What is Windows Server 2012? Windows Server 2012, codenamed “Windows Server 8”, is the sixth version of the Windows Server operating system by Microsoft, as part of the Windows NT family of operating systems. It is the server version of Windows based on Windows 8 and succeeds Windows Server 2008 R2, which is derived from the Windows 7 codebase, released nearly three years earlier. Two pre-release versions, a developer preview and a beta version, were released during development.
The software was officially launched on September 4, 2012, which was the month before the release of Windows 8. It was succeeded by Windows Server 2012 R2 in 2013. Mainstream support for Windows Server 2012 ended on October 9, 2018, and extended support ended on October 10, 2023. Windows Server 2012 is eligible for the paid Extended Security Updates (ESU) program, which offers continued security updates until October 13, 2026.
Windows Server 2012 removed support for Itanium and processors without PAE, SSE2 and NX. Four editions were released. Various features were added or improved over Windows Server 2008 R2 (with many placing an emphasis on cloud computing), such as an updated version of Hyper-V, an IP address management role, a new version of Windows Task Manager, and ReFS, a new file system. Windows Server 2012 received generally good reviews in spite of having included the same controversial Metro-based user interface seen in Windows 8, which includes the Charms Bar for quick access to settings in the desktop environment.
What is Windows Server 2012?
The purpose of this book is to introduce and familiarize system administrators, or anyone who needs to get up and running with Windows Server 2012, with the platform’s major new features and improvements and how to implement them. First, I’ll offer a little background on the evolution of Microsoft’s newest server operating system.
Three years after the launch of Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft unveiled Windows Server 2012, its latest server operating system. Server 2012 is the most significant server release since the update from Windows Server NT 3.51 to NT 4.0, which introduced the modern graphical interface to Windows Server.
Server 2012 is just as significant because, arguably, for the first time in a Windows Server release, it represents a server product based on the needs and wants of consumers rather than solely on the needs of the enterprise.
Server 2012 is designed for compatibility with and support for three major and current computing trends, all driven primarily by consumer demand: cloud computing, virtualization, and the continued “consumerization of IT,” which is the surging demand from the workforce to use personal technology devices—in particular, mobile devices—in the work environment.
Microsoft has engineered Server 2012 to meet these three market trends with several upgrades and enhancements. Virtualization and cloud computing needs are met by new virtualization technologies baked into Hyper-V 3.0. Some of the capabilities include the ability to connect a datacenter to a public cloud, and features that allow system administrators to build hybrid and multitenant private clouds. Server hardware, storage, and networks can be virtualized, thereby reducing power costs, centralizing administration, and allowing for fast and efficient scalability as an infrastructure grows.
The consumerization of IT is a trend that has been of particular consternation to the field. As personal technology devices become more sophisticated and ubiquitous, people increasingly want to use their personal devices in the office. IT has to perform the delicate balancing act between maintaining control over the business networks that these devices access and delivering a rich user experience.
Server 2012 lends itself to navigating this balancing act with enhancements to Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Microsoft has made WAN-side improvements in VDI so that the remote desktop experience is as robust as connecting to apps and network resources within a LAN. Administration of Remote Desktop Services and remote clients is now centralized in an updated Server Manager, a one-stop shop that compiles all the primary tools a system administrator needs to manage a Windows infrastructure in a single interface.
Security improvements accommodate employees’ personal devices to prevent data leakage, to retain strong access controls, and to adhere to compliance regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Overall, these are improvements with Dynamic Access Control (DAC)—the control over security and compliance in an organization in continuous and periodic intervals.
Server 2012 not only meets the changing technology needs of the workplace, but it also rolls out new capabilities and beefed-up legacy features. There is an abundance of new features and enhancements, some of them “under the hood” and not readily apparent to a user.
Windows Server 2012 Foundation Edition
This edition of Windows Server 2012 is targeted towards small businesses of up to 15 users. The Windows Server 2012 R2 Foundation edition comes pre-installed on hardware server with single physical processor and up to 32GB of DRAM memory. Foundation edition can be implemented in environments where features such as file sharing, printer sharing, security and remote access are required.
Advanced server features such as Hyper V, RODC (Read Only Domain Controller), data deduplication, dynamic memory, IPAM (IP Address Management), server core, certificate service role, hot add memory, windows update services and failover clustering are not available in the Foundation edition.
Windows Server 2012 Essentials Edition
The Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials edition is the next step up, also geared towards small businesses of up to 25 users. Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials edition is available in retail stores around the world making it easy for businesses to install the new operating system without necessarily purchasing new hardware. Similar to the Foundation edition, the Essentials edition does not support many advanced server features, however it does provide support of features like Hyper V, dynamic memory and hot add/remove RAM.
Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials edition can run a single instance of virtual machine on Hyper V, a feature that was not available in Windows Server 2012 Essentials (non-R2) edition. This single virtual machine instance can be Windows Server 2012 R2 Essential edition only, seriously limiting the virtualization options but allowing companies to begin exploring the benefits of the virtualization platform.
Windows Server 2012 Standard Edition
The Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard edition of windows server is used for medium to large businesses that require additional features not present in the Foundation & Essential edition. The Standard edition is able to support an unlimited amount of users, as long as the required user licenses have been purchased.
Advanced features such as certificate services role, Hyper V, RODC (Read Only Domain Controller), IPAM (IP Address Management), Data deduplication, server core, failover clustering and more, are available to Windows Server 2012 Standard edition. We should note that the Standard edition supports up to 2 Virtual Machines.
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