The Windows Server Notebook


November 29, 2012  5:30 PM

Windows Azure adds federation support for Windows Server Active Directory

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Microsoft is making strides in making Azure more accessible to hybrid infrastructures. This week, it rolled out a change that could benefit those who authenticate with Windows Azure.

The Azure Management Portal now integrates with Windows Azure Active Directory (WAAD) and adds federation support for admins with on-premises Windows Server Active Directory, said Alex Simons, the director of  Microsoft’s Active Directory program in a blog post on the company’s site.

He said the immediate benefit for IT professionals is that the Azure subscription could be tied to an employee’s status at a company. If the employee leaves, deactivation on the local AD would be reflected in Azure.

The same is true of setting policies. Any change made to password requirements made through Windows Server AD would be passed on to WAAD.

Plus, for those weary of having to remember or manage a large number of passwords, this integration means that Single Sign-On (SSO) is possible. Passwords on Windows Server AD are never moved to the cloud; they are validated on-premises.

The blog post explains how to get all of these changes up and running.

Are you going to test federation support? Let us know if you have any success in the comments below or on Twitter @SearchWinServ

November 27, 2012  8:45 PM

Y2K + 12? Some Windows Server 2003 users experience time rollback glitch

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

November 19, 2000. The U.S. still didn’t know who the president-elect was and “hanging chads” were a relevant term. It was also the date some administrators saw last week when machines connected to a timeserver rolled back system clocks.

You could say it was a Y2K redux for some admins, with some adverse effects: this rollback caused processes like Active Directory replication to fail.

It was caused by a timeserver at USNO.NAVY.MIL providing the incorrect time after an issue with a routine upgrade, Mary Jo Foley reported this week.

If the forest contained domain controllers that were running Windows Server 2003 and were connected to that timeserver, it could have caused the problem.

Microsoft provided a guide to address the issue — and it’s no simple fix. A Microsoft team penned a blog post on the Ask Premier Field Engineering platforms blog detailing the steps to go through.

One of the most important: Don’t reboot — at least not right away. It goes against some of the conventional wisdom when doing troubleshooting (“Did you turn it off and turn it back on?” is quite a common refrain), but the team says it can exacerbate some of the issues.

It also includes the warning that admins should carefully read each step because of the complex situation and “don’t skip ahead or you’ll make the problem worse.”

Did you run into this issue and experience any adverse effects as a result? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @SearchWinServ


November 20, 2012  8:25 PM

Amazon AWS adds support for Windows Server 2012

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Admins evaluating running an instance of Windows Server 2012 have one more option: Amazon Web Services.

It’s a new addition to the popular cloud service, which already served Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2, said Tom Rizzo, general manager for Amazon’s AWS Windows team and former Microsoft employee in a company blog post.

Users will be able to take advantage of all the new features in Windows Server 2012 in Amazon’s cloud infrastructure.

Amazon offers a free tier, so that users can evaluate Windows Server for 750 hours in a Micro instance. If a customer decides to use it in production, they can restart on a larger instance without any data loss, Rizzo said.

The company also added support for Windows Server 2012 to its Elastic Beanstalk feature. That means .NET applications crafted for Windows Server 2012 will run on the service and be deployed from the AWS Management console.

Microsoft, of course, offers its own cloud services with Azure (see how they compare).

Amazon will be holding Windows-focused sessions at its re:Invent conference next week in Las Vegas.


November 8, 2012  8:11 PM

Windows Server 2012 to receive its first critical fix in November Patch Tuesday

Toni Boger Toni Boger Profile: Toni Boger

For the first time since its release in September, Windows Server 2012 will receive critical patches during this month’s Patch Tuesday.

According to an advance security bulletin released this week, November’s Patch Tuesday has a total of six bulletins. Four of this month’s bulletins are marked at critical with one important bulletin and one moderate bulletin.

The critical bulletins, including the bulletins for Windows Server 2012, and the important bulletin address remote code execution vulnerabilities. Admins currently running Windows Server 2012 will keep an eye out for those critical patches.

The critical bulletins and the moderate bulletin affect older server and desktop versions as well as service packs for them.

The important bulletin affects Windows RT and service packs for multiple versions of Microsoft Office.

Internet Explorer is also named in one of the month’s critical bulletins. This is no surprise since critical vulnerabilities affecting the popular web browser have continued to be patched throughout this year. However, it is the first new patch for IE since August.

What do you think of this month’s patches? Let us know in the comments on this post, or on Twitter @SearchWinServ.


November 7, 2012  7:22 PM

Windows Server 2012 Essentials hits general availability, trial available

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Small businesses and their IT departments looking to take advantage of Microsoft’s latest server operating system now have an option to try out.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials is now generally available, Jeffrey Snover wrote in a blog post on Microsoft’s Windows Server blog.

The Essentials product is a stripped-down version of the feature-rich, “kitchen sink” Windows Server 2012, which became generally available in September.

Essentials boasts a simpler set up process while maintaining low costs. It also brings over many of the same features from the Datacenter version. This includes data protection and backup, client computer health monitoring and simple VPN setup.

It supports up to 25 users and 50 devices and is primarily positioned as an on-premises option for companies.

A trial version is available from Microsoft for 180 days.


November 1, 2012  6:21 PM

October in review: top news, reviews and tips

Toni Boger Toni Boger Profile: Toni Boger

In this monthly feature, we round up the most popular content of the previous month and share it with you.

For October, our most popular pieces involved this year’s best ways to manage Windows Server, features in Windows Server 2012 and a busy Patch Tuesday.

Here are last month’s most popular stories on SearchWindowsServer.com.

October’s Patch Tuesday: vulnerabilities in Word and Kerberos, rereleases

Last month’s Patch Tuesday was a busy one with seven bulletins and cumulative updates for Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8. Although there was only one critical patch, vulnerabilities in Kerberos and Word caused concern. A certificate authentication error meant patches from August had to be rereleased.

Our five best tips for managing Windows Server

We put together this year’s five most popular tips for Windows Server management. Features in PowerShell, ReFS, IIS 8 and Remote Desktop Gateway are highlighted.

Clustering improvements in Windows Server 2012 ease administration

Up until Windows Server 2012, clustering had specific limitations and dependencies. In the latest version of Windows Server, these changes offer admins more flexibility and include read-only domain controller support, a lack of complicated scripts and no more Active Directory dependency to boot.

Windows Server 2012 and scale-out file servers

Continuous availability is the name of the game with Windows Server 2012. This tip tells admins the best way to set up scale-out file servers and make zero downtime a reality.

Make sure hardware is compatible when upgrading to Windows Server 2012

Before making the jump to Windows Server 2012, it’s important for admins to ensure hardware will still be compatible after the upgrade. Our expert offers admins some suggestions about what to look for.

What content of ours helped you in October? Let us know in the comments on this post, or on Twitter @SearchWinServ.


October 24, 2012  2:29 PM

Microsoft rolls out third Hadoop preview for Azure and Windows Server

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Microsoft’s big data products inched closer to a public release today, as the company released refreshed previews of Hadoop products.

They also gained new names: Windows Azure HDInsight Service and HDInsight Server for Windows.

The products will help admins manage unstructured data “of any shape or size,” according to Microsoft’s big data page, where the HDInsight products are available for evaluation.

The feature list includes access privileges managed with Active Directory and the ability to manage HDInsight clusters with System Center 2012.

Late last year, Microsoft said it partnered with Hortonworks to deliver big data frameworks for the cloud and on-premises versions of its software.

Still up in the air: the official version 1 launch date of the HDInsight, as the company is keeping quiet on its release date.


October 10, 2012  10:52 PM

Ballmer: Microsoft ‘a devices and services company’

Jeremy Stanley Stuart Johnston Profile: Stuart Johnston

By Stuart J. Johnston, Senior News Writer

It’s not as though it wasn’t already apparent, but Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has made it official: Microsoft’s future lies beyond Windows in the realms of devices and services.

That was the message Tuesday when Ballmer published his annual letter to shareholders, customers, partners, and employees in the run up to the company’s annual meeting at the end of the month.

“It’s important to recognize a fundamental shift underway in our business and the areas of technology that we believe will drive the greatest opportunity in the future,” Ballmer said. “This is a significant shift, both in what we do and how we see ourselves — as a devices and services company.”

The soon-to-be-released Surface tablets as well as cloud computing spring to mind when devices and services are mentioned, of course. The question is how will this shift play over time with the letter’s constituencies?

To those who question the wisdom of seemingly changing businesses — even business models — in mid-flight, Ballmer had some answers. Microsoft isn’t in the device business? Take a look at Xbox and Kinect, and don’t forget mice and keyboards. He didn’t mention the KIN phone disaster, but it’s hard to argue that the Xbox hasn’t helped bring computing and connectivity into the family room.

What’s so notable is that the company has so much at stake in this shift, and yet has the conviction that without moving in such new directions the company may not survive — like The Innovator’s Dilemma. The world is changing by the millisecond and unless the company tears down its own foundation and rebuilds itself, faster competitors will eventually eclipse its dominance.

Here’s the $74 billion question: Can Microsoft’s corporate culture make the switch, along with changing the whole product orientation, and do it in a manner so as to not tear the company apart in the process?

Besides devices, Ballmer is betting that cloud services — for both businesses and consumers — will produce larger, more stable revenue streams over time, and change the way users compute, although the company hasn’t reported any figures for its cloud offerings so far.

Microsoft implies that these new business models will not compete with partners or shatter the well-developed third-party ecosystem. Of course, given the letter’s audience, Ballmer is aggressively optimistic.

Like campaign promises, however, there are a lot of holes to fall into, not the least of which is Windows 8, which some observers criticize as trying to be all things to all users. A failure in Windows sales could unravel two and a half decades of work, as could sluggish sales of cloud services.

With the launch of Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and the Surface, Ballmer is taking perhaps the biggest bet-the-farm move the company has ever made.

“Apple has proven that hardware and software must go together in this new world … and you have this whole services thing happening,” said one source close to the company. “[this] implies we are abandoning the old stuff. Legacy is a bad word,” the source said.


October 10, 2012  3:19 PM

Azure services for Windows Server 2012 hit beta

Jeremy Stanley Stuart Johnston Profile: Stuart Johnston

By Stuart J. Johnston, Senior News Writer

Microsoft this week began beta testing a set of cloud features designed to give Windows Server 2012 customers the ability to provide Windows Azure services to users. The additions for Azure, first announced  last spring, will enable hosting providers and on-premises users to offer cloud capabilities similar to Microsoft’s own Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering, although initial releases are targeted towards hosting partners.

It’s all part of a larger plan that Microsoft has dubbed Cloud OS — an umbrella concept to let customers run cloud applications on Windows Server 2012 on-premises, in third-party hosting centers or in Microsoft’s own data centers.

“As datacenter computing continues to evolve, customers should ultimately have full flexibility to decide where their data center resources are deployed (in their data center, a service provider’s data center, or Microsoft’s data center) and not have to worry about increased management burden or costs,” said Chris Van Wesep, senior product manager, in a post on Monday to Microsoft’s Server & Cloud Blog.

The company first announced the updates to Azure in early June and shipped community technology previews (CTP) of the Windows Server 2012 features at its Worldwide Partner Conference in July. Windows Server 2012 began shipping in early September.

“We’re now moving in the final phase of testing and bug fixes to make sure these technologies will be fully released along with the System Center 2012 Service Pack 1, which is scheduled for early 2013,” Van Wesep said.

What do you think of this news? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @SearchWinServer.


October 9, 2012  6:22 PM

Windows Server 2012 Essentials, Small Business Server replacement, hits RTM

Toni Boger Toni Boger Profile: Toni Boger

Windows Server 2012 Essentials was released to manufacturing and will be generally available in less than a month, Microsoft said Tuesday.

Sinead O’Donovan, director of program management for Windows Server Essentials, said Essentials will be generally available beginning Thursday, Nov. 1. O’Donovan added that OEM partners will ship server systems carrying Windows Server 2012 Essentials by the end of this year.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials, a cloud and on-site server hybrid, is meant to replace Small Business Server and Home Business Server. A trial version of Essentials is available for download beginning today.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials will cost $425 and has a 25-users limit. Essentials is one of four editions of Windows Server 2012, alongside Datacenter, Standard and Foundation.

Microsoft altered pricing and reduced the number of editions from seven to four, which made some IT shops prepare for a potential cost increase.

What do you think about the Essentials RTM news? Let us know in the comments on this post, or on Twitter @SearchWinServ.


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