Q. I'm a database guy, what features of Windows Server 2016 do I care about?
A. Windows Server 2016 brings a huge number of new features, many of which I cover in my new Top Ten video at https://youtu.be/rdtnsMSnke0 however as a database administrator there are certain technologies that you will care about the most and I wanted to summarize these.
- AD independent clusters - While Windows Server 2012 R2 enabled clusters to be AD-detached which meant objects for the cluster were not created in AD and instead DNS was used the actual nodes still had to be part of the same domain. In Windows Server 2016 it is possible to create clusters with nodes in different domains and even have a mix of member servers and workgroup joined servers. Behind the scenes clusters now use a self-generated certificate for intra-cluster node authentication.
- Azure cloud witness - Windows Server 2016 adds a 3rd witness option on top of the existing disk and file share witness options. The new cloud witness enables an Azure storage account to be used as the witness resource. A 0 byte file is created in the specified storage account resulting in zero cost (most likely) and is very useful in environment where no disk or file share witness is easily available. Consider environments deployed in Azure or where a cluster is deployed over two locations and the quorum should be in a third location.
- Computer and Storage resiliency - 2016 clusters now have resiliency features that enable nodes to continue running workloads without interruption in the event of a temporary network interruption between nodes and for VMs to be paused instead of crashing and restarting in the event of interruptions to storage.
- Shielded VMs - The ability to create a secure Hyper-V environment that is protected from all levels of administrative privilege. This is covered in detail at http://windowsitpro.com/hyper-v/super-secure-hyper-v-environments-shielded-vms-2016.
- Hyper-V Production Checkpoints - A new type of checkpoint that utilizes the VSS infrastructure inside the VM to create a checkpoint that is application consistent with data flushed to disk in the same was as if a backup was taken inside the VM.
- Nested virtualization - Create Hyper-V VMs instead a Hyper-V VM may be useful in lab environments.
- Hot-add/remove of memory and NICs - Generation 2 VMs can now have memory and network adapters added and removed while running. This can be used with the SQL Servers ability to dynamically modify its memory parameters and will work in similar ways to addition of memory via Dynamic Memory today.
- Storage Spaces Direct - Enables direct-attached storage for nodes in a cluster to be aggregated together and made available as a highly available cluster shared volume for storage of VMs in a hyper converged deployment or as the storage for a scale-out file server is a converged deployment for remote Hyper-V servers and SQL Servers to use for storage. Datacenter SKU only.
- Storage Replica - Asynchronous and synchronous replication at a block level for any workload which may be useful in scenarios where AlwaysOn is not a good fit. Datacenter SKU only.
- Windows Server 2016 also moves to per-core licensing to provide consistent between on-premises and cloud scenarios.
While not supported today, Nano Server and containers are also likely to be useful for SQL Server when supported providing very low overhead environments and simple deployment and management experiences.
And now SQL Server runs on Linux, Secure Boot is now supported for Hyper-V VMs running Linux ;-)