Tag: Windows Server 2016

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Windows Server Semi-annual Channel Overview

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

As mentioned a couple of months ago, Microsoft has updated the Windows Server servicing model. The Semi-Annual Channel is a twice-per-year feature update release with 18-month servicing timelines for each release and the Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) will be support for 5+5 years as we know it form previous Windows Server releases as Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016. This is similar servicing model as the Windows 10 client.

In short:

The Semi-Annual Channel provides opportunity for customers who are innovating quickly to take advantage of new operating system capabilities at a faster pace, both in applications – particularly those built on containers and microservices – and in the software-defined hybrid datacenter.

Customers also have the option to continue using the Long-Term Servicing Channel releases, which continue to be released every 2-3 years. Each Long-Term Servicing Channel release is supported for 5 years of mainstream support and 5 years of extended support.

You can find more information about the Windows Server Servicing changes in my blog post: What is next for Windows Server and System Center with a faster release cadence

Today Microsoft released a page where you can get an overview about the Windows Server versions and their support end dates.

Windows Server current versions by servicing Overview

This will quickly get you an overview about the Windows Server releases.

 

 



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

 



Windows Server Software-Defined Datacenter Solutions

I am sure you have heard already about the great new improvements of Windows Server 2016 which launched almost a year ago. Especially features like Hyper-V, Storage Spaces Direct, Storage Replica and the Software-Defined Networking part got some great updates and new features. Windows Server delivers a great foundation for your Software-Defined Datacenter.

  • Compute – Hyper-V delivers a highly scalable, resilient and secure virtualization platform.
  • Storage – Storage Spaces Direct (S2D), Storage Replica and ReFS file system improvements, deliver a affordable high-performance software-defined storage solution
  • Network – The new Windows Server Software-Defined Networking v2 stack, delivers a high performance and large scale networking solution for your datacenter

However, deploying a Software-Defined Datacenter can be challenging and expensive. The Microsoft Software-Defined Datacenter certification allows you to simplify deployment and operations with a certified partner solutions. I have worked on a couple of deployments and building complex solutions can be expensive and time consuming. The Microsoft Software-Defined Datacenter certification allows you to have a pre-validated solution which result in faster deployment times, accelerated the time to value, a more reliable solution and optimized performance.

Windows Server Software-Defined Solutions WSSD

Microsoft is working with different partners like DataOn, Dell EMC, Fujitsu, HPE, Lenovo, Quanta (QCT) and SuperMicro to deliver these solutions. Partners offer an array of Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) solutions that work with Window Server 2016 to deliver high-performance storage or hyper-converged infrastructure. Hyper-converged solutions bring together compute, storage, and networking on industry-standard servers and components, which means organizations can gain improved datacenter intelligence and control while avoiding the costs of specialized high-end hardware.

Three types of Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) solutions

These partners offer three types of Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) solutions:

  • Software Defined Storage (SDS) – Enterprise-grade shared storage solution built on server node clusters replaces traditional SAN/NAS at a much lower cost. Organizations can quickly add storage capacity as needs grow over time. Support for all-flash NVMe drives delivers unrivaled performance.
  • Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) Standard – Highly virtualized compute and storage are combined in the same server node cluster, making them easier to deploy, manage, and scale. By eliminating traditional IT compute, storage, and networking silos, you can simplify your infrastructure.
  • Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) Premium – Comprehensive “software-defined datacenter in a box” adds Software-Defined Networking and Security Assurance features to HCI Standard. This makes it easy to scale compute, storage, and networking up and down to meet demand just like public cloud services.

Windows Server Software-Defined solution features comparison

These three types offer different features depending on your needs.

Windows Server Software-Defined Solution

If you are thinking do build your next software-defined datacenter or private cloud, I recommend that you have a look at these solutions. Find a partner at www.microsoft.com/wssd

Download a white paper about Microsoft hyper-converged technologies

Read a datasheet about the Windows Server Software Defined partner program

(Image Credits: www.microsoft.com/wssd)



Microsoft Ignite Speaker

Speaking at Microsoft Ignite 2017

I just came back from Experts Live Europe 2017 in Berlin where I was speaking about Container, Azure Stack and Windows Server. Now I already started preparing for the largest Microsoft Conference in September. I am happy to announce that I will be speaking at the Microsoft Ignite 2017 Conference in Orlando Florida.

Thomas Maurer Speaking

This is a huge honor and I am happy to speak in several sessions. The first one I want to announce is my Theater Session about Windows Server 2016:

Lessons learned from deploying Windows Server 2016

Join this session to learn about how to deploy Windows Server 2016 in your datacenter. Learn about real-world experience for Storage Spaces Direct, Nano Server, Hyper-V, and a lot more.

I will announce other sessions soon as they are public available. I hope you join Microsoft Ignite and see you in my sessions.



Azure Nested Virtualization

How to setup Nested Virtualization in Microsoft Azure

At the Microsoft Build Conference this year, Microsoft announced Nested Virtualization for Azure Virtual Machines, and last week Microsoft announced the availability of these Azure VMs, which support Nested Virtualization. Nested Virtualization basically allows you to run a Hypervisor in side a Virtual Machine running on a Hypervisor, which means you can run Hyper-V within a Hyper-V Virtual Machine or within a Azure Virtual Machine, kind a like Inception for Virtual Machines.

Azure Nested Virtualization

You can use Nested Virtualization since Windows Server 2016 or the same release of Windows 10, for more details on this, check out my blog post: Nested Virtualization in Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10

With the release of the Azure Dv3 and Ev3 VM sizes:

  • D2-64 v3 instances are the latest generation of General Purpose Instances. D2-64 v3 instances are based on the 2.3 GHz Intel XEON ® E5-2673 v4 (Broadwell) processor and can achieve 3.5GHz with Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0. D2-64 v3 instances offer the combination of CPU, memory, and local disk for most production workloads.
  • E2-64 v3 instances are the latest generation of Memory Optimized Instances. E2-64 v3 instances are based on the 2.3 GHz Intel XEON ® E5-2673 v4 (Broadwell) processor and can achieve 3.5GHz with Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0. E2-64 v3 instances are ideal for memory-intensive enterprise applications.

With the upgrade to new Intel Broadwell processors, Microsoft enabled Nested Virtualization, which will allows a couple of different scenarios, when you create a Virtual Machine running Windows Server 2016.

  • You can run Hyper-V Containers (Windows Containers with additional isolation) inside an Azure VM. With future releases we will also be able to run Linux Containers in Hyper-V Containers running on a Windows Server OS.
  • You can quickly spin up and shut down new demo and test environments, and you only pay when you use them (pas-per-use)

How to Setup Nested Virtualization in Azure

Deploy Azure VM

To setup Nested Virtualization inside an Azure Virtual Machine, you first need to create a new Virtual Machines using one of the new instance sizes like Ev3 or Dv3 and Windows Server 2016.I also recommend to install all the latest Windows Server patches to the system.

Optional: Optimize Azure VM Storage

This step is optional, but if you want to better performance and more storage for your Nested Virtual Machines to run on, this makes sense.

Azure VM Data Disks

In my case I attached 2 additional data disks to the Azure VM. Of course you can choose more or different sizes. Now you can see 2 new data disk inside your Azure Virtual Machine. Do not format them, because we gonna create a new storage spaces pool and a simple virtual disk, so we get the performance form both disks at the same time. In the past this was called disk striping.

Azure VM Storage Spaces

With that you can create a new Storage Spaces Storage Pool and a new Virtual Disk inside the VM using the storage layout “Simple” which basically configures it as striping.

Azure VM Storage Spaces PowerShell

I also formatted the disk and set the drive letter to V:, this will be the volume where I will place my nested virtual machines.

Install Hyper-V inside the Azure VM

Install Hyper-V on Windows Server using PowerShell

The next step would be to install the Hyper-V role in your Azure Virtual Machine. You can use PowerShell to do this since this is a regular Windows Server 2016.This command will install Hyper-V and restart the virtual machine.

Azure VM Hyper-V

After the installation you have Hyper-V installed and enabled inside your Azure Virtual Machine, now you need to configure the networking for the Hyper-V virtual machines. For this we will use NAT networking.

Configure Networking for the Nested Environment

Hyper-V NAT Network inside Azure VM

To allow the nested virtual machine to access the internet, we need to setup Hyper-V networking in the right why. For this we use the Hyper-V internal VM Switch and NAT networking. I described this here: Set up a Hyper-V Virtual Switch using a NAT Network

Create a new Hyper-V Virtual Switch

First create a internal Hyper-V VM Switch

Configure the NAT Gateway IP Address

The Internal Hyper-V VM Switch creates a virtual network adapter on the host (Azure Virtual Machine), this network adapter will be used for the NAT Gateway. Configure the NAT gateway IP Address using New-NetIPAddress cmdlet.

Configure the NAT rule

After that you have finally created your NAT network and you can now use that network to connect your virtual machines and use IP Address from 172.21.21.2-172.21.21.254.

Now you can use these IP Addresses to assign this to the nested virtual machines. You can also setup a DHCP server in one of the nested VMs to assign IP addresses automatically to new VMs.

Optional: Create NAT forwards inside Nested Virtual Machines

To forward specific ports from the Host to the guest VMs you can use the following commands.

This example creates a mapping between port 80 of the host to port 80 of a Virtual Machine with an IP address of 172.21.21.2.

This example creates a mapping between port 82 of the Virtual Machine host to port 80 of a Virtual Machine with an IP address of 172.21.21.3.

Optional: Configure default Virtual Machine path

Since I have created an extra volume for my nested virtual machines, I configure this as the default path for Virtual Machines and Virtual Hard Disks.

Create Nested Virtual Machines inside the Azure VM

Azure Nested Virtualization

Now you can basically start to create Virtual Machines inside the Azure VM. You can for example use an existing VHD/VHDX or create a new VM using an ISO file as you would do on a hardware Hyper-V host.

Some crazy stuff to do

There is a lot more you could do, not all of it makes sense for everyone, but it could help in some cases.

  • Running Azure Stack Development Kit – Yes Microsoft released the Azure Stack Development Kit, you could use a large enough Azure virtual machine and run it in there.
  • Configure Hyper-V Replica and replicate Hyper-V VMs to your Azure VM running Hyper-V.
  • Nested a Nested Virtual Machine in a Azure VM – You could enable nesting on a VM running inside the Azure VM so you could do a VM inside a VM inside a VM. Just follow my blog post to created a nested Virtual Machine: Nested Virtualization in Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10

In my opinion Nested Virtualization is mostly help full if you run Hyper-V Containers, but it also works great, if you want to run some Virtual Machines inside a Azure VM, for example to run a lab or test something.



Azure Stack Administration and Operation

Interview: Microsoft Azure Stack – An Introduction

Back at Experts Live Australia 2017 I had the chance to talk to Veeam’s Senior Technical Evangelist Clint Wyckoff about the upcoming Microsoft Azure Stack Solution.

Veeam’s Senior Technical Evangelist Clint Wyckoff and Thomas Maurer, Cloud Architect at itnetX and Microsoft Cloud & Datacenter MVP discuss the upcoming Microsoft Azure Stack Solution.

If you want to know more about Azure Stack: Check out my blog post: Microsoft Azure Stack – Azure Extension in your Datacenter



Windows Server Semi-annual Channel Overview

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

A couple of weeks ago at the Microsoft Build Conference, Microsoft released some new information about what is coming in the next version of Windows Server like Linux support on Hyper-V Container and much more. Today Microsoft just announced some new details about the next Windows Server releases and how they will work. The biggest change of todays announcement that Windows Server and System Center will also move to the Semi-annual Channel, just like Windows Client and Office moved to the Semi-annual Channel release cycle. The other large announcement is that Microsoft focuses Nano Server on Container and will remove support Nano on Hosts and Virtual Machines. This means you can run Nano Server only as a Windows or Hyper-V Container.

Nano Server is only supported as a Container Image

Microsoft is removing support for the Nano Server operating system running on physical hardware or inside Virtual Machines. Nano Server will be only supported as a Container Image. Windows Server Core will be the preferred installation option for your infrastructure servers like Hyper-V or Storage Spaces Direct.

This next release will focus on making Nano Server the very best container image possible. From these changes, customers will now see the Nano Server images shrink in size by more than 50 percent, further decreasing startup times and improving container density. As part of this effort to focus on containers, we will be removing the functionality for infrastructure-related roles. Instead of using Nano Server for these scenarios, we recommend deploying the Server Core installation option, which includes all the roles and features you would need.

Windows Server Servicing Channel

As mentioned Microsoft will offer Windows Server updates in the Semi-annual Channel as well as in the Long Term Servicing Channel for Nano Server Container Images as well as Windows Server Core.

There will be two primary release channels available to Windows Server customers, the Long-term Servicing Channel, and the new Semi-annual Channel.

Long-term Servicing Channel

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.

Semi-annual Channel

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 hosters keeping up with the latest Hyper-V 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.

Windows Insider Program

At Microsoft Build, Microsoft also announced that Windows Server will be part of the Windows Insider Program, and you will see the first preview builds this summer.

System Center

in the first Semi-annual Channel release from System Center, the team will focus on System Center Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, and Data Protection Manager. The key areas of investment will include support for Windows Server and Linux, enhanced performance, usability and reliability, and extensibility with Azure-based security and management services. Which will bring features like Nested Virtualization support, software load balancing, Storage QoS Self-Service and management support for heterogeneous environments with improved Linux monitoring using a FluentD agent as well as VMware backup. System Center Configuration Manager will continue to offer three releases a year to give you the latest updates for managing servers, PCs, and mobile devices.

Conclusion

This changes will improve the release cadence of datacenter and cloud innovation dramatically. Customers like service providers will have the chance to update their offerings much more often which allows them to add new features and functionality. But there is choice for customers who need a stable and not fast moving environment they can deploy builds from the Long-term servicing channel, which will have long term support. With that you should be able to choose the best solution for your environment and workload.