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Windows Server 'Insider' Testing Program Coming This Summer

Microsoft plans to launch a Windows Insider Program for Windows Server 2016 users, starting this summer.

Like the current Windows Insider Program for Windows 10 testers, this new program will deliver frequent test builds to program participants. The new program is getting launched because of customer requests for access to early Windows Server builds, according to an announcement this week by Erin Chapple, general manager of Windows Server at Microsoft.

The sign-up page to join the Windows Insider Program for Windows Server is the same page used to join the Windows 10 program. It's possible to sign up, but the Windows Server program doesn't take effect until sometime this summer.

In addition to announcing the test program for Windows Server users, Chapple described some new Windows Server features that will be coming this year. They'll arrive as early test releases this summer, but are expected to be "part of our first feature release this fall," and will be aligned with the fall Windows 10 client release, she indicated. (Microsoft recently announced that there will be a Windows 10 "Fall Creators Update" release happening later this year.)

One of those new Windows Server feature additions will be adding support for the Windows Subsystem for Linux. It's already available for the Windows 10 client, enabling the Linux-based Bash shell to run commands, although it's still at the beta-release stage. The coming support on Windows Server 2016 will add the same sort of Linux tooling access on the server side.

"This unique combination allows developer and application administrators to use the same scripts, tools, procedures and container images they have been using for Linux containers on their Windows Server container host," Chapple explained.

Another coming improvement concerns bringing .NET Core 2.0 to "an optimized container image based on Nano Server." Nano Server is Microsoft's minimal-footprint deployment option for Windows Server 2016. This .NET Core 2.0 integration effort will "help reduce the footprint of the .NET container image by at least 50 percent," Chapple indicated. It's expected to improve Nano Server deployment densities, as well startup times, Chapple added.

Microsoft also plans to add two new features to improve orchestration efforts when Windows Server is used in Kubernetes-managed clusters. One improvement will be "the ability to add a network interface to an already running container." The other improvement will be a means for "sharing a network interface between two containers to support pods," Chapple stated.

Another promised Windows Server improvement will be Server Message Block mapping to a container, which will permit organizations to use the "file server enhancements in Windows Server 2016 along with containers," according to Chapple.

Given those coming improvements, the value of a test program for Windows Server may be self-apparent. However, it would seem to be more relevant on the Windows 10 client side, which is subject to Microsoft's frequent "Windows as service" upgrade cycles. In contrast to Windows 10, Windows Server 2016 mostly follows a long-term servicing branch model, where the OS upgrades are less frequent.

The one exception is Nano Server, the minimal-footprint deployment option of Windows Server 2016. It follows the "current branch for business" servicing model, like the Windows 10 client OS. So the new Windows Insider testing program might be especially beneficial for Nano Server users.

About the Author

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

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