Windows Server 2008 R2 Release Candidate ready for download

If you haven’t used all your bandwidth downloading all Windows 7 RC, Hyper-V 2008 R2 RC and Office 2007 SP2 then you should definitely download the recently launched Windows Server 2008 R2 Release Candidate.
Here are the top 10 IT Pro tasks made easier by Windows Server 2008 R2
#1 Migrating VMs Without Service Interruption
Live Migration leverages Windows Clustering Services and the Cluster Shared Volumes technology to transfer VMs in milliseconds. That means no dropped connections and a much more dynamic data center management environment. We’ve also added Live Migration features to System Center Virtual Machine Manager, including the ability to perform migrations based on policy. It’s a brave new virtual world.

#2 Branch File Access Performance Up; WAN Costs Down
Administrators can use BranchCache to track file access requests at the branch office, and the files can be cached there. Files can be retrieved from other branch office client PCs (a peer-to-peer caching model, known as distributed mode) or from a dedicated BranchCache server at the remote site (also called hosted mode). A central BranchCache server keeps track of both existing file requests and file updates to ensure all requests receive only the most current content.

#3 Self-adjusting Server and Data Center Power Management
First, there’s an exciting new feature called Core Parking. When this feature is enabled, Windows Server 2008 R2 will constantly monitor the various workloads running across multi-core server systems. If certain processor cores are under-utilized or unnecessary, Core Parking can set just those cores into sleep mode, thus saving significant power. If workloads suddenly increase, R2 can spin up dormant cores in a matter of milliseconds. So a server with 64 logical cores can drop to just a 4-core machine during low-utilization times and rev back up to full CPU power as soon as workloads increase.

In addition, Windows Server 2008 R2 enables administrators to design active power policies that can cause servers to ‘throttle-down’ during off-hours by using DMTF-compliant remote management interfaces.

#4 Remote Server Management
Windows Server 2008 R2 addresses this challenge with a Server Manager that can be installed on workstations and pointed at servers from afar. In addition, Server Manager has new management consoles devoted specifically to remote management tasks across all server roles.

#5 Squeeze the Most From Your Hardware
First, because it takes advantage of the last two years of 64-bit server CPU manufacturing, Windows Server 2008 R2 is the first Microsoft server operating system to take only the 64-bit road. Your 32-bit applications will continue to run flawlessly on R2, but the 64-bit operating system is much better designed to take advantage of those high-end server CPUs from AMD and Intel.

And more of them, too—with Windows Server 2008 R2 scaling up to address as many as 256 logical processors in a single server, and Hyper-V in R2 is able to use more than 32 logical processors in a single VM. That’s twice the CPU support of Hyper-V 1.0! R2 can also take advantage of advanced CPU features, including Second Level Translation for much-improved memory management. It all adds up to more server muscle for your data center dollar. When combined with the consolidation power of Hyper-V, it means R2 can make a significant dent in your annual IT spend.

#6 Do Better At Managing Virtual Data Centers
The new Hyper-V™ sports numerous improvements over the old, including support for both 32- and 64-bit VMs, larger memory support (up to 64GB per VM), pass through disk access, and new hardware sharing architectures for resources like disk, networking, and video. But Hyper-V™ hasn’t left managers out in the cold—it includes new consoles for Live Migration and high-availability clusters, support for WMI management extensibility, and day-to-day tools to make life easier such as Virtual Machine snapshots. And last (but definitely not least), Hyper-V™ also sports a host of new support from PowerShell 2.0 with a slew of new dedicated cmdlets.

#7 Create Customized and Automated Management Tools
PowerShell v2 carries improvements across the board with improved remote management via WS-Management, better security with features like constrained runspaces, extended scripting functionality, and even improved script portability via XML. You’ll find a new Graphical PowerShell that adds pro developer-class IDE features, including colored syntaxing and better debugging tools for building your own cmdlets. And lets not forget about the over 240 new cmdlets that ship with R2 right out of the box.

#8 Use Virtualization to Ease Desktop Management
The new Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) in Windows Server 2008 R2 figures largely in this vision, and builds on the solid presentation virtualization foundation we built into Windows Server 2008’s Terminal Services. With the advent of Window Server 2008 R2, this is now called Remote Desktop Services under which VDI encompases a centralized desktop delivery architecture that allows customers to centralize the storage, execution, and management of a Windows® desktop or application in the data center. This capability gives desktop and application administrators a whole new toolkit for better enablement of flexible work scenarios, including work-from-home and hot-desking as well as increased data security, compliance, and more efficient management of the desktop operating system and applications.

#9 Broaden Remote Access Adoption While Making it Easier to Manage
DirectAccess (DA) is a comprehensive anywhere access solution that enables organizations to provide always-on, secure connectivity to on-premise and remote users alike. It improves security and lowers total cost of ownership (TCO). DA eliminates the need to connect explicitly with the corporate network while roaming and provides organizations with the next generation of policy-based, secure connectivity. To end users, the concept of remote computing goes away because DA and Windows 7 combine to present them with an always-on connection to their corporate network whether they’re attached to a local, remote or even public network.

#10 Take Your Web and Application Serving To The Next Level
Overworked server administrators will appreciate the updated Web server, which includes features that streamline management by extending the functionality of IIS Manager to include new configuration modules, by implementing a new Windows PowerShell Provider and task-based cmdlets for IIS, and by offering support  for .NET on Server Core—that means not just more application flexibility with ASP.NET now available on Server Core, but remote administration through IIS Manager and Server Manager as well. IIS 7.5 also integrates new support and troubleshooting features, including configuration logging and a dedicated Best Practice Analyzer, and integrates many of the more popular extensions for IIS, including updated versions of Secure FTP and WebDAV.