Over the last year, Microsoft have made some incredible developments with Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, and the new release of Windows Intune – and I am incredibly excited for these products to reach general availability today!
Leading up to this, Microsoft team has worked incredibly hard to share as much information as possible about this new platform and its vast array of capabilities – and I encourage everyone to dive into this material in the What’s New in 2012 R2 series.
Here are a few sources of information that I recommend checking out – and you will probably notice that each of these pages have been entirely redesigned and repopulated specifically for R2:
- Windows Server 2012 R2
- Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials
- System Center 2012 R2
- System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager
- Windows Intune
- Windows Azure Pack
- VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)
You can check out trial and evaluation info for all of these products here. I’m also excited to announce the availability of a pre-built Windows Server 2012 R2 image in the Windows Azure Image gallery. With this functionality you can now provision virtual machines with this new OS in just minutes.
Each of these pages allow you to drill down to find the specific information you need, and also offer product trials so that you can see the best-in-class performance for yourself. The number of new features and functionality are considerable, so take the time to use the resources developed by the Windows Server and System Center teams to examine and evaluate how these products can support the work you’re doing and the things you’re responsible for on a day-to-day basis.
Together, these new products truly deliver on the Cloud OS vision by empowering both enterprises and hosting service providers to create datacenters without boundaries using Hyper-V for high-scale virtualization; high-performance storage at dramatically lower costs; built-in, software-defined networking; and hybrid business continuity. I’ll be writing about all of these topics at greater length in the near future.
Both enterprise and service provider IT teams are going to benefit from additional new offerings that are going to make a big, positive impact in their day-to-day operations and their ability to think and act strategically within their organization.
For example, we’ve developed incredible innovations for storage and software-defined networking (SDN).
For storage, the 2012 R2 products deliver a comprehensive array of technologies across Windows Server, Windows Azure, and System Center that allow customers to totally rethink storage and maximize their investments in both primary storage and data protection. This is one of those places where we have taken what we have learned in our public cloud and have delivered that knowledge in the form of some really game-changing solutions.
With Storage Spaces, you get the performance, reliability and availability that in the past only came with expensive SANs, but is now available on low-cost, industry standard disks. Don’t get me wrong, we love SANs and Windows Server has the most comprehensive support for SANs of any Server OS on the planet – but the cloud is driving innovations that deliver incredible value at a fraction of the cost. Storage is one of these places.
To get specific here, Windows Server 2012 R2 Storage Spaces delivers policy-based tiering using SSD’s and HDD’s to optimize both the cost and performance of virtualized storage. This also delivers incredible IOPS – all on industry-standard, low-cost storage. Plus, if you have not had the chance to look at the de-dup capabilities in VDI, you should make the time! We are seeing a 90% decrease in the storage required to deliver VDI for your end-users, all with a crazy increase in the performance of VDI when running in a de-duped configuration.
Regarding the work we’ve innovating for SDN, this is an area that is particularly exciting, and I’ll be writing about this more in the future. In short, the in-box Software Defined Networking functionality is remarkable. This functionality builds on Hyper-V Network Virtualization in Windows Server 2012 and we are delivering in-box capabilities (Site-to-Site VPN Gateway, for example) that will seamlessly bridge physical and virtual networks for hybrid connectivity, as well as enable flexible workload mobility between enterprises and their service providers, with System Center as the management plane. A very positive sign we’re already seeing in this space is the big increase in ecosystem momentum around the work we’re currently doing.
There are some really impressive new offerings that are driving these kinds of innovations, and based on my discussions with customers and partners, I believe that these (to name just a few) are going to be particularly helpful to IT pros around the world:
- Windows Azure Pack
I believe this offering is simply amazing. It delivers code written for Windows Azure that can run inside your on-prem datacenter. These technologies include rich, self-service, multi-tenant services and experiences that are consistent with Microsoft’s public cloud offering. This has been particularly compelling for service providers who can now put new offers into market more quickly. WAP is now generally available along with Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 at no additional charge. One thing to point out here is this is tremendous execution and deliver on our promise to deliver consistency across clouds and to deliver to you all that we learn in our datacenters for you to run in your datacenters.
- Hyper-V Recovery Manager
This Windows Azure service can help protect your most important services and data by coordinating the replication and recovery of System Center private clouds at a secondary location. This offering will be broadly available as a public preview later this month.
- Windows Azure Backup
Protecting important server data is vital, and this service does exactly that by automatically storing this data in Windows Azure where it can be easily restored. WAB makes it possible to use Windows Server and System Center Data Protection Manager to backup your servers to Azure for reliable off-site data protection. This service will move from preview to general availability later this month.
- System Center Management Pack for Windows Azure
This management pack helps IT pros monitor their Windows Azure infrastructure from the common and familiar OpsMgr console. This offering is also now available. This gives you a consistent console to manage the applications running across public, private and hosted clouds – hybrid cloud computing.
Another huge area of innovation in 2012 R2 are the leaps forward we’ve made with unified device management and BYOD. Microsoft’s cloud OS strategy is focused on providing solutions that substantively help organizations tackle a really broad range of IT challenges – and few are quite as pressing and daunting as BYOD.
In the 2012 R2 products, there are a number of end-to-end scenarios enabling BYOD, like allowing users to register their devices with Active Directory so they can gain access to corporate resources on their personal devices. Functionality like this is made possible with features like Workplace Join, Web Application Proxy, AD FS v3, Active Directory.
All of our work on BYOD scenarios is aimed at improving the management solutions that IT teams need to make BYOD a reality for their organization. As BYOD scenarios grow in popularity among businesses, this is an area where Windows 8.1 will really make a positive impact. Windows 8.1 makes managing mobile devices even easier for IT Pros with improved IT controls, remote business data removal from company-connected devices, and workplace join. Additionally, Windows 8.1 includes Open MDM which enables third-party MDM solutions with no additional agent required. Look for the Company Portal (Self Service Portal) for users to be able to provision their applications to all their devices in the Windows, Apple and Android stores.
We also announced last week that we have released Remote Desktop Services (RDS) apps into all these stores as well. We are a devices and services company, and this means that we will do everything we can to earn your business on Windows devices – it also means that we are building our services to be used on all devices. We currently have great support for iOS and Android devices with the investments we have made in the R2 products and Intune. We are super committed to supporting all the platforms your users want to work on.
One final great piece of information is the updated Cloud OS page. Regular readers of this blog know that the Cloud OS strategy is among my favorite topics – and one of the trends that I believe is reshaping IT and the tech industry as a whole.
As your evaluations get underway and IT teams around the world experience these offerings, don’t hesitate to reach out and share your reactions in the comments section or on Twitter.
For additional news and information you can also follow @MSCloud.
Thanks again to our partners and customers who have provided invaluable input and feedback on the R2 wave of products. I think you’re really going to enjoy seeing what this platform can do for your business.
And no GA announcement would be complete without a heartfelt congratulations to the extended team responsible for building these products. The R2 wave products have been meticulously and thoughtfully built by a global organization of truly unmatched talent; the final product is something we can all be very proud to call our own. It’s an honor to be a part of such a team, and it is an honor to bring such a genuinely remarkable product to market.
To read more about all the great things GA’ing today, spend some time (it’s Friday, you deserve it!) reading through the GA-centric posts on the Windows Server Blog, Server-Cloud Blog, System Center Blog, and Windows Intune Blog. These posts are incredibly detailed, incredibly helpful, and they are each written by the same engineers who built the products!