At its recent BUILD Conference, Microsoft announced the details of the next Windows Server OS, currently known as Windows Server 2012 (formerly code-named Windows Server 8). Windows Server 8 is a huge, feature-packed release, and some of those features are particularly important for SQL Server installations. Here are the most important database-related features in the next Windows Server release.

1. Server Core as the Default Installation

Making Server Core the default server environment helps server installations to be more secure and to require less patching. The GUI is now considered a feature, used to perform your initial server configuration, with the option to remove it when you’re ready to move into production. SQL Server will be fully supported on Windows Server 8 Server Core.

2. Support for Installing SQL Server Databases on File Shares

Windows Server includes many enhancements to the Server Message Block (SMB) file-sharing protocol, SMB 2.2. One of the most important new features is the ability to set up continuously available file shares. Unlike previous versions of Windows Server where SQL Server databases weren’t supported on file shares, Microsoft will support SQL Server databases stored on continuously available SMB 2.2 file shares.

3. Increased Hyper-V Virtual Machine Scalability

Possibly the biggest enhancements in Windows Server 8 are its virtualization support. For starters, the Hyper-V 3.0 release in Windows Server 8 will provide support for hosts with up to 160 logical CPUs and up to 2TB of RAM. Hyper-V 3.0 virtual machines (VMs) will support up to 32 virtual CPUs with up to 512GB of RAM per VM, providing much greater scalability for your SQL Server VMs.

4. Enhancements to Hyper-V Live Migration

Live Migration in Hyper-V 3.0 has been enhanced, and, like VMware’s vMotion, it’s now able to support multiple concurrent live migrations. Even more important is the new support for Live Migration without the requirement for shared storage between the different virtualization hosts. This will definitely help bring virtualization’s high availability capabilities to businesses that don’t have a SAN.

5. New Hyper-V Live Storage Migration

Another closely related improvement in Hyper-V availability is support for Live Storage Migration. Like VMware’s Storage vMotion, Hyper-V 3.0’s Live Storage Migration enables you to move a VM’s configuration, virtual hard disk (VHD),and snapshot files to a new location without incurring any downtime for the VM. Like Live Migration, Live Storage Migration doesn’t require a SAN.

6. Hyper-V Replica

For improved disaster recovery, Windows Server 8 will provide support for built-in asynchronous replication of Hyper-V VMs. The replicated VM data can be compressed as well as encrypted. Replica servers can authenticate using either Windows Integrated authentication or certificate-based authentication. The new Hyper-V Replica supports active-passive, active-active, and bi-directional replication, as well as shared recovery sites.

7. Built-in NIC Teaming

Another important performance and availability technology in Windows Server 8 is the ability to provide NIC teaming natively in the OS. Prior to Windows Server 8, you could get NIC teaming for Windows only via specialized NICs from Broadcom and Intel. The new built-in Windows Server 8 NIC teaming works across multiple heterogeneous vendor NICs and can provide support for load balancing as well as failover.