Serving up Advanced Architectures

Arthur Cole

Amid all the earth-shattering, paradigm-shifting developments surrounding virtualization, the cloud and network convergence, it's easy to forget that there are many more practical matters in the data center that need attention right now.

One of these is server upgrades, which are of particular importance at the moment as it is the server that will have to do much of the heavy lifting for the advanced architectures that are headed your way.

But even when it comes to something like Microsoft's new Windows Server 2008 R2, news of this sort takes a back seat to the headline-grabbing attention paid to Windows 7, which, granted, stands to affect a far greater number of users more directly, but as our own David Tan points out at CTO Edge, is nonetheless a crucial component of the data center of the future.

For one thing, Microsoft has positioned Server '08 R2 and W7 as two halves of the same pie, designed to mesh with other platforms like Hyper-V and Remote Desktop Services to help enterprises implement virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and other advancements that much quicker. And there are also new tools like BranchCache and Agile VPN that should make it easier for users to switch between various network environments both within the data center and out on the cloud.

And in a much-appreciated course-reversal, Microsoft has decided to build support for Exchange 2007 into Server '08 R2 rather than force users to upgrade to Exchange 2010. To be sure, there are still plenty of good reasons to deploy the new Exchange along with R2, such as improved archiving and simplified storage capabilities, but at least customers can now gradually deploy both systems, along with Windows 7, over time while still retaining backward compatibility with legacy infrastructure.

The new Server '08 also goes hand-in-hand with SQL Server 2008 R2, with an eye toward taking on the heavier workloads currently dominated by Oracle and IBM. When combined, the two platforms offer support for up to 256 logical processors, allowing enterprises to boost both the online transaction processing (OLTP) and complex event processing.

Of course, any upgrade to the server software stack can only be accomplished with the right hardware, which is why it's a good idea to run your system through the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) toolkit, according to Alliance Data's Rick Vanover. It's a free tool that provides a complete assessment of underlying infrastructure to ensure it is capable of supporting not only Server '08 but other platforms like Hyper-V and Office.

There's an ancient Chinese proverb that goes: "A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step." Upgrading server software may not be the most exciting aspect of remaking the data center, but it's a crucial step that lays the foundation for everything that's to come.

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