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What's new in Windows Server 2016: Containers, Nano Server and Hyper-V

Matthew Finnegan | June 27, 2016
Windows Server 2016 will charge users per core, potentially increasing licensing costs

Windows Server 2016 is set to launch in the second half of this year. Computerworld UK looks at the new features announced in technical previews so far.

With Windows Server 2016, Microsoft aims to assist customers in modernising on-premise data centres and making it easier to move workloads out to its Azure public cloud. This means embracing trends such as containers and microservice architectures, as well as more general improvements including rolling upgrades for Hyper-V virtualisation and improved identity management. 

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Image: Microsoft

Beta versions of the OS has been available since 2014, with a fourth technical preview released at the end of 2015, containing further enhancements to Nano Server, Windows Containers, Hyper-V and Storage Spaces Direct.

Microsoft has also revealed more details about Windows Server 2016 licensing, with customers paying per-core rather than per-processor when the service launches later this year. The move could mean that users will be paying more than expected - see the final section of this article for more information.

Uptake of the software is likely to be gradual as IT departments wait for initial bugs and other issues to be resolved. A recent Spiceworks survey of 300 IT professionals indicates that only 17 percent of respondents expect to roll out the new OS within the first year of release, with most opting to make the jump within two to three years. Forty-three percent had no fixed timeframe for an upgrade, with many still running Server 2003.

So what should you expect from Windows Server 2016 when it launches later this year? Here are some of the main features so far...

Windows Server 2016: Nano Server

The most eye-catching update is the introduction of Nano Server. Developed under the name 'Tuva', Nano Server is a scaled down, purpose-built operating system designed to run modern cloud applications and act as a platform for containers. It promises fewer patches and updates, faster restarts, better resource utilisation and, due to having fewer operating system components, tighter security.

Nano Server is essentially a significantly slimmed down version of Windows Server, Microsoft says.

It has a 93 percent lower VHD size than Windows Server, for example, as well as 92 percent fewer critical bulletins and 80 percent fewer reboots as a result of security patches. This has been achieved by, among other things, removing 32-bit support - it will only run 64-bit applications - while the graphical user interface (GUI) has also gone, with all management conducted either remotely via WMI or PowerShell.

It is focused on two areas. Firstly "born-in-the-cloud" applications, offering support for programming languages and runtimes including C#, Java, Node.js, and Python, whether running on containers, VMs, or bare metal physical servers. It will also target Microsoft Cloud Platform infrastructure, with support for "compute clusters running Hyper-V and storage clusters running Scale-out File Server".


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