Windows Server 2012 Features: Server Manager and Groups, ReFS, and Storage Spaces

equalizerabstractThe Server Manager in Windows Server 2012 has been redesigned, received a new interface, and has new and increased functionality.  With Server Manager, you can easily manage multiple remote servers. Using Windows Server 2012 Server Manager, you can remotely provision roles and features quickly on a server from a central computer.  You can use the new Server Manager dashboard to view, install, and remove server roles and server groups (or you can use PowerShell Install-WindowsFeature or Remove-WindowsFeature.  Prior to this you had to either use a Remote Desktop Connection or physically access the computer to provision new roles. You can also install the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) for Windows 8 and use a Windows 8 computer to manage Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, and even Windows Server 2003.

Another new feature in Windows Server 2012 is Server Groups.  A Server Group is a collection of user-defined servers as opposed to a grouping of servers that may share a specific role or purpose. With Server Groups, you can perform role-based administrative tasks against a group of servers with common attributes.  For example, a server group containing all machines running DNS or DHCP could be managed.

Resilient File System (ReFS)

Windows Server 2012 heralds in the new Resilient File System (ReFS), which is the replacement to the venerable NTFS, first introduced in 1993 with NT 3.1.  The Resilient File Systems has a high degree of compatibility with NTFS and inherits many of its features. It also has new resiliency and scalability features that go beyond what NTFS could provide, including data verification and auto correction, as well as support for larger file and directory sizes (really large files – up to 2^64-1 bytes), disk scrubbing, data striping for improved performance, and enhanced virtualization support.

Other key features of ReFS include:

  • Integrity. ReFS stores data in a way that protects it from many of the common errors that can normally cause data loss. When ReFS is used in conjunction with a mirrored Storage Space, detected corruption – both metadata and user data, when integrity streams are enabled – can be automatically repaired using the alternate copy provided by Storage Spaces. In the event of a system error, ReFS quickly recovers from the error with no loss of user data.
  • Availability. ReFS prioritizes the availability of data. Historically, file systems were often susceptible to data corruption, which would require the system to be taken offline for repair. With ReFS, if corruption occurs, the repair process is both localized to the area of corruption and performed online, requiring no volume down-time. Although rare, if a volume does become corrupted, or you choose not to use mirrored Storage Spaces, ReFS implements salvage, a feature that removes the corrupt data from the namespace on a live volume and good data is not adversely affected by non-repairable corrupt data. In addition, there is no chkdsk with ReFS.
  • Scalability. ReFS is designed to work well with extremely large data sets, petabytes and larger, without performance impact. While practical concerns surrounding system configurations (such as the amount of memory), limits set by various system components and the time taken to populate data sets or backup times may define practical limitations.
  • Proactive Error Identification. The integrity capabilities of ReFS are leveraged by a data integrity scanner, which is known as a scrubber. A scrubber periodically scans the volume, attempting to identify latent corruption, and then proactively triggering a repair of that corrupt data.

Storage Spaces

Storage Spaces is one of the unique storage features of Windows Server 2012. By taking advantage of low-cost commodity storage hardware (in this case, think of a JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks). Using Storage Spaces, you create a virtual storage pool.  You combine these disks into storage pools by combining unallocated space on physical disks. These storage pools can then be divided into spaces and used just as you would a regular disk.  You can add or remove disks to a storage pool, thereby provisioning storage as needed. Storage Spaces are designed to work with the new Resilient File System (ReFS).

Reproduced from Global Knowledge White Paper: Twelve Fantastic Features You Need to Know about Windows Server 2012

Related Courses
MCSA: Windows Server 2012 Boot Camp
Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 (M20410)
Administering Windows Server 2012 (M20411)

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