10 killer Windows Server 2012 Features

Although different IT departments and datacenters have varying needs for certain technologies and tools, there are several new capabilities in Windows Server 2012 that most system administrators will appreciate.  There is so much that is new or tweaked in Windows Server 2012, it is really easy to get lost in the noise of the vast feature set. Here, I name the most impressive and critical among them.
These are features most IT departments across the board can benefit from, no matter what their size or industry:

NIC Teaming:
This is a much desired feature in datacenters: the ability to team multiple network adapters to aggregate bandwidth and provide failover.
Previously, in order to deploy this feature in Windows Servers, sys admins had to rely on third-party vendors.
For example, for fault tolerant NIC teaming, Microsoft had advised that network adapter vendors were the ones to go to for support.
In Windows Server 2008 R2 NIC teaming is also achieved by installing the Microsoft Failover Cluster Virtual Adapter. However, based on demos Microsoft previewed, this is the first time Microsoft offers in-the-box NIC teaming of up to 32 NICs (theoretically) with no dependency on the type of network cards installed.

Live Migration:
Windows Server 2012’s Hyper-V VM Mobility migrates virtual machines between hosts within a datacenter or on separate networks.
Migrations happen with no downtime and no disruption of connected clients.
Sys admins can perform migrations without having to implement clustering or without any shared infrastructure.

AD Recycle Bin:
The Active Directory Recycle Bin is a new GUI add-on with the Active Directory Administrative Center.
With it, admins can view and restore any deleted AD objects.
Objects can be restored to their original location or to a new container.
Although the ability to restored deleted AD objects is not a new capability, it was done in 2008 R2 with scripting.
Now, admins can quickly get accidently deleted items restored with the AD Recycle Bin.

Intellisense Powershell:
Microsoft is advocating sys admins using PowerShell to manage Windows environments.
A few advantages include the ability to manage remotely, and being able to manage tasks at a very granular level—more so that with the GUI.
Plus, scripting allows admins to perform batch runs and schedule tasks.
The problem is there are sys admins who are unfamiliar with PowerShell.
Microsoft has incorporated Intellisense in PowerShell, which auto fills-in appropriate command line syntax as admins type, taking a lot of the guess work out of what appropriate PowerShell syntax should be.

DC replication:
Windows Server 8 allows for fast deployment of Domain Controllers (DC) with virtual DC cloning.
You can create replicas of DCs by cloning an existing one.
DC can also be physical or virtual.
DC replication is a great disaster recovery option—you can quickly recover an entire forest.
A new option, “Allow this DC to create a clone,” makes a machine replicable.
Admins can also run a PowerShell cmdlet to check if there are any unrecognized services running on a DC that cannot be cloned.

Cluster Aware Updating:
Another feature implemented due to customer demand, Cluster Aware Updating (CAU), provides much management relief for system admins.
Previously, when performing Windows updates on clustered machines, all or some of those machines typically had to be taken offline.
Updating clusters involved much planning and possible scheduled downtime.
Windows Server 8 updating tools now feature cluster-awareness.
CAU updates all nodes in a cluster in an automated way with no downtime of machines in the cluster.

Claim Definitions:
Claim definitions are used in Windows Server 2012 for controlling access and auditing information.
With this feature, files can be identified to have sensitive information—for example, documents that contain the word “confidential” or have social security numbers.
Admins can use Group Policy and Active Directory to setup the users who should or should not have access to these sensitive files.

Storage across Remote SMB 2.2 File Shares:
In Windows Server 2012 access to shared storage is done by accessing file shares.
The latest Windows OS does not employ logical unit numbers (LUNs) to identify logical units in a storage system.
By using shared storage across SMB 2.3, admins have easier provisioning and management of shared storage by using regular file shares.
This means you can have sophisticated shared storage of data from a variety of file servers—client files, VMs, databases—without a storage guru.

Hyper-V Network Switch:
Hyper-V now has a virtual switch that handles traffic between VMs, the external network, and the host machines.
It’s more than that, though. It’s extensible, which means extensions and solutions can (and very likely, will) be created to offer extra Hyper-V functionality, such as content security and filtering, customized management interfaces, traffic monitoring, and more.

Flexible Deployment:
With Windows Server 2008, admins had the option to install a full version of the OS, or a more lightweight core version.
Once you chose one install mode, you had to do a complete reinstall to get the server into another mode. Not so with Windows Server 2012.
Install modes can switch from full, to core, to full server without parts of the graphical shell. You can move back and forth between these modes without having to do a reinstall of the OS.
This is ideal if, for example, the server is in core mode but you need the full GUI to install a third-party application.

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