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This blog post was authored by Erin Chapple, General Manager, Windows Server.

On behalf of the Windows Server team, I want to send a warm welcome to the thousands of developers who are joining us this week for the Microsoft Build Conference. It’s never been a more interesting time to be a developer, with new application models, patterns and frameworks changing how we work and build great applications. Organizations around the world rely on Windows Server to be a great operating system on which to run their applications. As applications patterns change, our team is right there with you to make sure you have the OS innovation you need.

Windows Server is joining the Windows Insider program

The last year was an incredible partnership with you as we finalized and launched Windows Server 2016. We progressed through five technical previews of Windows Server, shaping and refining the experience and functionality together. Simply put, this release would not be the same without the detailed feedback we received – your partnership was critical to its success.

One common theme we heard again and again came from our customers – you want access to Windows Server builds more frequently to test new features and fixes. Today I am pleased to announce that Windows Server is joining the Windows Insider program! Starting this summer, regular and frequent builds of Windows Server (including container images) will be available to all Windows Insiders who want to download and test them. As Dona Sarkar, who runs the Windows Insider program, recently said of the Insider community, “These are the biggest fans of Windows I’ve ever seen in my whole life.” With the addition of Windows Server, the community has even more reasons to be a fan.

Container-optimized Nano Server

The Nano Server container image has picked up speed quickly as the foundation for developers modernizing their existing applications as well as those building new applications.  Customer adoption of containers has exceeded our expectations, and we are listening to the community to focus on the continued investments they would like in this area. With this upcoming feature release, we will build on the initial promise of Nano Server and focus on providing the very best containers foundation for developers.

We have been partnering closely with the .NET team to bring all the amazing .NET Core 2.0 work to containers with an optimized container image based on Nano Server. This work will help reduce the footprint of the .NET container image by at least 50 percent. For you this means reduced startup time as well as density improvements.

Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) on Windows Server

Last month in the DockerCon Keynote we demonstrated a Linux container running natively on Windows Server and we are continuing to make great progress with the Docker and Linux communities. One of the important aspects of this work is ensuring that customers have a great experience managing and building Linux containers. I am pleased to share that we are also bringing the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), commonly known as Bash on Windows, to Windows Server. This unique combination allows developer and application administrators to use the same scripts, tools, procedures and container images they have been using for Linux containers on their Windows Server container host. These containers use our Hyper-V isolation technology combined with your choice of Linux kernel to host the workload while the management scripts and tools on the host use WSL.

Container Orchestration

Container orchestration is another area you asked us to improve. The first step in this is already available! Networking support for Docker swarm mode was made available last month, enabling efficient and simple networking across Windows and even mixed Windows and Linux OS clusters. We are continuing to work on two additional features requested by the Kubernetes community to improve Windows support on Kubernetes-based clusters. The first is the ability to add a network interface to an already running container and the second is the first step for sharing a network interface between two containers to support pods. We have also been working with several community members to understand and build support for mapping named pipes from a container host into a container. This enables specifically configured containers to communicate efficiently with the host and is how many orchestrators are deployed in Linux environments.

Container Storage

One of the most common container images we see used is for SQL Server, and with that has come questions around storage – specifically “where should I store my database within a container?” While we have volume mounting support (the ability to connect storage from the host into the container) it was limited to locally mounted volumes.  We are now adding the ability to map SMB file-based storage directly into a container. This will provide a valuable way to utilize the great file server enhancements in Windows Server 2016 along with containers.

Watch our Build session and sign up for the Insiders program

We can’t do this alone! Your feedback and passion drives us to build better software. If you are coming to Build, be sure to catch the session “B8013 Developing on Windows Server: Innovation for today and tomorrow – containers, Docker, .NET Core, Service Fabric, and more” by Taylor Brown on Friday at 9 am. Or you can watch it streaming live.

Starting this summer, we will begin to post early builds of the new Windows Server features, including container-optimized Nano Server images to the Docker Hub, support for Linux containers, Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), better orchestration support and SMB storage for containers. Sign up now, get familiar with the site, and watch the Windows Server blog and the Windows Insider forums for the notice when the preview is available.

Aligned with the next release of Windows 10, these new features will be delivered as part of our first feature release this Fall. It will be available to customers with Software Assurance who commit to a more frequent release model. For customers who prefer the long-term servicing branch (LTSB) these features will be part of the next major release of Windows Server as well.

It’s never been a more exciting time to be a developer, and I personally look forward to hearing your feedback. Check out our new Windows Server site on the Microsoft Tech Community, where you can give us feedback and share ideas with the rest of the Windows Server community.