The Windows Server 2016 release brought container support and a minimal server deployment model, called Nano Server, to the enterprise. But those are just two features; the new OS also touches multiple areas of the data center, including networking, storage and the business side.
In addition to Docker container support and Nano Server, Windows Server 2016 also features software-defined functionality in the areas of networking and storage. The OS also provides tighter integration with the Azure cloud platform, which appeals to application developers who spin up tests, as well as administrators looking for remote management options.
We spoke with a number of experts across the IT spectrum to get their takes on some of the more innovative elements in Windows Server 2016 to examine how it meet the needs of modern IT environments, as well as what challenges moving to this platform can present. In this guide, you'll find first-person insights on how the advanced features of the new server OS can influence each area of the data center, as well as valuable resources to educate you for your journey to Windows Server 2016.
1Future-proof your skills-
Push for innovation pulls IT out of comfort zone
What can administrators in traditional Windows shops do to adapt to this brave new world -- where Microsoft embraces Linux and pushes the envelope with its cloud platform and multiple open source projects? For starters, IT must build familiarity with new Microsoft technologies because stagnation is not an option.
Windows administrators might feel like they're being left behind in a business environment that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella calls a "mobile-first, cloud-first world." Not everyone in IT has aspirations of working in DevOps. Analyst Wes Miller says the effort spent to learn a skill like PowerShell can prove beneficial as new technologies roll out of Redmond. Continue Reading
The promise of more efficiency and other operational gains presented by Docker containers means administrators will have to surmount a steep learning curve to contend with this relatively new form of virtualization. Continue Reading
Administrators need to make sure their server configurations remain consistent to comply with the organization's policies. To that end, Microsoft tweaked PowerShell Desired State Configuration in its new server OS to prevent configuration drift and to clamp down on potential security issues. Continue Reading
2Stretch those apps-
Docker containers in Windows open new avenues
A shift in virtualization from hypervisors to containers and microservices architectures promises better use of data center hardware with less downtime. Are enterprises ready to take on this new method of application development?
Support for Docker containers on Windows Server 2016 ties into several other Microsoft technologies, as the company improves its standing among enterprise developers. But, as expert Michael Otey explains, certain container caveats exist, including unexpected dependencies or inadvertent security exposures. Know the risks and rewards before plunging into the world of OS-level virtualization. Continue Reading
The ability to scale and the flexibility to update a service without shutting it down are just two benefits of Docker containers. Microsoft's foray into containers on Windows systems has basic functionality, but Docker containers on Windows still don't match the functionality of their Linux counterparts, one expert explains. Continue Reading
Administrators must know the different isolation levels in Windows Server containers and Hyper-V containers to determine which one is a better fit for their organization's needs. Continue Reading
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Advanced storage capabilities add protection, flexibility
With the introduction of Storage Spaces Direct, Microsoft has given businesses a way to use commodity hardware to build their own highly available, scalable storage pools. The Storage Replica feature in Windows Server 2016 is another way for small and medium-sized businesses to create a cost-effective disaster recovery option.
For organizations that want to use commodity hardware to its fullest potential, instead of investing in other storage products, a move to Windows Server 2016 presents the ability to pool storage with Storage Spaces Direct. Expert Brien Posey discusses this "do-it-yourself hyper-converged infrastructure." Continue Reading
Microsoft adjusted the storage-based feature from its Windows Server 2012 R2 version to overcome scaling issues when a large number of Hyper-V VMs reside on a file server cluster. Set up storage quality of service policies to ensure consistent performance across workloads. Continue Reading
Features like Nano Server, containers and Windows as a service affect how an organization backs up workloads. IT shops that migrate to Windows Server 2016 must be aware of the special backup requirements for each component. Continue Reading
4Build connections -
Virtual networks no longer an abstract concept
For Microsoft shops that want to boost infrastructure security and more easily deploy applications, software-defined networking (SDN) is one option. Windows Server 2016 is equipped with several new SDN features, such as the Network Controller, that reduce the complexity of network tasks. This feature acts as the brain of the SDN stack, and helps administrators manage, deploy and troubleshoot both virtual and physical networks.
SDN capabilities built into Windows Server 2016 give organizations an easier way to manage virtualized workloads as conditions change. Analyst Zeus Kerravala talks about which SDN components in the server operating system will be particularly interesting for companies that want to build an infrastructure tailored for hybrid cloud. Continue Reading
Advances in software-defined networking capabilities via Windows Server 2016 enable admins to insert virtual firewalls, load balancers and other security appliances into the network data flow -- bolstering the security layer. Continue Reading
5Strike a balance-
New server OS intrigues CIOs
Despite the buzz for DevOps and containers, the reality is that a number of organizations still rely on mainframes and decades-old applications that run on legacy platforms. A CIO must ensure the current IT environment runs smoothly, while also exploring the benefits of moving to a new platform. The portability feature of containers in a hybrid cloud environment is pushing IT teams to give Windows Server 2016 a closer look.
The ability to use Docker containers to easily create and manage a large number of systems in a limited number of physical machines is an attractive option, says Ted Ross, general manager and CIO for the city of Los Angeles. But it's also important to minimize disruptions. In this podcast, Ross explains why the cloud is an attractive option for his provisioning needs. Continue Reading
When Microsoft adjusted Windows Server pricing from a per-CPU to a per-core model, it became even more difficult to determine which is more cost-effective -- migrating to Windows Server 2016 or switching to Azure. Here are the pros and cons of each scenario. Continue Reading
Microsoft is stressing support for containers and Azure services in Windows Server 2016, hoping organizations will offload workloads to the cloud. Are these new features and the ability to reduce capital expenditures enough to tip more companies toward cloud? Continue Reading
6Speak the same language-
Important Windows Server 2016 terms and technologies
Build your vocabulary to understand significant features related to the new server operating system.
- Windows Server 2016
- software-defined networking (SDN)
- SDN controller
- network functions virtualization (NFV)
- PowerShell Direct
- Storage Spaces Direct