Mainstream support for Windows Server 2008 ended in 2015 and with Windows Server 2012 now four years old, give or take a couple of updates, many companies are looking at what’s available next in the server software world.
So step forward Windows Server 2016 which was officially released on 12th October.
As is standard with a new software release, Windows Server 2016 is released with a host of new features and improvements, and it’s these we’re going to take a look at in this blog.
As with all previous Windows Server releases, this new software comes in a variety of editions to meet the needs of different sized and structured businesses. The three main are editions are:
- Standard Edition. Typical for companies with a need for limited virtualisation, this edition is a general purpose server operating system which should meet the requirements of the majority of businesses.
- Essentials. Targeted at smaller companies with no more than 25 users and 50 devices, this edition provides limited capabilities which are in line with the requirements of its target market.
- Datacenter Edition. Retaining all the basic capabilities of Windows Server, this edition provides efficiency to the company with a requirement for unlimited virtualisation coupled with robust new features like network stacks and storage replica.
We’ll now take a look at some of the key new features in Windows Server 2016:
- Nano Server. If you don’t want to install the full version of Windows Server 2016 you can install the Nano version instead. This is an incredibly ‘lightweight’ stripped out version of the server software which is about a 92% smaller install than the standard full server install. Things like the standard user desktop, browser software, graphical stack, Windows shell, 32 bit support and remote desktop have all been stripped out. What is left is a very bare system with which you can install just the individual components you need for the applications and services you run. This makes the server extremely fast and it will require far fewer patches and system reboots in the future. Because you’ve stripped out the desktop and GUI, the Nano Server install is intended to be managed completely remotely.
- Containers. Until now, containers have existed almost entirely in the UNIX/Linux open-source world. They allow you to isolate applications and services so that they effectively run in their own ‘container’ environment independent of anything else. In a sense they work on their own isolated version of the server software. Windows Server 2016 contains two variations of container (a Windows and a Hyper-V container) which can accommodate low trust and high trust workloads. Containers also allow applications to be packaged and moved more easily from system to system, as they effectively take all the resources they need with them.
- Security at the OS level. Windows Server 2016 comes with several security enhancements to help protect your network environment. Both Windows Defender and Control Flow Guard are configured to run straight ‘out of the box’ and advanced auditing controls help detect malicious behaviour. Also if you run virtual machines then the new ‘Shielded’ feature protects them through encryption with BitLocker.
- New storage technologies. Storage Spaces Direct enables building highly available and scalable storage using the server (or other servers on the network) as local storage, without the high expense of additional NAS boxes. It has also implemented a feature which simplifies management of software-defined storage systems and unlocks use of new classes of disk devices, such as SATA SSD and NVMe disk devices. You can also centrally manage and monitor storage performance, individually controlling resources and workload allocated to different processes and applications.
These are just a few key improvements and new features, of the 40+ that Microsoft have implemented for Windows Server 2016. Obviously in today’s modern network environment, as you’d expect, much of the focus for the software is on virtualisation and cloud computing. And to this end it certainly brings a lot of new benefits.
It’s very early days for Windows Server 2016, and as with all complex software it will evolve and improve through patches and fixes. Initial reviews are favourable and in our opinion anyone in the market for an upgrade to an existing Windows server environment should definitely consider this latest offering.
If you have any questions or are considering an upgrade to Windows Server 2016, speak to us here at Pro-Networks and we can advise you.