Windows Server

Microsoft Announces Windows Server and System Center Plans

Although the news earlier this week might have been dominated by Windows 10, Microsoft has also started releasing information on the next versions of Windows Server and System Center, as well as details on how Windows 10 can be managed using System Center Configuration Manager and Windows Intune.

Windows Server and System Center

A post appeared on Microsoft’s Server & Cloud blog to confirm that “Threshold” versions of Windows Server and System Center were on their way, keeping the Microsoft Cloud OS in lockstep with Windows 10. A few teasers were dropped, some of which had me giddy like a child getting a big present!

Editor’s Note: You can see the full list of features that we’ll likely see in the “Threshold” editions of Windows Server and System Center in that aforementioned blog post, but the highlights include live upgrades for Hyper-V clusters to the next Windows Server version, new networking components and a network controller role for Microsoft’s software-defined networking stack, improved remote desktop with better OpenCL and OpenGL support, new synchronous storage replication, and new identity and access management scenarios.

Up to now, upgrading a Hyper-V cluster has either required downtime, reduced high availability, or new infrastructure. With “Threshold”, we will be able to perform a rolling upgrade of a Hyper-V cluster with zero downtime. This is of huge importance in an era when service providers (internal or external) are expected to upgrade clusters more frequently.

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The other subjects of interest are in relation to storage. Storage QoS is present in Windows Server 2012 R2 in a limited form, where one could have guessed that it would evolve with a newer version of Windows Server. Synchronous replication is a very big deal, and it could prove to offer some very interesting scenarios that might challenge costly third-party hardware and software solutions.

A technical preview of Windows Server & System Center are now available to download. I’m looking forward to upgrading my lab.

System Center Configuration Manager & Windows Intune

Microsoft referred to MDM in the earlier Windows 10 event. The MDM solution from Microsoft is Windows Intune, which was confirmed in a post by the System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and Intune Team. They also confirmed the plans for adding support to SCCM for Windows 10.

Editor’s Note: The post linked above provides a detailed list of what Microsoft plans to include in the next version of System Center Configuration Manager and Windows Intune, but the highlights include Windows 10 support in the next version of System Center Configuration Manager, and an update to System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager or SP1 that adds Windows 10 support. Microsoft will also provide updates to System Center Configuration Manager 2007 (SP2, R2, and R3) and the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) to add support for Windows 10 as well.

A preview of SCCM vNext will not be available until the next milestone release of Windows 10, which is the consumer preview that’s expected in early 2015. This makes sense, as Windows 10 is still in early stages of development and SCCM must be developed for this new OS.

A Revised Windows Server and System Center Maintenance Philosophy

The Windows Server and System Center post refers to a new way to keep Microsoft server software up to date:

We are also evolving how we ship our software and service our platform products to keep the software up-to-date. For our datacenter products, there is a duality in what customers want: in some scenarios customers tell us they favor stability and predictability while in other scenarios they want access to the latest and greatest technologies as fast as possible. We’ll have more specifics in the coming months, but you can expect us to deliver the best of both worlds: options for speed and agility, plus options for stability and durability.

The SCCM & Intune group confirmed that the next version of SCCM will:

… also support the evolving servicing model.

I really hope Microsoft gives us (SMEs and large enterprises alike) control over how OS updates are published.

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Aidan Finn, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), has been working in IT since 1996. He has worked as a consultant and administrator for the likes of Innofactor Norway, Amdahl DMR, Fujitsu, Barclays and Hypo Real Estate Bank International where he dealt with large and complex IT infrastructures and MicroWarehouse Ltd. where he worked with Microsoft partners in the small/medium business space.
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