'Blue' Preview for Windows Server & System Center 2012 R2, SQL Server 2014, Partners with Oracle in the Cloud

Cloud OS Product Previews of System Center 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012 R2, SQL Server 2014 CTP1 released. Announces new building blocks of database-backed Azure services, Private Cloud Fast Track, partners with Oracle.

At TechEd Europe 2013, Previews of Microsoft System Center 2012 R2, and Windows Server 2012 R2, and Public CTP of SQL Server 2014 is annouced.

Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 provide a wealth of new advancements to help IT organizations build and deliver private and hybrid cloud infrastructure for their businesses.

One of the most important features included in Windows Server 2012 R2 is the addition of a Start button, the same one that's going to be included in the future Windows 8.1 Preview.

As you can see in this picture below, the Start button is always visible when working on the desktop, while in Metro mode, users are required to move the mouse cursor in the left lower corner to access it.

Start Button in Windows Server 2012 R2

Microsoft also revealed today that more schools across the United States are making the move to Windows 8, to collaborate and inspire creativity in the classroom, as well as improve the learning outcome for students.

With Windows 8, along with the modern Office 2013/365 experience, students can engage in a modern and improved learning environment by utilizing a touch device. Schools are using Windows 8 devices rather than Apple's iPad because "Educators who experience the difference of a touch tablet running Windows 8 realize that with one device, they can have both a touch tablet and a laptop with no compromises. Teachers using Windows 8 tell us they are seeing a renewed excitement to learn among their students and that Windows and Office are the tools they need to prepare students to succeed in college and career," Microsoft said.

Some of the highlights include:

  • "Enabling hybrid cloud - Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center enable virtual machine portability across customer, service provider and Windows Azure clouds, while a new System Center Management Pack for Windows Azure enhances cross-cloud management of virtual machine and storage resources. Windows Azure Backup and Hyper-V Recovery Manager provide offsite backup and disaster recovery options.
  • Windows Azure Pack provides Windows Azure technology that enterprises and services providers can run on their Windows Server infrastructure for multi-tenant web and virtual machine cloud services.
  • Built-in software-defined networking - Site-to-Site VPN Gateway helps customers seamlessly bridge physical and virtual networks and extend them from their datacenter to service provider datacenters.
  • High performance, cost effective storage - Features such as Storage Spaces Tiering, VHDX resizing and de-duplication for virtual desktop infrastructure provide high performance for critical on-premises workloads (like SQL and Hyper-V) using lower-cost, industry-standard hardware.
  • Empowering employee productivity - Windows Server Work Folders, Web App Proxy, improvements to Active Directory Federation Services and other technologies will help companies give their employees consistent access to company resources on the device of their choice."

SQL Server 2014 brings to market many new exciting capabilities that will deliver tremendous value to customers, and this public CTP enables you to try and test many of these capabilities. SQL Server 2014 delivers:

  • "Mission critical performance across all database workloads with in-memory for online transaction processing (OLTP), data warehousing and business intelligence built-in as well as greater scale and availability
  • Hybrid cloud platform enabling organizations to more easily build, deploy and manage database solutions that span on-premises and cloud
  • Faster insights from any data with a complete BI solution using familiar tools like Excel," informs Microsoft.

Key Features included in SQL Server 2014 CTP1: "In Memory Performance Built-In; Enhanced In-Memory ColumnStore for data warehousing; Platform for Hybrid Cloud; and Enhanced BI Capabilities."

"Windows Azure is the only fully supported infrastructure and platform as a service offering, and fully integrates with on-premise infrastructure."

"The market-leading System Center Configuration Manager and cloud-based Windows Intune provide a unified environment to manage all devices. Windows Intune combines with System Center for a hybrid cloud approach to managing the growing "BYOD" challenge," anderson said.

To help better understand Microsoft Cloud OS, here is a slide form Anderson's keynote presentation that spells out how these new products and services fit into the Cloud OS:

Microsoft Cloud OS Architecture

Also, check out this demonstration of a new file synchronization solution in Windows Server 2012 R2 called "Work Folders" - which synchronizes user's files to your file servers and then out to all the user's devices:

Microsoft has also announced a new partnership with Oracle to help customers embrace cloud computing (including private cloud and public cloud) by improving flexibility and choice while also preserving the first-class support that these workloads demand.

As part of this partnership, "Oracle will certify and support Oracle software on Windows Server Hyper-V and Windows Azure," Microsoft stated.

That means, customers can enjoy the support and license mobility benefits. "Customers who have long enjoyed the ability to run Oracle software on Windows Server can run that same software on Windows Server Hyper-V or in Windows Azure and take advantage of our enterprise grade virtualization platform and public cloud. And, Oracle customers also benefit from the ability to run their Oracle software licenses in Windows Azure with new license mobility," the company adds.

Microsoft further says, that it'll add Infrastructure Services instances with preconfigured versions of Oracle Database and Oracle WebLogic Server for customers who do not have Oracle licenses in the future.

"Windows Azure is, and will continue to be, committed to supporting open source development languages and frameworks," Microsoft stated. To this end, Oracle will enable customers to obtain and launch Oracle Linux images on Windows Azure.

And, Microsoft and Oracle will also "add properly licensed, and fully supported Java into Windows Azure. "

Also, announced today, is the availability of the SQL Server Data Tools - June 2013, that introduces several new features.

Windows Azure Customer Advisory team has started a new series to describe the use of fundamental build blocks (aka components).

The articles walk through the individual components of the code project Cloud Service Fundamentals in Windows Azure posted on MSDN Code Gallery. The series will also go over, in details, these components: telemetry, data access layer, caching, configuration, application request routing, and deployment.

Find out more about this complex subject, here.

illustration of the architecture for the Cloud Service Fundamental code project:

illustraton of cloud Service architecture

If you want to have the best cloud on the block, then updates to the Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track document that is updated for Windows Server 2012 and System Center Service Pack 1.

"Fast Track helps IT pros build out private cloud infrastructure and Fabric management system and now it's got a solution that uses Windows Server 2012 and System Center SP1. The program provides downloadable resources, such as Fabric architecture guides, and reference implementations that are available for purchase. Customers can build the solution using the guidance from the updated documentation, or they can buy the reference implementation from a Microsoft hardware partner," Microsoft stated.

Check out Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track here.

Download links:

  • System Center 2012, and Windows Server 2012 R2 here,
  • CTP1 for SQL 2014 here
  • SQL Server Data Tools June 2013

Update: Lync app for Windows 8 and or Windows RT, added several new features as well as performance update and adds better accessibility for high contrast modes and screen readers.

With the update app, "

  • Lync users can now join meetings even without a Lync account.
  • Users can see their Outlook meeting schedule and join Lync Meetings directly from Lync.
  • Users can also present PowerPoint files and even preview the slides privately while someone else is presenting.
  • Lync users can see their contacts and start conversations from Snapped view in Windows 8."

"This is Lync reimagined for the new Windows Experience and optimized for touch: providing fast, natural, hands-on control of your communications. Lync meets all your communication and collaboration needs: integrating voice and video calls, Lync Meetings, presence and IM in a fast, fluid, easy-to-use app."

Grab the app at Windows Store.

Lync app for Windows 8 and RT