We suppose it happens in families too, where one twin seems charmed from the start while the other lives under a shadow. Certainly that's the case with Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista, the one almost universally heralded and the other widely snubbed. Still, isn't it odd? How do two operating systems, born together and sharing so much DNA, arrive to such different fates?
According to InfoWorld Test Center's Tom Yager, the reason is simple: Microsoft got it right when it listened to the customer and got it wrong when it didn't. Windows Server 2008 is everything that IT buyers asked for, while Vista is the product of an older Microsoft design paradigm: "You'll know what you want when we show it to you."
Alas, business customers who had been happy with the trim and trusty Windows XP largely rejected the fatter, slower, bothersome Vista. So far, it doesn't look as if Windows 7 will offer much different.
So while Vista has lived under a cloud and taken a backseat to Windows XP among IT shops (and to Windows 7 in Redmond), Windows Server 2008 has been widely praised as a mature and polished Linux killer and a no-brainer upgrade from Windows Server 2003. J. Peter Bruzzese, InfoWorld's Enterprise Windows blogger, minced no words: "You must move to Windows Server 2008."
The advances beyond Windows Server 2003 seem too numerous to count. At the top of Bruzzese's list are BitLocker drive encryption, an improved firewall (that automatically configures for server roles), Address Space Load Randomization (another security enhancement), and a rewritten networking stack -- all of which Vista shares, by the way. The new networking stack makes a case for hitching Windows Vista to Windows Server 2008's wagon: Network I/O tests of Windows Server 2008 show a significant speed advantage for Vista over XP clients, especially under heavy loads.
Windows Server 2008's ability to offload TCP/IP processing to supporting network interface cards is another way to reap big performance gains. Other advances improve availability and lighten the server admin's load. Multipath I/O lets you configure a redundant path to storage to guard against hardware failure. Self-healing NTFS repairs file system corruption in the background, without interrupting service. Restartable Active Directory Domain Services allow other services (DNS, DHCP, WINS) to continue while AD is restored. Read Only Domain Controllers, which cache only local users' credentials, bolster security at branch offices.
Other improvements benefit end users. The new Terminal Services Gateway, for example, connects clients via an HTTPS tunnel, simplifying access for users (no VPN required to skirt firewalls that block Terminal Services ports) while providing full security and auditing. The supporting Remote Desktop Client (version 6.x) is bundled with Vista, but also downloadable for XP.