Windows Server 2019 Preview Continues Trend Toward Smaller Containers

By focusing on fonts, Microsoft has been able to find new ways to cut Windows Server Core containers down to size.

Windows Server

Microsoft continues to reduce the size of its Windows Server Core container images in anticipation of Windows Server 2019's impending release.

Windows Server Core is a lightweight version of Windows Server tailored to virtualized application containers. Lacking a graphical interface and other software components that aren't essential to running applications and software services, Windows Server Core is less demanding on server hardware and has a smaller attack surface, which improves cyber-security.

In the server operating system preview build number 17677, available now to members of the Windows Insider early testing and feedback program, Microsoft's software engineers were able to find new ways to shrink the operating system’s footprint further by turning their attention to typefaces.

In a May 29 announcement, Microsoft's Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider program, and senior program manager Brandon LeBlanc, said their group had turned non-critical fonts into optional components and removed them from the Windows Server Core container images.

"This change won’t affect the user experience of Windows Server Core, except that users now have the ability to enable or disable non-critical font components, like they can do for any other [optional component]," they stated.

Windows Server 2019 build 17677 also brings some improvements to how administrators monitor Storage Spaces Direct over time.

Storage Spaces Direct is a set of software-defined storage capabilities that allows customers to pool and manage storage capacity. Now, the new Get-ClusterPerf PowerShell commandlet (cmdlet) digs a little deeper when users request a performance history and Storage Spaces Direct feature doesn’t turns up anything despite an obvious problem. Using some new self-diagnosis logic, the cmdlet seeks out common issues that may keep the software from generating an accurate report.

Two other cmdlets, Start-ClusterPerformanceHistory and Stop-ClusterPerformanceHistory, help users troubleshoot the performance history feature when they encounter issues. Finally, performance history now provides insights into how much data Storage Spaces Direct needs to repair and resynchronize on a per-server basis, the Microsoft executives said.

As with any pre-release software, build 17677 contains bugs that may result in a less than optimal experience.

Users hoping to test Windows Server 2019's new in-place upgrade functionality are advised to turn off the NT Directory Service on servers running Active Directory Domain Controllers. In fact, Microsoft recommends backing up any domain controllers before attempting such an upgrade, just to be on the safe side.

Introduced in test build 17639, the new in-place upgrade feature is intended to help customers let go of aging versions of the operating system by allowing administrators to install a newer version while retaining the old system's settings and installed features. A new orchestration tool called Storage Migration Service (SMS) serves a similar purpose on the storage front, enabling automated data migrations to newer servers.

Microsoft appears eager for users to put the in-place upgrade feature through its paces. The company is prioritizing feedback from users attempting upgrades from Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016, said Sarkar and LeBlanc. For now, updates from previous test builds are not supported, they added.

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 network of...