Windows Server 2008 R2 beta airs

Integration with Windows 7 is high on the list of improvements

Lost in the Windows 7 hype, Microsoft also released the beta of Windows Server 2008 R2, which is the companion to the client OS.

The company is aligning Windows Server 2008 R2, which briefly was referred to as Windows Server 7, and the client OS Windows 7 although Microsoft officials have not said if they will ship together.

But users who adopt both will get new security, network and other features although some of those will require network upgrades like implementing IPv6.

The R2 beta's integration with Windows 7 is high on the server's feature list. The integration points include a laundry list of features including DirectAccess, which lets Windows 7 PCs directly connect to intranet-based resources without needing a VPN connection.

While DirectAccess could eliminate VPN infrastructure, users will have to support IPv6 and IPSec on their network in order to access intranet resources.

Microsoft's vice-president of Windows Server and systems, Bill Laing, said late last year that a company's entire network does not have to be IPv6 for DirectAccess to work. The client nodes and some of the network nodes for tasks such as authentication have to support IPv6. But he did add that users will also need to support IPSec.

"DirectAccess is a compelling feature, but there is infrastructure work you need to do and it will take time to roll this out," Laing said.

Other Windows 7 integration points with R2 include Branch Caching, which caches frequently used content on a branch-office network; a read-only Distributed File System (DFS) to improve branch office security, power management via Group Policy, BitLocker drive encryption for USB drives referred to as BitLocker To Go, and an Offline Folders feature for mobile users.

Unique to the server side, the R2 release includes support for Live Migration, a much anticipated feature add-on to Hyper-V. Not only will the feature help Microsoft match similar tools already available from VMware and open-source hypervisor platforms, Live Migration is key for availability and scalability in the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) support coming in R2 server.

Another key VDI component is Remote Desktop Services (RDS), formerly called Terminal Services, which allows users outside the intranet to connect to desktops and application running inside virtual machines on a server.

RDS includes the Remote Desktop Connection Broker, an upgrade to the Windows Server's Session Broker, an administrative set-up tool for both server-based virtualized desktops and traditional Terminal Services remote desktops.

Microsoft is building its VDI infrastructure on the back of the Connection Broker, Hyper-V and Virtual Machine Manager.

RDS fits in a loose grouping with Microsoft's other virtualized desktop software that is part of its popular Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), which includes App-V and Enterprise Desktop Virtualization.

Also included are power management features called Core Parking, and deeper integration with PowerShell.

Microsoft is also working on application virtualization for the server, but it will not be part of R2 server. Also not in the release is technology Microsoft acquired when it bought Calista Technologies, which delivers 3D graphics, such as Vista Aero Glass, and multimedia support to virtualized desktops.

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