Build high performance server appliances with Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems

Posted By Partha Srinivasan
Product Manager, Windows Embedded Server and SQL Products

The following is the second in a series of posts on Windows Server 2012 for Embedded Systems written by the team at Microsoft Windows Embedded.

As indicated in the previous blog, Embedded OEMs and customers can now start testing their suitability for using the new Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems (binary identical to the Windows Server 2012 R2), which provides improved performance, hybrid cloud-service capabilities and innovative storage options for building robust, industry class server appliances.

OEM manufacturers use Windows Server for embedded systems to build server appliances—preinstalled hardware and software combined with the operating system—which make the configuration, deployment and management of industrial devices simpler and faster. These server appliances are used in a number of industrial devices such as PACS machines in hospitals, store servers in retail stores and historian servers in manufacturing plants, and are a key enabler in developing intelligent systems architectures.

Today we are going to focus on the new performance features within virtualization, networking and automation areas that are included in Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems.

Virtualization enhancements

Live migration is an important VM mobility feature that keeps getting better and better with Hyper-V since it was introduced with Windows Server 2008 R2 for Embedded Systems. Improving the performance of live migrating a VM from the source host to the target host has been a constant focus for Windows Server, and in Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems, these performance improvements have been taken to the next level: Live migration compression is a new feature that accelerates live migration transfer speed by compressing the VHD/VHDX file, improving performance by roughly 2x for most workloads. And live migration with RDMA is another new feature in Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems; it delivers the highest performance for live migrations over >10 Gbit network connections, supporting transfer speeds of up to 56 GB/s, by offloading the transfer to hardware and harnessing the power of remote direct memory access (RDMA) technologies. Imagine a server appliance, such as a PACS server, with a virtual machine workload that can seamlessly fail over or move to the redundant server that is primarily built for high availability and load balancing, where the VMs can easily be moved to improve the performance of the overall imaging storage processing and retrieval process faster and without causing any downtime for the users.

Building server appliances that run Microsoft SQL Server databases for enhanced business intelligence, interoperability with client computers and connecting to the cloud enhance the value proposition for the server appliance. Running the SQL workload in a server appliance provides the best performance on Hyper-V infrastructure. For example, independent third-party testing by The Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc. (“ESG Lab”) took an existing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 transaction processing workload that was vCPU limited by the maximum allowed configuration of four vCPUs imposed by Windows Server 2008 and increased the performance by six times, taking advantage of 64 vCPUs in Windows Server 2012. The average transaction response times also improved five-fold, from four vCPUs to 64 vCPUs.

These features help ensure that your virtualization infrastructure can support the configuration of large, high-performance virtual machines for sustaining Microsoft or other, mission-critical workloads that you might need to scale up significantly with server appliances. It is also worth noting that by using Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems Datacenter edition, OEMs can build high-scale server appliances, leveraging the unlimited virtualization rights available with this edition.

High-performance networking and automation

With the explosion of new devices that connect to the network and the need for building intelligent systems for delivering operational and business intelligence, the SLA requirements for the server appliances are increasing. These modern SLAs require that services are running continuously, without any interruption. Poor network performance–usually caused by limitations in network bandwidth or limitations in processing power--can impact availability and resiliency of the network infrastructure and hence affect service availability directly. A considerable amount of work has been done in Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems to extract great and predictable network performance inbox, as well as to make the most out of next-generation hardware.

Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems also helps you provide fault tolerance on your network adapters that makes optimized use of and enhance the value of the server appliances. Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems includes NIC Teaming, which allows multiple network interfaces to work together as a team, preventing connectivity loss if one network adapter fails. NIC Teaming also allows you to aggregate bandwidth from multiple network adapters; for example, four 1 gigabyte (GB) network adapters can provide an aggregate of 4 GB/second of throughput. In Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems, the load-balancing algorithms have been further enhanced with the goal to better utilize all NICs in the team, significantly improving performance.

In Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems, the Windows PowerShell 4.0 provides the ability to manage Quality of Service (QoS) policies and settings dynamically. The server appliances built today use a dedicated network adapter and a dedicated network for single-purpose workloads, such as imaging or network-management applications. This approach helps achieve network performance isolation on a server running Hyper V. For OEMs’ end customers, QoS management allows them to run multiple server appliance workloads running Hyper V and be confident that each embedded application instance within the server appliances will deliver predictable performance. Moreover, Windows PowerShell 4.0 delivers over 3,000 cmdlets to enable you to manage server roles and automate management tasks quickly. You can also execute and monitor scripts more efficiently through more robust session connectivity, workflow capabilities, enhanced job scheduling and Windows PowerShell Web Access.

Thus, OEMs can benefit from using all of the above-mentioned performance improvements when building their server appliances. Server appliances are a critical component for enterprises that wish to rapidly build their intelligent system solutions and improve business intelligence while providing a high value to their customers.

You can read more about Windows Server 2012 for Embedded Systems here, and check out the R2 preview download.

1. Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems is binary identical to the Windows Server 2012 R2

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