Product review: Windows Server 2008 is the host with the most, and the perfect guest

Microsoft's slimmer and stronger server OS, bolstered by virtualization, networking, and security advances, is an upgrade that IT can't refuse, a 200-pound gorilla that eats commercial Linux

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With or without tunneling, Terminal Services has grown from a convenience to a necessity. Remote Desktop Protocol version 6 and 6.1 are bundled with Vista, and count among the many new Windows Server 2008 features that roll out a red carpet for Vista clients. In the recent past, I have taken the position that IT shouldn't be forced into Vista. After working Vista with Windows Server 2008, especially Terminal Services, I have reversed my position. As you migrate from Windows Server 2003 to 2008, upgrade your clients as well.

Terminal Services is made simpler and more flexible through its ability to distribute what feel to users like stand-alone applications, but that actually run on the server. A double-click on an application on the Vista desktop will transparently launch a Terminal Services connection that doesn't take over the whole client. The install experience for these Terminal Server-hosted applications can be the same as ordinary apps, with applications delivered on physical media. Application virtualization that allows applications to run offline, directly on the client, will be delivered by the SoftGrid component of Microsoft's Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), a separate package that is currently in open beta. This, too, requires Vista, giving Microsoft's "better together" campaign some teeth.

An essential upgrade
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 is technically advanced, and the combination of new features in the new OS with features found in Windows Server 2003 have the potential to boggle the mind and overwhelm servers. But Windows Server 2008's management tools, both built in and provided by System Center, absorb the shock and noise that come with a more powerful engine. Windows Server 2008 outguns Windows Server 2003 in features and throughput, especially with Hyper-V kicked in, to an extent that makes an upgrade essential. This, too, is a reversal of my previously expressed opinions on the subject.

As is always the case with enterprise operating systems, I have to close with the caveat that I've only managed to write up about half of Windows Server 2008's new features, but I've invested a great deal of time in working the preview editions, as well as early access to the Release to Manufacturing cut of the server. There is plenty to see, and Microsoft's relaxed policies with regard to downloadable trials will empower you to write your own review. Your direct experience with Windows Server 2008, System Center, and other components in the Windows Server System is what counts. My experience has left me extremely impressed. Windows Server 2008 on large-scale, virtualized enterprise servers will make alternatives a very hard sell.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Scalability (20.0%)
Performance (20.0%)
Security (15.0%)
Features (15.0%)
Management (20.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 10.0 9.0 9.0 8.0 7.0 7.0 8.5
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