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What's New in Networking

Updated: January 9, 2009

Applies To: Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2

What are the major changes?

The Windows Server® 2008 R2 and Windows® 7 operating systems include networking enhancements that make it easier for users to get connected and stay connected regardless of their location or type of network. These enhancements also enable IT professionals to meet the needs of their business in a secure, reliable, and flexible way.

New networking features covered in this topic include:

  • What does DirectAccess do?, which enables users to access an enterprise network without the extra step of initiating a virtual private network (VPN) connection.

  • What does VPN Reconnect do?, which automatically re-establishes a VPN connection as soon as Internet connectivity is restored, saving users from re-entering their credentials and re-creating the VPN connection.

  • What does BranchCache do?, which enables updated content from file and Web servers on a wide area network (WAN) to be cached on computers at a local branch office, improving application response time and reducing WAN traffic.

  • What does URL-based QoS do?, which enables you to assign a priority level to traffic based on the URL from which the traffic originates.

  • What does mobile broadband device support do?, which provides a driver-based model for devices that are used to access a mobile broadband network.

  • What do multiple active firewall profiles do?, which enable the firewall rules most appropriate for each network adapter based on the network to which it is connected.

Who will be interested in these features?

The following groups might be interested in these features:

  • IT managers

  • System architects and administrators

  • Network architects and administrators

  • Security architects and administrators

  • Application architects and administrators

  • Web architects and administrators

What does DirectAccess do?

With the DirectAccess feature introduced in Windows Server 2008 R2, domain member computers running Windows 7 can connect to enterprise network resources whenever they connect to the Internet. During access to network resources, a user connected to the Internet has virtually the same experience as if connected directly to an organization's local area network (LAN). Furthermore, DirectAccess enables IT professionals to manage mobile computers outside of the office. Each time a domain member computer connects to the Internet, before the user logs on, DirectAccess establishes a bi-directional connection that enables the client computer to stay up to date with company policies and receive software updates.

Security and performance features of DirectAccess include authentication, encryption, and access control. IT professionals can configure the network resources to which each user can connect, granting unlimited access or allowing access only to specific servers or networks. DirectAccess also offers a feature that sends only the traffic destined for the enterprise network through the DirectAccess server. Other Internet traffic is routed through the Internet gateway that the client computer uses. This feature is optional, and DirectAccess can be configured to send all traffic through the enterprise network.

Are there any special considerations?

The DirectAccess server must be running Windows Server 2008 R2, must be a domain member, and must have two physical network adapters installed. Dedicate the DirectAccess server only to DirectAccess and do not have it host any other primary functions. DirectAccess clients must be domain members running Windows 7. Use the Add Features Wizard in Server Manager to install the DirectAccess Management console, which enables you to set up the DirectAccess server and monitor DirectAccess operations after setup.

Infrastructure considerations include the following:

  • Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS). At least one Active Directory® domain must be deployed. Workgroups are not supported.

  • Group Policy. Group Policy is recommended for deployment of client settings.

  • Domain controller. At least one domain controller in the domain containing user accounts must be running Windows Server 2008 or later.

  • Public key infrastructure (PKI). A PKI is required to issue certificates. External certificates are not required. All SSL certificates must have a certificate revocation list (CRL) distribution point that is reachable via a publicly resolvable fully qualified domain name (FQDN) while either local or remote.

  • IPsec policies. DirectAccess uses IPsec to provide authentication and encryption for communications across the Internet. It is recommended that administrators be familiar with IPsec.

  • IPv6. IPv6 provides the end-to-end addressing necessary for clients to maintain constant connectivity to the enterprise network. Organizations that are not yet ready to fully deploy IPv6 can use IPv6 transition technologies such as Intra-Site Automatic Tunnel Addressing Protocol (ISATAP), Teredo, and 6to4 to connect across the IPv4 Internet and to access IPv4 resources on the enterprise network. IPv6 or transition technologies must be available on the DirectAccess server and allowed to pass through the perimeter network firewall.

What does VPN Reconnect do?

VPN Reconnect is a new feature of Routing and Remote Access service (RRAS) that provides users with seamless and consistent VPN connectivity, automatically reestablishing a VPN when users temporarily lose their Internet connection. Users who connect using wireless mobile broadband will benefit most from this capability. With VPN Reconnect, Windows 7 automatically reestablishes active VPN connections when Internet connectivity is reestablished. Although the reconnection might take several seconds, it is transparent to users.

VPN Reconnect uses IPsec tunnel-mode with Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2), which is described in RFC 4306, specifically taking advantage of the IKEv2 mobility and multihoming extension (MOBIKE) described in RFC 4555.

Are there any special considerations?

VPN Reconnect is implemented in the RRAS role service of the Network Policy and Access Services (NPAS) role of a computer running Windows Server 2008 R2. Infrastructure considerations include those for NPAS and RRAS. Client computers must be running Windows 7 to take advantage of VPN Reconnect.

What does BranchCache do?

With BranchCache, content from Web and file servers on the enterprise WAN is stored on the local branch office network to improve response time and reduce WAN traffic. When another client at the same branch office requests the same content, the client can access it directly from the local network without obtaining the entire file across the WAN. BranchCache can be set up to operate in either a distributed cache mode or a hosted cache mode. Distributed cache mode uses a peer-to-peer architecture. Content is cached at the branch office on the client computer that firsts requests it. The client computer subsequently makes the cached content available to other local clients. Hosted cache mode uses a client/server architecture. Content requested by a client at the branch office is subsequently cached to a local server (called the hosted cache server), where it is made available to other local clients. In either mode, before a client retrieves content, the server where the content originates authorizes access to the content, and content is verified to be current and accurate using a hash mechanism.

Are there any special considerations?

BranchCache supports HTTP, including HTTPS, and Server Message Block (SMB), including signed SMB. Content servers and the hosted cache server must be running Windows Server 2008 R2, and client computers must be running Windows 7.

What does URL-based QoS do?

QoS marks IP packets with a Differentiated Services Code Point (DSCP) number that routers then examine to determine the priority of the packet. If packets are queued at the router, higher priority packets are sent before lower priority packets. With URL-based QoS, IT professionals can prioritize network traffic based on the source URL, in addition to prioritization based on IP address and ports. This gives IT professionals more control over network traffic, ensuring that important Web traffic is processed before less-important traffic, even when that traffic originates at the same server. This can improve performance on busy networks. For example, you can assign Web traffic for critical internal Web sites a higher priority than external Web sites. Similarly non-work-related Web sites that can consume network bandwidth can be assigned a lower priority so that other traffic is not affected.

What does mobile broadband device support do?

The Windows 7 operating system provides a driver-based model for mobile broadband devices. Earlier versions of Windows require users of mobile broadband devices to install third-party software, which is difficult for IT professionals to manage because each mobile broadband device and provider has different software. Users also have to be trained to use the software and must have administrative access to install it, preventing standard users from easily adding a mobile broadband device. Now, users can simply connect a mobile broadband device and immediately begin using it. The interface in Windows 7 is the same regardless of the mobile broadband provider, reducing the need for training and management efforts.

What do multiple active firewall profiles do?

Windows Firewall settings are determined by the profile that you are using. In previous versions of Windows, only one firewall profile can be active at a time. Therefore, if you have multiple network adapters connected to different network types, you still have only one active profile—the profile providing the most restrictive rules. In Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7, each network adapter applies the firewall profile that is most appropriate for the type of network to which it is connected: Private, Public, or Domain. This means that if you are at a coffee shop with a wireless hotspot and connect to your corporate domain network by using a VPN connection, then the Public profile continues to protect the network traffic that does not go through the tunnel, and the Domain profile protects the network traffic that goes through the tunnel. This also addresses the issue of a network adapter that is not connected to a network. In Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, this unidentified network will be assigned the Public profile, and other network adapters on the computer will continue to use the profile that is appropriate for the network to which they are attached.

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