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Podcast: Windows Server 2016 containers take center stage

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Windows Server 2016 adds new support for containers, a vast jump in scalability, multiserver spanning storage, Hyper-V management and a stripped-down headless Nano Server.

The smorgasbord of new features in Windows Server 2016 is long. In this podcast, expert Michael Otey, president of TECA, a technical content production consulting and software development firm based in Portland, Ore., dives under the hood for a detailed exploration of two standouts: Windows Server 2016 containers and Nano Server, a headless version with a 93% smaller memory footprint. Other improvements include support for 24 terabytes of RAM, storage support that spans multiple servers, storage replication and many improvements to the virtual machine hypervisor Hyper-V.

Speaking directly to cloud applications developers, Otey noted that they must acquire expertise on Windows Server as well as the .NET development framework. With regard to Windows Server 2016 containers -- a first-time technology -- developers need to build up an awareness of the container architecture in general, and Docker commands specifically. He also said that how developers build Windows Server 2016 containers, initiate and manage them, are also essential for success in the cloud era. Finally, Otey said that gaining insight into the Microsoft Service Fabric will help in the development of containerized and service-oriented applications.

Michael Otey, president of TECAMichael Otey

Otey did point out one caution, that containers are not cross-platform. The idea that Linux containers can run on Windows Server is not currently possible. The reason, he said, is that containers share portions of the host operating system and kernel. Thus, a Linux application cannot run on a Windows OS kernel and its affiliated APIs. Similarly, a Windows Server 2016 container cannot run on a Linux host due to the same requirements. Regardless, Otey said they are well-suited for stateless web front ends and will provide a basis for a new generation of application development.

Windows Server 2016 was released September 2016. Before we dive into a couple of the new features, what does this new generation bring us that we had not seen before?

Mike Otey: Well, that is a huge question. There are so many features in Windows Server 2016 that we could take all our time talking about them. But to hit some of the high points, I think improved scalability is big. There's now support for 24 terabytes of memory in a host. That's a big bump in the scalability from before, where it was like four terabytes. Nano Server is a new feature that's part of Windows Server 2016. It's a headless version of Windows Server that's even smaller than Windows Server Core. Some of the stats say that it has a 93% smaller VHD space, 92% fewer critical bulletins and it requires 80% fewer reboots. So that could be a big feature for cloud implementations.

There's also Storage Spaces Direct. Storage Spaces Direct is basically the evolution of the older Storage Spaces technology that was introduced with Windows Server 2012 R2. But before, with 2012 R2, the old Storage Spaces was limited to a single server. Now, Storage Spaces Direct allows it to span multiple servers, essentially enabling your Windows servers to potentially replace the SAN, where you can create storage pools that span multiple servers, complete with SSD and HDD disk tiering.

Probably the biggest thing is Hyper-V. Hyper-V has had so many new feature enhancements in it that we could take the whole space on those, too. There's scalability increases, 12 terabytes for Generation 2 VMs. There's something called 'PowerShell Direct,' where you can manage your Hyper-V VMs without having to go through the networking layer and manage them directly from the host. There's nested virtualization, where a VM can be the host for another VM.

There's a new shielded VM, the Host Guardian Service out there, where you can protect VMs from being started by unauthorized hosts or unauthorized administrators, as well. It will prevent those VMs from being run on host servers that aren't what they call 'at-a-station passed' -- in other words, where the server has to be basically approved by your company. There's support for Linux Secure Boot, something called 'Host Resource Protection,' where you can limit the number of resources that a given VM can use, and also a new Production Checkpoints feature. So there's a ton there.

But apart from that, failover clustering has had some improvements. There's support for rolling updates. Some upgrades for clusters, where you can basically introduce a Windows Server 2016 node into a 2012 cluster, and eventually upgrade that cluster to a 2016 one node at a time. There's support for having the Witnesses in the cloud. So your cluster Witnesses don't actually have to be on premise anymore. That's something new.

Of course, there's now support for containers, and containers are a big, new thing in Windows Server 2016.
Mike Oteypresident, TECA

There's also Storage Replica, where you can have replication of your Windows Server storage between different servers, or even to geographically different places via asynchronous replication, so for disaster recovery. The Storage QoS, or Quality of Service, has been expanded to where it used to be on a per-VM level with Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2, and now Microsoft has expanded that to where they've moved up to the Cluster Shared Volume level. So it can be shared, that same Quality of Service, for multiple VMs.

Of course, there's now support for containers, and containers are a big, new thing in Windows Server 2016. They basically enable you to isolate your applications from that underlying OS, so it helps you to deploy your applications. So a lot of new features there, but I think those are some of the highlights.

Listen to the podcast to hear Mike Otey talk more about containers and application development.

Joel Shore is news writer for TechTarget's Business Applications and Architecture Media Group. Write to him at jshore@techtarget.com or follow @JshoreTT on Twitter.

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