Chapter 1: Windows Server 2008 R2 Technology Primer

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Stretched Clusters

Windows Server 2008 R2 also introduced the concept of stretched clusters to provide better server and site server redundancy. Effectively, Microsoft has eliminated the need to have cluster servers remain on the same subnet, as has been the case in Windows clustering in the past. Although organizations have used virtual local area networks (VLANs) to stretch a subnet across multiple locations, this was not always easy to do and, in many cases, technologically not the right thing to do in IP networking design.

By allowing cluster nodes to reside on different subnets, plus with the addition of a configurable heartbeat timeout, clusters can now be set up in ways that match an organization’s disaster failover and recovery strategy.

Improved Support for Storage Area Networks

Windows Server 2008 R2 also has improved its support for storage area networks (SANs) by providing enhanced mechanisms for connecting to SANs as well as switching between SAN nodes. In the past, a connection to a SAN was a static connection, meaning that a server was connected to a SAN just as if the server was physically connected to a direct attached storage system. However, the concept of a SAN is that if a SAN fails, the server should reconnect to a SAN device that is now online. This could not be easily done with Windows 2003 or prior. SCSI bus resets were required to disconnect a server from one SAN device to another.

With Windows Server 2008 R2, a server can be associated with a SAN with a persistent reservation to access a specific shared disk; however, in the event that the SAN fails, the server session can be logically connected to another SAN target system without having to script device resets that have been complicated and disruptive in disaster recovery scenarios.

Addition of Migration Tools

Beyond the standard migration tools that help administrators migrate from one version of Active Directory to another, or to perform an in-place upgrade from one version of Windows to another, Windows Server 2008 R2 has migration tools to help administrators move entire server roles from one system to another. These new tools provide migration paths from physical servers to virtual servers, or from virtual servers to physical servers. Other tools allow for the migration of DHCP configuration and lease information from one server to another. These tools and the prescriptive guidance help administrators migrate servers more easily than ever before.

Operating System Migration Tools

Windows Server 2008 R2 provides tools that help administrators migrate from older versions of the Windows Server operating system to Windows Server 2008 R2. The supported migration paths are as follows:

  • Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 R2—These operating systems can be migrated to Windows Server 2008 R2 using the operating system migration tools and guidance documentation.

  • x86 and x64—Servers can be migrated from x86 to x64 and from x64 to x64 with limitations. Because Windows Server 2008 R2 is an x64 operating system only, there is no in-place upgrade support from x86 to x64, so the upgrade path is a server-to-server transition, not in-place. However, x64 to x64 in-place is supported as long as any applications sitting on the server can be upgraded from one x64 platform to the Windows Server 2008 R2 x64 platform.

  • Full Server and ServerCore—Operating system migration from Full Server to ServerCore and from ServerCore to Full Server are supported typically as a server-to-server migration because in-place migrations between Full Server and ServerCore have limitations. The GUI needs to be added or removed and, thus, applications are typically migrated rather than complete operating system migrations between the platforms.

  • Physical and virtual—Virtualization of guest sessions is the de facto standard in data centers these days and the implementation of applications on virtual guest sessions is the norm. As such, organizations wanting to migrate from physical server configurations to virtual guest sessions can leverage the migration tools and guidance available in performing server and application migrations to virtual server roles.

Server Role Migrations

Included in Windows Server 2008 R2 are tools and guidance that help administrators migrate server roles to Windows Server 2008 R2 server systems. The supported migration paths are as follows:

  • Active Directory Domain Services—The migration from Active Directory 2003 and Active Directory 2008 to Active Directory 2008 R2 is fully supported and covered in Chapter 16 of this book.

  • DNS and DHCP migrations—New migration tools are available that help administrators migrate their DNS and DHCP servers from running on previous versions of Windows to servers running Windows Server 2008 R2, and not only just the service configurations but also DNS and DHCP data. In the past, the migration of DHCP to a new server usually meant the loss of DHCP lease information. With the new migration tools in Windows Server 2008 R2, an administrator can now migrate the server configuration as well as the lease data, including lease expiration data, as part of the migration process. These migration tools are covered in Chapters 10 and 11 of this book.

  • File and print migrations—Included in the migration tools for Windows Server 2008 R2 are features that migrate file data, included file permissions, and the migration of print server configurations and settings from older servers to new Windows Server 2008 R2 configurations. These migration tools help simplify the process of updating servers from old server systems to new systems with the least amount of impact on the organization and drastically simplify the process of migration for domain administrators.

Improvements in Server Roles in Windows Server 2008 R2

The introduction of Windows Server 2008 R2 added new server roles to Windows as well as enhanced existing roles based on feedback Microsoft received from organizations on features and function wish lists. Server roles are no longer installed by default on a Windows Server 2008 R2 server and have to be selected for installation after the initial installation of the Windows operating system.

Some of the new or improved server roles in Windows Server 2008 R2 include Internet Information Services 7.5, SharePoint Services, Rights Management Service, and Windows virtualization.

Introducing Internet Information Services 7.5

Internet Information Services 7.5 (IIS) is the seventh-generation web server service from Microsoft. Microsoft completely redesigned IIS 7.0 in Windows Server 2008 rather than just adding more functions and capabilities to the exact same IIS infrastructure as they have done for the past several years. The good part of the new IIS 7.x is that it now provides organizations with the ability to manage multiple web servers from a single console, rather than having to install components and configure each web server individually. This requires organizations to rethink and redesign their web management tasks from pushing the same content to dozens of servers individually to a process where information is pushed to a Shared Configuration store, where common information is posted and shared across all IIS 7.x servers. Organizations can continue to post information the old way by pushing information individually to each server; however, to gain the advantage of the new IIS 7.x services, redesigning how information gets posted should be changed to meet the new model.

The advantage of the new model of content posting is that information is stored, edited, and managed in a single location. At a designated time, the information in the single location is posted to each of the servers in the shared application hosting farm. This is a significant improvement for organizations managing and administering a lot of IIS web servers. This ensures that all servers in a farm are using the same content, have been updated simultaneously, and any changes are ensured to be propagated to the servers in the farm. Web administrators no longer have to worry that they forgot a server to update, or to stage an update at a time when each individual server could be updated in a fast enough sequence that the experience of all users was going to occur at around the same time.

IIS 7.5 is covered in detail in Chapter 12, “Internet Information Services.”

Windows SharePoint Services

A significant update provided as part of the Windows Server 2008 client access license (CAL) is the ability to load and run Windows SharePoint Services. Now in its third generation, Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) is a document-storage management application that provides organizations with the capability to better manage, organize, and share documents, as well as provide teams of users the ability to collaborate on information. Windows SharePoint Services sets the framework from which the Microsoft Office SharePoint Services 2007 (MOSS) is built. MOSS leverages the core functionality of WSS and extends the capability into enterprise environments. WSS is the basis of document sharing and communications for organizations in the evolution of file and information communications.

Windows SharePoint Services is covered in detail in Chapter 35.

Windows Rights Management Services

Windows Rights Management Services (RMS) was available as a downloadable feature pack in Windows 2003 and is now included as an installable server role in Windows Server 2008 R2. Windows Rights Management Services sets the framework for secured information sharing of data by encrypting content and setting a policy on the content that protects the file and the information stored in the file.

Organizations have been shifting to RMS rather than the old secured file folder primarily because users who should be saving sensitive information into a file folder frequently forget to save files in the folder, and thus sensitive information becomes public information. By encrypting the content of the file itself, even if a file with sensitive information is stored in the wrong place, the file cannot be opened, and the information in the file cannot be accessed without proper security credentials to access the file.

Additionally, RMS allows the individual saving the file to set specific attributes regarding what the person would like to be secured about the file. As an example, a secured file in RMS can be set to not be edited, meaning that a person receiving the file can read the file, but he or she cannot select content in the file, copy the content, or edit the content. This prevents individuals from taking a secured file, cutting and pasting the content into a different file, and then saving the new file without encryption or security.

RMS also provides attributes to enable the person creating a file to prevent others from printing the file. The file itself can have an expiration date, so that after a given period of time, the contents of the file expire and the entire file is inaccessible.

Rights Management Services is covered in Chapter 13.

Windows Server Virtualization

A new technology that wasn’t quite available at the time Windows Server 2008 shipped in 2008, but has since been released and available on the original Windows Server 2008 R2 DVD, is Windows server virtualization known as Hyper-V. Hyper-V provides an organization with the ability to create guest operating system sessions, like those shown in Figure 1.11, on a Windows Server 2008 R2 server to get rid of physical servers, and instead make the servers available as virtual server sessions.

Figure 1.11

Windows virtualization guest sessions.

Instead of purchasing a new physical server every time a new server system needs to be placed on the network, a virtual server can be created that has all the same operations and functions as the physical server itself. Or, for organizations that are putting in place disaster recovery centers and server clustering for better server reliability and redundancy, virtualization allows the addition of these additional servers within the guest operating system space of a single server system.

Virtualization in Windows Server 2008 R2 supports 64-bit and 32-bit guest sessions; has a built-in tool that allows a snapshot of a virtual session so that the session can be protected or rolled back in the event of a guest image failure or corruption; and has virtual sessions that can span terabytes of disk storage and use 16GB, 32GB, or more of memory per guest session. Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V supports “live migrations,” which allows for a faster failover and recovery of a virtual guest session across host servers.

More details on Windows Server 2008 R2 virtualization are covered in Chapter 37.

Identifying Which Windows Server 2008 R2 Service to Install or Migrate to First

With the release of Windows Server 2008 R2, organizations need to create a plan to install or migrate to Windows Server 2008 R2 in a logical manner. Covered so far in this chapter have been all the top features, functions, and technologies built in to Windows Server 2008 R2 that organizations have found as key technologies they implemented to improve technology-driven business processes.

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