Category: Licensing

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Windows Server Semi-annual Channel Overview

Windows Server – Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) vs Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC)

I was already blogging about the new Windows Server servicing options including the Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) and the new Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) options. It seems that there is a lot of confusion about what the purpose and the advantages of the Semi-Annual Channel releases. With that blog post I will try to explain what both servicing options are and when which servicing option should be used. Especially since SAC releases, like Windows Server 1709, will only be available as Windows Server Core. Spoiler alert: Windows Server Semi-Annual Channel releases are not for everyone and everything.

Windows Server Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC)

The Long-term Servicing Channel is the release model you’re already familiar with (currently called the “Long-term Servicing Branch”) where a new major version of Windows Server is released every 2-3 years. Users are entitled to 5 years of mainstream support, 5 years of extended support, and optionally 6 more years with Premium Assurance. This channel is appropriate for systems that require a longer servicing option and functional stability. Deployments of Windows Server 2016 and earlier versions of Windows Server will not be affected by the new Semi-annual Channel releases. The Long-term Servicing Channel will continue to receive security and non-security updates, but it will not receive the new features and functionality.

Example for Long-Term Servicing Channel releases

  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2016

Long-Term Servicing Channel installation options

  • Windows Server Core
  • Windows Server with Desktop Experience
  • Windows Server Core as a container Image

Use cases for Long-Term Servicing Channel releases

As use cases for the Long-Term Servicing Channel releases you can basically count everything in which need predictable long term support, do not support Windows Server Core and where you don’t use the new features included in the Semi-Annual Servicing Channel releases and you prefer less updating.

  • General Purpose File Server – Traditional information worker file server which need long term support
  • Legacy Software – Legacy software which do not support server core
  • Static Software – Software which does not leverage any of the new features of Semi-Annual Channel releases, which need predictable long term support
  • Legacy Hardware – End of life hardware
  • SQL Server – Traditional databases with long lifecycles which need predictable long term support
  • Active Directory and other infrastructure roles – which benefit from long term support

Semi-Annual Channel (SAC)

Windows Server 1709

The Semi-annual Channel releases will deliver new functionality for customers who are moving at a “cloud cadence,” such as those on rapid development cycles or service providers keeping up with the latest Hyper-V and Storage investments. Windows Server products in the Semi-annual Channel will have new releases available twice a year, in spring and fall. Each release in this channel will be supported for 18 months from the initial release.

Most of the features introduced in the Semi-annual Channel will be rolled up into the next Long-term Servicing Channel release of Windows Server. The editions, functionality, and supporting content might vary from release to release depending on customer feedback.

The Semi-annual Channel will be available to volume-licensed customers with Software Assurance, as well as via the Azure Marketplace or other cloud/hosting service providers and loyalty programs such as MSDN.

Example for Semi-annual Channel releases

  • Windows Server 2016 Nano Server
  • Windows Server 1709
  • Windows Server 1803

Semi-annual Channel installation options

  • Windows Server Core
  • Windows Server Core Container Image
  • Windows Server Nano Server Container Image

Use cases for Semi-annual Channel releases

Use cases for the Semi-annual Channel releases right now are application and services which leverage new feature very quickly and go with cloud cadence.

  • Lift and Shift applications into Containers
  • New cloud-based applications
  • Applications which can be quickly and easily redeployed
  • Linux containers on Windows Server
  • Hyper-V and Cluster nodes for Hyper-converged scenarios
  • Hyper-V hosts which are benefiting from continuous innovation

Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) vs Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) Overview

To make it a little easier, here is a quick overview of the two servicing channels:

 Long-Term Servicing ChannelSemi-Annual Channel
Recommend ScenariosGeneral purpose File Servers, SQL Servers, Active Directory and other infrastructure rolesContainerized applications and container hosts, Hyper-converged hosts benefiting form faster innovation
New ReleasesEvery 2-3 yearsEvery 6 months
Support5 years of Mainstream support +5 years of Extended support18 months
EditionsAll available Windows Server editionsStandard and Datacenter
Installation OptionsServer Core and Server with Desktop ExperienceServer Core only
LicensingAll customer through all channelsSoftware Assurance and Cloud customers only

Conclusion

As you can see, Windows Server Semi-annual channel are not designed for everyone. And if you don’t feel comfortable with Windows Server Core (btw you should check out Microsoft Project Honolulu), the fast release cadence or the short support life cycle you should go with the Windows Server Long-Term Servicing Channel. You will not lose anything you had today, you still will get new versions every 2-3 years with all the options you had today. If you need the fast innovation and you get something out of the new features the Semi-annual channel will provide you with 2 releases a year. But make sure, that your deployment, configuration and management is automated, otherwise you will suffer from the fast release cadence. I have three other very important points I want to make sure you know about:

  • Not all your servers have to go with LTSC only or SAC only – as long as you have the right licensing in place you can choose for each server, which ever fits your needs best.
  • You don’t have to switch now – you can also decided to go with LTSC today and switch to a SAC release as soon as you benefit from it. You can also switch back to LTSC from SAC if you don’t like it. (With Switch I mean redeploy)
  • Upgrades are not in-place – It doesn’t matter which servicing channel you are using, servers need to be redeployed. (Not like in Windows 10 where you can leverage in-place upgrades)

I hope this helps to understand the point about Windows Server Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) vs Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC). The Semi-Annual Channel releases are a new offer from Microsoft for customers to get their hands on new features much quicker, this offers a huge benefit if you can make use of it. But Microsoft is not forcing you to use SAC, LTSC for some scenarios and customers is still the better option. So both solutions are having huge value in different scenarios.



Windows Server 2016 Whats new in Hyper-V

My Hardware Recommendations for Windows Server 2016

Many people are right now asking me about what they have to look out for, if they are going to buy hardware for there next Windows Server 2016 deployment using Hyper-V, Storage nodes or just physical servers. Of course you should normally not just buy hardware and design the solution after that, you should create an architecture for your datacenter first and than buy hardware for your needs. But still there are several things to look out for, this is probably not easy to say right now but here are several thing I would recommend to you.

My recommendations

  • Windows Server Logo: Make really sure that hardware is certified for Windows Server and Windows Server 2016 when the certification is available
  • Network Adapters:
  • Processor / CPU
    • A 64-bit processor with second-level address translation (SLAT).
    • Of course recommend you do get the latest server grade CPUs from Intel or AMD to get the latest CPU functionalities
    • Think about the new licensing for Windows Server 2016 which will be core based
  • TPM Trusted Platform Module v2.0 – especially for the Hyper-V feature Shielded Virtual Machines or/and BitLocker support.
  • Storage
    • If you are going to deploy new Storage in your Datacenter, make sure you have a look at Storage Spaces and SMB Direct (Hyper-V over SMB) and especially the new Storage Spaces Direct feature, which I will write a bit about later this month. This also allows you to do Hyper-Converged scenarios running Storage and Hyper-V on the same physical hardware.
    • If you are goin to deploy Storage Spaces Direct make sure you choose a good quality of SSDs or NVMe devices. Especially for the caching devices choose Write-Intensive NVMe or SSD disks.

This are just some recommendations if I would buy new hardware I would also look at these features. Of course you don’t need all these features in every scenario, but if you want to make the most out of it, you should definitely look at them. Here are some feature related requirements:

Discrete device assignment

  • The processor must have either Intel’s Extended Page Table (EPT) or AMD’s Nested Page Table (NPT).
  • The chipset must have:
    • Interrupt remapping — Intel’s VT-d with the Interrupt Remapping capability (VT-d2) or any version of AMD I/O Memory Management Unit (I/O MMU).
    • DMA remapping — Intel’s VT-d with Queued Invalidations or any AMD I/O MMU.
    • Access control services (ACS) on PCI Express root ports.
  • The firmware tables must expose the I/O MMU to the Windows hypervisor. Note that this feature might be turned off in the UEFI or BIOS. For instructions, see the hardware documentation or contact your hardware manufacturer.

Shielded Virtual Machines

  • UEFI 2.3.1c — supports secure, measured boot
  • The following two are optional for virtualization-based security in general, but required for the host if you want the protection these features provide:
  • TPM v2.0 — protects platform security assets
  • IOMMU (Intel VT-D) — so the hypervisor can provide direct memory access (DMA) protection

for more detailed specification check out Microsoft TechNet: System requirements for Hyper-V on Windows Server 2016



VMware Switch

Microsoft’s new VMware migration offer for Windows Server 2016

Microsoft just announced a new VMware migration offer for Windows Server 2016. In a nutshell: If you switch from VMware to Hyper-V from during September 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017, you can get free Windows Server Datacenter licenses when buying Windows Server Datacenter + Software Assurance. That ultimately means customers only pay for Software Assurance.

Microsoft also released a new TCO calculator to compare VMware and Hyper-V, which you can find here: VMware Shift

There are also a lot of great technical reasons to switch from VMware to Hyper-V. Check out my blog post about What’s new in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V to get an overview about new features.

To get started just follow these steps:

To be eligible for the VMware migration offer, customers must follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Engage your account executive or sales rep to begin the process.
  • Step 2: Identify virtualized workloads to migrate and specify the Windows Server Datacenter cores required.
  • Step 3: Provide your account executive proof of eligibility. (Offer applicable to customers migrating from VMware to Microsoft).
  • Step 4: Engage your partner to start the migration process.
  • Step 5: Receive free Windows Server Datacenter licenses with Software Assurance and pay only the cost of Software Assurance to kick start your migration.

Feel free to contact us to help you switch!



Windows Server 2016 core licenses

Windows Server 2016 Licensing and Pricing

Last night Microsoft released more information about Windows Server 2016. We already got some interesting technical feature information such as Hyper-V, Containers, Nano Server and much more. This is the first time Microsoft is talking about Windows Server 2016 licensing.

Let’s start first with a disclaimer here: All information on the blog are coming from the Microsoft papers released in December 2015. The information maybe change in the future or are not correct written on my blog. This blog post just wants to give you a little consolidated overview about the licensing changes. If you want to make sure you will be licensed correctly, connect with Microsoft and/or Microsoft Partner.

Microsoft still will have two version of Windows Server 2016 with Datacenter and Standard edition, as they had in Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2. There are two big changes in licensing of Windows Server 2016. For Windows Server 2016 Microsoft is changing from a per-processor licensing to per-core licensing for Windows Server 2016 Standard and Datacenter Editions. And the second big change is that there is no feature parity between Standard Edition and Datacenter Edition. In Windows Server 2012 R2 you basically had the same features in both editions and the only difference were Virtual Machine use rights. (Except for one feature called Automatic Virtual Machine Activation.) There is also some interesting scenarios for hybrid cloud deployments using the Azure hybrid use benefit.

I picked some of the interesting parts out of the Microsoft released papers:

Windows Server 2016 Editions:

  • Datacenter Edition for highly virtualized private and hybrid cloud environments.
  • Standard Edition for non-virtualized or lightly virtualized environments.
  • Information about other editions of Windows Server 2016 and Windows Storage Server 2016 will be provided in Q1 2016

Windows Server 2016 Editions
What does the change to a Cores + CAL based licensing model bring:

To license a physical server, all physical cores must be licensed in the server. A minimum of 8 core licenses is required for each physical processor in the server and a minimum of 16 cores is required to be licensed for servers with one processor.

  • The price of 16-core licenses of Windows Server 2016 Datacenter and Standard Edition will be same price as the 2 proc license of the corresponding editions of the Windows Server 2012 R2 version.
  • Standard Edition provides rights for up to 2 OSEs or Hyper-V containers when all physical cores in the server are licensed. Multiple licenses can be assigned to the same cores for additional OSEs or Hyper-V containers.
  • Each user and/or device accessing a licensed Windows Server Standard or Datacenter edition requires a Windows Server CAL. Each Window Server CAL allows access to multiple licenses Windows Servers.
  • A Windows Server CAL gives a user or device the right to access any edition of Windows Server of the same or earlier version.
  • Some additional or advanced functionality such as Remote Desktop Services or Active Directory Rights Management Services will continue to require the purchase of an additive CAL.

How to license the physical cores for Windows Server 2016 Standard and Datacenter Editions

Windows Server 2016 core licenses

  • License all the physical cores in the server
  • Minimum of 8 core licenses required for each proc
  • Minimum of 16 core licenses required for each server
  • Core licenses will be sold in packs of two.
  • 8 two-core packs will be the minimum required to license each physical server.
  • The two-core pack for each edition is 1/8th the price of a two proc license for corresponding 2012 R2 editions.

FAQ:

Some information form the Microsoft FAQ;

  • How do I license Nano Server?
    Nano Server is a deployment option within Windows Server 2016. It is included as part of the licensing of the edition from which it is deployed. There is no unique or separate licensing for Nano Server.
  • Where is the information about other editions of Windows Server, Windows Storage Server, Azure Stack and other products coming next year?
    More information is coming in Q1CY16 about Azure Stack, Windows Server Essentials and the rest of the Windows Server editions and other related products.
  • Are CALs still required for Windows Server 2016?
    Windows Server Standard and Datacenter editions will continue to require Windows Server CALs for every user or device accessing a server.. Some additional or advanced functionality will continue to require the purchase of an additive CAL. These are CALs that you need in addition to the Windows Server CAL to access functionality, such as Remote Desktop Services or Active Directory Rights Management Services.
  • What are the changes for Hyper-V?
    Standard Editions still allows you to use two virtual OSEs and Datacenter allows you to use unlimited virtual OSEs, but they are now not licensed on processor or servers, they are now licensed based on cores.
  • What about Hyper-V Containers and Windows Containers?
    Hyper-V Containers are licensed the same as Hyper-V Virtual Machines. No information about Windows Containers right now.
  • How should I think about hyper-threading in the core based licensing?
    Windows Server and System Center 2016 are licensed by physical cores, not virtual cores. Therefore, customers only need to inventory and license the physical cores on their processors.
  • If processors (and therefore cores) are disabled from Windows use, do I still need to license the cores?
    If the processor is disabled for use by Windows, the cores on that processor do not need to be licensed. For example, if 2 processors in a 4 processor server (with 8 cores per processor) were disabled and not available for Windows Server use, only 16 cores would need to be licensed. However, disabling hyper threading or disabling cores for specific programs does not relieve the need for a Windows Server license on the physical cores.
  • I read that Windows Server 2016 will support nested virtualization-a VM running inside a VM. How do you license that scenario?
    Windows Server 2016 Datacenter licensing allows for unlimited virtualization and so would easily cover this scenario. Windows Server 2016 Standard Edition licensing is for low to no virtualization scenarios and supports up to two virtual machines. A virtual machine running inside a virtual machine counts as two virtual machines from licensing perspective.

You can get more information about the next version of Windows Server on the Windows Server 2016 website. And the following resources:

 



Microsoft KiPi

Microsoft Learning: Know it. Prove it. Challenge for Hybrid Cloud

Some weeks ago I passed Microsoft Exam 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions which means I am now Microsoft Certified on Microsoft Azure technology. Microsoft has just lunched a new certification challenge called Know it. Prove it. which leverages free resources at the Microsoft Virtual Academy and take  Microsoft exams afterwards.

A few things about the challenge:

  • There are 8 different learning tracks, ranging from Cloud Development over Web Development to Hybrid Cloud or Office 365.
  • Each track consists of a learning module which is accessible from anywhere so learners can watch video tutorials and do assessments whenever is easy!
  • During KiPi, learners can track their progress, earn badges and points, compete against other challenges, and share experiences with others who are participating.
  • Although the challenge officially kicked off on February 1st, it’s not too late to get started.
  • The “Know It” portion of the challenge runs all of February and the “Prove It” part (i.e. get certified) will start March 1st and end on March 31st

For all Virtualization and Cloud Architects and Engineers this makes really sense to prepare what is coming next for Microsoft Cloud or Windows Server as well as System Center and Hyper-V. So checkout the the Know it. Prove it. challenge on the Microsoft Virtual Academy.

 



Licensing Microsoft Server in a Virtual Environment

Altaro Hyper-V Licensing Microsoft Server in a Virtual Environment webinar recording available

Together with Altaro I did a webinar on “Licensing Microsoft Server in a Virtual Environment” together with Andy Syrewicze (Microsoft MVP Hyper-V). Now the recording of this webinar is now available. You can also download the free eBook for Licensing Microsoft Server in a Virtual Environment from Eric Siron.



Office 365 important DNS knowledge

office365

Last week Microsoft launched Office 365. Office365 is clearly a great product. Microsoft offers three different “plans”. One is for small businesses, Plan P, maybe stands for Professional or Personal. Plan P is a offer for small businesses with less than 26 users. For bigger companies or Enterprises Microsoft offers Plan E (Enterprise) which also includes Plan K (kiosk workers).

Now there are a lot of differences between this plans which are described on the Office365 website. But there is something I just realized after I used Office 365 the first time. If you want to use Office 365 with your own domain, Microsoft has two ways to do this.

With Plan P you have to delegate all the DNS configuration to Microsofts DNS servers, which means your DNS servers for your domain, will be somednsserver.microsoft.com. Microsoft offers you a simple UI to create additional CNAME and A records. And all your MX records and A records which are used by Office 365 will be created automatically. This makes it very easy, but even for some small businesses this does not work, because they may need more than just some simple additional A records or CNAMEs.

If you wanna use your own DNS servers or the DNS servers of your provider, you have to use one of the Enterprise plans (there are more than one plan). With a Plan E1 for example, you can choose to delegate all the DNS administration to the Microsoft DNS servers or you can choose your own, maybe already existing public DNS servers. In this case Microsoft tells you which DNS records you need to create (MX, TXT and A records).