The countdown has begun. On July 12, Day 2 of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, the company announced that it is planning to officially launch Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 during another conference. The server operating system and IT management software suite will be made generally available at Microsoft's upcoming Ignite conference, scheduled to take place Sept. 26–30 in Atlanta.
In the meantime, Microsoft is urging administrators to evaluate Windows Server 2016 by downloading the final version of the OS, Technical Preview 5. The system software is feature-complete and contains all of the new features that distinguish it from its predecessors.
Among them are Docker container support and the new, lightweight Nano Server variant. However, IT professionals are most looking forward to the Hyper-V and PowerShell enhancements, according to a survey conducted late last year by Spiceworks.
In Windows Server 2016, Hyper-V includes support for rolling cluster updates and features that improve the resiliency of virtual machines (VMs). "In recent years, server virtualization has made server rooms more efficient, redundant and less expensive to run," Spiceworks IT Content Marketing Manager Peter Tsai told eWEEK in December. "And with high adoption rates of virtualization, IT pros are keen on new functionality that could improve server uptime and resiliency of their networks."
PowerShell is the second most in-demand feature. IT professionals expect the improved command-line shell and scripting language to help simplify and automate VM management, added Tsai.
When it ships this fall, Windows Server 2016 will be available in three editions: Datacenter, Standard and Essentials. Both the Datacenter and Standard editions will be subject to core-based pricing ($6,155 and $882, respectively), a shift from the previous processor-based pricing model. Customers picking up the small-business-focused Essentials edition (up to 25 users and 50 devices) will pay on a per-processor basis, with pricing to be determined as its release nears.
Windows Server 2016 Datacenter and Standard editions each have three installation options. The Server with Desktop Experience offers a local user interface consistent with the Windows 10 Anniversary Edition's look and feel, along with Server Manager tools and the Microsoft Management Console (MMC).
The Server Core installation option removes the UI, Server Manager and MMC, but still offers basic graphical tools like Task Manager and PowerShell. Finally, Nano Server is the "headless" installation option that can be managed remotely using Core PowerShell, MMC or Server Management Tools, a Web-based solution.
Meanwhile, System Center 2016 promises to be "a significant upgrade over System Center 2012 R2 to manage key aspects of your applications and infrastructure, including client and server configuration management, monitoring and alerting, orchestration and automation, event and incident management, data protection, and virtual machine and infrastructure fabric management," said Bala Rajagopalan, a Microsoft System Center principal group program manager in a recent blog post announcing the availability of the software's Technical Preview 5.