Microsoft launched Windows Server 2008 (together with SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008) today at Suntec Convention Center. Typical of most Microsoft events, the launch event had plenty of fanfare, jam packed with attendees and partner showcases (a total of THIRTY!).
One reason for the huge turnout is likely to be the freebies. This year, Microsoft gave away stuff like Windows Vista Ultimate, Office (not sure which edition), Xbox 360 and even a Sony Bravia LCD TV! (and no, I did not get any of those cool stuff *sniff*)
Talking about partner showcases, it came as a surprise to me (and most I suspect) to find SUN Microsystems present and they sure made their presence felt by being a Platinum Sponsor (the highest available) plus occupying the largest booth strategically placed at the entrance of the event. In the Keynote session, Mr Ong Chee Beng, MD for SUN Singapore, shared that SUN and Microsoft have been quietly working together for the past few years and they even deployed a number of their engineers in Microsoft's HQ up in Redmond.
Well, back to the main star of the event, Windows Server 2008. Key defining features in this release are Hyper-V, Server Core and Windows PowerShell.
Hyper-V is essentially a host manager (or hypervisor) that manages multiple VMs running in a physical machine. This is a big shift from the single OS to single physical machine concept in previous generations of Windows Server. With the entry of this type 1 hypervisor in it's portfolio, Microsoft can finally compete head-to-head with the likes of VMWare (ESX Server) and Citrix (ZenServer) and take a share of this lucrative Enterprise Server Virtualization market.
Server Core is a packaging/installation concept where you get to choose what feature sets (also called server roles) you want to install. This is in stark contrast to the previous generation of Windows Server (i.e. Windows Server 2003) where all the binaries are installed whether you use them or not. According to Microsoft, this reduces the software maintenance and management required as well as the attack surface.
The last defining feature is the Windows PowerShell. This is a task-based command-line shell and scripting language designed especially for system administration. Above and beyond a normal text based shell interface (like cmd.exe, CSH, BASH, etc), it gives you the ability to manipulate objects rather than just text (say goodbye to text parsers like awk and sed!). This is possible as its built on top of the .NET common language runtime (CLR) and the .NET framework. It accepts and returns .NET objects and comes with a large set of built-in commands. Gone will be the days where you write cryptic shell scripts that nobody understands (including you too over time) using Win32 ports of the popular Unix text parsers.
Want to find out more about Windows Server 2008? Check out the reviewers guide.