German said read-only domain controllers and remote management also gives organisations a more secure way to deploy server computing to branch offices.
Another major driver for Windows Server 2008 take-up is the introduction of embedded virtualisation support, which integrators say will be a catalyst for mainstream virtualisation adoption. "The virtualisation technology will make it easy to deploy servers and allow applications to be virtualised," Evolve IT technical services manager, Jason Cuolahan, said. "We see this as a real positive and something we can definitely put to our customers." "We have crossed that acceptance field in the server virtualisation space. Now we're talking about virtualising services and applications and what should be virtualised, not if," DiData's Hanrahan said.
The new Systems Center add-on also offered administrators better tools to manage physical and virtual servers through one console, he said. On the security side, the introduction of network access protection is another string to Microsoft's bow and demonstrated a maturity in how devices connect to the network, integrators agreed. "I think we're seeing a coming of age of perimeter security. In the past, this has been managed by the network side of the business, while the servers and clients have been managed by someone else," Hanrahan said. "With [Server] 2008, these are now coming together and you have centralised management capabilities around user rights."
Emantra's Dewar and Evolve IT's Cuolahan also highlighted seamless terminal services to the desktop as a strong selling point.
For Technical Architecture Solutions practice manager, Damian Murdoch, a raft of productivity improvements will make life easier for system administrators. As an example, he pointed to Powershell, which allows back-end code access for the automation of any task that can be done in the operating system.
While there weren't many obvious downsides to Server 2008, DiData's Hanrahan said administrators could find the removal of the GUI and Microsoft's back-flip on default applications installations challenging. Portal management processes and patching servers will also require a new approach.
"We are now talking about application- specific deployments. As integrators, we need to be aware of what is sandwiched out and what's there and put the focus on management processes," Hanrahan said.
Another area of potential concern could be licensing, Total Network Support solutions consultant, Mark Ryan, said. The integrator has many SMB customers who have opted against taking Software Assurance and will have to revisit licensing options. This could add thousands of dollars to their software bill, he said.
Take-up of the year-old Vista desktop operating system could also accelerate as a result of the Server 2008 release, several integrators claimed. But Di-Data's Hanrahan said attitudes towards Vista has already improved following the release of Service Pack 1.