It’s been three years since the last major release of a Server Operating System from Microsoft but the wait is over – Server 2019 is now here. (It does seem to have been a very quiet launch!)
If you are a Microsoft customer with valid Software Assurance, you can download Windows Server 2019 on the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC). You can also download the evaluation version of Windows Server 2019 at the Evaluation Center.
For customers running Windows Server on Azure, Windows Server 2019 is also available in the Azure Marketplace.
How is Microsoft selling Server 2019?
As “Cloud-ready when you are” and to “Bridge on-premises and cloud with Windows Server 2019”.
Their downloadable fact sheet from their Server home page states:
“Windows Server 2019 helps you grow your business – and extend operations to the cloud – from a position of strength. It maximises your existing investments and builds on Windows Server security, app innovation, and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure capabilities to help you bridge your on-premises investments to the cloud.”
So, what does it give us?
Firstly, in-place upgrades are supported
For organisations using Windows Server 2016, Microsoft does support “in-place upgrades” to Windows Server 2019, depending on hardware requirements. An in-place upgrade replaces the underlying OS bits, and is different from the traditional “wipe-and-replace” deployment approach. There is one word of caution: an in-place upgrade should only be considered when the server is listed as certified in the Windows Server 2019 catalog.
As with Server 2016, Windows Server 2019 is available in Essentials, Standard and Datacenter editions.
What are the servicing options?
Windows Server 2019 is offered with either the traditional “5 + 5” years servicing option, now called the “long-term servicing channel” (LTSC) or a “semiannual channel” servicing option of 18 months of support between new OS feature updates.
So, what’s new in Server 2019?
Windows Server 2019 has the following new features:
Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)
The Windows Subsystem for Linux lets developers run GNU/Linux environment – including most command-line tools, utilities, and applications – directly on Windows, unmodified, without the overhead of a virtual machine.
Support for Kubernetes (Beta)
Kubernetes is a popular orchestration tool for containers that makes deployment and management intuitive, scalable, and effective. This includes built-in features such as:
- Scheduling: Given a container image and a resource request, find a suitable machine on which to run the container.
- Health monitoring: Watch for container failures and automatically reschedule them.
- Networking: Provide a network for coordinating containers to communicate across machines.
- Service Discovery: Enable containers to locate each other automatically even as they switch hosts or change IP addresses.
- Scaling: Add or remove container instances to match demand, either manually or automatically.
For more information about container orchestrators in general, read this Microsoft information about container orchestrators.
Congestion Control with LEDBAT (Low Extra Delay Background Transfer)
Keeping a network secure is a never-ending job for IT professionals, and doing so requires regularly updating systems to protect against the latest threat vectors. This is one of the most common tasks that an IT pro must perform. Unfortunately, it can result in dissatisfaction for end-users as the network bandwidth used for the update can compete with interactive tasks that the end-user requires to be productive.
With Windows Server 2019, Microsoft brings you a latency optimised, network congestion control provider called LEDBAT which scavenges whatever network bandwidth is available on the network, and uses it. For a full write up detailing this improvement, read this blog post.
Storage Spaces Direct improvements
- More volumes, bigger capacity per server and cluster
- ReFS is no longer limited with deduplication
- New true Two-Node Configuration
- Maximum Storage Pool size
- New Windows Admin Center dashboards
- New Physical Health and Performance Checks
Storage Migration Service
The Storage Migration Service helps you migrate servers and their data without the need to reconfigure applications or users.
- It can migrate unstructured data from anywhere into Azure and modern Windows Servers
- It’s fast, consistent, and scalable
- It takes care of complexity
- It provides an easily learned graphical workflow
Storage Replica improvements
Storage Replica is a disaster recovery feature that lets IT professionals copy volumes between servers or clusters. The feature has been around since the Windows Server 2016 Datacenter edition, but is on Standard edition as well as Datacenter edition in Server 2019.
Note: Storage Replica on Standard edition of Windows Server 2019 has a few limitations. It can just replicate a single volume (up to 2TB) and it can only “have one partnership”.
Improvements made to the Storage Replica’s log system and a few other tweaks give performance improvements with throughput and latency when using the updated Storage Replica feature. However, these will only be seen if all servers are upgraded to Windows Server 2019.
Storage Replica also has easier failover testing through the mounting of a “writable snapshot”, which doesn’t overwrite the server’s data. When done with the testing, the snapshot can get thrown away.
System Insights was introduced with build 17692. It brings local predictive analytics capabilities natively to Windows Server. These predictive capabilities, each backed by a machine-learning model, locally analyse Windows Server system data, such as performance counters and events, providing high-accuracy predictions that help you reduce the operational expenses associated with reactively managing your Windows Server instances.
This new feature provides a framework for Windows Server to gather data and analyse it for predictive purposes. We can use it for performance trending more easily than using Performance Monitor and related tools.
System Insights can gather data from any performance counter. It includes access to new features via PowerShell and Windows Admin Center.
Improved Windows Defender
Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) is a unified platform for preventative protection, post-breach detection, automated investigation, and response. It has been available for Windows 10 devices for a while, and now it is available for Windows Server 2019.
Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection brings some great security features:
- Agentless, cloud-powered – No additional deployment or infrastructure. No delays or update compatibility issues. Always up to date.
- Unparalleled optics – Built into Windows and Windows Server for deeper insights. Exchanges signals with the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph.
- Automated security – Take your security to a new level, by going from alert to remediation in minutes – at scale.
Microsoft Hyper-V Server
In Windows Server 2019, Microsoft Hyper-V Server provides a robust, optimised, enterprise-class virtualisation platform that enables improved server utilisation and reduced costs. Additional features include:
- Failover Clustering hardening. Failover Clustering no longer requires the use of NTLM.
- Server Message Block (SMB) hardening. SMB 1.0 is disabled by default.
- Windows Subsystem for Linux is built in.
- Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection is built in.
- .NET Framework 4.7 is built-in. (Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2016 included .NET Framework 4.6)
- Finally, Microsoft Hyper-V Server can be fully managed by Windows Admin Center to provide a modern, remote management solution that integrates with Azure Backup, disaster recovery, and more.
Windows Admin Center
Windows Admin Center is a locally deployed, browser-based app for managing servers, clusters, hyper-converged infrastructure, and Windows 10 PCs. It was originally called “Project Honolulu”. This management tool is basically a central console allowing IT professionals to be able to easily manage both GUI and GUI-less Windows 2012R2, 2016, and 2019 servers within their environments. Windows Admin Center has many points of integration with Azure services, including Azure Active Directory, Azure Backup, Azure Site Recovery, and more. It rolls up some of the most common tasks like Performance Monitoring, Server Configuration, and Setting Tasks which run within the server systems. The tool has made it easier for administrators to be able to manage a combination of servers within their environment.