Windows Small Business Server 2008 Standard and Premium Editions Exceeding Expectations

Microsoft recently announced the release of Windows Small Business Server 2008 Standard and Premium Editions scheduled for release on November 12, 2008.

The release of Server 2008 marks one of the most significant upgrades Microsoft has made to its server line of software. Perhaps only the release of Windows 2000 was a more significant advance to the product line. Before the release of Windows 2000, only NT 4.0 was available for servers.

The new technologies present within Server 2008 will prove to be more beneficial to businesses than previous releases.

Small Business Server 2008 Standard and Premium Editions

Server 2008 marks the first release of a new Microsoft server product since Server 2003 R2. The innovations in the new release have been well worth the wait. With the release, as with Vista, Microsoft makes full use of the 64-bit processing environment that has been around for several years now.

Some of the key advances in the new release are an upgrade to the Active Directory (AD) infrastructure, which has been around since Windows 2000 was released. However, many features within Server 2008 are quite powerful and have taken the newest Microsoft server OS in a radically different direction.

The Small Business google workspace precio 2008 Standard Edition comes bundled with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Windows Server Update Services 3.0, Microsoft Forefront Security for Exchange Server, Windows Live OneCare for Server and Integration with Office Live Small Business.

The Small Business Server 2008 Premium Edition includes all of the products in the Standard edition plus Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Standard for Small Business.

Server Core

Server Core is one of these radically new features. Server Core allows for a minimal version of Server 2008 to be installed on machines that only need specific functionality. For example, Server Core can be configured to take on common functions that servers normally perform such as those of the DHCP server, DNS server, file server and Active Directory, as well as operations such as streaming media, print services or even Windows virtualization.

Server Core is meant for the use of network administrators and server management personnel who could develop a highly specialized and efficient computing environment utilizing Server Core. A Server Core installation is very different from other Microsoft OS installations on a PC or server. The interface is minimal – mostly by command line, though a Task Manager or Notepad window can be called up.

IT professionals will appreciate a Server Core installation where it is needed. Maintenance under such an installation is at an absolute minimum since the server on which the software is installed is only focused on one particular function rather than the multiple functions on a full installation of Server 2008. There are also inherently less vulnerabilities for a would-be hacker to exploit under this setup, so security is a breeze. The simpler installation also guarantees less software bugs arising when they are least expected – such as when an application is installed that is not fully compatible with Microsoft software.

Considering all these benefits to a minimal installation, it becomes obvious that the management time involved with these specialized servers is also considerably reduced. Less management time translates into less maintenance by IT staff or, at least, a staff that does not waste time making sure the firewall is holding up or pinpointing a problem through multiple functions on a typical server.

Hyper-V

Also in Server 2008 is the Hyper-V option, which enhances Microsoft’s presence in the world of virtualization. Virtualization allows for a single machine to take on the functions of two or more machines, utilizing resources simultaneously without causing overlap or conflict. Virtualization has so many benefits to the business world that they are difficult to number. The reduced number of machines in a virtual environment can save money for a business in many different ways. Fewer machines use less power in less space and can be effectively managed by fewer employees.

Today’s machines can handle the additional functionality that virtualization demands; oftentimes processor capacity, primary memory and hard drive space are wasted or never even used. Virtualizing a server environment is a trend we will continue to see over the next decade.
Microsoft’s previous virtualization release, Virtual Server, uses a popular virtualization technique called “host-based virtualization” where the primary OS installation runs a service called “Virtual Machine Monitor” (VMM) that provides the virtual environment to another operating system.

Hyper-V functions in a completely different way by using a hypervisor. A hypervisor creates an abstraction layer at the boot level, performing only minimal functions of the kernel, then abstracting the environment required to run multiple operating systems and their associated applications on top of the kernel. This translates into a much faster and more scalable virtual environment than the VMM methodology.

However, an important consideration is that Hyper-V is largely hardware dependent. To fully take advantage of the speed and scalability of a Hyper-V virtualization infrastructure from Microsoft typically requires hardware acceleration. This type of hardware is not uncommon, however. Examples of such are the AMD Pacifica and Intel VT extensions of their respective Opteron and Xeon processors.

Setting up a VM through Hyper-V is a breeze with the Wizard, and console access to the virtualized environments is simple and expedient. Hyper-V is built into the Server 2008 release and is managed just as print and file services are, so configuring and management are also very simple and familiar for those experienced with previous versions of Microsoft Server.

Easier Server Management

Previous server installations had a separate management console for each role contained within the Manage Your Server dashboard. Manage Your Server was a convenient enhancement over previous server releases where management consoles were not all so neatly gathered together. However, with Server 2008, this convenience is taken a step further with the completely new Server Manager.

With Server Manager, system administrators have a one-stop shop for server management for the first time. It is very likely that for a majority of the time, IT staff won’t ever need to use another tool to manage the Server 2008 system, and they will be very thankful for it. Once again, with this tool, Microsoft lessens the time it takes to perform simple tasks.

Within Server Manager are the roles and functions installed on the Server 2008 system such as the DHCP server, DNS server, file services, domain services, etc. All of them are available for management and monitoring at the click of a mouse. Very handy troubleshooting tools are also conveniently located within Server Manager such as Windows Firewall, Device Manager, Event Viewer and WMI Control. The completely new Windows Server Backup tool is also located here and will be discussed further, as it is a considerable enhancement in its own right.

Clicking on any of the management tools located within Server Manager takes the administrator to a dedicated home page, which provides pertinent information to the role in question. From here, more information can be gathered such as troubleshooting tips, further knowledge about the task or function and links to other helpful tools that help administrators in virtually any particular situation.

Terminal Services goes hand in hand with server administration. This is the capability that allows administrators to remotely configure PCs. In previous releases, Terminal Services only allowed the entire PC installation to be deployed remotely, rather than specific applications. The changes with the Server 2008 release are through the rehashed Remote Desktop client, where a user logs in to download and install the application without the administrator having to oversee the operation.

Other Enhanced Server 2008 Features

Windows Server Backup has been enhanced for faster backups with new technology. Whether servers are fully backed up or incrementally backed up, IT staff will notice the difference from earlier versions of Microsoft Server. Restoration from a backup has also been made much easier. Previously, this had to be done manually from multiple backups if an incremental backup had been performed, but now only the date of the backup has to be chosen for the restoration to occur.

Other enhancements to the backup service in Server 2008 include the ability to recover the operating system on another machine if necessary, the ability to recover applications and improved scheduling for the automation of daily backups. The backup service also allows for remote administration by adding the backup snap-in to the Server Manager console.

BitLocker is another new Microsoft technology available in Server 2008. First debuting with the Vista release, BitLocker allows for the encryption of entire physical hard drives as a first line of defense against physical theft of sensitive data that may be contained within. BItLocker provides more peace of mind for organizations that have branch offices where physical security may not be what it is at the central office.

Another new function is the Read-Only Domain Controller (RODC) that allows IT staff to configure the Active Directory infrastructure as read-only. Such a configuration keeps Active Directory replication unidirectional, rather than bidirectional, as it is normally configured. An organization could use this setup once again in the branch office location where connections back to the central office may not be as fast or as reliable. In this situation, Active Directory would be configured at the central office and then sent out to remote sites before it is accessed.
Combining configurations of Server Core, BitLocker and RODC provides a level of security in the Server 2008 release impossible in prior releases. Configuring machines as read-only guarantees the data cannot be compromised even if a hacker were able to penetrate perimeter defenses. Also, if a theft were to occur in which a server was stolen at a remote site, BitLocker guarantees the data contained on the machine to be indecipherable, while RODC controls allow for administrators to reconfigure the network with a few clicks of the mouse.

Internet Information Services (IIS) is the server-side technology that first became available with Windows NT 3.51 back in 1995. With the seventh full release of IIS available for the first time in Server 2008, the service becomes fully configurable. Web administrators specify precisely which services they would like to enable – and which services they would like to disable. All of IIS 7 is also supported by the new Server Manager console.

Versions and Licensing

Several different product editions of Windows Server 2008 are available. Depending upon the version, each type is configured for specific hardware platforms, such as 32 bit or 64 bit, and versions are available with virtualization capability built in, while others leave the function out.

It is important to understand Microsoft’s different available methods of licensing when purchasing server products. The Microsoft Open License is intended for smaller customers with less than 250 desktop computers in their network. As few as five licenses can be purchased and with these licenses, the owner has the right to transfer images to different machines or transfer a license to another machine.

Microsoft Volume Licensing is intended for networks serving more than 250 computers. Within this group are several account levels that offer flexible payment scheduling. The same rights are established as with the Open License, but there are added discounts for the volume purchases.

Both types of licensing come with the option to add Microsoft’s Software Assurance plan, which provides maintenance for Microsoft products.

Software Assurance includes comprehensive support including training and the ability to speak with Microsoft representatives to assist in deploying and managing Server 2008 software.
Software Assurance should not be overlooked in any Microsoft purchase. With the purchase, software upgrades are included in addition to Version Rights, which guarantees the purchaser the right, at no extra charge, to new editions of the product purchased should one become available during the length of the Software Assurance contract.

Web Server 2008

This version is specifically configured to give a machine the ability to function as a Web server and little else. This setup does not allow the domain controller configuration and does not include Microsoft’s new virtualization technology, Hyper-V. However, Web Server 2008 does support a Server Core installation. This version can be purchased either in the 32-bit or 64-bit editions and supports a maximum of four processors.

Windows Server 2008 Standard

The Standard version comes with all basic functionality of the new enhancements and technologies described in this article. It is available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions and also supports a maximum of four processors. The Standard edition can be purchased with or without Hyper-V virtualization. If the version with virtualization is purchased, it also comes with five Client Access Licenses (CALs). It is worth noting that Hyper-V is only available with 64-bit editions of Server 2008. One virtual instance can be configured with the Standard edition.

Windows Server 2008 Itanium

The Itanium edition is highly customized for specific-function servers that perform either as database or application servers. Itanium does not support Hyper-V, nor does it support Server Core. It is only available in the 64-bit edition, is purchased per processor up to a maximum of 64 supported processors and supports up to 64 gigabytes of RAM.

Windows Server 2008 Enterprise

Enterprise can also be purchased in 32-bit or 64-bit editions and with or without Hyper-V virtualization. At the Enterprise level, 25 CALs come standard with the installation and instead of the maximum of four processors, this edition allows for the support of eight. Enterprise also allows for support of a great deal more system memory (RAM) with the increased number of processors supported: two terabytes versus the maximum of 32 gigabytes in the Standard edition. Four instances are available with the Enterprise edition.

Windows Server 2008 Datacenter

Once again, the Datacenter version can be purchased to support either 32 bit or 64 bit and with or without Hyper-V virtualization. At the Datacenter level, licensing is purchased per processor and with the purchase, an organization is granted unlimited virtual instances. The Datacenter edition is purchased in conjunction with the Enterprise edition for machines that could benefit from unlimited virtualized environments. The Datacenter edition supports up to 64 processors in the 64-bit edition.

It is also worth noting that Hyper-V technology can be purchased as an add-on to editions purchased without the functionality. However, at a cost of only $28, it is almost inconceivable why anyone would choose to purchase Server 2008, at any level, without this technology.

Other editions expected to become available in the near future are Windows Small Business Server and Windows Essential Business Server. Both these new editions, no matter the specific configuration chosen, will only be available in 64-bit editions. As their names portray, these editions are targeted for SMBs with up to 50 desktops in the Small Business edition and up to 250 desktops in the Essential Business edition.

Additionally, specific functionality within each edition can be chosen with these new versions. Small Business Server Standard will come with Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007, SharePoint Services 3.0, a one-year subscription to Forefront Security for Exchange Server and Windows Live OneCare, all in one package. The Premium version will include all the above plus another copy of Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 Standard, which allows for installation on two machines.

Windows Essential Business Server 2008 can be installed on three different machines and includes Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007, Forefront Security for Exchange Server, System Center Essentials 2007, and the next release of Acceleration Server and Internet Security when they become available. The Premium version also adds SQL Server 2008.

 

By tamoor