Essential Windows Server 2012 R2 system requirements

Before upgrading to Windows Server 2012 R2, read up on hardware requirements to ensure there are enough resources to preserve performance.

As operating systems evolve and become increasingly sophisticated, demands on a server's computing resources also increase. So any software upgrade cycle -- especially with critical enterprise operating systems -- must include evaluating the server's hardware to ensure adequate resources that preserve required performance levels.

Evaluation can uncover potential system resource shortages that can be resolved with workload balancing, system upgrades, additional server deployments or other strategies. This tip examines Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 requirements.

What are the minimum system requirements for Windows Server 2012 R2?

The minimum system requirements to support Windows Server 2012 R2 are essentially the same as Windows Server 2012, and are considered light by most standards. The stated Windows Server 2012 R2 requirements include a single 1.4 GHz, 64-bit processor core, 512 MB of RAM, a 32 GB disk partition and a standard Ethernet (10/100 Mbps or faster) network connection. The server will also require access to an optical drive, along with access to a keyboard, video and mouse.

Remember: These requirements are for a minimal OS deployment only -- a system that is configured or provisioned to provide only these resources will be unable to run any applications or virtual machines on top of the OS. This means installing Windows Server 2012 R2 on a machine that meets minimum requirements has little practical value, other than to give IT professionals experience with installation techniques and familiarity with the user interface.

What are the recommended system requirements?

When moving from a simple test or evaluation deployment toward a practical Windows Server 2012 R2 install, it's important to provide additional system resources to meet the added requirements of the particular role and application. Microsoft provides a set of recommended system requirements beyond the minimum. IT professionals looking to run Windows Server 2012 R2 in production environments, or anywhere performance is important should heed these recommendations.

Microsoft's recommended Windows Server 2012 R2 requirements include a single 2 GHz, 64-bit processor core, 2 GB of RAM, a 40 GB disk partition and a standard Ethernet (10/100 Mbps or faster) network connection. The server will also require access to an optical drive, along with access to a keyboard, video and mouse.

Remember again that these recommended system requirements still reflect the resources needed to run just the operating system. Installing additional software may require additional resources above the recommended system requirements to run the operating system. 

Requirements for Windows Server R2 roles

Windows Server 2012 R2 can provide an enormous number of services and capabilities that specific server roles use -- but these might not be installed in a minimum configuration. Organizations will need to allocate more memory, disk space and processor capabilities, in addition to the minimum requirements, depending on the new server's intended role.

Consider an application server role. The application server must provide a suite of additional services, including Internet Information Services (IIS), Microsoft .NET Framework, ASP.NET, COM+, Message Queuing and so on. Each service will increase the amount of processor work, memory space and storage the server requires.

A role like remote desktop services (RDS) involves numerous additional services; RD virtualization host, RD session host, RD connection broker and RD Web access must be installed with the server -- and each will impact processor, memory and storage needs. If RemoteFX virtualized graphics processing unit (GPU) is added to accelerate Windows client virtual desktops, the server will require processors that support second-level address translation (SLAT) and at least one GPU that supports RemoteFX and DirectX 11.

As another example, the Hyper-V role allows the server to support virtualization and host multiple workloads simultaneously. This requires additional memory and storage for Hyper-V components, processors with hardware-assisted virtualization such as Intel-VT or AMD-V, along with hardware-enforced data execution prevention invoked through the Intel execute disable or AMD no execute (NX) bit in system BIOS. Although current enterprise-class processors provide virtualization extensions in the processor, it's still important to verify those capabilities before attempting a deployment.

Workload requirements

Computing requirements don't stop with the OS and its services. Additional resources must be allocated to support the actual enterprise application such as Microsoft BizTalk, Microsoft SQL or any number of enterprise resource planning or customer relationship management platforms. Applications require processor capacity, memory space, storage and network I/O beyond the needs of the underlying operating system, so check a particular application's requirements, and add those demands to the OS.

Workload and resource planning becomes even more complicated when the Windows server is virtualized. During virtualization, computing demands of each VM will multiply processor, memory, storage and networking requirements.

Suppose a typical server OS and application require a processor core, 10 GB of RAM and 50 GB of storage. Hosting 10 such virtual machines would need approximately 10 times those resources on the server (about 10 processor cores, 100 GB of RAM and 500 GB of storage). The exact amount of resources will vary with server roles and individual application demands.

It is impractical to list specific system requirements for every possible combination of server role and application. The best approach for resource planning is to use systems management tools to benchmark the resource usage of actual Windows Server 2012 R2 roles and applications to estimate resource needs on another server. Benchmarking can also help IT pros evaluate and optimize Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 performance. 

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