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Windows Server 2008: Codename Longhorn

Column: Accountant Tech Talk

From the Jan./Mar. 2008 Issue

It’s fall 2007, and I’m sitting down to write a column that will
appear in early 2008. So I’m thinking to myself, ‘What’s happening
early in 2008,’ and then it hits me: That’s when Windows Server
2008 (Codename Longhorn Server) will be released. So I thought this might be
the perfect opportunity to share from my perspective some of the new and exciting
stuff that’s coming with the release of the new server operating system.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I know anyone in the accounting profession most
likely won’t be worrying about a new server operating system in the February
timeframe. There are other fish to fry during traditional “busy season.”
But moving up to Windows Server 2008 may be something to consider after the
dust settles.

This is certainly a ‘hot’ topic and you have probably already read
or heard something about virtualization. If not, here is a shameless plug for
my article on virtualization published in the September 2007 issue of this magazine
At any rate, Microsoft ups the ante against market leader and rival in the virtualization
market VMWare with the incorporation of virtualization into Windows Server 2008.
The only caveat is you really will have to wait for this addition. Microsoft
announced that virtualization won’t be part of the initial launch of Windows
Server 2008. Rather, it will be released “within” 180 days of launch.
That timeframe should work out nicely for practicing accountants. The virtualization
piece will only run on 64-bit hardware. Don’t stress about this; you may
already have 64-bit capable hardware. Chipmakers have had 64-bit versions for
several years, waiting for the software to catch up. You might be wondering
if 32-bit applications will run on a 64-bit platform. The answer is maybe. For
the older/wiser group, remember when we had the same concern about 16-bit software
running on 32-bit hardware? The same process will be employed: 32-bit software
will be “thunked” or, in other words, 32-bit software calls on the
hardware will be translated into 64-bit streams.

Another new option with Windows Server 2008 is a ‘Core’ installation
of the operating system. This is essentially a head-less, GUI-less version of
the server operating system. The total size on the disk will be less than 1GB,
yet it will run many of the key infrastructure roles like file and print services.
This smaller ‘footprint’ means a smaller attack surface and less
to maintain for patching. A Server 2008 Core machine will also make a great
host machine for virtual servers. The drawback is that interacting with the
server will have to be done at the command line locally or using the graphical
tools in a remote session.

This new technology, which is part of Windows Server 2008, will prevent ‘unhealthy’
computers from accessing your network. Health for this purpose is defined as
current anti-virus updates and operating system patches. So if you give that
staff person access to the network, but you are worried the home machine they’re
connecting from may propagate a virus on your network … worry no more.
Connection requests are now granted only where the health policy is met and,
if not, the policy server can even put the sub-standard machine in a restricted
network with remediation servers to get updated. This should ease some concerns
about catching a virus from outside.

This encryption technology has received a lot of press in Vista Pro editions;
it will provide the same functionality for Windows Server 2008. By enabling
the encryption on the entire hard disk, if that disk is removed, the perpetrator
will need the significant key or decryption device in order to access the data
on the drive.

Most practitioners have used the functionality in terminal services. This allows
for connecting to an office machine from a home or other remote location and
running programs remotely as only the keyboard, mouse and video refreshes come
across the wire. There are significant improvements in the Terminal Services
area with Windows Server 2008. One new addition is the support of remote applications.
For those of you who have used Citrix servers previously, this is similar to
what Citrix refers to as seamless windows. Essentially, the end user is presented
with a web page with links to published applications. When one of those is selected,
the application loads up and runs as if it were loaded locally, but in reality
it’s running on the terminal server. Applications can be published through
Active Directory so that each user will only see applications they are specifically
authorized to run.

To up the security, the remote desktop software has been re-written. Now remote
users will have to provide credentials prior to the beginning of the connection
process. Older desktop operating systems (XP and Windows Server 2003) will be
able to install the new version of the remote desktop software while Vista and
Windows Server 2008 will come with the new version native. Oh, and another name
change here: The new version is referred to as RDC (Remote Desktop Connection)

Finally, in the Terminal Services area is the ability to connect to your office
machine without first having to connect to your private network using a VPN
(Virtual Private Network) connection. Similar to the functionality in ‘Outlook
Anywhere,’ where Outlook can connect to the Exchange Server without a
VPN, is Terminal Server Gateway. The TS Gateway receives remote desktop network
traffic, which has been ‘encapsulated’ inside HTTPS packets. This
HTTPS traffic is much more common and, consequently, is allowed to flow through
the myriad of firewalls and NAT devices out there. The bottom line is a connection
that is established faster and can be connected to from virtually any outside

There’s a lot more, but that should give you a taste of some of the new
functionality coming in Windows Server 2008.