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GCN : March 2013
64 AT YOUR SERVICE: WINDOWS SERVER 2012 IT managers will nd a lot to like in the latest version's embrace of cloud computing, virtualization and IT optimization. FEATURE STORY n IT manager would have to be severely off the grid to have missed Microsoft's plans to release the Windows 8 operating systems for end-user devices last fall. But he or she could be excused if the significance of Windows Server 2012, released late last summer, didn't fully hit home. IT analysts say organizations may be glossing over some of the groundbreaking elements in the first major upgrade of the server operating system (OS) in the last three years. "Some may see this as just another evolutionary release of Windows Server, but there's so much more to it than that," says Greg Schulz, senior analyst for the Server and StorageIO consulting firm. "At the heart of what's new is how Windows Server has been extended in terms of feature functionality, scalability and performance --- whether for traditional server environments or for private and hybrid clouds." Analysts say the biggest changes to Windows Server come in four key areas: IT managers have new options for quickly launching private clouds and connecting with public clouds for hybrid implementations. Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization platform has been beefed up to run significantly meatier virtual machine workloads. Administrators now can launch and maintain their environments using either a graphical or command-line interface. Updates to the Windows file-sharing protocol and new storage management tools improve the reliability and availability of important resources. Because of the breadth of new features, IT chiefs may evaluate the release according to different criteria and unique challenges in their IT environments. " ere are more features for automating the common pain points in the typical data center, whether that means managing physical servers or virtual machines, or managing the infrastructure that supports these servers," says Anil Desai, an independent IT consultant. Multiple Editions Microsoft released two versions of Windows Server 2012 last September. e Standard edition accommodates organizations that primarily use dedicated, physical servers to support proprietary applications or databases. Alternately, administrators in highly virtualized environments can opt for the Datacenter edition. Microsoft subsequently released Windows A