Windows Server 2008 / Longhorn – My Favorites

I had some training recently that got me excited about the upcoming release of the next-gen Windows Server platform, 2008 aka Longhorn. I thought you might like a no-marketing take on what I think are the most exciting new features and reasons to check it out. No, I don’t sell software (or anything else), I’m just a geek. If you want the full feature list and business value proposition and blah blah blah, go here.

If I wrongly describe or characterize the value of a feature, please feel free to let me know. Also, feel free to ask if there’s anything you want more information about.

Disclaimer: these are my favorite things and my opinions, not Microsoft’s. Also, it’s 5/29 today, beta 3 is the current release. These features are subject to change.


This is as big an upgrade as was IIS 4 to 5. It’s huge. Here are some highlights:

· Bye-bye metabase! At long last, we have a totally portable XML configuration file, take it with you!

o Replication: Put the same configuration on multiple machines

o Synchronization: Keep the configuration in sync

o Portability: Quickly move sites or applications

o Staged Deployment: Stage and rollback configuration changes

o Optionally can install metabase for backward compatibility

· New IIS Manager

· Delegated Administration

o Yes, you can now granularly delegate administration of IIS

· Nice command-line interface & new WMI provider

· PowerShell support

· Powerful, never before seen built-in diagnostics

o Trace a request! See each HTTP request performed, the duration, the authentication method used, etc. This takes hours of debugging down to minutes.

· Totally modular. Don’t need a feature, don’t load the module.

The one and only heartbreaking thing missing for IIS 7 is it’s not an available Server Core role. Bummer. This is because it requires the .Net framework which requires other components, etc.

Server Core

Finally, a no-GUI Windows Server. Nice. It’s basically a minimal server version with only subsystem components needed to support the “roles”. This means less patching, less security vulnerability, lower resource utilization, & better uptime. You manage it via remote admin tools, cmd-line, etc.

· Server Core reduces # of patches by ~60%

· Low surface area server for targeted roles

· Current server roles: DHCP, File, Print, AD, AD LDS (ADAM), Media Services, and DNS

· Optional features: WINS, Failover Clustering, Subsystem for UNIX-based applications, Backup, Multipath IO, Removable Storage Management, Bitlocker Drive Encryption, SNMP, Telnet Client, and QoS

· Command Line interface

Some lacking things to be aware of: no PowerShell support, no .NET framework, no upgrade to full Windows, you must reinstall.

Terminal Services

Admittedly, TS is not my deepest area because typically I’ve always used Citrix. However, this is a whole new animal and can in some cases be used where Citrix was cost-prohibitive. The big win is the ability to use TS with SoftGrid to virtualize applications and get around traditional compatibility conflicts allowing you to fully load each TS. Some features include:

· TS Web Access - web portal for accessing apps

· TS RemoteApp – new TS Client

· TS Gateway - for securely extending TS to the net.

· TS Easy Print – self-explanatory

· TS Session Broker – aka session load balancer

Terminal Services team blog:

Active Directory

· Can run on Server Core

o With Read-Only DC running on Server Core + BitLocker you now have the most secure DC ever

· Read-Only DC

o Replicate only the passwords needed at that site to the branch DC

o Delegate “local admin” on a DC?

§ What? What’s that you say? How can you have a local admin on a DC? Well now you can. Use this with caution as a “local RODC admin” does of course have direct access to the AD database (NTDS.DIT) and therefore should be trusted. However, this prevents the most common reason for AD directory data loss: accidental deletion.

· Multiple Password Policies in same Domain

· Auditing improvements

· Without a reboot, you can now

o Apply DS patches

o Perform offline defragmentation

· Improved Backup/Recovery features via “Windows Server Backup” – replaces NTBackup


The goal of cluster improvements is to bring clusters to the masses. There is a lot of FUD around clustering today, and rightly so. Although this is not a complete overhaul, I think there are enough improvement to give it a second look for clustering services you passed up previously.

· Greatly simplified setup (from a 50 page whitepaper down to a 3 step wizard)

· Validate – now if your cluster passes Validate, it’s “on the HCL” (not yet official)

o Configuration Issues

o Networking mistakes

o SP and Hotfix binaries

o Driver mismatches

o Inconsistent Settings

· Geo-clustering, can now span subnets

Windows Server Virtualization

Yes yes, we all know it’s not coming as soon as we would like, but SOON. Probably mid-2008. This is going to revolutionize the datacenter much in the same way VMWare ESX has. However, and unfortunately for VMWare, this will be included with every copy of 2008 at no extra cost and is on-par performance and otherwise. This is big-time.

· Hypervisor virtualization

· Run 32 & 64-bit VMs on same host

· 2, 4, 8 processor VMs

· Large memory support (theoretical 2TB limit in 64-bit Windows)

· Drag n’ drop VM conversion from Microsoft & VMWare VM images

· The features & benefits are countless … get ready

Ok, at any rate, this is a major release server platform. When I say major, I don’t mean “Microsoft is saying it’s major so go buy it” or “look, it’s got a new year tacked onto the name”. I mean in my opinion it’s the best server platform ever offered and really elevates the value and position of Windows in the Enterprise.


Very nice post for resources

Windows Server 2008 Technical Library

Webcasts on Longhorn

Windows Server Longhorn – TechNet Virtual Lab