This content is part of the Essential Guide: Should you migrate to Windows Server 2012 R2?

Q&A: Microsoft's Brad Anderson talks Windows Server 2012 R2

Microsoft's Brad Anderson discusses new features in Windows Server 2012, including a faster update cycle and cross-platform integration.

IT administrators interested in what the future holds for the Windows Server platform got a glimpse last week when Microsoft took the wraps off Windows Server 2012 R2.

Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Windows Server and System Center program management, sat down with SearchWindowsServer to discuss the platform's new features and rapid release schedule, and what IT has to do to keep pace.

How is Windows Server 2012 adoption going compared to the adoption of Windows Server 2008 R2 in its first six months of availability?

Brad Anderson: We are only eight to nine months into it, so we don't have a strong benchmark yet. But in terms of value, Hyper-V and the storage capabilities are the primary drivers for why organizations are upgrading. If they are virtualizing and building clouds on the Microsoft platform, then it seems organizations want the new version of Hyper-V. According to IDC's numbers that track hypervisor share, VMware is above 50% but Hyper-V has crossed over 30% share, and we continue to pick up a point of share every quarter.

So, are there are still a lot of people waiting for Windows Server 2012 R2 to arrive before they feel comfortable moving from Windows 2008 R2?

Anderson: Historically, a lot of people will wait for SP1 because with SP1 Microsoft typically gets it right, they believe. I think we had some great things in there that will make it easy for users to update from Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2012 R2. For instance, we showed off [at Tech Ed 2013] the ability to do a live migration. So, if I have an entire data center running VMs [virtual machines] on 2012, I can live migrate them and upgrade them as part of the same live migration to R2. There is zero down time.

How does the new delivery cadence affect the delivery of server-level products, and how in turn will that affect IT shops who have a rather rigid cadence for evaluating and deploying products?

Anderson: Fair question. The cloud is really driving everyone to up their game. With cloud, the rate at which you can innovate is something we have not seen before from a competitive standpoint. So, as we build and operate these cloud services, the amount we learn is just phenomenal. We can take this learning and drive it into our products and get them out there faster. We try bits in the cloud first, battle-test them and then deliver them on-premises. I think the proof point of that will be what is coming in this fall's set of releases. [It is] something no one would have expected us to do in less than a year.

Still, how does this help IT shops with their own rigid requirement for testing, evaluating and deploying mission-critical products?

Anderson: My advice is they have to be more willing to take and move to updates faster. There is still a lot of work we need to do to make it easier to upgrade. So, we have a goal that says when we upgrade from one version to another, it should be seamless and have zero downtime. Look at the upgrade from Server 2012 to 2012 R2 -- which is a live migration. My advice to organizations is think about how you should change [your] processes to get innovation out faster.

Is Microsoft moving too fast in terms of innovation? You are asking IT shops to take on a new device (the Surface), to buy Office as a subscription service and move a lot of on-premises data to the cloud; and then there are the server cloud pieces that go along with this, such as Azure and Office 365.

Anderson: I want to emphasize that part of our core strategy is enablement of choice. Organizations can make the choice about what they want to consume in what cloud and when. We offer Office 365, but you can still use Exchange and Sharepoint in your own data center if you want or need to. I think the combination of System Center Configuration Manager and Intune is a great place to start. The majority of the world uses System Center to manage their PCs. We have made it easy to extend System Center out to the cloud with Intune, and now manage all of your Windows, Apple and Android devices through the cloud, but doing it through your System Center console. It is a hybrid scenario for managing PCs and devices.

With Windows Server 2012 and R2, you have these abilities around Hyper-V Replica and disaster recovery which allows you to replicate VMs to a service provider or replicate VMs to Azure. You still have everything running in your data center, but you are using a hybrid model for things like backup and disaster recovery. This begins to give you some experience with the cloud. So, nothing has to change on-premises, but now you are getting experience with using a cloud in a hybrid model. And as you gain more experience, you can make better decisions about whether you want to move more or less.

So, you have to establish the new cloud products at the server level first. But how will that spill over and make people more interested in buying these desktop devices and services?

Anderson: First, we are a devices and services company. We will do everything we can to differentiate our devices and create demand for those devices. I think we have shown over a long period of time that we can do that. But I have a second job that is independent of what device the user chooses. We want our back end to power all those devices. So, even if a user is using an Android device, an iOS device, we still want them using Azure and Windows Server and System Center.

In part two of this interview, Anderson discusses new mobility features in Windows Server 2012 R2 integration between Windows devices, Apple iOS and Android.

Senior News Writer Diana Hwang and Associate Site Editor Jeremy Stanley contributed to this report.

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