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The top 5 unheralded Windows Server 2016 features

Windows Server 2016 is still a novel operating system for many administrators. Check out some of its new and enhanced features that might have slipped under the radar.

It's human nature. You find one way to perform a task, then stick with it for as long as possible. Administrators are no different.

Many IT workers are creatures of habit. When they move to a new version of Windows Server, they'll find the same tools or use the same workflows to perform a task. But there are a number of new Windows Server 2016 features and enhancements that many administrators should take note of to see if they can find a better way to do their jobs.

The following Windows Server 2016 features might not dominate the marketing materials, but once you start using them, they might find a place in your administrative toolbox.

IP Address Management

Microsoft introduced IP Address Management (IPAM) in Windows Server 2012, and then the company enhanced IPAM in Windows Server 2016 with the addition of domain name system (DNS) management.

While IPAM may not be something that rises to the top of a network administrator's list of priorities, it is a critical feature in Windows Server, especially because of the many security concerns today.

IPAM in Windows Server 2016 integrates with multiple Active Directory structures to manage both DNS and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol services. This functionality brings network addressing into a single management window and gives the IT staff a better handle on IP security with automated tools rather than a neglected Excel spreadsheet.

Resilient File System

NTFS has been the default file system of Windows Server since the release of Windows NT 3.1 in 1993, but changing needs spurred the development of a newer file system called Resilient File System (ReFS).

Microsoft designed ReFS to improve key areas of data storage with automatic integrity checking, better security with data removal scrubbing, and data recovery from corruption. However, ReFS will have the biggest impact with its virtualization support.

Using Server Manager for basic
disk administration.

With Windows Server 2016, Microsoft released ReFS 3.1, which increases capacity into the double-digit petabytes range for both file and volume size, but which also includes new storage tier functions aimed at virtualization workloads. This boost in size from terabytes to petabytes means many organizations might want to shift to ReFS as the default choice to virtualize large-scale workloads.

Hyper-V security

Microsoft made a number of significant additions to the virtualization capabilities of Hyper-V in its Windows Server 2016 features set. Microsoft introduced nested host virtual machines, improved software-defined networking quality of service, and added a few other performance-based features. However, the main improvements were in security to protect virtual machines.

Administrators have two new options when it comes to virtual machines in Windows Server 2016. Shielded virtual machines guard against administrator tampering using a combination of Trusted Platform Module, disk encryption with BitLocker, Secure Boot and a new feature called Host Guardian Service. There is a less robust version called encryption supported VMs that provides data and communication encryption and enables regular administrative access.

Server Manager

Many administrators work with Server Manager to install roles and features in Windows Server 2016. Few people think about its other capabilities, and they often overlook its remote server management functionality. With Windows Server 2016, the new default server installation option is Server Core.

Server Manager has grown in importance for administrators who are not up to speed with management via PowerShell and the command line.

Server Manager has grown in importance for administrators who are not up to speed with management via PowerShell and the command line. Server Manager performs remote installs and configurations as if the GUI were on the server.

Microsoft includes Server Manager in the GUI version of Windows Server 2016, so there is no third-party software or installation necessary. Server Manager provides administrators with one or two management servers with a GUI to control a collection of Server Core installs without the pain of learning PowerShell.

PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment

It's not really one of the Windows Server 2016 features, but PowerShell only gets more important with each ensuing server release. While it's possible to do most things with a remote GUI, there are some features and functions that require PowerShell. To start using these features, learn how to use the PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE).

PowerShell ISE isn't just for scripting. It presents a more controlled setting to develop and test PowerShell commands. The application's scripting support is ideal with its breakpoint function, step commands and other debugging features.

PowerShell ISE also includes other features to help an admin who is new to PowerShell. This ranges from better help options for commands and arguments to IntelliSense, which speeds up the coding process with autocomplete for commands, folders and paths.

Another key feature of PowerShell ISE is syntax coloring for the different commands. This feature is invaluable when working with large PowerShell scripts or commands, and the highlighting feature flags errors.

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