Windows Server 2019 is all about improved support for hybrid cloud scenarios, hyper-converged infrastructure, and security. In this Ask the Admin, I’ll look more closely at these features in Windows Server 2019.

Windows Server 2019 is the forthcoming long-term servicing channel (LTSC) version of Windows Server and includes all the features of releases from the semiannual channel (SAC). Some of the improvements that Microsoft is touting for Windows Server 2019 have been previously available in the semiannual channel releases. But nevertheless, they are new to LTSC.

Microsoft doesn’t recommend using the LTSC version of Windows 10 in most circumstances but it’s a different story for Windows Server. LTSC is good for apps like Exchange, SQL, and SAP. Microsoft also recommends it for building hyper-converged infrastructure.

Windows Server

#1. Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI)

With the release of Windows Server 2019, Microsoft rolls up three years of updates for its HCI platform. That’s because the gradual upgrade schedule Microsoft now uses includes what it calls Semi-Annual Channel releases – incremental upgrades as they become available. Then every couple of years it creates a major release called the Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) version that includes the upgrades from the preceding Semi-Annual Channel releases.

Support for Storage Class Memory

Storage Class Memory (SCM), sometimes referred to as persistent memory, is storage created from flash-based NAND that is connected to a DIMM slot much like traditional DRAM memory. The idea is to get storage closer to the CPU to improve performance. SCM can be used as super-fast storage, memory, or segmented to perform both roles at the same time.

SCM is beneficial in HCI because it can be used as a cache for Storage Spaces Direct, Microsoft’s software-defined storage solution for creating highly available and scalable storage using local drives, to reduce latency and improve cluster performance. But due to the extra load SCM puts on the network, Microsoft says that Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) network adapters must be used when SCM is deployed. RDMA network adapters take the additional overhead and move it away from the CPU leaving it free to perform more important tasks.

ReFS Data Deduplication

The ReFS filesystem is commonly used for virtualization, backup, and Microsoft Exchange because of its resiliency, real-time tier optimization, faster virtual machine operations, and great scalability. But until recently, ReFS didn’t support data deduplication, which was available on NTFS formatted volumes only. Data deduplication can provide significant savings on storage costs by using block-level technology to reduce the amount of space files take up on a disk.

#2. Security

Finally, Microsoft is making some investments in security.

Linux Shielded VMs

Shielded VMs have been a popular feature but in Windows Server 2016 they only support VMs where Windows is the guest OS. Shielded VMs protect virtual machines from users of the host server, even those with local administrator privileges. Shielded VMs prevent rogue admins or hackers accessing VMs, virtual hard disk files, and prevent migrating VMs and running shut down and restart commands. Now Linux can be used as a guest operating system in shielded virtual machines.

Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection and Exploit Guard

Just like it in Windows 10, Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection is now baked into Windows Server 2019.

While there are many small updates that are also coming with Windows Server 2019, they are mainly to the underlying technologies, like software-defined networking (SDN), that support the features I mentioned above. Windows Server 2019 is due to be released sometime this Fall.

#3. Smaller, more efficient containers

Organizations are rapidly minimizing the footprint and overhead of their IT operations and eliminating more bloated servers with thinner and more efficient containers. Windows Insiders have benefited by achieving higher density of compute to improve overall application operations with no additional expenditure in hardware server systems or expansion of hardware capacity.

Windows Server 2019 has a smaller, leaner ServerCore image that cuts virtual machine overhead by 50-80 percent.  When an organization can get the same (or more) functionality in a significantly smaller image, the organization is able to lower costs and improve efficiencies in IT investments.

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