3 Biggest Changes in Windows Server 2016
Guest Author: Norm Kennedy, Technical Instructor
Windows Server 2016 was first released on September 26th at Microsoft's Ignite conference, and it's first major update was released this October. While it seemed on the surface like just another iteration, Windows Server 2016 represented a major shift in the design of Microsoft's operating systems.
The list of new features is steep, but I believe that the most substantial changes for Windows Server 2016 are as follows: storage spaces, virtualization, and containers. Let's take a look now at how these changes can benefit users and businesses alike.
Storage Spaces Direct
Storage space existed in previous version of Windows Server, but it has advanced with Server 2016. In the previous versions, we had what was called storage spaces which would allow you to take a single server and consolidate all the disks together to be put out there as a pool. Now with Server 2016, it's direct. You can take multiple servers and they don't have to be connected to the shared storage, they can each have their own local hard drives and you can combine all those hard drives into one pool without having to have any special transport. No special networking is required.
Storage spaces allow you to take a number of disks that are on one server and consolidate them together in a storage pool to have highly resilient storage. They have been around in the previous versions of Windows Server, but with Server 2016, there's now a feature called storage spaces direct. The best way to think of it is as a software defined sharing storage environment where you can use local low cost drives across multiple servers to build it. Ultimately it will be a very resilient storage pool. You can add drives from 2 servers up to 16; it can be massive and scalable.
Server 2016 also now has the ability to do both synchronous and asynchronous replication of storage from one server to another at a block level. This is a major advancement for companies because when they are setting up their data recover (DR) environments, they often have a cluster running in their primary region. Then they'll set up another cluster in their DR region. This would mean they need to employ a third party to provide for replication of all the data and storage between the two. Now it's built into 2016, so you no longer need that third party to come in. You can also use it just for replication for high availability but it's commonly seen for leveraging data.
There's a few changes that occurred for virtualization in Server 2016. Prior to 2016, you could not have nested virtualization, but now you can create a Hyper-V host as a virtual server. You can deploy a virtual machine into that virtual server as a guest as long as it's a 2016 host and a 2016 guest. This means users are now able to virtualize inside a virtual server.
Server 2016 also brings shielded virtual machines that didn't exist before. Ultimately, this means that a server host that would allow somebody to deploy a virtual machine and encrypt it. This creates better security and protection for the server, ensuring that the virtual machine would only run on specific hosts. This is extremely important because it gives you the ability to have somebody who's managing your Hyper-V host but they won't have access to the virtual machine, keeping your server more secure. Right now, if you had a Server 2012 machine, and you are the Hyper-V host manager, that means you have access to all the virtual machines that are running on that machine.
Containers can be thought of as the next step in the virtualization path. In the early days of servers, whenever you wanted to isolate an application, you would have to build another physical server and then that application could run on that server. Now, each virtual machine has its own operating system, its own kernel, and memory that its going to be using. This allows us to isolate those applications on different virtual machines on the same server.
The next generation of virtualization is Containers. Why is this so great? Because these applications will be able to share a single operating system in a single kernel while each of them think they're the only ones using it. This new feature allows you pack your containers more densely on a server so that you can run more applications on the sane hardware.
Containers have been around for a while but with 2016 it's the first time you can run them in Windows. Before this, it was a Linux-only solution, but now it's a new option for Windows Server users.
There is an open source community that produces something called Docker. Docker is the primary container platform and management interface. Microsoft has now invested in that and is working along with Docker to integrate it more into Windows products. Having Docker in Windows is something that never existed before.
Some Closing Thoughts
These three improvements I've discussed are going to be a game changer for admins and IT professionals who use Server on a day-to-day basis. As for end users, these changes will help improve storage, productivity, and security. The newest update to Server will be out soon with the possibility of more updates to features. For now, the biggest changes to expect are not going to be a hassle but more of a help in adding to your server's capabilities.
Norm Kennedy is a technical instructor at New Horizons. He began his career working with Novell Servers, and has installed, configured, and maintained Windows Server systems since 2000. In 2012, he was recognized as one of New Horizons Top 25 Worldwide Instructors, and in 2015, he won the Technical Instructor of the year award for NHLS. Currently, Norm specializes in Cloud Computing on the Microsoft Azure Platform from an IT infrastructure perspective, as well as Deployment and Administration of Office 365. Norm's instruction integrates blended modalities—from the traditional classroom to Online LIVE virtual learning and On-sites—and incorporates real-world examples.
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