By Sarah Morgan
Firebrand teamed-up with Microsoft Evangelist Ed Baker to deliver a First Look at Windows Server 2016 in London, on Thursday 13th August. Seventy lucky Firebranders squeezed into a room at Microsoft’s offices in London to catch a glimpse of Windows Server 2016 in action – and to see what the Nano Server buzz is all about.
Ed opened by saying there was going to be a “fundamental change” in the way we use Windows Server. After three hours of demos – including a few PowerPoint slides - we’d learnt why.
Nano Server is at the heart of this fundamental change – it’s fast, it’s small, and it’s easy to use (common themes throughout the new look OS). Microsoft describes it as “a purpose-built operating system designed to run born-in-the-cloud applications and containers”.
Small and perfectly formed, Nano Server is designed for fewer patches and updates, faster restarts, better resource utilisation and tighter security. The focus on size was highlighted when Ed unveiled his server setup – which looked complicated as a network map on screen, but was no more than a laptop and four hard discs on the table in front of him.
“Servers aren’t valued pets”
Before we got to see Windows Server 2016 in action, we were given a reality check. Ed reminded us that “servers aren’t valued pets” concluding by bluntly saying “when you don’t need them – kill them”. We no longer need to get attached to our servers…kill off a server when you don’t need it, and reactivate it when you do. That’s the power of cloud computing.
Ed asked us all to think ‘services’, not ‘servers’. We’ve moved away from a data center being made up of expensive hardware; individual servers in a siloed infrastructure. Slow, expensive innovation and development constraints have been replaced with low-cost, standardised, automated processes. Nano Server – combined with PowerShell – is what allows us to do this.
Before getting into the detail, Ed explained just how little computing power Windows Server 2016 needs: a 1.4GHz 64-bit processor, 512MB RAM, a 32GB disk and a Network Interface Card. That’s it.
What’s New in Active Directory Domain Services?
The development of Windows 10 and Office 365 means Microsoft is heavily in the world of single sign-on and end-user self-service. Windows Server 2016 is the backbone that supports this – through Azure Active Directory (AAD) connected to Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS). As Ed explains: “If you can manage and control your identity, you can manage and control your data”.
And guess what – it’s simple. Just tell Azure AD Connect AD DS which servers it needs to be assigned to and it does the rest for you - installing the synchronisation and even ADFS if required. Other improved AD DS features include:
- Privileged access management
- Azure Active Directory Join
- Microsoft Passport – helping you keep all your important data even more secure
There was also a definite cheer ripple across the room when Ed announced that Windows Server 2016 won’t work with File Replication Service (FRS) or Windows Server 2003.
Nano Server finally unveiled
At last, Ed showed-off what everyone was here to see. He setup a Storage Direct Cluster through Nano Server, using four Nano nodes (the four hard disks mentioned at the start of the article) and a Windows Server 2016 node (the laptop).
In the past (for now the present) each disc device would need to be connected to a node. This is restrictive - especially as the network gets bigger and we’re trying to upscale. Now, storage spaces can be hooked-up directly with internal disks, eliminating the need to share SAS infrastructure.
This couldn’t have been achieved before without a shared storage mechanism like a JBOD enclosure or a SAN, now we can use standard internal storage and create a shared pool across all the nodes. In this instance each nano dodge had four small internal hard disks making 16 in total. These were combined into a storage direct pool and then added to a failover cluster, in the form of a storage volume formatted as a cluster shared volume.
The pretty-simple setup process is only done once, because it can then be re-used and automated whenever new server space is required. With the new rolling cluster upgrade, you can now add new servers to a cluster, transfer the settings to it and upgrade the cluster version number (to get all the benefits of Windows Server 2016) - all by simply running a rolling upgrade in PowerShell or though the failover cluster manger GUI.
Having spun up the network, it took an impressive 30 seconds to boot (compared to at least five minutes from previous OSs). Yes, there were some cheers in the audience.
Even more new features in Windows Server 2016
There was also time to hear about a few more features in Hyper-V and File and Storage Services. New features for Hyper-V in Windows Server 2016 include:
- Rolling Hyper-V Cluster upgrade
- Production checkpoints
- Hot add and remove for network adaptors and memory
- Integration Services delivered through Windows Update
- Storage Quality of Service (QoS)
- Virtual machine configuration version
- New virtual machine configuration file format
- Hyper-V Manager improvements
- Linux secure boot
- Compatible with Connected Standby
- Windows PowerShell Direct - ever lost the ability to get into a VM? Rather than binning it, you can use PowerShell Direct to get into it
New features for File and Storage Services in Windows Server 2016 include:
- Storage Spaces Direct – the next stage in software-defined storage, which enables SATA and NVMe devices to become cluster-available. This is what enables each server to plugin direct with its own internal discs, rather than the need for a shared SAS JBOD
- Storage Replica – developed to help you “tolerate” disasters. Disasters happen, and they can be planned for by replicating data between sites via standard storage and networks
Nano Server is seven times faster!
Ed concluded by comparing deployment and servicing (based on all patches in 2014) improvements for Nano Server. All make impressive reading:
- Nano Server takes just 40 seconds to boot, compared to more like 300 from full Server
- The disk footprint of Nano Server is 400MB, with Sever Core almost 5GB
- Virtual Hard Disk size 400MB compared to 6GB in Server Core
- Critical bulletins – for full Server, there were 23, compared to two for Nano Server
- Number of reboots – only three from Nano with 11 from full Server
All of the demos were on Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 2, with Technical Preview 3 coming soon. So in the words of Ed, download the Technical Preview now and start playing!
About the Author:Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.