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Windows Server 8: Massive storage enhancements ahead

Sandro Villinger | Sept. 15, 2011
In the first part of my 2-part review of Windows Server 8 I looked at some of the best of the more than 300 new features Microsoft packed into the upcoming server OS. Now it's time to turn our attention to some massive storage enhancements.

ChckDsk Ultimate: Live disk fixing

After decades of putting up with Chkdsk, which essentially takes your servers offline for hours in case of a hard drive disaster or crash, Microsoft came up with a major revamp of the infamous disk checker tool. ChkDsk offers (finally!) an online scan and corruption logging mechanism. It marks defective clusters and files during runtime and cleans them later using a technique called "Spot Repair," which shows itself both through the UI (Server Manager, Action Center) and PowerShell.

The "Spot Verifier Service," which is part of the Windows 8 client as well, attempts to repair disk issues on-the-fly. If that's not possible, maybe due to a more critical file system error, admins have the chance to attempt and perform an instant repair using the "spotfix" parameter or schedule a chkdsk for later.

If possible, chkdsk simply eliminates the errors that the "Online scan" feature logged, which takes only a few seconds or minutes compared to the hours that you'd have to wait on Windows Server 2008 R2.

Network performance and reliability

Being a server OS, Microsoft invested quite heavily in speeding up network performance and robustness. D-VMQ (Dynamic Virtual Machine Queue) helps avoid CPU bottlenecks in high-bandwidth situations by effectively aligning the network traffic to processor cores -- you'll end up using only a fraction of the original CPU performance under high bandwidth usage. Second, the overall prioritization of traffic has been improved, with the admin being in full charge of dynamically reserving bandwidth for particular traffic. Second, the new "NIC Teaming" feature allows you to combine adapters and essentially scale network performance with every NIC that gets added (e.g., get two 10 GB NICs and essential drive 20 GB down the lines). What's really interesting about this is the fact that you can combine NICs from different vendors (e.g. Broadcom or Intel).

In the reliability department, Windows Server 8's team has also done its homework: "DHCP Failover," which previously was left to 3rd party vendors and essentially left out of Windows Server 2008 R2. Now it's built right into Windows Server 8: it allows you to easily specify a secondary DHCP server, which immediately takes over on fails.

Remote FX: Big enhancements

Remotely logging on to a client over WAN (even LAN or via mobile broadband) had its drawbacks: lags, dropped video and slow file transfers. Remote FX has also been improved massively: Windows Server 8 automatically detects what type of content gets transferred over the remote connection and chooses the right codec (e.g. for text, images, videos -- h.264 is the key). RFX adapts to the current situation and reduces the bandwidth load drastically; depending on what type of content you're generally accessing remotely, you can expect a reduction of bandwidth of up to 90%.


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