Windows Server 2016: Two takes on a new data centre OS

As organizations increasingly move workloads to the cloud, one wonders about the long-term future of Windows Server. Well, for the time being it’s safe. Most CIOs are still unlikely to trust their prime data to the cloud, meaning mixed environments will be the rule for some time.

Which brings us to Windows Server 2016, which began shipping Oct. 1. Microsoft touts a number of new capabilities including

  • Advanced multi-layer security: Shielded Virtual Machines help protect VMs from a compromised fabric as well as improve compliance. Shielded Virtual Machines are encrypted using BitLocker and will run on healthy hosts. Protect admin credentials from Pass the-Hash attacks using Credential Guard and Remote Credential Guard, and better control administrator privileges;
  • Software-defined datacenter features: An enhanced Desired State Configuration environment can save time by defining the desired state and delivering automatic alerting and remediation if things go wrong. This automation helps IT admins offer infrastructure as a service to internal customers on a self-service basis to address the onslaught of deployment and configuration requests.
  • Cloud-ready application platform: It’s easier to shift workloads on Hyper-V to to a Windows Server virtual machine in the cloud with new capabilities such as Windows Server Containers and Hyper-V containers.The lightweight Nano Server deployment option reduces WinServer’s footprint. Microsoft also has a new agreement with Docker that will make the Commercially Supported Docker Engine (CS Docker Engine) available to Windows Server 2016 customers at no additional cost;
  • Reduced storage costs: Features such as Storage Spaces Direct, Storage Replica, Quality of Service, and data deduplication, use policies and automation to increase datacenter efficiency and reduce storage management costs.

So what’s the bottom line? Ars Technica ran WinServer 2016 technical preview through the wringer and came to some interesting conclusions. “Thanks to the battle scars Microsoft took in using Server for its own Azure cloud service, Server 2016 now challenges or exceeds the capabilities of its primary virtualization rivals. In other words, it’s good enough to do most of what people are doing right now at Windows prices.

“Server 2016 is not going to quickly dislodge any incumbent vendors from existing data centers, but it will give people with a somewhat smaller budget the sort of capabilities that used to cost a whole lot more.”

Author Sean Gallagher says the security features added to Hyper-V — some of which are better than those in VMware vSphere, he believes — and Server 2016 itself alone are reasons to upgrade. Other Hyper-V features will make the OS attractive to both private and multi-tenant clouds, he adds.

The biggest benefit Server 2016 may provide, says Gallagher, is the way it once incorporates features that were previously expensive add-on services. “Will it upend the enterprise world? Probably not. But other major infrastructure software (and even hardware) vendors ignore Microsoft’s kaiju-like march into their territory at their own peril. And if competitors try to take on Microsoft in usability and cost… well, that’s a fight where we all win.”

Over at The Next Platform, Timothy Prickett Morgan takes a long look at the history of WinServer and concludes there are two operating systems in this latest version: The familiar one IT administrators know that supports file systems, runtimes, and protocols that current Windows applications require to execute; and one that looks to the future with technologies from the Azure cloud service, including its file systems, containers, integrated software-defined networking, and the streamlined Nano Server.

“In the end,” he writes, “unless customers put up a big fuss, the future will look more and more like Azure, as embodied in the Azure Stack approach to building a true cloud, and less like the Windows Server way that most enterprise are long familiar with.”

Both are interesting reads.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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