Windows Server 2008 R2 & Windows 7 Service Pack 1

Windows Server 2008 R2 introduced many new features over and above Server 2008, and now we hear that Service Pack 1 (SP1) will extend that even further.

Memory Over Commit:

This feature, or rather the lack of it, caused quite a few comments from the VMWare side of the virtualization world as they had it and Hyper-V didn’t.

Basically it allows you to assign more RAM to your Virtual Machines than you physically have available for example:

A physical host with 4GB RAM

4 VM’s each allocated 2 GB RAM

So a total of 8GB assigned with only 4GB available…what the what?! How can this work?!

Although machines will crash if the physical memory isn’t available, it reality it’s very rare for machines to use anywhere near the amount of RAM they have. It does still carry risks though so it isn’t for everyone!

Remote FX

Do you remember when Microsoft bought Calista around the start of 2008? They were a startup who:

“set out to create technology that allows remote workers to enjoy the same rich user experience over a network as with a locally executing desktop”

This includes:

  • Full Fidelity Video
  • Silverlight Support
  • 3D Graphics
  • Windows Aero

Based on this technology, Microsoft are introducing “RemoteFX” with Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, although there are keen to point out that this is:

“not a new standalone product from Microsoft. Rather, it describes a set of RDP technologies – most prominently graphics virtualization and the use of advanced codes – that are being added”

This will allow remote users/VDI users to have an experience much closer to that of a full desktop PC.

One thing to note is that:

If you want to use RemoteFX with a Windows 7 VM, it must be running on Hyper-V…so no VMWare!

Microsoft have always very closely with Citrix and now it’s been announced that Citrix will be integrating RemoteFX into their XenDesktop and HDX products.

Windows Server 2008 R2 Licensing

Every new version of a Microsoft product comes with changes to the licensing 🙂 So let’s see what the new Server OS release will bring…

  • As this is an R2 release-if you already have Windows Server 2008, you will NOT need to purchase new CALs. The existing Server 2008 CALS will continue to work.
  • There will be no more “without Hyper-V” editions.
  • When running Windows Server 2008 R2 in just the Hyper-V role-you do NOT need to upgrade to Server 2008 CALs.
  • Terminal Services (TS) is becoming Remote Desktop Services (RDS). TS CALs and RDS CALs can be used interchangeably between Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2.

What does this mean to me?

 The biggest thing for end users here is the first point-not needing to upgrade to R2 CALs. As Windows Server 2008 R2 is such an integral part of any Windows 7 environment for things such as Direct Access, BitLocker, Branch Cache etc-this is a great way to facilitate uptake of the new technology. For most customers the main cost of a server upgrade is in the CALs-that is almost universally the reason that people I talk to are still running Server 2003!

This means that customers can move to Windows Server 2008 R2 at minimal cost, thus helping drive adoption of Windows 7-which is always good!

Another CAL related bit of goodness is the 3rd point-that if you have Server 2008 R2 solely to run Hyper-V, you can continue using your existing CALs for say Server 2003 to access applications on those virtual servers. Again a great move that helps increase adoption of Hyper-V which, don’t forget, has Live Migration in R2 🙂

The Microsoft page is here.

Windows 7 & Server 2008 R2

Windows 7 is excellent on it’s own, full of great new features, but when combined with Windows Server 2008 R2-it really comes in to it’s own. Things such as Direct Access, Branch Cache and Network Access Protection help make things easier, faster, more secure and better than ever before!

Win7 & R2

Direct Access:

Direct Access is Microsoft’s answer to the pain that is VPN’s. They are often tricky to set up, tricky to use with failed connections etc and can waste a lot of time and money in helpdesk calls and lost productivity; so this is where Direct Access comes in. Once PC’s have connected to the corporate network once, they’ll be able to do it anytime, from anywhere:

Direct AccessDirect Access

This means users will receive the latest updates wherever they log on…home, the airport, a hotel-anywhere! Making mobile working a more secure propostion for users and admins…

For more details, see my dedicated post here and there is a great Solution Design Technet article here.

Branch Cache:

This new feature is designed for remote office and works by caching information on local servers rather than retrieving it from HQ each time. I’ve just seen that the information can be cached on client computers and this is knows as “distributed cache mode”.This decreases network traffic and, at the same time, helps increase users productivity.

Branch Cache

Branch cache retention policies can be set by IT be it based on cache size, length of time cached etc. Technet has a great Early Adopters guide that’s full of information and can be found here.

To benefit from all these features, you need to run both Windows 7 AND Windows Server 2008 R2:


Direct Access in Windows 7

Direct Access is a new feature in Windows 7, a new feature that allows users to securely access corporate servers from outside the network…without a VPN. This was perhaps the most eye-catching feature for me and could well change the way that people work all over the world but it is something of a big claim. Pretty much any system admin that I’ve mentioned this to has said “Oh yeah-I’d like to see that? How does it work?” with a heavy dose of cynicism but now I can tell them…well show them a white paper at least!

VPN’s or Virtual Private Networks are used by almost everyone who need to access corporate servers, info etc from outside the network so at home, on the road, from the hotel, wherever…and they’re not the easiest things in the world-for both users and admins. The backend needed to set them up and maintain them can be costly and tricky to manage and I’m sure that VPN problems must be in the Top 5 HelpDesk calls at most companies. We’re constantly visited by account managers and reps from a huge array of manufacturers and nearly every single has to call HQ to get access to emails etc via their VPN…but with the advent of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2-that could all be over. 

DirectAccess establishes bi-directional connectivity with the user’s enterprise network every time the user’s DirectAccess-enabled portable computer is connected to the Internet, even before the user logs on”


“Clients establish an IPsec tunnel for the IPv6 traffic to the DirectAccess server, which acts as a gateway to the intranet. Clients can connect even if they are behind a firewall.”

System Requirements:

DirectAccess requires the following:

·         One or more DirectAccess servers running Windows Server 2008 R2 with two network adapters: one that is connected directly to the Internet, and a second that is connected to the intranet.

·         On the DirectAccess server, at least two consecutive, public IPv4 addresses assigned to the network adapter that is connected to the Internet.

·         DirectAccess clients running Windows 7.

·         At least one domain controller and Domain Name System (DNS) server running Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2. When smart card-based authentication is required for end-to-end protection, you must use Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) in Windows Server 2008 R2.

·         A public key infrastructure (PKI) to issue computer certificates, smart card certificates, and, for NAP, health certificates. For more information, see

·         IPsec policies to specify protection for traffic. For more information, see

·         IPv6 transition technologies available for use on the DirectAccess server: ISATAP, Teredo, and 6to4.

Optionally, a third-party NAT-PT device to provide access to IPv4-only resources for DirectAccess clients.

It’s proving quite difficult to truly get the message across in this post without it becoming boringly long (!) so instead go and download the Technical WhitePaper from Microsoft here.



Windows 7 at WinHec Conference

This week saw another Microsoft conference, this time WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) and, as at the PDC, Windows 7 has featured heavily. So too has Windows Server 2008 R2 and it appears Windows 7 and Win Svr 2008 R2 are going to be released on the same day, according to Mary Jo Foley.

New features will include:

  • Direct Access support, eliminating the need for VPN connections for secure communications
  • Branch-office caching (hosted server caching)
  • Version 2.0 PowerShell and Hyper-V releases
  • Support for .Net and PowerShell in the Server Core role
  • Live migration support within Hyper-V
  • Terminal Services gets repositioned and renamed as Remote Desktop Services
  • The inclusion of Hyper-V R2 with it’s Live Migration feature is a huge thing, really putting Microsoft’s Virtualization offering on a par with it’s biggest rival, VMWare.

    Windows Server 2008 R2 is going to bring a whole host of great features into the business world, to make businesses more efficient, cost effective and streamlined. Once that is coupled with Windows 7, I think Microsoft will again have really changed the game…so many things for so many people are going to be so much better!

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