Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 Ready for Production Use

Windows Server 2016 and the System Center 2016 management suite of products have reached "general availability" (GA) status, Microsoft announced this week.

Now the products -- both now licensed on a per-core basi, instead of the earlier per-processor approach -- can be purchased and used in production environments. Also, achieving GA status means Microsoft's service provider partners can start testing Windows Server 2016 in their datacenter implementations.

In late September, both products were at the earlier "release-to-manufacturing" stage. They got a small bit of stage time during Microsoft's Ignite keynote product "launch" back then.

Microsoft seems to have reserved Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 product details for its Ignite session attendees. Many of those sessions are currently available on demand via the Ignite 2016 Channel 9 portal. The agenda for Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 sessions at Ignite can be found at this page.

Also, Microsoft announced this week that it will broadcast a Windows Server 2016 Webcast on Oct. 13, starting at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time. The Webcast will feature talks by Microsoft luminaries such as Jeffrey Snover, Jeff Woolsey and Erin Chapple.

Windows Server 2016 Highlights
Microsoft is marketing Windows Server 2016 as another advance in its "hybrid cloud" approach. The "hybrid" part means that the traditional customer-maintained server model can work with the services delivered from Microsoft's datacenters, such as Microsoft Azure services and Office 365 services.

Windows Server 2016 was "forged in our own Azure datacenters," Microsoft stressed in its announcement. The new server also has software-defined capabilities that come from Microsoft's experience in running Azure datacenters. Microsoft also had previously announced that the Docker Engine was added to Windows Server 2016 at "no additional cost" to customers. It facilitates running applications without conflict by using either Windows Server Containers or Hyper-V Containers, which both tap Docker Engine technology.

Microsoft lists its application server product support on Windows Server 2016 in this TechNet publication. The main Microsoft application server products that aren't yet supported on the new Windows Server 2016 product include Skype for Business Server 2015, BizTalk Server 2016, Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 15 and Host Integration Server 2016. They will get supported eventually, though, a Microsoft spokesperson indicated.

IT pros looking for hardware recommendations for Windows Server 2016 might take a look at this list compiled by Thomas Maurer, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional. He's also compiled other useful links on "deployment, upgrading and certification" in this blog post.

Microsoft is touting access to its new server technology via a relatively new licensing portability option. It's for current Windows Server users that have Software Assurance coverage. Under this "Azure Hybrid Use Benefit" option, if an organization has Windows Server products installed on premises that are covered by the Software Assurance annuity program, then it's possible to move that licensing from an organization's infrastructure and use Windows Server virtual machines on Microsoft Azure datacenter infrastructure.

Windows Server 2016 currently can be downloaded. It's available via the MSDN subscriber portal and the TechNet Evaluation Center (a free 180-day trial copy).

System Center 2016 Highlights
The GA announcement of Microsoft's System Center 2016 suite of products means that all of its components are now available, including Virtual Machine Manager, Operations Manager, Orchestrator and Service Management Automation, Service Manager, Data Protection Manager and Configuration Manager. A 180-day trial edition is available for download at Microsoft's evaluation portal here.

Instead of listing the exhaustive feature details, Microsoft broadly listed the following highlights of the System Center 2016 suite:

  • Faster time to value with simple installation, in-place upgrades, and automated workflows.
  • Efficient operations with improvements in performance and usability of all System Center components.
  • Greater heterogeneity and cloud management with broader support for LAMP stack and VMware, including monitoring resources and services in Azure and Amazon Web Services.

There's also a Microsoft white paper listing the System Center 2016 highlights (PDF).

Microsoft is also touting an option to license System Center 2016 components via its Operations Management Suite (OMS) subscriptions. OMS is Microsoft's solution for managing public cloud workloads. There are four service options available to OMS subscribers, namely Insights & Analytics, Automation & Control, Security & Compliance, and Protection & Recovery. They are priced per node.

Various System Center 2016 components come with each of those OMS service options. For instance, Configuration Manager use rights come with an Automation & Control OMS subscription. It's also possible to "attach OMS services to your existing System Center license," which Microsoft calls the "OMS Add-on for System Center." It requires having Software Assurance coverage on System Center to use this add-on option. More details about these System Center-OMS licensing options can be found in Microsoft's OMS "Pricing and Licensing Datasheet" (PDF).

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.