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Windows Server 2012 R2 bulks up on storage and networking

Joab Jackson | June 6, 2013
Automated tiering, deduplication and a self-service cloud portal are among the new features in this Windows Server OS update.

Much like an OS automatically utilizes all the working memory it has, automated tiering can automatically fill all the SSD space allotted. Administrators can configure how much SSD space can be utilized, though the technology can run on its own automatically. No special tweaks are needed for the underlying NTFS (Network File Storage) file system.

Also new with Windows Server 2012 R2 on the storage front is a deduplication technology that could save a lot in storage space for those organizations that use Virtual Hard Disks, for uses such as supplying employees with virtual working environments. In these cases, the VHDs, all of which may contain an identical OS and applications, tend to be largely identical, so Windows Server can reduce all the identical bits into a single copy.

Counter-intuitively, deduplication can also speed the boot times of VHDs as well, Schutz explained. Because the VHDs are booted on the server and streamed to an end device, the server software can copy the identical bits from the first VHD booted directly from its working memory.

On the networking front, the update of Windows Server also speeds migration time of running virtual machines. Windows Server 2012 could already move a live running VM from one server to another. Now the OS can cut the time of this migration considerably. One technique is to compress the VM at the origin server, then decompress it at the target server, which means fewer bits get sent over the wire.

The update is also the first to use RDMA (remote direct memory access), in which a copy of the VM moves directly from the origin server's memory to the destination server's memory, without going through the processor of either server. This process can cut the transmission time by more than half.

Of course, this being the year of the Microsoft's "Cloud First" strategy, the company is also providing a number of potentially useful hooks into its Azure cloud service. One is the Hyper-V Recovery Service. The service can manage a number of backup VMs so that if the primary site goes down, the service will automatically switch operations to the VMs at the backup location. "It orchestrates the recovery in the proper order, so the back end comes up first, then the middle tier than the front end. You set up the process for how you want the backup site to come up," Schutz said.

Though both the primary and secondary sites can be on premise (rather than on Microsoft's Azure), the service itself operates from Azure because it would make sense that the origin of the recovery services should be in a location separate from the site of the primary operations themselves, given that whatever disaster befell the operations would probably also take out the recovery services as well. "You want an independent place, and you don't have to stand up a server or install software," Schutz said.


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