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Windows Server 2008 R2 Technology Primer

This chapter provides an overview of what's in Windows Server 2008 R2, explains how IT professionals have leveraged the technologies to improve IT services to their organization, and acts as a guide on where to find more information on these core technology solutions.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

In This Chapter

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Defined
  • When Is the Right Time to Migrate?
  • Versions of Windows Server 2008 R2
  • What's New and What's the Same About Windows Server 2008 R2?
  • Changes in Active Directory
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Benefits for Administration
  • Improvements in Security in Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Improvements in Mobile Computing in Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Improvements in Windows Server 2008 R2 for Better Branch Office Support
  • Improvements for Thin Client Remote Desktop Services
  • Improvements in Clustering and Storage Area Network Support
  • Addition of Migration Tools
  • Improvements in Server Roles in Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Identifying Which Windows Server 2008 R2 Service to Install or Migrate to First

Windows Server 2008 R2 became available in the summer of 2009. In many ways, it is just the next-generation server operating system update to Windows Server 2008, but in other ways, it is more than just a service pack type update with significant feature enhancements introduced in the version release. To the authors of this book, we see the similarities that Windows Server 2008 R2 has in terms of usability and common graphical user interfaces (GUIs) with previous versions of Windows Server that make it easy to jump in and start implementing the new technologies. However, after over two years of early adopter experience with Windows Server 2008 R2 and the Windows 7 client operating system, when properly implemented, the new features and technologies built in to Windows Server 2008 R2 really address shortcomings of previous versions of Windows Server and truly allow IT organizations to help organizations meet their business initiatives through the implementation of key technologies now included in Windows Server 2008 R2.

This chapter provides an overview of what's in Windows Server 2008 R2, explains how IT professionals have leveraged the technologies to improve IT services to their organization, and acts as a guide on where to find more information on these core technology solutions in the various chapters of this book.

Windows Server 2008 R2 Defined

Windows Server 2008 R2 is effectively the seventh generation of the Windows Server operating system. Upon initial boot, shown in Figure 1.1, Windows Server 2008 R2 looks like Windows 7 relative to icons, toolbars, and menus. However, because Windows Server 2008 R2 is more of a business functional operating system than a consumer or user operating system, things like the cute Windows Aero 3D interface are not installed by default, and the multimedia features found in the Windows 7 Home or Ultimate versions of the operating system are also not installed and enabled by default.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 Windows Server 2008 R2 desktop screen.

Under the surface, though, and covered through the pages of this chapter are the new technologies and capabilities built in to Windows Server 2008 R2.

Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Under the Hood

Although there are a lot of new features and functions added in to Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 that are covered in chapters throughout this book, one of the first places I like to start is around the things in Windows Server 2008/2008 R2 that you don't see that make up some of the core capabilities of the new operating system. These are technologies that make the new operating system faster, more reliable, and do more things—but they aren't features that you have to install or configure.

Self-Healing NTFS

One of the new embedded technologies in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 is self-healing NTFS. Effectively, the operating system has a worker thread that runs in the background, which makes corrections to the file system when NTFS detects a corrupt file or directory. In the past when there was a file system problem, you typically had to reboot the server for chkdsk to run and clean up file and directory corrupt errors.

This self-healing function is not something you will ever see running; however, it is an added capability under the hood in Windows Server 2008 R2 that keeps the operating system running reliably and with fewer system problems.

Server Message Block 2.0

Introduced in Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 is Server Message Block 2.0, more commonly called SMB2. SMB2 is a protocol that handles the transfer of files between systems. Effectively, SMB2 compresses file communications and, through a larger communications buffer, is able to reduce the number of round-trips needed when transmitting data between systems.

For the old-timers reading this chapter, it is analogous to the difference between the copy command and the xcopy command in DOS. The copy command reads, writes, reads, writes information. The xcopy command reads, reads, reads information and then writes, writes, writes the information. Because more information is read into a buffer and transferred in bulk, the information is transmitted significantly faster.

Most users on a high-speed local area network (LAN) won't notice the improvements when opening and saving files out of something like Microsoft Office against a Windows Server 2008/2008 R2 server; however, for users who might be copying up large image files or data sets between systems will find the information copying 10 to 30 times faster. The performance improvement is very noticeable in wide area network (WAN) situations on networks with high latency. Because a typical transfer of files requires short read and write segments of data, a file could take minutes to transfer across a WAN that can transfer in seconds between SMB2-connected systems because the round-trip chatter is drastically reduced.

For SMB2 to work effectively, the systems on both ends need to be Windows Server 2008/2008 R2 systems, Windows Vista or Windows 7 systems, or a combination of the two. A Windows XP client to a Windows Server 2008/2008 R2 server will communicate over SMB 1.0 for backward compatibility and will not gain from this new technology.

SMB2 and the benefits of this embedded technology are discussed in more detail in Chapter 32, "Optimizing Windows Server 2008 R2 for Branch Office Communications."


Hyper-V is a technology built in to the core of the operating system in Windows Server 2008 and expanded in Windows Server 2008 R2 that greatly enhances the performance and capabilities of server virtualization in a Windows environment. In the past, virtual server software sat on top of the network operating system and each guest session was dependent on many shared components of the operating system.

Hyper-V provides a very thin layer between the hardware abstract layer of the system and the operating system that provides guest sessions in a virtualized environment to communicate directly with the hardware layer of the system. Without having the host operating system in the way, guest sessions can perform significantly faster than in the past, and guest sessions can operate independent of the host operating system in terms of better reliability from eliminating host operating system bottlenecks.

Hyper-V and server virtualization is covered in more detail in Chapter 37, "Deploying and Using Windows Virtualization."

Core Parking

A technology enhanced in the core Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system is a power-management technology called core parking. Normally, when a multicore server runs, all cores on all processors run at the highest speed possible, regardless of whether the server is being utilized. For organizations that need high capacity during the weekdays when employees are working, that means their systems are effectively idle during evenings and weekends, or more than two thirds of the time, yet consuming power and expending heat. With core parking, servers with the latest processors that recognize core parking protocols will shut down cores on a system when not in use. So, on a 16-core server, if only 2 cores are needed, the other 14 cores are powered off automatically. This dramatically improves power management and decreases the cost of operations of server systems.

Windows Server 2008 R2 as an Application Server

As much as there have been significant improvements in Windows Server 2008 R2 under the hood that greatly enhance the performance, reliability, and scalability of Windows Server 2008 R2 in the enterprise, Windows servers have always been exceptional application servers hosting critical business applications for organizations. Windows Server 2008 R2 continues the tradition of the operating system being an application server with common server roles being included in the operating system. When installing Windows Server 2008 R2, the Server Manager Add Roles Wizard provides a list of server roles that can be added to a system, as shown in Figure 1.2.

Figure 1.2

Figure 1.2 Server roles in Windows Server 2008 R2.

The various server roles in Windows Server 2008 R2 typically fall into three categories, as follows:

  • File and print services—As a file and print server, Windows Server 2008 R2 provides the basic services leveraged by users in the storage of data and the printing of information off the network. Several improvements have been made in Windows Server 2008 R2 for file security (covered in Chapter 13, "Server-Level Security") and file server fault tolerance (covered in Chapter 28, "File System Management and Fault Tolerance").
  • Domain services—In enterprise environments running Windows networking, typically the organization is running Active Directory to provide centralized logon authentication. Active Directory continues to be a key component in Windows Server 2008 R2, with several extensions to the basic internal forest concept of an organization to expanded federated forests that allow Active Directories to interconnect with one another. There are several chapters in Part II, "Windows Server 2008 R2 Active Directory," that address Active Directory, federated forests, lightweight directories, and so on.
  • Application services—Windows Server 2008 R2 provides the basis for the installation of business applications such as Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Office SharePoint Services, SQL Server, and so on. These applications are initially made to be compatible with Windows Server 2008 R2, and later are updated to leverage and take full advantage of the new technologies built in to the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system. Some of the applications that come with Windows Server 2008 R2 include Remote Desktop Services for thin client computing access (covered in Chapter 25, "Remote Desktop Services"), Windows Media Services for video and audio hosting and broadcasting (covered in Chapter 36, "Windows Media Services"), utility server services such as DNS and DHCP (covered in Chapter 11, "DHCP/WINS/Domain Controllers," and Chapter 10, "Domain Name System and IPv6"), SharePoint document sharing and collaboration technologies (covered in Chapter 35, "Windows SharePoint Services"), and virtual server hosting (covered in Chapter 37).

This book focuses on the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system and the planning, migration, security, administration, and support of the operating system. Windows Server 2008 R2 is also the base network operating system on top of which all future Windows Server applications will be built.

Windows Server 2008 R2 Active Directory

Although Windows Server 2008 R2 provides a number of new server roles for application services, the release of Windows Server 2008 R2 also brings with it an update to Active Directory. Unlike the shift from Windows NT to Active Directory a decade ago that required a major restructuring of domain functions, Active Directory 2008 R2 is more evolutionary than revolutionary. AD 2008 R2 adds a handful of new features that organizations might or might not choose to upgrade to AD 2008 R2 immediately; however, many organizations have found that the new enhancements in Active Directory 2008 R2 were the primary reason for their migration.

The new features in Active Directory 2008 R2 are as follows:

  • Active Directory Recycle Bin—The AD Recycle Bin provides administrators an easy way to undelete objects in Active Directory. In the past, when an administrator inadvertently deleted an Active Directory object like a user, group, organizational unit container, or the like, the object was effectively gone and the administrator would have to create the object from scratch, which would create a whole new series of security principles for the new/unique object. The AD Recycle Bin now enables an administrator to simply run the recovery tool and undelete objects.
  • Managed Service Accounts—Applications in a network frequently use service accounts associated with the security to start a database, conduct data searches and indexing, or launch background tasks. However, when an organization changes the password of a service account, all servers with applications using the service account need to be updated with the new password, which is an administration nightmare. With Active Directory 2008 R2 mode, service accounts can be identified and then managed so that a password change to a service account will initiate a process of updating the service account changes to application servers throughout the organization.
  • Authentication Mechanism Assurance—Another Active Directory 2008 R2 feature is the enhancement of claims-based authentication in Active Directory. With authentication mechanism assurance, information in a token can be extracted whenever a user attempts to access a claims-aware application to determine authorization based on the user's logon method. This extension will be leveraged by future applications to improve claims-based authentication in the enterprise.
  • Offline Domain Join—For desktop administrators who create system images, the challenge of creating images is that a system needs to be physically connected to the network before the system can be joined to the domain. With Offline Domain Join, a system can be prejoined with a file created with a unique system credential written to a file. When a Windows 7 client system or Windows Server 2008 R2 server system needs to be joined, rather than physically connecting the system to the network and joining the system to the domain, this exported file can be used offline to join the system to the Active Directory domain.
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