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Windows Server preview adds and subtracts

Microsoft is gearing up for another Windows Server release, with new features for Hyper-V and identity management. NAP is left behind.

The next version of Windows Server is likely due out next year, but admins can start running it on a test machine now. And when they do, IT pros will notice it's missing one important security feature.

The successor to Windows Server 2012 R2 does not have an official name, but Microsoft is beginning to share some details.

Rolling upgrades will come to Hyper-V clusters, which guarantees no downtime for workloads, with support for different versions. Software-defined networking gets a boost, adding a network controller role to manage physical and virtual networks.

The new features are an incremental step forward rather than something truly innovative, analysts said.

"The key features are evolutions of things we've seen in [Windows Server] 2012 and 2012 R2," said Wes Miller, research VP at Directions on Microsoft, a research firm in Kirkland, Wash.

Fortunately, it's "an evolution of something they're pretty happy with," Miller said.

Storage QoS ensures workloads with differing storage requirements deliver minimum and maximum IOPS.  Microsoft also improved storage replication, with synchronous storage that promises better availability. Remote Desktop adds better app compatibility with OpenGL and OpenCL. It also adds MultiPoint Services, Microsoft said.

The company improved access management to reduce the risk profile of admins with elevated rights. Admins will be able to select time-based access and have granular controls over privileges.

The next Windows Server release is expected to be synchronized with Windows 10 and the successor to System Center 2012 R2. The bits for both Windows Server and System Center are available from Microsoft's site.

Network Access Protection missing

One feature, Network Access Protection (NAP), deprecated in the 2012 R2 release of Windows Server, was eliminated in the latest release.

"They ripped out Network Access Protection, which is disappointing -- they said it would be deprecated but I don’t really recall them saying it would disappear," said Jonathan Hassell, president of 82 Ventures, a consulting firm based in Charlotte, N.C. "Many medium customers used NAP, while larger customers had NAQ [Network Access Quarantine Control] on higher end network hardware. I would have expected more."

Microsoft is seen as centralizing its security strategy, Miller said. Microsoft is focused more on AD FS and other security technologies.

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