I was stuck back in Redmond this week, unable to attend WinHEC 2007. But one cool, new feature of Windows Server 2008 on display at WinHEC is dynamic hardware partitioning. This was shown during Bill Laing’s keynote today. The demo also showcased new hardware features of the NEC Express5800/1320Xf server (Itanium) … further proof that Microsoft does in fact innovate on the Itanium platform.

Here’s a couple relevant passages from the NEC news release and the Computerworld article:

The dynamic hardware partitioning functionality available in Windows Server 2008, currently available as a public beta, provides the ability to actively add memory, processor and I/O devices while the system is running for enhanced scalability. At the same time, the functionality also improves reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS) by allowing “hot replace” on systems to avoid scheduled maintenance downtime.

Microsoft is partnering with suppliers to vertical markets including financial services, or for applications including databases or e-mail, where server availability is critical. Microsoft is making available an application programming interface (API) to allow server vendors to implement the hot-swap feature with their respective systems management software and firmware, Jewett said.

The API is needed so the other system software and firmware to communicate with Windows Server 2008. In case of failure or when a preset threshold is crossed, the operating system can the entire system a “time out” so all jobs are in a state of suspended animation, according to the company. Then Windows moves all workloads to the new processors or memory and restarts the processing.

This type of dynamic partitioning has been available in mainframes and supercomputers for almost 40 years but is now also becoming part of less-expensive servers.

Today’s demo used Windows Server 2008 beta 3, which supports dynamic hardware partitioning on both x86-64-bit and Itanium 64-bit servers. The trick is the OEM vendor has to update their firmware and partition manager – and other special sauce — to make it work.

I’m sure there’s more to come from WinHEC, stay tuned.