There’s no doubt that the cloud has become a core component for most businesses these days. IDC predicts that by 2018, half of IT spending will be on the cloud. Even so, most businesses have not switched their core IT operations to the public cloud. Instead, they have opted to use a hybrid cloud model in which the majority of their core IT functions remain on-premises but many ancillary functions are moved to the cloud. Gartner Research estimates that today 72 percent of enterprises are pursuing a hybrid cloud strategy.
One of the first places business began adopting the cloud was in the area of development and testing. Using the cloud for development enables businesses to provide a more flexible and responsive environment, freeing up IT administrators from the time required to provision, backup, and later delete those VMs. The cloud enables a self-service model that doesn’t impact on-premises operations. Later, businesses began adopting the hybrid cloud for storage, backup, and, more recently, high availability and disaster recovery (DR).
As hybrid cloud adoption has increased, Microsoft has taken steps to add hybrid cloud features to the Windows Server OS. Microsoft Windows Server 2016 provides several capabilities that can help you modernize and extend your on-premises IT infrastructure into the hybrid cloud. Some of the main Windows Server 2016 capabilities that can take advantage of the hybrid cloud include:
- Shielded virtual machines (VMs) in Windows Server 2016 – Security is one of the biggest issues with virtualization and that’s especially true if your VMs are running in the cloud. The VMs are potentially accessible by the cloud administrators and platform administrators. The new Shielded VMs feature in Windows Server 2016 addresses the problem of cloud admins being able to access your sensitive VMs by encrypting those VMs and only allowing them to be started and accessed by authorized users. Administrators that aren’t authorized to the VMS cannot decrypt or access the VMs.
- Windows Server Containers and Hyper-V Containers – While container support has been in Linux for some time, with Windows Server 2016 Microsoft has added container support with Docker integration. Containers essentially virtualize at the OS level and they form the basis for micro-service applications. Windows Server Containers run directly on the OS while Hyper-V Containers are more secure as they run in a lightweight VM. At the present, both can only run Windows applications but Microsoft has demonstrated running Linux containers using Hyper-V Containers so support for Linux containers is likely to be provided in the future.
- Nano Server – Introduced with Windows Server 2016, Nano Server is a very small footprint version of Windows Server. It is completely headless and must be managed exclusively remotely. Designed to run in cloud environments Nano Server in Windows Server 2016 supports several IT infrastructure capabilities like support for Hyper-V and Failover Clustering. Microsoft recently announced that they were repositioning the next release Nano Server to exclusively run container-based applications and that they were removing all other infrastructure functions.
- Azure Stack – The Azure cloud management paradigm streamlines and simplifies many common IT management tasks. The Azure stack is intended to bring that same management experience to your on-premises infrastructure giving you a seamless management experience for local and hybrid cloud management functions.
- Backup to Azure – Windows Server 2016 also supports hybrid cloud backup in conjunction with Microsoft Azure Backup Servers (MABS). MABS is a backup to the Azure option that you can use to supplement or replace your offsite backup routine by backing up locally to disk for short-term retention as well as to cloud for long-term retention. MABS is able to leverage Windows Server 2016 native storage features such as ReFS block cloning, deduplication, and workload-aware storage. MABS is available as a free download with Azure Backup.
- Hyper-V Replica – Enabling cloud-based DR for your Windows Server VMs, Hyper-V Replica takes periodic copies of your on-premises VMs and replicates them to the hybrid cloud. You can later use those replicas for fast recovery in the event of a local failure or outage.