It’s all change at Microsoft and many of you will know I’m still shedding tears for my old friend, Small Business Server, but I’m not going to discuss that here (ok, I just have but don’t tell anyone). On a bigger scale it is also goodbye to Enterprise Server too with just four editions of server available in the market soon.
Someone in Microsoft has been tasked with reducing the amount of product SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) on their spreadsheet. I’m not sure if it is because it prints out on too many pages or because each software team in Microsoft has it’s own dedicated building and Microsoft City is getting too big for Steve Ballmer to know which bus to catch to visit them all, either way the software titles are reducing in number.
Discussing the new versions of server, and in particular the differences between server standard and datacenter you will find very little between the two. In fact there are actually only two differences, the amount of virtual instances you can run (how many people did I lose here?) and price, everything else is the same.
For the case of my sanity in trying to explain in layman terms what a virtual instance is think of it as an operating system run within an operating system i.e you have one hardware server running server 2012 and another “virtualised” operating system doing a different task. The advantages of virtualised instances is they use less resources (sharing them with the Operating system on the hardware box and they can be easily transfered to other virtualised systems, amongst many other things. an example of this is you could be running your own virtualised exchange server for your email and running your accounts package on another virtualised server on the same hardware box. If you needed to shut down your email for maintenance you simply shut down the exchange virtualised server without turning off the hardware, your accounts people can still work.
Anyway, back to the differences, server standard 2012 allows for 2 x virtual instances, datacenter allows for unlimited and therefore datacenter is ideal if you wanted to create “a cloud” environment. using US $ pricing it looks like standard will be on sale for around $880 and datacenter for $4800. Microsoft are also changing the licensing model for server and datacenter to cover 2 processors. The slight increase in price is more than catered for by doubling the virtual instances from the previous licensing model.
Why go Server 2012? You will hear many comments that server 2012 has many “techie” features that have been added or upgraded and that is very true, us techie’s love new stuff, we crave it, sometimes we get very sentimental over it, but your business can also grow because of it.
One of the big changes that us techies will love is the networking improvements and in particular how easy it is to deploy Direct Access* now compared to previous versions. IPv6 (none techies please move on) is no longer a requirement and you can virtualize the edge machine without any issues. Setting up Direct Access in the past was difficult and required multiple servers, now it can be set up using a wizard in just 7 clicks. If you have travelling workers, home workers or can’t resist reviewing the latest profit figures from the beach bar whilst on vacation then Direct Access will dramatically change the way you work with ease.
* Direct Access, introduced in the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 operating systems, allows remote users to securely access enterprise shares, web sites, and applications without connecting to a virtual private network (VPN). DirectAccess-enabled portable computer connects to the Internet, even before the user logs on. Users never have to think about connecting to the enterprise network and IT administrators can manage remote computers outside the office, even when the computers are not connected to the VPN
Improvements have also been made to the virtual desktop infrastructure getting rid of the need for physical GPU and video cards in servers taking advantage of RemoteFX, instead virtual GPUs can take on much of the work.
One disadvantage (in my opinion) is the removal of the start button on the server to be replaced with the user interface (UI) formally known as Metro. It used to be so easy as a creature of habit, to click start and get to where I needed to be or type in a command when I wanted it and I really can’t see me liking the new UI for some time, IF EVER, on a server at least, (not that I like it on a PC either).
In my opinion all of the new added features or upgraded improvements to server 2012 (and there are many) lead to your business growth and ways for you to profit with the aid of IT. Microsoft Small Business Server now has a worthy replacement, one that can help any business take advantage of competitive pressures and adopt new ways of working in our ever changing world.