With its recent release of the fourth technical preview of Windows Server 2016, Microsoft has proven its commitment to improving its server for both on-premises and cloud-based deployments.
Microsoft’s recent on-premises tools have been getting half-hearted (if that) feature upgrades. (Case in point: Exchange 2016.) So it’s especially great to see the strong commitment to Windows Server.
Key improvements in Windows Server 2016 include the following:
- Nano Server enhancements like support for DNS and IIS server roles, plus a new PowerShell module for building Nano Server images. (Nano Server is a new deployment option that allows for a headless, cloud-optimized version of Windows Server.)
- Window Containers allow isolated applications to run on one system. There are two types of containers available: server containers (these use namespace and process isolation to contain applications) and Hyper-V containers (these use VMs to contain applications). Each can be managed with either PowerShell or Docker (which is based on open standards).
- The Hyper-V improvements are too numerous to list, but the standouts include shielded virtual machines, which encrypt both data and state to ensure a much more secure deployment of VMs using a Host Guardian server. Nested virtualization is another interesting feature that lets you create a Hyper-V host and create VMs within that host, which can be helpful for dev/test scenarios.
- More JEA (Just Enough Administration) improvements cover domain controllers and server maintenance roles. JEA is a form of role-based access control through PowerShell that lets you give users the ability to perform some administrative tasks on the server without giving them full admin rights.
- Storage Spaces Direct improvements include support for all-flash configurations with NVMe SSD and SATA SSD devices. There’s new support for cluster rolling upgrades to allow for a mixed-mode cluster configuration when running deduplication. In plain English, you can now run Windows Server 2012 R2 and 2016 together to allow for a gradual rollout of the new deduplication version.
Even better, every aspect of Windows Server seems to be getting improved: networking, monitoring, the new PowerShell 5.0, and a heavy focus on security enhancements. All these new options and features will benefit cloud-based deployments as well.