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What’s New in Storage in Windows Server 2019 and 2016

Window Server Edition 2016 and 2019 have new features, which have made it possible to use storage migration capabilities for storing data.

The migration service helps in keeping inventory when moving from one platform to another.

This article will try to explain what is new in the storage systems of Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2019, and other semiannual releases.

We will start by highlighting some of the key features added in the two server systems.

Managing Storage with Windows Admin Center

The Windows Admin Center is a new feature that runs on Windows Server 2019 and some latest versions of Windows.

It is the central location where an App handles the server functions, clusters, and hyper-converged infrastructure containing storage locations.

The Admin Center does this as part of the new server configurations.

Storage Migration Service

The Storage Migration Service is the latest technology that makes it easy to move servers from old to new server versions.

All the events take place via a graphical interface that displays data on the servers and transfers data and configurations to the new servers; thereafter, it optimally moves old server identities to the new ones, ensuring the settings for apps and users are matched.

Storage Spaces Direct Improvements (Available in Server 2019 only)

Several improvements have been made to Storage Spaces Direct in Server 2019, though they are not available in Windows Server, Semi-Annual channel.

Here are some of the improvements:

1. Deduplication and Compression of ReFS Volume

You will be able to store up to 10X more data on the same storage space using deduplication and compression of the ReFS system.

You only need to turn on this feature, using a single click, on the Windows Admin Center.

The increase in storage sizes, with an option to compress data, amplifies the saving rates.

Furthermore, the multi-threaded post processing feature assists in keeping performance impact low.

However, it supports a volume of up to 64TB and with each file reaching 1TB.

2. Native Support for Persistent Memory

Windows Server 2019 comes with native support for persistent memory.  This allows you to speed up performance for the continuous creation of memory modules, including the Intel Optane DC PM and NVDIMM-N.

You can use persistent memory as your cache to accelerate the active working set or use it as an extra space needed to facilitate low latency.

Of course, you can manage persistent memory the same way you can manage any other storage device in Windows Admin Center or PowerShell.

3. Nested Resiliency for Two-Node Hyper-Converged Infrastructure on the Edges

The all new software resiliency option, inspired by RAID 5 + 1, helps in surviving two hardware failures.

The nested resiliency for the two-node Storage Spaces Direct cluster offers continuous accessible storage for programs and virtual machines, even when one server node fails.

4. Two-Server Cluster Using USB Flash Drive as a Witness

You an use a low-cost USB flash plugged into your router to act as a witness between two servers in a cluster.

If the server is down, the USB will know which of the servers has more data.

5. Improved Windows Admin Center

The opportunity to manage and monitor Storage Spaces Direct with the newly built dashboard lets you create, delete, open, and expand volumes, with a few clicks.

You can follow performances of IOPS and IO latency, from the entire clusters to the individual hard disks and SSDs.

6. Increased Performance Logs Visibility

You can use the built-in history feature to see your server’s resource utilization and performance capabilities.

It has more than 50 counters that automatically collect  memory, computation, storage and network data, and store them in the cluster for a full year.

This feature works without the need to install or configure anything.

7. Scale up to 4PB for Every Cluster

The Windows Server 2019 Storage Spaces Direct feature supports up to 4 petabytes (PB) (4,000 terabytes).

This way, you can get to the level of multi-petabyte scale, which makes sense in media servers for backup and archiving purposes.

Other capacity guides are increased as well; for instance, you can create volumes reaching 64, and not 32.

More so, the clusters can be stitched together into a set to make the scaling that fits within one storage namespace.

8. Accelerated Parity is now 2X Faster

You can now create Storage Spaces Direct Volumes that are part mirror and part parity.

For example, you can mix RAID-1 and RAID -5/6 to harness the advantages of both.

In Windows Server 2019, the performance of mirror accelerated parity is twice that of Windows Server 2016, due to optimizations.

9. Drive Latency Outline Detection

Using proactive monitoring and the built-in outlier detection, which is an inspiration from Microsoft Azure, you can know which drives have abnormal latency.

You can see the failing drives that have been labeled automatically in the PowerShell and Windows Admin Center.

10. Manual Delimiting of Volume Allocations to Increase Fault Tolerance

In Storage Spaces Direct, the Admin can now manually change the limit of volume allocations.

Delimiting is usually done to increase fault tolerance in specific circumstances that consider management  complexities.

Storage Replica

The Storage Replica has the following improvements:

1. Introduction of Storage Replica in Windows Server, Standard Edition

It is now possible to use Storage Replica with Windows Server, Standard Edition, as well as the Datacenter editions.

Running Storage Replica on Windows Server, Standard Edition has the following weaknesses:

  • Storage replica can replicate a single volume and not an unlimited volume number
  • Volume varies with some taking up to 2TB, instead of taking an unlimited size

2. Storage Replica Log Performance Improvements

The Storage Replica comes with improvements that enhance the tracking of logs.

To get the increased performance, all members of the replication group must run Windows Server 2019.

3. Test Failover Improvements

You can mount a temporary snapshot of the replicated storage on destination server for testing or backing up purposes.

4. Windows Admin Center Support

Support for the graphical management of replication is made possible via the Server Manager Tool.

This involves server-to-server replication, cluster-to-cluster, and stretch cluster replication.

5. Miscellaneous Improvements

Storage Replica also has the following improvements:

  • Changes to asynchronous stretch cluster behaviors for automatic failover to take place.
  • Multiple bug fixes

SMB

SMB1 and Guest Authentication Removal

Windows Server does not install the SMB1 client and server by default, while, at the same time, the ability to authenticate guests in SMB2 if off by default.

SMB2/SMB3 Security and Compatibility

More options for security and applications compatibility were added, including disabling opLocks in SMB2+ for old applications.

This also covers the need for signing encryption on every connection from the client.

Data Deduplication

Data Deduplication Supports ReFS

You’ll not need to choose between the advantages of a modern file system with ReFS and Data Deduplication.

Anytime you enable Data Deduplication, enabling ReFS is also possible now.

Data Port API for Optimized Ingress/egress to Deduplicated Volumes

As a developer, you’ll now enjoy the advantages of data deduplication and possibilities of storing data in an efficient manner

File Server Resource Manager

The Windows Server 2019 can prevent the File Resources Manager service from creating a change (USN) journal on storage volumes.

This is to create and conserve more space on every volume; however, it will disable real-time classification.

This is the same effect that takes place in Windows Storage Server, Version 1803.

What’s New in Storage in Windows Server, Version 1709

Server Version 1709 is the first Windows Server release with a Semi-Annual Channel, which is a channel that is fully supported in production for 18 months, with a new version coming in every six months.

Storage Replica

Disaster recovery and protection is an added function of the Storage Replica, which is now expanded to include:

  • Test Failover

You now have an option of mounting the destination storage through a test failover.

You can also mount the snapshots temporarily for both testing and backup purposes.

  • Windows Admin Center Support

Thee is support for the graphical applications that are managing replications. You can access it via the  Server Manager Tool.

Storage Replica also has the following improvements:

  • Changes to asynchronous cluster behaviors to enable automatic failover
  • Multiple bug fixes

What’s New in Storage in Windows Server 2016

1. Storage Spaces Direct

The Storage Spaces Direct feature facilitates the availability and scalability of storage using servers with local storage.

This implies that it’s now possible to deploy and manage software that control storage systems, unlocking the use of new classes of storage devices.

These devices include SATA, SSD, and NVMe disks. Achieving such storage capabilities may not be possible using clustered Storage Spaces with Shared Disks.

What Value Does this Change Add?

Storage Spaces Direct allows service providers and enterprises to use industry standard servers with local storage.

The idea is to build highly available and scalable software-defined storage.

The use of servers with local storage decreases complexity, as it increases scalability and allows the use of storage devices such as SATA solid state disks. This lowers the cost of flash storage or NVMe sold state Disks

Storage Spaces Direct Removes the need to have a shared SAS fabric, which simplifies deployment and configuration.

This means that the server uses the network as the storage fabric while leveraging the SMB3 and SMB Direct (RDMA) for both high speed and low latency, as well as good use of the processing unit.

Adding more servers to the configuration increases storage capacity and input and output performance.

The Windows Server 2016 Storage Spaces Direct works differently, as explained below.

2. Storage Replica

It enables the storage, block-level stretching of failover clusters between sites, as well as the synchronous replication between servers.

Synchronous replication enables mirroring of data in physical sites with consistent volumes to ensure no data is lost at the file system level.

Asynchronous replication may increase the possibility of data loss.

What Value Does this Change Add?

It provides a single vendor disaster recovery solution for both planned and unplanned power loss situations.

You can use SMB3 transport and gain from proven performance, scalability, and reliability.

It will help you to:

  • Stretch Windows failover clusters further
  • Use Microsoft end-to-end software for storage and clustering, such as Hyper-V, Scale-Out File Server, Storage Replica, Storage Spaces, ReFS/ NTFS, and deduplication

It helps in reducing complexity costs by:

  • Being hardware agnostic with no specific requirements for storage configurations like DAS or SAN
  • Allowing for the storage of commodities and network technologies
  • Featuring easy graphical management interface for nodes and clusters through failover cluster manager
  • Including comprehensive and large scale scripting options through the Windows PowerShell
  • Helping in the reduction of downtimes and enhancing  large scale productivity
  • Providing supportability and performance metrics and diagnostic capabilities

What Works Differently

The functionality is new in Windows Server 2016

3. Storage Quality of Service

In Windows Server 2016, you can use the Storage Quality of Service (QoS) feature as a central monitor for end-to-end storage performance and developing management policies using Hyper-V and CSV clusters.

What Value Does this Change Add?

You can change the QoS policies in a CSV and assign one or more virtual disks on Hyper-V machines.

The storage automatically adjusts itself to meet the fluctuating policies and workloads.

This way, each policy can give a minimum reserve or create a maximum to be used when collecting data.

For example, a single virtual hard disk, a tenant, a service or a virtual machine can be used.

You can use Windows PowerShell or WMI to perform the following:

  • Create policies on CSV cluster
  • Assign the policies to virtual hard disks
  • Enumerate policies on the CSV clusters
  • Monitor flow performance and status of the policies

If you have several virtual hard disks sharing the same policy and performance is shared to meet the demands within the policy’s minimum and maximum settings, it means that the policy can manage virtual hard disks and a single or multiple virtual machines that constitute a service owned by a tenant.

What Works Differently

This is a new feature in Windows Server 2016.

The management of minimum reserves and monitoring the flow of all virtual disks over a cluster using a single command and central policy-based management are not possible in the previous Server releases.

4. Data Deduplication

Function

New or Updated

Description

Support large volumes

Updated Before Windows Server 2016, you had to specify sizes. Anything above 10TB did not qualify for deduplication. Server 2016 supports deduplication sizes of up to 64TB

Large file support

Updated Before Windows Server 2016, files with 1TB could not deduplicate. Server 2016 supports deduplication of files up to 1TB.

Nano Server Support

New Deduplication is available and fully supported for Server 2016

Simple Backup Support

New Windows Server 2012 R2 supported Virtual backups using the Microsoft’s Data Protection Manager. Windows Server 2016 simple backup is possible and is seamless

Cluster OS Rolling Upgrades Support

New Deduplication supports Cluster OS Rolling Upgrade and is available in Windows Server 2016

5. SMB Hardening Improvements for SYSVOL and NETLOGON Connections

Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 client connections to the Active Directory Domain Service, the SYSVOL, and NETLOGON now all share domain controllers that require SMB signing and authentication via Kerberos.

What Value Does this Change Add?

It reduces the possibility of man-in-the-middle attacks

What Works Differently?

If the SMB and mutual authentication are not available, Windows 10 or Server 2016 will not access the domain-based Group Policy Scripts.

It is also good to note that the registry values of the settings are not present by default; the hardening rules will apply until a new policy change comes in through Group Policy or any relevant registry values.

6. Work Folders Improvements

The added changes to notifications are there when the Work Folder server is running on Windows Server 2016, and the Work Folder is on a client running Windows 10.

What Value Does this Change Add?

In Windows Server 2012 R2, when the changes in files are synchronized to the Work Folder, clients will get notified of the impending changes and wait for at least 10 minutes for the update to materialize.

When running Windows Server 2016, the Work Folders will immediately notify the Windows 10 client, and the synchronization changes take effect immediately.

What Works Differently

This is a new feature in Windows 2016.

For this feature to work, the client accessing the Work Folders must be a Windows 10.

In case you are using older clients, or if the Work Folder is on Windows Server 2012 R2, the client will poll every 10 minutes for any new changes.

7. ReFS Improvements

The ReFS (Resilient File System) offers support for large scale data storage allocation with varying workloads, reliability, resiliency, and scalability.

What Values Does this Change Add?

ReFS brings in the following improvements:

  • Implementing new storage tiers that help in delivering fast performance and increased capacity
  • Multipling resiliency on the same virtual disk through mirroring and parity tiers
  • Enhancing responsiveness to drifting working sets
  • Introducing a block of cloning and improvements to VM operations such as vhdx checkpoint merge operations
  • Helping in the recovery of leaked storage and keeping them from being corrupted

What Works Differently?

These functionalities are new in Windows Server 2016.

Conclusion

With so many features available in Windows Server 2019, this article covered the fully supported features.

At the time of writing this post, some features were partially supported in earlier versions but are getting full support in the latest Server versions.

From this read, you can see that Windows Server 2019 is a good upgrade experience.