A lot has been made about how Windows 8, with its new touch interface, is oriented more toward consumers than toward businesses. I think it's clear that Microsoft's primary push behind Windows 8 has been toward the consumer, but that doesn't mean Window 8 features for enterprises are any less compelling. Here are the top 10 Windows 8 features for large organizations.
10. Windows 8 Enterprise edition—Windows 8 Enterprise is the edition that's focused on the needs of larger organizations. All the features listed in this column are available in Windows 8 Enterprise. If you're interested in a more complete breakdown of the features in the different Windows 8 editions, check out Paul Thurrott's excellent article "Windows 8 Secrets, Beyond the Book: Guide to Product Editions."
9. DirectAccess—First introduced in Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7, DirectAccess lets remote users access resources inside your corporate network without having to launch a separate VPN. DirectAccess makes it easier for users to connect to corporate networks and for IT departments to keep remote systems in compliance with the latest policies and software updates. In Windows 8, DirectAccess can be deployed with an IPv4 infrastructure.
8. BranchCache—BranchCache, introduced with Windows 7, essentially lets branch office servers or local PCs cache files and other content from remote servers so subsequent file access can come faster from the local copy. The Windows 8 implementation of BranchCache streamlines the deployment process and optimizes bandwidth over WAN connections.
7. AppLocker—Another Windows 7 enterprise feature that made its way into Windows 8, AppLocker lets you specify which users or groups can run particular applications in your organization based on unique identities of files. When you use AppLocker, you create rules to allow or deny applications from running. Windows 8 AppLocker can restrict Windows 8 apps (formerly called Metro-style apps) and regular desktop applications.
6. RemoteFX—RemoteFX in Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 provides support for remote touch and USB devices. RemoteFX provides host-side rendering of graphics-intensive workloads and is important for supporting rich virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environments. Windows 8 RemoteFX multi-touch lets you run Windows 8 desktops in a VDI environment with complete support for the new touch-enabled UI.
5. Secure Boot—The Windows 8 Secure Boot feature prevents unsecured operating systems from loading during the start-up process. The Secure Boot feature takes advantage of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) to store certificates that identify secure operating systems that can load during the boot process, preventing malware such as rootkits from loading when the system boots up.
4. BitLocker—BitLocker was introduced with Windows Vista, but it was restricted to the Enterprise edition and above. With Windows 8, BitLocker support is now in both the Windows 8 Professional and Enterprise editions. The new version can protect system drives and removable drives, as well as Cluster Shared Volumes and SAN storage. You can find more detailed information about the new Windows 8 BitLocker features in "BitLocker Changes in Windows 8."
3. Windows To Go—All new with Windows 8, the Windows To Go workspaces feature lets you create a bootable and fully manageable Windows 8 desktop on a USB drive. Windows To Go requires the Windows 8 Enterprise edition. When you boot a system with a Windows To Go USB drive, that system's internal hard disks are taken offline—any Trusted Platform Module (TPM) is not used, hibernate is disabled, and the Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE) is not available. You can enable BitLocker protection for a Windows To Go workspace. You can learn more about Windows To Go from the Microsoft TechNet article "Windows To Go: Feature Overview."
2. Scalability—Windows 8 supports maximum memory configurations that were formerly available only in the realm of servers. Windows 8 Core supports up to 128GB of RAM on the x64 platform. Windows 8 Professional and Windows 8 Enterprise both support up to 512GB on the x64 platform. The x86 versions of Windows 8 support a maximum of 4GB of RAM. Windows 8 supports a maximum of two physical CPUs, but the number of logical processors or cores varies based on the processor architecture. A maximum of 32 cores is supported in 32-bit versions of Windows 8, whereas up to 256 cores are supported in the 64-bit versions.
1. Client Hyper-V—Apart from the UI changes, the most significant enhancement in Windows 8 is its support for Client Hyper-V. The Windows 8 Professional and Enterprise editions provide the same hypervisor technology that's in Server 2012. Client Hyper-V requires a minimum of 4GB of RAM and support for Second Level Address Translation (SLAT). With Client Hyper-V, you can move VMs between Server 2012 and Windows 8 Hyper-V. Windows 8 Client Hyper-V is also laptop-friendly: Closing the lid to your laptop and putting it to sleep causes Client Hyper-V to save the state of all your running VMs. You can get more details about Client Hyper-V from the Microsoft TechNet article "Client Hyper-V."