Make innovation easier with Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 Technical Preview 4

by Mike Neil, Corporate Vice President, Cloud + Enterprise

Doing more with less has been a theme for IT for years. The name of the game today is speed. The move to the cloud-first world is about getting ahead of the competition. New apps and new features for apps drive business value, and that application-centric mindset means that you need to think differently about how your datacenter stands up to the need for speed. With Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016, our approach is to bring cloud-born technologies to the traditional datacenter, so that you can make the most of the resources you have today while bringing innovation to your customers.

Today we’re releasing the latest technical previews of Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016, providing new and enhanced features that reflect our ongoing drive to build speed into the 2016 wave of hybrid datacenter solutions. Technical Preview 4 includes significant enhancements for both Windows Server and System Center, many of which reflect valuable customer feedback on the previews released earlier this year.

  • Application platform features, including new capabilities for Nano Server, Windows Server Containers updates and – new in this release – Hyper-V Containers, offer great opportunities for modern app development.
  • Software-defined datacenter capabilities, across storage, networking, and compute, let you reduce cost and increase agility. New security features help address evolving threats and new threat vectors.
  • Enhanced management capabilities, to give you advanced software-defined datacenter support and intuitive monitoring improvements.

Introducing Hyper-V Containers and Application Platform Updates

With Windows Server 2016, Microsoft is focused on delivering choice and flexibility in container solutions. We offer Windows Server Containers, which offer a lightweight container option, and today we are introducing the first public preview of Hyper-V containers, which offer an additional deployment option for scenarios requiring a higher level of isolation. With Hyper-V Containers, you get the flexibility of the container model with the additional isolation provided by a container-optimized version of Hyper-V. Security needs can vary based on a wide variety of factors, and we’re excited about giving you expanded choices for using containers across enterprise scenarios including multi-tenant environments. To see the new Hyper-V Containers in action, you can check out the Microsoft Mechanics show, featuring Mark Russinovich.

Windows Server Containers were first released for you test in August, and since then we’ve been building out enhancements to deliver on our commitment to give you a first-class container experience. With Nano Server support for Windows Server Containers, you can take advantage of the dramatically reduced footprint of this headless installation option for Windows Server.  Shared folders let you map folders from the container host into the container, providing both shared access to host storage between containers as well as persistent storage for containers. This release also enables resource controls, giving you increased flexibility in how you work with the container environment.

A foundational element of the application platform innovation in Windows Server 2016, Nano Server offers reduced servicing requirements and improved security. New in Technical Preview 4, Nano Server now includes support for Desired State Configuration to allow for deploying and managing configuration for Nano Server installations. In addition, Nano Server can now be a DNS Server or a Web Server (IIS), expanding the scenarios supported. A key new feature is the Windows Server Application (WSA) installer based on AppX, which provides a way to install other agents, tools, and applications on Nano Server.

Software-defined Datacenter Enhancements

Moving forward with the software-defined datacenter capabilities in earlier technical previews, we are adding features that make it easier to run your infrastructure. Performance and reliability are key priority areas for this release.

  • Hyper-V: The hypervisor continues to evolve and now includes an early preview of nested virtualization, along with Direct Device Assignment, and improved PowerShell support for VM upgrades. Nested virtualization can be used in dev and test scenarios and is a key enabling technology for Hyper-V Containers.
  • Networking: Technical Preview 3 introduced the new Azure consistent SDN stack. Technical Preview 4 incorporates customer feedback in a number of areas, including high availability for the network controller, better East-West load balancing, enhanced container networking, and support for live migration. In addition, in Technical Preview 4 we introduce Virtual Machine Multi-Queue to enable 10G+ performance. 
  • Storage: We have improved Storage Spaces Direct to support all-flash configurations with NVMe SSD and SATA SSD devices, and Erasure Coding for increased storage efficiency. Also in this release, support for Storage Health Service provides easier health monitoring and more streamlined operations, with a single monitoring point per cluster. Storage QoS now supports adjusting the normalization size of the algorithm from the current default 8 KB settings. Additional enhancements are designed for increased control, such as maximum bandwidth settings for a VHD/X.
  • Security: Enhancements to shielded VMs and the Host Guardian Service are directed toward ensuring readiness for production environments. Just Enough Administration, which limits administrator rights for additional security, has been expanded to domain controllers and server maintenance roles.

Delivering IT management anywhere

Running at cloud scale also produces technology innovation for management. System Center 2016 brings cloud learnings to the datacenter, enabling seamless management of complex environments. Moving into the hybrid world, System Center 2016 combines with Microsoft Operations Management Suite to provide an integrated, 360-degree view across any cloud, any operating system, from infrastructure to applications. Management anywhere means IT has the ability to take robust data about system performance, security, and emerging issues and turn that into action as rapidly as possible. With management tools designed to handle complexity, IT can allow for more agility in the environment as a whole. Core enhancements in System Center 2016 Technical Preview 4 include:

  • Advanced software-defined datacenter support for Windows Server 2016 including new technologies such as patching of hosts while provisioning, simplified logical network creation, scale-out file server with Storage Spaces Direct and SAN storage automation, and improved storage monitoring. 
  • Protecting customer IP through shielded VM’s and Guardian Host deployment and management
  • Easy to use monitoring improvements in Operations Manager through data-driven management of alerts and enhanced visualization

We’re building Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 to address your needs. We hope you’ll take a look at the latest technical previews to see how all these capabilities and features might make a difference to your business. See how these new versions might be an amazing moment for you.

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