Microsoft's server road map: Top 5 developments coming soon

TechEd 2010: Here's what IT pros need to know is coming soon in Windows Server 2008, InTune, and AppFabric

It's that time of year again. TechEd 2010 is being held this week in New Orleans, and Microsoft has used it to give IT a preview of where its enterprise platforms are heading in the near term. For those of you not at the conference with me, here's what you should know.

1. Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Hyper-V will contain dynamic memory

In the technical reviewers workshop, Microsoft demonstrated how dynamic memory scales in relation to the workload demand of various systems. In the current Windows Server 2008 R2, you have to reboot if you want to allocate more memory to a virtual machine. That's because memory is statically allocated to a virtual machine. R2's use of dynamic memory will remove the need for a reboot and allow you to prioritize which systems get the memory. There's some value here for servers, but I expect this will have a greater impact on VDI setups by allowing for a greater system density.

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The use of dynamic memory obviously led to a question about the 800-pound gorilla in the room: How is this different from memory overcommit by VMware? The problem with that question is that memory overcommit is not so much the technical solution as it is the heading under which solutions like ballooning and page sharing provide for expanding memory on systems for VMware. Memory overcommit and dynamic memory, in theory, are the same things. In execution, they apparently have distinctions, but it was hard to tell them apart from the demonstration's 100,000-foot view.

It doesn't matter to me what Microsoft calls it. I've been an advocate for adding a memory overcommit feature for some time, so I'm happy to see it on the roster. However, I think some Microsoft folks have been too aggressive in bashing memory overcommit because Hyper-V didn't support it, but now that it's supported, they feel they have to save face by giving it another name and insisting it is different.

2. Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 will include RemoteFX

This feature hits right at the heart of VDI uses involving graphically intense apps via primitive remoting or thin client connections. Microsoft demonstrated the use of AutoCAD through a cool little Hot-e ThinLinx thin client box, in which 3-D rendering performed quite smoothly. It also showed a 1080p HD video playing smoothly through a remote connection -- no skips or jumps. Thus, adding RemoteFX should mean that users will be able to see the Windows Aero interface, work with 3-D graphics applications, and watch full-motion, high-fidelity video remotely.

Just to be clear, RemoteFX is not a new stand-alone feature but runs atop Remote Desktop Connection as part of the desktop virtualization stack; it is a set of RDP technologies that should allow for a richer virtualization experience by offloading the GPU and compression processing.

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