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Perhaps lost in the shuffle amidst all the MMS news this week, the RC for Windows 2008 R2 can now be downloaded by MSDN and TechNet subscribers.
In a Microsoft blog post, David Lowe describes the idea behind R2 as a way of making IT “a strategic asset to a business: enabling new scenarios, automating essential tasks, and dynamically provisioning and de-provisioning resources as needed to support the growing demands of an organization. By simplifying management and administration, we can free up the IT professional from the mundane and manual and allow them to spend more time using their skills to add value.”
Lowe is a senior product manager with Microsoft’s Windows Server division. My colleague Margie Semilof caught up with him at Tech-Ed 2008 Europe late last year to learn what to expect from R2, where he said that he thought the big new R2 features would be BranchCache and Direct Access. BranchCache is designed to augment file services with over-the-wire caching of files, which speeds up the effective connection between branch and main office by reducing the amount of data that is passed over your WAN wires. Direct Access basically creates a clientless and “always-on” VPN between your laptops on the Internet and your internal network. You can listen to the full interview with Lowe via the podcast below.
The Microsoft post cites major enhancements to Server Manager as another big improvement to R2. These additions include Best Practice Analyzers for specific roles, a bunch of new PowerShell cmdlets and the ability to connect to remote servers as well as local ones.
Lowe also mentions a brand new feature – File Classification Management – which he describes as “a new storage capability whereby an administrator can create classification properties for files, such as “Confidential”, “Operational”, “Sales Data”, or indeed anything that matters to their business.” This feature is included with the RC, but is news to most folks outside of Microsoft. I’ll try to get some more details on it in the coming weeks.
You can download the Windows Server 2008 R2 beta here. For a quick rundown of what’s new with R2, check out this article from Greg Shields, where he explains why R2 is a “functionally different operating system” from Windows Server 2008. Greg will drill down deeper into each of the major R2 improvements leading up to the official release, starting with the changes to Terminal Services.