First teased at TechEd New Orleans in early June, Microsoft today released preview versions of Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2, giving administrators and the developer community a look at how Redmond is refreshing its enterprise IT software slate.
Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Microsoft Windows Server & System Center division, announced the immediate availability of preview versions of Windows Server 2012 R2, the company's cloud-enabled server OS, and System Center 2012 R2. "These products are going to have a massive impact on companies around the world — and IT pros are going to see the traditional boundaries between data centers vanish and a true hybrid cloud emerge," Anderson boasted in a company blog post.
Four preview editions are available, including Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter Preview ISO, Preview virtual hard disk (VHD) Server Core, Preview VHD Server with a GUI, and Preview on Windows Azure. Minimum server hardware requirements are a 1.4 GHz 64-bit processor, 512 MB of RAM and 32 GB of disk space.
The software also requires a gigabit Ethernet adapter (10/100/1000baseT) and a DVD drive if users opt to install the OS from a DVD disc. For certain features, Microsoft also recommends a Super VGA or higher-resolution display, keyboard, mouse and Internet access.
Once installed, the updated cloud-enabled server OS "delivers software-defined networking (SDN) and high-performance storage on low-cost hardware," blogged Anderson. "Hyper-V hosts apps across customer, service provider and Windows Azure clouds, and System Center manages across them," he added.
Anderson hinted that Windows Server R2 will help drive down the cost of cloud computing.
"The Microsoft Cloud OS challenges other cloud providers to justify their high costs, time-consuming upkeep and expensive maintenance fees. When you consider that Microsoft alone can provide platform, management and productivity tools — it's a very exciting proposition for companies around the world," he wrote.
Windows Server R2 and System Center 2012 R2 are part of Microsoft's "Blue" product refresh efforts, which also encompass the company's client software ecosystem. The most notable example is Windows 8.1, which is set to launch sometime later this year.
In keeping with the software giant's new "cloud-first" approach to IT, the combination of Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 allows organizations to dive head-long into the hybrid cloud. "Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center enable virtual machine portability across customer, service provider, and Windows Azure clouds, while a new System Center Management Pack for Windows Azure enhances cross-cloud management of virtual machine and storage resources," claimed the Microsoft Server and Tools team in a blog post.
The Windows Azure Pack adds multi-tenant web and virtual machine cloud services capabilities. A Site-to-site VPN Gateway feature imbues the OS with "built-in software-defined networking," asserts Microsoft, while Storage Spaces Tiering, VHDX resizing and VDI-friendly de-duplication features help businesses maximize their storage investments.
Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 preview editions are available for download now via TechNet.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.