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What is Windows Server 2012?
Windows Server 2012 is the server version of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system and it succeeds Windows Server 2008 R2. It is the sixth generation of Microsoft's server operating system, and it was officially made available to customers on September 4th 2012.
The Windows Server 2012 developer preview was released by Microsoft on September 9th 2011, and even before development of Windows Server 2012 was finalized, two more test builds were released. Windows Server 2012 is available in four editions: Foundation, Essentials, Standard and Datacenter. These different editions have different features and licensing models, so make sure to choose the appropriate one that fits your needs.
Windows Server 2012 is commercial software, so you have to buy a license if you want to install it yourself. However, unlike with various Linux distributions, users opting for Microsoft's OS get proper, professional support for Windows Server 2012. On the other hand, if you are looking for Windows Server 2012 hosting, licensing costs are handled by the service provider, so you don't have to worry about this particular aspect of the problem.
Windows Server 2012 R2, the successor to Windows Server 2012, was released on October 18 2013. The next generation Windows Server 2016, that was developed simultaneously with Windows 10, is currently in beta testing and is scheduled for release sometime in the third quarter of 2016.
If your web application is based on Microsoft technologies, it is highly likely that it is running on a server based on Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 R2.
Windows Server 2012 New Features
Windows Server 2012 introduced a number of new features:
- Switching between different installation options: Server Core (command-line interface only) and Server with a GUI
- Improved scalability
- User interface is Metro-based like in Windows 8
- New and redesigned Task Manager
- IPAM — IP address management for superior monitoring and management of the IP address space
- Numerous updates to the Active Directory from the previous Windows Server 2008 R2
- New version of Hyper-V supporting up to 1024 virtual machines per host
- ReFS is a new file system introduced with Windows Server 2012 with improved reliability and built-in resilience features
- Windows Server 2012 includes IIS 8.0 (Internet Information Services)
Unlike its predecessors, Windows Server 2012 runs only on x64 processors. Obsolete Itanium-based processors are no longer supported in Windows Server 2012 and newer versions.
The Minimum system requirements are: 1.4 GHz x64 CPU, 512 MB of RAM and at least 32GB of free storage.
Windows Server 2012 Editions
There are four editions of Windows Server 2012: Foundation, Essentials, Standard and Datacenter.
First two editions use a per server licensing model, while the other two editions use per CPU and per CAL (client access license) licensing models. Also, the first two editions are limited to one or two CPUs and 32GB or 64GB of memory respectively, while the other two editions both support up to 64 CPUs and up to 4TB of memory.
There are a number of other differences between the four available editions of Windows Server 2012, so if you are looking into buying a license, be sure to check the features you need and your server specifications before purchase. Choosing the right edition to suit your professional needs is very important. It's a decision made on a case by case basis, and you definitely need to do a fair amount of research prior to making a decision.
Windows Server 2012 supports the following maximum hardware specifications:
- Up to 64 physical processors
- 640 logical processors with Hyper-V disabled
- 320 logical processors with Hyper-V enabled
- 4 TB of memory and 64 failover cluster nodes
These maximum hardware specifications are a vast improvement over the previous Windows Server 2008 R2.
Points to Remember
Windows Server 2012 is a server operating system, and you only need it if you are planning on running your own server system — a file server, active directory controller or a database server.
Consider using a VPS (virtual private server) hosting plan instead as it can be more affordable then managing your own server system or worrying about redundancy and server availability. Also, most VPS hosting plans offer additional software installations on your server for a small fee or free of charge. For example you can get Microsoft SQL Server on many Windows hosting plans.
Can I upgrade my Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 to Windows Server 2012?
You can do an in-place upgrade of Windows Server 2008 to Windows Server 2012, but you need to purchase new licenses for Windows Server 2012, it is not a free upgrade. Windows Server 2008 R2 cannot be upgraded to Windows Server 2012, it can only be upgraded to Windows Server 2012 R2. In this case you also need to purchase new licenses.
Can I upgrade my Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2012 R2?
Yes, you can do an in-place upgrade from Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2012 R2, but you need to purchase new licenses for Windows Server 2012 R2, it is not a free upgrade. These are two different Microsoft products.
I am looking for a Windows-based hosting plan, or a VPS hosting plan, do I need to purchase a Windows Server 2012 license?
No, you don't need to purchase a license for the OS. Your hosting company takes care of that.