I've pubbed often on the feature benefits of Windows Server 2008 R2. But geek talk aside, what are the other benefits that the Windows Server platform provides to businesses? Some think time brings out my Top 5 reasons listed below.

1.     A pervasive and open server platform. Currently, of the Fortune Top 100 Companies in 2009, 98% are using Windows Server products. With a presence like that, companies looking to connect with customers and partners via back-end applications, like e-commerce and supply-chain apps, have a much easier time building such solutions. Such a large presence also necessitates Windows Server be a platform that supports industry standards for software development and hardware manufacture. Microsoft utilizes these characteristics of Windows Server to provide useful tools for building custom applications, including tight interoperablity with Microsoft SQL Server, Internet Information Services and a rich suite of development tools. Again, an easier time for customers looking to customize their IT investments.

2.     Windows Server means mission-critical. According to IDC, Windows Server 2008 is the number 1 server operating system deployed for mission-critical workloads, and to keep that trend going, Windows Server 2008 R2 includes a host of new reliability features that make it a solid platform for your mission-critical applications. R2 supports up to 256 logical processors and 2TB of RAM as well as full support for the latest server CPUs, including the almost-here Intel Nehalem EX. R2 also adds reliability features, including improved multi-site clustering and Live Migration (for moving virtual server between physical hosts with no perceived end-user downtime). That engineering is allowing R2 to set new performance records such as a recent world-record 2,012 tpsE score*, a #1 ranking, on the TPC-E online transaction processing benchmark in conjunction with Unisys hardware.  All this adds up to a server platform that can support powerful and redundant hardware configurations to keep your mission-critical applications running smoothly.

*(Transaction Processing Performance Council (www.tpc.org).  Results as of 2/3/10.  Unisys ES7000 Model 7600R Enterprise Server, 2012 tpsE, 958 $/tpsE, available 5/6/10.)

3.     On a nittier grittier level, Windows Server 2008 R2 is the most power-efficient Windows Server to date, leveraging both new power management capabilities in our operating system as well as support for the latest power efficient CPUs and hardware from our hardware partners. Leveraging capabilities like Power-Process Management, Core Parking, Power Monitoring and Metering helps lower power consumption for your company.

4.     Windows Server 2008 R2 also gives you a complete virtualization platform out of the box. Move to Windows Server 2008 R2 and you'll get the next generation of our Hypervisor, Hyper-V R2, which now includes advanced business continuity scenarios like the above-mentioned Live Migration. The new Hyper-V is also a faster performer than its predecessor with support for the latest CPU technologies as well as new network optimization features. Virtualization isn't just server virtualization either. The new Remote Desktop Services and the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure allow organizations to provide virtualized desktops and applications to end-users with performance and rich-media support that can make them indistinguishable from locally-run applications.

5.     Easy customized and automated management with PowerShell and System Center. PowerShell 2.0 comes with Windows Server 2008 R2 and is significantly richer and more pervasive than the well-received PowerShell in Windows Server 2008. Over 600 new cmdlets come in the box along with a new development environment for building your own. For enterprises with large data center management needs or small businesses with limited IT support, the System Center product suite offers powerful management tools in a variety of packages.

I'm only scratching the surface of benefits that Windows Server has for your business, but you can view the above as my marquee headliners. In my opinion, another key benefit, though less easily defined and certainly not called out as often, is tomorrow's innovation. With Windows Server playing a key role in both Microsoft's public and private cloud computing scenarios, for example, customers will be in a great position to leverage these new computing benefits as they become available. Keeping yourself future-safe was always a key consideration during my IT pro days.

Again, however, this is just my two cents. For those who want to drill deeper into Windows Server's innards and strategy, the February issue of Windows IT Pro magazine includes a broad set of interviews with Bill Laing (who heads the Windows Server team) and Ward Ralston (group product manager on the Windows Server team) on some of the deep dive details on the product.  The Windows IT Pro Q&A with Michael Otey and Ward can be accessed here, Windows IT Pro subscribers can access all the articles online, or you can find them in the February hard copy issue of the magazine as well.  Additionally, check out the video below of Ward on the evolution of server computing over the years and some of the benefits of virtualization.

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