Windows Server 2016 will be available shortly – should you upgrade?

  • Chris Hecht
    Admin
    Post count: 5
    #315 |

    Server 2016 has been released and will be available to purchase shortly. Should you upgrade?

    Server 2016 is matched with Windows 10 just as Server 2008R2 was match with Windows 8. The user interface is that of Windows 10 which is a bit off-putting on a server. Server Manager is still the default screen and it is similar to the previous versions.

    There are a number of major features in Server 2016, most of which are not really applicable for small installations such as are common in a mission setting. For large data centres and those with excellent Internet connectivity, Server 2016 allows for easy migration and interaction with cloud-based services (read Microsoft Azure). This allows for instant expansion if you need more horsepower, storage, etc. Server 2016 provides for better integration with Azure to allow for ‘hybrid’ private/public cloud implementations where some of the work is in your data centre and some is in the Microsoft cloud. This has some interesting benefits in that you can have your Active Directory services running in the cloud connected with your physical servers anywhere in the world (if you have the Internet connectivity and reliability to support this).

    A second major improvement is the ability to work with ‘containers’, allowing you to easily modify your capacity to provide certain services by spinning up or down containers as your load varies. Again, this is something for larger installations. Containers are similar to Virtual Machines (VM) except that a container shares the underlying operating system with its host computer so is much more light-weight and faster to start and stop than a VM but less secure. You can run an unlimited number of containers with either a Datacenter or Standard license and because the operating system is provided by the host server, you do not need OS licenses for the containers.

    A third feature is ‘Nano servers’ which are customised Windows Server VMs that have just the services necessary to perform a given task (e.g., web server or database server). They are based on templates that you specifically configure for your situation. Once created, they are not modifiable (i.e., you cannot configure additional services or features) and when they are no longer being used, they are deleted. This is parallel to containers except that these are true VMs complete with operating system. Note that Software Assurance is required to use Nano servers for licensing purposes.

    The Datacenter version has a few additional features intended to ease the management of large data centres with software-defined networking and storage. It also provides for ‘Shielded’ VMs which are encrypted VMs that can only be accessed from a remote computer with the appropriate key.

    There are major changes to licensing for Server 2016 is that it is now licensed per core rather than processor but the price per license has been reduced to reflect this change. From Microsoft:
    – Each physical server will be required to be licensed for all physical cores
    – Each physical processor will be required to be licensed with a minimum of 8 physical cores
    – Each physical server will be required to be licensed with a minimum of two processors, totaling a minimum of 16 physical cores
    – Core licenses will be sold in two-core packs

    A change for the Standard edition is that you only get two VM licenses when your server is fully licensed, that is, you have enough Server 2016 licenses to cover all of the cores in your server. Previously, there were two VMs per license. Client Access Licenses (CALs) are still required and must match the server (Server 2016 requires Server 2016 CALs).

    If you have a Microsoft licensing agreement, these changes will come into effect at the end of the current license agreement.

    So, should you upgrade to the latest and greatest? For a typical server installation for this audience, the answer is ‘no’. While there are some benefits for small installations, I think the changes would mostly benefit larger installations with the intent of making Microsoft’s Azure services easier to use and therefore more attractive. If you purchase a new server, you will need to get the appropriate Windows Server 2016 licenses (assuming you run Windows Server) but I would seriously consider downgrading to Server 2012R2 for consistency and not having to purchase new CALs.

    For more information from Microsoft:
    Pricing and Licensing FAQ
    What’s New in Server 2016

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