Windows Server 2016 is the latest server operating system from Microsoft. It’s packed with new modern features that are designed for virtualization and the cloud while there are significant improvement in networking, security, storage and management. These new features (or feature improvements) will help take your organization’s infrastructure to the next level whether it is on premise, hybrid, or 100% in the cloud.
Some of the top new features that would most likely be affecting most organizations include the following:
Rolling Hyper-V Cluster Upgrade
Linux Secure Boot
Hot Add and Remove of Memory and Network Adapters
Host Guardian Service and Shielded VMs
Start Order Priority for Clustered VMs
Storage Spaces Direct
Microsoft has introduced a new server type named Nano Server in Windows Server 2016. Nano Server is similar to Server Core, but significantly smaller (about 93% smaller VHD size and far fewer critical bulletins) and has no local logon capabilities. It is a completely headless server where there’s no GUI and no command prompt. It only supports 64-bit applications. Nano Server is ideal for Hyper-V, Hyper-V clusters, Scaled-Out File Servers, DNS server, web server running IIS, and cloud service applications.
Hyper-V in Server 2016 has made significant improvement in hardware resource allocation and security.
Rolling Hyper-V Cluster Upgrade:
This feature allows upgrading Hyper-V cluster nodes running Server 2012 R2 to Server 2016 without taking down the cluster. The Hyper-V cluster will continue to be functional as a Server 2012 R2 cluster until all of the nodes have been upgraded to Server 2016. While the cluster still has mixed level nodes, the management will be done from Windows Server 2016 and the new VMs will be compatible with the Windows Server 2012 R2 feature set.
This feature allows the virtualization of a Hyper-V host and nesting virtual machines within this virtual host. This would be useful for running separate environments (e.g. development, test, training, etc.) within the same physical server.
Linux Secure Boot:
With this new feature introduced in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V, you now can enable secure boot for VMs running Linux guest OS. Secure Boot is a specification in Gen 2 VMs’ UEFI firmware that protects the VM’s hardware kernel mode code from attacks by root kits and other boot-time malware. This was previously only available to Windows 8+ and Windows Server 2012 VMs and Linux was not supported.
Hot Add and Remove of Memory and Network Adapters:
With Server 2016 Hyper-V, you now have the ability to add or remove virtual memory and virtual network adapters while the VM is running. This minimizes downtime. This feature supports Gen 2 VMs running Windows or Linux operating systems.
This is arguably one of the most exciting new features in Windows Server 2016. The Docker adoption on Linux has redefined how software developers and IT operations build, ship and run applications. Now with Docker running natively on Windows Server 2016, Windows developers and administrator can also reap the benefits of this powerful tool. You can now finally be able to run Windows apps and infrastructure in containers providing better flexibility, security, portability and the option of moving applications from on-prem infrastructure to the cloud.
PowerShell Direct is new to Server 2016 that allows an administrator the ability to run PowerShell commands in a guest VM from the host directly, bypassing the network layers. You don’t need to worry about networking, firewall restrictions or security policies. You still need to have authorized access to the guest VM in order to use PowerShell Direct.
Host Guardian Service and Shielded VMs:
Host Guardian Service is a new role in Server 2016 that enables shielded virtual machines. It adds an additional layer of protection to the VMs in Hyper-V. Shielded VMs can provide unauthorized access, even from Hyper-V administrators. Shielded VMs can also be encrypted with BitLocker.
Start Order Priority for Clustered VMs:
You are now able to prioritize the start order for clustered VMs. This would allow better control of certain services to start first before others are spun up. You can leverage PowerShell cmdlets to manage virtual machines sets to specify dependencies.
IIS 10.0 provides support for HTTP/2 which includes many enhancements over the previous version HTTP/1.1. It is available on the Nano Server. Wildcard Host Headers are supported with this version allowing administrators to setup a web server for a domain and then have the web server serve requests for any subdomain.
Storage Spaces Direct:
This new technology enables the locally accessible node storage to be available for use in a cluster environment as shared storage. Storage Spaces Direct can aggregate the local disks from the cluster nodes into a Storage Pool which could in turn be used as a Cluster Shared Volume.
These are just some of the highlights of Microsoft’s latest server operating system, Windows Server 2016. However, these new features (plus the many more that are packed in this latest release) really get us excited about the new possibilities that we could do on our future systems and what we could be offering to our valued clients. With the notion of “Cloud” heavily ingrained in Server 2016, we are well positioned to embark on our organization’s vision in Cloud Computing.
TCG is actively evaluating this latest version of Windows OS (at the time this blog article was published). The evaluation includes testing of all the standard system management tools that we are currently using for earlier versions of Windows. We will also be testing cloud deployments using Server 2016, and playing around with containerization with Docker for Windows. More to come!