Microsoft Windows Server 2008 may not ship officially until Wednesday, but early adopters are running it in production networks and reporting solid results with new features including everything from stretched clusters to workload specific configurations of the server.
"Every one of our organisations is having the conversation about rolling out 2008 or deploying Windows Server 2003," says Rand Morimoto, a consultant with Convergent, which helps companies architect and implement, local, wide area and enterprise networks. "If they think 2008 is dependable and reliable, we roll it out. And we have installed 100s of these servers in production environments."
While early adopters are reporting success with their deployments, a recent survey by CDW showed that security, set up and configuration improvements and virtualisation were key benefits identified by the 772 IT respondents from small business, medium/large businesses, state/local governments, higher education and K-12 education.
But there were concerns among respondents with bugs (48%), application compatibility (41%) and hardware compatibility (28%) topping the list.
And Microsoft has issued specific guidelines that avoid in-place upgrades for application servers, including those running Exchange 2007 SP1. Morimoto says, however, that users are finding that certain new features are finally breaking down barriers, including stretched clusters that allow clusters to sit on either end of a T-1 WAN connection.
"Before, these kinds of clusters were only run by the richest companies that could support fiber across the WAN. This is a huge development for needs like [disaster recovery] for Exchange 2007."
Morimoto says features such as Network Access Protection (NAP) are compelling to Convergent customers, but admits the deployment is cleaner and easier to pull off in a homogeneous Microsoft environment with Vista and Windows Server 2008.
"When you start to get into multi-platform environments you run into stuff that is not supported," he said.
Morimoto, who authored the just released book Windows Server 2008 Unleashed , says the server's Read-Only Domain Controllers have been a huge boost for global companies, which can deploy them in remote semi-secure areas with piece of mind.
He also says SMB2, the new version of the old Windows file-sharing protocol, is providing users with a 30%-40% increase in data transfers between branch and remote offices.
As far as Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualisation, which is still in beta and is slated to ship this fall, Morimoto says Microsoft still has to deliver the management tools including those for disaster recovery/failover and centralised console management of VMware images and Hyper-V images. "Once the tools are available virtualisation becomes a no-brainer," he says.
Convergent has 12 customers already in production with Hyper V. "As a virtual server host it works," says Morimoto.
Other users are reporting that Windows Server 2008 runs well as a guest operating system in VMware virtualisation environments.
"We've seen no issues and no performance problems," says Matt Okuma, enterprise architect for Pacific Coast Companies, which provides IT and others services to parent company Pacific Coast Building Products.
While Okuma says Windows Server 2008 has many useful features, he says the migration could be jarring.