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This post was written by Mike Schutz, General Manager, Cloud Platform team

Today, we’re announcing the next milestone for the platform with the availability of Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 3 and System Center 2016 Technical Preview 3. As we deliver our 2016 wave of hybrid and datacenter solutions, we’re working to give you the tools and resources you need to bring the agility of cloud computing to your own organization. For us, these product milestones are a vital part of the development process, giving us the opportunity to hear from a large and diverse group of users. We believe you benefit from seeing our work in progress. We want you to share in our vision from the start, as you get familiar with the new capabilities, and imagine how this new technology could make a difference in your business. We’re asking you to kick the tires and then tell us what you think. Your feedback is critical to making sure that what we deliver is a great match with what you need to drive your business forward.

A highlight for customers in this release is the first public build of Windows Server Containers. This is the first step in bringing containers to the Windows Server ecosystem, and we’re excited about the possibilities. You’ve probably seen the momentum building around container technologies as a new approach to simplifying the development and deployment of applications. We’re committed to making containers a part of the modern application platform available to our customers in the 2016 wave of datacenter solutions. To learn more about our container innovation, check out Mike Neil’s blog here.

Containers are just the beginning for what’s new in this technical preview of Windows Server and System Center. We’ve enhanced some of the functionality we delivered in the last preview and added new features that are now ready for you to evaluate for the first time. You’re going to see features in various stages of completion, and as always we’ve provided documentation to help you navigate. Here are some areas to explore:

Nano Server

If you haven’t already done so, this is a great time to start evaluating the Nano Server as a minimal footprint deployment option. As with TP2, you can install Nano Server on a physical host, or in a virtual machine. The new Emergency Management Console enables users to view and fix networking configuration directly from the Nano Server console. In addition, you will find a PowerShell script for creating an Azure VM running Nano Server. From an application perspective, you can now run an ASP.Net v5 application using CoreCLR. Overall, we’ve added significant functionality to expand Nano Server’s capabilities without compromising the basic premise that its footprint remains as small as possible.

Software-defined Networking

The majority of what you’ll find for networking is new in TP3. We bring a scalable network controller for programming policies, an L4 load balancer for high availability and performance, enhanced gateways for hybrid connectivity, and an underlying network fabric that converges RDMA traffic together with tenant traffic. In this milestone, you’ll experience a first preview of how the core set of networking capabilities and SDN architecture we use in Azure is coming to you.

Security

Extending the investments in Hyper-V, this preview includes new builds of some of the security innovation coming in the next release. Shielded VMs are at the center of our commitment to helping you protect resources in shared environments. Now you can test creation of a shielded VM from a signed template, along with other aspects of the new shielded VM functionality. You can also look at the new Windows Server role, the Host Guardian Service, which enables administrators to identify legitimate hosts.

Workload Support

Additional features and capabilities that enable enhanced support for key workloads include:

  • Improved application compatibility using Remote Desktop Services with OpenGL support. 
  • Improve business continuity scenarios with site awareness for stretched clusters with Storage Replica
  • Increase flexibility by removing domain-specific constraints for SQL Server clusters

Management

With the release of System Center 2016 Technical Preview 3, you will see feature enhancements that light up and make it simpler to manage the new capabilities in Windows Server. Some examples include advances in Virtual Machine Manager such as support for rolling upgrades for cluster nodes and support for Nano server as both host and file server. You can also leverage our security enhancements for shared environments by managing Shielded VMs and guarded hosts with ease. On the storage front, you will find improved functionality to maintain desired end-to-end quality of service (QoS) and faster retrieval of data using storage tiers. In Operations Manager, our focus is to enhance user experience through easy discoverability of management packs and ability to automate maintenance windows using PowerShell.

In addition, today we’re releasing Remote Server Administration Tools, aka RSAT, for Windows 10 Client enables remote management of Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012. Check out the complete list of supported features and download it today.

As you can see, there’s a lot to evaluate, and we recommend you check out the Experience Guides. We’d also like to encourage all of you to participate in our User Voice program and become part of the development process. You can check out User Voice here. Window Server 2016 TP3 is available for download here and System Center 2016 TP3 is available here. We look forward to hearing from you.

Note: This is pre-released software; features and functionality may differ in the final release