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Any regular readers of our blog will know that I like to put together a monthly digest of Interesting links, good howtos, and eyebrow-raising news. As 2016 is winding to a close, and I’ve begun gathering up stuff to share with you, I find myself looking more at 2016 holistically. Where have we been? Where are we going? The end of the year is always a good time for reflection so that we can move into the new year with a clean slate and a new purpose.

With that in mind, I would like to take this time to cover three different areas to wrap up this year on our blog.

  1. Where have we been? How did we start this year and what were the highlights?
  2. Where are we going? What do I think the next 12 months is going to look like?
  3. What Certifications should you be targeting with the new year?

Where have we been?

If you think about it, 2016 has been something of a strange year for us with Hyper-V. Don’t get me wrong, Server 2016 was released, and is awesome, but think all the way back to January. We’d just gotten done with 2015, Windows Server 2016 was in 1 form of a technical preview or another, and we were still using 2012 R2 Hyper-V hosts (Or Older) to drive our production environments. We’d heard a smattering of information about some of the new upcoming features in 2016 but some of them were half-baked, broken, or just rumor.

The mentality has really shifted as well if you think about it. For years, many on-premises administrators have been somewhat unsure of the cloud. Many worried that development for Windows Server would be stunted in favor of Microsoft throwing all their weight behind Azure. While there certainly has been a shift in focus to developing Azure, that doesn’t mean that 2016 was left out in the cold (It is Winter after all). On the contrary, development of Azure is what led to so many of the improvements that we have in Windows Server 2016 today!

I’ve heard it mentioned many times, in many different places, and I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it makes sense, based on how 2016 has been developed. Pre-2016 features flowed from Windows Server to Azure. With 2016, that flow has been reversed. New features in Windows Server 2016 are a result of a need that had to be filled in Azure. Some people like this, others don’t, but I find myself to be a staunch supporter of this strategy simply based on the (pardon my brevity) kick-ass features that we got when Server 2016 was released! Let’s look at a few of my favorite features…..

Nano Server

When you’re building a massive datacenter environment (Like Azure) you need to as much bang for buck as possible. Nano Server helps achieve this by providing a host operating system that consumes as little resource as possible. This way those resources can more efficiently go towards the VMs that are hosting workloads.

Now, many will say…  “Well Andy, I just don’t need that level of optimization in my environment…  why should I care?” My response to this has to do with 2 other HUGE enhancements Nano Server delivers.

  1. Reduced Attack Surface – This was the number one reason I was a huge fan of Windows Server Core for 2008 R2 and 2012/R2 Hyper-V hosts. Nano Server takes this even further. With less than a 500MB footprint, there just isn’t much there to attack, and in today’s IT landscape, EVERYONE is responsible for security.
  2. Less reboots due to patching – Everyone hates reboots, and with Nano server the projected needed reboots a year due to patching is 2. Yes you read correctly…. 2 reboots a year for patching with Nano server. Now, those are just projections, time will tell if Microsoft hits that goal, but it’s a new Microsoft we’re seeing these days so I’m inclined to believe them at this stage.

With this in mind, I would suggest you take a good, hard look at Nano Server in the coming year. Everyone will benefit from running Hyper-V in this configuration.

Storage Spaces Direct

If you follow the blog, you’ve likely heard me talk about Storage Spaces Direct (or S2D for short) many, many times. I do so, because it’s one of my favorite features of Windows Server 2016. S2D, provides us the ability to do Hyper-Converged deployments with compute and storage in the same boxes. No one likes supporting complex and problematic SANs and storage fabrics, especially for smaller 2-node host clusters. S2D now allows the option to run 2-node deployments, and still maintain the N+1 status needed for clusters. The only networking needed is some nice 10GB+ plus NICs and an interlink between the two hosts for the east/west storage traffic. This is going to open the door for some very cost effective and powerful configurations moving forward.

PowerShell Direct

The automation and management implication of PowerShell Direct are astronomical. The more I use it, the more I’m amazed at what can get done with it. (Check out the link if you want an example). The fact is, most of us are being asked to do more with less, and unless we can start automating some of the more mundane processes that we have to do on a daily basis, most of us will never catchup on things. PowerShell direct lends itself well to this, and you’ll want to utilize it heavily in the coming year once you have Windows Server 2016 in play in your environment.

Also, to note: if you still haven’t started learning PowerShell, I HIGHLY recommend that you do. PowerShell is the future (if it’s not here already) of Windows management, and you don’t want to be left behind. You’ll find a link to some beginner’s resources near the end of this article.

Node Fairness

Those from the VMware world will know this feature as DRS (Distributed Resource Scheduler). Node Fairness is a feature that allows Hyper-V Clusters to load balance the VMs automagically across all the nodes in the cluster. This prevents those situations like when you were a kid, and your parents asked you and your brother/sister to go do a job, and you did all the work while your sibling sat on their rear-end? Yeah most of us have been there. Historically, we could do this System Center Virtual Machine Manager, but SCVMM is expensive, and many people in smaller environments are loathe to run it. Be fair to your Hyper-V hosts and enable this feature once you’re running Windows Server 2016. Not only will you’re hosts run better, you won’t have to hear complaints from an overworked Hyper-V host, like your parents did when your sibling wouldn’t get off their lazy butt.

Where are We Going

This small section here is strictly opinion. You can agree with it or not, it’s simply where I think Hyper-V and Microsoft is going to go in the next year based on where I sit. To start, let’s talk cloud.

Cloud computing is representing a HUGE shift in the industry, there is no doubt about that. However, I think where the angst comes in amongst IT pros, is how we should respond. Many see Cloud computing as a threat to jobs and an IT administrator’s general way of life, and while I in part agree with that assessment, I’m not worried by it. Times surely are changing but for the better. I don’t think we’re going to see on-premises deployments dry up as a result, because there are always going to be businesses that either want or require their equipment to be housed on-site. Additionally, it doesn’t always make fiscal sense to move everything into a cloud based model.

I think cloud need to be embraced as an infrastructure option, not a replacement. The use of Hybrid scenarios (Any workload, anywhere, and anytime) is going to start to become more and more the norm in 2017, not the exception. Azure and other cloud vendors provide the ability to have a geographic reach that most businesses wouldn’t have otherwise, so it needs to be embraced as a tool and utility for hosting certain workloads, and not seen as a usurper. Microsoft’s 2016 era of products makes this hybrid deployment scenario much simpler and even allows for unified management experiences for all your workloads across sites with some of their new Azure based management tools. It will be interesting to watch this transition, and the industry will adapt and software vendors will produce product to support this new hybrid model that is in use more frequently.

In regards to the on-prem suite of products (Windows Server, System Center….etc…etc)…  I’ve seen and heard reassurances that new features are going to continue to be built and supported. Don’t believe the fear mongers, that Azure is going to swallow us whole and control the entire world. Remember, Azure runs on these technologies, and Microsoft has adopted the strategy of taking what they develop for Azure, and packaging it up in Windows Server for us to use on-site. I would make the argument, that without Azure, we may not have many of the awesome features that are part of the Windows Server 2016 release, so just keep that in mind when you find yourself worrying about cloud computing.

Training for the New Year

So, with all of this in mind, what areas should you focus your training on for the new year? The new year is always a good time to take stock of your skill set and where it needs to be improved to adapt to a changing industry, and the below would be my recommendations for the new year.

 Windows Server 2016

You have to continue to support your existing environments, and this includes getting them up to snuff with the new version of Windows Server and the plethora of enhancements and improvements it offers. I highly recommend getting certified in Windows Server 2016 as a part of this effort

PowerShell and Automation

While not a certification in its own right, you will want to either start (if you haven’t) or continue to learn how to use PowerShell for automation. Automation is going to become increasingly more important as time goes on, and you need to keep up with this movement to stay relevant. Most employers hiring today require some level of PowerShell experience, so be sure to train up!

Microsoft Azure

Once you’ve knocked out the above 2, you’ll want to certify in Azure or some other cloud technology. Like I mentioned above, I don’t see the cloud ever truly replacing everything on-prem. More likely it supports and vast array of hybrid scenarios and deployment types. Learning how these cloud technologies work will go a long way towards teaching you how you can incorporate them into your existing IT strategy.

Wrap-Up

To wrap up, I’d like to say, thank you for reading our blog this year! We work hard to provide good solid content that is easily digestible and meaningful for your day to day activities. Please continue to visit us in the new year for a whole slew of Windows Server 2016 related content and much much more!

As always, if you’d like to share your thoughts and join the discussion, feel free to use the comments section below this article!

Happy New Year!