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Why upgrade to Windows Server 2019?

September 04, 2019 | Ken Leoni

It is a constant struggle for organizations, should they stick with the known (Windows Server 2012, 2016) or make the jump to something new (Windows Server 2019)?

Before upgrading to Windows Server 2019, it is good idea to ask:

  • What is it that Windows Server 2019 does better or differently?

  • Are the enhancments compelling enough to make the move?

 

Why upgrade to Windows Server 2019?

Before getting into the some of the nitty-gritty details of Window Server 2019, it is probably worthwhile to take a step back and consider Microsoft’s strategic direction.

Most everything Microsoft does in one-way shape or form is designed to make the adoption of Azure and cloud services more compelling. It is important to consider Windows Server 2019 within that context.

This is not to say that Microsoft is ignoring on-premises deployments, as they still recognize many organizations find a 100% cloud migration to be unrealistic and impractical, but the focus is on cloud.

 

▶ Windows Server 2019 and On-Premises deployments

Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI)

Time for a hardware refresh? Well, it might be a good time for your organization to consider Windows Server 2019 and its support for HCI. The simplest way to look at HCI is that it is a cluster that shares fabric for storage and networking – it is merging of computing, storage, and networking into a single system. This brief article offers up a brief but excellent explanation of HCI.

Why is HCI important? Well you’ll get high performance, that easily scales, and at a lower cost. Advances in HCI allow organizations to increase virtual machine density, reduce the hardware footprint, and decrease corresponding software licensing (i.e. Windows Datacenter) costs.

 

Storage Spaces Direct (S2D)

S2D creates highly available and scalable storage using the locally attached drives on HCI clusters. S2D also delivers fault tolerance by distributing the data across servers. It is software defined storage that has been improved with Windows Server 2019 Datacenter Edition. There are a number of enhancements that address scaling and performance, some key ones include:

  • An improved version of the Resilient File system (ReFS) with block based deduplication. Microsoft touts the storing of up to 10x more data on a volumes with deduplication and compression.

  • Native support for persistent memory which is storage class memory. Storage class memory is storage deployed in a DIMM slot that is then used as a cache for S2D. 13.7 million IOPS have been achieved with Intel® Optane™ DC persistent memory, yielding twice the performance of NVMe based clusters.

  • Nested Mirror Accelerated Parity, which is data resiliency specific to a 2-node HCI cluster, provides better survivability when there are multiple simultaneous failures.
 

Linux

Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)

LinuxAvailable on Windows 10, WSL is now supported on Windows Server 2019.

WSL allows IT organizations to install Linux and leverage tools from within the Linux ecosystem using both Command Prompt and PowerShell. 

 

WSL is a big win for heterogeneous environments that want to script out their Windows and Linux based systems using a single set up.

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▶ Windows Server 2019 and Hybrid Cloud deployments

Windows Admin Center (WAC)

Our previous blog post provides an excellent overview of WAC, a web based interface for conducting remote server administration. With WAC there is no need for multiple consoles, as servers are managed from a single pane of glass via a modern web interface. While WAC can and will be leveraged extensively for on-premises deployments, ultimately it is your organization’s gateway to Azure as it integrates with Azure cloud services.

Windows Admin Center

Windows Server 2019 ups the ante over Windows Server 2016 because it builds upon Microsoft’s mission of “built-in” hybrid. By tightly integrating the management of Windows Server 2019 and Azure, Microsoft presents a good case for those that are tasked with managing hybrid cloud.

Azure integration includes:

  • Azure Network Adapter – quickly create a point to site VPN connections between on-premises and Azure.

  • Azure File Sync – On premises windows file servers become a hot file cache, while the rest of the data is resident in Azure. Supporting up to 100 TiB per share, users will be hard pressed to push the technical limits.

  • Azure Backup – configure backups to Azure.

  • Azure Update Management - manage your updates. Keep in mind Windows Server Update Service is Windows only, while Azure Update Management handles both Windows and Linux.

  • Azure Site Recovery – replicate VMs to Azure for disaster recovery or failover.
 

Storage Migration Service (SMS)

Designed for unstructured data, SMS makes migration of (Windows 2003+)  legacy file servers to (on-premises or Azure based) Windows Server 2019 child’s play.

Launched from the Windows Admin Center, SMS not only transfers the data, but also all the configuration detail. The service inventories the servers, copies the selected files/file shares, and transfers security and configuration settings.

In addition, the destination server can be configured to assume the identity of the source server, making cutting over painless. There is no need to change anything pointing to the transferred data.

 

Security

Securing Windows Server 2019 and AzureWindows Server 2019 goes beyond assuming the perimeter of an enterprise will prevent security from being compromised.

Rather it looks to prevent security compromises that originate from within the datacenter.

Security enhancements include:

  • The addition of shielded Linux VMs – the disks are encrypted using BitLocker

  • Support for encrypting data transfer between VMs that communicate with each other by subnets

  • Integration with Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, which monitors servers for malware and stops processes that it designates as dangerous.

  • Azure AD Authentication, allows the computer to be used for authentication to be resident in Azure. Azure AD Authentication delivers more robust capabilities (i.e. Azure AD banned passwords)

Conclusions:

  • Certainly, if you’re refreshing your hardware, looking at an HCI solution based on Windows Server 2019 is worthy of consideration. Of course, HCI solutions aren’t unique to Microsoft and there is a myriad of other HCI deployment options available in the marketplace that support Windows VMs.

    However, if your organization is closely aligned with Microsoft and especially Hyper-V then Windows Server 2019 is compelling.

    Microsoft’s Windows Server Software Defined (WSSD) program, certifies the hardware platforms for Windows Server 2019 based HCI. The WSSD stack includes Hyper-V, Storage Spaces Direct, Software Defined Networking, and Windows Admin Center.

  • Operating a hybrid cloud with Azure? Then migration to Windows Server 2019 is even more compelling, it is almost mandatory assuming your current software will operate seamlessly.

    Because Windows Admin Center integrates everything into a single pane of glass, it blurs the management of on-premises and Azure resources. The collapsing of the technology stack, delivers efficiencies in terms of reduced hardware, software, and personnel costs.

 

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