Microsoft launched Windows Server 2016 during last month's Ignite conference, offering customers evaluation copies of the operating system. This week, those customers can finally download the fully licensed version of the system software and start the process of deploying it in production environments, said Mark Jewett, senior director of product marketing at Microsoft Cloud Platform.
"We are pleased to announce today marks the general availability (GA) of Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016," said Jewett in an Oct. 12 announcement. "Customers can now broadly acquire the server operating system that accelerates innovation and security of both traditional and cloud-native applications."
Both Windows Server 2016 and the company's data center management platform, System Center 2016, are critical to Microsoft's hybrid-cloud approach to business software and IT infrastructure services.
Microsoft operates Azure, a massive (and still growing) public cloud computing platform that stretches across the globe. However, the company acknowledges that many of the world's enterprises aren't rushing to place their application workloads on public clouds, for reasons ranging from regulatory concerns to sheer technical constraints.
Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 are meant to help businesses bridge the gap, with workload portability, unified DevOps and management capabilities that enable businesses to cherry-pick which applications and services they run in their own data centers, in the cloud or both, as changes in demand or business objectives dictate.
Among the most noteworthy new additions to the server operating system is Docker support, along with the commercially supported availability of the Docker Engine at no additional cost for Windows Server 2016 customers.
In the few short years since the open-source Docker application container platform hit the scene, it has taken both the developer community and enterprise IT departments by storm. For the most part, that enthusiasm was contained (no pun intended) to the Linux side of the OS divide.
Docker Inc., Docker's leading commercial sponsor, and Microsoft announced a partnership aimed at extending support for the container technology to Windows Server. Now, instead of loading Linux onto a hypervisor installed on Windows to run Docker, the Docker engine runs natively on Windows Server 2016, simplifying matters for administrators.
Docker container support also dovetails with Microsoft's "cloud-first" ambitions.
"Containers are a key technology underpinning a new generation of cloud-native applications and microservices," said Mike Schutz, general manager of product marketing at Microsoft's Server and Tools division, in a Sept. 26 blog post. "We've also been working with customers who want to use containers to transform existing applications to take advantage of cloud architectures and a modern DevOps environment."
Windows Server 2016 also features a new container- and cloud-friendly installation option called Nano Server. By dispensing with 32-bit support, the graphical user interface and other software components that vie for CPU cycles, Nano Server is 25 times smaller than a full Windows Server image, resulting in a faster, less resource-intensive operating environment for 64-bit applications, according to the company.