10 questions for Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 guy, Jason Hermitage

It is Jason Hermitage's job to convince enterprise IT folks that Windows Server 2008 is an eye-popping operating system and that they should start planning their migrations now. But what are the features that Hermitage, director of  Windows Server Marketing, uses to win over IT folks opinion? That was the crux of the conversation Hermitage had with Microsoft Subnet as part of this blog's "10 questions for" series, which are interviews with interesting and influential folks in the Microsoft world. Hermitage discussed Windows Server features such as QoS, RODC, WinRS, Self-healing NTFS as well as information on System Center plans to manage 2003/2008/Hyper-V/VMware environments. He also explained why Microsoft is like a beaver, to his way of thinking. [Editor's note: for an independent, entertaining review of the features discussed in this blog article, check out Glenn Weadock's Windows Server 2008 blog.) Here is an edited transcript of that interview. 

Microsoft Subnet: Hi, Jason, let's jump right in with question No. 1. In your opinion, what are the three features of Windows Server 2008 that are not talked about much, but which really make IT managers say, "Wow" when they see them live?

Jason Hermitage: A few that I think every IT manager should know about are Quality of Service (QoS), Read Only Domain Controllers (RODC) and remote management capabilities from the command line. When they see these live, people are impressed. QoS is a really cool feature that allows network administrators to throttle the amount of bandwidth that applications receive on the network. So if you want to stop media players from hogging bandwidth, you can throttle down all media programs to say 500Kbps or less if you want. That's power.

Read Only Domain Controllers is a great feature for customers with branch offices or remote work places. It allows IT managers to install a local, read-only domain controller. People in the branch can authenticate locally and if the computer is stolen, it's easy to reset the passwords for only the people in the branch.

Another feature that a lot of IT managers have yet to "discover" is the remote management capabilities from the command line using Windows Remote Shell (WinRS) and Windows Remote Management (WinRM). These features allow IT pros to execute almost any command on a remote computer. When received, a command prompt is then launched, the command is executed, the results are captured on the original box.

Microsoft Subnet: Question 2: Windows Server 2008, and in particular Hyper-V components, will be managed by various System Center products -- but it’s a confusing hodgepodge of products. Which product(s) in the Systems Center family would work for the typical enterprise wanting to manage a Windows Server 2003/2008 environment if it is also using a combination of Hyper-V and VMware?

Jason Hermitage: System Center solutions are our integrated suite of management products. It includes products that help with configuration management, end-to-end monitoring, server compliance and disaster recovery. For customers with Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008, they can use System Center to manage both their physical and virtual systems. Customers with VMware and Hyper-V can also manage the mixed environments through a single pane of glass with Systems Center.

The key products in System Center are SC Configuration Manager, SC Operations Manager and SC Virtual Machine Manager. For Windows environments, these deliver the best TCO and can manage both Windows and non-Windows environments. For customers who have existing management platforms and want to use System Center for their Windows environments, they can use connectors that we have released to surface information to their existing systems (e.g. OpenView, Tivoli, etc.)

Microsoft Subnet: Question 3: What are some the coolest open source projects you've seen available that have been optimized from Windows Server 2008, from CodePlex and other sources?

Jason Hermitage: For WS2008, we have worked closely with the open source community to optimize the PHP core engine for Windows Server. This allows customers to use open source Web apps on the MS platform and leverage their skills and existing investments. One specific open source project that has been optimized for WS2008 is Apache Jakarta. This is a family of Java technologies from the Apache Software Foundation and Microsoft has collaborated closely with the open source project team.

Microsoft Subnet: Question 4: For a few years prior to the release of WS2008, Microsoft was working on a new file system, WinFS, which ultimately never made the cut. My understanding is that Microsoft has not officially announced any plans for new file systems (or announcing that future versions of Windows Server will support other file systems such as ZFS), so please correct me if I'm wrong about that. However, Microsoft has made enhancements to NTSF for WS2008. What are some of these improvements and why should enterprises be excited about them?

Jason Hermitage: The WinFS file system was not implemented in Windows Server although it has been implemented in other technologies from Microsoft such as SQL server.  With Windows Server we continue to improve upon the very successful NTFS file system.  With Windows Server 2008 we added the following improvements to the NTFS:

  • Self-Healing NTFS:  Recognizing that many disk corruptions are localized to a single file or portion of metadata, NTFS has a new self-healing feature in Windows Server 2008 to repair damage while a volume remains online. When NTFS detects corruption, it prevents access to the damaged file(s) and creates a system worker thread that executes Chkdsk-like corrections to the corrupted data structures, allowing access to the repaired files when finished. Access to other files continues as normal during this operation, minimizing service disruption. 
  • Full Drive Encryption: Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption (BitLocker) is a security feature in both Vista and Windows Server 2008 that can provide full volume protection via 256-bit AES encryption for the operating system on your computer and data stored on the operating system volume. In Windows Server 2008, BitLocker protection can be extended to volumes used for data storage as well.
  • Transactional NTFS: Transactional NTFS file system and the complementary Transactional Registry are new features in Windows Server 2008 that allow IT administrators to coordinate their administrations, scripts, etc., through transactions. This feature allows file operations on an NTFS file system volume to be performed as transactions. It provides support for full atomic, consistent, isolated and durable (ACID) semantics for transactions. For example, you can group together sets of file and registry operations with a transaction so that all of them succeed or none of them succeed. Although the transaction is active, the changes are not visible to readers outside the transaction. Even if the system fails, work that has started to commit is written to the disk, and incomplete transactional work is rolled back.

 Microsoft Subnet: Question 5: In your personal opinion, what will server/network technology be like in 2020 (the "network" is the cloud, the cell phone is the client, or other devices and technologies are in vogue)?

Jason Hermitage: My opinion is that we will see significant growth in cloud computing and that many customers will run systems on premise and the cloud. I think software will enable a new set of capabilities, the most important of which is that our data will travel with us like never before, from device to device to device.

As to form factors, I think there will be new types of devices, speech may impact the type of devices we use and how we use them. I think the mobile phones will increasingly have a larger role in how we get and interact with our data.

Microsoft Subnet: Question 6: Just to shake things up a bit, I like to ask at least one "James Lipton – Actor's Studio" type of question so here is a fun one … If you had to liken Microsoft to an animal, which animal would Microsoft be and why?

Jason Hermitage: Wow. Well, I am Canadian so this might bias my answer . I think a Beaver would be a good analogy because they are hard working, resourceful and always seeking to improve things. From what I've seen inside the company is that people are really passionate about what they do and how they can help change the world. And we all work really hard to make that happen.

Microsoft Subnet: LOL ... I think I would say "lion" because of its size and its dominance in the market but its importance in the eco-system. OK onto Question 7: What are the things you always hope people will ask you about the state of the art of today's operating systems but they never do -- and what's your answer?

Jason Hermitage: Since high availability is on everyone's mind, I wish people would ask "What is something that every IT pro should know about achieving high availability on Windows Server 2008?"

We have greatly simplified our popular Microsoft Clustering Services (MCS), now called ‘Failover Clustering’. In short, what used to take days now takes only minutes - you can now set up a cluster in seven simple clicks. This allows someone with any level of IT expertise to create a highly available Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, or applications (physical and virtual).

Microsoft Subnet: And for Question 8, what is one way that most IT pros can save their company money right away?

Jason Hermitage: And I would say that they should seriously investigate Windows Deployment Services (WDS) - another less well known feature in WS08. Most people spend a lot of money buying third-party products (e.g. Altiris, Ghost) when WDS provides a complete out-of-the-box solution for deploying servers (WS08, WS03) and clients (XP, Vista together with Office). This can save companies a lot of money.

Microsoft Subnet: For Questions 9 and 10, I asked Jason about future Windows technologies to which he more or less replied that although he was enjoying the interview, he enjoyed remaining employed by Microsoft more and that he could not answer any questions without knowing what information was vetted for public consumption. But Microsoft didn't want to leave readers hanging and so a Microsoft spokesperson later sent in the answers.

Question 9: Explain what the "Dublin technologies" bring to the server, what will be new and interesting for corporate users?

Microsoft spokesperson: We will deliver a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of Windows Workflow Foundation, Windows Communication Foundation, and “Dublin” technologies at the Professional Developers Conference in October 2008.

There are new functionality and Application Server enhancements coming in Windows Server. The two components of the .NET Framework 4.0 we are talking about in this announcement are Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) & Windows Workflow Foundation (WF). In WCF, we are adding additional messaging and correlation enhancements, to enable customers to work with the most recent transports and protocols. 

Additionally we are also making RESTful enhancements, including REST Singleton & Collection Services, ATOM Feed and Publishing Protocol Services, HTTP Plain XML Service. In WF, we’re delivering improvements in performance and scalability, and new workflow models and pre-built activities. Customers will have seamless integration between WF/WCF programming and be able to build their WF workflows and WCF services declaratively using XAML. The use of XAML to describe workflows will provide several key improvements over the prior version, including greater deployment flexibility and improved versioning capabilities.

“Dublin” will enable customers to have a single standard host for WCF/WF applications. Via that host, customers will experience improved scalability and manageability, as well as pre-built developer services and integration with “Oslo” modeling platform.

Microsoft Subnet: What, if any, role will Windows Server 2008 or its current features play in the cloud platform, software + services role?

Microsoft spokesperson: Microsoft is investing heavily in its Software + Services vision, particularly as it relates to the services platform. In addition to Office Live Meeting, Microsoft Online Services and Office Live Workspace, we have publicly discussed a roadmap of commitments for our services strategy, most notably from Ray Ozzie at MIX 08 and the Financial Analyst Meeting. We are excited to talk more about our progress and opportunities for customers and partners at the Professional Developers Conference in a few weeks, but we don’t have any further details to share at this time.

Visit the Microsoft Subnet home page for more news, blogs, podcasts.

More blog post from the Microsoft Subnet posts:

Also see10 questions for Windows Mobile expert Mort Rosenthal 10 questions for virtual world evangelists (Microsoft's) Zain Naboulsi, and (G-Squared's) Kyle Gomboy17 job-hunting resources for Windows prosUnder the hood of Hyper-V (master list of links). all Microsoft Subnet bloggers.bi-weekly Microsoft newsletter. (Click on News/Microsoft News Alert.)

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