Category Archives: Windows Server 2019

Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2019: overview and product features

Microsoft recently announced the availability of Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2019, the product of free installation, that allows you to adopt the Hyper-V role to deliver an enterprise-class virtualization solution. This is an announcement that many people have been waiting for a long time to take advantage of the new virtualization features in Windows Server 2019. This article introduces the main product features and provides steps to follow to install the product.

Features

Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2019 is a standalone product that includes only the roles related to virtualization, it's totally free and includes the same technologies as the Hyper-V hypervisor present in Windows Server 2019. This product may be of particular interest in scenarios where you don't need to fire Windows Server virtual machines, and when you have to keep Linux or VDI virtual machines running. All operating systems activated on Hyper-V Server 2019 will have to be appropriately licensed if required.

Compared to Windows Server, the footprint is much smaller, because there is no graphical user interface (GUI), contains no other roles and is only available in Server Core mode. In this regard, it should be taken into account that Hyper-V Server 2019 does not allow you to use Software Defined Datacenter features as Storage Spaces Direct (S2D). These features require the presence of Windows Server Datacenter edition.

Product Installation

Before proceeding with the installation it is appropriate to verify the hardware requirements listed in Microsoft's official documentation.

To get Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2019 you need to log inthe specific section of the Microsoft Evaluation Center and start downloading the ISO. With the Hyper-V Server ISO available, you can use it to boot the machine and start the installation of the product.

The installation process does not require any license key and there are no time limits for use. The following are the steps to install the product.

Figure 1 – Selecting the language and region settings

 

Figure 2 – Start the installation process

 

Figure 3 - Accepting the license terms

 

Figure 4 – Selecting the drive on which to install Microsoft Hyper-V Server

Next, the installation will begin, at the end of which, after the Administrator account password change, you will be able to configure Hyper-V Server 2019. The configuration can be done using the command sconfig or by using PowerShell.

Figure 5 – Configuring the server using sconfig

You do not need to install the Hyper-V role because it is already active at the end of the installation.

Windows Admin Center, that allows you to fully and graphically manage the virtualization environment, can also be used to manage Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2019.

Conclusions

The announcement of the availability of Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2019 came after months from the official release of Windows Server 2019, but now it can be used in production, and it may be particularly suitable if it falls within one of the scenarios described in this article. Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2019 is a good solution to adopt a stable and proven virtualization platform without incurring specific costs to fire the operating system of the virtualization host, but you should always consider the limitations.

Azure Stack HCI: introduction to the solution

The use of hyper-converged infrastructure in recent years has increased sharply and estimates from authoritative sources report that in the coming 12-18 months investing in solutions of this kind will be among the most significant for the modernization of datacenters, for about the 54% of the organizations. With the arrival of Windows Server 2019, Microsoft introduced the solution Azure Stack HCI, that can run virtual machines and easy connection to Azure with a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). This article lists the main features of the solution and its potential.

The trend that is emerging is the transition from a "three tier" traditional infrastructure, composed of network switches, appliance, physical systems with onboard hypervisors, storage fabric and SAN, toward hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), where different hardware components are removed, substitutes by the "magic" of the software, able to combine the layer of compute, storage and network in one solution.

Figure 1 – "Three Tier" Infrastructure vs Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI)

All this is made possible by the new operating system Windows Server 2019, that lets you use Hyper-V, a solid and reliable hypervisor, along with Software Defined Storage and Software-Defined Networking solutions. To this is added Windows Admin Center, that allows you to fully manage and with a graphical interface the hyper-converged environment. The whole is implemented on hardware specially validated by various vendors.

Figure 2 – Azure Stack HCI Solution overview

The positioning of the solution Azure Stack HCI is as follows, side-by-side with Azure and Azure Stack, but with specific and distinct purposes.

Figure 3 – Azure Family

Azure Stack HCI is an evolution of Windows Server Software-Defined solution (WSSD) available in the past with Windows Server 2016. Azure Stack HCI was inducted into the Azure family as it shares the same software-defined technologies used from Azure Stack.

Azure Stack HCI allows the execution of virtualized applications in the on-premises environment, on hardware tested and validated specifically. In order to get certified hardware is subjected to rigorous validation testing, that guarantee the reliability and stability of the solution. To consult the different solutions for Azure Stack HCI of the various hardware vendors you can access this page.

Figure 4 – Azure Stack HCI solutions hardware partners

Proper hardware sizing is critical to achieving the desired results in terms of performance and stability, Therefore, you should always use hardware solutions validated in a specific way and do not use hardware components assembled at will. This condition is also required to obtain a solution of Azure Stack HCI fully supported.

Through the use and support of the latest innovations in hardware devices, Azure Stack HCI enables you to achieve very high performance, much to achieve an important record of IOPS (-> 13.798.674) for the hyper-converged platforms, doubling the maximum performance that had been reached with Windows Server 2016.

Figure 5 - Hardware Innovations supported by Azure Stack HCI

The hyper-converged solution with Windows Server 2016 saw a big problem due to the fact that the configuration and management of the environment had to be made predominantly from the command line.

Thanks to the introduction of Windows Admin Center you have the ability to manage and control hyper-converged environment totally via web interface. In addition, many vendors of hardware solutions provide the Windows Admin Center extensions to enhance the management capabilities.

The following video shows the management of a hyper-converged environment from Windows Admin Center:

In software-defined storage, the Storage Space Direct technology allows you to take advantage of many features, making it a complete solution, reliable and secure.

Figure 6 – Features in software-defined storage scope

In Windows Server 2019 important improvements have been made in the field of data deduplication and compression that allow you to have a higher quantity of usable storage space.

Figure 7 – Possible disk space savings using deduplication and compression

This configuration can be achieved very easily directly from Windows Admin Center.

Figure 8 – Enabling deduplication and compression from Windows Admin Center

Azure Stack HCI can be used for smaller environments with two nodes and can scale up to a maximum of 16 nodes.

Figure 9 -Scalability of the solution

In the presence of clusters composed by exactly two nodes Windows Server 2019 you can use the Nested resiliency, a new feature in Storage Spaces Direct, introduced in Windows Server 2019, that allows you to support more faults at the same time without losing access to storage.

Figure 10 - Hardware Fault supported

Using this feature you will have a lower capacity than a classic two-way mirror, but you get better reliability, essential for hyper-converged infrastructure, exceeding the limit from previous versions of Windows Server in the presence of cluster environments with only two nodes . The nested resiliency brings together two new options in the resiliency, implemented in software and without the need for specific hardware:

  • Nested two-way mirror: on each server is used locally a two-way mirror, and an additional resiliency is ensured by a two-way mirror between the two servers. Actually it's a four-way mirror, where there are two copies of the data for each server.
  • Nested mirror-accelerated parity: mixes two-way mirror, described above, with the nested parity.

Figure 11 – Nested two-way mirror + Nested mirror-accelerated parity

Azure Stack HCI connects on-premises resources to public cloud Azure to extend the feature set, a totally different approach from Azure Stack, that allows you to adopt the Azure services on-premises, getting a totally consistent experience to the public cloud, but with resources that are located in your datacenter.

Figure 12 – Hybrid approach: Azure Stack vs Azure Stack HCI

The ability to connect Azure Stack HCI with Azure services to obtain a hybrid hyper-converged solution is an important added value that differs strongly from other competitors. Also in this case the integration can be done directly from Windows Admin Center to enjoy the following services Azure:

  • Azure Site Recovery to implement disaster recovery scenarios.
  • Azure Monitor to monitor, in a centralized way, what happens at the application level, on the network and in its hyper-converged infrastructure, with advanced analysis using artificial intelligence.
  • Cloud Witness to use Azure storage account as cluster quorum.
  • Azure Backup for offsite protection of your infrastructure.
  • Azure Update Management to make an assessment of the missing updates and proceed with its distribution, for both Windows and Linux systems, regardless of their location, Azure or on-premises.
  • Azure Network Adapter to easily connect on-premises resources with the VMs in Azure via a point-to-site VPN.
  • Azure Security Center for monitoring and detecting security threats in virtual machines.

Figure 13 – Windows Azure hybrid Integration services from Admin Center

Conclusions

Microsoft has made significant investments to develop, improve and make its own proposition for hyper-converged scenarios more reliable and efficient. Azure Stack HCI is now a mature solution, that exceeds the limits of previous Windows Server Software-Defined solution (WSSD) and incorporates everything you need to create a hyper-converged environment into a single product and a single license: Windows Server 2019. The ability to connect remotely Azure Stack HCI to various Azure services also make it an even more complete and functional solution.

Windows Server 2019: introduction to System Insights

In Windows Server 2019 has been included a new feature called System Insights which it introduces natively in the operating system predictive capabilities. Thanks to an accurate analysis that occurs locally to the system, based on a machine learning model, is able to provide, with a high level of reliability, forecasts of problematic conditions that may occur in the Windows Server environment. This article shows how to enable this feature and the main features of the solution.

Install System Insights

System Insights in Windows Server 2019, does not require specific installation requirements, and can be activated on physical or virtual systems, so the Hypervisor or cloud platform on which reside agnostic. Installation is simple and can be done using one of the following ways:

  • Through Windows Admin Center.

Figure 1 – Enabling System Insights through Windows Admin Center

  • With PowerShell, using the command “Add-WindowsFeature System-Insights-IncludeManagementTools”
  • Adding the feature System-Insights by using Server Manager.

Using System Insights

After installation, you can proceed by configuring the desired settings for forecasts of the CPU capacity, the use of networking and storage consumption.

Figure 2 – Weather forecast available

System Insights is able to provide the results of the analyses carried out and their predictions after some hours of activation.

The possible states that can be assumed by all forecast are as follows:

Figure 3 – Possible States

For each estimate available you can select the scheduling of when it performed:

Figure 4 – Prediction scheduling

In addition, you can configure scripts that are executed when returning a specific status code, useful to take corrective actions automatically.

Figure 5 – Actions to be taken against certain States

Each type of capacity can also be invoked manually in a forced manner via the button Invoke.

By selecting the different available forecasts, you can view the detailed information.

Figure 6 – CPU usage example

Figure 7 - Sample of Critical status for the consumption of space on the volume E:

Figure 8 – Details that bring the prediction on the exhaustion of space in the next 7 days

System Insights is able to provide this predictive information based on machine-learning models, analyzing different elements such as performance counters and events. All data are collected and analyzed locally to the machine, without iterations with elements in the cloud and with a non-significant resource consumption. Using PowerShell, you have the ability to aggregate the results of System Insights from multiple virtual machines. In that regard, it shows a sample script to aggregate the results of multiple systems.

Figure 9 – Sample PowerShell script for aggregating data from System Insights

This approach can be useful for a small number of systems, but if you want to have an overview of this information for more complex environments, you can bring together the information of System Insights in a workspace of Azure Log Analytics. To do this, simply set up your Log Analytics workspace to also collect events generated by System Insight (Microsoft-Windows-System-Insights/Admin):

Figure 10 – Configuration of the workspace of Log Analytics

In this way you can easily generate the Rule to be notified based on specific queries.

Figure 11 – System Insights event ID

Figure 12 -Example of a query that is used in a Rule

Conclusions

For system administrators, the instrument System Insight is useful and easy to use, enabling you to predict several problematic conditions that may occur on your Windows Server, all in a fully integrated manner in the operating system. With this feature you can achieve greater continuity of service and a reduction of the time required to clear error conditions.

Windows Server 2019: available versions and installation choices

Windows Server 2019, the latest version of the server operating system from Microsoft, is available and introduces important new features that allow you to more easily extend the datacenters to Azure to obtain hybrid environments, modernizing your applications and infrastructure, and maintaining a high level of security and efficiency. This article provides detailed versions available in Windows Server 2019 and possible installation variants, to address better the choices related to the implementation of the new operating system.

For the Windows Server operating system you have the option of choosing two different release: Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) or Semi-Annual Channel. Windows Server 2019 belongs to the release channel Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC).

The release model defined Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) has the following features:

  • A new major version is released approximately every two or three years.
  • The products belonging to the LTSC have 5 years of mainstream support and more 5 years of extended support.
  • Products belonging to the Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) may be adopted by customers regardless of the licensing model that adhered (Software Assurance is not needed).

The release channel defined Semi-Annual Channel is characterized by these elements:

  • Are released approximately two operating system release every year. This releases include new features, improvements and resolution of issues.
  • The versions are identified by a four-digit number, two for the year and two for the month.
  • The Semi-Annual Channel releases have a support of 18 months from the date of publication.
  • Can join the Windows Server released in Semi-Annual Channel Microsoft customers with a Software Assurance contract or customers using cloud environments.

The use of Windows Server in Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) is appropriate in case you want to have a longer service period and increased stability of the services functionality. It is therefore suitable for infrastructure roles, hyper-converged infrastructure and traditional applications infrastructure. The Semi-Annual Channel, considering the constant releases and particularly not long period, is suitable for customers who aim to innovate continuously and fast, to keep up with the rapid evolution of the cloud. Recommended scenarios for using the operating system on Semi-Annual Channel are, for example, Containers applications, Microservices and applications that can benefit from rapid innovation.

Versions of Windows Server 2019

Windows Server 2019 is available in two main versions: Standard or Datacenter. The Datacenter version is ideal in the presence of data centers with a high density of virtualization and cloud computing environments, while the Standard version is typically used for physical servers, or in areas with a limited number of virtualized systems. For these versions the licensing model is based on the cores and is no longer based on the processors, choice taken by Microsoft to provide greater linearity in the management of licensing, in the presence of multi-cloud environments. There is also the version Essentials, designed for small businesses with up to 25 users and 50 devices. For this edition, the licensing is for server. For more details concerning the licensing and cost of Windows Server 2019 you can download this Microsoft's document.

When choosing the version, Standard or Datacenter, you should consider the following differences in functionality:

Functionality

Standard edition Datacenter edition
Core Windows Server functionality OK OK
Hybrid integration OK OK
Hyper-Converged Infrastructure X OK
OSes */Hyper-V containers

Includes 2 OSes or VMs

Unlimited

Windows Server containers

Unlimited

Unlimited

Host Guardian Service OK OK
Storage Replica

Limited: single Volume at most 2 TB

OK
Shielded virtual machines (VMs) X OK
Software-defined networking and Network Controller X OK
Software-defined storage X OK

ok = Feature available      X = Feature not available

To compare in detail the features of Windows Server 2019 you can consult this document.

Installation options in Windows Server 2019

Windows Server 2019 can be installed in the following ways:

  • Windows Server Core: This is the default installation of Windows Server 2019, recommended for servers in the production environment. In this mode there is no Desktop Experience, but you can administer the system remotely using Windows Admin Center.
  • Windows Server with the Desktop Experience: in some specific cases, for application compatibility issue, however, the presence of the Desktop Experience is required. With this installation mode, core mode, uses more disk space, requires higher deployment time and it has a higher attack surface.

Figure 1 – Installation options in Windows Server 2019

In Windows Server 2019 Core can be installed an option package called Server Core App Compatibility Feature on Demand (FOD) to meet the application compatibility problems. This solution can be useful even in scenarios where tools to perform advanced operations troubleshooting and debugging are required. The procedure for installing the Server Core App Compatibility FOD is documented in this article and installing it are included the following components in the Core Operating System:

  • Microsoft Management Console (mmc.exe)
  • Event Viewer (Eventvwr.msc)
  • Performance Monitor (PerfMon.exe)
  • Resource Monitor (Resmon.exe)
  • Device Manager (Devmgmt.msc)
  • File Explorer (Explorer.exe)
  • Windows PowerShell (Powershell_ISE.exe)
  • Disk Management (Diskmgmt.msc)
  • Failover Cluster Manager (CluAdmin.msc)

The Server Core App Compatibility FOD also prepares the system to accommodate the installation of Internet Explorer 11.

If Windows Server Core mode is not a valid choice for application compatibility issues, is recommended that you consider installing the Server Core App Compatibility FOD before opting for Windows servers with the Desktop Experience.

Conclusions

With Windows Server 2019 Microsoft has introduced important changes and has dramatically improved the experience of new server operating system, with the ability to manage it remotely, easily and intuitively, with Windows Admin Center and focusing on issues related to application compatibility. As reported in this article, there are substantial differences between the various versions and methods of deployment, that should be taken into consideration at every deployment of Windows Server 2019.

Windows Server 2019: introduction to the news for the cluster environment

October is the month of the official release of the final version of Windows Server 2019. The new server operating system from Microsoft introduces, in different areas, important new features that let you get Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) more reliable and flexible. To achieve this in Windows Server 2019 the cluster solution introduces a number of changes that are documented in this article.

Cluster Sets

Cluster Sets is a new technology for scale-out cluster environment introduced in Windows Server 2019. With this feature, you can group multiple Failover Clusters into a single entity to achieve greater fluidity of virtual machines among different clusters. All this is especially useful for load balancing and for maintenance, such as the replacement of entire cluster, without impacting the execution of virtual machines. In terms of management you can govern all using a single namespace. Cluster Sets do not distort the normal operating principles of traditional cluster environment (Preffered Owner, Node Isolation, Load Balancing, etc.), but remain completely unchanged, adding benefits such as Azure-like Fault Domains and Availability Sets between different clusters.

Figure 1 – Cluster Sets overview

File share witness

In clustered environment you have the ability to configure as witness the "File Share Witness" option (FSW), for which the following innovations were introduced.

It blocked the use of share of type Distributed File System (DFS). Theuse of DFS share as a File Share Witness (FSW) has never been a supported configuration as it introduces potential instability in cluster. In Windows Server 2019 was introduced a logic capable of detecting whether a share uses DFS and if so Failover Cluster Manager blocks the creation of the witness, displaying an error message saying that it is an unsupported configuration.

Figure 2 – Error message trying to configure witness on DFS share

In order to use a configuration with FSW, before the introduction of Windows Server 2019, one of the requirements to be met was that the Windows Server system that hosted the share had to be joined to a domain, and part of the same Active Directory forest. This requirement was due to the fact that the Failover Cluster used the Kerberos Authentication with the Cluster Name Object (CNO) to authenticate and connect to the share. In Windows Server 2019 you can create a File Share Witness (FSW) without using the CNO, it simply uses a local account to connect to FSW. To use File Share Witness is no longer required Kerberos authentication, the Cluster Name Object and your Active Directory environment. It follows that extend the possible usage scenarios for FSW, and it is possible to contemplate the use of, for example, NAS appliance, Windows systems not joined to the domain, etc.

 

Move the cluster in a different domain

Changing the domain membership of a Failover Cluster has always been an operation that required the destruction and recreation of the environment, with an important impact in terms of time and in operations. In Windows Server 2019 there is a specific procedure to change the membership of a new Active Directory domain of the cluster nodes, with the introduction of two new PowerShell commands:

  • New-ClusterNameAccount: creates from Active Directory a Cluster Name Account
  • Remove-ClusterNameAccount: removes from Active Directory a Cluster Name Account

The procedure requires that the nodes are first configured in Workgroup and then put in join to the new Active Directory domain. During the migration activity is required a stop of hosted workloads from the cluster.

Figure 3 - Domain Migration steps of a cluster

 

Removing the dependency with NTLM authentication

Windows Server Failover Clusters no longer uses NTLM authentication in any way, but only uses Kerberos authentication and certificate-based authentication. All this in Windows Server 2019 is natively, without the need to do special configuration, allowing to reap the resulting benefits in terms of security.

 

Conclusions

In Windows Server 2019 important investments have been made to achieve an agile OS, suitable for hybrid scenarios, more secure and allows you to deploy Hyper-converged infrastructure with outstanding features in terms of scalability and performance. Innovations like that shown in clustered environment help to ensure a better development of companies, offering fundamentals elements to support the process of innovation and modernization of the datacenter.

Windows Server Summit: the online conference that tells about the future of Windows Server

Microsoft has announced that will be held the virtual event Windows Server Summit to explore various argoments related to Windows Server, with a particular focus on new features that will be introduced in the coming months. This event will provide a useful platform to explore the themes related to the new Microsoft's operating system and you can formulate questions and receive answers interactively.

The launch of Windows Server 2019, planned for this year, reinforces the importance of Windows Server within Microsoft's strategy, which is strongly oriented to the realization of hybrid architectures.

When and where

The event, half-day, will take place on 26 June 2018 at 9:00 AM (Pacific Time), hours 6:00 PM in Italy. This is a virtual event, therefore accessible exclusively online. You can see the sessions even after.

Topics covered

The agenda of the event is rich in content which will be accompanied by several demos to contextualize the topics covered. Will be available four tracks covering:

  • Hybrid
  • Security
  • Hyper-converged Infrastructure (HCI)
  • Application Platform

Figure 1 – Tracks of the event

Speakers

The sessions will be given by prominent speakers, among which we find:

Figure 2 – Main speakers at Windows Server Summit

Conclusions

This event will be very helpful to guide and educate IT professionals in the world to the opportunity to develop services and infrastructure present in the data center through integration with cloud services. To get prepared for this event you can join the Windows Insiders program and start evaluating the preview version of Windows Server 2019. Will also be useful to become familiar with Windows Admin Center, that allows you to manage your infrastructure from a central location, through an innovative HTML5-based web console.

Storage Replica: What's new in Windows Server 2019 and the management with Windows Admin Center

Storage Replica, in Microsoft home, is a technology introduced in Windows Server 2016 that you use to replicate, synchronously or asynchronously, volumes between servers or clusters, for disaster recovery purposes. This technology also allows you to create stretch failover cluster with nodes spread over two different site, keeping in sync the storage. This article will present the news, regarding Storage Replica, that will be introduced in Windows Server 2019 and you will be shown how to enable Storage Replica by using the new management tool Windows Admin Center.

 

What's new in Storage Replica in Windows Server 2019

In Windows Server 2016 there is the possibility of using Storage Replica only if you use the Datacenter Edition as operating system version, while in Windows Server 2019 there will be the option to enable Storage Replica also adopting the Standard Edition, but right now, with the following limitations:

  • You can replicate a single volume instead of an unlimited number of volumes.
  • The maximum size of the replicated volume should not exceed 2 TB.
  • The volume in replica can have only one partnership, instead of an unlimited number of partners.

By adopting a new Log format used by Storage Replica (Log v 1.1), imported performance improvements are introduced regarding throughput and latency. You can benefit from these improvements if all systems involved in the replication process will be Windows Server 2019 and will be especially noticeable on all-flash arrays and on Storage Spaces Direct cluster (S2D).

To validate the effectiveness of the replication process, is introduces the ability to perform a Test Failover. Through this new feature it is possible to mount a writable snapshots of the replicated storage. To perform this operation, for testing purposes or backup, you must have a volume, not involved in replication, on the destination server. Testing Failover has no impact on the replication process, which will continue to ensure the protection of the data and the changes to the snapshot will remain circumscribed to the test volume. Upon completion of testing it is appropriate to conduct a discard of the snapshot.

Storage Replica in Windows Admin Center

Windows Admin Center, also known as Project Honolulu, enables via an HTML5-based web console, to manage the infrastructure in a centralized way.

Through Windows Admin Center, you can install on the servers the Storage Replica feature and the related PowerShell module.

Figure 1 - Add the Storage Replica feature from Windows Admin Center

Figure 2 - Confirm the installation of Storage Replica and its dependencies

Figure 3 - Notification that the installation was successful

After the installation, the server requires a restart.

At this point you can configure, through Windows Admin Center, a new partnership of replica. The same thing could be accomplished using the Windows Powershell cmdlet New-SRPartnership.

Figure 4 - Adding new Storage Replica partnership between two replication Groups

Figure 5 - Settings required for the configuration of the Partnership

Windows Admin Center reports, at the end of the configuration, the details of the partnership.

Figure 6 - Details about the replication partnership

In addition, you can manage the replication status (suspend \ resume), switch the direction of synchronization and modify the configurations (add \ remove the replica volumes and settings of the partnership).

Figure 7 - Switch the replication direction

Figure 8 - Changing the partnership settings

Conclusions

Windows Server 2019 will introduce significant changes in Storage Replica service that, In addition to evolve it in terms of performance and effectiveness, will make it even more accessible. The whole is enriched by the possibilities offered by Windows Admin Center to easily, quickly and completely manage Storage Replica. Microsoft is making significant investments in storage and the results are obvious and tangible. For those wishing to test the latest new features about Windows Server 2019 can participate in the program Windows Insider.