Windows Server 2008 ships with an overhauled TCP/IP stack and a new version of its SMB file-sharing service, which together can deliver significant performance gains in file-sharing scenarios, specifically over high-latency connections.
Unlike previous versions of Windows Server, which bound network adapters to a single processor, Windows Server 2008 is able to spread the processing load for incoming network traffic across multiple processors.
Another enhancement to Windows Server's TCP/IP stack is the Receive Window Auto Tuning feature, which determines the optimal amount of data to be sent over a connection at once by measuring the latency of the connection. On high-latency links, larger amounts of data can be sent efficiently at one time, but as connection latency grows, Windows Server sends less data per transmission window.
In previous versions of Windows, administrators could adjust this setting themselves by manipulating registry values. However, Windows Server 2008's knack for automatically adjusting these values will make this optimization available to a broader range of sites.
Microsoft's SMB (Server Message Block) 2.0 file services protocol boosts performance over high-latency links by reducing the "chattiness" of the protocol. Rather than wait for receipt acknowledgments before sending more data, SMB 2.0 supports sending multiple SMB commands per packet. This more parallel method of operation can deliver substantial speedups that grow more dramatic as connection latency lengthens.
SMB 2.0 requires Windows Server 2008 or Windows Vista on both ends of the connection; otherwise, Windows Server 2008 or Vista will negotiate down to SMB 1.0.
One of the most immediately recognizable new features of Windows Server 2008 is the Server Manager, which is an outgrowth of the "configure my server" dialog that launches by default on Windows Server 2003 machines. However, rather than serve only as a starting point to configuring new roles, the new Server Manager gathers together pretty much all of the operations you'd want to conduct on your server.
I used the Server Manager to add new roles to my test machines; for roles I'd already installed, the Server Manager presented me with control panels containing all the pertinent action and information related to those roles. I could see right away, for instance, whether the services comprising these roles were running. I could also start, stop and restart these services, as well as check for event viewer items related to the installed roles.