Category: Server Core

Last updated by at .

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 1709 Server Core Sconfig

How to install Windows Server 1709

Microsoft just released the new Windows Server version 1709 in the Semi-Annual Channel. This blog post is for beginners which want to do their first step setting up Windows Server Core.

First you boot your server or virtual machine form the Windows Server 1709 ISO file. and select which Operating System you want to install. You can choose between Windows Server Standard or Windows Server Datacenter. As you might see, there is only Server Core available. The Server with Desktop Experience or Full Server is only available in the LTSC (Long-Term Servicing Channel) in Windows Server 2016.

Windows Server 1709 Operating System

After accepting the license terms, you can choose the installation type. Even there is an upgrade option, you should choose Custom which will be a new install. Since an in-place upgrade from older Windows Server versions is not supported.

Windows Server 1709 Installation Type

Choose which drive you want to install and the partitioning you want to use

Windows Server 1709 Choose Disk

After that Windows Server will install itself, and reboot for a couple of times.

Windows Server 1709 Installation

After the installation is finished you have to set the default Administrator password.

Windows Server 1709 Admin Password

When you login for the first time, it runs the Windows command prompt with the common Windows commands, or you can run PowerShell, or if you need the magic key to the server core configuration you can run “sconfig” which allows you quickly to do configuration changes, install updates and more.

Windows Server 1709 Server Core Sconfig



Docker Windows Server Container Images

Docker Container Images for Windows Server 1709 and new tagging

Last week Microsoft announced new Windows Server 1709 and the new Windows Server 1709 container images. The new container images in Windows Server version 1709 are highly optimized, especially in size. So for example the new Nano Server Container Image in 1709 is 5x smaller than the Nano Server Container Image in Windows Server 2016.

Microsoft also made some changes to tagging which is interesting.

If you want to use the latest images of the container images based on the Windows Server 2016 (which is in the Long-Term Servicing Channel, LTSC) you just run:

This will give you the latest images of the Windows Server and Nano server container images. If you want to run a specific patch level of the Windows Server 2016 (LTSC)m images, you can run the following:

Docker Windows Server Container Images Size

If you want to use the new Windows Server 1709 container images from the Semi-Annual Channel you can run the following

and again you cans also add a specific base OS container image by using a KB number:

If you already tried out the new container images during the development using the insider images, they still existing:

However, I am not sure what the plan for the insider images is going forward.



How to run Docker Linux Container on Windows Server 1709

As mentioned Microsoft released the final version of Windows Server 1709 in the last week. Windows Server 1709 brings a couple of new improvements, especially in the container space. Microsoft and Docker are working on bringing Linux Container support to Windows Server, so you can now run Windows and Linux Container at the same time on a Windows Server Container Host running Windows Server 1709 or Windows 10 with the Fall Creators Update (1709).

In this post I want to show you how you setup up a Container Host to run Windows and Linux Containers at the same time using Docker.

Create Container Host Virtual Machine

Enable Nested Virtualization

If you run Docker on a physical server you can skip this step. If you want to run Docker Containers using Linux inside a Virtual Machine running on Hyper-V you should enable Nested Virtualization for the Container Host Virtual Machine. You can do this by running the following command:

if you want to do this on a Hyper-V Server in Azure, check out this post: How to setup Nested Virtualization in Microsoft Azure

Install Docker Enterprise Edition Preview on Windows Server 1709

First you have to install Docker Enterprise Edition Preview on your Windows Server 1709 container host. You can install the Docker EE preview using PowerShell package management, using the following commands:

As mentioned this is a preview version of Docker EE which enables a bunch of new features, to run Docker in production environments please use Docker EE 17.06.

Enable Docker Linux Containers on Windows

The preview Docker EE package includes a full LinuxKit system (13MB) for use when running Docker Linux containers. To enable this use the following command:

to disable it again use the following:

Run Linux Docker Container on Windows Server

Docker Ubuntu Container on Windows Server

Now you are able to run Linux Containers on Windows Server 1709.

for fun you can also run Nyancat!

Docker Nyan Cat on Windows Server

Things are still in preview, so don’t expect to work 100% 🙂



Windows Server 1709

Microsoft released Windows Server 1709

Microsoft just released the new Windows Server version 1709 which is the first release in the Semi-Annual Channel. The Semi-Annual Channel release cadence to deliver innovation at a faster pace, but you will also need to keep updating your systems to newer versions of Windows Server. As of today, you can download Windows Server 1709 from the Volume license portal or deploy it in Microsoft Azure, since it is available in the Azure Marketplace.

Windows Server 1709 Features and Improvements

Windows Server 1709 will drive innovation in the container space and in the Windows Subsystem for Linux, as well as some Cloud Host improvements in Hyper-V with new support for Storage Class Memory and more. Windows Server 1709 will be only available as Windows Server Core (Standard and Datacenter).

If you want to know more about the new features and improvements in Windows Server 1709, check out my blog post and check also out the Microsoft What’s new in Windows Server 1709 page.

Windows Server news from Microsoft Build 2017 – It is all about Container!

New Windows Server Management Experience

If you want to know more about the new Management Experience called Project Honolulu, check out my blog post:

Microsoft Project Honolulu – The new Windows Server Management Experience

Windows Server Servicing

For more information about the Semi-Annual Channel and Windows Server Servicing check out my blog posts:

Windows Server release information – Windows Server Semi-Annual Channel and LTSC

 

What is next for Windows Server and System Center with a faster release cadence

Windows Server, version 1709 is only the first step in this new world of faster release cadences. The most important aspect of having new releases twice a year is customer feedback will shape the product. You can try the preview builds of Windows Server in the Semi-Annual Channel and provide feedback by joining the Windows Insiders program. You can also join the conversation in the Microsoft Tech Community where we have tons of professionals and experts sharing their learnings and answering questions.



Project Honolulu Server Overview

Microsoft Project Honolulu – The new Windows Server Management Experience

Last week Microsoft introduced the world to Project Honolulu, which is the codename for a new Windows Server management experience. Project “Honolulu” is a flexible, locally-deployed, browser-based management platform and tools to manage Windows Server locally and remote.

Microsoft today launched the Hololulu Technical Preview for the world, I had the chance to already work with Microsoft during the last couple of months in a private preview. Project Honolulu helps you to managed your servers remotely as a new kind of Server Manager. This is especially handy if you run Windows Server Core, which I think is the new black, after Microsoft announced that Nano Server is only gonna live as a Container Image with the next version of Windows Server.

Project Honolulu took many features for the Azure Server Management Tools which were hosted in Azure, and allowed you to manage your servers in the cloud and on-premise. But the Feedback was simple, People wanted to install the Management expierence on-prem, without the dependency to Microsoft Azure. Microsoft listened to the feedback and delivered the with Project Honolulu a web-based management solution, which you can install on your own servers.

Honolulu Management Experience

Project Honolulu Server Overview

Project Honolulu has different solutions which give you different functionality. In the technical preview there are three solutions available, Server Manager, Failover Cluster Manager and Hyper-Converged Cluster Manager.

Server Manager

The server manager lets you is kind of like the Server Manager you know from Windows Server, but it also replaces some local only tools like Network Management, Process, Device Manger, Certificate and User Management, Windows Update and so on. The Server Manager Solution also adds management of Virtual Machines, Virtual Switches and Storage Replica.

Failover Cluster Manager

As you might think, this allows you to manage Failover Clusters.

Hyper-Converged Cluster Manager

The Hyper-Converged Cluster Manager is very interesting if you are running Storage Spaces Direct clusters in a Hyper-Converged design, where Hyper-V Virtual Machines run on the same hosts. This allows you to do management of the S2D cluster as well as some performance metrics.

Honolulu Topology

Project Honolulu On-Premise Architecture

Project Honolulu leverages a three-tier architecture, a web server displaying web UI using HTML, a gateway service and the managed nodes. The web interface talks to the gateway service using REST APIs and the gateway connected to the managed nodes using WinRM and PowerShell remoting (Similar like the Azure Management Tools).

Project Honolulu On-Premise and Public Cloud Architecture

You can basically access the Web UI from every machine running modern browsers like Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome. If you publish the webserver to the internet, you can also manage it remotely from everywhere. The installation and configuration of Project Honolulu is straight forward, but If you want to know more about the installation check out, my friend and Microsoft MVP colleague, Charbel Nemnom’s blog post about Project Honolulu.

Project Honolulu Gateways Service can be installed on:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2016

You can manage:

  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2016 and higher

Conclusion

In my opinion Microsoft Project Honolulu provides us with the Windows Server Management Tool we need so much. It helps us to manage our servers from a centralized HTML5 web application, and really makes management of GUI less servers easy. Deployment and configuration is very easy and simple and doesn’t take a lot of effort, while drastically removing the need to locally logon to a server for management reasons. I hope with that we will see a higher deployment of Windows Server Core installations, since we don’t need the GUI on every single server anymore.

You can download the Project Honolulu Technical Preview here: Project Honolulu Technical Preview

You can give feedback to Project Honolulu here: User Voice Project Honolulu

 



Ubuntu on Microsoft Azure

Microsoft and Canonical create Azure optimized Ubuntu Kernel

Ubuntu is a popular choice for Virtual Machines running on Microsoft Azure and Hyper-V. Yesterday Microsoft and Canonical that they will provide an Azure Tailored Kernel for Ubuntu. Microsoft and Canonical were already working on a lot of projects together, like Linux Containers on Windows using Docker, or the Windows Subsystem for Linux.

Canonical, with the team at Microsoft Azure, are now delighted to announce that as of September 21, 2017, Ubuntu Cloud Images for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS on Azure have been enabled with a new Azure tailored Ubuntu kernel by default.  The Azure tailored Ubuntu kernel will receive the same level of support and security maintenance as all supported Ubuntu kernels for the duration of the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS support life.

The kernel itself is provided by the linux-azure kernel package. Some of the special feature this kernel provides are:

  • Infiniband and RDMAcapability for Azure HPC to deliver optimized performance of compute intensive workloads on Azure A8, A9, H-series, and NC24r.
  • Full support for Accelerated Networking in Azure.  Direct access to the PCI device provides gains in overall network performance offering the highest throughput and lowest latency for guests in Azure.  Transparent SR-IOV eliminates configuration steps for bonding network devices.
  • NAPI and Receive Segment Coalescing for 10% greater throughput on guests not using SR-IOV.
  • 18% reduction in kernel size
  • Hyper-V socket capability — a socket-based host/guest communication method that does not require a network.
  • The very latest Hyper-V device drivers and feature support available.

Source: https://insights.ubuntu.com/2017/09/21/microsoft-and-canonical-increase-velocity-with-azure-tailored-kernel/

I am sure these improvements will not only help Ubuntu Virtual Machines running on Azure, but also Ubuntu Virtual Machines running on Hyper-V

Canonical and Microsoft also promise to work close in the future to deliver more new feature.

As we continue to collaborate closely with various Microsoft teams on public cloud, private cloud, containers and services, you can expect further boosts in performance, simplification of operations at scale, and enablement of new innovations and technologies.

Really looking forward how this works. Also funny to see the comments on the Tweet from the @Ubuntu on twitter, which shows how many people live in the old world.