Seeking an adaptive and responsive IT foundation for their business applications, CIOs are training their sights on container technologies. Microsoft is catering to that crowd with its next version of Windows Server.
This week, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant released the fourth technical preview of Windows Server 2016 operating system (OS) and System Center 2016 management software. The new OS includes Hyper-V Container support, marking the first time the public can put Microsoft’s homegrown container platform through its paces since the technology was officially announced in April.
“With Hyper-V Containers, you get the flexibility of the container model with the additional isolation provided by a container-optimized version of Hyper-V,” Microsoft’s answer to competing virtualization platforms like VMware, said Mike Neil, corporate vice president of Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise, in a Nov. 19 announcement. “Security needs can vary based on a wide variety of factors, and we’re excited about giving you expanded choices for using containers across enterprise scenarios including multi-tenant environments.”
In addition, the new beta includes enhancements to the Hyper-V hypervisor. New evaluation builds contain “an early preview of nested virtualization, along with Direct Device Assignment, and improved PowerShell support for VM upgrades,” Neil stated. “Nested virtualization can be used in dev and test scenarios and is a key enabling technology for Hyper-V Containers,” he explained.
On the storage front, Microsoft has included new optimizations aimed at flash-based hardware. “We have improved Storage Spaces Direct to support all-flash configurations with NVMe SSD and SATA SSD devices, and Erasure Coding for increased storage efficiency,” said Neil. “Also in this release, support for Storage Health Service provides easier health monitoring and more streamlined operations, with a single monitoring point per cluster.”
In terms of security, the latest public Windows Server 2016 build includes improvements to shielded VMs and Microsoft’s new Windows Server role, Host Guardian Service, in preparation for their deployment in production environments. “Just Enough Administration, which limits administrator rights for additional security, has been expanded to domain controllers and server maintenance roles,” Neil added.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is readying administrators for a more hybrid cloud-friendly System Center 2016.
The new IT systems management and monitoring toolset “brings cloud learnings to the data center, enabling seamless management of complex environments,” Neil stated. “Moving into the hybrid world, System Center 2016 combines with Microsoft Operations Management Suite to provide an integrated, 360-degree view across any cloud, any operating system, from infrastructure to applications.”
The new System Center enables software-defined data center capabilities when used in conjunction with Windows Server 2016, according to Neil. These include the ability to patch hosts while provisioning, along with “simplified logical network creation, scale-out file server with Storage Spaces Direct and SAN storage automation, and improved storage monitoring.” Administrators can also keep a better eye on their environments with Operations Manager’s new “data-driven management of alerts and enhanced visualization,” he added.