Windows Server 2016 – New Features & Innovations: What you should pay attention too

As predicted, this year has been another big one for Microsoft. I think this will be a continual trend moving into the future as the company aligns more and more of its product release cycles together and we see release cycles becoming shorter. Most notable to date has been the release of the Windows 10 operating system.

Everyone I am speaking with is excited by Windows 10, and it’s certainly interesting to gauge this excitement. No doubt the new operating system has some next-generation functionality which excites me, however many who I asked are excited by trivial features – all I can say is; Microsoft’s PR team must have run a successful campaign this time round. The 8 month Insider Preview program has proven to be very successful in ensuring more people had an opportunity to be informed ahead of the final build. Typically for earlier releases, this type of program didn’t expand as widely. Rather to partners and selected participants only.

Along with Windows 10, this year will see some further big announcements from Microsoft. Both the System Center 2016 suite and Office 2016 client will be released along with Exchange Server 2016 and the first public BETA of SharePoint 2016. As I mentioned above, Windows 10 has impressed me; but what I am really hanging out for is the final build of Windows Server 2016. This server release will be one of Microsoft’s most innovative pieces of engineering ever. Windows Server 2016 will deliver on the current vision of “cloud-first, mobile-first” in a way that meets today’s requirements of cloud-computing and tomorrows requirements of hyper-scale in a value proposition to customers that is unprecedented.

The aim of this post was to highlight my filtered list of Windows Server 2016 “must watch” innovations that I think all I.T pros and decision makers should keep an eye on as we get closer to launch. This list has no specific order.

  • Windows Nano Server Nano Server is a deep rethink of the server architecture. The result is a new, lean cloud fabric host and application development platform that’s a mere 5% of the size of Server Core. Its small size reduces security attack risks. And its redesign means fewer, quicker reboots.
  • Storage Spaces DirectSoftware-defined storage (SDS) has taken a new level in Windows Server 2016. We have seen heaps of innovation in this space and Storage Spaces Direct introduces support for shared nothing storage. Storage Spaces Direct has two deployment options – converged (disaggregated) with storage and compute in different server tiers for independent scaling, or hyper-converged with storage and compute co-located on the same set of servers.
  • Storage Replica – Storage Replica is a new feature in Windows Server 2016 that enables storage-agnostic, block-level, synchronous replication between clusters or servers for disaster preparedness and recovery, as well as stretching of a failover cluster across sites for high availability. Synchronous replication enables mirroring of data in physical sites with crash-consistent volumes ensuring zero data loss at the file system level. Asynchronous replication allows site extension beyond metropolitan ranges with the possibility of data loss.
  • Microsoft Azure Stack If you are a hosting provider or datacentre offering IaaS to your customers, Azure Stack has to be on your watch list! Azure Stack brings Microsoft’s Azure platform to any datacentre. It creates an ideal private or hybrid cloud infrastructure with consistent APIs, tools, and shared ecosystem. This is not Windows Azure Pack (WAP) rehashed, it’s the real deal built using the same components found in the Microsoft-hosted version.
  • Windows Containers with Docker support Containers are increasingly seen as an ideal solution to embrace DevOps giving developers increased agility while reducing operations management challenges for IT.
  • Shielded Virtual Machines The goal of Shielded VMs and Guarded Fabric is to help provide hosting service providers and private cloud operators the ability to offer their tenant administrators a hosted environment where protection of tenant virtual machine data is strengthened against threats from compromised storage, network, and host administrators, as well as malware.
  • Switch Embedded Teaming (SET) SET is an alternative NIC Teaming solution that you can use in environments that include Hyper-V and the Software Defined Networking (SDN) stack in Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview. SET integrates some NIC Teaming functionality into the Hyper-V Virtual Switch.
  • Web Application Proxy Using ADFS and WAP will now see long awaited improvements for such pain points as HTTP Basic Authentication redirection and Domain Wildcard support to address hosting SharePoint 2013 Apps-model.
  • Windows Server Antimalware Windows Server 2016 now will ship with the Antimalware agent installed by default, without the UI. The UI can be installed using the Add Roles/Features wizard if desired.

There are heaps of other innovations set for this release that I have not mentioned above, please see the following resources to find out more. For more information on current features available in Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 3 be sure to check out this TechNet article:

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  • Home: Server & Tools Blogs –
  • Server & Cloud Team Blog –
  • In the Cloud – Brad Anderson –
  • Building Clouds –
  • The System Center Team Blog –
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