Windows Server 2012 Delivers Data Virtualization in Delightful Ways

From Live Migration to server core switching, we examine the key virtualization features of Windows Server 2012.

By Sanjay Bhatia

Microsoft describes Windows Server 2012 as something that was “built from the cloud up.” Many of the design decisions are a reflection of fundamental shifts on how IT operates while aligning to a strategic grand unification of the Windows core that has been going on for over a decade.

Hyper-V Server 2012 Now Free

I did a double-take when I first learned that Hyper-V Server would be a free component of Windows Server 2012, but the dramatically improved Hypervisor in Windows Server 2012 is being given away at no cost. The majority of servers are now virtualized, so this has major implications for anyone currently paying for Windows Server or VMWare on the host. From a reporting and BI perspective, this means that there will be many more VMs in the market and that data virtualization products become even more compelling.

Azure and Windows 8 Interoperability with Hyper-V

Imagine taking a development server on the plane with you or taking a demo server to a trade show where the Internet may not be reliable. More fundamentally, imagine moving your entire data center to Microsoft’s Azure cloud in an afternoon. Server migrations that would previously take days if not weeks of the entire team’s time can now be completed by one person in a few hours.

The best part is that you can change your mind. Because Windows Server 2012 was released a few weeks after Windows 8 RTM, we were actually using the client OS as a virtualization server. Not knowing that Hyper-V server would become free, we devised a way to use the client OS to host some demo servers to reduce costs. The important point is that you can move application VMs from server to workstation to laptop to cloud with ease. Reporting on all this heterogeneous disconnected data will create a greater need for self-service portals that apply fusion.

Server Core Switching

For organizations needing to squeeze every bit of performance out of their infrastructure, Server Core was a great solution that Microsoft released in 2008. The challenge was that it delivered a more Unix-like management interface that required learning PowerShell. Now you can boot into GUI mode, configure your server, and reboot into the lean, mean “Core” mode once everything is ready. This is particularly beneficial when tied with the “Core” mode of SQL Server 2012.

Live Migration and Mirroring

With Live Migration, you can move the VM to different physical infrastructure without having to take it down. For mission-critical, data-driven applications, this is a huge step forward. If you need more capacity for end-of-year analysis or a particularly data-intensive campaign, just live migrate it on to beefier hardware without users experiencing any interruption.

Network Virtualization

Just as electric cars finally became as successful as hybrids automobiles that came with a gas engine, enterprises are building hybrid clouds that combine internal, external, and vendor-managed clouds. From a data access perspective, this is critical. Microsoft simplifies this greatly with virtual networks that allow customers to partner with both Azure and third parties. VMWare does not seem to have anything even resembling this and may become a major reason VMware users migrate to other virtual networks.

A Final Word

Although unifying Windows so the same code can run on everything from a Window 8 phone to a supercomputer-class server farms, Microsoft has re-imagined what a server should be for a world where IT resources are more constrained than ever. I’ve always said that the cloud is more about economies of skill rather than economies of scale. The latest version of Windows Server gives you much more scale without the complex process of hiring the right skills.

[Editor’s note: You can watch a 90-second overview of several Windows Server 2012 features here.]

Sanjay Bhatia is the founder and CEO of Izenda, a company focused on ad hoc reporting, embedded BI, and data virtualization for SQL data. Sanjay has helped over a thousand organizations embed ad hoc reporting, self-service BI, mobile dashboards, and data integration into corporate applications. You can contact the author at

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