Testing of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 by Network World Lab Alliance has revealed some interesting results. To borrow a quote from Borat; If you are Windows Vista, "You, I like!". XP, older and non-Windows operating systems? "You, not so maaach."
WS2008 is showing some good performance improvements, but some of the biggest improvements, such as file copies and server-to-client network traffic, favor only Vista clients.
Depending on the mixture of I/O (but pronounced under streaming media and heavy file copying), Vista can be as much as 43% faster than Windows XP SP2 in copying operations and 18% faster in opening concurrent streams.
This also means that there's a two-class affinity for clients of Windows 2008 Server Editions - Vista and everyone else, including Windows XP SP2, MacOS (we used 10.4.10 and 10.5.2) or other SAMBA clients that use SAMBA 3.0.2+ connection methods.
Vista completed folder copies at least 35% faster, and in one run of tests, 71% faster than Windows XP SP2. As SMB emulation for Apple's MacOS and most Linux clients are based on Samba, which is also based on SMBv1, these clients were tested and, as expected, showed no improvement in speed when connected to Windows 2008 Enterprise Edition over Windows 2003 Enterprise edition on the same hardware.
Much of this speed improvement is likely due to an upgrade to SMB 2.0 and WS2008's improvements of the TCP/IP stacks, which also now contain native IPv6 support vs. IPv6 emulation (yeah!). That would explain the lack of speed improvements in Mac OS and Linux clients not running the updated SMB 2.0 stack.
I haven't seen if Windows XP is expecting to get the SMB 2.0 update in the planned XP SP3 release. It would be most interesting if Microsoft chose to leave SMB 2.0 out, keeping XP at a disadvantage to Vista. All IT organizations need is another move by Microsoft to cut off XP and force upgrades to Vista, given this summer's plans to stop selling Windows XP licenses.
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