Windows Server 2016 Essentials Now at General Availability
Today, Microsoft announced the "general availability" (GA) of Windows Server 2016 Essentials.
It's the server edition that's aimed at small businesses, with support for 25 users and 50 devices maximum. Microsoft recommends using Windows Server 2016 Essentials for organizations that previously used its Windows Server 2012 Foundation edition. Microsoft stopped carrying a Foundation edition with the rollout of its newest Windows Server product line.
Hitting the GA stage means that products can be purchased and deployed in production environments. Microsoft had previously announced the GA of Windows Server 2016 earlier this month, but that announcement omitted a description of the available editions. All told, Microsoft lists six Windows Server 2016 editions in its licensing datasheet publication (PDF). Those editions are Essentials, Standard and Datacenter, plus Multipoint Premium Server, Windows Storage Server and Hyper-V Server.
Microsoft is switching to core-based licensing for the Standard and Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2016. However, the Essentials edition follows the older processor-based licensing model, along with the Multipoint Premium Server and the Storage Server editions.
Organizations don't need to buy Client Access Licenses (CALs) with the Essentials and Storage Server editions. However, Windows Server CALs need to be purchased when licensing the Standard and Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2016.
Microsoft's documentation on Windows Server 2016 Essentials can be found at this TechNet library page. Essentials is described as the "cloud-connected first server" for small businesses.
There are three new Essentials features, according to the TechNet library. First, the Essentials edition integrates with Azure Site Recovery Services, which assures that operations will continue should an Essentials virtual machine experience some sort of failure. Next, organizations can tap the Azure Virtual networking service, which lets organizations manage Azure resources as if they were on the local network. Lastly, Essentials has options for large deployments, including support for "multiple domains" and "multiple domain controllers." Organizations also can specify the domain controller to be used with the server.
Three years ago, Microsoft had described lots of ease-of-use benefits for Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials for small-to-medium businesses. Back then, it was possible to run Essentials in two different ways. It could be a server role of the Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard or Datacenter editions (which Microsoft called the "Windows Server Essentials Experience") or it could be run in a virtual machine, which was the preferred deployment option, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft's descriptions of Windows Server 2016 Essentials do not mention those two install options. The install options are described at this page. However, it is still possible to run Essentials as a server role from the Standard or Datacenter editions, if wanted, according to this September We Got Served article.
It's possible to migrate domains from older Small Business Server installations when upgrading to Windows Server 2016 Essentials. The steps to migrate from Windows Small Business Server 2003 are described at this page. Migration steps from Windows Small Business Server 2008 are located here. Update 12/16: Microsoft altered the links above since the publication of this article. They have been updated now. The main reference page can be found here.
Microsoft lists the pricing and licensing for Windows Server 2016 Essentials at this page. The feature distinctions between it and the Standard and Datacenter editions, if any, aren't described.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.