What’s New In Windows Server 2012 R2

Windows Server 2012 only hit general release last September, but a preview of R2 will be released later this month with the final version to follow by the end of the year. Here are some of the main new features highlighted at TechEd North America 2013, including enhanced security features for remote workers and the addition of compression and RDMA support to Hyper-V.

Microsoft corporate VP for Windows Server Brad Anderson attributed the relatively rapid development cycle for Windows Server to a more integrated planning process. “We did common panning across Windows, Windows Server, System Center and Intune. We’re all on the exact same page. That’s enabled us to bring out more features more rapidly,” he said during the TechEd opening keynote. System Center 2012 RC2 will also be updated on a similar timeframe, and Intune will receive some enhancements designed to use those new features.

One key featured demonstrated during the session was the ability to authorise individual devices to use corporate networks. “We allow users to workplace join their devices to Active Directory,” said principal development lead Molly Brown. “You can put policy on the users’ identity and on the device.”

The option to do that is somewhat buried, under Settings –> Network –> Workplace. An individual user ID can be joined to the network with a click from this screen, and you can also select an option to enrol your device for management, which enables access to corporate app stores and other enterprise services. For two-factor authentication, Microsoft’s PhoneFactor system can be used to make an automated phone call to a user’s identified contact number (stored in Active Directory) which must be completed before access is allowed. If the join is removed, corporate data is automatically wiped, but personal data remains in place.

Devices which are authorised for management can access a Windows Store-like portal including app install links and contact information for support. Swiping up on this screen allows access to Work Folders, which lets you sync workplace directories with your local device. (I’m not sure why this feature isn’t made more visible on the main portal.) This option is also being introduced for iOS and Android (though not for BlackBerry).

Much of this capability relies on the cloud-based Intune management system, an often-ignored part of the Windows infrastructure but one which appears to be gaining traction. “We have more than 35,000 unique organisations using it right now and it is literally growing like a weed,” Anderson said.

Other changes being introduced in 2012 include alterations to Storage Spaces to enable separate tiering for SSD and conventional drives. In a demonstration, principal PM maager Jeff Woolsey suggested that could improve performance sixfold.

Further performance improvements for Hyper-V include the ability to apply compression to virtual machine images during live migrations or to use RDMA for faster replication. Woolsey said that option was able to “take advantage of lots of cores” in a typical virtualised environment: “Rarely is a Hyper-V server ever compute-bound.”

Visit Lifehacker’s World of Servers Newsroom for all the latest news from TechEd North America 2013. And don’t forget: TechEd is coming to Australia in September. Click here for more information.

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