Microsoft Windows Server

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Windows Server

by Geoff Keston

Docid: 00021072

Publication Date: 1907

Report Type: PRODUCT


With Windows Server 2016, Microsoft reoriented its
operating system for cloud applications. This change pressures
organizations not just to learn new features but to adopt a different
philosophy about how enterprise IT services are deployed and managed.
Some of the new concepts that system administrators will need to
understand include containers, DevOps, microservices architectures,
nano servers, software-defined networking, and software-defined
storage. And Microsoft has now released Server
2019, which further develops these new features.

Report Contents:


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The release of Microsoft Windows Server 2016 introduced some
fairly novel features, in particular capabilities that help
manage cloud environments. Server 2019, which is now available, is not
as radical of a change. It mainly builds upon some of the
newly added features in Server 2016 rather than reimagining the
operating system.

Server 2016

Windows Server 2016 is Microsoft’s current version of
operating system for
enterprise network administration, cloud and service delivery, and Web
and application hosting.

Related Faulkner Reports
Microsoft Company
Upgrading to a New Microsoft
Operating System Tutorial

This version of the operating system continues Microsoft’s
aggressive push into the cloud market. 



One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-7329
(425) 882-8080
Fax: (425) 706-7329
Type of Vendor: Operating System and
Application Software Provider
Founded: 1975
Service Areas: Global
Stock Symbol: MSFT (NASDAQ)


Microsoft calls the design of Server 2016 “Azure-inspired,” a
reference to its cloud platform, which competes directly with Amazon
Web Services and Google Cloud Platform. Offered as a service, Azure:

  • Gives users access to cloud-based versions of
    Microsoft software such as SQL and Active Directory;
  • Lets users build applications for their employees
    or to sell to their own customers as a service.

The previous version, Server 2012, had many cloud-oriented and
virtualization features (such as desktop virtualization), and 2016
enhances them and adds others. With these changes, Windows Server is
now primarily designed for enterprises that operate a
hybrid cloud, which includes some on-premises software and some Azure
cloud applications, or that plan to move locally deployed software to
the cloud. Azure and Server 2016 can share data and integrate
functions, on-premises applications can be transferred to Azure using
functionality that is built into Server 2016, and Microsoft offers
discounts when Windows licenses are transferred to Azure.

Another key cloud-related feature is that Server 2016 aims to
help enterprises better secure virtual
environments, in particular “multi-tenant environments,” such
as when a company is hosting cloud services for several customers. Part
of this goal is to protect against insider threats since, in cloud
environments, there are often multiple
administrators handling different functions. For example, some
enterprises assign fabric administrators to
manage physical
infrastructure and assign a separate group of service
administrators to manage software. Given that not every administrator
needs full
rights, Microsoft has added two features to Server 2016 that enable
administrative access to be limited:

  • Just enough administration
    allows administrative rights to be granted with a narrow scope so that
    a particular administrator can perform a limited set of functions
    without having the power to accidentally or intentionally do widespread
  • Just in time administration
    limits the time that
    administrative rights apply.

For IT administrators, the cloud-oriented features of Server 2016 force
a rethinking of processes such as:

  • Application delivery
  • Application development
  • Licensing management
  • Load balancing and performance management
  • Storage management

These processes need to be reconsidered for hybrid or Azure
environments, in which data and computing are likely to be distributed
and to be delivered using a service model. Other new features will
force further rethinking. For example, containers create “a steep
learning curve” for administrators, says Brien Posey, a
Microsoft MVP. Describing his experience working with containers, he
says that “I just can’t help but to get the feeling that Microsoft is
still trying to figure out where containers fit into its current
ecosystem.”1 (See Table 1 below for more
information on containers.)

But much of the core functionality remains familiar from
versions of Windows Server:

  • Identity management and authentication
  • Server management and automation
  • Storage management
  • Application and Web hosting with IIS

Server 2019

Microsoft describes four “themes” that guided the design of Server

  • Features have been added to help administrators operate
    hybrid clouds,
    which use a mixture of on-premise installations and various types of
    cloud services. A key part of this is what the company calls “Project
    Honolulu,” a browser-based interface that helps to connect Windows
    Server with Microsoft’s cloud service, Azure.
  • Some existing security features have been enhanced or
    extended. Shielded
    VMs have been updated to support Linux VMs, and Windows Defender
    Advanced Threat Protection is now embedded in the operating system. The
    embedding of Defender “gives customers access to deep kernel and
    memory sensors, improving performance and anti-tampering, and enabling
    response actions on server machines,” according to Microsoft.
  • Containers were added in Server 2016 (see Table 1 below),
    and in
    Server 2019 the image size
    of containers is being reduced to quicken delivery times and improve
    performance. Additional support for Linux containers has been added as
  • The performance of hyper-converged infrastructure, a new
    feature in Server 2016, has been improved, and the introduction of
    Honolulu (now officially called Windows Admin Center) aims to make
    managing such an infrastructure easier.

At the time of the general release of Server 2019 in October 2018,
Microsoft reported that hardware for the new platform was slow to
be certified, because the “release-to-manufacturing” stage of the
pre-release process was omitted due to the trend toward virtual and
cloud environments.3 Upgrades “in-place” from 2016 to 2019 are also available.4


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Table 1 describes the most notable new or significantly enhanced
features of Server 2016.

Table 1. Key New or Enhanced Features of Server 2016
Feature Description
Containers In 2016, Microsoft formed
a partnership with Docker, the most popular platform for
building containers, which enable applications to be run in a
self-contained software package that functions the same way when
moved from one platform or system to another. Through the partnership,
Windows Server users have
free access to the Commercially Supported Docker Engine, and Microsoft
provides customer support for it.

Also, the platform now includes
Visual Studio Tools for Docker and Docker for Windows, which are used
for application development.

Linux Support Server 2016 includes
the Windows Subsystem for Linux, and it can run Linux code and Linux
containers. This support for Linux, once seen as
a threat to Windows, demonstrates that with the 2016 version, Microsoft
no longer expects all customers to be “Microsoft shops,”
that is, networks that run only Microsoft platforms, but instead
expects that in
the era of cloud computing, most networks will be heterogeneous and
use various third-party software services.
Host Guardian Service Working with shielded VMs,
the Hosted Guardian
Service prevents the use of rogue instances of Hyper-V hypervisors,
which are used to establish virtual machines.
Microservices An alternative (and
sometimes complement) to containers, microservices allow for the
development of small-scale software services that can be easily moved
Nano Server

Nano Server is a slimmed
down installation option. It lacks a GUI
and other standard features. This design enables it to run on less
powerful hardware and offers hackers fewer ways to infiltrate a
system. This approach is effective for some server functions, such
as managing and hosting virtual machines. Nano server is also useful
for DevOps, a software development approach that is popular for cloud

Remote Desktop Services Remote desktop services enable the
system to provide applications that are used on, but don’t run on,
mobile clients. This offers potential security advantages because the
apps can be centrally controlled and protected. Remote Desktop Services
has been improved in the 2016 edition to work more effectively on cloud
domains and to enable up to 10,000 connections at a time.
Shielded VMs Unlike
typical virtual machines, shielded versions can protect against people
with access to systems, including malicious administrators. Shielded
virtual machines cannot be accessed by all people with network
credentials. Furthermore, they can be configured
to only operate when used in a designated fabric, preventing attackers
from trying to run them on other networks. Shielded virtual
machines can be moved to
different hosts while maintaining their encryption.
Software-defined Networking With the software-defined
feature, routers and switches may be virtualized, and their policies
for load balancing, security, and other configurations may be set from
a centralized interface.
Storage Replica Used for disaster
recovery, the storage replica
feature creates duplicates of server volumes or clusters. It can also
be used for load balancing, enabling processes to be executed across
multiple systems.
Storage Spaces Direct Storage Spaces Direct enables the
creation of software-defined storage. It can cluster servers
located on the same Ethernet (but not otherwise physically connected)
and configure them to work as a “shared storage pool.” Features like
caching, quality of service, and fault tolerance can be established
through a single interface.

to 16 servers can
be clustered (provided they are of the same type), and
the caching function uses drives of the fastest type available.
Clusters can be configured to favor performance or capacity or to
balance them. 


Since the initial release of Server 2016, Microsoft has
updated the
platform through a new program of twice-yearly releases.5
These releases (along with smaller, more frequent updates and
patches) have introduced changes to the Server
platform, so many of the new features of Server 2019 will be familiar
to administrators.

Table 2 describes the key features added to Server 2019.

Table 2. Key New or Enhanced Features of Server 2019
Feature Description
Admin Center
Admin Center is
the official name for what was called “Project Honolulu” during
development. It was released for production use in April 2018 and is a
key part of Server 2019. Admin Center consolidates formerly standalone
management tools like Event Viewer and Task Manager into a single,
browser-based interface. It also includes features for managing hybrid
clouds and virtual resources.
Virtual Machines for Linux
versions of Windows Server added a security mechanism for
virtual servers called Shielded Virtual Machines. This feature is now
being extended to Linux virtual machines as well.6
Spaces Direct
in Server 2016, Storage Spaces Direct manages the distribution
of storage resources, thus functioning as an alternative to more
complex SAN and NAS technology. Server 2019 enhances this feature to
manage larger volumes of data and greater numbers of storage sources.7
Insights is an analytics feature introduced in mid-2018. It is
available for Server 2016 and will be part of Server 2019. It analyzes
the performance of Windows, providing data that can be used for
administration and troubleshooting.8


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Windows Server is offered in three editions:

  • Datacenter – For enterprises that make extensive use of
    virtualized and cloud computing.
  • Standard – For enterprises that make minimal use of
    virtualized and cloud computing.
  • Essentials – For small organizations.

Starting with
the 2016 version, Standard and
Datacenter have grown further apart in terms of features and
functions. Several new features have been added to Server Datacenter
but not Standard, including: Host
Guardian Service, Shielded VMs, Storage Replica, Storage
Spaces Direct.9

Windows Foundation, the
lower-end edition previously offered, was discontinued with
Server 2016.

Table 3 identifies the system requirements for the Datacenter
or Standard edition. The requirements have not changed between Server
2016 and Server 2019.

Table 3. Windows Server System Requirements
or Standard Edition
  • 1.4 GHz (x64 processor) minimum
  • 512 MB minimum
  • 2 GB for Server with Desktop Experience installation
  • 32 GB minimum (Microsoft notes the following: “Be
    aware that 32 GB
    should be considered an absolute minimum value for successful
    installation. This minimum should allow you to install Windows Server
    2016 in Server Core mode, with the Web Services (IIS) server role.”)
Other PCI
Express compliant storage adapter


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Microsoft offers a variety of support options for its Windows
Server. Users can take advantage of self-support options including a
knowledgebase, Webcasts, articles, videos, blogs, and community forums.
An online center is available for developers. In addition, Microsoft
has phone, chat, and e-mail support for issues that arise with Windows
Server. Contract incident support is available for a fee. Users may
also purchase a subscription to Microsoft Premier Online for 24×7
support from a team of specialists. 


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With Server 2016, Microsoft began calculating licenses based
on the
number of processor cores used. This change was described by Microsoft
as making hybrid cloud scenarios easier to manage, but some observers
called it confusing. “Customers have to go through a complex process
to count cores to make sure they get all the cores they are entitled
to,” said Paul DeGroot, who studies Microsoft licensing. “If they don’t
do this properly, they’ll face a large bill down the road.”10

The licenses for Windows Server can be transferred from a corporate
network to the Azure cloud service. Also, Microsoft offers
a discount on Windows Server licenses for customers who use virtual
machines on Azure. This offer aims to encourage users of on-premises
deployments to transition to cloud services.

Table 4 outlines the pricing options for Server 2016
and Server 2019.

Table 4. Windows Server Pricing (in US dollars)
Edition Product Price
for 2016
for 2019
Datacenter Core-based
licensing; client access license required; unlimited creation of
Hyper-V containers; includes Shielded Virtual Machines and
Storage Spaces Direct
$6,155 $6,155
Standard Core-based
licensing; client access license required; creation of two Hyper-V
containers; doesn’t
include Shielded Virtual Machines or Storage Spaces Direct
$882 $972
Essentials Processor-based
licensing; client access license not required
$501 $501


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The main competitors for Windows Server include the

  • Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Servers
  • IBM Power Systems Servers
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server


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About the Author

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Geoff Keston is the author of
over 250 articles that help organizations find opportunities in
business trends and technology. He also works directly with clients to
develop communications strategies that improve processes and customer
relationships. Mr. Keston has worked as a project manager for a major
technology consulting and services company and is a Microsoft Certified
Systems Engineer and a Certified Novell Administrator.

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