Windows Insiders, members of Microsoft's early access program, can now take the software maker's newer, less resource-intensive Windows Server container images for a spin.
Windows Server preview build 16278 is now available for download, announced Dona Sarkar, head of Windows Insider program, in a Sept. 5 announcement. Microsoft says the latest Nano Server base image is 70 percent smaller than the previous version. Build 16237 got it down to less than half the size of the Windows Server 2016 implementation.
Nano Server is a lightweight, container-only version of the operating system suitable for organizations seeking the DevOps-enabling capabilities of application container technologies. Images of Nano Server based on .NET Core 2.0 and PowerShell 6.0 are also available as part of the latest preview release.
Enterprises and their software development teams are flocking to virtualized server containers. And Microsoft is reaping the rewards of investing in the technology and partnering with Docker.
In April, a Portworx survey found that Windows container usage tripled thus far in 2017, compared to the year before. In 2016, only 9 percent of organizations polled by the container management specialist said they were running containers on Windows, a figure that jumped to 29 percent in 2017.
Apart from a variety of big fixes and performance improvements, the latest Windows Server preview build enables users to mount SMB (Server Message Block) volumes. It also includes some tweaks to the software's infrastructure components that support container orchestration, including named pipe mapping and networking enhancements for Kubernetes.
Microsoft has also tightened security on the operating system's software-defined data center functionality, including adding support for shielded Linux virtual machines, secure clusters and encrypted virtual networks. SMB 1, targeted by the WannaCry ransomware outbreak this past May, is now disabled by default, noted Sarkar.
In terms of data storage, Microsoft has enabled data deduplication, a capacity-sparing technology, for the Resilient File System (ReFS) and has included a new Data Deduplication DataPort API for more efficient storage operations. Supplementing the new deduplication capabilities is ReFS Compaction, a feature that yields additional space savings.
A full list of the enhancements included in Windows Server preview build 16278 is available in this blog post. Users may notice that the system software lacks new features, reason being that Microsoft is putting the finishing touches on it.
"As we are nearing our final release date, today's pre-release build is the last that will be made available for the Windows Server, version 1709 release. Stay tuned for updates on when pre-releases for the next Semi-Annual Channel release will begin," Sarkar said.
Microsoft plans to officially launch Windows Server version 1709 during the company's Ignite conference, which will run Sept. 25 to 29 in Orlando, Fla. Mirroring the release scheme the software maker is using for its Windows 10 desktop operating system, Windows Server customers can expect major updates on a twice-yearly basis going forward.