Windows Server 2012 became generally available in September 2012 and came in two flavors through volume licensing: Windows Server Standard and Windows Server Datacenter.
You would expect technical differences between the Datacenter and Standard editions, yet Microsoft only addressed virtual machine entitlements – that’s it. Standard allows for two VMs per license, while Datacenter gives admins the opportunity to run an unlimited number of VMs, as long as the hardware could handle it. In regards to the software, there were no technical advantages in having Datacenter edition.
Windows Server 2016, which is rumored to be available this quarter, brings new features and technical advantages of having the Datacenter edition, as well as additional advantages of Software Assurance.
New in Windows Server 2016: Containers and Nano Servers
Regardless of the edition, Windows Server 2016 comes with two significant features. These features are tailored to help administrators with private cloud environments and empower software developers.
- Windows Containers: think of containers as an evolved form of virtualization. Rather than only sharing server resources, Containers isolate an application from the rest of the system. Thus, the system and application have no effect on each other.
- Nano Servers: Windows Server is a powerful operating system. What if you do not need all of its capabilities for a workload? Well, Nano Server is a much less resource intensive version of Windows Server, yet can only be administered remotely and only supports 64-bit applications.
Datacenter Edition Only
In addition to unlimited VMs, Windows Server 2016 Datacenter introduces four significant features, two of which can have compelling business impacts. Host Guardian Service and Shielded VMs are great features, introducing granular administrative options and improved VM security within Windows Server, respectively. However, Storage Spaces Direct and Storage Replica have great business implications, as they create an opportunity to effectively utilize all of the storage in an IT environment and build disaster recovery architecture without investment in additional software.
- Storage Spaces Direct: This feature has the ability to pool the hard disk of servers, similar to virtualizing hard drives. Up to 200 disks across 12 physical servers can be pooled, essentially eliminating the need for a SAN, especially for those operating in an SMB environment.
- Storage Replica: Disaster recovery built into Windows Server 2016. Storage Replica provides replication between clusters or servers. The hardware poses no issues, as the replication is block-level. And the replication is synchronous, so whether you’re replicating between servers, racks, rooms, or sites, there is no data loss in a disaster scenario (asynchronous replication is also available.)
Technical benefits of Software Assurance – on to the Cloud!
Before continuing, take a quick glance at a previous blog to understand how SA can save your organization on significant licensing costs in the future.
Applying to both Standard and Datacenter editions, active Software Assurance on Windows Server provides Azure Hybrid Use Benefits (HUB.) Yes, in Windows Server 2012 as well! While this is not a new feature, this is a highly overlooked SA benefit. In essence, HUB allows an admin to spin up Windows VMs in Azure at the price of a Linux VM, which is nearly half of the price of Windows VM consumption. Take that up to powerful D-Level VMs, the savings are in the thousands (depending on consumption,) which definitely exceeds the value of SA.
Each Windows Server license (regardless of edition) entitles an admin to two Azure VMs with 8 cores or less, or one Azure VM with 16 cores or less, which aligns with the Windows Server 2016 licensing model. A caveat, if this benefit is used with Standard edition, on premise use rights are revoked. HUB is geared towards highly virtualized environments, with organizations aiming to build a hybrid could environment, utilizing Windows Server Datacenter.
Reach out to your Zones Account Executive to learn more about SA benefits with Windows Server. Also, get connected with Zones Advanced Solutions Group to gain insight on how to utilize Windows Server and Azure cloud technology to give your business a competitive edge.