Thursday 17th November 2016
by Ken Walshe

Ken Walshe

The 6 best new Windows Server 2016 features

The second in our Windows Server blog trio

There are lots of great things in Windows Server 2016 (some of the highlights are in our first blog), and I could go on all day about them. However, this post focuses just on what I think are the best 6.

1. Windows Server 2016 Anti-malware

Windows Server now has Microsoft’s own anti-malware protection – Windows Defender. The client is not installed on each server unless you want it, but the underlying protection is enabled by default.

Why is this good?
You can’t have too much malware protection!

2. Storage Replica

Storage Replica is Windows Server technology that enables synchronous replication of volumes between servers or clusters for disaster recovery. It also enables asynchronous replication to create failover clusters that span two sites with all nodes staying in sync.

Windows Server 2016 now has built-in storage agnostic replication for both onsite and offsite data protection.

Why is this good?
Well, this is a new disaster recovery solution. Windows Server offers the ability to synchronously protect data in different locations. It also provides the ability to switch workloads to safe locations before anything disastrous happens (assuming you get a warning) or to prepare for a power outage. So no data loss.
Windows Server 2016
3. Shielded Virtual Machines

This is one of the most important improvements. It really takes the Server 2016 Hyper-V offering to a higher level and far more in line with the enterprise class features of VMware.

A guarded fabric consists of one Host Guardian Service (HGS) – typically, a cluster of three nodes – plus one or more guarded hosts and a set of shielded virtual machines (VMs). It is best used in hosting and multi-tenant environments.

What does this mean?
Shielded VMs help protect virtual machines from a compromised fabric as well as encrypting them improving compliance– again improving the security.

There is some bad news however. Shielded VMs should only be deployed in NON PRODUCTION environments. So it’s clear this is a feature that needs some work!

4.  Hyper-V

Hyper-V has been significantly improved. Connected Standby power state is now available. And Discrete Device Assignment allows a virtual machine to have direct access to some PCIe hardware devices. You can also protect the operating system disk using BitLocker drive encryption in generation 1 virtual machines.

So what’s so good about this?
Hyper-V helps reduce costs by consolidating more workloads on fewer servers. And Hyper-V is extremely scalable. There are now hundreds of data centres globally running Azure VMs all on Hyper-Vs.

5. Windows Nano Server

This is brand new and the clue is in the name! To install Windows Nano Server, you need just 130MB of RAM and 600MB on your C drive. Nano Server is a remotely administered server operating system optimized for private clouds and data centres.

What so great about that?
Windows Nano Server is similar to Windows Server in Server Core mode but takes up far less disk space. It also can be set up faster and requires less updates and restarts, which it does much faster.

6. Layer 4 load balancer

You can add in Layer 7 third parties. There are seven networking layers in all. Layer 4 is related to fourth layer of the OSI model: transport level eg TCP or UDP. Layer 7 is related to seventh layer: application level. Eg HTTP, FTP, SMTP, DNS.

Why is this good?
Layer 4 is much easier to manage and less expensive (meaning free!) than Layer 7.


There are of course lots more great new tools but that was our top 6 Windows Server 2016 features. The third blog in our Windows Server 2016 trio will be posted next week. Read the first: Windows Server 2016 – Why do you need it now?

Update 25 November: Read our third and final instalment – It’s all about the security.

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