On the heels of official word this week about Windows 8 SKUs and details on Windows on ARM devices, Microsoft has stated that Windows Server 8 will be named Windows Server 2012. This is possibly just the first of several other changes Microsoft will make to Windows Server 2012 before it is released in final version.
Windows Server 2012 is currently available from TechNet as Windows Server 8 beta. We took a look at the beta release when it first became available in March. Microsoft has honed Server 8 into its best server offering to date, including several key new capabilities involving Hyper-V virtualization, networking, and management.
However, there are a few puzzling features, such as the inclusion of the Windows 8 client's Metro interface as part of the server's interface. Other features that are not currently in the beta release are likely to be introduced now that Microsoft has released more detail on Windows 8.
Here are some likely changes to Server 2012 that may be made by the time it’s in final release:
Interface Changes: The inclusion of the Metro interface in Server 8 beta is a head-scratcher. Since Metro is tailored for mobile devices, it works like a mobile OS. That means running apps aren't cleanly closed; instead they are minimized into the background when not in use. Such application behavior is a potential resource-drainer for a server. Administrators can eschew the UI altogether by performing a Server Core install of Sever 2012, which uses PowerShell for server management. Most server administrators are used to a GUI for management and it's likely many will want to perform a Full Install. By the time Server 2012 is in final, it's safe to assume that Microsoft will make it easy for admins to opt out of including the Metro interface with a Full Server install.
Streamlined SKUs: Microsoft has finally trimmed some fat and narrowed down the Windows 8 client into three editions: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and an OEM version for ARM devices, Windows RT.
Windows Server 2008 R2 is currently available in seven editions. Businesses vary in size and needs so it's tricky to narrow down the SKUs for a server OS. We do know for sure one Windows 2012 edition that won't be available: Itanium. Microsoft announced some time ago that the last server product to support Itanium is Windows Server 2008 R2.
With IIS8 in Server 2012, is it necessary to create a dedicated Web edition of Server 2012 like there is with Server 2008 R2. Probably not. Also, except for some scalability limits and purchasing options there aren't significant differences between Server 2008 R2 Enterprise and Datacenter. Perhaps Microsoft can narrow Server 2012 SKUs to a highly scalable Enterprise edition, a Standard Edition for smaller business needs and perhaps variants for High Performance Computing (HPC) and the education sector. Fewer editions means a more unified platform deployed throughout organizations, which always lends to easier troubleshooting when problems arise.
Integration with Microsoft Online Backup Services: As of the Server 8 beta release, Microsoft Online Backup Services is available as a separate subscription service for which users must sign up. Online backup is not a feasible option for enterprises, but for smaller businesses not storing massive amounts of data, an encrypted online backup solution from the same vendor that makes the server may not be a bad idea. Perhaps Microsoft will include an easy way for smaller businesses to set up and configure Online Backup Services during the server install.
Mobile Device Management: It's official: Windows 8 will run on ARM devices. Windows on ARM means mobile devices, which will likely end up in workplaces running Windows environment. With so much focus these days on "BYOD" and Mobile Device Management (MDM), Microsoft would be neglectful in not including native mobile device management of Windows 8 devices within Sever 2012. This would include remote management of the device encryption feature of Windows on ARM devices.
In fact, secure and robust MDM within Server 2012 along with Windows/ARM devices may give Microsoft, so already deeply embedded in business infrastructures, significant edge in the tablet market against Apple.
Metro App Store for Enterprise: Of course, Windows 8's Metro App Store is still in its nascent stage. As of yet, the categories of apps are limited. With Microsoft's history in business, bank on not only a Business App category within the store but perhaps an App Store only for enterprise apps. Again this is how Microsoft can differentiate itself significantly from Apple. Cisco has its own enterprise based app store for its business-centric tablet, the Cius. Expect Microsoft to follow suit.