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Dec 13 2016

Windows Server 2016: New Release, Expanded Feature Sets (Part 1 of 3)


Back in the late 1990s, many self-appointed IT gurus seemed slightly amused when Microsoft – then still led by founder Bill Gates – proclaimed its five-year-old server OS was now ready to compete in the data center market. Today, these announcements look like some of the most humble forecasts ever to come out of Redmond,: last August, researchers for IT pro network Spiceworks found that editions of Windows Server are now powering 9 out of 10 on-premises machines (87.7%), with the rest running Linux or Unix derivatives. With Windows Server 2016, Microsoft continues its quest for a similar position in the cloud.

To achieve this admittedly ambitious goal, Windows Server 2016 carries a host of new functions that are supposed to improve the compute, networking, storage and virtualization capabilities of a system as well as server security. Since listing and explaining the new features would clearly exceed the limits of a single blog, we decided to split it up into three parts. Today, we'll focus on which editions and installation options exist.

Windows Server 2016 – Editions Overview
Unlike previous versions of the OS, Windows Server 2016 is available in three distinct editions – Essentials, Standard, and Datacenter. The Essentials Edition is an easy-to-use and affordable platform for small businesses where no more than 25 users and/or 50 devices connect to a central backend server. As such, it takes on the role of the Foundation Edition, which has been omitted in the new release. We will cover Windows Server Essentials in an extra blog early next year. If you need more information immediately, please refer to the Microsoft documentation or contact your Fujitsu account manager.

By contrast, the Standard and Datacenter Editions remain focused on their traditional target groups –midmarket organizations and enterprise customers. As could be expected, each of them carries its own set of key improvements that were specifically designed to meet these groups' needs. In the case of the Standard Edition, these include innovative features like Just Enough Administration, Nested Virtualization and Windows Containers. The Datacenter Edition for its part encompasses all of these and adds Shielded Virtual Machines, Storage Spaces Direct and Storage Replica on top. You will learn more about these editions in the two upcoming articles of this series. For more information about Windows Server 2016 and our related offerings as well as the new licensing model, please check out our Windows Server microsite and our previous entry from November

Along with the new server OS, Microsoft also released a fresh version of Windows Storage Server; however, this is only available as part of an integrated offering for customers looking for new storage hardware or as a field upgrade for existing systems. For more details, please see Scott Johnson's introductory article on the TechNet blog with further links.

Installation Options
Aside from picking the adequate edition, choosing the right installation option also plays a key role when it comes to running successful upgrades or first-time installations. With Windows Server 2016, users can pick between three options, regardless of whether they've opted for the Standard or Datacenter Edition:

  • Server Core: First introduced with Windows Server 2008 and promoted to default status in the 2012 release, this is by now the recommended installation option that will work best in most environments and usage scenarios. Originally designed to minimize security risks (which often resided in the GUI), Server Core is best known for its no-frills design that removes 'extras' such as the Windows Explorer shell or the .NET framework and compels administrators to use the command-line interface or remote tools for management and maintenance. This not only reduces the attack surface of the OS, but also minimizes its all-over footprint while at the same time enhancing flexibility: Server Core can be configured to provide AD Domain Services; act as a DNS or DHCP server; take on the role of a file, print or web server; or offer a virtualization platform. While the key capabilities have remained identical over the past nine years, Microsoft has added and removed several features along the way; for instance, Windows Server 2008 R2 added support for ASP.NET and Power Shell 2.0, and Windows Server 2012 R2 was the first to offer built-in protection against malware in the form of Windows Defender. In Windows Server 2012 on the other hand, users could switch between core and full GUI installations – a feature that was discarded again in the latest release.
  • Server with Desktop Experience: This is basically a "deluxe" version of Server Core with all bells and whistles activated, most notably a full GUI that helps less-skilled IT staff to perform complex and even critical tasks. Client experience features are now part of the setup and no longer require separate installation; server roles and features can be installed using the Server Manager or other methods.
  • Nano Server: This new option is best described as the minimalistic version of Server Core that was optimized for the remote administration of data centers and private clouds. Unlike its cousin, Nano Server will only support 64-bit applications, tools and agents and strictly omits local logons. The main benefits are that it needs even less disk space than Server Core, requires fewer updates and restarts, and installs much faster – in other words, it's the option of choice for IT departments that strive for maximum efficiency and streamlined administration.

This brings us to the end of the first part of our series. To learn more about Windows Server 2016 Standard Edition, please refer to part 2. More information on the Datacenter Edition is available in the third and final chapter.

Carolin Hausmann


About the Author:

Carolin Hausmann

Marketing Specialist


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