Microsoft has released the preview of Windows Server 2012 R2 to the public. This is available for download for users with a Live ID at Microsoft’s Windows Server 2012 Preview site.
If you’re not familiar with Microsoft’s “Preview Releases”, then let me explain a little. The preview is not a finished copy, but rather a beta version which contains most (if not all) of the features and improvements we should expect to see in the final version for GA (general availability). I do not suggest running a preview release in a production environment or any other mission critical system, since there are usually many bugs and stability issues. The point of the preview isn’t to give the world a free copy of Windows, but rather to give us tech enthusiasts and IT Pros the opportunity to play with the next version of Windows Server. There are lots of great new features, and this is your chance to get some hands on experience with them.
My personal favorite new feature of Windows 2012 R2 Preview is De-duplication for VHDs in SMB 3.0 shares. Data de-duplication is not a new technology, however this is the first time the technology can be leveraged on a Windows file server hosting VHD (virtual hard disk) files. According to the keynote at TechEd 2013, Microsoft claims that not only can you save a whole lot of disk space when storing similar VHDs (like in a VDI environment), but performance is actually improved since the file system has already mapped the bits of de-duped data.
Other Related Previews
- Microsoft’s Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 Preview is also available for download. Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 Preview is the Hyper-V hypervisor platform without the rest of Windows. Hyper-V Server was designed to offer customers all of the great features of the Hyper-V virtualization platform without the need for a Windows Server license for the host.
- In addition to supporting the new platforms, Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Preview has many new features such as the ability to migrate a cluster from Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2012 R2.
- SQL Server 2014 CTP1 increases memory efficiency and performance for data warehousing and improves BI (Business Intelligence) capabilities. There are also several improvements to increase scalability of a SQL database environment.
- Windows 8.1 Preview has many user experience improvements including more powerful search capabilities… and Yes the Start button is back!