Windows Server 2019 is the latest Operating System (OS) launched by Microsoft. It is believed to be one of the best versions of Microsoft’s Server Operating System series.
The OS is built on top of Windows Server 2016 and comes with a plethora of new features, advancements & capabilities. Microsoft focused on customer feedback on the previous OS and focused on four major aspects – Hybrid Cloud, Application Innovation, Security and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI).
The blog gives an overview of the new features, enhancements, and improvements Microsoft has rolled out with Windows Server 2019.
Microsoft offers Windows Server 2019 in two editions: Standard & Datacenter. There is not much of a difference between the editions in terms of infrastructure, roles & features. While the Standard Edition only supports two Virtual Machines on a Single Hyper-V host License, the Datacenter Edition supports Unlimited Virtual Machines on a Single Hyper-V host License.
Some of the Roles & Features supported only on Datacenter Edition:
- Hyper-V including Shielded Virtual Machines
- Network Controller
- Software-Defined Networking (SDN)
- Storage Spaces Direct (S2D)
- Host Guardian Hyper-V Support
- Unlimited Containers (Windows + Hyper-V)
- Replication of unlimited storage volume up to 2 TB
Now let’s dive into some of the new features, enhancements, and improvements under the four pillars – Hybrid Cloud, Application Innovation, Security and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI).
Windows Admin Center
Windows Admin Center (WAC) was one of the most awaited tools. Microsoft has finally introduced it with Windows Server 2019 under the umbrella of Hybrid Cloud offerings. WAC is renounced as the future of Windows Server Management (WSM) designed to modernize and simplify the IT Admin experience. It is in stark contrast to the days when multiple MMC console was used to manage things. All the essential tools are consolidated into a single intuitive remote server management experience.
WAC is extensible, which means we can integrate third-party tools for enhanced management experience. At its Core, WAC is a platform on which Microsoft has built an ecosystem of solutions to manage Servers. It is a locally deployed, browser-based solution with two main components: a) Gateway, which manages Servers via Remote PowerShell and WMI over WinRM and b) Web Server, which listens to HTTP requests and serves the UI to the client web browser. These components are packed in a single lightweight MSI and installed on a Windows 10 Client, a dedicated gateway server, or a Managed server. We can also publish Web Server to the internet and connect to or manage our servers from anywhere.
- Easy management of Servers, Failover Clusters, Hyper-V host & Virtual Machines, Hyper-Converged Clusters, Windows 10 machines and a whole slew of things
- Enhanced security for management platform with features like role-based access control
- Seamless integration with Azure and leverages some of the Azure Cloud Services like Azure Backup & Azure Site Recovery
Storage Migration Service
Storage Migration Service (SMS) is a new feature that enables easy transfer of data to the new operating system from an older version, such as from Windows Server 2016 to 2019, as well as from one OS to another, or one OS to a resource in Azure. SMS leverages WAC as the management tool and divides the activities to inventorying the storage, transferring the storage to another machine, and then cutting over connections to make the new machine eligible for clients.
System Insights is a predictive analysis tool that helps gather data to identify CPU & network capacity, forecast that capacity over time, and forecast total storage & volume consumption over time. It is on a local machine and does not require any connection to Azure. It also helps in forecasting future system resources for onboarding applications.
Azure Network Adapter
Azure Network adapter enables us to connect to Azure Virtual Network from a Server. It creates a Point to Site connection (P2S) that allows us to connect to resources in Azure. We can enable this feature as a network extension within the WAC.
Azure AD Authentication
Windows Server 2019 is the first server OS that can join the Azure Active Directory through direct authentication with the Azure Active Directory Database. This feature was only available in Windows 10 but Microsoft has now extended it to Windows Server 2019.
Windows Defender ATP
Windows Defender ATP is a unified platform that leverages Azure for preventative protection, host breach detection, and automated investigation and response to external threats. Earlier Windows Defender ATP was only available for Windows 10 but Microsoft decided to offer it with Windows Server 2019 as well.
Enhancements for Shielded VMs
First introduced in Windows Server 2016, Shielded VMs is a mechanism to protect virtual machines (VMs) from any kind of attack. It protects Gen 2 VMs by providing a TPM Chip that encrypts the content of the VM using Bit Locker. This ensures that VMs can only be powered on and executed on a healthy and approved host in the fabric. If the VM leaves the host, it cannot be powered on.
Another new feature is a host key attestation, which is the ability to use an asymmetric key pair to authorize a host to run a shielded VM. It eliminates the need for an Active Directory trust or certificates. It is expected that in Windows Server 2019 Microsoft will also support the use of Linux Virtual machines as Shielded VMs.
Microsoft has introduced a new security feature related to Windows clustering in Server 2019. Windows clusters sit on top of Windows Server 2019 and no longer require NTLM or the NT LAN Manager, thereby, eliminating the need for Active Directory for cluster host authentication.
Windows Server 2019 supports Linux Containers, which run side-by-side with Windows Containers on the same Windows host.
Server Core Base Container Images
With Windows Server 2019, Microsoft tried its hands at reducing the total size of the Server Core Base Container Image to reduce the download time and optimizing the performance during a container’s lifecycle.
Features on Demand
Some of the features that were removed as the part of Server Core Base Container Image might be needed by some containers, thus Features on Demand option enables the administrator to add those features back on an on-demand basis to that base image.
Kubernetes Platform Support
Windows Server 2019 supports Kubernetes, which is a service that enables the orchestration and management of containers. We can now deploy mixed OS Kubernetes Clusters in the environment of our choice, either locally or in Microsoft Azure.
Windows Subsystem for Linux
Windows Server 2019 also supports the Windows Subsystem for Linux, which means we can write on Linux user spaces like Ubuntu on top of traditional Windows experience.
Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI)
HCI is pitted as the next big thing in the IT industry. Thanks to HCI, we get computing and storage capabilities on the same physical box. Microsoft introduced HCI with Windows Server 2016; however, it didn’t gain much momentum then. Now, with Windows Server 2019, Microsoft offers HCI solution in a box by leveraging Hyper-V for computing and Storage Space Direct (S2D) for Storage. Storage Space Direct is a technology that leverages local storage on the clusters for block-based storage for virtual machines and other workloads. A few improvements visible in Windows Server 2019 are the introduction of Resilient File System (REFS) – the recommended file system for Storage Space Direct and support for de-duplication, which particularly helps with Hyper-V VMs, as they tend to share a lot of content between VMs.
The resurrected HCI in Windows Server 2019 enables the formation of the two-node cluster and use USB key that can be mounted in a Commodity Grade Router. It also enables us to use Cloud Witness by leveraging Azure Blob Storage.
Thanks to S2D, Windows Server 2019 now offers quadruple maximum storage pool sizes along with a new nested resiliency configuration, inspired by the established RAID5 + 1 standard, which enables two-node clusters to withstand multiple hardware failures. We also have some new dashboards in WAC along with health and performance checks that make S2D much easier to work with.
Storage Replica is a Windows Server technology that enables replication of volumes of data between servers or clusters for seamless disaster recovery. It also enables us to create stretch failover clusters that span over a minimum of two sites with all nodes synced. In Datacenter Edition of Windows Server 2019, Microsoft offers unlimited Storage Replica, whereas we can only replicate a single volume with a limit of 2 TB in the Standard Edition.
Storage-Class Memory (SCM) or Persistent Memory
Windows Server 2019 also offers support for storage-class memory or persistent memory. Storage Class Memory provides us the abilities to partition physical memory DIMMs into traditional RAM and provide persistent fast storage.
Software-Defined Networking (SDN)
Microsoft has made some improvements in software-defined networking and the SDN Gateway in Windows Server 2019. With SDN, it’s now easier to deploy via Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) or SDN Express tool that’s available for free on GitHub. Other features which Microsoft introduced with SDN in 2019 are Virtual Network Peering, Encrypted Subnets, IPv6 Supports, Flow Logging and others.
Virtual Network Peering allows us to connect two or more Virtual Networks into a single routing domain within a Network Controller. It eliminates the gateway needed for traffic between virtual networks.
Encrypted Subnets helps protect against Sniffing & Tampering of data on the wire.
Precision Time Control
Microsoft has introduced Precision Time Control in Windows Server 2019. It follows the Precision Time Protocol, which brings 1-ms accuracy to Windows Server along with the support for leap seconds.
Azure File Sync
Azure File Sync is another new feature in Windows Server 2019. It offers a Centralize File Service in Azure Storage, which enables syncing and sharing of file from Windows Server to Azure and cache frequently access files for fast local access.
Some of the enhancements in Windows server 2019 for Failover Clustering include Cluster Sets, Azure Aware Clusters, USB Witness, and Cross-domain Cluster Migration.
Cluster sets enable us to group multiple clusters and help us to create massive scale-out Clusters.
Azure Aware Clusters
With the introduction of Azure Aware Clusters, we can now detect Failover clusters when they are running in Azure IaaS VMs, optimize the configuration to provide proactive failover, and the log of Azure planned maintenance event.
Windows Server 2019 now enables us to use USB Stick as a witness disk in the two-node Failover Cluster.
Cross-domain Cluster Migration
Windows Server 2019 supports Cross-domain Cluster Migration, which means Failover Clusters can now dynamically move from one Active Directory domain to another.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the new features, enhancements, and improvements in Windows Server 2019. But, a highlight of some of the big ones that are relevant for IT professionals and can have a direct impact on business performance.
That is it from us. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Until next time!
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