Microsoft Windows Server 2016 is in Technical Preview, meaning organizations are starting to tinker with it a bit. But soon, administrators will have to evaluate the new OS and even decide where, when and how to integrate Windows Server 2016 into their environments. And that's not an easy decision.
Most enterprises likely will take a conservative upgrade path: Wait for the first or second service pack before implementing an actual upgrade. But while admins wait for changes and bug fixes to level off, executives weigh the financial and technical implications of the upgrade. This decision can be broken down into three principal areas -- support, feature set and existing architectures.
What is the availability of support and its effect on corporate compliance?
No enterprise deploys major platforms without software support, but support lifecycles for Microsoft OSes are finite. Support is often a cornerstone of enterprise business continuance and regulatory compliance obligations. If you've been running older OSes that are facing end of life (EoL), a strategic upgrade to a new (supported) version may be the safest route.
For example, mainstream support for Windows Server 2003 ended in 2010 and extended support ended in July 2015. Mainstream support ended for Windows Server 2008 in January 2015; extended support should be available until January 2020. Even Windows Server 2012 R2 will face initial EoL by January 2018.
Will the business or end users benefit from the features slated for Windows Server 2016?
Microsoft Windows Server 2016 promises several new features, including a pared-down Nano Server mode for cloud and container environments, support for Docker and native Hyper-V containers as well as rolling upgrades for Hyper-V and storage clusters. Other features include hot add/remove virtual memory and virtual network adapters, nested virtualization, a new version of PowerShell for improved system management, Linux secure boot, better security for VM encryption using BitLocker and cluster access to JBODs.
It's unlikely these new features alone would compel a company to upgrade to Windows Server 2016, but the impact of new features on compliance and new business opportunities might make early upgrades more attractive for some organizations.
How well will your existing servers support Windows Server 2016 technical requirements?
The actual requirements for Windows Server 2016 are fairly modest -- a 1.4 GHz processor, 512 MB of memory, 32 GB of disk space, and a 1 gigabit Ethernet adapter. These are the same basic requirements for Windows Server 2012 R2 -- and any current production-class server will provide far more than enough resources to support the new OS, along with an array of busy VMs.
However, new features emerging with Windows Server 2016 can take advantage of network interface cards that support remote direct memory access, improve server security with trusted platform modules, handle SMB 3, and support comprehensive remote management. Therefore, older servers should run the new OS, but a server technology refresh may help improve capacity, performance and feature compatibility.
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