Matt then continued his discussion with specifics regarding Server 2008 R2. Service pack 1 has been announced, some of the features to lookout for are
- Remote Terminal Services improvements. One drawback to remote access is that graphics especially video do not work well or at all. RemoteFX extensions now make streaming video transmit reliably over a remote access session.
- Hyper V has been extended so that it can now be considered to have ‘feature parity’ with VMware. Microsoft are therefore claiming they have ‘caught up’ with the leading vendor in this industry segment.
- The AD Admin center can have multiple administration levels/roles, so some AD admin tasks can be delegated to the help desk (i.e. password resets) without giving access to all admin controls. The admin center also supports canned filters to quickly identify users with expired passwords, geographic location, empty AD attributes etc. There is also now a ‘recycle bin’ for deleted users (however this is rudimentary is only available via the command line).
- Better support for Solid State Drives. Virtual servers can achieve phenomenal performance boosts by moving to solid state drives for critical boot and paging resources.
- One feature to get excited about is the ability to add storage to a Virtual Machine while it is running. This is accomplished using the Hyper-V manager. The command line tool Disk2VHD creates Virtual Hard Drives to allow one to add the extra storage to the running virtual machine(s). This is very useful for high availability servers, no need to shutdown the server to add storage as storage demands grow.
- Microsoft have provided a ‘Best Practices Analyzer’ for Server 2008 R2 as they have with other Microsoft products. It provides a detailed analysis of your implementation of Server 2008 R2 and compares the configuration to a model ‘best practice’ configuration and provides interactive help in resolving common configuration mistakes.
Matt also discussed Microsoft’s latest desktop operating system, Windows 7 and what to expect in the yet to be released SP1 (service pack 1). XPMode is a real-time virtualization option for Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise which runs applications inside a Windows XP virtual machine, ensuring backward compatibility for older applications. XPMode is not new in SP1, but what is new is the removal for the need for Hardware Assisted virtualization, therefore making the solution available on a wider range of computers. This change is as a result of feedback received from users of Windows 7 in corporate environments.
If you have an idea or feedback regrading Microsoft products, send an email to MSWISH@microsoft.com.