Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials Preview and Essentials Experience Server Role

Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials Preview and Windows Server Essentials Experience Server Role now available!

Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials Preview, and the Windows Server Essentials Experience server role for the Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard and Datacenter editions are now available as on July 1st.

As you may recall, less than a year ago we introduced Windows Server 2012 Essentials to the market. Since then, the team has been working really hard to put forward a great release for Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials that further builds on the value that Windows Server Essentials brings to small businesses.

Microsoft says major investments in Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials "allows the experience that Windows Server Essentials offers to scale to larger, more diverse topologies."

Additionally, it has also made investments to help small and medium businesses (SMB customers) to more easily virtualize their environments, as well as provide super simple access to the cloud through deep integration with Office 365 and Windows Azure.

Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials Preview

With Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, Microsoft enabled the virtualization of a Windows Server Essentials guest virtual machine (VM) on a Windows Server Essentials host server. "This can be set up manually by the administrator or, depending on your OEM configuration, a simple wizard will guide you through the process of setting up the guest VM during the installation process of the server. All of the setup, configuration, and connection to your Essentials server from client PCs is made to the guest virtual machine," Microsoft explains.

And, the Windows Azure Virtual Machines, now lets you deploy your own customized Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials image into a commercially-backed SLA production environment in minutes.

In addition, multiple devices can easily connect to the Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials server regardless of location is key empowering remote workers and BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices).

In addition, 2012 Essentials bring the improvements to:

My Server Apps is now availble for Windows Phone 8 & Windows 8/RT as well. Note that for the Preview release, these new versions will not be available right away.

Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, completely overhauled the interface of Remote Web Access (RWA) to be touch-optimized, as well as leveraging HTML5 rather than Silverlight, enabling a consistent experience across any HTML5-compliant browser. "The RWA interface that ships today with Windows Server 2012 Essentials, while very functional, is not optimized for touch devices," adds the company.

In the Standard and Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2012 R2, administrators who want the full features and functionality of Windows Server Essentials will be able to add a new server role to the system called the Windows Server Essentials Experience Server Role.

The Windows Server Essentials Experience server role enables all the features and dependent services and roles of the Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials edition, without the locks and limits that are in place for the edition. Enabling or disabling the Windows Server Essentials Experience role is as simple as turning it on or off in Server Manager.

This change offers the following benefits:

  • "flexibility to implement a Standard or Datacenter edition server running the Windows Server Essentials Experience role as a domain member rather than as the root domain controller.
  • ability to add the Windows Server Essentials Experience to an existing domain environment that already has multiple servers running Windows Server.
  • Running the Standard or Datacenter editions gives you all the features and licensing rights of those operating systems (such as expanded virtualization rights and larger hardware configurations)."

Also, in addition to services previously available, some new services are integrated as well:

Windows Azure Active Directory integration enables SMBs to have single sign-on and password synchronization between the local Active Directory and cloud services such as Office 365. Additionally, User Group management directly from the Dashboard is also enabled.

Office 365 integration expand beyond small business to SMB with following Office 365 features integrated in the Dashboard:

  • "Distribution Groups - The ability to create and manage email distribution groups
  • Mobile Device Management - The ability to manage mobile devices connected to the Office 365 service, enabling remote wipe, policy enforcement, and access management
  • SharePoint Online Library Management - The ability to create and manage SharePoint libraries."

Windows Intune integration enables the administrator to manage users, security groups, and licenses for Windows Intune services right from within the Dashboard.

Windows Azure Backup, previously known as Windows Azure Online Backup, offer the ability to back up your server's key data to Windows Azure cloud storage. In Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, "the Windows Azure Backup add-in is now surfaced on the services integration tab of the Dashboard," adds Microsoft.

Note, for the preview release, the add-in isn't available.

You can download the Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials Preview TechNet.

Alos, Microsoft will be releasing Windows Intune service update to Windows Intune Endpoint Protection (WIEP) agent beginning on July 17th, 2013.

EMEA & APAC is scheduled for: (UTC) 7/17/2013 4:30:00 PM - 7/18/2013 1:30:00 AM
North America is scheduled for: (UTC) 7/18/2013 4:30:00 PM - 7/19/2013 1:30:00 AM