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Windows Server Test Build Supports In-Place Upgrades

Microsoft this week indicated that its current Windows Server test release for Windows Insider participants now supports in-place upgrades, message queuing for containers and smaller Server Core base images.

Those improvements come on top of the Storage Spaces Direct support that was announced last week when this Windows Server preview, known as "build 17074," was released. Windows Server build 17074 is a preview of Microsoft's next Windows Server "semiannual channel" release, a product that will deliver new server features.

Microsoft now has a service-enabled Windows Server product that gets two major feature updates per year, called semiannual channel releases, which typically arrive in the spring and fall. This coming Windows Server product, when production-ready, will be Microsoft's second semiannual channel release since Microsoft kicked off this service-enabled scheme. The first semiannual channel release was Windows Server version 1709, which arrived in October.

In-Place Upgrades
The new in-place upgrade capability available with Windows Server build 17074 will let testers upgrade their current Windows Server version 1709 installations to this build. Users just run the Setup program, which will offer an option to keep installed apps and files. It's a way of avoiding the work involved with typical wipe-and-replace installs, followed by the task of having to restore apps and files.

In an Ignite 2017 talk, Jeff Woolsey, principal program manager at Microsoft, had suggested that organizations might consider in-place upgrades for Server Core installations. Server Core is the only deployment option available now for production workloads with Microsoft's Windows Server-as-a-Service product. Nano Server also is an option, but it's just for use with containers and dev-test scenarios, per Microsoft's conception.

Alas, there are known issues with the new Windows Server in-place upgrade feature. Testers should back up Active Directory Domain Controllers before trying it. They should also suspend BitLocker-encrypted drives before performing an in-place upgrade.

MSMQ for Containers
The Microsoft Message Queuing (MSMQ) feature, which lets applications talk across heterogeneous networks, including when systems are offline, can now be installed in a Sever Core container with build 17074.

This feature, described in an announcement this week as a highly requested feature, has passed Microsoft's "in-house Application Compatibility test."

Server Core Reduction
Windows Server build 17074 also features a smaller Server Core deployment option compared with Windows Server version 1709. Here's the breakdown for Server Core with build 17074, per Microsoft's announcement:  

  • 1.58GB, download size, 30% reduction from Windows Server, version 1709
  • 3.61GB, on disk size, 20% reduction from Windows Server, version 1709

The smaller footprint promises to add "some performance improvements," Microsoft suggested.

To slim down Server Core in this build, Microsoft used telemetry data from Windows Server users. It winnowed out the features and roles "that we don't believe are being used," Microsoft said, although details weren't described.

Windows Server build 17074, released last week, has an expiration date set for July, 2, 2018. The software is pre-keyed for ease of installation.

About the Author

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

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