Things don't get a lot more exciting at Microsoft than when a new operating system is released. Last month, we shined the spotlight on Windows 7; this month we turn the bright beam on Windows Server 2008 R2.
R2, or "Release 2," isn't on the order of magnitude, of course, of Windows 7. However, those two OSes are tightly tied together. And much the same way that Windows 7 took what was good in Windows Vista, stripped out some of the bad, and added overall tweaks, R2 builds on the foundation of Windows Server 2008 and enhances much of the functionality.
Our cover story, by renowned author William Stanek, covers the new and changed stuff in Windows Server 2008 R2. Start with the fact that it's Microsoft's first-ever 64-bit only OS. While that may cause some anxiety among administrators, it makes perfect sense. Today's applications, networking stacks, infrastructures and Internet demands call for the power and memory management of a 64-bit OS; the old 32-bit architectures just aren't up to the task in many cases.
One of the most-anticipated features of Windows Server 2008 R2 is Branch Cache. This takes much of the strain off of your WAN by caching local copies of data downloaded from your company's datacenter. The other new Windows Server 2008 R2 feature sure to float your boat is DirectAccess.
DirectAccess lets your remote users on Windows 7 endpoints connect to your corporate network without the need for a VPN. Can you say "alllrrriiiight!"? Not only is DirectAccess highly secure, using IPsec for authentication and encryption, but it allows you to manage those remote computers as if they were on your local corporate network.
Of course, it would help to know how prepared your environment is to upgrade to the new OSes. That's where the latest version of the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit comes in. Rob Polly provides an overview of MAP 4.0, which has been specially tuned to determine the best way to add Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 to your existing infrastructure.
In all, these new features provide a compelling reason to, one, upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2, and, two, upgrade to Windows 7. They're good separately, but even better together.
Keith Ward, an MCSE and MCP, is an editor and writer for 1105 Media Inc.'s Enterprise Computing Group, publishers of Redmond, Visual Studio Magazine and Virtualization Review. He's been covering Microsoft technology since 2000.
Thanks to the following Microsoft technical experts: Paul Andrew, Cameron King, Jie Li, Sanjeev Nair, Baldwin Ng, Michael Schmidt, Gaile Simmons, Kimberly L. Tripp