The 3 most compelling updates in Windows Server 10

For the data center, expect useful improvements in Hyper-V, storage management, and PowerShell

abstract rack of servers datacenter networking hardware

The big focus at Microsoft's latest Windows 10 marketing event today is on the client OS. But don't forget the next iteration of Windows Server -- Windows Server 10, to be exact.

The server version of Windows 10 is more important than you might think to Microsoft's 2015 comeback effort. Despite some bleeding-edge capabilities, Microsoft's cloud offerings like Azure and Office 365 haven't convinced many enterprises to make the full switch to the cloud. Now that IT budgets are a bit freer, they are looking at Windows Server and server-side applications.

Windows Server 10 has three sets of enhancements that may convince you to open your purse strings.

The first set of key enhancements relate to Hyper-V:

  • VMCX/VMRS configuration format. This new binary configuration format (VMCX) is designed to improve read/write efficiency and reduce data-corruption potential in the event of a storage failure. (The .vmcx extension is for VM configuration data and the .vmrs file extension is for runtime state data.)
  • Rolling Hyper-V cluster upgrade. When working with a cluster using Windows Server 2012 R2, you can add Windows Server 10 nodes; the cluster will continue to function until all nodes have been upgraded. Next, you upgrade the cluster functional level using the Update-ClusterFunctionalLevel cmdlet. Then you can enable new Hyper-V features.
  • Production checkpoints. We'e had snapshots in earlier Hyper-V versions, but they came with limitations and warnings about using them in a production environment. In Windows Server 10, production checkpoints address some of the previous snapshot limitations: The Volume Snapshot Service (VSS) is used in the VM and flushes the files system buffers in a Linux VM to create the new checkpoint. I'm very interested in playing with production checkpoints for recovery of applications like Exchange.

The second set of key improvements relate to storage:

  • Storage quality of service. This feature improves upon the storage QoS that Windows Server 2012 R2 provided. In Windows Server 10, you can define policies on a scale-out file server and assign them one or more virtual disks on Hyper-V systems. This lets you centrally monitor and manage storage performance because you can configure the policies to ensure fair use of the storage resources.
  • Storage replica. This feature enables what Microsoft calls "storage-agnostic, block-level, synchronous replication between servers for disaster recovery, as well as stretching of a failover cluster for high availability." With this technology, Microsoft is trying to steer enterprises away from using expensive SAN products and instead use Microsoft servers with cheap JBOD (just a bunch of disks) array storage enclosures. The storage replica capability allows data replication both in a data center and to remote data centers. 

The third key area of Windows 10 Server enhancements involved PowerShell 5.0:

  • New NetworkSwitch module. This module's cmdlets let you apply switch, virtual LAN, and basic Layer 2 network switch port configuration to certified network switches.
  • New PowerShellGet module. This module install, publishes, and updates modules using the PowerShell Gallery. The PowerShell Gallery is the central repository for PowerShell content. You can find new Windows PowerShell commands or desired state configuration (DSC) resources in the gallery.
  • New OneGet module. Now a formal part of Windows Server 10, this module lets you discover and install software packages from the Internet. You may already know it from CodePlex, Microsoft's open source library. It lets software discovery, installation, and inventory work through common cmdlets.

Overall, Windows Server 10 is a foundational piece to on-premises network environments that is receiving enhancements in all the right places, with features that may have massive rippling effects on the VMware market and the SAN market. With all eyes on Windows 10 for PCs and mobile devices, don't miss what's coming on the server side.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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