Windows Server 2016: Features MSPs Will Love


On September 26th of 2016, Microsoft released Windows Server 2016. There’s been a lot of buzz about the new release, and with good reason! Some of the new features are built to bypass burning issues for sysadmins, in dealing with infrastructure, security and even disaster recovery. Windows Server 2016 promises faster installs, less downtime while patching, but also better security and identity management. Sysadmins also get improved control over tasks delegation with PowerShell, and other features will make disaster recovery easier.

Here are the top features of Windows Server 2016 that, in our opinion, make it well worth the excitement.


Nano Server

This is a new installation option for Windows Server 2016. It takes up far less disk space, sets up significantly faster, and requires far fewer updates and restarts. It’s a lightweight version for operating “cloud-native” applications based on containers. Moreover, the Cluster Operating System Rolling Upgrade feature means that you can upgrade the operating system of cluster nodes from Windows Server 2012 R2 to Windows Server 2016 without ending Hyper-V or Scale-Out File Server workloads. Less hassle, less downtime!


Hyper-V Hot-Add

In the past, Hyper-V has allowed an administrator to create shifts in virtual hardware or RAM allocation on a virtual machine, but only after powering down the VM. While its predecessor, Windows Server 2012, already included dynamic memory, Windows Server 2016 introduces a “hot-add & remove of memory” feature. Officially known as ‘Runtime Memory Resize’, but usually just referred to as “hot add”, it allows an administrator to adjust virtual hardware even while virtual machines are up and running.

While it is not suitable for all scenarios (e.g., if constant memory changes are too cumbersome for billing and resource planning), it will prove very useful in many other scenarios as it allows admins to set the memory resource to a specific value without having to restart the operating system of the guest PC. This adds a great deal of convenience for system admins — a definite win!


New Containers

Containers have long been a coveted feature in Linux/UNIX open-sourced systems, but Microsoft has taken a big step with Server 2016.  Windows Server 2016 offers two different Docker-style container options, each with its own uses: Hyper-V Containers and Windows Server Containers.

Windows Server Containers are used to run instances that may share server space or common resources with other container instances — such as a trusted multi-tenant or private cloud type of environment. They are very scalable and resource-efficient, and enable administrators to develop and deploy applications with greater agility.

Hyper-V Containers allow an admin to entirely isolate a Windows Server instance (e.g., for sensitive applications with no additional coding required) both from other containers and the host server. Compared to the Windows Server Containers, Hyper-V containers require more resources, but offer a higher or extra level of isolation. You would use Hyper-V Containers for shared hosting or in a highly-regulated environment, if you need to run multiple applications for multiple tenants or create a public multi-tenant environment.


Windows PowerShell

Windows Server 2016 also introduces “Just Enough Administration” security technology. With this, sysadmins will be able to manage permissions and delegate any PowerShell task. Admins will be able to run under network identity, connect over PowerShell Direct or copy files to or from specific endpoints.


Shielded Virtual Machines

The Windows Server 2016 updates also come with a trove of security updates. The new Windows Server comes with Credential Guard and Remote Credential Guard to protect admins credentials, but also with a Device Guard. You can use the Device Guard to decide what code can run on the servers. It also provides code integrity in kernel mode and user mode.

Shielded Virtual Machines are another amazing feat for Windows Server 2016. This will protect any guest machines on a virtual network, if the host been compromised in a cyberattack.


Software-defined Storage

Microsoft introduced a host of new features that will make it easier to scale out, lower costs for small businesses, and enable easy disaster recovery for businesses. The three new features are Storage Spaces Direct, Storage Replica and Storage Quality of Service. StorageSpaces Direct is a particularly interesting development, as it will allow high availability storage with local storage. These systems will rely on less expensive machines than the standard SAN infrastructure, and thus businesses will be able to scale out easier and at less cost.

Storage Replica will allow synchronous replication between servers or clusters for disaster recovery, while Storage Quality of Service will enable admins to monitor end-to-end storage performance and create policies using Hyper-V and CSV clusters.

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