Windows Server 2012 First Look Clinic

This past Tuesday (Aug 28th) I had the priviledge to attend a Windows Server 2012 First Look Clinic which included several hands on labs to practice using the new GUI and configuration improvements. It was a combination of 40005A and 40006A and the next clinic is September 5th if space is still available for anyone interested/available to attend.

Here’s a summary of some of the takeaways I had from the course:

One of the most notable improvements is the simplification of the AD DS deployment (formerly Dcpromo) which is integrated with Server Manager and built on Windows PowerShell. As your perform tasks in Active Directory Administrative Center, it will automatically generate the syntax that is required to enable automation for the task in Windows PowerShell, (Similar to “macro recorder” in Office) These are viewable in the Windows PowerShell history viewer as they run. Finally, AD DS in Windows Server 2012 allows you to deploy replicated virtual domain controllers by “cloning” existing virtual domain controllers. You can promote a single virtual domain controller by using the domain controller promotion wizard in Server Manager, and then rapidly deploy additional virtual domain controllers within the same domain, through cloning.

PowerShell got a nice update as well, it now has “IntelliSense” provides context-sensitive command completion for cmdlet and script names, parameter names and enumerated values, and property and method names. (like Visual Studio does for C#, VB, Jquery etc.) Also, the Get-Command has been updated to find all cmdlets that are installed on the system. This makes the cmdlets available immediately, because modules are imported automatically on first use.

For batch deployments, the add Roles and Features Wizard lets you export configuration options to an XML file for use later with Windows PowerShell deployment cmdlets. You can then perform batch deployments of roles and features on multiple remote servers, and apply configuration settings that were saved during a previous wizard-based deployment.

The IP Address Management (IPAM) feature is a central solution for managing IP addresses and associated infrastructure roles, such as DHCP server and DNS server, across a network. IPAM supports the discovery of addressing and naming servers. It provides a unified experience for tracking utilization trends and managing dynamic, static, and virtual IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. IPAM also supports monitoring the DNS Server service and the DHCP Server service, and multi-entity management of the DHCP Server service. IPAM tracks configuration changes and logs IP lease activity across the network.

Cluster-Aware Updating (CAU) is an automated feature that allows you to update clustered servers with little or no loss in availability during the update process. CAU transparently takes one node of the cluster offline, installs the updates, performs a restart if necessary, brings the node back online, and then moves on to the next node. I don’t know that we’d leverage this, but it’s worth mentioning. Incidentally, clusters now support up to 4,000 virtual machines, and up to 64 nodes and services running on clustered virtual machines can now be monitored.

Dynamic Access Control is a form of data governance across y file servers to control who can access information and to audit who has accessed information. It’s very complex to set up and the lab we performed on this required an exhaustive number of steps. While it’s a giant step towards a highly secure RMS system, the architectural and administrative overhead to set this up and maintain it would be cost and time prohibitive. It could be leveraged in smaller isolated areas potentially.

Hyper-V Manager: VMM (Virtual Machine Manager) can now do bare-metal installations on fresh hardware, create Hyper-V clusters instead of just managing them, and communicate directly with your SAN arrays to provision storage for your virtual machines (VMs). The list of supported hypervisors has also grown—it includes not only Hyper-V and VMware vSphere Hypervisor, but also Citrix XenServer. The underlying hardware is part of the fabric in VMM 2012, which in turn supports the private cloud construct that lets certain users self-service their VM deployments. It definitely is becoming a strong contender to VmWare.

Storage, Networking and Availability in Server 2012: Storage Enhancement’s- Storage Spaces and Storage Pools, Data DE dupe, as well as providing RAID functionality without the need for RAID hardware or software.

Finally, we tested Microsoft Online Backup tool. While it got the job done, it was pretty slow uploading to the cloud and required a considerable amount of space beyone the actual file sizes. On a small scale it restored the sample files in a reasonable amount of time, but for the most part, nothing to see here.

That’s all folks, the change to the GUI of Server Manager will probably drive folks a little crazy at first, but the improvements in functionality will quickly outweigh this drawback. Oh, one more thing, there’s a
FREE online study group online: Windows Server 2012 “Early Experts” Challenge you might find helpful.

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