TechEd 2012: The key insights for Windows admins (so far)

Microsoft's largest annual conference explores Azure, Windows Server 2012, System Center 2012, and Windows 8

Every year, Microsoft gathers IT pros and developers in Orlando to explain its current and new technologies to those highly invested in it. The conference is Microsoft's largest user event and covers a lot of ground.

Here are the key insights for Windows admins I've gleaned from attending this year's conference.

[ J. Peter Bruzzese lays out Microsoft's 2012 Windows client and server technology road map for 2012. | Learn all about the forthcoming Windows 8 Server in InfoWorld's "Windows Server 8 Deep Dive" PDF special report. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]

Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V, and Azure
Microsoft's emphasis, as made clear in its first day's keynote session, was Windows Server 2012 (aka Windows Server 8), accompanied by a heavy focus on cloud computing through Azure. Microsoft is calling this "the era of the cloud OS," and in my own consulting work, I see the transition to cloud-based servers -- Microsoft is focused on where the action truly is. From what I saw at TechEd, Microsoft Azure is one of the best cloud offerings in terms of ease-of-use and feature set, especially when you tie in the fact that System Center 2012 tools let you manage both onsite and in-cloud systems.

Microsoft showed a slide claiming Windows Server 2012 supports 320 logical processors and 4TB of memory. On the virtualization side, it supports 64 virtual processors and 1TB per virtual machine. In a speed demonstration, the presenter moved a 10GB file in seconds (I think it was gigabytes, although he said "terabytes" at times) using Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V courtesy of a new feature called offloaded data transfer (ODX), which can leverage native SAN capabilities within an array. The audience was quite impressed.

Another interesting demonstration on Hyper-V 3.0 performance showed Windows Server 2012 delivering nearly 1 million IOPS from a single virtual machine, which the crowd welcomed with big applause. That compares to EMC VMware's claim of its ESX virtualized servers delivering up to 300,000 IOPS from a single VM.

Windows 8
The keynote on day two focused heavily on Windows 8. Microsoft defended its controversial Metro front-end user interface in Windows 8, pointing out that Windows 7 is still built on the UI released in 1995 (with Windows 95). The world has changed, as has our use of technology; thus, said Microsoft execs, the company needed to do something new and different.

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