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Microsoft revamps Server 2012 and business product range

Microsoft will soon roll out updates to its enterprise portfolio, including Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center R2 and a new version of Windows Intune, Visual Studio 2013, and .NET 4.5.1 on 18 October.

The updated business software is designed to help organisations build cloud-based IT infrastructures, part of what Microsoft has labelled "the cloud OS," while the updating of these products is "the R2 wave." The latest Windows Azure Pack runs on top of Server 2012 R2 and System Center R2, enabling businesses and service providers to build hybrid clouds — a mixture of public and private cloud services.

Server 2012 R2 introduces new features and enhancements surrounding scalability and performance of cloud platforms. Storage Spaces, the virtualised storage feature, now can automatically tier data across hard disks and solid state drives per usage, offsetting storage costs and ramping up performance.

Security enhancements give IT more control and users more flexibility over the integration of personal devices into the corporate infrastructure (the concept commonly referred to as BYOD). These enhancements include delivering policy-based access control to apps and data consistently across all devices. Single-identity user authentication can be implemented for on-premise and cloud platforms. Multi-factor authentication is available to provide added security.

New Software Defined Networking (SDN) features give system administrators the ability to place virtual machines on any node in an infrastructure, even with IP address isolation enabled. A new virtual gateway feature allows virtual networks to integrate with physical networks and provides access to these virtual networks via the Internet.

Virtualisation improvements are also part of the update. Admins can live migrate Windows Server 2012 virtual machines over to Server 2012 R2 hosts. Live migration with RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access) support aids in creating faster live migrations in virtual environments. Hyper-V in Server 2012 R2 also offers added support for Linux virtual machines.

Microsoft also announced the availability of a new Remote Desktop app in its applications store this week. On 1 November, all Enterprise Agreement (EA) customers will be offered discounted Azure prices.

Other business products will be rolled out in the weeks to come, including SQL Server 2014 CTP2 later this week and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2013 later this month. HDInsight Service — Microsoft's big data, Hadoop-based solution — will be rolled out later this month, and as of now, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 R2 is available.