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Going In-Depth with and Getting Ready for Windows Server 2016

Posted March 1, 2016


Ed Jones works for Firebrand Training, a Microsoft Gold Learning Partner. He has worked in the IT training and certification industry for the past 5 years. He is a tech enthusiast with experience working with Windows Server, Windows desktop and SharePoint.

Since the reveal of Technical Preview 4 in November 2015, the anticipation and excitement surrounding the official release of Windows Server 2016 is growing throughout the IT world. While no firm date has been officially announced at this time, Windows Server 2016rumors abound of a General Release date at some point in Q3 2016.

Spiceworks has already identified the features IT pros are most looking forward to in Windows Server 2016 as the server operating system's new Hyper-V functionality, PowerShell 5.0, and the prospect of enhanced security features such as Host Guardian Service and shielded VMs.

Microsoft itself states the new server OS offers the ability to "make your vision a reality," so today we'll be taking a closer look at the key features of Windows Server 2016 that have come out in successive Technical Previews to see if the new server operating system is likely to live up to Microsoft’s ambitious vision.

Windows Server 2016 promises to be simple, flexible and open, with a focus on improved core functionality and infrastructure to enable virtualized workloads and an optimized Hyper-V environment and windows containers to run efficiently. There is also an increased focus on security enhancements embedded in the Azure platform, providing identity and access management, encryption, secure networks and threat management.

Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 1

The idea of a Technical Preview is to give potential customers and server admins the chance to test out the latest sever software and deploy it to test systems before it becomes officially available — a sort of "try before you buy" concept, if you will.

The first public beta version of Windows Server 2016 (Technical Preview) was released on 1st October 2014, enabling enterprise users to become familiar with the new operating system and features.

Technical Preview 2: Nano Server, Hyper-V and PowerShell 5.0

Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 2 was released in May 2015, giving users their first look at the Nano Server — “a headless, 64-bit only deployment option for Windows Server” — which is essentially the same as the old Server Core, but twenty times smaller and managed using a remote GUI through a browser-based application. This was also good news from a security perspective, as the smaller footprint of the Nano Server means there is less software surface exposed to potential attack.

Other highlights of the TP2 release included noticeable continued investment in making networking as flexible and cost-effective as possible by converging NIC across tenant and RDMA traffic to optimize costs.

PowerShell 5.0 was installed by default on Windows Server 2016 Technical Previews as well as on Windows 10. PowerShell 5.0 includes significant features that extend PowerShell's use, improve its usability and allow you to control and manage Windows-based environments more comprehensively.

Most conveniently, PowerShell 5 is backward-compatible, meaning that scripts and functions designed for earlier PowerShell versions will generally work on 5.0 without the need for changes. It also brings with it the ability to develop by using classes such as syntax and semantics that are similar to other programming languages and a new, structured information stream that can be used to transmit structured data between a script and a hosting environment. There are improvements to the PowerShell integrated scripting environment in TP2 as well.

Both PowerShell 5 and Hyper-V, which is Microsoft’s next-generation data center hypervisor platform for enabling hybrid cloud architectures, came enabled by default on TP2. The upgraded Hyper-V was on preview with a number of beneficial new features such as Linux Secure Boot, rolling Hyper-V cluster upgrade and Virtual Machine Configurations.

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