Microsoft Releases Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 3

Yesterday Microsoft released Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 3, the first new version since the Ignite conference in spring. Probably the most interesting development is support for Docker, in the form of Windows Containers, but also on the table are updates to Nano Server and networking.

Windows Containers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you will have heard of Docker, an open source system that lets developers package applications without having to configure the underlying OS, and allows apps to run on any Linux distribution. Docker utilizes technology native to Linux, and containers offer many of the advantages of virtual machines, but without the overhead of an operating system, considerably improving portability and the number of apps a physical server can host.

Containers are isolated spaces in which applications run, and as far as the app is concerned, it’s running on a base install of the OS where no other applications are installed. While container technology has existed in Linux for years, it’s only recent improvements to the kernel that have allowed containers to be utilized in a meaningful way, hence the appearance of Docker.

Microsoft’s recent partnership with Docker has resulted in the ability to run packaged apps on Windows Server in this latest technical preview, along with support for the Docker toolset, client, and API. TP3 provides a first look at Windows Containers, but it’s important to note that Docker packages designed for Linux won’t run on Windows Server. For more detailed technical information on Windows Containers, see What You Need to Know About Windows Server 2016 Containers on Petri.

Hyper-V Containers — Coming Soon

A future preview of Windows Server 2016 will include Hyper-V Containers, which run packages designed for Windows Containers, and can be deployed using the same management tools. Hyper-V Containers have their own Windows kernel, and memory is assigned directly to provide the same isolation offered by virtual machines, and are useful in cases where apps from different trust boundaries need to run on the same physical host.

Nano Server

Nano Server was the big news at Microsoft’s Ignite conference back in May, where Jeffery Snover — the mastermind behind Windows PowerShell — demoed the refactored headless install option for Windows Server that’s designed to support container-based cloud applications and micro services. You can read more about the original announcement in Aidan Finn’s article Microsoft Announces Nano Server on Petri.

Nano has been updated in TP3 and offers a new emergency management console that can be used to fix network configuration issues at the console, support for running ASP.Net v5 applications, and there’s also a PowerShell script included for spinning up Nano server on Azure virtual machines. On its blog, Microsoft notes that significant functionality has been added to Nano without dramatically increasing the server’s footprint.

For more information on installing Nano Server, see How to Install Windows Server 2016 Nano in a VM on the Petri IT Knowledgebase.

Software-Defined Networking and Network Appliances

Along with the Network Controller server role that provides centralized management of physical and virtual network infrastructure, much of the new networking functionality in Windows Server 2016 TP3 is being brought across from Azure. Virtual appliances will provide the following features, which in combination with software-defined networking (SDN), bring the capability to set up sophisticated private clouds:

  • Software load balancer (SLB)
  • Site-to-Site, Forwarding, and GRE tunnel gateways
  • Distributed multi-tenant firewall

NIC teaming has also been improved, allowing up to 32 team interfaces with a number of algorithms that can be used for distributing the load between NICs. Alternatively, Switch Embedded Teaming (SET) can be used to group up to eight physical NICs into one or more SDN virtual NICs, to provide better performance and fault tolerance. There’s also a Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) Multitenant Gateway virtual appliance for routing traffic between physical and virtual networks.


Shielded VMs help service providers and enterprises running private clouds to protect tenant virtual machine data from threats such as compromised storage, rouge administrators, and malware. Windows Server 2016 TP3 introduces the ability to create shielded VMs from signed templates, along with other new features.

Test Drive the Windows Sever 2016 Technical Preview 3

You can visit Microsoft’s website for more information about the latest preview of Windows Server 2016. Have you played with the Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 3? Let me know your thoughts in the article comments below.