When Windows Server 2016 was released last year, one of the features that I myself, and much of the community were excited about was the new installation option called Nano Server. The way I’ve always described Nano Server is that it’s like Windows Server Core, but on steroids. It is a completely gutted, only-what-you-need installation option, and it’s an installation option that really talked to my Linux and open-source roots. I loved the idea of having only what was absolutely necessary installed on a server, not just because of the attack surface reduction, but because of the reduction in software to maintain on the system as well. I remember running Gentoo Linux on some systems simply because it was a “compile from source” type of distribution and I loved the idea of again, only installing the needed bits, and with Nano Server I felt like we had arrived at something resembling that in the Microsoft world as well.
When Nano Server was released, it was stated that it would be the recommended installation path for containers and for core infrastructure workloads as well. This included things like Hyper-V, Storage Spaces Direct, DNS, IIS… and there was talk of more supported roles coming at some point. This was a lot to get excited about for sure! Hyper-V hosts running with a TINY OS image. It was amazing, it was awesome… and ultimately, not meant to be.
Nano Server Gets Gutted for Infrastructure Workloads
Last week the Windows Server team hit us with THIS bombshell. Here are the key takeaways from the announcement as far as Nano Server is concerned
Going forward, Nano Server will be used primarily as a container image.
Support for Infrastructure Workloads and Bare-Metal will be removed from Nano Server. (This includes the removal of support for Hyper-V and Storage Spaces Direct)
Windows Server Core will now be the recommended deployment mechanism for Infrastructure roles/features
Server Core will also be able to be used as a container image for deployment of traditional applications via container services
You could see some of this coming if you read between the lines in Microsoft’s marketing and what not. The messaging behind Nano never really went further towards infrastructure workloads other than saying its a great installation option for those roles. Installation was difficult, documentation was spread out over several pages, with different UI image builders, and scripted deployment options. It was being used for too many things to be able to keep it as it was, and if I’m really honest with myself, I can understand why this happened.
The concept of something like Nano Server dictates that it be very CLEARLY defined as to what it’s going to be and what it’s going to do. By continuing to add more role and feature support to it, Microsoft was essentially creating another Server Core. Jeff Woolsey from the Hyper-V Product group said it best in that IT Pros using Nano Server for infrastructure wanted more roles/features and more drivers. Devs wanted a smaller footprint for their applications. There was no way to reconcile both of those complaints.
I think Microsoft listened to customer feedback, reviewed telemetry data, and made a decision, that they were not going to continue using Nano Server for infrastructure any longer, and instead they were going to make it the best container image on the market. While it bums me out for my infrastructure stuff, it makes me feel better that it has a VERY specific goal now, and with that, I think Microsoft will succeed in that goal.
So what is the Recommended Installation Option Now?
That leaves us with Server Core as the recommended installation option for infrastructure workloads. I’ve been using Windows Server Core for Hyper-V since the 2008 R2 days and I’ve always found it to fit my needs. Additionally, Microsoft has made a TON of improvements and changes since then like including Server Core in their new Semi-Annual Release Cadence, also announced last week.
If you hadn’t heard, Microsoft will now be bringing core feature updates to Windows Server twice a year, in the spring and fall. This update branch applies to customers that have ALL of the following:
Windows Server 2016 Standard or Datacenter
Running with the Nano Server or Server Core Deployment Option
Active Software Assurance
Also below is a chart from Microsoft detailing the different installation options and their associated channels
Long-Term Servicing Channel
Now I understand that this quicker release cadence isn’t for everyone, and Microsoft gets that too. That’s why they are still providing what they call the Long-term Servicing Channel (LTSC). LTSC is what you’ve been used to using all these years. You install your Windows Server and another big release comes out in a couple of years. In the mean time you get 10 years of support (from the OS release date) on that installed operating system if you don’t decide to upgrade it. This is the best option for those organization that don’t need the latest and greatest features, and perhaps need the most stable branch of server software possible.
What if I already deployed Hyper-V on Nano in Production?
You have support on Nano Server (the Fall 2016 version) until Spring of 2018. You’ll want to migrate those workloads to a Windows Server Core option. Following something similar to the rolling cluster upgrade procedure should help with this process. We actually happen to have a how-to article on that HERE.
While it’s a let down to some, I feel better in that the lines are more clearly defined now. We have Server Core for infrastructure and we have Nano for Containers and both of them will get the attention they deserve moving forward.
As always if you have any follow-up questions and/or comments, be sure to leave a comment below!
NOTE: Please read THIS important update on the direction of Nano Server prior to using the below resources.
Hello once again everyone!
A few weeks ago, we put on a very special webinar here at Altaro where we had Andrew Mason from the Nano Server team at Microsoft on to answer all of your burning Nano Server questions. Both sessions were very well attended and the number of quality, engaging questions was amazing. It really made for a great webinar!
As we usually do after webinars, this post is intended to act as an ongoing resource for the content that was discuss during said webinar. Below you will find the recording of the webinar for your viewing pleasure in case you missed it, along with a written list of questions and their associated answers below that were not covered verbally during the Q & A due to time constraints.
Revisit the Webinar
Q & A
Q. Will we be able to run the Active Directory role on Nano Server in the future?
A. This is a frequent ask, which you can also vote for on the Windows Server User Voice HERE. We are investigating how to bring this to Nano Server, but at this time I don’t have a timeline to share.
Q. Will WSL eventually get into Nano Server? Could is replace the instance of OpenSSH from GitHub Eventually?
A. WSL was added to Windows 10 to support developer scenarios, so we hadn’t been considering it for Nano Server. This is a remote management scenario, it would be interesting to understand how many people would want this for management, so please vote on User Voice HERE.
Q. Will there be support for boot from USB for Nano Server, Hyper-V nodes for instance?
A. This is not currently planned. There have been a lot of asks for SD boot. If this is an important scenario for you, please vote for it on user voice.
Q. Are there plans to use MS DirectAccess on Nano?
A. This is not currently planned due to the cloud focus we have for Nano Server. If this is an important scenario for you, please vote for it on User Voice.
Q. How does one manage a Nano server if Azure or an Azure Account is unavailable?
A. You can still use the standard MMC tools to remotely manage nano server on-prem, just like any other Windows Server.
Q. Are there any significant changes in licensing for Nano Server?
A. There are some licensing implications when using Nano Server. Altaro has an ebook on licensing Windows Server 2016 that includes some information about Nano Server HERE.
Q. Can you manage a Nano Server host with SCVMM 2012 R2?
A. Unfortunately no. SCVMM 2016 is needed to manage 2016 Nano Server hosts.
Q. Do you see a role for Nano Server in regards to on-prem Hyper-V environments.
A. Absolutely! Nano Server lends itself very well to running as a Hyper-V host. The attack surface is smaller, less resources are needed for the OS, and you have fewer reboots needed due to patching. You can still manage it remotely just like any other Hyper-V host.
Q. How can I use the Anti-Malware options that are available in Nano Server?
A. Nano Server uses a Just-Enough-OS model, in that only the bits needed to run the OS are initially available. There is an Anti-Malware feature available, you just need to install it. More information on installing roles in Nano Server can be found HERE.
Q. Are iSCSI and MPIO usable on Nano Server?
A. Yes they are, they can be installed and managed via PowerShell Remoting.
Q. How do you configure NIC teaming in Nano Server?
A. NIC teaming can be managed and configured via PowerShell. Take note however, that the usual LBFO NIC teaming is not available on Nano Server and you will have to use the new Switch Embedded Teaming (SET) option that was released with Windows Server 2016.
Q. Does Altaro VM Backup support protecting VMs running on a Nano Server Hyper-V Host?
A. As Nano Server is such a radical departure from the usual Microsoft deployment option, we currently do not support backing up VMs on Nano Server hosts. We are currently looking at adding support for this deployment option, but do not have a date that can be provided at this time. Be sure to keep a look out on the Altaro blog for developments in this matter.
That wraps things up for our Q & A follow up post. We had lots of great questions and loved to see everyone actively participating in the webinar! As usual, if you think of any further follow up questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section below and we’ll get back to you ASAP!
Join Andrew Mason from Microsoft (Principal Program Manager on the Nano Server team at Microsoft), and MVP Andy Syrewicze in an AMA webinar on March 16th to discuss Nano Server. Register for the webinar and get answers directly from Andrew!
Hello again everyone! It’s a new year, and January is past us, so that means it’s time for another edition of the Altaro Hyper-V Hot Topics Series!
For those that aren’t aware, this series focuses on interesting links, and useful howtos from the Hyper-V world, from the previous month. So, with that said, let’s dig right into all the cool Hyper-V stuff from January!
I came across this one during one of my nightly reviews of my twitter feed, and it instantly caught my eye. Mainly because I’ve been in the same situation mentioned in the article and I know many administrators who have been there as well. The use case that Ben is talking about in this article is that of a file movement use case. Let’s say you’ve just XCOPYed a bunch of virtual hard disks from one location to another, how do you quickly fix the pathing for all the affected VMs? If this describes you, you’ll want to take a look. At the very least add it to you bookmarks for a rainy day!
One of the most common questions I get about Nano Server is: “how do I manage the installed software packages?” Nano Server can seem foreign to administrators that aren’t familiar with the CLI and especially so if you have very little PowerShell experience. Thomas Maurer has put together a nice little howto on the basics of managing Nano Server Packages with PowerShell. If you’re looking for a quick reference on the different functions and features, this is the link for you!
Another one from Ben Armstrong from the Hyper-V team and it’s a goody, especially if you like OpenStack. For those that aren’t aware, OpenStack is an open source platform that is designed for hosting cloud infrastructure, and it essentially allows you to bring your own hypervisor, including Hyper-V. Ben has included several links in his post here that catalog a full test of performance between Hyper-V and KVM when used for OpenStack. If you’re looking into OpenStack and you’re on the fence as to what Hypervisor to choose, it’s a good performance article to review.
Not everyone is running System Center VMM, but it’s still good to know what it is, and what it’s capabilities are in case you ever need to add those capabilities into your environment. Whether this describes you, or if you’re already running SCVMM, these are good videos to watch during lunch for the next couple of days. This link contains a list of various feature demos for the newest version of SCVMM, and all of said videos are worth a look.
With all that’s changed in Networking in Windows Server 2016, I’ve needed a refresher several times since 2016’s release back in October. One of my good friends Keith Mayer was featured on this episode of OEMTV on Microsoft’s Channel 9 website and it’s a good way to get up to speed again on all the new networking stuff in 2016. I’ve embedded the video below for ease of viewing.
It’s no secret that deploying Nano Server can be somewhat difficult. For one it’s a vastly different deployment method than what has been used in previous versions/editions of Windows Server, and it involves quite a bit of CLI kung-fu, which can be difficult for new administrators who may not necessarily be used to PowerShell. This article will show you how you can use MDT to take a little bit of the work out of your Nano server deployment and make things a bit easier overall.
Well that wraps things up for us this month! As always, if you know of a cool link or howto, that you feel should be in this list, feel free to share in the comments section below!
With that said, we’ll be back next month for another edition of Hyper-V Hot Topics, so stay tuned!
Hello again everyone! with October behind us, it’s time for another edition of Hyper-V Hot Topics!
In case you’re not aware, I do this segment once a month to showcase interesting articles, helpful howtos and cool news from Hyper-V world from over the past month. Additionally, I like to post the last month’s worth of Hyper-V Minute recordings that I do on a weekly basis on Facebook live, as to allow viewers to catch up in case they’ve missed any. Let’s get started!
It’s no surprise that the vast majority of news and buzz in the Microsoft world over the last month has largely been about Windows Server 2016. Since Microsoft announced GA and release Windows Server 2016 at the Microsoft Ignite conference at the end of September, many people are starting to move 2016 into their test labs and ultimately their production datacenters. If your thinking about going this route early with Server 2016, there are a few known issues you should be aware of before doing so. This link from TechNet has all the details. You’ll want to give this a look before moving forward.
Join Andrew Mason from Microsoft (Principal Program Manager on the Nano Server team at Microsoft), and MVP Andy Syrewicze in an AMA webinar on March 16th to discuss Nano Server. Register for the webinar and get answers directly from Andrew!
I’ve talked about this one before in a few different blog posts, but now it’s official! The image builder for Nano Server is available! I’m quite excited about this. Headless installations are near and dear to my heart as I came from the unix world originally a long LONG time ago, so the idea of a headless Windows Server installation is very appealing with a number of inherent benefits. A lot of people seem to agree with me on that as well, as the installation option has been widely popular while Windows Server 2016 was in it’s technical preview phase. One issue that has stifled adoption a bit tough is it can be a bit difficult for people to prep the Nano Server image if they aren’t literate with the use of Microsoft’s image tools and PowerShell. Nano Server Image Builder is a GUI tool that can be used to prep the image for you, and should make like MUCH easier for anyone trying out this new installation option.
While this video isn’t from October, I find that it’s still relevant to many of the discussions I’ve been having with IT Pros over the last several weeks. A lot of administrators are starting to look at Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) as a viable storage solution for their environments and are wonder what the best option for learning more about it is. I find this video does an excellent job of covering all the relevant bases, and I’ve embedded it below for ease of viewing.
As much as I love Storage Spaces Direct, it’s always been a bit out of reach for those in the SMB space due to the 4 node MINIMUM limitation. That’s quite a bit of hardware for small businesses to purchase and it put the solution out of reach for many. However, with one key announcement that was made at MS Ignite, that limitation is no longer an issue. Now we can achieve the same goal of hyper-convergence (That being compute and storage in the same chassis) with a 2-node cluster now. This brings the cost down considerably, and now those in the SMB space can start looking at this solution with seriousness now. This article covers in detail the building of project kepler, a small 2 node S2D solution. Certainly worth a read during lunch some day!
Continuing our trend of more information of stuff from Ignite, I wanted to follow suit with Shielded VMs. This is another one of those features that draws people in from a feature perspective, but once they start looking at some of the components involved the toss the idea out the window as being too difficult. While I’ll agree that the setup for Shielded VMs is not easy, or for the faint of heart, but the benefits are well worth the work. As such, I wanted to link this guide, which has been fully updated on the Technet site several times over the last month. If you’re interested in learning more about Shielded VMs. this is where you’re going to want to look.
While it’s a short article, I found it helpful. Like the author, Aidan, I was doing some testing with Containers in Windows Server 2016 and was looking for some information on an easy way to purge all containers from a host, and Aidan’s post here fit the bill. If you’re working with containers and you need a quick easy way to remove all containers, take a look at this article right here.
Last Month’s Hyper-V Minute Segments
So there you have it! Hopefully that will give you enough material to review for the next little while, and stay tuned for our next edition of Hot Hyper-V Topics Next Month!
As always, if you’ve found a link or helpful howto that you feel should be part of this list, feel free to post it in the comments section below!
Hello again everyone! Another month of 2016 is down and that means it’s time for another segment in our Hyper-V Hot Topics Series. I have an assortment of goodies this month. I’ll be including the usual links that I find useful and interesting, but I’ll be adding an additional section today as well. I’ll be adding what I like to call the Hyper-V Monday Minute. The Hyper-V Monday Minute is a 1 or 2 minute audio segment that I record every Monday, throughout the month. I’m going to start including these sound bites in with our hot topics, so be sure to keep an eye out for those below.
This seems like an article I’ve been referencing more and more as of late. The Nano Server option in the up and coming Windows Server 2016 is certainly a hot topic right now, and I’ve found that more and more people are starting to test it and use it in their labs. I’ve been asked several times about how to install various roles and how to get Nano Server configured, and I keep pointing people at this article. In the past some of Microsoft’s documentation has been lacking, but this document is a perfect example of their newly announced commitment to excellent documentation. Everything you need to get started is contained within this link, so check it out and start learning!
Another very common item that I’m asked about outside of general configuration questions about Nano Server is about setting the time zone. While getting the basic configuration of the networking complete is much easier now that the Nano Server Recovery Console has been added, some of the other basic settings, such as the time zone settings, were not included in that. John Savill has put together this small howto on how to address this part of the configuration.
3. What “IS” Nano Server?
With all this talk of Nano Server, I’m still finding folks that don’t necessarily know what Nano Server actually is. This was actually the topic of one of my Hyper-V Monday Minute Segments which I have embedded below. If you want a quick no-frills answer to that question, take a listen.
While this article “technically” didn’t come out in May, I still felt it was important enough to include in this list because of the implications. Many people (myself included) have been using MVMC for many years to facilitate the move of workloads into our Hyper-V environments. Well, sadly that tool will no longer be support after June of next year. Azure Site Recovery will be the tool that replaces MVMC going forward. Yes, you read that correctly. ASR will be used to migrate workloads to on-premises Hyper-V hosts moving forward. Stayed tuned on our blog in the coming weeks as we will be publishing a howto on using ASR in this manner.
Additionally, this was also the topic of my latest Hyper-V Monday Minute, which is embedded below.
Many people will recognize the name of Jeffery Snover, but for those that don’t know, Jeffery Snover is credited as being the creator of PowerShell. He is also heavily involved with Nano Server and the JEA or (Just Enough Admin) idea that he is talking about in this RunAsRadio podcast. Many people will think that JEA only applies to the SecOps team and the security folks, but that isn’t the case. Security is everyone responsibility, including the Hyper-V administrators. I found this podcast to be very interesting when framed from a Hyper-V administrators point of view. Hope you enjoy!
Note: I would have embedded the stream for ease of listening, but the RunAsRadio site doesn’t allow embedding it seems.
Sometimes seeing is believing, and that is certainly the case with some of the new enhancements that are coming with the ReFS filesystem in Windows Server 2016. In this video you’ll see a number of basic operations and how ReFS out-performs NTFS at every turn.
Fellow Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter MVP, Didier Van Hoye, put this article together, and it covers the use case for WHY you should be looking at SMB3 and SOFS for hosting your virtual machine storage. Many people that I talk to in the industry are very hesitant to let go of the old storage methods, and refuse to believe that Microsoft can deliver a simple, powerful, and scalable storage solution for the modern datacenter. The proof is here. SMB3 provides numerous benefits and this is just another one. Read on for more information!
8. Hyper-V Monday-Minutes
Finally to wrap up the week, is a list of the remaining Hyper-V Monday Minute recordings from the week on various topics starting with a short discussion about the Virtual Machine Queue feature in Hyper-V
The VMQ Feature and it’s Common Issues
Following that, we have a short segment below talking about one of my favorite upcoming features in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V called Node Fairness, which you’ll love if you’re running clusters without SCVMM in play.
What is Node Fairness in Windows Server 2016?
Speaking of SCVMM, there is often quite a bit of confusion about whether it’s needed for features such as HA and Live Migration. This is especially true if you’re coming from the VMware side of things. This was the topic of the below audio sound bite.
Do I need SCVMM for HA and Live Migration?
Finally, we’ll wrap-up with the below discussion about Hyper-V management utilities and when to use each of them specifically. This can cause some confusion for newer Hyper-V administrators as there are several ways of managing the solution, so I wanted to try and clear the air a bit.
When do I use each of the various Hyper-V Management Utilities?
That concludes our list of topics for this month, and I hope you enjoyed the inclusion of the additional media as well! Be sure to stay tuned next month for another edition of Hot Hyper-V Topics, and if you know of a link that you don’t see featured above that you feel SHOULD be in this list, by all means, let us know if the comments section below!
Hope everyone enjoyed their March, and depending on your geographic location, if you had snow, hopefully it’s gone now and you can start to enjoy spring! Regardless, it’s time for our March edition of Hot Hyper-V Topics! We’ve had some good stuff in March, including a number of developments announced at the Microsoft Build conference that took place at the end of the month. Read on if you’re interested and we hope you enjoy!
For those that aren’t aware, Nano Server is a new Windows Server installation option that provides just the needed components for our new cloud based world. This includes Hyper-V! However, one of the challenges that has been found with Nano Server is that management can become difficult if you’re not used to it. In this post, Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP Thomas Maurer shows us how to manage Nano Server using PowerShell remotely. This is a good crash-course if you’re looking to learn more about Nano Server!
In the new era of “Microsoft <3’s Linux”, it should come as no surprise that Microsoft has continued to enhance their offerings as far as Linux workloads on Hyper-V is concerned. A virtual machine running on Hyper-V is quite lacking, however, if the integration tools are missing or not present. With that said, Microsoft has recently released the new 4.1 version of LIS (Linux Integration Services). According to the above article this release adds support for releases of RHEL, CentOS, and Oracle Linux running Red Hat kernels 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, and 7.2. Additionally some new features have been added, such as Hyper-V Sockets, Manual Memory Hot-Add, and Uninstallation scripts. If you’re interested in all the details, read on!
Our good friend and Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP Didier Van Hoye has a guest post out on the StarWind Software Blog about Processor Affinity in Hyper-V. This topic seems to come up quite frequently, especially when working with software vendors in the big data, healthcare, and finance industries. Processor affinity in Hyper-V is generally referring to a virtual machine’s access to the CPU resources of the underlying Hyper-V host. Many vendors will claim that a virtual machine running their software needs to have a dedicated CPU cores allocated to the virtual machine. Doing this creates all kinds of concerns and issues. Didier does an excellent job of covering this topic and whether it is really warranted or not. It’s a good read for sure, and well worth your time.
Speaking of Didier, he and the Hyper-V Amigos have a new episode of their showcast available. In this episode Carsten Rachfahl (Also a Microsoft MVP) and Didier discuss some of the Clustering improvements coming in Windows Server 2016, including the much-discussed Azure Cloud Witness. It’s nearly an hour long, but it’s an hour well spent if you’re interested in Failover Clustering and Hyper-V.
When I put these lists together, I try to shy away from listing our own stuff from our various outlets, but we’ve got two items on the list this month because I find them to be extremely valuable. This first one is a post I put together in early March. The goal of this article was to get the viewpoints of several Hyper-V MVPs on what their favorite upcoming features are in Windows Server 2016. We had 12 different responses, which was a great turnout. It’s a great read in the sense that it gives you an idea of what some of the most used, new features are going to be and why they are important. If you want to see what Hyper-V experts in the industry are excited about in 2016, this is the article for you.
This is the second of two Altaro articles on this month’s list. A while back we approached Paul Schnackenburg about authoring this eBook for us, and he certainly delivered. This eBook serves as an excellent guide on how to get the most performance out of your Hyper-V deployment as possible. He covers this topic from several different angles such as, how to identify and resolve issues with storage, CPU, memory and networking components. Additionally he covers things like Windows Performance Monitor and how to plan out your environments for maximum performance. It really is a great read and you should find it to be quite valuable. Click the above link for the download.
While this isn’t Hyper-V news specifically, it certainly makes for an interesting read and allows us to speculate a little bit about what the Microsoft ecosystem is going to look like in the future. To be honest, most people who see this headline for the first time, likely believe that hell has frozen over. Personally, I never thought I would see the day when Bash would be brought to Windows. From a Hyper-V perspective I think this says a lot about the new Microsoft, and their commitment to supporting Linux workloads with their product set. If you’ve been putting off learning how to support Linux VMs on your Hyper-V hosts because your waiting for the other shoe to fall, Its time to start leaning. It’s very apparent that Microsoft is in it for the long haul with their new open source strategy.
Again, while not Hyper-V specific, I always like to link to training resources. Every administrator should be well-rounded, and sometimes that means learning about things that we don’t normally work with. As a Hyper-V administrator sometimes it’s helpful to understand how the workloads we host in VMs are built and how they function. It can be quite helpful int he troubleshooting process. This link provides a really cool PowerShell script on how to grab all of the Build 2016 sessions for later viewing. Learning a little bit of this material will not only help you as an administrator, it will help you see a little bit more of Microsoft’s vision for the future.
We hope you enjoyed this month’s Hyper-V Hot Topics! We certainly had a diverse set of links this month and it should make for some good reading/viewing. Also, if you found a hot topic or a juicy link that you don’t see on the list above, be sure to share it with us using the comments section below.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
It’s time for our monthly deep-dive into the cool links and Hot Hyper-V Topics from the last month! With the new year out of the way, businesses and bloggers are back to full speed with new features and new articles. So, we have a number of items to cover for this month’s article. Let’s dive in!
I’m not going to wait until later in the post to discuss this juicy announcement. Microsoft’s Azure stack is now in public preview. Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter MVP Aiden Finn, has posted a quick announcement on his blog regarding this with a link to download the relevant bits for installation. For those that are not aware, Microsoft’s Azure Stack brings the power of Microsoft Azure, including Hyper-V, to your datacenter. Microsoft has packaged up all the innovation, flexibility, and features of Azure and have made them deployable on-premises. Currently in this technical preview, the hardware requirements are quite high due to the installation needing to occur on a single box, but as we get closer to the official release, this is likely to change. While this announcement is most suited to MSPs and Hosters, organizations of all sizes may one day be leveraging Azure Stack in some way, shape, or form.
Of all the new features coming in Windows Server 2016, Nano Server is perhaps, one of the most game-changing. This takes the idea of JEA (Just Enough Admin) and applies it to the entire server operating system. Once released, this flavor of the Windows Server OS, should be your preferred method of Hyper-V host deployment. It includes many benefits, not the least of which are added security and fewer reboots. While the idea of a nearly headless OS scares some administrators away, there are a number of resources available to start learning more about it. The above link talks about the future of the datacenter with Nano Server, and features a video with Jeffery Snover and Matt McSpirit. If your simply interested in the video without reading the article, we’ve embedded it below for your viewing pleasure.
While we’re still on the topic of Nano Server, management questions will often come to mind. With a headless server, many IT Pros are left wondering how they would manage such a solution. To handle this, Microsoft has provided a new solution for this, and it’s amazing. Back on February 9th, new cloud based management tools were announced. With these new web based utilities you’ll be able to do a number of different administrative tasks such as changing system configuration, view event logs, managed attached devices, and much more! The setup of this management solution consists of the installation of an on-premises gateway server, then the remove tools can be launched from the Microsoft Azure portal. Check out the link for more information if this sounds interesting to you!
And, we have another featured post by a Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP, Thomas Maurer. Thomas has provided several great posts and links in the past month or two and this is one of my favorite. We’ve all been using the older CLI tools like netsh, ipconfig, and nslookup for many, many, MANY years. With PowerShell becoming the new norm for CLI and management in the industry isn’t it about time we start using the modern day PowerShell equivalent of these tools? Thomas has put together a get resource here to do just that. Using the more modern CLI tools will make troublshooting your Hyper-V deployments much easier. Bookmark away my friends!
Didier Van Hoye, also a Microsoft MVP in the Cloud and Datacenter Management group, always does a great job in keeping the community educated about some of the finer points in regards to storage with Hyper-V. Shared VHDX in Hyper-V provides many benefits, especially in clustering scenarios, but there are always a number of questions focused on how shared VHDXs function and operate. Didier elaborates a bit on that subject in this post.
Another fantastic post by Thomas Maurer here. As we know Containers are a HUGE topic in the industry right now, and that includes the Microsoft world as well. For those that haven’t been keeping up to date on this, Microsoft provides two different kinds of containers. Windows Containers, and Hyper-V Containers. While both of them provide container functionality, the Hyper-V container type provides a much higher layer of isolation by adding in a Hyper-V virtual machine layer. I could see some situations where you’ve got an already deployed container image that you’d like to convert to a Hyper-V container. Thomas discusses how complete that task in this post.
Not a Major announcement by any means on this one, but still important. So, I wanted to make sure it got mentioned. There have been some subtle changes being made to remote management operations in Hyper-V in Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 and Ben Armstrong from the Hyper-V product groups goes into much more detail in this post. Just something to be aware of.
We’ll wrap up our post with Nested virtualization! Nested virtualization has been a very hot topic ever since it was announced that it would be a supported feature in Windows Server 2016. With that in mind, I wanted to make sure that this made it into today’s post as well. Posted on Feb 17th, Keith Mayer and I did a vodcast discussing nested virtualization in Windows Server 2016. We discussed the use cases, requirements and limitations. Then we followed up our discussion with exactly how to go about enabling it and using it within your test lab. You can click the link above for the official Channel 9 page containing the video, or if you’d like to just view the video, it is embedded below. Enjoy!
That conclude our hot topic list for the month! We hope you enjoyed today’s links, and be sure to keep an eye out next month when we put together our next Hot Hyper-V Topics List! Also, if there was a hot topic that you didn’t see us discuss today, be sure to let us know in the comments below! Happy Reading!
Several weeks ago, you may have followed the Altaro Webinar on “What’s new with Microsoft Virtualization in Server vNext”. While a lot of good information was provided at said webinar, we weren’t able to divulge all of the upcoming capabilities due to some of the material being covered under Microsoft NDA at the time.
Well, the wait is over!
This week I’m in the midst of the Microsoft Ignite conference here in Chicago, and I’d like to share with you a couple of great innovations and new products and features that are coming with the release of Server 2016 and the next generation of the Microsoft Ecosystem.
While I’ll be covering each of the below items in more detail in later segments, today’s post will serve as list of the newly announced products in the virtualization space specifically, with more details focused on enhancements to Hyper-V coming in a later post.
So let’s get on with it.
1. Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016
Formerly known as Server vNext, the true name of the next generation of Windows Server made its debut on Monday morning during the Microsoft Ignite Keynote. Many people have been concerned over the last year due to the fact that at TechEd 2014, the focus was largely on Microsoft Azure, and there was little to no mention of another on-premise server product. Those concerns can be put to rest. The upcoming Windows Server 2016 is a cloud-ready server OS for the next generation of applications and workloads in our now cloud focused industry. The new capabilities will allow us to provide enhanced scalability and reliability to end users and businesses, while providing the ability to host any workload, anywhere, at any time.
Also announced was the next generation of System Center with the announcement of System Center 2016, which contains additional enhancement for those in the enterprise space and for those looking to host hybrid clouds and services.
Much of the functionality and Innovation of Microsoft Azure has been pulled down, and packaged into Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 for use in your on-premise Data Centers.
Microsoft has essentially taken all that they’ve learned with Azure and baked it into these on-premise products for the world to use. They don’t see workloads residing solely in Azure, but on on-premise servers and in service provider datacenters as well, and the next generation of these products is aimed at making that goal a reality.
By the way – If you’re interested in trying out the preview release of Windows Server 2016 you can get a copy here.
The System Center 2016 preview release has also been made available and can be found here.
When we’re talking about virtualization there has perhaps been no bigger change or innovation than what was announced with Containers. While I won’t get into the specifics too much now (since there’s enough material to cover multiple posts on the topic), Containers are indeed a game changer.
Containers will allow us to provide further application isolation between the running host and other virtual entities in the environment by placing an application inside a contained environment and not allowing the code to co-mingle. Think of them as virtual machines, but without the additional overhead of an OS running inside of a VM. Microsoft accomplishes this by allowing the containerized application to share the kernel of the running host, while still maintaining separation.
There are two different flavors of Containers, Windows Server Containers, and Hyper-V Containers. Both have close tie-ins with Docker and I’ll be providing more detail in an upcoming post.
Containers will provide increased flexibility and a higher level of saturation of workloads inside of our virtualized environments.
More on this great technology coming up in future posts!
3. Nano Server
For the past several years, we’ve had Windows Server Core available to us, and while very feature rich, Microsoft felt that is was still too bloated for the needs of a Hypervisor and the Cloud OS. The key roles and features provided by Nano Server are simply Hyper-V, Clustering and Storage. Essentially everything you need to run virtualized environments.
*Update*: Other roles/features are being looked at for Nano Server by Microsoft and may be announced at a later date. If this is the case, I’ll be sure to update this post at that time.
An interesting quote by Jeffery Snover, who is a Distinguished Engineer with Microsoft, stated that “Nano Server is the most important, most significant change that we’ve made since Windows NT”. This type of statement shows you the backing and trust that Microsoft is putting behind Nano Server, so expect to see much more to come, including an upcoming post right here, specifically about Nano server and its benefits.
4. Azure Stack
As mentioned briefly earlier in this post, Microsoft has learned much during their time with Azure in the last 6 or 7 years. They are now ready to share that knowledge and innovation with those of us who could benefit from it in our on-premise datacenters.
For some time, we’ve had the Windows Azure Pack available to us, but the Microsoft Azure Stack certainly surpasses it in capabilities. The Windows Azure Pack only provided a subset of the functions of Microsoft Azure, while the Microsoft Azure Stack will provide a true Azure experience in our On-Premise Datacenters, with all the enhancements and capabilities that come with it.
5. Operations Management Suite
Now that we have all these different clouds residing in the public space, or the private datacenter, or maybe even hosted with a service provider, it can become difficult to manage them across so many different platforms. Microsoft has come up with an answer to this with the Operations Management Suite that was announced during the Ignite Keynote.
Operations Management Suite will allow administrators to manage all cloud resources from a single pane of glass. This includes, Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, Rackspace, Hyper-V, VMware and more. This solution is really going to become the one stop shop for all hybrid cloud management and will really enhance the industries’ management capabilities of the cloud.
While I covered the high-level enhancements and products announced at Ignite 2015 around virtualization and the cloud, be on the lookout in the coming days for another post detailing some of the new enhancements being rolled out for Hyper-V itself. Lots of exciting stuff to share!
After that we’ll really start doing some deep dives into what these new technologies and enhancements mean for you and your organization.