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Microsoft Highlights Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 at Ignite Event

Microsoft unveiled a few details about its emerging flagship enterprise products today as it kicked off its Ignite event for IT pros in Atlanta.

The event marked the so-called "launch" of Windows Server 2016 and the launch of System Center 2016, although very little was said about those products during today's keynote talk (available on demand here). However, a launch doesn't mean the same thing as "general availability" (GA). The GA of those products, including the ability to purchase the licensing to use them, is planned for mid-October of this year.

Update 9/27: A Microsoft blog post today indicated that Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 are both at the "RTM" (release-to-manufacturing) near final stage now and the bits can be downloaded and tested for 180 days. Previously, the products had been at the "technical preview" test stage. However, Microsoft's service provider partners (SPLA licensing) will have to wait for the fully licensed products to arrive in mid-October.

Windows Server 2016
One bit of news was announced concerning Windows Server 2016. Microsoft is planning to add the "commercially supported Docker Engine" in Windows Server 2016 at "no additional cost" to organizations. Microsoft will even provide support for its use. The engine will be part of Windows Server 2016 when that product hits GA status in mid-October.

Microsoft also announced today that a beta release of Docker Datacenter for Windows Server will be arriving in the fourth quarter of this year. There's a sign-up available to get notified about its arrival here. Apparently, Docker Datacenter for Windows Server will be a step up over the commercially supported Docker Engine that comes integrated in Windows Server 2016.

Docker is better known as the builder of container-based solutions for Linux operating systems. However, Microsoft has been working with the company to integrate Docker container solutions into Windows Server 2016, with two options, Windows Server Containers and Hyper-V Containers. Organizations can typically use this container technology to avoid application version conflicts when producing software builds, for instance.

System Center 2016
Microsoft released its service-enabled System Center Configuration Manager 2016 component of the System Center 2016 management suite about a year ago to keep pace with managing Windows 10 clients. Today we now know that the System Center 2016 suite, with all of its components, will be generally available in mid-October.

In addition, System Center 2016 will be getting "greater Linux support" for datacenters, per Microsoft's announcement today. Microsoft also is promising "easy discoverability of management packs, alert tuning, and scheduled maintenance windows to reduce alert noise" with the new System Center 2016 product. The new suite will have support for Windows Server 2016 security capabilities such as Shielded Virtual Machines, which prevents illicit virtual machine copying, and the Host Guardian service, a new server role that provides the key management to support the Shielded Virtual Machines security feature.

Microsoft is also touting System Center 2016 for handling rolling upgrades to cluster nodes "without stopping workloads." Additionally, it can "manage the lifecycle" of Windows Server 2016 Nano Server, which is Microsoft's newest minimal-footprint server deployment option in Windows Server 2016. It's said that Nano Server is 20 times smaller than the current Server Core deployment option.

Operations Management Suite
Microsoft didn't specifically describe the various System Center 2016 components in its announcement today, but it did have a lot to say about its Operations Management Suite (OMS), which is Microsoft's service for managing public cloud workloads. It's possible to integrate OMS with System Center 2016 components, Microsoft indicated.

Microsoft is expanding the capabilities of OMS with four new management services. The first one, called the "Insights & Analytics" service, performs "log collection and search, application and server dependency mapping, as well as network health monitoring," according to Microsoft's announcement.

Next, an "Automation & Control" service supports "process automation, desired state configuration, change tracking, and new update management capabilities, as well as hybrid runtime."

Third, a "Security & Compliance" OMS service detects threats and aids investigations. Lastly, a "Protection & Recovery" service adds backup and site recovery protections for an organization's data.

These four OMS services are getting bundled into two subscription-based licensing options. They are included in the E1 and E2 options of OMS. The OMS E1 option consists of access to "Insight & Analytics and Automation & Control." The OMS E2 option has the same services as E1, plus Microsoft adds its "Security & Compliance and Protection & Recovery services."

Azure Stack
It's still a bit early for Azure Stack, Microsoft's Azure Pack successor that promises a truer Azure-like cloud experience for those managing premises-based infrastructure. The final product isn't expected to appear until sometime in 2017. However, Microsoft did announce Technical Preview 2 of Azure Stack at the Ignite event.

Technical Preview 2 of Azure Stack offers a preview of its "infrastructure management technologies." This preview is designed for use on a "single server deployment so that cloud/owner operators can begin to see how the system works," Microsoft's announcement explained. Other additions in Technical Preview 2 include:

  • Azure Queue storage support, a feature to support application messaging, and
  • Azure Key Vault support, which adds cryptographic protection for data stored in datacenters

Microsoft also plans to add support for its App Service "in the coming weeks." App Service is designed to facilitate application development by business users.

Azure Stack drew a bit of controversy back in July when Microsoft indicated that the solution would only be available on OEM hardware. That announcement meant that organizations couldn't use their own hardware for production environments when deploying Azure Stack. Last month, Microsoft explained that the OEM hardware restriction had to do with keeping Azure Stack properly updated on smaller scale hardware.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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