If you would consider yourself an “IT Professional”, than you’re probably pretty excited when it comes to talking about Windows Server 2012. Although you’re probably well aware of it’s pros and cons by now, it’s still a subject that plenty of people could know more about. Of course there are more than 10 features within this edition of Windows Server, but we’re going to focus on the 10 that we feel are the most necessary and rewarding to your companies IT setup. Get onto your technological high horses, because we’re about to go through the top ten features available in Windows Server 2012 (popcorn isn’t required at this point).




The Features

Brand New Server Manage: Create, Manage and Support your own Server Groups.


One of the most important benefits regarding this edition of Windows Server 12 would have to be new Server Manager interface they’ve implemented within it. Not only are you able to create your own personalized server groups, which are collections of separate servers already existent on your network. These can be managed through a new and improved interface that should allow for a smoother work flow. The creation of the new server groups will allow you to manage tasks in a whole different way, you’ll be able to manage tasks within each server that share common attributes. For example, lets say that you’ve got a server group in which there are virtual machines running IIS, as well as a group of database servers, etc; you are able to provide information for each of these groups individually. This is particularly useful for any business that don’t have dedicated software monitoring.


Better Edition Used, SKU Selection

There was plenty of debate when it came to the SKU selection. The core operating system is the exact same with each product, and the decision to pick between the two different editing (Standard or Datacenter) is based solely on whether you plan on running one to two virtual machines as guests (as well as if you plan on allow unlimited guest virtualization). In this version, there isn’t an Enterprise version to make things a bit more complicated. Most people are happy with this decision, which is why we decided to include it on the list.



Command-Line First, GUI-Second State Of Mind

Windows servers are rather emphatic when comes to their GUI philosophies, but it seems as if they might have switched it up. They’ve decided to switch from their GUI-first methods beforehand to a more efficient GUI-optional process. When you first install he operating system you’re asked to choose between a core installation and a full installation, this is based on your choice and what you want to go for. Core installation, however, would be the more commonly preferred option of installation. When you’ve installed your core version of Windows Server 2012 you’ll be able to flip GUI’s on whenever you feel like by installing a GUI role. You can change this decision whenever you’d like, as you can take off GUI’s without a complete reinstall needed. This is a great option when you’re in the midst of setting up a server for the first time (as in the deployment of the server itself). The GUI can be used to execute most of the configuration tasks that are needed to be done, but once the machine is within it’s stages of production you can simply turn the GUI off and deploy. This opens up the door to a plethora of benefits, from reducing the resource load and energy consumption, all the way to reducing the attack surface available.



Hyper-V Replication

This is another nifty feature introduced within this version, as it allows you to clone a virtual machine in a sense, and it doesn’t even have to be a local process. You’re actually able to replicated a virtual machine from one location to another location through the use of Hyper-V and a network connection. You don’t need any shared storage for this process either, which is another cool thing to consider. In the Microsoft world this is one the most important things you could take into account, when disaster strikes you want to be able to to set yourself back up relatively quickly. VMware offers the same sort of processes, but the vendor of this particular software charges more than Hyper-V for all of the “extras” to be included. The process of stand up instances of services all across the globe rather simple, as it turns into a simple one-click (and in some cases, two clicks!) solution. This brand new interpretation of Hyper-V Replica is paired with Hyper-V Manager (which is a rather easy interface to get the hand up regarding the set-up of replication sequences/monitoring services).



Expanded PowerShell Capabilities

With this new version we can see an increase in the number of cmdlets within, as there are hundreds more to choose from now. This will make your life far easier than it was before, as PowerShell is usually the most common method people use regarding the management of workloads in operating systems.


Storage Spaces

The new and innovative feature known as Storage Space is something that we’ve been itching for. What it does is take the commodity storage hardware (which are inexpensive drives as well as their controllers, for example a JBOD or Just A Bunch Of Disks) and creates a storage pool.


This pool is then separated, which can be used just like a regular storage disk. These pools are able to contain hot standby disks, and each individual Space located within the pool is able to introduce certain policies.

Some examples of said policies would be RAID-style redundancy or even mirroring. You can also perform thin provisioning if you saw a reason behind it, which is when the volume specified is bigger than the amount of space you’ve got available. This means that you don’t need to create any room in the storage space, just simply pop in a few more disks and you’re good to! No hassle, no reconfiguration necessary, it’s pure genius at its finest.



DirectAccess is easily explained, all you’ve got to know is that it’s a VPN (Virtual Private Network) without the hassle of an actual VPN. This feature allows for VPN-type security regarding the tunnelling of any endpoint back to the corporate network (without all of the effects of a VPN, things like overhead and performance hits).

Another thing that’s nifty is the fact that there’s no need for a management agent with the client. If the technology has been configured properly than it everything should be easy sailing, users have the ability to connect to file shares as easily as possible, as well as on-premises equipment and other resource they may need.

Another thing to note is the fact that group policy objects are applied, administrative users also have the ability to manage the machines wherever they happen to be located (as opposed to physically being there or connecting through the use of a VPN). This has been hard to get working properly in the past, but it seems as if Windows Server 2012 just makes it work effortlessly.


DAC (Dynamic Access Control)

Dynamic Access Control is something that will give you power over your information like you’ve never felt before, when it comes to controlling the access of your information there really isn’t a better solution.

It isn’t really about taking individual files or folders and simply saying “this person can access this” or “this person can’t access that”. It creates a much more efficient process behind the accessing of your files. This new process makes use of identifying individual data and making larger assignments regarding similar types of data that live in your system. Not only that, but it also figures out which users should have access to what types of data, as well as who shouldn’t.

It’s a new type of “thinking” in a sense, and it really improves the features pertaining to guarded data. There aren’t that many additions to the Active Directory scheme wise, and you’re able to make use of this particular feature with just a Windows Server 2012 file server and a domain controller respectively.


Resilient File System

The feature known as Resilient File System was developed in order to accompany the NTFS (New Technology File System), the idea was to focus solely on availability as well as quality. ReFS make use of the different locations on disks, as it writes to these as opposed to the common locations one would.

This improves the resiliency of data in case there is a power failure or something like that during a write, this feature also implements “integrity streams”. These streams use checksums and real-time information in order to protect both the sequencing and the access of system and user data. Certain problems that are found by Windows Server 2012 within volumes protected by RFS are able to be automatically repaired if they need be (without the need for a disk or even if the volume is offline).

ReFS was also developed to be much more scalable than NTFS, which is one of the most important parts to consider when it comes to private cloud operations (remember, this is the era of big data!).



Out-of-the-Box IP Address Management

Alongside Windows Server 2012 you’re introduced to a complete IPAM suite. Although it may seem like something that isn’t very extravagant, this is actually something most businesses (if they are relatively small in size) don’t particularly have access to. When you make use of the IPAM suite you’re able to group, issue, lease, renew and even allocate IP addresses as you please.

Not only is the process much more organized, but it’s also a lot easier to manage. You’ll also be able to implement the in-box DHCP and DNS servers if you’d like, which will help you discover new devices (as well as manage existing ones) on your network.

If you aren’t very experience with IPAM services (such as the ones Nortel and many others provide) this is a pivotal feature to be implemented. Seeing as it’s free with the operating systems license anyways, it’s obviously worth the bang for its buck.