Top 10 Overlooked Windows Server 2008 Features -- Part 2

On Friday, we presented the first installment of this story, describing half of the "Top 10 Overlooked Features of Windows Server 2008." Today is part two, completing the series.

You may not have heard much about these features, which are included in the forthcoming Windows 2008. However, they could make your life as a Windows IT pro a lot easier.

Our thanks for help with the list go to Microsoft's Ward Ralston, senior technical product manager for Windows Server.

5. New password policies. Microsoft made it easier for developers by adding flexibility in setting password policies. In the forerunner to Windows 2008, Windows Server 2003, a security boundary led to the restriction of one password policy per domain. (In Active Directory, the domain is a security boundary.) That is a limiting requirement, and one that's been done away with in Windows 2008. Now you don't have to create new domains to have a new password policy. Just set password policies for specific groups or users. If your C-level execs need more stringent policies than your administrative assistants, it's easy to do in Windows 2008.

4. Group Policy (GP) improvements. There are two changes that Ralston said were at the top of the list for GP managers, and they've both made it into Windows 2008. The first is a searchable database for GP settings. Most admins have used Excel spreadsheets to track their GP settings. Given that there can be thousands of such settings, it's obvious that this can quickly become an unwieldy situation. Now, within the Group Policy Management Console, admins can search for policies, throwing off the Excel yoke and markedly speeding up the process.

3. The second GP upgrade is the ability to attach comments to GP settings. Being able to add comments to settings will not only help the present admin, but future admins as well who have to troubleshoot GP. When you're configuring a GP, for instance, you can say why you're making this particular policy; then, when you need to troubleshoot or reconfigure that policy, you (or your successor) can see why the policy was created in the first place. In addition, when you do GP modeling, to figure out how different policies will interact and affect your environment, those comments can show up in reports, easing your GP architecting.

2. One of the chief concerns IT pros have when upgrading or migrating to a new OS is ease of installation. Although Ralston could not give specific details, he did drop some tantalizing hints on what's to come on this front. It's an "umbrella deployment technology that will give customers prescriptive guidance on upgrade and migration" strategies, he said. It will provide admins "tools to successfully deploy, update and maintain Windows Server 2008." Ralston promised that more information will be coming on these advanced technologies in November. It will be first announced on the Windows Server Team blog on Technet.

1. Potentially huge network speed increases. Networks move more data than ever, but owing to outdated network stacks, those networks increasingly look like a Los Angeles freeway. In Microsoft's case, the amount of data that can be sent in a packet has remained static at about 64KB since 1995, roughly the Mesozoic era in computing terms. That size packet translates into top-end data throughput of about 5 MB. In terms of efficiency, Ralston said, "It's like having a semi truck, putting one box in it and driving around." In other words, it doesn't matter how big and fast your network pipes are if the packet size stays tiny.

The entirely reworked network stack in Windows 2008 includes new technologies that allow for a much bigger packet to enter the network. It can also resize -- on the fly -- the size of the packets on the network, making it more efficient. The limit on packet size has been upped to 512KB, which ultimately translates into data throughput of 40MB. In other words, your network, if properly configured and tuned, could be eight times faster than it is now. Sound good?

More information about Windows Server 2008 is available here.

About the Author

Keith Ward is editor of Virtualization Review magazine. You can contact Keith at [email protected].