If you watched yesterday’s Windows 10 media event online, you could be forgiven for thinking that Microsoft isn’t developing a new version of Windows Server alongside Windows 10. But back in October 2014, Microsoft did release Windows Server Technical Preview — also referred to by some as ‘Windows Server vNext‘ — although unlike the Windows 10 Technical Preview, it hasn’t received regular updates since that time.
Surface Hub and HoloLens took up much of the allotted one and a half hours of yesterday’s event, in addition to Joe Belfiore and others racing through new Windows 10 features, many of which will be available in next week’s updated technical preview. Because of this, there evidently wasn’t time to trumpet Windows Server.
It’s fair to expect that Microsoft will deemphasize the importance of Windows Server as a standalone product going forward. It’s been clear since the release of Windows Server 2012, that much of the improved functionality is not to help you do more with less on premise, but to enable Azure. That’s evidenced in the focus on networking, storage, and improvements to Hyper-V.
As the primary building block for Microsoft’s public, private and hybrid cloud solutions, Windows Server will take a backseat as Microsoft tries to sell Office 365 and its Azure cloud platform. Along with Windows Azure Pack for private or hybrid cloud deployments, Azure as a cloud OS is strategically more important than Windows Server as a technical enabler.
Does Microsoft Want Server Workloads to Move to the Cloud?
Take a look at Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003 Migration Planning Assistant website, and you’ll get the impression that the preference is to migrate your Windows Server 2003 workloads not to Windows Server 2012 R2, the current version of Microsoft’s server operating system, but to one of Microsoft’s cloud services. And if that’s what you decide to do, you probably won’t need to worry about migration in the future, as the backend infrastructure is upgraded for you transparently, while your data and services continue to function, hopefully with little or no interruption.
Windows Server 10 New Feature Summary
That’s not to say that Windows Server 10 isn’t coming. While there has been no official announcement to date about when we’ll see an updated build, you can be sure it will arrive, but not necessarily at the same time as Windows 10. Just as we saw in the previous two versions of Server, Windows Server 10’s core improvements center around virtualization, storage, and networking.
On the virtualization front, a new binary format for configuration data is designed to reduce the likelihood of corruption during a storage sub-system failure or power outage, and production checkpoints look set to improve on VM snapshots.
You’ll also be able to perform rolling Hyper-V cluster upgrades, much in the same way as is possible when adding new domain controllers to an Active Directory domain. Windows 10 Server nodes can be added to a Server 2012 R2 cluster, and when all the nodes have been upgraded, you flip a switch to enable the new Hyper-V features in Windows Server 10.
Storage and Networking
Storage enhancements include quality of service (QoS), and Storage Replica to enable block-level synchronous replication for disaster recovery, regardless of the underlying storage, and stretch clusters across metropolitan distances.
Networking also receives a boost in Windows Server 10, with Network Controller for centralized management and automation of virtual and physical network infrastructure, including the ability to configure IP subnets, VLANs, switches, firewalls and network monitoring. With only some minor changes to DNS and DHCP, Windows Server Gateway will support GRE tunneling to solve several networking issues, such as allowing high-speed connectivity between on premise and cloud networks using MPLS.
Active Directory, Security, and Identity Management
Authentication and identity management also play a central role, and Windows 10 Server will bring some noteworthy enhancements in conjunction with Windows 10 on user devices. For more information on some of the new features, see Could Windows 10 and Windows Server vNext End the Reliance on Passwords? and Windows Server vNext Privileged Access Management on the Petri IT Knowledgebase.