WinHEC: Windows Server 2008 R2 Pushes Processor Limits
Windows Server 2008 R2 got the lion's
share of attention on Thursday at the Windows Hardware Engineering
Conference in Los Angeles, starting with a keynote by Microsoft exec
Laing is Microsoft's corporate vice
president of the Windows Server Division. While much of the news
about Windows Server 2008 R2 features had been disclosed
last week at Microsoft's Professional Developer's Conference, the
keynote hit the high points for an audience consisting largely of
Microsoft's hardware engineering partners.
The R2 version of Windows Server 2008
isn't generally available yet, but it's being reviewed by some of
Microsoft's partners. It's expected to be publicly available in late
2009 or early 2010.
Nonetheless, WinHEC attendees could
still see Windows Server 2008 R2 in action during Laing's keynote.
Onstage with Laing were two big-box servers, including the
Integrity Superdome Server using Intel Itanium x64 processors
plus two terabytes of memory and the IBM
x3950 M2 Server running Intel Xeon x86 processors.
Other enterprise servers tested using
Windows Server 2008 R2 included the NEC AsAmA and Unisys
Laing emphasized that the Windows
Server 2008 R2 build is capable now of scaling operations from 64
logical processors (the current limit) to 256 logical processors on
the Superdome Server. With the IBM x3950 M2 Server, the system scaled
up to 192 available cores.
The keynote also demonstrated what to
do with all of this computing power by running a live demo of a
massive SQL Server application that was occupying about 82 percent of
the Superdome Server's capacity. Within a few seconds, the load
balanced automatically across the 256 logical cores when the demo was
run. A graph of the system's performance was relatively flat across
all of the processors.
The demo used a next-generation build
of SQL Server, code-named "Kilimanjaro," which Microsoft expects
to ship sometime in the first half of 2010. Kilimanjaro was announced
in October at the Microsoft Business Intelligence Conference in
Laing emphasized a number of features
to look for in Windows Server 2008 R2. It will have a power-saving
ability through a "core parking" feature, which reduces power
consumption on lighter loads by using a minimum amount of processors.
Power conservation is certainly
important. Datacenters consume about 1.5 percent of total U.S. energy
production, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study
that WinHEC presenters referenced.
The R2 release of Windows Server 2008
will support "live migration," which lets you move a virtual
machine from one server to another without apparent disruption to an
end user that may be tapping those resources.
Users will have a choice of using
PowerShell or a graphical user interface with the System Center
Virtual Machine Manager. Microsoft is also adding remote capabilities
to its management solutions.
The keynote was also an occasion for
Laing to declare that Microsoft is done with 32-bit servers. It will
no longer sell them, favoring the 64-bit variety. Laing said that we
are almost through a 64-bit transition phase, especially with falling
prices for DRAM.
Microsoft's big announcement during the
keynote was the scale up to 256 logical processors. However, 256
apparently is not the limit.
"We'd love to do 512 [logical
processors], said Arie van der Hoeven, Microsoft's senior program
manager for the Windows Kernel Team, in a session talk also given on
Thursday. He added that with Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 R2
software, there is "no limit" to the number of processors that
can be supported.
The limitation, if any, is that
Microsoft needs to test in advance with the available hardware --
hence the promoted 256 number.
Microsoft is targeting the under
$25,000 server market with Windows Server 2008 R2, and that
represents about half of the enterprise server market, van der Hoeven
One interesting bit of information is
that Windows Server 2008 and the Windows 7 client both share the same
kernel. The shared kernel marks a change in direction for Microsoft,
which no longer plans to fork the code between server and client
Windows operating systems.
Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.