With this latest release of Hyper-V, Hyper-V 2016, Microsoft has made great strides with their hypervisor and have become a major player in the field of virtualization today. Hyper-V Server 2016, the free edition hypervisor, as well as the Hyper-V role that can be installed in either Windows Server 2016 Standard or Datacenter edition has matured leaps and bounds since the early days of the first release of Hyper-V. Let’s take a look at the new features of Hyper-V in version 2016 as well as the editions and how they are used. There are a couple formats for Hyper-V 2016 to be consumed. The first is Hyper-V Server 2016, and then also Windows Server 2016 Standard or Datacenter with the Hyper-V role installed. Let’s take a look at these and when you would use each.
Hyper-V Server 2016. Hyper-V Server 2016 is basically Windows Server Core with the Hyper-V role preinstalled. Windows Server Core is the GUI-less OS that is administered from the command line or powershell. Hyper-V 2016 comes with no Windows guest licenses, so typically it is ideal for VDI environments or in environments running many Linux VMs or other VMs that do not need a Windows license.
Windows Server 2016 Standard or Datacenter. The installed role option is typically the version you install in Enterprise environments running Hyper-V as the hypervisor of choice. Windows Server 2016 Standard Edition comes with two virtual instances of Windows licenses included and these cannot be moved to another host. So, you can run two Windows VMs with Standard edition. Windows Server 2016 Datacenter comes with unlimited virtual instances. So, once you purchase proper datacenter licensing, you can run unlimited VMs on this platform. To keep in mind also, Datacenter edition in 2016 contains features the other two versions of Hyper-V do not – storage replicas, storage spaces direct, network virtualization stack (HNVv2), and support for shielded VMs.
Windows Server 2016 Licensing
The licensing model with Windows Server 2016 has changed significantly. New to 2016 licensing is the price of Server 2016 is based on a per core model instead of a per socket model previous to 2016. The following details and others can be found in the Windows Server 2016 Licensing Datasheet.
- Server licensing must include all physical cores
- This licensing is now based on the number of physical CPU cores in the server
- 16 core licenses are the minimum for licensing a server
- 8 core licenses are required for each physical CPU
- These core licenses are sold in two-packs
- The minimum required to license each server is eight 2-core packs
- Standard edition provides the rights for 2 OS instances or containers. For each additional 2 VMs, all cores must be relicensed
- The price of 16 core licenses of Windows Server 2016 Datacenter and Standard edition will equal the 2-proc licenses of Windows Server 2012 R2 corresponding editions
New Features with Hyper-V in 2016
There are a lot of new and exciting features contained in Hyper-V 2016. Let’s take a look at some of the more important and exciting enhancements with the latest version of Hyper-V.
- Nano server is basically a tiny version of Windows that is built for Hyper-V, storage and clustering and specifically has cloud in mind
- It provides a truly headless architecture without any login screen or RDP support
- Containers are certainly the hot topic and everyone in the virtualization community has either heard about containers or is actively testing use cases
- Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V containers are brought to the Hyper-V platform
- Hyper-V is no longer behind the VMware world in nested virtualization. With Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V nested virtualization is now possible with Hyper-V VMs
- Nested virtualization basically allows you to run a hypervisor inside of a VM. So you could run Hyper-V inside of Hyper-V
Linux Secure Boot
- As was possible with Windows guest virtual machines in Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V, Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V also allows you to secure boot a Generation 2 Linux virtual machine
- For the security minded, shielded VMs ensure that VMs only are able to run in the environment the VM is intended to run
- What this means is that someone who has access to the VHDX files can’t just copy the files to another Hyper-V environment and boot the VMs
- VMs are encrypted using bitlocker or other encryption technologies and can include the VM state as well as network traffic
- Powershell direct is a great new feature that allows powershell connectivity using the VMBus of Hyper-V and doesn’t rely on general network connectivity to the VMs
Production VM Checkpoints
- Checkpoints or snapshots as we might think of them were quick and easy points in time to roll back to in testing, development, or other use cases. However, they were not supported in production. With Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V, Microsoft is leveraging VSS instead of simple saved state data for VMs. This means restoring a checkpoint is like restoring a system from a full VSS backup. You have the choice to leverage either the new checkpoint functionality or revert to the saved state checkpoint if you want also
Hot Add Improvements
- You can now hot add a network adapter to a Hyper-V guest VM
Rolling Cluster Upgrades
- This allows for upgrading a Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V Cluster to the next version of Hyper-V without any new hardware
- You can now run the upgrade on a live cluster and have the new version of Hyper-V running with the older version
- This can be done with no downtime and the operation is reversible up until the final steps of the upgrade are performed. The cluster can operate in “mixed mode” operation, running both levels of the hypervisor
Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V has come a long way since the early days of the product. We can truly see Microsoft now is a major player in the enterprise virtualization space and is continuing to innovate with the product. There is no longer a clear-cut choice when choosing a hypervisor in the enterprise as Microsoft has turned up the heat in terms of features, functionality, scalability, and versatility in the product.
With new features, such as containers support, nested virtualization, shielded VMs, production VM checkpoints, and rolling cluster upgrades, Microsoft has definitely rolled killer features into their latest release of Hyper-V. Also, they are showing they are serious about cloud as well with the new Nano OS which is built for cloud scalability. Each new version of Hyper-V has strengthened Microsoft’s position in the virtualization space and Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V is proving to be no exception to that trend.