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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Identifying Which Windows Server 2008 Service to Install or Migrate to First

With the release of Windows 2008, organizations need to create a plan to install or migrate to Windows 2008 in a logical manner. What was covered so far in this chapter has been all of the top features, functions, and technologies built in to Windows 2008 that organizations have found as key technologies they implemented to improve technology-driven business processes.

Because Windows 2008 provides many different functions, each organization has to choose how to best implement Windows 2008 and the various networking features that meet its own needs. In small network environments with fewer than 20 to 30 users, an organization might choose to implement all the Windows 2008 features on a single server. However, in larger environments, multiple servers might be implemented to improve system performance as well as provide fault tolerance and redundancy, and, thus, a more staged implementation of core services needs to be taken.

Windows Server 2008 Core to an Active Directory Environment

For an organization that does not have Windows Active Directory already in place, that is the first place to start because Active Directory Domain Services is key to application and user authentication. For organizations that already have a fully operational Active Directory running on Windows 2000 or Windows 2003, upgrading to Active Directory Domain Services on Windows 2008 might be something that is addressed a little later in the upgrade cycle when AD DS 2008 functionality is needed.

Because Active Directory is more than a simple list of users and passwords for authentication into a network, but rather a directory that Microsoft has embedded into the policy-based security, remote access security, and certificate-based security enhancements in Windows 2008, AD DS 2008 implementation does occur earlier in the migration cycle for organizations wanting to implement many of the new Windows 2008 technologies, such as Network Policy Services, Windows Deployment Services, Terminal Services Remote Programs, and so on.

When Active Directory Domain Services is fully leveraged, an organization can have its Human Resources (HR) department add an employee to the organization's HR software. The HR software automatically creates a user in the Active Directory, generating a network logon, an email account, a voicemail account, and remote access capabilities, and then links pager and mobile phone information to the employee. Likewise, if an employee is terminated, a single change in the HR software can issue automated commands to disable the individual's network, email, remote logon, and other network functions.

Windows 2008 extends the capabilities of the Active Directory by creating better management tools, provides for more robust directory replication across a global enterprise, and allows for better scalability and redundancy to improve directory operations. Windows 2008 effectively adds in more reliability, faster performance, and better management tools to a system that can be leveraged as a true enterprise directory provisioning, resource tracking, and resource management tool. Because of the importance of Active Directory to the Windows 2008 operating system, plus the breadth of capabilities that Active Directory can facilitate, six chapters in Part II of this book are dedicated to Active Directory.

Windows Server 2008 Running Built-in Application Server Functions

As much as Active Directory tends to be one of the first things upgraded in a networking environment because so many applications require the latest Active Directory to be in place, the real business drivers for migrating to Windows 2008 typically come from the built-in application server programs that are available on Windows 2008.

Windows Server 2008 comes with several programs and utilities to provide robust networking capabilities. In addition to the basic file and print capabilities covered earlier in this chapter, Windows 2008 can provide name resolution for the network and enable high availability through clustering and fault tolerance, mobile communications for dial-up and virtual private network connections, web services functions, and dozens of other application server functions.

When convincing management that an upgrade to Windows 2008 is important, the IT professional needs to sift through the technologies built in to Windows 2008 and pick those services that help an organization use technology to achieve its business initiatives. When planning the implementation of Windows 2008, a network architect needs to consider which of the server services are desired, how they will be combined on servers, and how they will be made redundant across multiple servers for business continuity failover.

For a small organization, the choice to combine several server functions to a single system or to just a few systems is one of economics. However, an organization might distribute server services to multiple servers to improve performance (covered in Chapter 34), distribute administration (covered in Chapter 18, "Windows Server 2008 Administration"), create server redundancy (covered in Chapter 29), create a disaster recovery strategy (covered in Chapter 31, "Recovering from a Disaster"), enable security (covered in Chapter 13), or to serve users in other remote site locations of the organization (covered in Chapter 32).

Some of the built-in application server functions in Windows 2008 include the following:

  • Domain controller—Like in previous versions of the Windows operating system, the domain controller allows users to authenticate to the domain for access to network resources.
  • Global catalog server—The global catalog server is a domain controller that also stores a subset of AD DS objects from other domains in the forest. When an internal or external user with appropriate security rights wants to look at a list of Active Directory users in the forest, the global catalog server provides the list.
  • DNS server—The domain name system (DNS) maintains a list of network servers and systems and their associated IP addresses, so a DNS server provides information about the devices connected to the network.
  • DHCP server—The Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) assigns IPv4 and/or IPv6 network addresses to devices on the network. Windows 2008 provides the service function to facilitate DHCP addresses to network devices.
  • Cluster server—When fault tolerance is important to an organization, clustering provides failover from one system to another. Windows 2008 provides the ability to link systems together so that when one system fails, another system takes over.
  • Network policy server—NPS is the Microsoft implementation of a Remote Authentication Dial-in User Service (RADIUS) server and proxy. NPS performs centralized connection authentication, authorization, and accounting for many types of network access, including wireless and virtual private network (VPN) connections. NPS routes authentication and accounting messages to other RADIUS servers. It also acts as a health evaluation server for Network Access Protection (NAP).
  • Terminal server—Instead of having a full desktop or laptop computer for each user on the network, organizations have the option of setting up simple, low-cost thin terminals for users to gain access to network resources. Windows 2008 Terminal Services allows a single server to host network system access for dozens of users.
  • Remote access server—When a remote user has a desktop or laptop system and needs access to network services, Windows 2008 provides remote access services that allow the remote systems to establish a secure remote connection.
  • Web server—As more and more technologies become web-aware and are hosted on web servers, Windows 2008 provides the technology to host these applications for browser-based access.
  • Media server—With information extending beyond text-based word processing documents and spreadsheets into rich media such as video and audio, Windows 2008 provides a source for hosting and publishing video and audio content.
  • Virtualization server—Windows 2008 provides the core capabilities to do server virtualization, providing the capability for an organization to consolidate physical servers into fewer host server systems, thus decreasing the total cost of IT operations.
  • Distributed File System (DFS) server—For the past decade, data files have been stored on file servers all around an organization. Windows 2008 provides Distributed File Systems that allow an organization to take control of distributed files into a common unified namespace.

These plus several other functions provide robust networking services that help organizations leverage the Windows 2008 technologies into solutions that solve business needs.

Windows Server 2008 Running Add-in Applications Server Functions

Although some of the newer, built-in server application functions in Windows 2008, such as Network Policy Server, server virtualization, Terminal Services Web Access, Media Server, and so on, provide key areas for organizations to select as initial areas to implement Windows 2008 technologies, other organizations might find add-in applications as being the key areas that drive an initial implementation of Windows 2008. Some of the add-in applications come from Microsoft, such as the Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 SP1 messaging system or Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database system. Other add-ins to Windows 2008 are provided by companies that provide human resource management applications; accounting software; document management tools; fax or voicemail add-ins; or other business, industry, or user productivity capabilities.

In earlier Windows Server operating systems, the core operating system provided simple logon and network connectivity functions; however, with Windows 2008, the operating system includes many core capabilities built in to the Windows 2008 operating environment. With integrated fault tolerance, data recovery, server security, remote access connectivity, web access technologies, and similar capabilities, organizations creating add-ins to Windows 2008 can focus on business functions and capabilities, not on core infrastructure reliability, security, and mobile access functionality. This off-loading of the requirement of third-party add-in organizations to implement basic networking technologies into their applications allows these developers to focus on improving the business productivity and functionality of their applications. Additionally, consolidating information routing, security, remote management, and so on into the core operating system provides a common method of communication, authentication, and access to users without having to load up special drivers, add-ins, or tools to support each and every new application.

Much of the shift from application-focused infrastructure components to core operating system-focused functionality was built in to Windows 2000 and then later enhanced in Windows 2003. There were many challenges to earlier versions of the Windows operating system; however, after being on the market for many years now, Windows 2008 add-ins have had several revisions to work through system functionality and component reliability between application and operating system. Fortunately, Windows 2008 uses the same application/operating system technology used in Windows 2003, so applications written for Windows 2003 typically need just a simple service pack update to be able to run on Windows 2008 if anything at all.

Summary

This introductory chapter was intended to highlight the new features, functions, migration tools, and management utilities in Windows Server 2008 that will help administrators take advantage of the capabilities of the new operating system. If Windows 2008 is seen as just a simple upgrade to Windows 2000/2003, an organization will not benefit from the operating system enhancements. However, when fully leveraged with the capabilities of the Windows 2008 operating system, an organization can improve services to its employees through the use of new tools and technologies built in to the operating system.

Because Windows 2008 is a relatively simple migration from existing Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 Active Directory environments, and Windows 2008 application servers can be added to existing Active Directory 2000 and 2003 domains, the migration process really is one where the IT administrators need to prioritize which Windows 2008 services to install or migrate to first, and to then plan and test the new technologies to make sure they improve IT services to the organization.

Best Practices

The following are best practices from this chapter:

  • When implementing Windows 2008 for the first time, or migrating to Windows 2008 from a previous version of Windows, choose to implement the technologies in Windows 2008 that will provide the organization the most value in terms of employee productivity enhancements or regulatory compliance security improvements first.
  • When considering adding a Windows 2008 server to an existing Windows 2000/2003 Active Directory environment, consider implementing things like Terminal Services Web Access, SharePoint Services, or Windows virtualization that have proven to be pretty easy to implement and provide a lot of value to organizations.
  • To ultimately improve Windows security, tune and optimize Windows 2008 for a secured networking environment.
  • Use Terminal Services in Windows 2008 to provide users access to local hard drives as well as to redirect the audio from a centralized Terminal Server to a remote system.
  • Use Windows Deployment Services (WDS) to create client system images that can be quickly and easily rolled back through Group Policy.
  • Windows 2008 virtualization can help organizations deploy clustering and add in disaster recovery data centers without having to add additional physical servers to the network.
  • Remote and branch office locations greatly benefit from the use of Read-Only Domain Controllers, Distributed File System Replication, BitLocker security, and distributed administration tools built in to Windows 2008.
  • Using the new Windows 2008 Server Manager can simplify the task of a network administrator trying to access information residing on different servers and in different server roles in the environment.
  • It is best to run the Group Policy Management Console on a Windows 2008 or Windows Vista system to have access to all of the policy features available (compared with running GPMC on a Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 system).
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