Microsoft has taken its server OS a giant step forward with Tuesday's release of Windows Server 2012, making this version the first that can be controlled remotely so it is more suitable for data centers.
"Microsoft has delivered on the promise of an operating system that can be completely managed from the command line," said Don Jones, an author of a series of Windows 2012 instructional videos that have been released by the training firm CBT Nuggets. "The technologies are in place to manage 100 servers as easily as you can manage one server."
[ Get ready for Windows 8 with the Windows 8 Deep Dive PDF special report, which explains the new direction for Windows, the Metro interface for tablet and desktop apps, the transition from Windows 7, and more. | Stay atop key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]
The first major upgrade since 2009 features a bevy of new features, most designed to make it more suitable for large-scale data-center deployments. Satya Nadella, Microsoft president for Server and Tools, has touted this release as Microsoft's "Cloud OS."
Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization can now support up to 64 virtual processors and 1TB of memory for guests, a marked improvement from the old limit of four virtual processors and 64GB of memory. The SMB (Server Message Block) network communication protocol has been updated to handle faster data transfers and the OS's Server Manager has been updated to handle multiple servers at once.
But perhaps the most significant enhancement is one that may not be noticed among these flashy new features. Thanks to the inclusion of the PowerShell, first introduced six years ago, this will be the first version of Windows Server that can be completely controlled through the command line, making it controllable remotely.
PowerShell provides the Windows similar capabilities that chief competitor Unix has long offered, such as the ability to forward, or pipe, the output of one process to the input of another process. It even adds a few new tricks, such as the ability to handle software objects, which have come about from studying Unix's limitations. "It is an incredibly well-designed shell," Jones said.
Of course, the GUI is still available for those who require it, but "you can remove the GUI and it will be a fully functional server," Jones said. Doing away with the need for a GUI (graphical user interface) means that servers can be managed more efficiently in multiple numbers, Jones said. "If you are still using management techniques where you are still physically touching the server, you need to move to the 21st century and managing it like a server in a data center."