Microsoft has released for general availability major updates of the software tools that form the basis for its cloud computing initiative: Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, and the latest update to Windows Intune.
The major improvements in Windows Server 2012 R2 address different areas of virtualization, storage, networking, high availability and disaster recovery.
The new Windows Server incorporates Software-Defined Storage features such as storage tiering (to automatically shift data across SSDs and slow spinning disks based on usage), dynamic storage rebalancing, storage IO control, and data deduplication.
It also incorporates second-generation virtual machine features such as live cloning, super-fast live migrations, and storage resizing. High availability is achieved through simplified VM clustering and protected network monitoring. The included Windows Network Virtualization Gateway helps users setup Software-Defined Networking features such as Virtual Receive-Side Scaling and dynamic “flowlet” load-balancing to to remove network bottlenecks. For disaster recovery, applications, site-to-site replication Recovery Point Objectives can be as little as 30 seconds.
There is also a pre-built Windows Server 2012 R2 image in the Windows Azure Image gallery letting one quickly provision a Windows Server 2012 R2 virtual machine in Microsoft’s cloud.
Microsoft partners are working quickly to support the updated software. For instance, Citrix will be providing support for Windows Server 2012 R2 (and Windows 8.1, also released today) in its XenDesktop 7.1 release scheduled for next week.
The updates to System Center are designed to deliver unified management and agile system administration for on-premise infrastructure, external clouds services, and Windows Azure environments, and combinations of these. This provides consistent management experiences in hybrid cloud environments, including provisioning, automation, self-service, and monitoring.
Originally launched in March 2011 to enable remote, mobile, and branch office employees to use the devices that best fit their needs, Windows Intune has been to provide richer configuration settings for Windows, Windows RT, Windows Phone, iOS as well as Android. Windows Intune can be used in conjunction with System Center Configuration Manager to manage large deployments of different devices. It can also run on a “stand-alone”, cloud configuration where client computers and devices can be managed using a web-based administration console.