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Server 2012 R2 Built for Virtualization

Susan Fogarty, Editor in Chief, IT Migration Zone | 8/7/2013 | 15 comments

Susan Fogarty
In the hubbub over Microsoft's modifications to Windows 8, you may have missed the fact that the Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview is now available. In this release, Microsoft expands upon its vision of the "cloud OS" and makes several improvements to Hyper-V virtualization.

If you haven't tried Server 2012 yet, it's a platform intended to divorce applications from hardware, integrating virtualization and cloud computing in order to maximize resources and efficiency (see Welcome to the Server 2012 Cloud). It received rave reviews at launch last fall, not only for its future potential, but also for the reliability and usability of built-in tools.

Now R2 is in preview and is already making significant improvements, especially in the area of virtualization. A Microsoft e-book written by Mitch Tulloch explains all of the updates in detail, but here we outline the major changes.

Generation 2 VMs
Windows Server 2012 R2 supports two types of virtual machines: Generation 1 and Generation 2. This allows VMs to be created in either the Hyper-V BIOS or Hyper-V Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) BIOS. The UEFI-based architecture with its Generation 2 VMs provides better security, flexibility, and speed.

Automatic VM activation
When a new virtual machine, with Windows Server 2012 R2 installed as the guest operating system, boots up for the first time on a Hyper-V host running a datacenter edition of Windows Server, the new virtual machine checks to see whether the host machine has been activated. If it has, the VM automatically activates itself as well, saving system administrators time and effort.

Live export
Windows Server 2012 R2 allows administrators to use Hyper-V Manager to export a complete copy of a running VM, or to export any snapshot of a running VM. In the past, this required downtime. It's also possible to clone a running VM and export snapshots while a VM is running.

Virtual disk storage improvements
Windows Server 2012 R2 allows administrators to share virtual hard disks (VHDX) as storage for clustered applications. This eliminates the need for costly storage area networking hardware high availability environments. R2 also provides online resizing, which is the ability to increase or decrease the size of virtual hard disk attached to a VM while the VM remains online. In addition, new storage quality of service (QoS) capabilities in R2 allow administrators to specify minimum and maximum loads for each virtual hard disk, helping to ensure that the throughput of one doesn't have an impact on that of another.

Hyper-V Replica gets flexible
Hyper-V Replica provides replication of virtual machines between two Hyper-V hosts to create a backup copy in case of emergency. In Server 2012 R2, customers can set the frequency of replication, making it more or less frequent than the previous standard setting of every five minutes. They also have the option to replicate VMs to a third disaster recovery server, to Windows Azure, or to another cloud provider.

Linux support improves
Hyper-V has supported Linux in the past to some degree, but with Server 2012 it is trying very hard to make it easy to run Linux on Windows. Improvements in R2 include supporting Dynamic Memory for Linux VMs, online VHDX capabilities, and online backup to a Microsoft or third-party backup solution.

Do these features make you interested in Server 2012 R2? What else would you like to see addressed? Read Microsoft's e-book for more information, and let's discuss in the comments.

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RPatrick   Server 2012 R2 Built for Virtualization   8/31/2013 9:00:26 PM
Re: Bunch of useful goodies
Big Hyper-V fan here. Good to see the boosted functionality.
Toby   Server 2012 R2 Built for Virtualization   8/19/2013 12:14:09 PM
Re: Bunch of useful goodies
@Susan: I would make a small typographic alteration to that comment but change the meaning largely and say I think Virtualization is in fact Wildly popular, I have rarely seen a mid to large business, and many small ones, who have not embraced it in some way.
Cybertaff   Server 2012 R2 Built for Virtualization   8/19/2013 11:24:55 AM
Re: Bunch of useful goodies
Susan I totally agree with you there. I have seen to many small businesses taken down a path by their IT consultants that was not for them on the premise of "this is the next big thing".
anthony.nima   Server 2012 R2 Built for Virtualization   8/19/2013 7:31:59 AM
Re: Bunch of useful goodies
@Susan: Yes and their decisions will vary based upon their needs. The processes will be re-designed to suit the targets.      
Trek   Server 2012 R2 Built for Virtualization   8/18/2013 2:08:05 AM
Re: Bunch of useful goodies
I can't really think of one company that doesn't have something virtualized, however I can't think of one that has everything virtulized either.  As work becomes more mobile, virtulization in some form becomes a must. 

I'm glad that Server 2012 is getting rave reviews, because I was a bit surprised to this in the news. Windows Server 2012 R2 Costs Going Up 28 Percent  Though, the price will go up in the future.  So maybe that is a tactic to get everyone on board now. 
Susan Fogarty   Server 2012 R2 Built for Virtualization   8/16/2013 12:11:35 PM
Re: Bunch of useful goodies
Tuscany, thanks for your feedback. All businesses are different and need to move at a pace that makes sense for them and their infrastructure.
anthony.nima   Server 2012 R2 Built for Virtualization   8/15/2013 11:12:51 PM
Re: Bunch of useful goodies
@TuscanY: Yes indeed since the requirements vary from one business process to another. Its always better to identify the process first. 
Tuscany   Server 2012 R2 Built for Virtualization   8/15/2013 12:39:12 AM
Re: Bunch of useful goodies
@JosephMoody   I would tend to agree with you, I think it depends on the company, yet most large enterprises do have rather large virtual farms already up and running.   I think I might be among that special that group that is on the outter fringe of this occurrence.
Tuscany   Server 2012 R2 Built for Virtualization   8/15/2013 12:32:08 AM
Re: Bunch of useful goodies
@Susan    It is really hard to say.  I don't work in a "typical windows environment" my main focus is in the Linux World, however I do know our windows team does do some things virtualized.  I am not sure how intensive their efforts, I tend to think it might be some basic services provided.

I personally use VM Player to test new OS's but I really don't see virtualization in use to the degree it is written about.  It could be I am just running around in the wrong circles.

But I honestly feel virtualization is only mildly popular.
Susan Fogarty   Server 2012 R2 Built for Virtualization   8/14/2013 11:51:41 AM
Re: Bunch of useful goodies
Joseph, that's my understanding as well. But I know my viewpoint sometimes gets a little skewed by all the vendor and analyst hype. Just wondering what everyone else's frame of reference is!
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