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Microsoft takes off the gloves with Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1

Tom Henderson | Nov. 20, 2013
Long list of updates answer criticisms and throw punches at virtualization, cloud foes

The Bad News
We found head-scratchers and limitations. We found several initial foibles installing the operating system on bare metal to what should be generic hardware. We were able to overcome them, but warn installers that they'll need to consider that Windows 2012 and especially R2 might require updated server BIOS firmware to UEFI-compatible, as happened with our Lenovo ThinkServer and HP DL 380 Gen8 servers. When Windows 2012 R2 can't install (R2 or Hyper-V V3-R2), we received an inarticulate flash of an error message. We actually took a video of it to capture that there was a problem with ACPI -- and not UEFI. The turf between platform providers and OS/hypervisor makers is still real and strong, but Microsoft isn't alone, as we've incurred driver/platform mysticism with VMware and Oracle, too.  

We found the Hyper-V role cannot be re-instantiated. This means that no hypervisor on top of a hypervisor. Microsoft claims that there has been no customer demand for this, but it also imposes a limitation. Although running a hypervisor atop a hypervisor seems silly, there are cases where it's useful. One role often cited is in production test labs, and another where Microsoft's SDN is used -- Hyper-V V3 must always be the base layer talking to the metal and silicon of a server, precluding other schemes direct access to the metal and therefore impeding other SDN schemes.

The Azure Pack uses the same Hyper-V infrastructure as Windows Server 2012 R2. Microsoft offers a sample of what other third party providers may offer in the form of services and ready-to-deploy pre-built appliances. We were reminded of what TurnKeyLinux started several years ago, in terms of usable appliances built from Linux substrates. There isn't a huge variety of appliance samples available, but what we tested, worked -- full WordPress websites that were ready for skins and customizations.

A Service Bus, actually message bus, connects components in the clouds serviced by the Azure Pack and Hyper-V. The Service Bus connects Microsoft-specific API sets, after a framework "namespace" is created. Communications can be subscribed and published to the framework and its members in the namespace talk via REST, Advanced Message Queueing Protocol/AMQP, and Windows instrumentation APIs. The Service Bus reminds us of products like Puppet, Chef, and others in the Linux world, communicating in a stack-like framework for rapid deployment and ease of VM and infrastructure fleet management.

Windows 8.1
Where Windows 8.1 is upgraded on Windows 7 or Windows 8 platforms, the upgrade was fast and made no mistakes. Windows XP can be run atop Hyper-V or in a Type 2 hypervisor application, but we didn't test this, as we've retired Windows XP completely and we hope that readers have, too. Like Windows 8.0, 8.1 can use the latest version of Hyper-V V3 as a foundation, so that other OS versions can be used on the same host hardware, with resource limitations to guests or 8.1, SDN, IPAM, and other Hyper-V features.

 

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