Windows Server – What’s New & What’s Next


  • Erin Chapple, General Manger Windows Server
  • Chris Van Wesep, Director Product Marketing

Erin Chapple starts things. Today they’ll talk about what’s new in Windows Server, what’s the future, and the hybrid/migration opportunities.

WS2016 Looking Back

Most cloud-ready OS:

  • Built-in security: Protection of identity (Credential Guard), secure the virtualization platform (shielded VMs, vTPM), and built-in layers of security (VSM, etc)
  • Azure-inspired infrastructure: Storage Spaces Direct, Network Controller, learnings from hyper-scale, affordable.
  • Hybrid application platform: Support for containers, built-for-purpose OS, Azure Hybrid Benefit for SA/Azure transition

Some customer case studies come up. Rackspace used Shielded VMs, Nano Server for applications (woops!) for hosting. A “large investigative government agency” needed to preserve lots of seized data (PB + per case). They used Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) on 8-node clusters, with data in VMs to isolate one investigation from another. biBERK used containers to deploy 22 apps on WS2016 Containers with Docker in less than 1 week.

The key for software-defined is the hardware. They leverage offloads so much that hardware must be more reliable. There is a Windows Server Software Defined Program (WSSD) and the site with all the info is

Supporting You Wherever You Are

WS2016 is the basis of on-premises, Azure, and Azure Stack (hybrid). 80% of enterprises see themselves operating in a hybrid mode for the foreseeable future. 55% have a hybrid strategy in place as of a year ago. 87% are planning to integrate on-premises datacentres with public cloud.

Hybrid is not about a network connection. It’s about consistency right down to the API level: unified development, VMs, storage, data, identity, and much more.

Will Gries – Azure File Sync

This is a new hybrid service that is a part of Azure Files. Centralize storage in Azure Files, but without giving up the file server. You effectively cache data locally on file servers for fast local performance. The cloud enables sync between site, centralized backup, and easy DR.

He starts a demo. The file sync agent is installed on a WS2016 file server. It is syncing to Azure. He proves this by changing & deleting things on Azure and it syncs to the cloud. It’s all near realtime, using change notifications on file server to ensure that sync happens very quickly. Cloud Tiering enables the “cache” feature. The greyed files with an O attribute have a disk size of 0 bytes because they are stored in Azure. If he opens the file, it’s recalled from Azure Files seamlessly. Files that are able to do partial reads/writes can stream from Azure – he opens a video and we can see in the UI that it is streaming from Azure. In file properties, we can see it has downloaded the blocks via the stream, optimizing the download to only required blocks, thanks to streaming.

Back to Erin.

Windows Server Cadence

Industry is moving incredibly fast. Industries in that fast lane need server improvements faster. There will be two channels of Windows Server:

  • Semi-annual channel. An opt-in for SA or Azure customers, releasing every spring/autumn. Each release is supported for 18 months, so you can choose to skip every second release. Build = approx year/month, e.g. 1709 will be released in month 10 of 2017.
  • Long-term Servicing Channel: For everyone outside of SA/Azure or not wanting to upgrade every 6-12 months. Typical 5+5 years support program and in all channels. Name = Windows Server + Year.

Many companies will use a mix of both channels, selecting the channel based on demands of an application/service.

Windows Server Insiders will give you a sneak peek of semi-annual channel releases.

The date of the next LTSC release is not announced, but it’s going to be after 2018.

Introducing Server Core to Semi-Annual Channel

Server Core is replacing Nano Server for infrastructure and VM roles. Nano Server adoption was very low in these areas. In 1709, Nano Server is completely focused on containers. It is much smaller for containers by stripping out the infrastructure pieces. Server Core should be a “soft landing” for moving applications from Nano Server. Server Core is the MS recommended choice for infrastructure roles.

Note by me: I will continue to recommend full installations for infrastructure roles. The full GUI is not in the semi-annual channel. So if you want rapid upgrades, you better learn some PowerShell to troubleshoot your networking and drivers/firmware.

What’s New in 1709

Hybrid Application platform and Modern Management

Jeff Woolsey

Jeff tells us that containers are the same journey that we went through with virtualization. Containers will happen, but they won’t kill virtualization – they work together. We’re at the beginning of the next 10 year journey with containers. Jeff says that cloud admins, hybrid admins, IT pros, must learn containerization.

Hybrid Application Platform

  • Nano Server just wasn’t right for virtualization: drivers, installation, patching, etc. So they switched the focus entirely to containers to make it faster to deploy/update, and to get higher levels of density & performance.
  • .NET Core 2.0 and SMB support was added for containers … allows containers to store data on SMB 3.0 storage.
  • Linux containers with Hyper-V Isolation enables a cross-platform to run all kinds of containers but in a secure way (each container running real Linux kernels n a Hyper-V child partition), and Windows Subsystem for Linux. When Win10 added WSL, Microsoft wasn’t planning to do it for Windows Server. With Linux Containers, the case for Bash management on the host made this a viable option.

Telemetry shows that most people using Windows Server containers are choosing the Hyper-V model for security.

All of this is wrapped up in Modern Management.

Demo: Enabling Cloud Apps with Nano Server & Containers

This is the next generation P2V … moving applications (Docker Convert) from VMs to containers. In the demo, Jeff uses Docker to deploy a Hyper-V container in a container. It runs SQL Server & IIS. The Docker tools on GitHub converted the app to an image in less than 1 hour. Now the image is a container image which is easy to deploy. When running in a container, it uses a fraction of the resources that were used by VMs.

Next he deploys a Linux container image with Tomcat Server, on the same Windows Server host as the Windows container.

Nano Server

The base image for WS2016 Nano Server was 383 MB. In 1709 is 78 MB. With .Net it went from 413 MB to 107 MB. Those are the compressed numbers.

Uncompressed: the base image wen from 1.05 GB to 195 MB, and with .NET it went from 1.15 GB to 262 MB.

Management Re-Imagined

  • This is next-generation of “in-box” tooling.
  • Simplified, integrated and secure.
  • Extensible

Required for Server Core in the real world. The UI is HTML5 and touch friendly. It has to manage the h/w, the local VMs, and VMs in Azure.

Today we use Task Manager, MMC based tools like Hyper-V Manager, Perfmon, Device Manager, etc, CMD.EXE, PowerShell, Serer Manager, etc. Jeff mentions lots more tools Smile

Project Honolulu

A HTML5-based touch-friendly UI. It’s running on Jeff’s laptop against 4 servers under his desk back in the office. He opens the Overview (Task Manager info). Computer name and domain join are there. Environment variables, RDP are here. Restart/shutdown are here.

Roles and Features is next. No more need for Server Manager (yay!). Roles & features easily installed remotely. Events shows all the event viewer info. Note that filtering UI is much better here than in the MMC. Files allows you to browse and edit the file system on a managed server. Virtual machines allows Hyper-V VM management.

The system is agentless. Honolulu is a 30 MB MSI download to a management node which you browse to. It even works on Safari on Mac.

Honolulu will be a free download when it goes GA.

Back to Erin

What’s Next For Project Honolulu

A peek into the pipeline … things they are exploring and experimenting with.

Azure Backup in Honolulu – a wizard to set up the Azure bits and start backing up items/system state. They show some mockups of it all being driven from Honolulu instead of the Azure Portal.

The Azure Connection

Chris comes on stage to talk about Hybrid scenarios.

He starts off by talking about Software Assurance. Highlighted features:

  • Required for Semi-Annual releases
  • Hybrid Use Benefit to move to Azure  – up to 40% savings on the cost of Windows Server Azure VMs

Premium Assurance add-on adds 6 years of support to the normal 5+5 model (16 years total) for applications that cannot stay up to date, but can continue to get security updates.

If you watch this session, please note that Chris over-simplifies (a lot) the Hybrid Use benefit. It’s actually quite complex, regarding moving & co-using licenses and core counts.

End of Support

W2008/R2 end of support is Jan 2020 – 1/3 of servers fall into this space. SQL 2008/R2 end of support is July 2019.  For larger companies, they should look at cloud and/or containerization, or even re-development in serverless cloud.


  • Honolulu can manage all the way back to Ws2012
  • Not every app can/should be containerized – key thing is that you need remote management because containers don’t have a GUI.
  • Where is Honolulu installed. Can be on a PC, on the managed server, or on a centrally dedicated management server. Honolulu uses WMI and PowerShell to talk to the managed servers.

Big Changes to Windows Server–Semi-Annual Channel

Microsoft has just announced that they are splitting Windows Server and System Center into two channels:

  • Long-Term Servicing Channel (aka Branch)
  • Semi-Annual Channel

Long-Term Servicing Channel

This is the program that we’ve been using for years. Going forward, we will get a new version of Windows Server every 2-3 years. This big-bang release is what we are used to. We’ll continue to get 5 years mainstream support and 5 years extended support, and recently Microsoft announced the option to pay for an extra 6 years of Premium Assurance support.

Existing installations of Windows Server will fall into this channel. This channel will continue to get the usual software updates and security updates every month.

Semi-Annual Channel

This is aimed at hosting companies, private cloud (Azure Stack), and other customers that desire the latest and greatest. In addition to the usual monthly updates, these customers will get an OS upgrade, similar to what happens with Windows 10 now, twice per year in the Spring and Autumn.  Each of these releases will have 18 months of support after the initial release. Most of the included features will be rolled up to create future Long-Term Servicing Channel builds. While the Long-Term Servicing Channel releases will probably continue to be named based on years, the Semi-Annual Channel will use build numbers. A theoretical release in September 2017 would be called version 1709, and a March release in 2018 would be called version 1803.

Customers who can avail of this option are:

  • Software Assurance customers
  • Azure marketplace
  • MSDN and similar programs

SPLA wasn’t mention but this surely would have to be included for hosters?


The first word that came to my mind was “confusion”. Customers will be baffled by all this. MS wants to push out updates to more aggressive customers, but most companies are conservative with servers. The channel had to split. But it shall be fun to explain all of this … over and over … and over … and over … and again.

Azure Hybrid Use Benefit – Not As Beneficial As You Might Think!

This is a licensing post. I will not be answering any licensing questions. If you have any licensing questions then please send them to an account manager at your licensing supplier. No exceptions!

Microsoft has been making quite the fuss about a new benefit of Software Assurance for Windows Server called Azure Hybrid Use Benefit.

Whether you’re moving a few workloads, migrating your datacenter, or deploying new virtual machines (VMs) as part of your hybrid cloud strategy, the Azure Hybrid Use Benefit (HUB) provides big savings as you move to the cloud.

You can make use of this licensing benefit in a few technical ways when deploying VMs in Azure. You can choose the [HUB] images from the Marketplace (manually or via JSON/PowerShell) or you can check a box in the Create Virtual Machine blade:


The implied message is that for every machine you have covered by SA, you can get 40% (or more) savings by being charged for the VM minus the cost of Windows (Linux VM pricing). Well, that’s sort of true. When you dig a little deeper you’ll learn a few things.

Standard Versus Datacenter

The SA benefit of HUB works differently if you have Std or DC licensing. If you have a Windows Server Std license with SA then you can use this benefit when moving the licensed machine to Azure. You’re not getting anything extra here … just the ability to move your license.

If you have Windows Server DC license with SA, then you can use this benefit to deploy additional Windows VM licensing in Azure.

What Do You Get?

The devil is in the details.

For every 2-processor Windows Server license or Windows Server license with 16-cores covered with Software Assurance, you can run either of the following at the base compute rate:

  • Up to two machines with up to 8 cores or
  • One virtual machine with up to 16 cores.

Let’s assume that you have licensed a new host with Windows Server 2016 with SA. That host has 16 cores. From that license we are getting HUB licensing for Windows Server for either:

  • 2 VMs with up to 8 cores each, e.g. a pair of DS2v2s OR
  • A single VM with up to 16 cores.

If you bought WS2016 Std, then all you get is the ability to move either that physical machine or 2 VMs from that machine (AND decommission the host) to Azure.

If you bought WS2016 DC, then you think “that covers all my VMs”. Yes; it does for on-premises licensing. But HUB still only gives you the above 2 options for the physical host’s license. The VMs don’t have licenses, so you get the same amount of licensing as Std edition, but at least you can keep your on-premises stuff and add new HUB VMs in Azure.

Bigger VMs in Azure

If you need more cores in your Azure VMs then you can stack licenses. You can take 2 on-premises licenses and “stack them” to get 16 + 16 cores for an Azure VM with up to 32 cores.


I haven’t completed a deployment of a HUB VM, so I am not 100% sure of this, but I don’t think that there is anything more than an honour system to this type of licensing. It’s up to you to verify that you have correctly licensed your Azure VMs. Azure is probably the next frontier for licensing auditors, so don’t fall into any easy traps that they can roast you in.

Don’t Buy SA for HUB

Don’t get me wrong, HUB is a nice add-on but it’s not going to make a huge difference for companies with lots of virtualization. It’s a nice perk but it’s not why you attach SA to your hosts. You do that for lots of other reasons, such as Cold Server Back UP Recovery, upgrade rights, adding mobility to OEM licenses, and more.

Got Any Questions?

I won’t be answering them. Please ask an account manager at the supplier of your licensing.

Microsoft Increasing Prices in the UK

Microsoft announced late last week that prices will be increasing in the UK from January 1st. This has been expected for a while in the channel after the crash of Sterling versus the Euro and the US Dollar (the currency that Microsoft is based on).

FYI, Microsoft has price lists in different currencies for different markets. Those pricelists are based on what Microsoft expects the local currency to do versus the Dollar in the coming period, and Microsoft tries to keep things steady for as long as possible. But every now and then, something happens and a currency crashes and Microsoft starts to lose money, and they need to rectify things. June 23rd was that day.

The UK voted (insanely in my opinion) to leave the EU (I might think the EU has strayed wildly from what citizens want but I wouldn’t leave). On June 22nd, £1 = $1.467790822 USD. Today, £1 = $1.22280, roughly a 16% drop. Let’s put that in some real terms.

A licensed host (the minimum of 16 cores) running Windows Server Datacenter costs roughly £5,200 on Open NL, the most commonly quoted pricing method for MSFT software. On June 22nd, Microsoft earned, in US Dollars, $7,632.51 from that sale. Today, Microsoft makes $6,358.60 from that sale. That’s a drop in revenue of of $1,273.95 from a single sale.

So what’s happening? Microsoft is increasing prices as follows:

  • On-premises software: 13%
  • Cloud services: 22%

Before you start screaming at Microsoft, I’d recommend that you redirect your blame elsewhere. Microsoft did not sabotage UK Sterling and Microsoft is not a charity. Instead, look at those who did burn the Bank of England, namely the politicians, those who voted for Brexit, and those that were too lazy to vote.

Azure in CSP

If you work for a Microsoft partner then there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of CSP. This is a new method for reselling subscription services such as Office 365, CRM Online, EMS, and Azure (and more) instead of direct billing (by Microsoft) or Open (resold) licensing agreements. The benefit of CSP is that:

  • A partner can resell Microsoft services, therefore making a margin, and ideally wrap it up in deployment/management services.
  • The customer gets the post-usage monthly invoice that they expect from the cloud instead of pre-paying for services for a year (Office 365 in Open) or pre-buying credits (Azure in Open).

My employers (MicroWarehouse Ltd in Ireland) are a Type 2 CSP reseller, meaning that we distribute CSP to “breadth” partners that do not have a CSP agreement. They, in turn, add a margin and sell CSP services to their customers. We’re fully on-board with this service, selling services like Office 365 and EMS.

But, I am not recommending that Azure is sold by our customers (resellers) via CSP. Why?

Azure Resource Manager (ARM)

Most folks still haven’t heard of or understand what ARM is. ARM is a new way for you/Azure to deploy resources in Microsoft’s cloud, and is sometimes referred to as Azure v2. Before now, we use Service Management, which is also referred to as Classic or Azure v1. The two are quite different. For example:

  • Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery (2 of the most popular features with our customers) are fully available in Service Management but only available via PowerShell in ARM.
  • Other features like RemoteApp won’t be in ARM until the Summer (allegedly – I say “allegedly” because some features were meant to be in ARM now, but are not).
  • The designs of VMs are very different – resource providers are used, and the networking is very different. Endpoints are replaced by a PowerShell-only load balancer that is quite complex.

PowerShell fundamentalists and radicals will scream that techies should have enough there now, but the training I have run recently affirms my view on PowerShell. I love using PowerShell, but few outside of the conference-going community (a small percentage) have the first clue, and probably never will. The GUI is required still to make the product sell.


So here’s the gotcha. For some reason, Microsoft decided that customers who get a subscription in CSP will only be able to use ARM. Meanwhile, customers that have direct/trial, EA or Open subscriptions can deploy in either ARM or Service Management.

So, if your business currently or possibly will be using IaaS components, then I’m advising that you do not acquire Azure via CSP. If you’re in the SME world (less than 250 users) then stick with Azure in Open. If you’re over 250 users then go EA. And partners – avoid direct billing and trials (only convert into direct billing) because there’s nothing in it for you. You can start/continue to resell other online services via CSP, but Azure is just not ready yet, and we can blame some mysterious decision making by Microsoft for that. Hopefully we’ll get feature parity between Service Management and ARM soon, and then I’ll chance my recommendation about Azure in CSP.

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Windows Server 2016 Licensing is Announced

Some sales/marketing/channel type in Microsoft will get angry reading this. Good. I am an advocate of Microsoft tech, and I speak out when things are good, and I speak out when things are bad. Friends will criticise each other when one does something stupid. So don’t take criticism personally and get angry, sending off emails to moan about me. Trying to censor me won’t solve the problem. Hear the feedback. Fix the issue.

We’re still around many months away from the release of Windows Server 2016 (my guess: September, the week of Ignite 2016) but Microsoft has released the details of how licensing of WS2016 will be changing. Yes; changing; a lot.

In 2011, I predicted that the growth of cores per processor would trigger Microsoft to switching from per-socket licensing of Windows Server to per-core. Well, I was right. Wes Miller (@getwired) tweeted a link to a licensing FAQ on WS2016 – this paper confirms that WS2016 and System Center 2016 will be out in Q3 2016.


There are two significant changes:

  • Switch to per-core licensing
  • Standard and Datacenter editions are not the same anymore

Per-Core Licensing

The days when processors got more powerful by becoming faster are over. We are in a virtualized multi-threaded world where capacity is more important than horsepower – plus the laws of physics kicked in. Processors now grow by adding cores.

The largest processor that I’ve heard of from Intel (not claiming that it’s the largest ever) has 60 (SIXTY!) cores!!! Imaging you deploy a host with 2 of those Xeon Phi processors … you can license a huge amount of VMs with just 2 copies of WS2012 R2 Datacenter (no matter what virtualization you use). Microsoft is losing money in the upper end of the market because of the scale-out of core counts, so a change was needed.

I hoped that Microsoft would preserve the price for normal customers – it looks like they have, for many customers, but probably not all.

Note – this is per PHYSICAL CORE licensing, not virtual core, not logical processor, not hyperthread.


Yes, the language of this document is horrendous. The FAQ needs a FAQ.

It reads like you must purchase a minimum of 8 cores per physical proc, and then purchase incremental counts of 2 cores to meet your physical core count. The customer that is hurt most is the one with a small server, such as a micro-server – you must purchase a minimum of 16 cores.


One of the marketing lines on this is that on-premises licensing will align with cloud licensing – anyone deploying Windows Server in Azure or any other hosting company is used to the core model. A software assurance benefit was allegedly announced in October on the very noisy Azure blog (I can’t find it). You can move your Windows Server (with SA) license to the cloud, and deploy it with a blank VM minus the OS charge. I have no further details – it doesn’t appear on the benefits chart either. More details in Q1 2016.


The switch to core-focused licensing does not do away with CALs. You still need to buy CALs for privately owned licenses – we don’t need Windows Server CALs in hosting, e.g. Azure.

System Center

You’re switching to per-core licensing too.



This is just an installation type and is not affected by licensing or editions.


We know about the “core” editions of WS2016: Standard and Datacenter – more later in this post.

As for Azure Stack, Essentails, Storage Server, etc, we’re told to wait until Q1 2016 when someone somewhere in Redmond is going to have to eat some wormy crow. Why? Keep reading.

Standard is not the same as Datacenter

I found out about the licensing announcement after getting an email from Windows Server User Voice to tell me that my following feedback was rejected:


I knew that some stuff was probably going to end up in Datacenter edition only. Many of us gave feedback: “your solutions for reducing infrastructure costs make no sense if they are in Datacenter only because then your solution will be more expensive than the more mature and market-accepted original solution”.


The following are Datacenter Edition only:

  • Storage Spaces Direct
  • Storage Replica
  • Shielded Virtual Machines
  • Host Guardian Service
  • Network Fabric

I don’t mind the cloud stuff being Datacenter only – that’s all for densely populated virtualization hosts that Datacenter should be used on. But it’s freaking stupid to put the storage stuff only in this SKU. Let’s imagine a 12 node S2D cluster. Each node has:

  • 2 * 800 GB flash
  • 8 * 8 TB SATA

That’s 65 TB of raw capacity per node. We have roughly 786 TB raw capacity in the cluster, and we’ll guestimate 314 TB of usable capacity. If each node costs $6155 then the licensing cost alone (forget RDMA network switches, NICs, servers, and flash/HDD) will be $73,860. Licensing for storage will be $73,860. Licensing. How much will that SAN cost you? Where was the cost benefit in going with commodity hardware there, may I ask?

This is almost as bad a cock-up as VMware charging for vRAM.

As for Storage Replica, I have a hard time believing that licensing 4 storage controllers for synch replication will cost more than licensing every host/application server for Storage Replica.

S2D is dead. Storage Replica is irrelevant. How are techs that are viewed with suspicion by customers going to gain any traction if they cannot compete with the incumbent? It’s a pity that some marketing bod can’t use Excel, because the storage team did what looks like an incredible engineering job.

If you agree that this decision was stupid then VOTE here.


Microsoft News – 28 September 2015

Wow, the year is flying by fast. There’s a bunch of stuff to read here. Microsoft has stepped up the amount of information being released on WS2016 Hyper-V (and related) features. EMS is growing in terms of features and functionality. And Azure IaaS continues to release lots of new features.


Windows Client


System Center

Office 365




Microsoft News 13-August-2015

Hi folks, it’s been a while since I’ve posted but there’s a great reason for that – I got married and was away on honeymoon 🙂 We’re back and trying to get back into the normal swing of things. I was away for the Windows 10 launch, happily ignoring the world. Windows 10 in the businesses is not a big deal yet – Microsoft needs to clear up licensing and activation for businesses before they’ll deliberately touch the great new OS – I’ve already had customers say “love it, but not until we get clarification”.


Windows Server



System Center

Office 365


Microsoft News – 16 July 2015

It’s been a busy week with WPC driving announcements that affect partners.


Windows Server

Windows Client



System Center

  • Datazen Enterprise Server: Datazen Enterprise Server is a collection of web applications and Windows services. Acts as a repository for storing and sharing dashboards and KPIs.

Office 365



The August 1st Microsoft Price Increases Continue – Office 365 & More

I learned today that the price of Office 365 is increasing, at least in the Euro zone. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Every SKU except E3/E4 is going up by 10%
  • E3 and E4 are going up by 8%
  • 365 Pro Plus is not increasing

As well as that we will see other online prices going up:

  • CRM Online by 10%
  • EMS by a whopping 26%

We already know that user (not device) CALs for on-prem products are going up by roughly 13%:

  • Core CAL Suite
  • Enterprise CAL Suite
  • Exchange Server Standard & Enterprise CALs
  • Lync Server Standard, Enterprise, & Plus CALs
  • Project Server CAL
  • SharePoint Standard & Enterprise CAL
  • System Center Configuration Manager
  • System Center Endpoint Protection
  • System Center Client Management Suite
  • Windows Server CAL
  • Windows RDS & RMS CAL
  • Windows MultiPoint CAL

VDA pricing is going up by 9% approximately.

My advice: if you’re buying soon then buy now, and enter a volume license agreement that locks in your pricing for X years. A good distributor or LAR can give you the correct advice. That’s fine for the on-prem stuff, but cloud services are subject to fluctuation, even in volume licensing.

To any “journalist” that decides to quote this post: my name is Aidan Finn.

As usual, I will not be answering licensing questions. That’s the job of your reseller, LAR, or distributor.

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