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* Hyper-V Replica: This asynchronous replication of virtual machines in Microsoft's virtual environment enables replicating VMs in branch offices, say, to other branches or disaster recovery sites. Because it is asynchronous, these replications can be scheduled for low-traffic times or times when WAN costs are lowest. The replication also respects available bandwidth, limiting how much it uses in order to maintain performance of other traffic on the same connection.
* VDI without a server GPU: Formerly Windows Server required a graphical processing unit as part of the server hardware in order to support USB peripherals on the endpoint. Windows Server 2012 creates virtual GPUs from server CPUs, easing the hardware requirements.
* More live migration options: Within Hyper-V, virtual machines as well as data can be moved, but also VMs can be moved from server to server both within server clusters and among different clusters.
* Best practices analyzer: This tool regularly scans all servers for possible misconfigurations and advises on changes to make in order to keep them in line with best practices.
* Improved SMB: The network communication protocol used by the server - Server Message Block - has been streamlined to support faster transfers.
* Management: Server Manager within Windows Server 2012 can now handle more than one server at a time.
Using Windows Server 2012 with Windows 8 clients also offers some unique features. "There are areas where benefits and features light up between the two of them," says Jason Leznek - director of Product Marketing, Windows Server & Management. For instance, when used together they can eliminate the need for public-key infrastructure to make secure Direct Access connections, which reduces overhead. And when virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is used to support tablets, the server enables touch features, something that previous Windows Server versions did not.
The question is, how compelling are all these new features and capabilities? A large number of enterprises either just completed or are working on transitions from Windows XP to Windows 7 because support for XP ends in the spring of 2014. They may not be ready to tackle a server transition so soon after swapping out desktops, but the expanded support for virtualization could push many over the top, especially for those using VDI to support bring-your-own device programs.
Read more about software in Network World's Software section.