Windows 8: The next generation of Windows and its impact to IT


By: Jeff Wettlaufer

This week, Microsoft has released the Developer Preview of Windows 8 to the world.  This release comes with some significant enhancements for End User, Administrator and the Developer Community.  What does it mean for Virtualization, CoIT/BYoPC, Workspace Management, Context Aware computing and Task Automation?

Windows 8 is fundamentally an evolution of Windows 7. Under the hood, Windows 8 is still running basically the same architecture as Windows 7. Improvements are however all over the place, and in this post, we will cover these improvements over 6 categories as they relate to RES, and provide some predictions.

Client – Coverage on Windows 8 has been heavily focused on the Metro UI, a new desktop look and feel to how client interaction is architected. This UI has a design focus towards the touch sensitive slate style device, and while it is supported on traditional laptops and desktops, it is optimized for newer hardware. Under the hood, the kernel is the same Win32 API. Win8 has a new WinRT API to enable development in Metro UI formats. This also includes support for HTML5, Javascript and more. Focused on the Consumer, this new look and feel can be flipped back to the traditional desktop. Applications are planned to be accessed through an Appstore, which is yet to be clarified in its position to the Enterprise. A highlight was the lower resource cost Windows 8 clients use. The same hardware running 8 takes significantly less, potentially as much as 30% less, than Windows 7.  If you app runs on Windows 7, it will run on Windows 8.  Does this answer the AppCompat challenge?  What did organizations do to make that app work on 7? 

Server – Windows 8 infrastructure has taken steps from W2K8R2 in a few areas. Performance, Storage, Network, Hyper-V are just a few areas. Several areas of W2K8R2 that have evolved from Terminal Server also continue to grow. Support for up to 2TB RAM, 32 vCPUs with up to 512 GB RAM per VM are just a few. More include:

  • Remote Desktop Web Access (RDWA)
  • Remote Desktop Connection Broker (RDCB)
  • RemoteApp and Desktop Publishing (RADC)
  • Remote Desktop Virtualization (RDV)

Storage – New and built-in data deduplication, which detects duplicate data in files and folders, puts it in a separate store (System Volume Information) and simply gets rid of the redundant bytes. The file itself is 100% intact, though once it gets accessed it pulls the (now missing) information back from the one single data store. Admins can determine which files get deduplicated based on their age. Think about a defragmented file by design combined with SIS (Single Instance Store). In addition, Storage Services including a new Server Manager allows Administrators to simply hang disks off Servers and manage them as storage pools. This is housed inside the OS, which means it’s deeply integrated and highly manageable. Windows 8 enables easy access to the contents of two important storage formats, ISO and VHD files. Windows 8 will allow users to access an ISO file without either needing to burn a new disc or needing to find/download/install additional software just to logically access the ISO. Microsoft is also intent on streamlining procedures related to the VHD, or Virtual Hard Disk, format. In Windows 8, VHDs will appear as new hard drives, one that users can work with just like any other file storage in your system. Support for SMB storage using Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) networks is now possible. Finally, Support for Bitlocker on Clustered disks is now possible.

Network – Windows 8 will significantly enhance network services. Support for Storage Live Migration, without a requirement for a shared storage backend is now possible. In addition, support for multiple concurrent Live Migrations is included. Introduction of Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX), which enables Hyper-V to offload storage features to the backend storage subsystem, comparable with the vStorage API for Array Integration (VAAI) functionality provided by VMware is included. Virtual Fibre Channel Support, where each VM can have up to 4 virtual Fibre Channel host adapters, and direct access to SAN LUNs using Multi-Path I/O (MPIO) is also included. VM boot support from fiber channel and iSCSI SANs is now available enabling new storage scenarios for VDI. Support for NIC Teaming, load balancing and failover in the OS, which until now was only supported by 3rd party vendors like Broadcom and Intel is a logical enhancement to be picked up by the OS. Built in support for JBODs, and Thin Provision on JBODs is now present.

Virtualization – Clearly Microsoft wants to drive the enterprise to live in the Hypervisor for either VDI or backend workload hosting. HyperV grows up in Win8. Support for up to 160 logical processors on Hyper-V hosts is a significant step, creating new levels of density. Support for 32 vCPUs with up to 512 GB RAM per VM means serious workload support at the VM instance level. Support for NUMA in the guest, so that the VM has processor and memory affinity with the host adds robust fault tolerance. Support for multiple concurrent Live Migrations saves Administrators time either when manually kicked off, or automated through (great J ) products like System Center or lower level Powershell . VMs can be stored, and run from alternate paths, no SAN required (VM boot support from fiber channel and iSCSI SANs), UNC, etc is included. A new virtual disk format, called VHDX opens the 2TB limit for the current VHD format, with a maximum of 16 TB. These numbers seem huge today, but they are not that far off in reality. VHDX also provides better performance, support for large block sizes and is more resilient to corruption. Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX) moves storage to the backend subsystem, previously not possible. Virtual Fibre Channel Support, where each VM can have up to 4 virtual Fibre Channel host adapters, and direct access to SAN LUNs using Multi-Path I/O (MPIO) hammer performance through the roof.

Remote FX has also been improved massively. Windows Server 8 automatically detects what type of content gets transferred over the remote connection and chooses the right codec (e.g. for text, images, videos ). RFX adapts to the current situation and reduces the bandwidth load drastically; depending on what type of content you’re generally accessing remotely, predictions of up to a 90% reduction of bandwidth util are suggested. Remote FX supports full multi-touch (Metro UI). You can use a local touchscreen and control a remote machine with nothing but your fingers. Another great addition that’s likely to make admins happy is full USB pass-through.

Personalization – The Build coverage of Mesh did not necessarily open the door to new features. The long awaited Cloud hosted Profile Management has still not been disclosed. While Mesh has been announced, the demonstrations and slide points were largely similar to what is currently in market. Basic Office and Bookmarks are possible in addition to data replication. This writer has been using this service since before MS acquired Foldershare. Mesh is real, very good, secure, and consumer focused. Will enterprises adopt? Not unless it can be managed. Until then this type of service is a cog in the wheel of CoIT, BYoPC and other trends impacting today’s Administrative standards. Other elements of Windows 8 for Personalization are a strong tie to Windows Live. This OS is destined to be tethered to the Cloud, and the Live service line. Right through an install of 8 on my desk, the prompt to create your primary login using your Live creds shows how serious they believe this consumer focused effort will use Live.

What does all this mean to Virtualization, Management, VDI, and the Enterprise? Here are a few predictions:

  • VDI adoption and acceptance will increase. Organizations will be able to increase density of VDI infrastructure, meaning more VM sessions hosted on less hardware. Will this actually deter the pursuit of stateless VDI and simply allow orgs to feel ‘well we can give everyone a personal VDI because its less of an issue’ ? No – that won’t come through. Organizations still want to pursue stateless VDI. Storage, Networking and HyperV enhancements will drive new levels of interest in datacenter workloads and VDI being used.
  • The footprint of Windows 8 is smaller all around the houses. Less Resource needed at Proc and RAM, fewer system services running, faster boot times, all lend to a happier Administrator of classic PCs or VDI – especially when combined with HyperV Dynamic Memory.
  • End Users will gain acceptance of VDI as a real world solution. Today VDI is perceived as this remote desktop that looks and acts like an old NT4 system. With some of these enhancements like Remote FX and USB Pass through, combined with technologies like RES Workspace Manager, VDX or Citrix XenDesktop 5.5 – that remote workspace will look and feel like their own. High performance from faster storage, rich graphics (RFX) and local resource access like USB will make them feel at home.
  • Has Windows solved the Personalization issue? For the consumer, they are closer. For the enterprise, not yet. Neither Windows, or System Center have the ability to understand a user’s workspace definition, scope, context, or true use case scenario. Enterprise still needs Citrix, RES, and others to enable true personalization and workspace management that is context aware.
  • Does this lower the cost of IT Services? There was no mention outside of application development for the cloud, of IT Service Orchestration, User or Resource Provisioning, or simple end user Task Automation. The message was new client side UI capabilities for a user to do tasks in themselves (go get an app from the appstore) or new elements of Server Manager capabilities. Windows 8 still needs System Center, and others like RES and Citrix to truly provide Automation services.
  • Does this bring ability to define and manage context? No. Context continues to be an increasingly harder challenge to navigate, as CoIT, BYoPC, and other trends like alternative working scenarios increase. This author changed basic context (hardware level) 8 times today, across 4 different connections. As users take their Windows 8 clients around the world, from the house to the office, simple context changes like default printer, or broader definitions such as geo fencing become critical.

Thanks for reading, there will be more to come as Windows 8 enters broader availability, and gets closer to ship…………

Stay Classy…

bio pics teenyJeff Wettlaufer
Sr. Director, Product Marketing, RES Software

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One Comment

  1. Jeff,

    Great article, I finally got the new VMware Fusion 4 so I can now install the Preview…look and feel is cool. I can’t wait to see how Windows 8 works in the tablets, and more importantly see if the Tablet can break the 8 hour mark in the “standard” tablet form factor (iPad, Xoom etc.). I say if that happens, MS will be right back in it, and will jump straight to the top of the tablet food chain for the enterprise.
    As far as VDI adoption. I think that more importantly companies looking at VDI need to look at Persona and User File management first and foremost, then depending on their requirements, use VDI. Hands down, VDI without Persona Management, is the single biggest reason for failure. Outside of that companies really need to evaluate their reasons and use cases for VDI. In most cases that I see, companies can benefit more from a good User Persona Management solution than a VDI solution.
    I can go on, but this is a Windows 8 thread .. :-)

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