Microsoft recently announced the release of Windows Small Business Server 2008 Standard and Premium Editions scheduled for release on November 12, 2008.
The release of Server 2008 marks one of the most significant upgrades Microsoft has made to its server line of software. Perhaps only the release of Windows 2000 was a more significant advance to the product line. Before the release of Windows 2000, only NT 4.0 was available for servers.
The new technologies present within Server 2008 will prove to be more beneficial to businesses than previous releases.
Small Business Server 2008 Standard and Premium Editions
Server 2008 marks the first release of a new Microsoft server product since Server 2003 R2. The innovations in the new release have been well worth the wait. With the release, as with Vista, Microsoft makes full use of the 64-bit processing environment that has been around for several years now.
Some of the key advances in the new release are an upgrade to the Active Directory (AD) infrastructure, which has been around since Windows 2000 was released. However, many features within Server 2008 are quite powerful and have taken the newest Microsoft server OS in a radically different direction.
The Small Business Server 2008 Standard Edition comes bundled with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Windows Server Update Services 3.0, Microsoft Forefront Security for Exchange Server, Windows Live OneCare for Server and Integration with Office Live Small Business.
The Small Business Server 2008 Premium Edition includes all of the products in the Standard edition plus Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Standard for Small Business.
Server Core is one of these radically new features. Server Core allows for a minimal version of Server 2008 to be installed on machines that only need specific functionality. For example, Server Core can be configured to take on common functions that servers normally perform such as those of the DHCP server, DNS server, file server and Active Directory, as well as operations such as streaming media, print services or even Windows virtualization.
Server Core is meant for the use of network administrators and server management personnel who could develop a highly specialized and efficient computing environment utilizing Server Core. A Server Core installation is very different from other Microsoft OS installations on a PC or server. The interface is minimal – mostly by command line, though a Task Manager or Notepad window can be called up.
IT professionals will appreciate a Server Core installation where it is needed. Maintenance under such an installation is at an absolute minimum since the server on which the software is installed is only focused on one particular function rather than the multiple functions on a full installation of Server 2008. There are also inherently less vulnerabilities for a would-be hacker to exploit under this setup, so security is a breeze. The simpler installation also guarantees less software bugs arising when they are least expected – such as when an application is installed that is not fully compatible with Microsoft software.
Considering all these benefits to a minimal installation, it becomes obvious that the management time involved with these specialized servers is also considerably reduced. Less management time translates into less maintenance by IT staff or, at least, a staff that does not waste time making sure the firewall is holding up or pinpointing a problem through multiple functions on a typical server.
Also in Server 2008 is the Hyper-V option, which enhances Microsoft’s presence in the world of virtualization. Virtualization allows for a single machine to take on the functions of two or more machines, utilizing resources simultaneously without causing overlap or conflict. Virtualization has so many benefits to the business world that they are difficult to number. The reduced number of machines in a virtual environment can save money for a business in many different ways. Fewer machines use less power in less space and can be effectively managed by fewer employees.
Today’s machines can handle the additional functionality that virtualization demands; oftentimes processor capacity, primary memory and hard drive space are wasted or never even used. Virtualizing a server environment is a trend we will continue to see over the next decade.
Microsoft’s previous virtualization release, Virtual Server, uses a popular virtualization technique called “host-based virtualization” where the primary OS installation runs a service called “Virtual Machine Monitor” (VMM) that provides the virtual environment to another operating system.
Hyper-V functions in a completely different way by using a hypervisor. A hypervisor creates an abstraction layer at the boot level, performing only minimal functions of the kernel, then abstracting the environment required to run multiple operating systems and their associated applications on top of the kernel. This translates into a much faster and more scalable virtual environment than the VMM methodology.
However, an important consideration is that Hyper-V is largely hardware dependent. To fully take advantage of the speed and scalability of a Hyper-V virtualization infrastructure from Microsoft typically requires hardware acceleration. This type of hardware is not uncommon, however. Examples of such are the AMD Pacifica and Intel VT extensions of their respective Opteron and Xeon processors.