Microsoft Previews Windows Subsystem for Linux on Windows Server

Windows Subsystem for Linux, one of last year's most noteworthy additions to the Windows 10 operating system, is now available in a preview version of Windows Server.

Linux on Windows Server

Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is making the jump from the desktop to Windows Server. The software component, which was added to last year's Windows 10 Anniversary Update, allows the operating system to run Linux command-line tools and binaries in the ELF64 format.

This week, Microsoft released Windows Server build 16257 to the Windows Insider software testing and feedback program. System administrators and developers now have fewer hoops to jump through when attempting to run Linux tools alongside the company's proprietary server system software.

"If you're a server engineer that needs to run node.js, Ruby, Python, Perl, Bash scripts or other tools that expect Linux behaviors, environments or file system-layout, the ability to install and run Linux with WSL expands the tools at your disposal on Windows Server," explained Microsoft program managers Sarah Cooley and Rich Turner, in a joint blog post. Despite the flexibility the feature affords IT professionals and power users, there are some limitations.

Currently, Windows Subsystem for Linux cannot be used to run persistent Linux daemons, jobs and services as background tasks, cautioned Cooley and Turner. A guide on getting Linux up and running on the Windows Subsystem for Linux is available here.

Windows Server build 16257 also contains Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) packages, allowing Windows 10 client systems to manage preview builds of the operating system using graphical interface tools. RSAT requires a Windows 10 client with a build number of over 16250.

Meanwhile, some of Windows Server's container-friendly images have slimmed down. Available via the Docker Hub repository for Windows Insider, the new Windows Nano Server base image is more than over 70 percent smaller than before while the new Windows Server Core base image's size has been reduced by more than 20 percent, noted Dona Sarkar, a software engineer at Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group and head of the Windows Insider program, in an Aug. 8 announcement.

For users eyeing cloud workloads, Microsoft has bolstered some of Windows Server's software-defined data center capabilities. On the security front, build 16257 introduces support for shielded Linux virtual machines, secure clusters and encrypted virtual networks. SMBv1 (Server Message Block), notorious for its role in recent ransomware outbreaks, is disabled by default in this release.

In terms of storage, the operating system now supports data deduplication for the company's Resilient File System (ReFS). It also introduces a Data Deduplication DataPort API for more efficient data movement, said Sarkar. Storage Spaces Direct, which can be used to pool internal server storage, gains support for storage-class memory products that blur the line between flash and DRAM.

Although a new Windows Server preview build can be taken as a sign of progress, there's a reason Microsoft warns against running production workloads on pre-release software. Bugs can crop up and some features may be missing altogether.

For example, some server clustering capabilities didn't make the cut this time around, Sarkar informed. "A couple of key functionalities to enable end-to-end testing of Cluster Sets scenarios are not present in this build, so defer all evaluation of this scenario to a future build."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...