'Windows Server 8' Previewed at Build Conference
Microsoft described improvements in its next-generation server technology, code-named "Windows Server 8," at its Build conference for developers today. The Day 2 details just scratched the surface of what to expect with the new server when it's released. The main keynote message by Satya Nadella, president of Server and Tools Business, is that Windows Server 8 is "the most cloud-optimized OS" being developed by Microsoft.
Windows Server 8 shares some symmetries with Windows Azure, Nadella said. Microsoft is making changes in Windows Server 8 to address how cloud or virtualized infrastructures are provisioned to support workloads. Microsoft is improving Windows Server 8 to leverage high-availability infrastructures using high-scale clusters. Nadella also said Microsoft is continuing to invest in supporting scale-up infrastructures, without going into the details.
A new Windows Server 8 capability highlighted at Build is "storage spaces." It will allow users to take just-a-bunch-of-disks (JBOD) collections and carve out a space or pool that shows up as a drive using the new Server Manager. Users can use this feature to simply attach JBODs to Windows Server 8, explained Brian Surace, a senior program manager on the Windows team. No external storage array was used to create the pool. The improved Server Message Block 2.1 (SMB 2.1) protocol helped to make this pooled storage available, he said.
With regard to Windows Server 8 networking using Hyper-V, Surace noted that the system drive for a virtual machine can be supported by a remote file share in Windows Server 8, which is a new feature. Performance can be improved by using the SMB 2.1 protocol and remote direct memory access (RDMA) technology along with multiple high-speed network interface cards (NICs). Surace demonstrated how the data transfer rate of a 1 GB NIC can bump up to 2 GB via the use of SMB 2.1 and RDMA technologies. The improved throughput was accomplished by using only 15 percent of the NIC's throughput and one percent of the CPU processing power on the server, Surace said.
On the virtualization front, Microsoft has improved its live migration feature that was first delivered in Windows Server 2008 R2. Live migration in Windows Server 2008 R2 allowed users to move virtual machines from one physical computer to another with little service disruption. However, the migration presumed that "the virtual hard disk always remained consistent on shared storage," Surace explained.
"Now, with Windows Server 8, we can actually move that virtual hard disk from one storage device to another without any service downtime or interruption." In the demo, he showed how to move a virtual hard disk from local storage to a remote file share without disrupting services.
Nadella signaled that Microsoft will have a lot more to say about Windows Server 8 in the near future. The bits for the new server, which are currently available at the "developer preview" stage, were released today just for Microsoft's MSDN subscribers.
Bill Lang, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Server and Tools Division, has given some hints about the efforts that have gone into building the Windows Server 8 in a blog post today. Microsoft used multiple customer surveys and meetings to formulate its plans, which were based on receiving more than 6,000 customer requirements, he indicated.
Lang, who spearheads the engineering efforts on Windows Server and Windows Azure, had kicked off a two-day Microsoft event called the "Windows Server 8 Reviewer Workshop," which was held late last week in Redmond, Wash. The event featured presentations by Windows Server 8 team members. More details from that event will be described.
It's not clear when Windows Server 8 will be available, but it may arrive close to the Windows 8 client product delivery schedule since the server and client share a common code base. Microsoft has released no details, but experts predict April 2012 as an early estimate for delivery of the Windows 8 product or sometime in 2013.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.