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4 Windows Server 2019 storage features to ease management

Microsoft includes storage features in Windows Server 2019 to ease migration and create highly available and scalable software-defined storage in data centers.

The new and improved features in Windows Server 2019 gave many IT pros that kid-in-a-candy-store feeling. That excitement has faded since the initial release, but now admins are starting to appreciate  Windows Server 2019's storage features -- such as Storage Migration Service -- because they could aid in migrations off Windows Server 2008 before it reaches its end of life on Jan. 14, 2020.

"What you're going to see as a common theme [in Windows Server 2019] is that Microsoft has made it much easier to onboard new technologies and even bring your existing technologies into the modern age," said Rob Corradini, Microsoft MVP for cloud and data center management, in a webinar titled "What's New in Windows Server 2019," sponsored by Altaro.

In the webinar, Microsoft MVPs Andy Syrewicze and Corradini, as well as Windows Server insider Symon Perriman, covered Microsoft's four areas of technological development in production-ready Windows Server 2019. They discussed hybrid cloud connectivity, the application platform for developers, hyper-converged infrastructure throughout a software-defined data center and security within every component of a data center. Some tools, such as Windows Admin Center, included in the new OS tie the four topics together.

Administrators can use Storage Migration Service to move from Windows Server 2008, and they might also find developments that give them reason to consider a move to Windows Server 2019.

Storage Migration Service eases data transfers

The Windows Server 2019 Storage Migration Service could greatly simplify the upgrade process for Windows Server administrators.

Windows Server 2019 Storage Migration Service could greatly simplify the upgrade process for Windows Server administrators. Admins use Windows Admin Center to identify the old server's data and move both the data and configuration to the new server.

"Storage Migration Service really helps you onboard, whether you're going to a modern OS, whether it's on prem or in the cloud. It allows you to really bring unstructured data from anywhere -- and I'm saying anywhere -- into Azure in modern Windows servers," Corradini said.

Storage Migration Service has firewall requirements to undergo the process. Admins identify the source data and configuration files and then copy the data to the destination. Once complete, the destination takes on the identity of the source and takes over the production workload. Admins can still access a copy of the data on the old server if necessary, but the server is no longer actively used.

IT pros who still use the unsupported Windows Server 2003 will be relieved to know that the migration service can move data from Server 2003 and newer to Windows Server 2012 R2 through 2019.

"Especially if you're on 2003 Server, just the fact of being on that server is a security risk. Especially if you're doing any kind of internet penetration here, you're done," Corradini said.

The service does have limitations: Machines must be domain joined for migration to work, and the service only transfers storage, not applications. So, administrators must still reinstall applications.

Storage Spaces Direct bolsters servers against hardware failures

Microsoft initially introduced Storage Spaces Direct in Windows Server 2016 and upgraded it in Server 2019.

"Storage Spaces Direct is a hyper-converged solution, just to re-emphasize for Microsoft. It's all about leveraging fast storage and slow storage in one fashion or another," Corradini said.

Microsoft developed true two-node clusters further with Azure technology. Clusters can endure two hardware failures and continue providing storage for apps and VMs. Two-node clusters are an advancement from the three-node clusters previously needed to build a Storage Spaces Direct cluster. Admins can use a USB flash drive plugged into the router to identify which server has the most current information in the event of a server shutdown and restart.

Windows Server 2019 can store up to 10 times more data through Resilient File System deduplication and compression. Microsoft also improved latency outlier detection, mirrored accelerated parity and capacity increases. Administrators manage Storage Spaces Direct features, such as creating volumes or monitoring performance, with Windows Admin Center.

Storage Replica and Azure features improve efficiency

Administrators can now implement Storage Replica on Windows Server Standard Edition, in addition to Datacenter Edition, with some limitations. The Windows Server edition can only replicate a single volume up to 2 TB, versus an unlimited number of volumes of unlimited size.

Windows Admin Center offers graphical management for replication from servers, clusters and stretch clusters. Microsoft improved replication latency and throughput if all members in a replication group run on Windows Server 2019. Admins can test failover by mounting a replicated storage snapshot on the destination server.

Storage Replica will soon have the ability to use Azure as a replication target, which is currently in beta. Azure File Sync also brings Windows Server 2019 storage into the cloud by centralizing file shares in Azure files.

"Azure File Sync is just so much more efficient and easy [than Distributed File System] because now I can leverage that hot storage on premises but then still take advantage of the cold storage of a cloud storage," Syrewicze said.

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