The recent launch of Windows Server 2012 has created new ways for government organisations to manage the very heart of their IT – the programs and data in their datacentres. Wayne Meyer, Server and Tools Product Manager at Microsoft outlines its benefits.

Our customers tell us that they’re facing huge pressure to transform the datacentres. Driven on one hand by aging hardware and led on the other by the desire for the latest applications, mobile working, ‘bring your own device’ and the need to wring insight out of a rising tide of data.

In this context, more than 1,000 new features in Windows Server 2012 offer government organisations powerful new opportunities for great flexibility, agility and efficiency, including:

  • IT as a service. Windows Server 2012 can help you move towards an incredibly flexible approach to data processing. You can move workloads from on-premise private clouds to cloud-hosted Azure or service cloud providers and back, for example to respond to increasing demand, peak loads, to deal with issues of data sovereignty or just to take advantage of market-driven price changes in capacity.
     
  • Ultimate scalability. Our virtualisation technology (Hyper-V 3) lets companies scale out ever-larger virtual infrastructures. Customers can now build infrastructure which can support up to 8,000 virtual machines in a cluster, 1TB of memory per VM, 64TB virtual disks and support for up to 64 processors. Microsoft itself run its websites on virtualised servers and delivering billions of hits each month, Bing.com, MSDN and Technet are great references for Windows Server 2012 running web properties on an epic scale.
     
  • Network virtualisation. In the past hosting companies had to create virtual networks using real (expensive) hardware but now Windows Server 2012 lets them do this in software, which cuts costs. It also means that they can reallocate servers easily without changing the physical infrastructure of their network or the systems’ IP addresses. What we are able to offer customers is the ability to dynamically move applications across clouds without having to reconfigure changes to the underlying network and policies.
  • Write once, run anywhere. Customers can now write applications in .NET, PHP, Java and other languages, support them across all different platforms and manage them with a single toolset, either using System Center or Powershell.
     
  • Epic storage. Windows Server 2012 gives IT departments the benefit of a SAN (Storage Area Network) without having to buy expensive SAN storage. You can create pools of storage from a collection of physical disks attached to the server. You can add or remove physical disks dynamically depending on the storage requirements. This means that companies can optimise their storage based on the hardware they have today and still have flexibility to add more in future. Imagine having a fast-growing SQL database. You can give it a very large amount of theoretical storage and then add physical disks as needed. In addition to Storage Pools, Windows Server 2012’s introduces the ability to de-duplicate disk data . This is built directly into the operating system and it is a scheduled task so you can choose when you want the de-duplication to take place and minimise the performance hit during peak times. We’ve seen customers save 60% on a disk by using this  capability of Windows Server 2012.
  • Automation. One of the key components to running an efficient datacentre is to have automated operations. Now, Sysadmins can work more efficiently by creating re-usable scripts using Windows PowerShell, – anything you can do with the graphical user interface can also be scripted. So once you’ve got a process that works you can convert it into a script and run it automatically. This saves time and lets IT experts spend more time on strategic tasks and less time on routine operations. The scripts you use on a daily basis can be used in System Center to deliver automated services.
  • Single sign-on and identity. The new server software gives users a common, federated identity across different environments, from on-premise to cloud-hosted systems. The enables businesses to create personalised experiences, deliver the right applications to the right users and ensure security meets the company’s compliance policies.
     
  • Virtual desktops. We’ve simplified VDI implementation. It doesn’t require a separate third-party application to deploy virtual desktops for users. It’s built into Windows Server 2012. The latest version delivers a high-fidelity virtual desktop experience out of the box. The rich virtual desktop experience supports USB redirect over WAN, 10-point touch to enable virtual experiences even in the touch-enabled world.

Now that Windows Server 2012 has arrived, what should companies do?

  • First, they need to take stock of what they currently have. What licences and agreements do they have in place? What investment plans do they have? If you’re on Windows Server 2003 or older, you’re probably thinking about upgrading already. Similarly, if you’re using VMware, you may find real savings by switching out the hypervisor to Hyper-V and the management platform to System Center.  
  • Second, they need to get their IT pros and administrators trained up. There are plenty of resources out there, including Microsoft’s own Virtual Academy, which offers free online training in Microsoft technology and community led online readiness through MVP Rocks (http://aka.ms/mvprocks).
     
  • Third, we have great tools to help customers understand what Windows Server 2012 can do for them. Programmes include cloud immersion days, opportunities to test the product, build a proof of concept and get help with deployment and acceleration. Speak to your account manager or a Microsoft Partner.
     
  • Lastly, we have fantastic resources to help customers build a business case and understand the cost/benefit of Windows Server 2012. Visit cloudeconomics.cloudapp.net, and build your business case today.

But whatever you do, don’t ignore the potential in Windows Server 2012 to help your organisation save money and become more agile and efficient.

More information: Windows Server 2012 website.

By Wayne Mayer.