Microsoft held a mind-meld with about 40 journalists and influences at its Seattle headquarters last week to discuss Windows Server 8, the follow-up to Server 2008, and I've been able to extract a few details, NDAs and not being there not withstanding.
Microsoft is targeting a late 2012 release, possibly around the same time as Windows 8 for multiple clients. It's been in development since 2007 and even in its alpha state, it's remarkably solid and everything is functioning, according to my source.
First and foremost, Microsoft is targeting cloud computing. That was the main bullet point, that Server 8 is designed to be the best cloud OS out there. This means heavy automation, designed for massive scale out and management of many virtual machines.
Its scalability will be massive. The upgraded Hyper-V will allow virtual machines to support up to 512GB of RAM and 2TB of disk storage, well above the 32GB of memory in current Hyper-V.
Cluster hosts will be able to network in up to 63 node clusters, well above the 16 in Server 2008, and supporting up to 4,000 virtual machines, each VM running up to 32 virtual CPUs.
This new OS will be the foundation of Azure and other cloud providers, and it will be your entryway into on-demand cloud services as well as the OS for your internal cloud systems. Server 8 will support hybrid cloud environments, a mix of on-premises and off-site services that are connected seamlessly and securely.
It will provide the ability to run certain components in private with ability to move VMs to a public cloud seamlessly and with no interruption using VPN tunneling and requiring nothing more than an IP address for the target location.
Multiple concurrent live migrations will be possible with the new server, instead of one at a time like the current product requires. Unlike VMware, all you need is an IP connection from one host to another to migrate a VM. No clustered storage is required. The VM is moved from one location to another without the VM going down.
This kind of massive scale up and changes to Hyper-V means the UI is being rewritten as well. This is where a lot of work remains to be done, I'm told. Microsoft Management Console (MMC) is essentially being discarded because the changes are so significant.
Also, Powershell is getting a huge overhaul, with thousands of new commandlets for it to do highly automated work with a single command. "It's literally an OS itself. You can do anything in it," said my source.
With all of this virtualization work going on, Microsoft is also working on storage efficiency elements such as data deduplication, something Windows has been lacking and dedupe vendors have exploited. Well, they are in for a surprise with native dedupe in Windows Server 8.
Good news for customers, Microsoft plans to simplify the licensing model because customers felt it was too cumbersome. So there will be a consolidation of SKUs in the future.
The NDA lifts on Wednesday, so that means a deep dive is in store for the upcoming Build conference, which starts tomorrow.
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