There are several new and improved features of Windows Server 2016. This is a major Windows Server release where new and improved features of Windows Server 2016 fundamentally focuses on Computer, Storage, and networking improvements. This is built upon what Microsoft calls as a Software Defined Foundation or SDDC.
New and Improved Features of Windows Server 2016
First, let us focus on the Management Pane, Control Pane, and Data Pane. See the diagrammatic representation below:
Using the Key Elements of SSDC in Windows Server 2016 makes it more flexible, agile and better integration with System Center and Azure. Based on these defined paradigms, let’s look at the new features of Windows Server 2016:
Also Read System Requirements for Windows Server 2016.
Hot-add and remove network adapters and memory to running VM’s
Using this new feature, you can hot add or remove a network adapter(s) and adjust the amount of memory assigned while the Virtual Machine (VM) is running, without any interruption. This feature works with both static and Dynamic memory enabled VM’s. See here for more information.
The Network upgrade only works on generation 2 virtual machines that can run either Windows or Linux operating systems. Memory Upgrade is supported on both Gen 1 & 2.
Host resource protection
This prevents “chatty” virtual machines from degrading the performance of the host machine. Here is the Powershell command:
Set-VMProcessor -EnableHostResourceProtection $true
Rolling cluster upgrades
You can add nodes in a mixed environment. For example, you can add a node running Windows Server 2016 to a Hyper-V cluster running Windows Server 2012 R2. This enables for a seamless upgrade for existing deployments. For more information go here and Cluster Operating System Rolling Upgrade in Windows Server here.
Alternate credentials support Store VM credentials in Hyper-V Manager for ease of use and reconnections.
Manage earlier versions: With Server 2016 Hyer-V Manager, you can manage Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2012 R2
True VM mobility
Using the WS-MAN protocol, Hyper-V in Windows Server 2016 can now support down-level live migration scenarios. Here are the features:
Updated management protocol: This awesome new feature allows Hyper-V Manager to communicate with remote Hyper-V hosts using the WS-MAN protocol to manage them. It supports authentication types such as CredSSP, Kerberos or NTLM. Using CredSSP enables you to connect to a managed remote Hyper-V host and can do a live migration without any prerequisites to enable constrained delegation in Active Directory. No firewall ports need to be opened since WS-MAN connects over port 80, which is open by default.
Windows Update can deliver updates to Integration services
This allows all VM Tenant owners to be in control of their Windows Updates which they can choose to install. This is effective for cloud hosting and service providers.
Virtual Machine Groups
You can now Group and manage VM’s together in Hyper-V 2016. This is designed to make the life of Windows Administrator easier with the ability to manage multiple VMs together.
VM configuration version
The process of upgrading a VM has changed in Windows Server 2016. You need to upgrade the configuration version before moving to Windows 10 or Windows Server 2016 Hyper V. Otherwise, you will not be able to use the new features offered in Server 2016. At the same time, it supports backward compatibility.
Using Powershell you can achieve this:
New-VM -Name "WindowsCV5" -Version 7.1 or Action >Upgrade Configuration Version from Hyper V Manager
New configuration file format
The latest version of Hyper-V in Windows Server 2016 now uses a new configuration file format that reduces any chances of corrupt data in case the VM storage for your Hyper-V host fails.
You can take checkpoint with Windows Server 2016 for production VMs running Microsoft Windows. Interestingly, This new capability uses the Volume Snapshot Service (VSS) of the guest operating system.
The network controller is a new feature that provides a centralized, programmable point of automation for management, configuration, monitor, and troubleshoot both virtual as well as a physical network infrastructure in your datacenter. For official documentation, go here.
Distributed multi-tenant firewall
Using the firewall, you can now protect the network layer of virtual networks. The Network Controller is a Server Role which is highly available and scalable. Using the Network Controller Server Role, you can manage both a physical and a virtual network infrastructure as follows:
- Hyper-V VMs and virtual switches
- Datacenter Firewall
- Remote Access Service (RAS) Multi-tenant Gateways, Virtual Gateways, Gateway pools
- Load Balancers
GRE tunneling Support
This feature uses a lightweight tunneling protocol that can encapsulate any other network layer protocol. This is a Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) tunnel capability for the Windows Server Gateway. It is RFC 2890 compliant, which makes easier for interoperability with other vendor devices like Cisco, Juniper etc. For official documentation, go here.
You can now group together multiple virtual appliances in a chain and pass on network traffic in a specified order. This allows more control by the tenant administrator to control network traffic.
Multi-tenant edge gateway
This new feature provides a multi-tenant gateway solution. It gives the tenants owners the tools to access and manage their own resources over site-to-site VPN connections from remote locations. It also allows network traffic flow between virtual resources in the cloud and tenant’s physical networks. The Microsoft Hyper-V network virtualization layer supports up to 16 million Virtual LAN’s and lets the Windows Administrator work on resources which were previously done by a network admin. For official documentation, go here.
Support for SMB 3.0 Protocol with Enhancements
Microsoft has released major changes to Server Message Block Protocol (SMB) 3.0 on top of what was already present in its predecessor Windows Server 2012. From the Performance perspective, Windows Server 2016 now supports:
- SMB Multichannel: Traffic Routing over multiple network connections.
- SMB Direct: Support for Remote Direct Memory Access for higher network performance throughput.
Only works on RDMA Complaint Network Cards.
More SMB 3.0 features include
- SMB Transparent Failover
- SMB Scale Out
- SMB Encryption
Software load balancer based on Azure
This is a data-center class Layer-4 load balancer that is also deployed to scale in the Azure environment. For official documentation, go here.
Create private dedicated high-speed WAN links to Azure infrastructure from with your on-premises datacenters which are closest to you. This Microsft SDN solution is completely a software based solution on top of a physical network infrastructure.
Synchronous Storage replica for any volume with zero Data Loss
Customers use DFSR in a lot of DR scenarios. However, it never gave the assurance of a consistent Disk volume. Storage Replica is a Data Mirroring solution with zero data loss. You get storage agnostic, block-level replication with synchronous replication across servers for disaster recovery. Since the data is an exact copy, it removes the need for any 3rd Party storage solutions like Double-Take etc. to configure a Geo-Failover Cluster for high availability purposes. For official documentation, go here.
Improved Shared Nothing Storage
Using Storage spaces, you can build consistent Disk Pools which is highly available storage systems connected to a Node of a Failover Cluster. These type of disks use SMB 3.0 to connect across disks which are local storage You do not need to have drives to be physically connected to all the storage nodes. With this release, You can have SATA based disk drives, which was not possible in earlier versions of Windows Server.
Multiple vendor Support for NIC Teaming
There was limited support for NIC teaming to certain vendor products in earlier releases. Windows Server 2012 was the first to bring NIC teaming into Windows Server and it supported across NIC from heterogeneous system vendors. You can create up to 32 NICs for both physical servers and VMs. In Windows Server 2016, this feature is extended and integrated with the Hyper-V Switch with Embedded Teaming.
Storage Quality of Service
In this release, you can create policies on Storage Replicas which are deployed in a scale-out architecture. You can create a QoS policy on a scaled-out storage and assign them to virtual drives of Hyper-V VMs. You can assign one or more virtual disk and policies. For official documentation, go here.
For Storage Quality of Service Guide Released for Windows Server Technical Preview” go here.
For Windows Server, Technical Preview Storage QoS Guide goes here.
Cloud Witness using Azure
Deciding on selecting a File Share Witness for Failover Cluster deployment is an important factor. You can now use Azure Servers as a witness to a failover cluster running Windows Server 2016. This is particularly useful for multi-site stretched cluster where you had to invest in a 3rd Datacenter. Most of the customers will not have a 3rd Datacenter and this solution resolves the issue.
This is a new Cluster Quorum Witness setting and allows you to use the same Azure Storage Blob as a witness. See image below:
Set-ClusterQuorum –CloudWitness –AccountName <StorageAccountName> -AccessKey <StorageAccountAccessKey>
Shared VHDX improvements
In this release, you get more flexibility to resize VM’s without any downtime. The Shared VHDX feature was previously introduced in Windows Server 2012 R2. The new features are:
- Dynamic resizing (resizing while VMs are Hot)
- Host-level backup support
- Hyper-V Replica support
Improved cluster logs
With Windows Server 2016, the Failover Cluster provides detailed diagnostic logs on each node, participating in a cluster. Even though the system log is the first place you should be looking for to scope the nature of the problem. This saves the time taken to recreate environments and building test environments to reproduce the issue. This log is valuable for Microsoft’s support as well as for Windows Server Admins responsible for troubleshooting failover clusters.
Data storage on Azure is inexpensive. Windows Server 2016 provides native integration with Azure Site Recovery tools to protect Bare Metal Servers and VM’s to the cloud. Just like DPM (Data Protection Manager) with site recovery tools you can backup and manage your exchange, SQL, and SharePoint on-premises deployment. For official documentation go here.
Azure Site Recovery
The Azure Site Recovery is a service that contributes to your business continuity (BCP) and Disaster recovery planning (DR). This is a strategy by orchestrating replication, failover, and recovery of on-premises virtual machines and bare metal physical servers. Machines can be replicated to Azure, or to a secondary on-premises data center. This feature protects important applications by coordinating the replication and recovery of physical or virtual machines.
Integration with the StoreSimple Virtual Appliance provides full or partial site recovery for small and large enterprises. It works for data from Windows Server 2016 and Hyper-V, plus on-premises Linux & VMware servers. This integrated storage solution manages storage tasks between on-premises devices and Azure cloud storage.
Even though this is not an exhaustive list, but a high-level view of all the New and Improved Features of Windows Server 2016. Hope you like this compilation. Any suggestions are welcome in the comment section down below.