Popular 10 New Features in Windows Server 2008
#1: Server Core.
One of the most exciting new features of Windows Server 2008 is its ability to install as a Server Core machine.
A Server Core installation provides a minimal environment for running specific server roles, which reduces the maintenance and management requirements and the attack surface for those server roles. A server running a Server Core installation supports the following server roles:
•Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS)
•Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS)
•Streaming Media Services
•Internet Information Services (IIS)
In Windows Server 2008, Server Core installation does not include the traditional full graphical user interface (GUI). This is, in a way, revolutionizing the way Microsoft is looking at GUI-based administration, a step enforced by other means such as Windows PowerShell and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, all allowing strong command line management capabilities.
There are, alas, some GUI tools you might want to use in Server Core. Some of these include:
Time, Date, and Time Zone Control Panel applet
Regional Settings Control Panel applet
Benefits of a Server Core installation
•Reduced maintenance - Because the Server Core installation option installs only what is required to have a manageable server for the AD DS, AD LDS, DHCP Server, DNS Server, File Services, Print Services, and Streaming Media Services roles, less maintenance is required than on a full installation of Windows Server 2008.
•Reduced attack surface - Because Server Core installations are minimal, there are fewer applications running on the server, which decreases the attack surface.
•Reduced management - Because fewer applications and services are installed on a server running the Server Core installation, there is less to manage.
•Less disk space required - A Server Core installation requires only about 1 gigabyte (GB) of disk space to install and approximately 2 GB for operations after the installation.
•Lower risk of bugs - Reducing the amount of code can help reduce the amount of bugs.
It's a part of the shipping operating system: the radically new command line tool that can either supplement or completely replace GUI-based administration.
#3: Hyper-V-Windows Server Virtualization.
Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V, the next-generation hypervisor-based server virtualization technology, is available as an integral feature of Windows Server 2008 R2 and enables you to implement server virtualization with ease. Hyper-V allows you to make the best use of your server hardware investments by consolidating multiple server roles as separate virtual machines (VMs) running on a single physical machine.
#4: Windows Hardware Error Architecture (WHEA).
Windows Hardware Error Architecture (WHEA) provides a common infrastructure for handling hardware errors on Windows platforms.
One of the problems facing error reporting is that there's so many different ways that devices report errors. There's no standardization across the hardware ecosystem. So that made it very difficult to write an application, up to now, that can aggregate all these different error sources and present them in a unified way. It means a lot of specific code for each of these types of sources, and it makes it very hard for any one application to deliver you a good error diagnostic and management interface.
Now, with hardware-oriented errors all being reported using the same socketed interface, third-party software can conceivably mitigate and manage problems, reopening a viable software market category for management tools.
#5: Address Space Load Randomization (ASLR)
ASLR makes certain that no two subsequent instances of an operating system load the same system drivers in the same place in memory each time.
It would never link with the operating system services that it might want to use. So if it wants to do anything with the OS like drop a file onto your disk, it's got to know where those operating system services live.Windows didn't previously randomize load addresses, that meant that if they wanted to call something in KERNEL32.DLL, KERNEL32.DLL on Service Pack 2 will always load in the same location in memory, on a 32-bit system. Every time the system boots, regardless of whose machine you're looking at. That made it possible for them to just generate tables of where functions were located."
Now, with each system service likely to occupy one of 256 randomly selected locations in memory, offset by plus or minus 16 MB of randomized address space, the odds of malware being able to locate a system service on its own have increased from elementary to astronomical.
#6: SMB2 network file system.
#7: Kernel Transaction Manager.
This is a feature which developers can take advantage of, which could greatly reduce, if not eliminate, one of the most frequent causes of System Registry and file system corruption: multiple threads seeking access to the same resource.
In a formal database, a set of instructed changes is stored in memory, in sequence, and then "committed" all at once as a formal transaction. This way, other users aren't given a snapshot of the database in the process of being changed - the changes appear to happen all at once. This feature is finally being utilized in the System Registry of both Vista and Windows Server 2008.
#8: Clean service shutdown.
One of Windows' historical problems concerns its system shutdown procedure. In XP, once shutdown begins, the system starts a 20-second timer. After that time is up, it signals the user whether she wants to terminate the application herself, perhaps prematurely.
In WS2K8, that 20-second countdown has been replaced with a service that will keep applications given the signal all the time they need to shut down, as long as they continually signal back that they're indeed shutting down.
#9: Parallel session creation.
Prior to Server 2008, session creation was a serial operation. If you've got a Terminal Server system, or you've got a home system where you're logging into more than one user at the same time, those are sessions. And the serialization of the session initialization caused a bottleneck on large Terminal Services systems. So Monday morning, everybody gets to work, they all log onto their Terminal Services system like a few hundred people supported by the system, and they've all got to wait in line to have their session initialized, because of the way session initialization was architected."
The new session model in both Vista and WS2K8 can initiate at least four sessions in parallel, or even more if a server has more than four processors. "If you've got a Vista machine where this architecture change actually was introduced, and you've got multiple Media Center extenders, those media center extenders are going to be able to connect up to the Media Center in parallel," he added. "So if you have a media center at home, and you send all their kids to their rooms and they all turn on their media extenders at the same time, they're going to be streaming media faster from their Vista machines then if you had Media Center on a XP machine."
#10: The self-healing NTFS file system. Ever since the days of DOS, an error in the file system meant that a volume had to be taken offline for it to be remedied. In WS2K8, a new system service works in the background that can detect a file system error, and perform a healing process without anyone taking the server down.
"So if there's a corruption detected someplace in the data structure, an NTFS worker thread is spawned," Russinovich explained, "and that worker thread goes off and performs a localized fix-up of those data structures. The only effect that an application would see is that files would be unavailable for the period of time that it was trying to access, had been corrupted. If it retried later after the corruption was healed, then it would succeed. But the system never has to come down, so there's no reason to have to reboot the system and perform a low-level CHKDSK offline."
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