Microsoft's Windows Server 8: Taking the cloud to the operating system

Microsoft is making available to testers preview versions of its Windows Server 8, Visual Studio 2012 tool suite and other new toolkits this week at the Build developers conference.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

On the second day of its Build developers conference, Microsoft is making available to testers a developer preview of Windows Server 8, the complement to its Windows 8 client.

The server bits went live last night, September 13 on MSDN. Microsoft also is making available this week a developer preview of "Visual Studio 11" (the product likely to be named Visual Studio 2012 when it is released), as well as its Team Foundation Service hosted on Windows Azure.

There are more than 300 new features in Windows Server 8, the Softies are saying. And the team is planning to bring cloud optimization to every layer of the operating-system stack.

With Server 8, Microsoft is emphasizing that it is taking its Windows Azure learnings -- from its own datacenter team, its hosters and its service providers -- and bringing them to Windows Server 8. This means Microsoft will be taking concepts like multitenancy, which it has been pioneering in Windows Azure, and applying them to Windows Server 8. What does that mean? Here's a high-level example: Customers who want to use Windows Server on-premises could run multiple internal departments, like finance and human resources, on a single server with better isolation between the two divisions.

Azure concepts and functionality will be coming to Windows Server 8 with the new Hyper-V (version 3) and the storage fabric in Windows Server 8, as well. (For lots more on the storage features coming with Windows 8, check out ITWorld's Sandro Villinger's story.)

In addition to focusing on how the cloud is informing the on-premises server, Microsoft also is making automation one of the key pillars in Windows Server 8. This is where PowerShell 3.0, Microsoft's task automation framework and scripting language, comes into play.

As my ZDNet blogging colleague Jason Perlow noted, "I would say that Microsoft is pushing PowerShell really hard to sysadmins because you can actually get some very sophisticated tasks done in only a single command, such as migrating one or multiple virtual machines to another host, or altering storage quotas."

Another new set of features in Windows Server 8 will revolve around networking. Specifically, Microsoft is making it so that third-party vendors can plug into the server's coming "virtual switch," which will allow for routing networking traffic between different virtual machines. The idea: Customers and developers will be able to combine virtual and physical systems.

The other big new feature in Windows Server 8 is the new Hyper-V hypervisor. Microsoft showed off a quick preview of its new Hyper-V and the Hyper-V Replica capability earlier this summer.

Other announcements from Microsoft on Day 2 of Build:

  • A developer preview of the Visual Studio 11 (VS 2012) product is available to MSDN subscribers as of September 14 and the general public on September 16. The new version of the Microsoft tool suite adds support for Windows 8 Metro Style applications that are built with HTML5, JavaScript, C#, Visual Basic and C ++.
  • A Team Foundation Services preview is now available as an Azure-hosted service
  • The .NET 4.5 Developer Preview, which includes new features for asynchronous programming in C# and Visual Basic, support for state machines in Windows Workflow, and increased investments in HTML5 and CSS3 in ASP.NET.
  • ASP.NET MVC 4 Preview, which adds better Web application rendering in different browsers.
  • Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 (similar to the Windows Azure phone toolkits Microsoft already has out there), which includes code samples, documentation and components for building Metro style applications that use Windows Azure for connectivity and notifications.

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