Windows Server 2016 new features

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19 August 2015 | 0

Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 3 is set to launch soon, so here are some of the major additions to the Windows Server 2016 operating system ahead of its arrival next year.

Windows Server 2016 has a lot to live up to — Microsoft’s preceding OS, Windows Server 2012 R2, featured a large number of changes and was largely well-received — but the latest server operating system promises some interesting new features to support customers modernising their data centres.

This means embracing new trends such as containers and micro-service architectures, as well as more general improvements such as rolling upgrades for Hyper-V and improved identity management.

Organisations have been getting to grips with the beta version for a while now. The public beta, dubbed vNext, was released in October 2014, after Technical Preview 2 in May 2014, arriving with new features such as hot add and remove memory for Hyper-V and updates to PowerShell management.

The OS was recently shown at a FirebrandTraining event run by Microsoft Technical Evangelist, Ed Baker. Ahead of the launch of the third preview, expected to arrive at the end of this month, here are some of the main features in Windows Server 2016 so far…

Windows Server 2016: Nano Server
The most eye-catching update is the introduction of Nano Server.

Developed under the name ‘Tuva’, Nano Server is a scaled down, purpose-built operating system designed to run modern cloud applications and act as a platform for containers. It promises fewer patches and updates, faster restarts, better resource utilisation and, due to having fewer operating system components, tighter security.

Nano Server is essentially a significantly slimmed down version of Windows Server, Microsoft says.

It has a 93% lower VHD size than Windows Server, for example, as well as 92% fewer critical bulletins and 80% fewer reboots as a result of security patches. This has been achieved by, among other things, removing 32-bit support — it will only run 64-bit applications — while the graphical user interface (GUI) has also gone, with all management conducted either remotely via WMI or PowerShell.

It is focused on two areas. Firstly “born-in-the-cloud” applications, offering support for programming languages and runtimes including C#, Java, Node.js, and Python, whether running on containers, VMs, or bare metal physical servers. It will also target Microsoft Cloud Platform infrastructure, with support for “compute clusters running Hyper-V and storage clusters running Scale-out File Server”.

Windows Server 2016: Docker and containers
Support for containers is another of the standout features. Microsoft has already shown its interest in container technologies, partnering with open source project Docker last year, and Windows Server 2016 will continue to build on this.

Containers offer a lightweight alternative to full virtualisation and allow applications to be packaged and moved more easily from server to server. Although the technology has been around for some time — Microsoft and Google use containers in their own cloud operations, for instance — it has begun to be used more widely among all types of businesses.

In Windows Server 2016 Microsoft will offer support for containers in different ways. Docker containers will run on a Linux kernel on top of a Hyper-V virtual machine, while Microsoft’s own Hyper-V containers will run directly on the Windows operating system, apparently offering improved security over Docker containers.

When the second technical preview was launched in May, containers were not available for testing, but this is likely to be rectified for the next preview.

Windows Server 2016: Hyper-V

Alongside the focus on containers, Microsoft has announced number of improvements to the core Hyper-V virtualisation platform.

Rolling upgrades will make it quicker and easier to migrate Hyper-V clusters to Windows Server 2016. Users will be able to add a node running the Technical Preview to a Hyper-V cluster already running Windows Server 2012 R2. The cluster will continue to operate at the Windows Server 2012 R2 feature level until all nodes are upgraded.

Other improvements includes the ability to hot-add virtual network adapters and memory, a secure boot for Linux guest operating systems and support for nested virtualisation.

Windows Server 2016:  Software defined storage
Improvements to on-premise storage capabilities have been informed by its Azure platform, and Microsoft is eyeing what’s called the ‘software defined data centre’ in an attempt to bring down costs of running private clouds.

This move into software defined storage began in Windows Server 2012 with the launch of Storage Spaces and Scale Out File Server and is continued in the latest versions of the OS.

For example, Storage Spaces Direct allows organisations to tap internal storage in standard servers, similar in some respects to VMware’s vSAN, providing a pool of virtualised storage that can be easily scaled.

Another new feature in Windows Server Technical Preview is Storage Replica, which offers block-level synchronous replication between servers and clusters disaster recovery purposes.

Meanwhile, rolling upgrades also make it easier to upgrade storage clusters to Windows Server 2016 without any downtime.



Matthew Finnegan, IDG News Service

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