It may not be as sexy or as urgently needed as Windows 7, but Microsoft's server operating system took center stage on day two of the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) with some pretty big news announcements.
The company is preparing to release Server 2008 R2, the second revision to the server OS released last year, and this will be the first operating system to be 64-bit only. Microsoft has up to now stuck to 32-bit and 64-bit releases for all of its operating systems, and Windows 7 will come in both flavors when it ships as well.
But this version if going 64-bit only. Bill Laing, corporate vice president of the Windows server and solutions division, told the crowd it was time to make the move.
That's because R2 will feature a massive scaling in CPU core support. R2, along with "Kilimanjaro," the codename for the next version of SQL Server, will increase the number of logical processors supported from 64 up to 256.
A logical processor is the number of physical processors multiplied by both the number of cores and threads per core. So 256 logical processors means 64 dual-core processors with two threads per core, or 32 quad-core processors with two threads per core.
R2 will include hundreds of "cmdlets" for its PowerShell command line-based scripting interface. Windows administrators seem to have retained a habit from the mainframe and Unix worlds: they like to administer the machine from the command line, rather than a GUI. Then again, many servers operate without a GUI interface to begin with.
Microsoft will offer these cmdlets for things like Active Directory administration and Live Migration, a feature that was supposed to be in the first release. Laing demonstrated the ability to move a live partition running on a virtualized server, without any interruptions in performance, from one physical partition to another.
Laing said Windows Server 2008 R2 is focused on four key areas: streamlined management for datacenter automation and remote management; working better with Windows 7 for things like group policy and remote management; enterprise class foundations, to offer mainframe-like scalability; and virtualization and consolidation.
For the last part, R2 will come with Hyper-V, Microsoft's hypervisor, automatically built in and integrated into the system. Hyper-V shipped separately from Microsoft earlier this year and has been available for download but this will mark the first official OS release to carry the hypervisor.
Laing also announced two new small servers products, due to ship on November 12. The Small Business Server 2008 and Essential Business Server 2008 are for single and three server deployments, respectively, and are aimed at small businesses. This will be the first release of Server 2008 for the smaller scale market.