"Free" is a term rarely associated with Microsoft offerings, especially at the server end of the spectrum. Exchange Server, SQL Server, SharePoint, Hyper-V -- IT admins know functionality comes at a price. More surprising, however, is the wealth of server tools Microsoft offers for free, some of which can, in the right contexts, provide an adequate substitute for the paid versions of Microsoft's more intriguing server products.
Of course, by and large, Microsoft's free server tools are aimed at offering value to paying customers. Keeping customers from straying has provided Microsoft great incentive to deliver some very powerful tools for free. Many are invaluable assets for administering Microsoft's paid products. Others provide a free entry-level solution for large IT organizations to begin experimenting and small IT organizations to implement. All are well worth checking out. To help you get started, we have compiled an overview of the 10 best free server tools Microsoft has to offer.
[ Get all the details you need on deploying and using Windows 7 in the InfoWorld editors' 21-page Windows 7 Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]
Top free Microsoft server tools: Hyper-V Server 2008 R2
We all know the value of virtualization, and Hyper-V as an add-in server role for Windows Server 2008 is becoming a well-established method for providing server virtualization within your Windows environments. But did you know Microsoft offers a free version of Hyper-V called, simply, Hyper-V Server 2008 R2? This is a stand-alone product that contains only the hypervisor, the Windows Server driver model, and virtualization components, resulting in a small overall footprint. Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 offers all the key features, including host clustering, live migration, large memory support, support for up to eight processors, and more. Some features are missing, of course. Application failover and guest virtualization rights are two notable features that will require moving to the Standard, Enterprise, or Datacenter versions of Windows Server. That said, there is ample room for this free version of Hyper-V to become a significant contributor to your IT environment. Testing and development, branch office consolidation, and hosted VDI (virtualized desktop infrastructure) are just a few of the ways you can leverage Hyper-V Server in lieu of Windows Server.
Download: Hyper-V Server 2008 R2
Top free Microsoft server tools: Remote Server Administration Tools
Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) are an excellent choice for IT pros who wish to manage servers environments from their desktops. The toolset comprises two categories of tools, Role Administration Tools and Feature Administration Tools. Role Administration includes tools such as the Hyper-V Manager snap-in for managing Hyper-V on the server or a remote system.