What does Blue mean for Windows Server 2012?

What does Blue mean for Windows Server 2012?

Summary: For Windows Server, keeping up to date with Azure perhaps the most important thing,


We're expecting to hear the details about the Blue update of Windows Server 2012 that's proceeding in tandem with Windows 8.1 (as the Blue update of Windows 8 is now known) at Microsoft's TechEd in the first week of June.

We've heard little about this before, perhaps because Microsoft is keen to avoid the "wait till SP1" mantra that has dogged business attitudes to its operating system releases for so long.

With no leaks or rumours from the server division, we don't know much about what's coming. But corporate VP for Windows Server and System Center Brad Anderson has been promising "remarkable new capabilities and functionalities" at TechEd in his blog.

That was a surprise. From what corporate VP for Server and Cloud Bill Laing told us all the way back at Build in 2011 about how Windows Server 2012 was so carefully planned with so much customer feedback, we didn’t expect major changes.

"A server release is typically in the market for upwards of eight to ten years," Laing pointed out at the time. "Think about Windows Server 2003 —  there is a still a large customer base using that. Windows Server 2000 we're starting to see pretty much drop off now. So when we design and plan a server release we're really looking at a five- to eight-year life cycle, so we've been trying to project forward what's going to happen in that time frame."

Microsoft spends a lot of time planning upfront, interviewing customers and capturing comments, plus looking at how server hardware will evolve. Out of this come the key areas that are the important pillars, which is how Microsoft groups features (instead of 500 unrelated features you get three or four major areas to concentrate on.)

One of those pillars is cloud and you can expect to hear Windows Server referred to as a cloud OS frequently at TechEd.

And it's also worth considering the relationship between Windows Server and Azure.

Azure has had a steady stream of improvements and new features over the past two years, including the cloud version of Active Directory. Many of these are features that are already in Windows Server, but certainly Blue will improve integration with the new Azure features and services.

The usual view is that server operating systems don't need frequent feature updates, because businesses don't want to keep changing their server setup. That makes keeping up to date with Azure perhaps the most important thing, along with including improvements that come from Azure; now that Microsoft is running hundreds of thousands of Windows Server systems night and day itself for Azure, it's going to find issues that need to be fixed.

Microsoft also needs to sell businesses on the idea of moving to Windows Server 2012 without making them thing they have to stop and wait to evaluate the Blue update before they can migrate.

It's a tricky balancing act. That may mean that the new capabilities and functions aren't necessarily in Windows Server itself.

We expect to see Microsoft do more with the impressive StorSimple cloud-integrated storage product it bought last year; integrating that more directly with other Microsoft tools and bringing out new hardware would be a major annoucement.

There could be new management options in System Center, a new release of the Windows Intune cloud management service, still more options in Azure — and better ways of turning all of that into cloud services that accelerate the shift of businesses from VMware to Hyper-V and Azure.

Windows Server itself might not change very much with Blue, but the offerings Microsoft layers on top of it probably will.

UPDATE: a few Microsoft people are teasing the TechEd sessions they'll be running. Brad Anderson says his keynote "will unveil a broad set of new capabilities across the full suite of Microsoft Cloud OS products and technologies." 'Father of PowerShell' Jeffrey Snover is tweeting about his 'super-secret' session on the 'next version' of PowerShell (which might be version 3.1 or 4.0). As we expected, some of the announcements will be for services running on Windows Server. Scott Schnoll of the Microsoft Exchange team says "we’re going to take the wraps off a range of new products and services at TechEd."

Topics: Windows Server, Cloud, Microsoft

Mary Branscombe

About Mary Branscombe

Mary Branscombe is a freelance tech journalist. Mary has been a technology writer for nearly two decades, covering everything from early versions of Windows and Office to the first smartphones, the arrival of the web and most things inbetween.

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  • Windows Server 2012 is fine

    Feature wise, they should just remove the clown UI (aka Metro) from it. It is ugly and useless on the desktop and a completely idiotic (aka marketing) decision to put it on the server.
    • Make it better

      I think Metro has great bones. It's the flesh that's lacking. They don't need to abandon Metro, but they do need to make it better.

      One really quick way to make Metro better: Make it window-able when wanted. That alone would vastly improve the experience on big-screen computers and places where touch (like a server OS) are simply not a meaningful part of the equation.
      x I'm tc
      • If they did that

        Then it would not be “Metro”, it would be just Windows with a different controls library. With the exception of the childish flat look, it would be good to get some new controls. Alas this is not what Metro is all about, it is about the moronic simplified single app…application paradigm, so I doubt if they will ever do allow “Window-ing” on it in any real sense.
        • I think you haven't used the Windows Server 2012

          You could install and configure Windows Server 2012 without fancies.
          Ram U
          • You think wrong,

            I have it running on one of my machines…and I do need the full UI…and I do not want/need the Metro crp that comes with it…
          • Yes but then you've got a command line only installation

            Or what they call basic. I don't think admins are chasing either option, frankly. They do want a full-featured OS, just not one with a bunch of blinking tiles (Pointless on server 2012 anyways, since almost all of the admin applications are still MMC consoles)
          • Core Server is great!

            you can now even config with the full version then switch to core after done if your not comfy with core. You need RSAT with windows 8 though,

            BTW, no metro is installed by default, you need to turn on Desktop experience for that.

            Most the crying is nonsense.
          • server core is full featured

            Server 2012 adds many more workloads you can run without GUI, plus the option to add the GUI to install software that requires it to install and then move back to Server Core. PowerShell is the key.
      • No just get rid of it

        It works terribly in terminal services, which is the way most people access it.
    • +1

      I agree that Metro is useless in the server
  • it just needs a start screen button

    hitting the corner with RD Connection Mgr is toooo hard.

    otherwise start screen is fine
  • How many Server apps are in MS Store?

    I guess that the future is downloading admin related apps from the Store?
    You really don't need Angry Birds on your server, at least I don't.
    • there is no app store

      unless you install desktop experience
      • and nothing for admins

        you can only run Store apps if logged in with a non-admin account on Server
  • What does Blue mean for Windows Server 2012?

    It means its time to upgrade our servers and take advantage of the new features in Microsoft Windows Server 2012. If it runs as well as our last Microsoft Window based servers did we shouldn't have any problems.
    • "Microsoft Window based servers"

      There you go again, getting sloppy with your spelling.

      If it's so important for you to always type every MS product name in full (like in a marketing brochure), you should at least spell them correctly. Every time.
      • Don't be that guy

        No one likes a grammar nazi.
        • You're obsessed with always writing MS product names in full

          Why wouldn't you also want to spell them correctly?
          • Obsessed

            Smalahove: It's what happens when you're making comments from the Window (sic) command line while compiling his Window (sic) programs from source code.
  • Everyone in my department hates the UI on 2012

    It's not just the metro crap, you can boot to the desktop if you want. It's the million and one things you just can't do!

    We wanted to copy some legacy desktop apps which we haven't yet re-written as services to run on a 2012 server, and have links to all of them on the desktop - rubbish, I know, but we still need them.

    You wouldn't believe what an effort such a simple taks was!! Simple drag and drop links disabled in 2012, and all sorts of other information hidden.

    The "all in one" server manager looks like it was designed in the 1980s - in fact the whole destop and windows GUI is extremely ugly!! Software designed for tablets looks and feels crap on a desktop.

    Seriously, it's bad enough doing this to users but to professionals, who all have so many cherished methods they don't want to lose?

    An intelligent company would have made the Metro UI into a simple program to run within the old desktop environment - similar in concept to the web browser, but with apps instead of web pages. You could even have multiple apps running side by side with minimisability.

    All the new features whilst discarding none of the old. That's what an intelligent designer does.

    An idiot designer jumps on a bandwagon and makes all their decisions based upon the winds of fashion - such as...

    "yeah, this new touch screen is awesome, it's gonna be everything soon, we've SOOO gotta get with it and ditch our old baggage. What - you WANT the old programs? You so UNCOOOL. Get with the plot dude!"