The Latest Updates from Windows Server 2019 Development

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The Current State of Affairs – Windows Server 2019 Updates

Microsoft’s Windows Server teams have been hard at work on preparing 2019 for release. They’ve already given us several new features over the past few months. As we approach the unveiling of the final product, the preview release cadence accelerates as long-term projects begin to wrap up. Where we previously covered one build per article, I now have three separate builds to report on (17733, 17738, and 17744). We’ve got a raft of new features as well as multiple refinements geared toward a polished end product.

The Final Stages

If you haven’t yet started trying out Windows Server 2019 previews but have been thinking about it, I don’t think there will be a better time. There’s always a chance that some new major feature has yet to be announced, but there are more than enough now to keep you busy for a while. If you’re thinking about becoming an expert on the product for employability or sales purposes, if you’re planning to release software for the new platform, or if you intend to adopt Windows Server 2019 early on, this is the time to get into the program. Get your feedback and bug reports into the system now while it’s still relatively easy to incorporate.

Microsoft has been asking for two things all along that have increased in importance:

  • In-place upgrades: Wouldn’t you like to just hop to the next version of Windows Server without going through a painful data migration? If so, try it out on a test system. Microsoft has done a great deal of work trying to make Windows Server 2019 upgrade friendly. I’ve had some mixed experiences with it so far. They can only make it better if we tell them where it fails.
  • Application compatibility: I would prioritize application compatibility testing, especially for software developers and administrators responsible for irreplaceable line-of-business applications. Windows Server 2019 introduces major changes to the way Windows Server has operated nearly since its introduction. You need to be prepared.

How to Join the Windows Server Insider Program

To get involved, simply sign up on the Windows Server Insiders page. Unlike the Windows [Desktop] Insiders program, you don’t need to use up a licensed server instance. Windows Server Insider builds use their own keys. You can try out features and report any problems or positive experiences to a special forum just for Insiders. Be aware that the builds are time-bombed, so you will only be able to keep one running for a few months. This software is not built for production use.

Remember that even after Windows Server 2019 goes live, the Insider program will continue. You’ll have the opportunity to preview and help shape the future of LTSC and SAC builds beyond 2019. However, I expect that the Windows Server teams will turn their attention toward the next SAC release after 2019 goes gold, meaning that you likely won’t be getting new GUI-enabled builds until they start working on the post-2019 LTSC release.

Official Release Statements

You can read Microsoft’s notices about each of the builds mentioned in this article:

Summary of Features in Windows Server 2019 Builds 17733, 17738, and 17744

New features included in these builds:

  • Support for HTTP/2
  • Support for Cubic (a “congestion control provider” that helps regulate TCP traffic)
  • Software Defined Networking (SDN) right in Windows Server and controlled by Windows Admin Center — no VMM necessary!
  • SDN high-performance gateways
  • Distributed Cluster Name Objects — allows a CNO to simultaneously hold an IP from each node rather than present a single IP across the entire cluster
  • Specialized bus support for Windows Server containers grants containers the ability to directly utilize SPI, I2C, GPIO, and UART/COM
  • Failover Clustering no longer requires NTLM
  • SMB 1.0 is now disabled by default
  • Windows Subsystem for Linux is part of the build
  • Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection has been rolled in
  • Windows Server 2019 images ship with version 4.7 of the .Net Framework

Summary of Updated Features in Windows Server 2019 Builds 17733, 17738, and 17744

The following features were previously introduced, but received significant updates in these builds:

  • Cluster Sets: A “cluster set” is essentially a cluster of clusters. They address the scalability limits of clusters without making many changes on the cluster level; smaller organizations can use clusters as they always have while larger organizations can employ new benefits. Build 17733 adds new enhancements for virtual machine placement on hyper-converged cluster sets.
  • Windows Admin Center provides greater control over Hyper-V

Refinements in Windows Server 2019 Builds 17733, 17738, and 17744

Not everything is a feature; sometimes things just need to work better or differently. Microsoft did a few things during the preview cycles that would be inappropriate for a release product. These builds include some of those corrections.

  • The Hyper-V Server SKU no longer needs a product key. This does not mean that you can or should use a preview release of Hyper-V Server 2019 indefinitely.
  • You will now be asked to change your password at initial post-install sign in.
  • Changes to branding during the installation process.

Additional Reading on Windows Server 2019 Updates

We have a lot going on now with Windows Server 2019, but it’s just the leading edge of a long march of new features and improvements. A few links to help you get caught up:

Spend some time discovering and reading up on the new features. There is something in there for just about everyone.

Thoughts on Windows Server 2019 Builds 17733, 17738, and 17744

Overall, my greatest feeling on these builds is excitement — we’re seeing the clear signs that we’re closing in on the final release. I do have a few thoughts on some of the specific features.

Standard Networking Enhancements

I’ve followed a number of these enhancements closely. The HTTP/2 and LEDBAT demonstrations are impressive to watch. I have not yet seen any presentations on Cubic, but it certainly holds a great of promise. Even in my private home systems, I’ve long wanted a way to shape the way that various networking activities utilize my available networking bandwidth.

Hyper-V Networking Enhancements

Modifying the software-defined networking feature so that it can be controlled without VMM or a third-party tool is a huge step. Cloud and hosting providers have great use for SDN, as do large organizations that strain the limits of VLANs. However, SDN provides more than scalability. It also allows for a high degree of isolation. We’ve been able to use private Hyper-V virtual switches for isolation, but those become difficult to use for multiple VMs, especially in clusters. Now, anyone can use SDN.

Specialized Bus Support

Server virtualization solves multiple problems, but we still have a few barriers to virtual-only deployments. Hardware peripherals remain right at the top of those problems. The new bus functionality included in Windows Server containers may present a solution. It won’t be full virtualization, of course. It will, however, grant the ability to run a hardware-dependent container on a general-purpose host.

I should point out that this feature is designed around IoT challenges. We may or may not be able to fit it into existing hardware challenges.

Security Enhancements

If you look through the multitude of feature notes, you’ll find multiple points of hardening in Windows Server 2019. I welcomed two new particular changes in these recent builds:

  • SMB 1.0 disabled by default. Newer features of SMB eclipse version 1.0 in every imaginable way. First and foremost, the security implications of using SMB 1.0 can no longer be ignored. Through 2016, Windows and Windows Server made SMB 1.0 passively available because Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and some applications require it. Now that Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 have been out of support for several years, Microsoft no longer has any native reason to continue supporting SMB 1.0 by default. If you still have software vendors hanging on to the ’90s, they’ll have to go through extra steps to continue their archaic ways.
  • End of NTLM requirement for Failover Clustering. NTLM is relatively easy to break with modern technologies. Realistically, a cluster’s inter-node communications should be isolated from general network access anyway. However, that does not diminish our need to secure as much as possible. It’s good to see NTLM removed from cluster communications.

Windows Admin Center Enhancements for Hyper-V

I spent some time going through the 1808 version of Windows Admin Center release and noted several changes. The current state of WAC for Hyper-V deserves its own article. However, it would appear that Microsoft has been working on the user experience of this tool. Furthermore, WAC has additional control points over Hyper-V. It’s still not my interface of choice for Hyper-V, but it continues to improve.

Next Steps

I’ll continue bringing news of builds as they release, of course. I would recommend becoming directly acquainted with the advancements in Windows Server 2019 as soon as you can. At this stage of Windows Server’s maturation, new features are complicated enough that they’ll take time to learn. The sooner you get started, the less catch-up you’ll have to look forward to later. Of course, during our October webinar on Windows Server 2019 we will have all the details on the final version of all the features in all these builds – and more! Make sure to save your seat now and don’t miss out on that event!

If you are looking through these enhancements and testing things for yourself, are there any features here that you are most excited about? Anything you feel is over-the-top amazing? Anything you feel is lack-luster? Let us know in the comments section below!

Thank for reading!

This post is part of a series on Windows Server 2019 builds leading up to the release in late 2018. Read more about the release here:

These 3 New Features in Windows Server 2019 Could be Game Changers

Windows Server 2019 Preview: What’s New and What’s Cool

Sneak peek: Windows Server 2019 Insider Preview Build 17666

What’s New in Windows Server 2019 Insider Preview Build 17692

Curious About Windows Server 2019? Here’s the Latest Features Added