Microsoft has introduced a wide array of beneficial new features in Windows Server 2016. The new improvements will revolutionise your view of data centres. If you upgrade to the new platform, your server management capabilities will benefit from the improved functionalities.
Here are the additional enhancements that easily stand out.
1. Nano Server
Without a doubt, the most intriguing feature in Windows Server 2016 is the new Nano Server. The Nano Server is an improved installation option, which has been refactored to its minimal functional state.
Microsoft has minimalised it such that it lacks any direct user interface, apart from the new Emergency Management console, which is used for carrying out initial configuration duties. In fact, the Nano Server is developed to be managed entirely remotely.
Consequently, Nano boasts of 93% reduced VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) size, 92% lowered critical bulletins, and 80% reduced essential reboots than the previous Windows Server.
In summary, the new Nano Server offers the following benefits:
- The bare metal operating system implies that minimal updates and reboots are required.
- Since it’s managed remotely, the server comes with a much lesser attack surface than the previous Windows Server.
- It is very light in weight such that it can be ported conveniently across servers, applications, and data centres.
- It hosts the most widely used Windows Server workloads. A notable example is Hyper-V host.
2. Docker-powered containers
Docker is an open-sourced platform that allows applications to be built and deployed easily in the form of lightweight, independent sandboxes (known as containers) that can operate on a wide range of environments.
Although Docker-powered containers were primarily developed for Linux/UNIX applications, they are now incorporated in Windows Server 2016. With this new technology, Microsoft expects to bring the advantages of containerisation to the server environment.
Windows Server 2016 supports two types of containerised models:
- Windows Server Containers: They are based on the typical Docker model where every container is deployed as an application on top of the host operating system. They are suited for low-secure workloads where the sharing of common server resources is not a problem.
- Hyper-V Containers: They are not Hyper-V hosts or VMs. On the contrary, these containers are entirely secluded virtual machines. Since the Hyper-V containers are cut off from the other containers, they are suited for high-secure workloads.
3. Shielded VMs
One of the best-improved security aspects of Windows Server 2016 is the Host Guardian Service, which comes with the Shielded VMs feature. This feature offers multiple layers of in-built fortification to protect virtual machines from compromised access.
Shielded VMs utilise VHD encryption technology together with a consolidated certificate depository for approving access to the virtual machines. A user will be allowed access only if his or her entry aligns with any of the approved benchmarks in the depository.
Every virtual machine utilises a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) to support the usage of disk encryption with BitLocker. Furthermore, live migrations are also encrypted to protect the virtual machines from man-in-the-middle attacks.
For example, if your Hyper-V host has virtual machines from several tenants, and you want to enforce their security to prevent any user or administrator from gaining unauthorised access; in such a situation, you can use BitLocker Drive to encrypt the hard disks of the virtual machines.
4. Networking improvements
Another feature that has been greatly improved in Windows Server 2016 is networking. The improvements are meant to boost its software-defined networking capabilities and enhance performance.
Here are some networking features that have been improved.
- Network controller: This new Software-Defined Networking (SDN) technology offers a centralised location for automating the management of network infrastructure. So, rather than carrying out manual management and configuration of virtual and physical network devices in a datacentre, a network controller will assist you in automating the processes.
- Hyper-V Virtual Switch: This new technology operates on Hyper-V hosts. It enables you to build distributed switching and routing capabilities as well as policy enforcement layers which can comfortably connect to Microsoft Azure.
- Network Function Virtualization (NFV): This new feature adds to the current growth of virtual appliances. Some of the NFV technologies introduced in Windows Server 2016 are Datacenter Firewall for offering granular access control lists (ACLs) and RAS Gateway for directing data between virtual networks and physical networks.
- Converged Network Interface Card (NIC): This feature allows you to use fewer network adapters for controlling traffic, which drastically lowers the costs related to managing every server in your datacentre.
- Other networking features: Other exciting new features include the inclusion of the DHCP network management protocol, the DNS naming system structure, the IP address management (IPAM) capability, and the GRE tunnelling feature.
Microsoft has also introduced a number of helpful features to the Hyper-V virtualisation platform. With these new Hyper-V functionalities, enterprises can take their virtualisation experience to the next level.
To start with, rolling Hyper-V upgrades simplifies and fastens the migration of clusters from Windows Server 2012 R2 to Windows Server 2016. This new feature allows you to carry out the upgrades without bringing the cluster down or moving to a new hardware.
Previously, upgrading a cluster required that you first bring it down or deploy a new hardware, something which made the process unnecessarily tiresome. However, the rolling cluster upgrades significantly lowers the effort required to make an upgrade and makes the entire process less agonising.
Another Hyper-V improvement is nested virtualisation. This feature allows you to host a Hyper-V within a Hyper-V virtual machine—instead of being restricted to hosting the Hyper-V role on a physical server. Previously, this capability was impossible, but it has been introduced in Windows Server 2016.
If you want to deploy extra Hyper-V hosts and reduce hardware costs, the nested virtualisation feature will be of great help. You can also find the feature useful during development and testing situations.
Lastly, Hyper-V server now allows you to hot add or remove a virtual hardware or adjust the virtual memory, without experiencing any downtime issues. Previously, performing such changes required that you first switch off the virtual machine.
In Windows Server 2016, such changes can be made even when the virtual machine is online and running. For example, you can now include another virtual network interface card (NIC) to an operating Hyper-V virtual machine.
6. Storage improvements
Windows Server 2016 has wonderful storage enhancements that are intended to increase availability, improve scalability, and reduce costs.
Here are the improved storage features.
- Storage Quality of Service (QoS): This feature allows you to centrally manage storage performance policies for multiple virtual machines. If several virtual machines make up a service and a central way of managing their storage capabilities is needed, the QoS feature could be of help.
- Storage Spaces Direct: This feature enables failover cluster nodes to utilise their local storage within the current cluster. As such, contrary to the previous versions, it eliminates the need for a shared storage fabric.
- Storage Replica: This feature allows you to carry out either asynchronous or synchronous block-level replication of entire volumes. It supports both server-based and cluster-based replications. The Storage Replica feature is useful in disaster recovery situations.
7. Other improved features
- New PowerShell cmdlets: Windows Server 2016 has several new and updated PowerShell commands and parameters focused on enhancing the management of virtual machines. For example, PowerShell remoting commands can now be used to transfer PowerShell directly into the Hyper-V host’s virtual machines, something which was impossible in the previous Windows Server versions.
- Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS): This technology finally introduces some advanced security features to Windows Server 2016, including OpenID Connect-based verification and multifactor verification.
- Linux Secure Boot: With this capability, you can deploy Linux virtual machines without the hassle of deactivating the otherwise important Secure Boot feature. The Windows-based Secure Boot feature safeguards a server’s start-up environment from being compromised during boot-time. Previously, the Secure Boot feature was not included in virtual machines running on the Linux operating system.
- Resilient File System (ReFS): This is a high-performing, stable, and high-resiliency file system used for increasing the efficiency of Hyper-V storage capabilities.
Windows Server 2016 is rich in various computing, virtualisation, and security features, which were not available in the previous versions.
With the new and improved capabilities, Microsoft has demonstrated its commitment to assist customers make the most of their data centres.
Therefore, if you want to take your server management experience to the next level, upgrade to Windows Server 2016 today!
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