Test Center preview: Windows Server 2008 R2
A better, stronger Hyper-V isn't the only reason to look closely at this wide-ranging Windows Server update
In this release, Terminal Services takes on a new name -- Remote Desktop Services -- and some pretty cool new features. One of the most impressive is RemoteApp, which allows you to connect to apps installed on a server and run them as if they were installed locally. The connection is made through Remote Desktop Protocol, so it's not just a shortcut to the foreign executable. I find it unbelievably easy to publish applications through RemoteApp and use them on a client. In addition to single applications, you can publish entire desktops through Remote Desktop Services. In this scenario, the published applications show up on the user's client system as regular desktop items; the user may never even realize they're not local. Remote Desktop Services is really beginning to obscure the line between installed apps and serviced apps.
An upgrade to PowerShell will also be released as part of R2. PowerShell 2.0 comes with dozens of new cmdlets as well as some significant new features. I'll only mention two of them, but they're the ones I consider the most important.
The first is remoting. PowerShell 2.0 will allow you to make remote calls to servers and run scripts just as if you were at the console. There are more use cases for remoting than I can count, but needless to say, it's big.
The other killer PowerShell 2.0 feature is transactions. This means you can specify that every step in a lengthy script completes or all of the steps are rolled back together. Here again, the use cases are countless, but imagine being able to write a script that performs a number of actions, and if one fails, all of them are rolled back, keeping your server or your data clean. This is the same functionality that DBAs have had in the database for years. Windows Server 2008 itself already made use of transactions with Transactional NTFS, but now PowerShell supports it and the sky's the limit.
Windows Server 2008 R2 helps complete the Server Core promise by adding IIS and .Net support, which in turn allows PowerShell to piggyback on these enhancements. Windows server consolidation efforts get a boost from Hyper-V 2.0 and its live VM migration, while Terminal Services shops will find some nice enhancements in Remote Desktop Services. Not everyone will benefit from IIS 7.5, or feel the immediate need to upgrade the functional level of their Active Directory domains. Finally, other benefits -- such as branch office caching and DirectAccess -- also require a move to Windows 7. Windows Server R2 will likely receive its warmest welcome from large service providers, other organizations with large Web farms, and enterprises with lots of virtual machines.