Microsoft has not forgotten Windows Server. It’s going to get a big upgrade.
Video: These are the key business technical stories from Microsoft’s Ignite
Get ready for a new Microsoft 365 bundle, updates for SQL Server for Windows and Bing, and Skype for Business. ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley analyzes the most important news stories from the Microsoft Ignite event.
It has been a while since Microsoft has released Windows Server 2019 and the development of the next major release continues. It is still a long way off, but if you sign up for the half-yearly release schedule as part of a Software Assurance subscription, it will get new features much faster. On Ignite 2019, Microsoft began to reveal what would come in the next Windows Server release, during various conference sessions. The result is an image of an operating system that is evolving to work with newer technologies, use the cloud and focus on Microsoft’s hybrid cloud vision, a bridge between the data center and Azure.
New functions in Windows Admin Center
One of the most important elements of the modern Windows Server environment is Windows Admin Center (WAC). Designed to support administrators working from desktop PCs, it is a browser-based management environment designed to replace the existing Remote Server Administration Tools and the built-in Server Manager, placing Microsoft and external admin tools in one pane that can target servers and desktops, both physical and virtual, on-premises and in the cloud.
Windows Admin Center is getting a new tool for monitoring server performance.
An important development demonstrated during the Ignite event is a new performance monitoring tool that builds on the trusted monitoring experience of Windows Server. You can now filter the counter list to quickly create customized performance views, with access to real-time information from your servers. You can quickly assemble groups of counters with contextual search to find relevant counters for the problem you are trying to solve, along with analysis tools to help you explore your data and find the information you need. After you build an analysis workspace, you can save it for future use and share it with colleagues and across servers, building a library of performance monitoring views.
Closely related is support for Azure’s Arc server management layer, which is intended to manage and implement policies on your servers using Azure Resource Manager templates instead of Group Policy, where PowerShell runs safely on your servers to ensure that policies is applied correctly.
Hyper-V is the key to much of what Microsoft is doing today, on the desktop, on your servers and in the cloud. The use of Hyper-V on Azure helps to prove local scenarios, such as live migration, by using it to support server hot patching. Moving active workloads between servers is now supported in Windows Admin Center, with the goal that WAC becomes a complete replacement for the existing Hyper-V Manager. It already has functions that are not in Hyper-V Manager, for example the ability to group and manage VMs together.
Microsoft continues to bring Azure functions to Hyper-V on location. In a presentation at Ignite, Microsoft has significantly increased the increase in supported VMs, corresponding to Azure’s 12 TB of memory. This is not surprising, since Microsoft has already announced support for 16PB physical memory in the next major release of Windows Server.
SEE: Windows 10: a cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
Security remains important, and with CPU hyperthreading bugs affecting most modern generation server CPUs, it is important to be able to manage safe workloads so that they can be kept separate from untrusted workloads. Hyper-V adds CPU groups to repair specific workloads to specific CPUs, so you can remove trusted workloads from the rest of the applications and VMs that you use. There will be improvements to the way Microsoft delivers its secure, protected VMs, although no details about the implementation are yet available.
Use GPU-P in Hyper-V
GPU-based compute is becoming increasingly important and Microsoft has added support for it in Azure. The partitioning tools give multiple VMs access to a physical GPU and share it between the VMs. Each VM has full access to its GPU partition, giving it a significant performance improvement without affecting the other VMs. If a VM does not require GPU access, the partitions can be adjusted to give the GPU the best possible use.
Move applications to Windows Containers
Windows Containers are an important part of the future of Windows Server and act as a new implementation goal for your applications. In recent years, Microsoft has reviewed the role of what Windows Server Nano was and uses it as the basis for a stripped-down application host that forms the basis for Windows Container applications. It starts up quickly and offers the minimum services required for an application. More complicated applications can take advantage of Windows Server Core, which is considerably slimmed down, making it easier to adjust specific tasks.
When running Windows Server applications in containers, they are easier to operate in a hybrid mode, on Azure Stack hardware and in the cloud. With Windows Server an important element in Microsoft’s advanced computer strategy, it is an important role for Windows Server as a host and container operating system. Hyper-V is an important part of the Windows container strategy and offers a thin, secure hypervisor to add extra isolation between host operating system and container applications.
SEE: 10 tricks and tweaks for adjusting Windows 10 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Container loading of workloads makes perfect sense, especially if you have a high seasonal variability. The ability to burst the computing capacity in your data center and in the cloud is important, and it requires Windows Server Containers to support common applications without significant modifications.
Building networks with SDNs
Building a virtual infrastructure on Windows Server often requires a significant number of VMs for virtual network devices. Plans for future Windows Server releases are designed to reduce the overhead needed to build and run a software-defined network (SDN), including making BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) optional. There is a plan to make it easier to integrate Windows SDN tooling with Kubernetes, making it easier to build and use your own distributed systems, using Kubernetes tooling to manage the network. Other network functions improve diagnostics, with the ability to model packages in a network. Microsoft plans to use WAC to bring SDNs and traditional networks closer together.
Use Azure Stack HCI Stretch for disaster recovery
With Azure Stack HCI (Hyper-Converged Infrastructure), Microsoft focuses on modern data center and edge computing scenarios, combining well-known Windows Server 2019 functions with elements of the Azure control plane. Azure Stack HCI can quickly build clustered servers, using ready-made hardware from well-known suppliers.
In the next long-term support release from Windows Server, Azure Stack HCI can be run on multiple sites in a “stretched” mode for disaster recovery. Unlike older failover cluster technologies, this approach is designed to be simple to set up and difficult to configure incorrectly, using the features of Windows Server Storage Replica to link the sites. Nodes are automatically detected using Active Directory and IP address functions in the operating system, creating error domains for the main site. The sites are configured with separate storage pools, using Storage Spaces Direct, with virtual disks on each site.
Microsoft is upgrading the Windows Server Health Service so that it can now run on different distributed systems. If a server cluster fails, the work is automatically transferred to the second site. It is a similar approach to using Azure as a disaster recovery service, but stores servers and data in your own data centers. The same underlying Storage Spaces technologies can help on-premise data centers make better use of available storage and integrate with Azure storage services.
Ready for future hardware with PCIe 4.0
Hardware is evolving and server operating systems must evolve with it. PCIe 4.0 is the latest version of the PCIe standard and adds support for much faster data transfers, more than double speeds. It is a technology that should have a significant effect on data center performance and that provides driver support for faster networking and storage at higher speeds.
Weekly newsletter from Microsoft
Be Microsoft’s insider for your business with the help of these Windows and Office tutorials and the analyzes of our experts on Microsoft business products.
Delivered on Monday and Wednesday