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10 best new features of Windows Server 8

Doug Dineley | Sept. 15, 2011
With Windows Server 8, Microsoft has outdone itself, from a revamped UI to hundreds of new features, including vastly improved virtualization management

IP address management. Odds are you're using a spreadsheet or homegrown cobbleware to track your IP address allocations, and it's no fun at all. Windows Server 8 introduces a full-featured IP address manager that combines network discovery, static and dynamic address allocation, DNS and DHCP monitoring, and network auditing capabilities all in one place. Logging actual address usage, identifying conflicts, cross-referencing with hardware inventory, and providing an audit trail of all changes, the Windows IP Address Management Center goes way beyond record keeping. It has the potential to eliminate a huge time suck from your to-do list.

Dynamic Access Control. Today's folder-centric model for access control makes it all too easy for permissions to get garbled -- and auditing is a horror. Dynamic Access Control doesn't replace your current file and folder permissions, but allows you to layer global policies and claims-based access controls on top of them. For example, you might create a rule to ensure that only members of the finance group can access finance department files and strictly from a managed device -- and this rule could be enforced by all Windows Server 8 file servers (and only Windows Server 8 file servers) in your organization.

Dynamic Access Control uses tags applied to the files by users, supporting applications (think Microsoft Office), and Windows Server 8 itself (automatic classification). To implement, you create claims definitions and file property definitions in Active Directory; any Active Directory attribute can be used for access control. Claims travel with the user's security token. In a nice touch, the system now goes beyond the annoying "access denied" message. Instead of the stone wall, denied users can be presented with a remediation link to open a help ticket or contact the administrator or file owner to request access.

Large Hyper-V clusters. Windows Server 8 leaps into VMware territory and beyond with support for as many as 63 hosts and 4,000 VMs per cluster. Backing up the raw numbers are a slew of features that improve performance, manageability, availability, and security in large environments: cluster-aware patching, storage resource pools, thin provisioning, storage offload for data transfers, BitLocker encryption for cluster volumes, data deduplication, and live storage migration.

For the first time, you can team NICs from different vendors, with or without LACP support on your upstream switch. Windows Server 8 also brings Fibre Channel support to Hyper-V guests. You can configure multipath I/O or cluster guests with Fibre Channel for high availability, yet still make use of live migration.

Flexible live migration. Windows Server 8 introduces live storage migration, the ability to migrate virtual hard disks or configuration files for a running VM without interruption. And it removes shared storage as a requirement for migrations. You can now migrate VMs using nothing more than an Ethernet cable; first, the virtual disk is moved, then the running VM. The only requirement is that the hosts belong to the same domain.


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