Windows Server to Get Major Changes in a Future Release

Windows Server to Get Major Changes in a Future Release

We've had a lot of discussion about what's coming for Windows Server here on WindowsITPro. And, these conversations have also eked out into the social media streams. Based on the feedback, there's not too many customers as excited about a new Windows Server version as they are about Windows 10. And, for good reason. Microsoft's next client operating system will bring with it some much needed repairs to the Windows 8 debacle, but also some interesting new concepts. Microsoft is considering Windows 10 to be the linchpin of its future. Whether or not the gamble pans out remains to be seen. But, so far, customers are keeping positive about the prospects.

The Windows Server discussion is an interesting one. When Microsoft delivered Windows Server 2012 R2, it delivered a fantastic server product. It's stable and modern, pulling together some of the most fascinating and business valuable technologies. But, with a re-envisioned client operating system coming, customers are expecting the next version of Windows Server to be similarly advanced. Microsoft has already delayed the next version of Windows Server until sometime in 2016 for a couple reasons. First, many businesses are currently embroiled in migrating off Windows Server 2003 which comes off the supported list in July. A brand new server version releasing in conjunction with Windows 10 would confuse things and might cause some migrations to be put on hold. Secondly, when Windows 10 is ready for public release, Microsoft wants to ensure the new client OS gets its full attention and focus. Delivering both a new server and a new client would dilute the messaging and strain marketing resources.

Still, Microsoft has promised that a new Windows Server version is coming. We already have a hint at what will be included through the Technical Preview program, but Windows Server has definitely taken a backseat to Windows 10.

Leaked images from a supposed Microsoft-internal slide deck show that we may have to wait for a monumental changes in Windows Server, meaning that the version that releases in 2016, will pretty much mirror what we already know through the Technical Preview program. Sometime after the 2016 release, Microsoft will release a completely revamped version of Windows Server that better aligns with the company's overall Cloud strategy. We've expected a more "cloudy" server offering from the software company, but haven't been offered clues to when a reimagined product would release. Windows 10 could potentially be the last major version release of Microsoft's client OS with new features releasing as a sort of maintenance program. So, this would make sense that with less focus on providing major client OS updates, Windows Server can get more development attention.

The leaked images of the slide deck are still available to view, but considering the sensitivity of the content, and how often Microsoft changes direction midstream these days, the images may not survive the day. So, I'll highlight the interesting bits:

  • Current customer pain points that need addressing:
    • Server reboots due to patching cause unnecessary downtime
    • Deploying servers using images takes too long and consumes too much bandwidth
    • OS resource consumption still an issue, particularly when running a multitude of VMs
    • Security is a growing and major concern
  • A new Windows Server version gets a name: Nano Server
    • Nano Server is a proposed "headless" deployment option for Windows Server
    • Server roles and features decoupled from the OS and delivered as "applications"
    • Primary roles and features whittled down to key functions: Hyper-V, Clustering, Storage, Core CLR, ASP.NET, v.Next, PaaSv2, and Containers
    • Full driver support and Antimalware support
    • System Center and Apps Insight client integration
    • Remote management and automation through Core PowerShell and WMI with Core PowerShell being a mandatory component
    • Web-based management will replace the locally installed MMC-based components
    • PowerShell Web Access integrated to manage both Server Core and Server with GUI

Nano Server will be delivered to a limited TAP group in early 2015. It's already early 2015, so we have to assume that testing is underway now. If you're an early tester reading this, drop me a note on what you think about it. Te slides show that Nano Server will not be part of the current Windows Server Technical Preview, but will be available in the next release.

It's important to note that Nano Server will have limited functionality, meaning not everything you are used to running on a server platform today will run on a fully released Nano Server. Some examples included: fax services and RDS.

Microsoft states that Nano Server is the "future nucleus of Windows Server," suggesting that we're only a couple years away from a server version that better aligns with Microsoft's Cloud strategy. It will be the version targeted for cloud components and applications and provide a new foundation for all future components.

How this will function within the business is still a bit murky, and truly will require a change in mindset for most IT folks. The user population generally doesn't care where or how they get access to data and services as long things just work, and things work consistently and constantly. If Microsoft can create a server version that severely minimizes downtime, makes remote management a trusted experience, and bolsters security, I can see many companies investing research in migrating.

As I stated, it's early days and even with the leaked slide deck, Microsoft could alter its plans considerably before we see a close-to-final product. But, it's good to see the company attempting to address customer pain points, even if it means sprinkling a fair amount of Cloud pixie dust everywhere.


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