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Microsoft Windows Server has become the foundation of critical IT systems in organizations of all sizes worldwide. With the release of Windows Server 2016, Microsoft has introduced an array of enhancements designed to reduce complexity, increase agility and better support cloud and mobile initiatives.

The Windows Server 2016 architecture has been “deeply refactored,” with a host of features that meet changing IT priorities and deliver unprecedented levels of automation and manageability. The OS also provides software-defined capabilities across compute, storage and networking, and security tools that address evolving threats and new threat vectors.

Key capabilities include:

  • Azure Integration. Much of the functionality provided by the Azure cloud service is available on-premises with Windows Server 2016, making it easier for developers to build applications that can run either in the data center or in the Azure public cloud. Other enhancements include gateways for connecting to Azure and other remote sites, and a converged network fabric supporting both remote direct memory access and tenant traffic.
  • Windows Containers. Containers are the next evolution in virtualization, providing an isolated place where an application can run without affecting the rest of the system and without the system affecting the application. With containerization, apps are broken down into small bits of code that perform a single function, and then packaged in lightweight and portable containers that provide access to operating system resources. This drives developer productivity and enables real-time change by allowing code to move from development to production in minutes.
  • Nano Server. Designed to streamline cloud workflows, Nano Server is a lightweight installation option that requires 93 percent less disk space than a full-on Windows Server deployment. The reduced footprint boosts performance by limiting the number of functions each server instance must perform, and enhances security by shrinking the attack surface. Nano Server deployments require fewer patches and updates, while delivering faster restarts and better resource utilization.
  • Hyper-V Enhancements. Windows Server 2016 includes numerous improvements to the Hyper-V hypervisor. Check out our Hyper-V page for details.
  • Software-Defined Networking (SDN). Microsoft has ported the SDN technology developed for its Azure cloud platform into Windows Server 2016. Policy-based automation of switching, routing and other network functions is provided by the Microsoft Network Controller, which allows workloads to be deployed in seconds and centrally managed. Networks can be dynamically segmented based upon workload requirements, and network security groups can apply rich policies within and across those segments.
  • Active Directory Federation Services. It is now possible to configure Active Directory Federation Services to authenticate users stored outside of Active Directory, such as X.500 compliant Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directories and SQL databases.

Windows Server 2016 is available in three main editions. The Datacenter edition is meant for highly virtualized and software-defined data centers and cloud environments, with powerful features and unlimited virtualization. The Standard edition is ideal for organizations that need limited virtualization but require a robust, general-purpose server OS, and the Essentials edition is designed for smaller organizations with fewer than 50 users.