It is anticipated that the future business of Microsoft is mostly going to revolve around the cloud, but is it actually going to happen? There is no doubt that the cloud has significant importance today and in the future to come and definitely going to generate huge revenue. But as per the statistics of financial returns of Microsoft, the usability of on-premises hardware is still prominent and going to continue in the future as well. The Windows Server team believe in the occurrence of this future optimistically.
Jeff Woolsey, the principal program manager of on-premises Microsoft server products, tweeted that Windows Server release is launched in the market every 2 to 3 years period for the past 20 years, and the same release cycle is going to continuously happen in the future to come.
The significant importance of on-premises servers in the infrastructure of enterprises is because they provide networking and file support, do data management, serve line-of-business applications, etc. Despite the cloud holding majority of the workloads, a need to keep some activities near users is always going to exist. This is mainly because there can be strict regulations for data security, issues related to network latency, requirements of tight integration between hardware and software, and similar other challenges. These challenges are going to remain present in the future to come, which forces enterprises to keep on-premises servers.
Windows Server Servicing
There are two Windows Server servicing models provided by Microsoft. One is the long-term servicing channel (LTSC) with a release every 2-3 years, while the second one is the semi-annual channel (SAC) similar to Windows 10 with twice release per year.
The LTSC and SAC have specific jobs to serve. The twice-yearly SAC releases bring continuous updates/improvements to container hosts. On the other hand, the LTSC current releases are paying attention to file services, and the builds of the upcoming major LTSC release are currently accessible to Windows Insiders. Recently, Microsoft has started to migrate customers to SMB 3 and they have also added new features related to encryption in this test version, making data flow between systems more secure than ever. Besides that, the file system is getting a makeover, where new tools are added for synchronizing data with Azure and for managing migration of storage to new installations that also include Linux file hosts.
To get a glimpse of what next is coming in Windows Server, you can look at Azure Stack’s new family members, such as Azure Stack HCI. As it is developed on the foundation of Windows Server, it showcases the way you will develop and execute server clusters using Windows Admin Center (WAC) and other technologies such as Kubernetes implemented by Windows. Microsoft is on the track to advance its Hyper-V virtualization layer with the latest VMs (OS-integrated), which is going to facilitate new scenarios such as Windows self Linux subsystem and also going to make Windows more secure.
All these updates do not mean that the upcoming Windows Server releases are going to be significantly different from today. In fact, Windows Server is going to evolve at a slower pace, and the evolvement will depend on the server silicon capabilities and the businesses workloads on the server.
Windows Admin Center (WAC): Separating Administration from Releases and Devices
With the passage of time, software and hardware evolve and so do the methodologies that carry the development of tools, enabling new approaches of working. Windows Server is experiencing changes due to the growth of DevOps and the observability model related to software management, which is eventually impacting its future in Windows Admin Center (WAC).
It is a great step to bring administration/management tools to a browser console and this is what the focus is going to be in the regular updates. For Microsoft, disengaging management tools from OS is a big step. But it gives multiple advantages to Microsoft, such as this change enables Microsoft to extract features from previous management tools and cooperate with other vendors to improve console with new tools. This way, third-party vendors and Microsoft come in a one cooperating working ecosystem. WAC operations are not just restricted to Windows Server, instead, you can also deploy it on workstation PCs.
Windows Admin Center is a handy technology because it lets users manage a number of servers without requiring to set up PowerShell custom remoting scripts. This is because the same Windows Management Interface APIs can be utilized as PowerShell. Besides that, users can also set up user access controls to WAC in order to make sure that only authentic individuals have access to the tools.
Microsoft’s future vision is to align the working of Azure cloud computing with on-premises Windows Server. This integration can be of two types:
- Standalone servers that link with the cloud occasionally and ensure authentication using Azure Active Directory in line with local AD.
- Extension of Azure to the data centre via Azure Portal and other tools such as Azure Arc, enabling applications management running on your hardware while having data stored both in cloud and data centre.
Speeding Up Files
If we look at the importance of data in the future and the above scenarios, it is narrated that there will be a lot of data movement. This demands more focus on security and performance matters even if you are doing file share via a local server. Most of the recent server work by Microsoft is focused to update and improve the Windows Server file sharing SMB protocols.
The major SMB updates in the next Windows Server releases involve new tools for file compression. These SMB updates are also supported in Windows Server 2019 up-to-date installs. This implies that you can now perform encryption and compression from a single place managed by WAC. These features were available before only through PowerShell. The file compression greatly decreases the time for file copy and is also quite effective for managing virtual machine migrations or for rapidly setting new containers.
Along with improving SMB, Microsoft is also researching about using the QUIC protocol for improving SMB on the internet. Designed as the next HTTP version, QUIC is already supported by the most modern web-servers and browsers, such as Edge and Chrome. QUIC lets you set up connections with remote servers highly secure in no time, without requiring you to work on setting VPN. It makes connectivity for branch offices and PCs simple because the connections are set up over standard TLS port 443, so it will not require any firewalls and routers configuration.
Microsoft is working with the agenda to provide an on-premises Windows Server along with virtual machine. It’s not surprising that the main strategic element of its enterprise IT strategy is using hybrid-cloud technologies, such as the Azure Stack family. Since the launch of the Windows Server clustering solution as Windows NT Server 4.0 add-on, it has become a flexible server option.
The platform we see today is the logical growth of serves belonging to the NT family, which are capable to execute all kinds of workloads on all kinds of hardware. Windows Server may run on the NAS server along with a NUC-class device underneath a table (delivering file storage services to a home office), or it may act as a complete virtual machines cluster in a two-rack Azure Stack Hub running an SAP multi-national installation. No matter whatever form it is or whatever it is executing, it is clear that Windows Server is going to be present on-premises at your data centre for quite a long long future.