The Changes Introduced To Windows Server 2008 Computer Science Essay

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This essay looks at main changes/improvements that have been introduced in Windows Server 2008 and in order to do this I have selected to use Windows Server 2003 as a benchmark. The contents of this essay are not a comparison between both systems however knowledge of Server 2003 is required to show what's new in Windows Server 2008.

Due to a restriction placed on the size of this essay only salient points will be covered.

The areas of research will look at Improvements and New Functions.

Improvements: Improvements made to various aspects of the Windows 2003 which now exists in version 2008 however with better functionality.

New Functions: Functions that have been added to Windows Server 2008 that were not present in Windows Server 2003.

Brief Operating System history

Windows Server 2003 became available on 24 April 2003 with an updated version, Windows Server 2003 R2, being released just over a year and a half later on 6 December 2005.

At that time Server 2003, with its Graphic User Interface, similar to that of Windows 98 and Windows Me, basically gave users, with experience of either of these operating systems, an excellent insight into the methods used to navigating around Server 2003.

After a gap of approximately 5 years after the introduction of Server 2003, a new version of Windows Server was made available to the public on 27 February 2008. This version, which was appropriately named Windows Server 2008, had a second release which followed on in July 2009.

Improvements

Microsoft Group Policy Management Console

(GPMC)' used to unite Group Policy management throughout a network is now a feature that is included when installing Server 2008.

There are a number of new group policies preference extensions for server 2008 like printers, services and folder option which provide a more precise aim at specific objects. This makes management and more directionally defined policies easier to implement.

Internet Information Services (IIS)

IIS 6 is an application that has been replaced with IIS 7, in Server 2008, which contains security enhancements over the previous versions.

IIS 7 applications and virtual directories retain individuality in configuration which defines their individual purpose to the web server. Applications and are no longer restricted to using HTTP or HTTPS. It adopts the older authentication protocols and now supports forms authentication. In IIS 7, the required Modules can be selected individually so that you can mix and match modules in respect of the required functionality.

ISS 7 has 3 main functions that differ from the earlier version, namely:

Protocol Listeners:

These listeners receive and respond, via IIS, to protocol-specific requests. IIS 6.0 first introduced HTTP.sys as an HTTP listener however it still exists in IIS 7 and now supports (SSL) Secure Sockets Layer. IIS 7 provides a number of protocol listeners i.e. NET.TCP,

WWW Service:

In IIS 6, WWW Service managed worker processes however this is no longer part of its remit. In IIS 7 as it has become a listener adapter for the HTTP .sys protocol listener. This Service retains the functionality of collecting performance counters for Web sites.

Windows Activation Service

This is an added feature in IIS 7.0 and takes on the roles that used to be covered under WWW Service in IIS 6. i.e. worker processes.

Improvements have also been made to five other main areas, which are mainstays of IIS 7 and are listed below.

Security: IIS 7.0 goes forward with the security processes installed in IIS 6.0. These advancements offer a design that is more modular with a module or service being utilizes when and if required. IIS 7 comes with 40 plus modules or services

This design reduces the area of possible attack, and on doing so provides added security to the server.

Extensibility: An additional feature of the design is an application programming interface which allows developers to write modules in 'managed.Net' code. It also facilitates the replacement of existing modules with newly created ones.

 

Configuration for ASP.NET. has been combined with the IIS configuration management both of which now retain configuration data by using a web.config file.

System Management: In IIS 7.0 a new Management interface is provided which combines administrative user interface and manages ASP.NET configuration information.

Groups can consist of various configurable items relative to different categories or Area. IIS 7 also provides an explorer-like display.

Diagnostics: IIS 7.0 has introduced a function that allows web administrators the facility to trace failed request information, this feature falls under the umbrella of 'Failed Request Tracing'.

This is a means of analysing failed requests and determining why they happened, providing the problem can be replicated. Requests can suffered problems for various reasons and can be, at times, difficult to troubleshoot so it is imperative that a captured trace of the problem is obtained when it occurred.

In simple terms, use' failed-request tracing' to find out why requests hang or why you get error messages.

Rules can be set up that creates parameters for failed requests to be filtered then logged. In this way you can select whether to monitor all contents or be more precise like selecting the monitoring of ASP content only etc.

Status codes can be utilised to filter down requests.

Rules specification can be define by means of a wizard driven interface.

IPv6

Server 2008 has incorporated IP v6, which was more of a necessity than an enhancement. IPv4, (released in the 1980s) can't deal with the expected growth in the requirement for Internet addresses. IPv6 has moved from 32 to 128 bits which has increased greatly the number of nodes that can attach to the Internet. This has future proofed the demand for IP addresses as it now basically allow for every computer on the planet to have an IP address.

Additional functions of IPv 6 are that it simplifies aspects of address assignment using what is known as 'stateless address autoconfiguration' and network renumbering. Setting the host identifier segment of an IP address to 64 bits, the subnet size brings conformity to advance an automotive setup for creating the MAC addresses host identifier.

Insecurities in IPv4 have been dealt with in IPv6 which has network security built in

New Features

"Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 have various new features, categorised under the following heading: "Active directory, setup technology, underlying changes to the OS, Networking Changes, File and print services and finally web based services." [1]

Active Directory, which is basically the hub of Windows networking, has been simplified with a number of enhancements made in Server 2008. Active Directory Domain Services (ADDS) now takes on the roles of enabling administrators to managed connected nodes centrally, setting up user and group police. Active Directory has increased roles with the addition of services in respect of identity, certificate and rights management. This service empowers system administrator's control of user accounts and their related digital certificates.

Additional services introduced in AD are as listed below

"Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS), Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS), (formerly Active Directory Application Mode, or ADAM), Active Directory Certificate Services (ADCS), Active Directory Rights Management Services (ADRMS)." [2]

Active Directory now has a "Read-Only Domain Controller" (RODC) developed for use in circumstances where you don't have enforce the same security features as that of say a head office. i.e. possibly sub offices. In these circumstances a RODC would contain only the details of user names and their respective password in relation to the staff sited in that particular office. The RODC still acts as a DC as they can help user authenticate to the file and printer etc as required. As RODC's is read only it has a non writable copy of AD with all write requests send to the main DC. With the exception of sensitive accounts all accounts are replicated and by default credentials are not cached.

Maintenance can be carried out locally on the RODC by a local administrator without administrative rights on the domain.

Without the need to re boot the domain controller you can stop and restart 'Active Directory Domain Services'. This can be achieved by either using the CLI or from the Management Console which has the effect of reducing downtime.

New Backup Facilities

The New backup features of Server 2008 are a Microsoft Management Console snap-in and command line tool. Four wizards will take you through different backup and recovery methods. A variety of backup options allow you to back up what you want, from backing up the full server to backing up just files or applications. Additionally you can perform a full system restore to a different hard disc disk drive in the event of the drive containing your operating system failing.

Backups can be managed or created, either from a local or remote computer and backups can be run automatically and on a one off basis as an additional backup.

Windows Server Manager

Although server manager was present in server 2003, its role has increased greatly in server 2008 sufficiently enough to be considered a new feature. Having installed the graphic user interface and rebooted you are presented with the initial configuration of tasks which consists of configuring the Administrator password, joining a domain and changing the computer's name. You can also add roles relating to the configuration of different jobs, this being a task previously controlled by the 'Add or remove program' feature in server 2003.

Server Roles and features

Server Roles can be one or a combination of different roles i.e. DCHP, DNS and Active Directory and similarly with 'add features' you can select specific features to suite specific roles.

Server Core

By installing the server without the non essential features and using only remote access or CLI, Microsoft have reduce resource usage and power consumption, increased efficiency and reduced cost. By decreasing the server footprint they have also shrunk the area of possible attack on the system's security.

Additional benefits of the server core are:

Reduced maintenance as only the required elements are installed.

Reduced management as there are fewer applications running on the server, meaning that there were fewer applications to manage.

A reduction in the amount of disk space required to be used as you install only your required elements and not all the feature of a full server

Lower risk of bugs as there is less coding involved

Features excluded from the server core include' Net Framework' and ' Windows Explorer' as they are not considered to be basic roles of the server.

A server core can be configured for the following roles:

"Domain Controller, Active Directory Domain Services, Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services, Active Directory Application Mode and the following server types

DNS, DHCP, File, Print, Windows media ,IIS 7 web and Hyper-virtual server." [3]

Powershell

Microsoft has introduced a new command shell.

Powershell enables Administrators to perform mundane repetitive tasks by using cmdlets (scripts) which enables such repetitive tasks be carried out. It is envisaged that this method of using the command line will be far quicker for configuring server 2008.

Hyper Virtualization (V)

Hyper V enables a physical server to be subdivided into various virtual servers.

Using this method negates the need for multiple servers performing different task i.e. Print server or email server etc.

Multiple Virtual servers on the one physical machine reduces the cost of having to purchase hardware i.e. Individual servers. It also reduces overheads in respect of underutilized hardware in different servers. Running different hardware on physical servers well below their capacity is a waste of power:

Examples of this wastage are highlight in the fact that:

"A 'DC runs to about 5% of the CPU's maximum capacity' with a web server and email server running a bit more." [4]

Conclusion

Microsoft goals were that server 2008 would "help reduced the power consumption of server and client operating systems, minimize environmental byproducts and increase server efficiency". [5]

With the improvements made to older features and the introduction of new features as previously described, Microsoft appears to have met these goals.

To summarise:

The main aspects that assisted in the aforementioned goals being met are:

Server core reduces the resources being used to those that are required making the server role more efficient and as such reduces power consumption.

RODC reduces access at a local level.

"This feature adds a great deal of security to domain controllers in locations with questionable physical security". [6]

Hyper V, by design allows one physical machine to act as a number of virtual servers reducing cost, power consumption, byproducts and increases efficiency.

In general terms Microsoft has streamlined Windows Server 2008, allowing the Administrators to incorporate only such features as required to meet their company's needs and on doing so has reduced the area that could be considered a security risk in respect of possible breaches.

References

[1] Mastering windows server 2008 R2 by Mark Minasi, Darril Gibson.Aidan Finn, Wendy Henry, Byron Hynes chapter 1 page 1

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Server_2008

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Server_2008

[4] Mastering windows server 2008 R2 by Mark Minasi, Darril Gibson.Aidan Finn, Wendy Henry, Byron Hynes chapter 1 page 7

[5] Microsoft White Paper (Windows Server 2008 Power Saving) Published June 2008 page 1

[6] Active Directory 4th Edition By Brian Desmond, Joe Richards, Robbie Allen, Alistair G. Lowe-Norris, Chapter 1 page 14

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