With the release of Windows Server 2019 imminent at the time of this writing in the first part of October 2018, virtualization administrators are eager to get their hands on the latest Microsoft Windows Server operating system. The new OS touts many worthy upgrades to features and functionality. One of the main points of interest since Windows Server 2008 with each new server release are related to Hyper-V functionality.

What new features and functionality is contained with the next release of Windows Server 2019 Hyper-V?

We will take a look at the main feature release points as they relate to Hyper-V specifically and what virtualization administrators can expect with the next version of Hyper-V in their enterprise datacenters.

Windows Server 2019 Hyper-V Features

The thrust of the new Windows Server 2019 release has been focused on hybrid cloud environments. At the heart of hybrid cloud is virtualization. Most organizations today are running most if not all their infrastructure inside virtualized environments. With each new release of Hyper-V, there are advantages to customers to upgrade to the latest Windows Server operating systems to take advantage of the new feature set contained therein for the Hyper-V hypervisor.

Let’s take a look at the Hyper-V specific and virtualization specific features found in Windows Server 2019. We will key in on the following:

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  • Easier two-node clusters
  • Improved Storage Spaces Direct Performance and Limits
  • ReFS deduplication added
  • Windows Admin Center – improved S2D visibility
  • Smaller Server Core container image

Let’s take a look at the above features to see how each of these advancements bring a more powerful Hyper-V offering to Windows Server 2019.

Easier Two-Node Clusters

Microsoft is set on making it easier with Windows Server 2019 to create two-node clusters, including Hyper-V clusters. They are certainly going after VMware’s offering for a two-node stretched vSAN cluster here and touting their offering as being simpler, less complex, and able to use commodity type hardware. With Windows Server 2019, Microsoft has introduced the ability to use a simple USB key to perform the function of a witness share. Many commodity routers today have the ability to mount a USB key and create a share from the USB storage that can be accessed across the network.

With the “true two-node” configuration as Microsoft calls it, organizations can quickly and easily provision the required witness component in the form of this easily configured share to allow the two-node cluster configuration to achieve quorum in the case of a “split-brain” scenario. This simplistic configuration also makes it convenient and easy to have two-node clusters configured in “edge” environments that may not have the available infrastructure to configure a dedicated server that hosts a witness share. Additionally, this requires no Internet connectivity which is also extremely important to consider in isolated edge environments.

The new true two-node Windows Server 2019 configuration will certainly make it much easier for organizations looking to provision Hyper-V clusters in environments that either lack infrastructure or Internet connectivity or maybe both. When thinking about infrastructure, having options is always a good thing and the new true two-node cluster configuration gives organizations a very powerful way to provision cluster infrastructure in these edge environments.

Improved Storage Spaces Direct Performance and Limits

With the release of any new version of software or operating system, one of the first things you will notice are extended configuration maximums, performance, and limits. Windows Server 2019 is no exception here and we want to take note of both storage maximums for the Storage Spaces Direct pool size as well as increase performance.

With Windows Server 2016, the maximum storage per cluster in Storage Spaces Direct was 1 Petabyte. New with Windows Server 2019, the maximum storage per cluster is now 4 Petabytes, which is four times the previous limit. Additionally, Microsoft has improved the maximum performance of Storage Spaces Direct. At the Microsoft Ignite event, they were able to achieve 13 million IOPs with only 8 server nodes in the cluster which far surpassed the performance in Windows Server 2016.

ReFS with Deduplication

One of the major downsides with using ReFS was the fact that you were not able to utilize deduplication with the other benefits that ReFS brought along. When thinking about Storage Spaces Direct storage that is utilizing ReFS file system to store virtual machine storage, not having the benefit of deduplication is a major disadvantage.

Virtual machine storage typically has a lot of duplicated blocks that could greatly benefit from deduplication. When you think about having many servers running the same Windows Server operating system, it is easy to see how many duplicated blocks could take advantage of deduplication. In some environments this space savings could be as much as 90%.

New with Windows Server 2019 and the ReFS file system is the ability to make use of deduplication with ReFS. This provides tremendous benefits as you can imagine to the space savings and efficiency of storage when used in ReFS-backed Hyper-V storage in a Hyper-V cluster.

Windows Admin Center

Possibly the single biggest spotlight for Windows Server 2019 is Windows Admin Center. Starting out as Project Honolulu, Microsoft has set out to make this the server management tool of the future. Windows Admin Center even contains GUI functionality that is only contained in Windows Admin Center. When thinking about Hyper-V functionality in Windows Server 2019, Windows Admin Center contains enhanced visibility into Storage Spaces Direct performance as well as enhanced notifications of health metrics, even of single individual disks in the Windows Server 2019 host.

Many of the Storage Spaces Direct features that were only able to be controlled in PowerShell can now be access via the Windows Admin Center. Windows Admin Center contains a really great feature that exposes the underlying PowerShell cmdlets and scripts being ran to perform the operation. This allows you to copy the PowerShell code from Windows Admin Center, customize it, and make use of the code.

Windows Admin Center includes a new ability in Windows Server 2019 call the Storage Migration service that allows easily migrating file servers even from servers as old as Windows Server 2003 up to Windows Server 2019! This allows you to with a single automated process to migrate files, folders, shares, and even assume the identity of the legacy Windows Server host

Container Enhancements

Containers are certainly the hot thing in virtualization technology. Organizations are rapidly exploring container technology and use cases in their respective environments. Container support has been improved with each release of Windows Server. With Windows Server 2016, the Hyper-V containers feature was introduced that allows running containers inside specialized Hyper-V virtual machines. Microsoft added nested virtualization support in Windows Server 2016 that makes this possible.

With Windows Server 2019, container functionality has been greatly improved to include Linux containers! Now Linux containers are supported along with Windows containers. Microsoft has also extended functionality and support of the Windows Subsystem for Linux or WSL even further, allowing even broader support for native Linux tools and utilities.

Lastly, Microsoft has done a lot of work on the Server Core container operating system, making it much smaller and more efficiently. This provides benefits all the way around with faster provisioning times, smaller footprints, and better security.

Concluding Thoughts

Windows Server 2019 Hyper-V Enhancement are certainly exciting when you look at the full picture of what Microsoft has accomplished with this latest release. With Windows Server 2019, Hyper-V certainly becomes a much more solid, viable, and capable hypervisor for the enterprise datacenter. Considering how Microsoft has improved this release to be much more hybrid environment-friendly, Hyper-V is certainly a foundation for allowing workloads to live both on-premises and in the Azure public cloud.

The improvements to two-node clusters in Windows Server 2019 certainly makes the two-node Hyper-V cluster a great solution for edge environments lacking infrastructure and connectivity. With Storage Spaces Direct, both the scale and performance of the platform have been improved. Windows Admin Center adds a wide range of features to Windows Server 2019 that allows efficient management of multiple hosts, clusters, and environments.

Containers have come of age in this release with added Linux support and more efficient container images. There are a tremendous amount of Hyper-V enhancements with this release to take advantage of and the features mentioned in the article are only a few of the many features that make this release the most powerful and capable Hyper-V versions yet.

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