Improving on the server roles introduced in Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008's trimness and modularity make it both the host with the most and the perfect guest. Server Core, the stripped-down, command-line-driven install that minimizes the resource footprint (and attack surface) for server roles such as DNS, DHCP, file serving, and virtualization, also makes a light and friendly guest on virtualization hosts -- the perfect partner to Hyper-V, the modern, kernel-level hypervisor that shipped in beta preview with Windows Server 2008 and turned 1.0 in July.
The combination of Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager, Microsoft's tool for managing multiple virtualization hosts and their guests, fall well short of industry-leading VMware Infrastructure 3 in both guest support and manageability. Despite the current limitations (no live VM migration, limited support for Linux guests), Hyper-V has enough of the right stuff for many Windows shops.
As the Test Center's Tom Yager pointed out in his Windows Server 2008 review, Microsoft's relaxed licensing terms, which allow you to use a single Windows Server 2008 license to host as many virtual Windows guests as you want, will make VMware and Xen-based alternatives a very hard sell in Windows shops. Friendly licensing (including temporary and single-user CALs), and friendly administration, should make Small Business Server 2008 just as compelling for small shops.
Windows Server 2008 beats Windows Server 2003 in features, performance, stability, and manageability. For an adventurous few, it also beats Windows Vista as a workstation OS. The future for Windows Server 2008 could hardly be rosier -- a stark contrast to its underachieving desktop twin.
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