What Windows Server will look like in 2016

At the center of the Microsoft Cloud Platform, is Windows Server 2016. This latest version of Microsoft’s server operating system includes a vast range of improvements in security, virtualization, networking and storage.  As of the date of this writing, Server 2016 is still in Technical Preview stage (May 2015 edition).

In the past Microsoft has released the client and server operating systems close together. This time around, Windows Server has an expected release date of 2016 while Windows 10 will begin its roll out at the end of July 2015. We have provided a summary of the enhancements expected in Windows Server 2016 here:

Features to Expect

  • Nano Server: A new deployment option that is essentially a trimmed down version of Windows Server. Nano Server is even more trimmed down than the Server Core. The smaller version tends to be more secure providing far less of an attack surface. Microsoft claims 93% reduced VHD size, resulting in 92% fewer critical updates and 80% fewer reboots. Designed to run Hyper-V, and cloud service applications, Nano Server will be useful for clustered storage, and is designed to work with containers. There will be no 32-bit support, login, UI, Remote Desktop or local console login and all administration will be done remotely via management tools. Nano server is a key part of Microsoft’s cloud computing focus for the future.
  • Windows Server & Hyper-V Containers: Containers allow you to isolate your applications from the underlying OS. This improves the deployment and reliability of those applications while providing more security and overall control. Windows Server Containers run directly on the Windows Server 2016 OS. Hyper-V Containers deliver enhanced isolation by running the containers from a Hyper-V VM, a scenario that’s well suited to managed service providers and multi-tenant environments. Expect support for Windows Server containers to become available in a future version of the Technical Preview sometime this summer, with Hyper-V containers expected by the end of the year.
  • Docker Support – An open-source container software provider, Docker has forged ties with all major infrastructure and cloud providers including Google, IBM and VMware, and is used for building, running and managing software application containers. Deploying containers using Docker is popular due to its simplicity, efficiency and standardization. For both developers and sysadmins, the news of being able to run cross-platform containers and applications (ASP.NET 5 can run inside a Linux container) is certainly a reason to celebrate. The partnership announced last fall is a major development in the area of virtualization and partnerships with the open-source community for Microsoft and signals a major change of course in strategy.
  • Rolling Upgrades – Upgrades have taken an approach that will help ensure the stability of the infrastructure. They will be available for Hyper-V and Storage clusters. The rolling upgrades will let you upgrade all the servers in a cluster without any downtime. The virtual machines will be resilient enough that they will run, even if the cluster service fails. Each virtual machine gets automatically shut down, upgraded and restarted in turn.
  • Add/Remove Virtual Memory & Network Adapters: Provides the ability to remove virtual memory and adapters while the VM is running, even if the VM is using static memory.
  • Nested Virtualization: Primarily for the container support but also a useful addition for training and lab scenarios. This enables you to run Hyper-V within a Hyper-V VM.
  • PowerShell Direct: A management automation tool. Will allow you to run commands in the guest operating system of a VM without needing to go through the network layers. The improvements will also allow you to control and manage Windows-based environments more easily.
  • Linux Secure Boot: Offers the ability to secure boot VMs with Linux guest operating systems.
  • New Host Guardian Service & Shielded VMs: Protects data from unauthorized access, even from administrators. Hyper-V virtual disks can be encrypted with Bitlocker.
  • Storage Spaces Direct: Enables a collection of storage spaces to move across multiple servers. This promotes increased scalability. Windows Server 2016, has place an emphasis on reducing cost, while increasing control and resiliency.

Minimum Requirements for Test Lab

Since Windows Server 2016 is still in its preview edition, there are no exact system requirements available yet. However, based on the requirements that are needed to run Windows Server 2012 R2, our best estimation would be:

  • 1.4 GHz 64-bit processor
  • 512 MB RAM Memory
  • 32 GB disk space

Our Advice

It is clear that Microsoft is placing a heavier emphasis on its server strategy with cloud, hybrid and open source integration playing a great part. For those striving for a modern data center–remote management and automation are the way to go. With Windows Server 2003 having reached its end of support on July 14th, this may be the time for businesses to think about the advantages of containers and cloud-style management if you haven’t done so already. Windows Server 2016 offers enhanced security and management features that can simplify server management for businesses of all sizes.