Microsoft Wants to Make It Easier to Upgrade to Windows Server 2019

A new in-place upgrade capability and the Storage Migration Service tool will make it easier for customers to let go of aging versions of Windows Server.

Windows Server

Windows Server 2019 test build 17639, now available to members of the Windows Insider early-access program, includes new features that Microsoft hopes will make it easier for long-time customers to loosen their grip on older versions of the operating system.

First, the latest build includes in-place upgrade functionality, enabling administrators to switch to a newer version of Windows Server while retaining an older version's settings and installed features. For example, administrators will be able to perform in-place upgrades from Windows Server 2016 Standard or 2012 R2 Standard to the Datacenter or Standard editions of Windows Server 2019.

Secondly, build 17639 includes a new job-based orchestration tool called Storage Migration Service (SMS) that addresses a lack of automatic data migration options, according to Microsoft's Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider program and senior program manager Brandon LeBlanc. Many customers are still running older versions of the system software, as far back as Windows Server 2003 in some cases, because migrations can be time-consuming and can cause service interruptions, they observed.

"SMS provides orchestrated workflow with a Honolulu-based graphical management system, allowing scalable migrations of many servers simultaneously to new targets running on premises or in Azure," explained Sarkar and LeBlanc in a blog.

Honolulu is a graphical user interface toolset intended to help narrow the gap between existing graphical management interfaces such as Microsoft Management Console and the PowerShell command line interface and scripting language.

"SMS handles common problems and subtleties of a migration, including in-use files, share settings, security settings, network addresses and names, local security principals, encrypted data, and more," Microsoft executives stated in the blog.

Administrators can use Storage Migration Service to take an inventory of the data, security and network settings of existing servers and then transfer those settings to a newer version of Windows Server using the SMB (Server Message Block) protocol. The tool also allows the newer server to take over for its older counterpart during the decommissioning process without affecting users and applications.

Storage Replica, a disaster recovery feature that debuted in Windows Server 2016 Datacenter, now features performance enhancements that improve replication throughput and latency. Users should notice faster storage operations in Storage Spaces Direct clusters and all-flash storage arrays.

Borrowing a feature from Windows Server version 1709, the semi-annual release version of the operating system, Storage Replica allows users to test failover operations by mounting a writable snapshot of replicated storage.

Finally, Storage Replica will be available on both the Standard and Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2019. However, in the Standard edition, users will face some restrictions.

Rather than replicate data on an unlimited number of storage volumes, Storage Replica will only be able to replicate a single volume. Volumes are also limited to a size of up to 2TB and they can only be configured to participate in a single partnership instead of an unlimited number.

Those limitations aren't set in stone. Microsoft will be monitoring feedback and analyzing telemetry data during the testing phase. Storage Replica may undergo several changes before Windows Server 2019 is officially released, hinted Sarkar and LeBlanc.

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...