Hard to believe that we’re now into March of the new year, and while some people will say its going too quickly, I’m very excited for what lies in store for us later this year from Microsoft. As we’ve heard in the community, Windows Server 2016 is rumored to have its official release sometime later this year, in Q3 or Q4. Currently, we’re in Technical Preview 4 of Windows Server 2016, for those people that enjoy beta testing the latest and greatest software, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw Technical Preview 5 at some point before the official release of Server 2016 as well. With that said, there is much to be excited about with this upcoming release. This is especially true for Hyper-V related technologies, as many enhancements and new features have been introduced and some older features have been greatly improved upon.

To get a better idea of some of the community favorite features in this upcoming release, I reached out to 12 of my fellow Microsoft MVPs in the community and got their responses to a single question regarding the upcoming release.

The Question

We asked them a single two part question:

“What is your favorite, new Hyper-V related feature(s) in the upcoming Windows Server 2016 release, and how will that feature be useful to businesses and IT Pros?”

MVP responses are below:

Eric Berg

http://ericberg.de/

In Server 2016 there are so many great new features and it is hard to select just one. I think there is great news in every part of Hyper-V. But the one I like most is the new Storage Spaces Direct capability. I have used storage spaces in Server 2012 R2 already. It is a great idea to use low-cost disk enclosures and create a well performing storage solution. Also customers love to use SMB with all its great features like SMB Multichannel and SMB Direct.

But there were some nasty things:

First you have to use enclosures with separate file servers and so there is a higher invest and management effort in this area as expected from some customers. So for small customers it was a bit to complex and cost intensive. The JBOD Enclosures used for Storage Spaces have been attached via SAS. And that’s a show-stopper for scaling and redundancy, for example over two separate datacenters. So it was not suitable for larger customers too.

With the new Storage Spaces Direct feature you are now able to use the in-chassis SSDs and HardDisks with the same power of storage spaces as before. Also you are now able to use NVME drives for even better performance. Because there are no SAS connected JBODs anymore you can scale better and use your Storage Spaces across several datacenters. So you have the parity of your in-chassis disks and also the availability by using several servers. To connect these servers you can now leverage high bandwidth connections like 10Gb, 40Gb or 100Gb. Also you can tier your data over the different drive types in your server.

With that in mind you can now think of how to connect you Hyper-V servers. And there are two options for that. One way would be the hyper-converged option. This is great for smaller companies, as you run your storage spaces on several servers and these servers are Hyper-V servers too. So if you have to scale up you will scale storage and compute at once. But you also should remember that loosing a host means loosing Storage and Compute. But because of the parity and availability features in storage spaces your environment will still be up and running. The second option is to use your storage spaces direct servers as storage servers only. and then you will connect your Hyper-V servers to them using the great performance of high bandwidth network connections and all the benefits of the SMB-protocol. Now you can easily scale storage and compute. So it is a great solution for enterprises too.

The ability to use storage spaces direct in Windows Server 2016 is a great improvement for all kinds of customers. We have solved lots of issues and nasty requirements in this new version. And also you are able to get even more benefit when using ReFS and utilize Storage Replica for stretched scenarios. All in all with the new S2D there is a fantastic way for all customers to get the best out of Hyper-V. But please consider that Storage Spaces Direct is not the all-fits-one solution and it should fit into your infrastructure.

Lai Yoong Seng

http://www.ms4u.info/

Reliability and Availability is crucial for an organization.

My favorite features in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V are the “Hot Add features” and one in particular is Hot-Add and Hot-Remove for network adapters and memory.

In prior version, we had to turn off the VM in order to add or remove network adapters, but with the upcoming Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V, we can reduce downtime by easily adding or removing the network adapter for a Generation 2 Virtual machine running either Windows or Linux operating systems.

Dynamic memory is a great features in prior versions. Therefore, in the upcoming Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V, the product team has brought this feature to Static Memory in Generation 1 or Generation 2 Virtual Machines. Without powering off the virtual machine, we can adjust the amount of memory assigned to a virtual machine.

With these features, we can make sure production virtual machines are “Always On” without incurring downtime.

Anoop C Nair

http://anoopcnair.com/

Nested Virtualization is the key and favorite feature for me. This is very useful for companies as well as for IT Pros.

For companies, nested Virtualization would be used mainly to test their virtual environments. This would also help DevOps to create their app servers in a flash and  start testing the applications.

For IT Pros, it would be easy to create new Hyper-V virtual machines inside a virtual machine, mainly for LAB setup and extensive testing. In earlier days, I used to build my Hyper-V lab on top of VMware Workstation. Now that is not required with the help of new Hyper-V nested virtualization features.

Romain Serre

http://www.tech-coffee.net/author/romain-serre/

Honestly it is very difficult to answer your question because there are a lot of new great features such as, Hot add/remove network adapters and memory, or the new production checkpoints. However, I think that my favorite new feature is Switch Embedded Teaming (SET). This feature enables us to make a network convergence of all types of traffic such as, Live-Migration or SMB 3. Before with classic NIC teaming, we were not able to achieve a complete network convergence, especially when using 10GB Ethernet Adapter, because VMQueue and vRSS were not available in the parent partition. Now with SET, we can leverage VMQueue, vRSS, RDMA and DCB in the parent partition, and this is very cool because we can now use only two network adapters for everything. With SET, I think we will simplify the design and the integration of Hyper-V infrastructure.

Paulo Sant’anna

http://paulosantanna.com/sobre/

No doubt the new version of Hyper-V will come with innumerable, very interesting features, and they call for a lot of attention. However, my favorite feature is Windows PowerShell Direct, which allows the VM management through the host to which the VM is assigned, without the need for direct network connectivity to the VM, but only with the Host. This feature is simply amazing

Michael Seidl

http://www.techguy.at/

I really like the upcoming Windows PowerShell Direct feature because I really love PowerShell and automation. This feature will give you a huge advantage in automating your Hyper-V deployment, and you don’t need to take care about network, firewall or routing, that’s awesome.

Thomas Maurer

http://www.thomasmaurer.ch/

Wow, this is a really tough and difficult question to answer.

With the Windows Server 2016, Microsoft is really pushing Windows Server and Hyper-V to the next level. There are thousands of awesome features inside, like the new Shielded VMs feature which allows you to better protect VMs, the new Software Defined Networking stack, Storage Spaces Direct, Nano Server, Windows and Hyper-V Containers to just name a few. I also like the “small” improvements Microsoft has made to Hyper-V and Clustering, like hot add of Network Adapters and Memory.

If I really have to pick one, which will make a huge difference in how we deploy Hyper-V and Windows Server today, it would be Storage Replica. Storage Replica in Windows Server 2016 is not just a feature dedicated to Hyper-V, but it is definitely one which allows new Hyper-V scenarios. With Storage Replica you get volume based block-level replication, which allows you to replicate Storage from on Hyper-V Node to another, from one Hyper-V Cluster to another or build a new Stretched Hyper-V Cluster over two sides and keep storage in sync so you can easily failover to another location. Storage Replica allows you to replicate data synchronously and asynchronously depending on your needs and it is completely hardware agnostic. Another great point of Storage Replica is, that it uses the SMB 3 protocol. This allows it to use features like RDMA, SMB3 Encryption and SMB Multichanneling. Storage Replica will not only work on Hyper-V hosts, it can also work on file servers and inside of virtual machines. This will make it a total game changer, and companies won’t have an excuse for not building a disaster recovery solution. If you don’t have a second datacenter, you can just simply replicate data to Virtual Machines hosted in Microsoft Azure.

Romeo Mlinar

http://blog.mlinar.biz/

1. Nested virtualization. Why do I like this feature so much? To be honest, my life is better now. I Don’t need to use VMware for the nested virtualization and now I can run all labs on the laptop. During the year I’m a speaker on IT conferences and have lots of session as a trainer. As you probably know, we can’t rely on Internet connection at most conferences so, have to have lab evironment on the laptop to be ready for demos and for the various tests as well. Also, when we have an issue at a customer who uses Hyper-V, I can setup exactly the same environment on the laptop and don’t have to use company resources.

2. Production and Standard VM Checkpoints. Virtual Machine Checkpoints, or in older versions Virtual Machine Snapshots, were a great solution to take a state of a virtual machine and save it. You could then make some changes, and if something fails you could simply revert back to the time you took the checkpoint. This was not really supported to use in production, since a lot of applications couldn’t handle that process. Microsoft has now changed that behavior and now fully supports it in production environments. For this, Production Checkpoints are now using VSS instead of the Saved State to create the checkpoint. This means if you are restoring a checkpoint this is just like restoring a system from a backup. For the user everything works as before and there is no difference in how you have to take the checkpoint. Production Checkpoints are enabled by default, but you can change back to the old behavior if you need to. But still using Checkpoints brings some other challenges, like the growing .avhdx files, which still apply.

3. Hyper-V Manager Improvements. Finally, this is something which is not a problem in most environments , since we know how things work. But a lot of people who are Hyper-V beginners coming from VMware or other platforms, they have some simple troubles with Hyper-V Manager. In the next version there are a couple of great improvements which make things a lot easier. Hyper-V Manager is now connecting via WinRM instesd of WMI, Supporting alternate credentials (Requires that you have CredSSP enabled on the server and client), Connecting to Hyper-V Hosts via IP address, Managing Window Server 2012 Hyper-V, Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V and the next version of Hyper-V from the latest console. Bottom line: We don’t need to use third-party apps anymore

Charbel Nemnom

https://charbelnemnom.com/

This looks a simple question right? but in fact it’s not. In Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V there are a lot of awesome features and it’s difficult to pick just one. I will try to sneak in a couple of favorite features.

If I have to choose one, and just one feature, I will pick PowerShell Direct. This feature is just awesome, and it has a lot of benefits for businesses and IT Pros. PowerShell direct allows you to use PowerShell directly between your Hyper-V host operating system and a virtual machine’s guest operating system (specifically Windows 10, Windows Server 2016) without having any network configuration or any type of network at all, and you don’t even need to have a vmNIC attached to your virtual machine, and without configuring WinRM. You can just use PowerShell directly from your Hyper-V host operating system to your virtual machine.

PowerShell Direct does not in any way, shape, or form require PowerShell Remoting. You can even stop the WinRM service on the host, and in the guest OS. PowerShell Direct will just work. Automation is key for businesses and IT professionals, the time you spend on building, deploying and managing your virtual machines is drastically reduced. For businesses, you can have and support more customers now and for IT Pros, you can achieve more while you do other tasks as well. Just by using a single line of Powershell, you can update, change or configure guest OS instantly. What does this single line of PowerShell code look like?

Invoke-Command -VMName (Get-VM).Name -Credential DomainAdministrator -ScriptBlock {Tzutil /s “Romance Standard Time”}

This single line of PowerShell will set the time zone for all virtual machines on a particular Hyper-V host without any network connection. It’s as easy as imagining what scenario you would like to accomplish and you can get it done in couple of seconds.

The second feature is, Hyper-V on Nano Server. Nano Server is a new offering of Windows Server, included with Windows Server 2016. It is a re-architected operating system focused on the cloud and born-in-the-cloud applications, following a zero-footprint model that allows you to install only the roles and features you need for a targeted workload. The first notable change with Nano Server is that it is headless, meaning there is little support for local keyboard, video or mouse once the operating system has booted. With the headless nature of Nano Server, the primary method of server management is through PowerShell remoting.

This deployment option in Windows Server 2016 will have a huge impact on business and IT Pros, Microsoft is always listening to customer’s feedback, and one constant feedback was server reboots impacting the business, because when you reboot a server, you need to plan ahead of time and schedule a maintenance window in order to avoid downtime. The next one is, why do you have to reboot a server because of a patch for a certain component that you never use on your server, and if a reboot is required, the application needs to be back in service as soon as possible.

Security becomes the number one priority in every firm today. We can no longer afford the security risks of the install everything everywhere approach. We just want the components needed to accomplish our goals and nothing more.

One of the unique capabilities of Nano Server is the ability to be deployed as a massively scaled down version of the server Operating System, with just the Hyper-V role installed, your host will be deployed in less than a minute. Running Hyper-V on Nano Server has huge improvements on resource utilization as well, because by deploying a full Windows Server in virtual machines and then re-imaging all of them when a new patch comes out, requires a lot of network bandwidth. Many service providers (not only Microsoft Azure) are over provisioning their network so that they can have enough capacity for Live Migration or re-provisioning servers.

Microsoft determined from both Azure and building up the Cloud Platform System (CPS) solution that they need a server configuration which is optimized for the cloud and also something that will benefit all businesses, whether you are deploying a cloud configuration in your data center or just you are using Windows Server as your Hyper-V host or using another public cloud that’s running on top of Windows Server.

For a detailed view of everything you can deploy now with Hyper-V in Windows Server 2016 TP4, please read the full list here. To be clear, it’s not a complete overview of everything that will be in the final release. This is what you can realistically do now in Technical Preview 4 build. I would expect additional features to be added in the final release.

Leandro Carvalho

https://leandroesc.wordpress.com/

My favorite Hyper-V 2016 feature so far is Hyper-V Container. In my opinion, containers, which are well-known in the Linux world, will change the way IT pros and cloud providers deploy and manage virtual machine and services using Hyper-V.

Hyper-V Container is a OS level virtualization solution that can be used to run multiple container instances (and multiple applications within each instance) which runs on a special virtual machine. Hyper-V Containers are light-weight, faster and uses less resources than a normal virtual machine. A good scenario where a container would be beneficial is in application deployments where dependencies such as runtimes, libraries and OS requirements are necessary to be implemented with the application as a sort of package. Each Hyper-V host can have its VMs with containers, often called an “Optimized Virtual Machine” with windows processes, application processes, runtimes and libraries encapsulated, which reduce the footprint on the server, provide more customized and fast application deployments, as well as help with application isolation.

Mark Swinkels

http://markswinkels.nl/

Hyper-V 2016 brings a lot of great new features, so it’s difficult to choose only one 🙂 One very cool new features is Storage Spaces Direct.

With all the compute and storage in one box, the virtualization layer becomes more flexible and scalable. If businesses need more compute/storage, just add another server into your cluster and you’re almost done. In my opinion it’s a very cost efficient solution.

Guillermo Sanchez

http://www.itsanchez.com.ar/

The feature I like about Windows Server 2016 is Nano Server. Nano Server is a Windows Server bounded version that lets you install only the components needed to launch an application and not the entire operating system.

This concept will change the way we work with virtual teams today, and clearly is the future for all IT professionals and developers.

Wrap-Up

As we can see, there is certainly much to be excited about in the upcoming release of Windows Server 2016. Personally, I can’t decide myself what feature I like the most because there are so many good ones. Whatever your favorite feature is, there isn’t a lack of new technologies to study up on. One thing is clear, Windows Server 2016 is going to change some of our day-to-day operations when working with Hyper-V.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post, and feel free to share with us what feature YOU’RE most excited about in Windows Server 2016 using the comment section below!

Cheers!