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7 Windows Server 2019 features to know

If administrators want to get the most from Windows Server 2019 features, they should familiarize themselves with this cheat sheet of the improvements Microsoft has made.

Microsoft constantly develops new tools and features to upgrade Windows Servers, but IT administrators have to do their research to stay up to date.

Windows Server 2019 offers capabilities, including machine learning models in System Insights, software-defined data center components and support for Linux tools, to simplify administrators' workloads. As Microsoft builds on technological possibilities, any IT pro would find it challenging to keep track of the new tools available. Even if the vendor made a feature available in previous server versions, it has likely improved features in the latest server.

IT administrators can use these Windows Server 2019 terms to quickly catch up on Microsoft's latest advancements.

Ease a file move with Storage Migration Service

Storage Migration Service simplifies the transfer of all files and configuration settings from older Windows Servers to new OSes, either on premises or in the cloud. It limits declines in machine and application performance.

Admins can manage multiple migrations with Storage Migration Service in Windows Admin Center. The service identifies the servers and data and then relocates the files. The new servers can take over the identity and production workload of the original server. Users and applications can access the migrated data without any disruption or actions needed to locate the moved data. The service cannot move applications, just storage files and configurations.

Admins can use Storage Migration Service on now-unsupported Windows Server 2003, as well as newer supported OSes.

System Insights prepares organizations for future needs

This feature uses machine learning algorithms to analyze local Windows Server data and predict future server needs and performance. System Insights simplifies the task of ensuring that systems run smoothly. It reduces operational costs by displaying data, such as how quickly a Hyper-V host consumes memory and compute, or that a disk is running out of space. The predictive analytics uses data from performance counters and Windows logging, and it creates a model to help admins plan for future hardware and resource purchases.

Administrators can pull System Insights' data in Windows Admin Center on demand or schedule it to run periodically. The dashboard displays forecasting data for the default capabilities, CPU capacity, networking capacity, total storage consumption and volume consumption. Admins can add capabilities if they have the resources. For example, administrators can forward System Insights events to Azure Log Analytics to develop an overarching view of an organization's capacity consumption. Admins can also manage System Insights with PowerShell. Remote instances aggregate prediction outcomes.

How cluster sets add resiliency

Windows Server 2019 cluster sets take failover clusters a step further by grouping multiple compute, storage or hyper-converged clusters together to share resources and move VMs. A common logical fabric connects the clusters in it across different locations, but each cluster keeps its independent resiliency. Instead of buying new resources, cluster sets scale out the software-defined data center and provide high availability. Each cluster set can share resources -- such as storage and memory -- and distribute the workload to reduce costs and add flexibility.

Cluster sets can survive more node failures compared to a cluster that uses another storage technology, such as Storage Spaces Direct. This is because the fault boundary is limited to the member cluster where the fault occurs, and sets increase the cluster node count in a data center.

Microsoft boosts support for Storage Spaces Direct

This feature was introduced in Windows Server 2016, but Microsoft improved it in the latest server release. Storage Spaces Direct creates scalable and highly available storage for Hyper-V VMs. It also establishes fault domains that share data across them to prevent data loss if a disk in the cluster node fails.

Admins have two deployment options for storage. For smaller scale-out deployments, a hyper-converged deployment combines the Hyper-V clusters and storage on the same hardware. Larger scale-out projects work better in a private cloud deployment, which separates Hyper-V clusters and storage.

In Windows Server 2019, Microsoft upgraded the storage feature with support for persistent memory, faster mirror-accelerated parity, nested resiliency, and Resilient File System (ReFS) deduplication and compression.

Nested resiliency enables the hyper-converged deployment to survive two hardware failures at the same time, such as a failed server node and a failed drive in another node. The two-node cluster gives continuous access to storage.

Microsoft added data deduplication and compression for ReFS. Deduplication is a process that reduces the storage overhead by deleting redundant copies. Only one instance of data remains in storage, and pointers replace any copies to direct users to the one instance. Compression shrinks the data size with an algorithm to save up to 10 times the storage space.

3 improvements expand Linux capabilities in Windows Server

Kubernetes: Kubernetes is an open source orchestration platform that IT admins can use to manage Linux containers. The platform automates the deployment, maintenance and operation of application containers across clusters of nodes. The containers run in Pods and can share resources. Kubernetes deploys containers based on OS-level virtualization, which makes them small and fast.

In Windows Server 2019, admins can run both Linux and Windows containers on the same host. Microsoft added embedded network security tools to protect deployed workloads on Linux and Windows services. Windows Server 2019 incorporated updated container networking to support Kubernetes on Windows through increased resiliency and expanding the number of plugins available.

Hyper-V shielded VM: This Windows Server 2019 feature protects a VM from unauthorized internal access and attacks through encryption, Secure Boot, Trusted Platform Module and Host Guardian Service (HGS). In Windows Server 2019, Microsoft made Hyper-V shielded VMs available for Linux VMs. Previously, only Windows VMs had that capability.

Several layers protect the VMs from attack. Encryption allows only assigned owners to access the data in a shielded VM. HGS holds the keys to shielded VMs on a Hyper-V host. The Hyper-V host will not power the VM because the host cannot decrypt it. HGS will not decrypt the VM until the host is confirmed to be healthy.

Admins can run shielded VMs without a connection to HGS in Windows Server 2019 because Microsoft added the fallback HGS and offline mode. Microsoft also improved the troubleshooting process for shielded VMs through VMConnect Enhanced Session Mode and PowerShell Direct.

Microsoft Windows Subsystem for Linux: Instead of running a full Linux VM, Microsoft Windows Subsystem for Linux runs native Linux-based workloads on Windows Server 2019 using less storage, CPU and memory resources than a full VM. Admins can run both Windows and Linux command-line tools to work on the same files. The feature runs a Windows console with a bash shell, the default text-based shell and language used for Linux distributions.

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