While the latest preview release of Windows 8 has been receiving the overwhelming majority of attention from the media, enterprises and IT are likely to be more interested in another operating system update released on the same day. Windows Server 2012 has emerged from its beta stage, and the first release candidate (RC) has been posted for customers interested in registering for an evaluation release.
Based on Microsoft's track record for previous operating systems and applications, the Windows Server 2012 RC marks the start of the OS's final phase prior to official release. And while there's been some uncertainty over whether Windows Server 2012 would feature the Metro user interface that serves as the most radical change in Windows 8, Metro does remain front and center in the Windows Server 2012 release candidate.
In fact, while administrators can install Windows Server 2012 in a command-line interface mode and manage the operating system with the Desktop and Server Manager, there doesn't appear to be an option for users to disable Metro in the release candidate. This contrasts with Windows 8, where consumers do have the option of using Metro or the more traditional Windows interface.
Moving beyond Metro, Windows Server 2012 has a heavy focus on the cloud, offering significantly increased scalability and performance in a dynamic multi-tenant infrastructure developed for helping enterprises build their own private clouds and hybrid clouds. According to Microsoft, Windows Server 2012 will also deliver a common identity and management framework for providing enterprises with highly secure and reliable cross-premises connectivity.
The new server operating system is also designed to make Microsoft's "Software Plus Services" vision a very real part of the OS by providing the flexibility to efficiently build and deploy apps and websites on-premises, in the cloud or across both environments. Microsoft also touts its new OS as enabling "critical applications and enhanced support for open standards, open source applications and various development languages."
Cloud computing and multitenancy aren't the only modernizations of Microsoft's server operating system, as Windows Server 2012 also has a focus on today's workstyle, providing IT with the tools to give users access to apps and data from virtually anywhere on any device, with a rich user interface. On the management side, the server OS seeks to help simplify management and maintain security and control in the current climate of BYOD and global connectivity needs for employees.
Companies interested in evaluating the release candidate can register on the Windows Server 2012 website to download the operating system. Two evaluation packages of the Windows Server 2012 RC are currently available for download, with one focused on IT Pros and the second aimed at developers.