Tag Archives: Azure

Expect service providers to ease Azure Stack deployment

Microsoft is about to release Azure Stack, after two years and many bumps in the road. Despite the hoopla, it’s unclear just how many customers will be there to warmly greet the new arrival.

Microsoft has said that Azure Stack offers both infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service capabilities. As such, it brings the perks of the cloud service down into the data center. This might tempt businesses long frustrated with tangled, difficult-to-manage multicloud setups, said Mike Dorosh, an analyst at Gartner.

Dorosh said that, given the product’s complex licensing terms, he doubts many IT shops would opt for an Azure Stack deployment directly from a Microsoft hardware partner — at least initially. Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Lenovo, Avanade and Huawei offer Azure Stack hardware bundles.

Microsoft designed Azure Stack deployment to be a simple process. Jeffrey Snover, a Microsoft technical fellow, said the installation should be quick and its complexity largely obscured by Microsoft and the hardware vendor. But Dorosh also said he predicts it will test businesses as they attempt to migrate and refactor existing apps and develop and deploy new apps onto Azure Stack.

“Then, the challenge becomes: You don’t have the skills and the tools and the knowledge or the staff to work it,” Dorosh said.

Other factors will likely slow initial adoption. Businesses that have recently invested in a private cloud or their infrastructure won’t replace these new investments with Azure Stack, Dorosh said. He also expects to hear concern about licensing and the speed of Microsoft’s updates.

Questions linger on Microsoft licensing

Azure Stack could confuse customers with its different fee models. Microsoft uses a consumption model for five Azure Stack services: Base virtual machine; Windows Server virtual machine; Azure Blob Storage; Azure Table and Queue Storage; and Azure App Service. Businesses can use existing licenses to reduce costs.

A company can subscribe to Azure Stack on a base VM charge of $0.008 per virtual CPU per hour or $6 per vCPU per month. Without a license, a Windows Server VM will cost $0.046 per vCPU per hour or $34 per vCPU per month. There are also options for when there is no public internet connection, called disconnected, and fixed-fee models. An IaaS package costs $144 per core per year, and adding an app service brings it to $400 per core per year.

Dorosh said he expects businesses to get better terms from Microsoft on Azure Stack deployment than with similar offerings, such as Azure Pack, because it will bundled into the product. However, Microsoft must also streamline its licensing terms to avoid confusion. For example, if a service provider has an SQL database with multiple SQL licenses, it will need to translate those licenses to the Azure Stack model.

“[Microsoft used to say] it depends on where you bought it and which programs you bought it under,” Dorosh said. “But now, [customers] want to know, ‘Can I move my SQL license or not? Yes or no?'”

Customers must also make frequent updates to Azure Stack to continue to receive support. A company must apply a Microsoft update within six months, but service providers want Microsoft to push adopters to stay within two months of the regular patches, Dorosh said. Falling six months behind would leave both service providers and Azure Stack users at a disadvantage.

“The further you fall behind, the less Azure you are,” Dorosh said. “You’re no longer part of the Azure cloud family — you’re Azure-like.”

More Azure Stack coverage

  • One size won’t fit all for Azure Stack debut: Initially, Azure Stack will only be offered as a one-rack deployment. Microsoft said it might extend to multirack deployments by early 2018. For now, the one-rack deployment could dampen interest in Azure Stack at larger businesses that don’t want to extend hosting into the Azure public cloud.
  • Analysts say Azure Stack will outpace VMware on Amazon Web Services: Both Azure Stack and VMware Cloud on AWS are expected to hit the hybrid cloud technology market in September. Even though VMware Cloud on AWS targets the world’s largest cloud service provider, analysts expect Azure Stack to sell better. A leading reason is that many Azure Stack customers will be migrating data with one vendor — from a Microsoft-operated data center to the Azure public cloud — while VMware Cloud on AWS requires you to use technologies from different vendors.
  • Azure Stack architect addresses delay: When Microsoft first announced Azure Stack in May 2015, the plan was to release it by the end of 2016. The company then pushed the release to September 2017. Snover, the Azure Stack architect, told SearchWindowsServer in June that the code was not ready for the original launch date. “As much as possible, we are trying to be Azure-consistent,” he said, and the effort to convert Azure to work on premises required more time.
  • Azure Stack isn’t a steppingstone to public cloud: Microsoft anticipates its Azure Stack customers will be businesses that have a long-term plan for hybrid cloud deployment. Although you could use Azure Stack as a “migration path to the cloud,” as Julia White, Microsoft corporate vice president for Azure, put it, the software provider’s internal research suggests that won’t be the case: Eighty-four percent of customers have a hybrid cloud strategy, and 91% of them look at hybrid cloud computing as a long-term workflow. Microsoft expects companies with data sovereignty issues will look to Azure Stack as a way to get cloud computing while keeping data in-house.

Microsoft Azure expands with two new regions for Australia

I am delighted that Microsoft Azure will be expanding into two new regions in Australia. This increases the number of Azure regions announced across the globe to 42, which is more than any other major cloud provider. Microsoft will become the first major cloud provider to offer regions specifically focused on the needs of the government and their partners in Australia.

The two new regions, available in the first-half of 2018, are intended to be capable of handling sensitive Unclassified data as well as Protected data. Protected is a data classification for the first level of national security classified information in Australia. This is being achieved through a strategic partnership with the Australian-owned firm Canberra Data Centres (CDC). CDC are the preeminent specialist datacenter provider for secure government data in Australia with four modern Canberra-based facilities that hold the accreditations and security controls to handle even Top Secret classified data. Government customers currently using the secure Intra-Government Communications Network (ICON) will be able to directly connect to Azure in Canberra.

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Microsoft Azure has announced 42 regions around the world – more than any other cloud provider

This announcement builds on recent news that dozens of Microsoft Azure services have received certification by Australian Signals Directorate, including services for machine learning, internet-of-things, cybersecurity, and data management. Along with Australian certifications for Office 365 and Dynamics 365, Microsoft is recognized as the most complete and trusted cloud platform in Australia. By comparison, other major cloud providers are only certified for basic infrastructure services or remain uncertified for use by the government.

Today, government, healthcare, and education organisations are already some of the most rapid adopters of Azure from existing regions in Sydney and Melbourne. 

New regions designed to cater for the needs of government, growing certifications from the Australian Signals Directorate, and a history of empowering the digital transformation of organizations is helping Microsoft become the most trusted, innovative cloud for Australia. 

You can read more details about this announcement at the Microsoft Australia News Center.

Announcing the new and improved Azure Log Analytics

The Azure Log Analytics service is rolling out an upgrade to existing customers today – offering powerful search, smart analytics, and even deeper insights. This upgrade provides an interactive query language and an advanced analytics portal, powered by a highly scalable data store resembling Azure Application Insights. This creates a consistent monitoring experience for IT operations and developers.

In the biggest upgrade since its launch, the new and improved Azure Log Analytics brings you a simple yet very powerful query language with all the capabilities requested in the language feedback. Over the last couple of months, we have been working closely with 60+ customers who had early access to the upgrade, and their feedback has been very positive regarding the enhanced experience and capabilities of the new language. Here are some of their quotes, I would like to share with you:

“Wizards of the Coast was fortunate enough to gain early access to Azure Log Analytics upgrade and it has been instrumental in our ability to diagnose issues within our code base and environments, and to view on a large scale the overall performance. The portal implementation is intuitive, and the query language is extremely easy to understand, and the IntelliSense implementation is refined and extremely helpful in its implementation.” 

–Scott Thomas, Infrastructure & Platform Architect, Wizards of the Coast

“I just got our workspace upgraded and the new query language is awesome (so far)! The queries are lightning fast, IntelliSense works great, and I can now do the aggregations I couldn’t do before. This is light-years ahead of the old query engine. Bravo!”

–Microsoft IT

With the new query language, we can carve up Log Analytics data in any way we need to visualize it. Key benefits include the ability to use unions, joins, functions and variables. We have been able to create queries which would not have been possible with the original query language. The upgrade experience was seamless and existing queries were converted automatically. Even with custom solutions which we had developed for Log Analytics the conversion was very straightforward.”

–Cameron Fuller, Principal Consultant, Catapult Systems

Why should I upgrade?

This upgrade opens endless possibilities, but here are some of the brand new key capabilities available immediately after the upgrade, which takes only a few seconds, in most cases.

Powerful query language with built in Smart Analytics

The query language provides powerful search, query time field extractions, calculated fields, joins and unions, as well as rich date time operators, string operators and native JSON support. The query language also supports let statements, lambda expressions and comments in queries, an extremely important feature to modularize the queries, especially when sharing queries with colleagues or using them for live site support and troubleshooting. The query language offers flexible machine learning constructs and time series functions to help customers get deeper insights into their data. For instance, the time series functions help analyze CPU performance from hundreds of computers and select the top N based on usage spikes. There are numerous other capabilities included in the language, which can be further explored in the Azure Log Analytics resource.

Now let’s look at some examples for these, in the context of scenarios. All of the queries shown in the examples below were not feasible in the previous query language.

This query calculates whether a service-level agreement (SLA) was met based on IIS call duration. To try it for yourself, click to run the query.

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This example using joins, shows a list of missing security updates, for computers with a high severity security alert detection for the last day. To try it for yourself, click to run the query.

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Here is another example using time series analysis for analyzing the CPU performance of several computers and narrowing it down to the two most relevant. To try it for yourself, click to run the query.

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Advanced Analytics Portal

The Advanced Analytics portal gives you the best experience for writing interactive ad hoc queries, whether it is for troubleshooting, diagnostics, analyzing trends or creating quick visualizations. This game-changing experience provides multi-line editing features with context-aware syntax highlighting and powerful built-in visualizations. You can save and share queries and export data to Excel.

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Azure Portal, Power BI Desktop and Microsoft Flow Connector Integration

Now with one click, create a quick visualization on Analytics portal and pin the visualization to a shared Azure Dashboard. This enables you to create a single pane of glass across different workspaces, Azure resources and applications.

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With this upgrade, you have a much more powerful integration with Power BI Desktop, the same type of integration as in Application Insights. You can take advantage of additional Power BI visualizations, publish and share them with your colleagues on PowerBI.com and enable automatic daily reports. Finally, you can now integrate with Microsoft Flow and Azure Logic Apps, enabling you to create business flows, notifications, and much more.

How to upgrade

This is probably the simplest upgrade process you’ll experience. Within the application you’ll see a banner prompting you to upgrade, and with just one click, it will enhance your workspace – automatically converting all your artifacts, such as saved searches, views, alerts, and computer groups. Later, all non-upgraded workspaces will automatically be upgraded to the new query language and the platform. Learn more about upgrade process and FAQs in Azure documentation.

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Language documentation, learning tools and community

The Log Search page also provides a side-by-side experience with the old query language enabling you to learn and ramp up on the new query language. The main reason for a rollout upgrade vs automatic upgrade is to give you time to learn and ramp up at your own pace.

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The language documentation site includes extensive language reference, tutorials, examples and cheat sheets. A full-featured demo environment, enables you try out any queries. We are also launching a community site enabling you to interact with other product users, as well as the product team, with questions regarding query language.

Summary

The upgrade enables an assortment of new capabilities and customers are already taking advantage of them. Over the last week and half, during the soft launch period, hundreds of customers elected to upgrade their workspace, totaling in more than 1,000 enhanced workspaces. Upgrade your workspace today and start using the new powerful search and query language to gain deep insights into your data! Register now to join us for a webinar on August 17, 2017, where we will share more details and demos of this improved experience.

Online training for Azure Data Lake

We are pleased to announce the availability of new, free online training for Azure Data Lake. We’ve designed this training to get developers ramped up fast. It covers all the topics a developer needs to know to start being productive with big data and how to address the challenges of authoring, debugging, and optimizing at scale.

Explore the training

Click on the link below to start!

Microsoft Virtual Academy: Introduction to Azure Data Lake

Looking for more?

You can find this training and many more resources for developers.

Course outline

1 | Introduction to Azure Data Lake

Get an overview of the entire Azure Data Lake set of services including HDI, ADL Store, and ADL Analytics.

2 | Introduction to Azure Data Lake Tools for Visual Studio

Since ADL developers of all skill levels use Azure Data Lake Tools for Visual Studio, review the basic set of capabilities offered in Visual Studio.

3 | U-SQL Programming

Explore the fundamentals of the U-SQL language, and learn to perform the most common U-SQL data transformations.

4 | Introduction to Azure Data Lake U-SQL Batch Job

Find out what’s happening behind the scenes, when running a batch U-SQL script in Azure.

5 | Advanced U-SQL

Learn about the more sophisticated features of the U-SQL language to calculate more useful statistics and learn how to extend U-SQL to meet many diverse needs.

6 | Debugging U-SQL Job Failures

Since, at some point, all developers encounter a failed job, get familiar with the causes of failure and how they manifest themselves.

7 | Introduction to Performance and Optimization

Review the basic concepts that drive performance in a batch U-SQL job, and examine strategies available to address those issues when they come up, along with the tools that are available to help.

8 | ADLS Access Control Model

Explore how Azure Data Lake Store uses the POSIX Access Control model, which is very different for users coming from a Windows background.

9 | Azure Data Lake Outro and Resources

Learn about course resources.

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How to use Azure Active Directory differently than classic AD

it leaves a lot behind, Azure Active Directory gives administrators ways to extend AD into cloud resources and achieve critical connections, such as application federation, once they know how to use it.

Most Windows administrators use classic AD to manage users, profiles, Group Policy Objects and other relationships. Bandwidth and interoperability are rarely an issue on premises. The cloud is a whole different proposition. Servers and services in the cloud have different needs and requirements than in-house deployments. Azure Active Directory extends classic AD into the cloud environment, rather than replacing AD with a cloud version. Active Directory has a treelike structure of organization, but Azure AD is essentially a flat exported version.

Azure Active Directory vs. on-premises AD

The public cloud is as device-agnostic as possible, which means it isn’t designed to look after computers and Group Policy Objects. Azure doesn’t need the heavy feature set of on-premises AD; it requires only that authenticated user accounts, groups and security information carry forward into the cloud. This is where administrators use Azure Active Directory.

Azure Active Directory is a web-based system that manages and authenticates users against web services. It works with web-hosted, custom-built applications, as well as integrated third-party web services and applications. Microsoft’s term for this list is the portfolio. Look for ways to use Azure Active Directory as an easily managed, extensible identity services front end to web services, platform-as-a-service offerings and other products.

Microsoft Azure Active Directory management console
Figure 1. The management console for Azure Active Directory shows components for administrators to control.

Azure Active Directory can also manage identity and application provisioning on Windows devices: The enterprise Windows 10 systems have a configuration option for on premises or Azure Active Directory. Don’t expect it to apply Group Policy Objects, however.

Azure Active Directory even has its own PowerShell extensions to manage and configure users.

How to use Azure Active Directory in an enterprise

Azure Active Directory’s setup suits companies with BYOD programs. Azure Active Directory connects Microsoft- and Android-based user devices, as a truly web-first affair. Once authenticated, the user can consume applications from the Azure system portfolio as dictated by the administrator. As the Azure Active Directory framework grows, its portfolio supports more applications. While end users download and consume apps easily, administrators retain a certain amount of control over local system configuration regarding apps.

Administrators can control the application sign-in for a web service from the portfolio. They can let the user specify username and password, choose to store preconfigured values or use federated services, such as Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS). Azure Active Directory passes these settings down upon app install.

Administrators can set up and release an application for users via a wizard interface in Azure Active Directory. They specify groups or individual users and can add users from other Azure Active Directory-enabled companies. In large environments, administrators commonly add these users so that Azure domains can authenticate with each other via ADFS without divulging any secrets. Multifactor authentication is also available on Azure Active Directory.

Administrators should take advantage of the in-app authentication feature. This enables you to validate Office 365 license statuses and management, authenticate users seamlessly to OneDrive and SharePoint and set up other pathways.

Use Azure Active Directory with Azure Active Directory Connect, a Microsoft tool that ties on premises to cloud. It helps prevent pesky authentication prompts or nasty hacks around them. An organization installs Azure AD Connect on the on-premises AD controller to extend authentication across both private and public cloud.

Administrators with a simple Active Directory setup, with a single domain and forest, will find it easy to extend into Azure.

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Windows virtualization use rights coming to CSP

We’re exceptionally proud that Windows 10, the most secure Windows ever, offers the widest range of device form factors and the greatest breadth of input options with support for touch, pen, gesture, and voice. Customers choose Windows 10 knowing that they can purchase a great new business PC for just a few hundred dollars, an incredible Surface Pro or Surface Book device for the ultimate in business productivity, or build their own custom rig part-by-part to meet any budget.

For some business customers, Windows virtualization is the solution that best meets their productivity, security, and IT infrastructure needs. This may mean PCs connecting to Windows client VMs running on dedicated or multi-tenant hardware enabling users to freely move from device to device, through to scenarios where a particular app or data set requires an additional layer of separation from the end-user device achieved through virtualization. The common factor here is choice and it’s one of the main reasons our customers and partners choose Windows 10.

Today, we’re making two announcements that provide our business customers with greater choice.
The first is that virtualization use rights will be coming to Windows 10 subscriptions in the cloud solution provider (CSP) program starting in September, with the flexibility to host in both Azure or with 3rd party hosting partners. And the second announcement is a new certification program for 3rd party hosting partners that wish to host virtual machines (VMs) licensed via CSP subscriptions.

Virtualization is not for every customer and so we’re creating offerings with and without virtualization use rights to ensure customers have the choice to subscribe to the solution that best meets their needs while not paying for rights they don’t require.

Beginning September 6th, 2017, customers will be able to choose from five subscription offerings in the CSP program with Windows 10 virtualization use rights, enabling Windows VMs to be hosted in Azure or with a qualified multitenant hosting partner:

  • Windows 10 Enterprise E3 will be available with or without virtualization use rights
  • Windows 10 Enterprise E5 will be updated to include virtualization use rights
  • A new Windows 10 Enterprise E3 VDA offering will be created for customers that require access to Windows VMs on non-Windows Pro devices
  • Customers purchasing or already subscribed to Microsoft 365 Enterprise (formerly known as Secure Productive Enterprise) via CSP will automatically receive Windows 10 virtualization use rights at no extra cost

Compute and consumption charges may apply based on VM use.

To learn more about Windows Enterprise subscriptions in CSP or to find a Windows 10 in CSP partner please visit this page.

To learn more about Windows virtualization licensing please refer to this document

And for partners who wish to learn more about becoming a qualified multitenant hoster, please visit this link

Reduce downtime with Azure Site Recovery service

The Azure Site Recovery service uses Microsoft’s cloud platform to prevent a halt in operations when issues arise. Azure Site Recovery moves workloads to and from different data centers — as well as both public and private clouds — to keep key services online and available.

What is Azure Site Recovery?

The Azure Site Recovery service has two elements:

  • The software and connections move VMs and services between two private data centers — either owned or rented by your organization — including Hyper-V and VMware VMs.
  • The Azure public cloud service acts as a data center stand-in and provides hot site disaster recovery capabilities. The Azure Site Recovery service also supports the hypervisors on Hyper-V and VMware vSphere. Azure Site Recovery does not work with the Xen hypervisor.

New Azure portal offers advanced management

At one time, administrators needed PowerShell to set up Azure Site Recovery  to use Azure Resource Manager style deployments. IT shops can now use the new Azure portal to set up a new Azure Site Recovery environment, including a recovery vault.

This update enables IT to specify different VM sizes within the same account and set up fine-grained access to each resource based on user roles. Only the new portal supports fresh deployments, but it also can manage and support any existing deployments that began via the “classic” portal.

How to set up Azure Site Recovery

In addition to an Azure subscription, the organization needs an Azure storage account that holds data replicated from on-premises servers.

Log into the new portal to create a Recovery Services vault inside the storage account. Select New > More Services > Monitoring + Management > Backup and Site Recovery (OMS) to create VMs with replicated data; these failed-over Azure VMs also need access to an Azure network.

VMware shops will need a local VM to run the configuration server role that coordinates the data and communication with Azure and also handles the data replication processes. This VM is the process server and functions as a replication gateway — it caches, compresses and encrypts replication data, then sends it to Azure. The process server discovers other VMs and adds them to a replication configuration. The configuration server also acts as the master target server, which handles the replication after a disaster concludes and roles shift from Azure back to the on-premises locations.

The Azure Site Recovery service also supports the hypervisors on Hyper-V and VMware vSphere. Azure Site Recovery does not work with the Xen hypervisor.

Windows and Hyper-V shops need either System Center Virtual Machine Manager in the on-premises environment to manage the VMs or the Site Recovery Provider that communicates with the service over the internet. They also must install the Recovery Services agent on non-Virtual Machine Manager hosts to manage data replication.

How does it work?

From there, the Azure Site Recovery service does most of the grunt work. It manages replication based on pre-programmed cycles of 1 minute, 2 minutes, 15 minutes and so on. After the initial seeding, Azure Site Recovery performs delta replication to save bandwidth. You can set up “exclude disks” to avoid replication of temporary files and page files.

Remember to set up a recovery plan that instructs the services where VMs go, on what schedule and in what order; this creates a recipe to follow if a disaster or business interruption occurs. You can then trigger a failback once the interruption concludes and return services to their normal operation and location.

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Windows Server 2016 Network Controller brings enticing SDN features

The Windows Server 2016 Network Controller brings the agility of Azure to the server, giving it the ability to…

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abstract certain workloads such as switching and routing, load balancing, firewalls and edge gateways. This means IT teams can manage each part of the network in distributed pieces, instead of individually. And dictating the configuration of physical and virtual components on the network can be useful in complex environments.

The Windows Server 2016 Network Controller is a central point of automation within the software-defined network. It consists of a few parts. A management plane enables the admin to define policies. The Network Controller sends those policies to a control plane, which distributes them to the necessary endpoints. Finally, a data plane, which is the operating system on the endpoints, transfers the policies from the management plane to the control plane.

Think of the Windows Server 2016 Network Controller as the brain of the software-defined network. It pushes the desired network state to the network for enforcement. With this architecture, the Network Controller does not sit in the middle of the data path, which means VMs can communicate with one another unassisted. Policies also enforce on the end nodes without the need for a third party to ensure compliance. Admins use the System Center Manager from the command line with PowerShell or RESTful API calls to control the Windows Server 2016 Network Controller.

Network Controller features and functionality

The Network Controller enables several capabilities in Windows Server 2016 related to software-defined networking, including:

Think of the Windows Server 2016 Network Controller as the brain of the software-defined network.

  • Distributed firewalls. The feature lets IT distribute firewall rules and access control lists for individual ports from a central location, rather than from individual instances of the firewall. Admins can use the Windows Server 2016 Network Controller to regulate traffic between the internet and VMs; VMs on the network; and a hosted VM and the hypervisor fabric. This functionality makes it easier to execute a defense in depth strategy.
  • Centralized fabric management. The Network Controller provides a single point to configure and create IP subnets, new virtual LANs, new virtual switches that operate at both layer 2 and layer 3 of the OSI model, and the silicon network interface cards that comprise the compute and virtualization fabric of the Hyper-V infrastructure. VMware support isn’t available yet.
    This structure is similar to the way in which System Center enables admins to manage individual OSes on the network from a single view. Admins also can determine how physical and virtual networks — and connected endpoints — interact.
  • Network monitoring. The Network Controller fosters a deeper understanding of network activity. It gives performance metrics of certain links and automatic discovery of what it deems “important routes” to speed up troubleshooting. Part of the network monitoring feature turns on port mirroring to reflect tenant traffic — any inbound and outbound packets on a port — and sends a copy of those packets to a virtual appliance. A single appliance can serve multiple ports. The Windows Server 2016 Network Controller and SDN engineering within the product is efficient up to about 40 GbE to give line-level performance into either Linux or Windows VMs.
  • Virtual versions of physical appliances. In addition to firewall capabilities, administrators can deploy appliances — virtual load balancers (including a new advanced load balancer), virtual switches, web application gateways and reverse proxies — from the Network Controller. From a security aspect, SDN capabilities let admins react quickly to an attack and route all traffic through a virtual appliance placed between the machines and tiers. According to Microsoft, all appliances that work in Azure will work on premises in Windows Server 2016.

Features only available in Datacenter edition

The Windows Server 2016 Network Controller is only available in the Windows Server 2016 Datacenter edition, so access to these advanced features and functionality requires some steep licensing costs. But organizations that want network flexibility or have a large Hyper-V implementation might find it worth the price.

Next Steps

Microsoft saturates Windows Server 2016 with software-defined features

Will virtual routing software replace hardware devices?

Everything you need to know about Windows Server 2016

Dig Deeper on Windows System and Network Performance Monitoring

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