Microsoft Windows Server 8 review: First Look

Microsoft has unveiled Windows Server 8 - but is there more to this upcoming server operating system than just the new Metro user interface? Mary Branscombe finds out in our sneak peek.

Search for files, apps and settings.

Tasks appear in Server Manager when the mouse is in the right place.

Some of the more exciting possibilities with Windows Server 8 include using commodity servers to replace expensive storage virtualisation and networking systems.

The good news is that you can do that with the current generation of hardware as well as taking advantage of CPUs with more cores and NUMA architecture as they come along. Although nothing is final, Microsoft is suggesting that system requirements for Windows Server 8 won't increase dramatically; we haven't been able to do extensive testing but we're told it will give you good performance on systems that run Windows Server 2008 R2 today and we had no problem installing it on low-spec machines.

So what are our first impressions?

Verdict

Windows Server 8 is currently only available as a developer preview to give Microsoft partners a chance to start developing drivers and tools. As usual, there are some really compelling new features like Dynamic Access Control as well as improvements that make features like DirectAccess and CHKDSK what they should have been in the first place. They may not give you enough value to justify an upgrade on their own, but they could be welcome if you choose Windows Server 8 for the more strategic options like affordable high availability and building network and storage virtualisation systems with commodity hardware. Windows Server 8 shows promise, but we'll reserve final judgement for the final version which is expected in about a year's time. Editions and pricing are, as expected, yet to be announced.

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