What’s so cool about Windows Server 2016? Here are 10 things to look forward to

The hits keep coming with Windows Server 2016. Even though it was overshadowed by the desktop release of Windows 10, Windows Server 2016 has a lot of exciting features which will revolutionize how you think of your data center. Here are some of the best features:

Nano server

This is definitely the most notable announcement for Windows Server 2016. It is basically a headless version of the Windows Server. Nano Servers have 93 percent smaller VHD sizes, 80 percent fewer compulsory reboots, and 92 percent lesser critical bulletins. This installation option is totally headless; there is no command prompt or GUI. It is designed to operate Hyper-V, cluster, SOFS, and cloud service features.

Windows Server and Hyper-V Containers

The other big change with Windows Server 2016 is that it now offers container support. Containers are the most popular thing in IT technology right now and threaten to replace virtualization as the main IT technology. Containers let you isolate applications from the OS and improve reliability and deployment of the applications. It provides Windows Server and Hyper-V containers functionality.

Windows Servers are isolated but run directly with Windows Server 2016 OS. Hyper-V provides enhanced separation by running the containers through a Hyper-V VM.

Docker support

This is an open source engine which is used for building, managing, and running containers. Containers were built originally for the Linux platform but have also been included with this version of Windows Server. An open source project for the Docker engine was built for Windows Server and Microsoft participated in it as well as an open source member of the community. Docker can be used for managing both Windows Server and Hyper-V containers.

Rolling upgrades for storage clusters and Hyper-V

One of the newest changes in Hyper-V is the rolling upgrades for the clusters. These new rolling upgrades will give you the capability to add new Windows Server nodes to Hyper-V clusters with the nodes that are already running on Windows Server 2012.

The cluster is going to continue running with Windows Server 2012 functionality until all of the nodes in the cluster have been improved to work with Windows Server 2016. As soon as the cluster has assorted level nodes, it will need to be managed using Windows 10 or Windows Server 2016. New VMs on mixed clusters will not be consistent with the feature set of Windows Server 2012.

Hot addition and removal of virtual memory and network adapters

Another excellent feature of Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V is its ability to add or remove virtual memory and network adapters even when the virtual machine is running. In earlier releases, you had to make use of the dynamic memory in order to change the maximum and minimum RAM settings for the VM, which is running. Windows Server 2016 enables you to change the allocated RAM even when the VM is running and even if it is using static memory. Likewise, the network adapters can be added or removed while the VM’s running.


Nested virtualization

Added primarily for new container support, the nested virtualization capabilities of Windows Server 2016 are also considered to be a nice addition for lab and training scenarios. With the help of this feature, you are not limited to running your Hyper-V on physical servers anymore. With the help of nested virtualization, you can run Hyper-V inside the virtual machine of Hyper-V.

PowerShell Direct

This is a terrific management automation tool. Unfortunately, it can get a little complicated when trying to run it remotely with your VM. You will have to worry about security policies, firewall configurations, and host networking configurations.

PowerShell Direct enables you to run PowerShell commands in any guest OS of VM without requiring you to go through any network layers. Just like VMConnect (the remote support offered by Hyper-V Manager), it needs no configuration and connects directly to guest VM and all you have to do is to authenticate credentials for the guest operating system of the VM.

Linux secure boot

One more new feature available in Windows Server 2016 is its ability to enable a secure boot for the VM using a Linux guest OS. A Secure Boot is one feature from the UEFI firmware which has been incorporated in all Generation 2 VMs which protects the hardware kernel mode code of the VM from getting attacked by any rootkits or other boot-time malware of any kind. Generation 2 VM supports Secure Boot for Windows 8, 8.1, and Server 2012 VMs too. But they do not support VMs that are running on Linux.


Shielded VMs and new Host Guardian Service

Host Guardian Service is a new role which has been created in Windows Server 2016 that helps you shield virtual machines, and also protects data from any form of unauthorized access even if they are Hyper-V administrators. Shielded VM can also be created with the help of the Azure Management Pack Portal. The standard VM can be converted in this way into Shielded VM. With the help of shielded VM, the Hyper-V virtual disks can also be encrypted using BitLocker.

Storage Spaces Direct

And lastly, Windows Server 2016 comes with a lot of improvements in the storage system. One of the newest and most important ones is the Storage Spaces Direct option. This is an improvement related with earlier Storage Spaces technology that was used in Windows Server 2012.

The Storage Spaces Direct in Windows Server 2016 lets clusters access JBOD storage using external enclosures just like in Windows Server 2012 but can also let you access SAS and JBOD disks which are internal to cluster nodes. Like the earlier release, Store Spaces are the basis of storage pools and support both HDD and SSD data tiering and disks.

These ten exciting features are just some of the features to look forward to with the new Windows Server 2016. There is quite a lot of other features to discover when you start using this server. So what are you waiting for? Upgrade your servers to Windows Server 2016 today!

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