Microsoft previews next Windows Server

Windows Server 8 includes storage array management and virtual hard disk live migration

One day after Microsoft launched the first beta of the next generation of its Windows desktop operating system, Windows 8, the company previewed the next version of its server operating system, Windows Server 8.

"This is one of our broadest, deepest releases," said Satya Nadella, Microsoft's president for server and tools, at the Microsoft Build conference, being held this week in Anaheim, California.

The company did not offer a final release date for the operating system, which will replace the current version of the OS, Windows Server 2008.

Nadella stressed how this version of the OS would be more scalable than previous iterations.

The platform "is truly multi-tenant," Nadella said. "We've done a major revamp of how you can provision your compute, storage and network in support of your different application workloads."

The software has borrowed technologies developed when the company built its Azure cloud service, Nadella noted. "We can now have small clusters with high availability, so you don't need to be a large-scale provider to have high availability," Nadella said.

Three major new features were demonstrated during the presentation: storage array management, virtual hard disk live migration and the ability to transfer data using multiple network cards in a single server.

In a new feature called Storage Spaces, administrators can manage multiple drives connected by SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) without the need for additional storage management software. Microsoft program manager Bryon Surace showed how a machine could pool 16 separate hard drives as a single storage pool, from which multiple virtual drives can then be partitioned.

"Traditionally, it has required a specialized skillset to deploy and manage storage arrays," Surace said. With Windows Server 8, "You can just attach a bunch of disks to Windows and have them all managed and deployed right there."

The storage technology utilizes the Samba SMB 2.2 protocol.

Surace also demonstrated how a server could use multiple network connections to boost bandwidth. He showed how a single gigabit NIC (network interface controller) provided a typical throughput of about 100 megabytes per second. He then showed the throughput of a server with four high-speed NICs utilizing RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access). In this case, the throughput exceeded 2 gigabytes per second.

"With Windows Server 8, we can use multiple NICS simultaneously to help improve throughput and fault tolerance," Surace said. Such capabilities were "previously available only for high-performance computing," Surace said.

On the virtualization front, Surace showed off a new feature called live migration, in which the virtual hard disk of a VM (virtual machine) could be moved from one storage location to another, even as a copy of the VM was running.

Windows Server 8 is expected to be a major revision of the OS. Other features that Microsoft has demonstrated elsewhere include a significantly revamped PowerShell and an upgraded Hyper-V virtualization hypervisor.

Microsoft plans to reveal more Windows Server 8 features at Build this week.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
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