The most anticipated event of 2016
So it's 2016. What's the most exciting event that's going to happen this year? The 2016 Olympics in Rio perhaps? No, I was actually thinking about the release of Windows Server 2016! Actually we’ll talk about our technology and services for Rio later in the year, but let’s stick with Windows for the time being.
The expectation is that the 2016 release will coincide with the Build Conference in September. What are the main implications for the industry and for us? I recently took a look at the latest developments.
Firstly, the technical
There are a couple of biggies here. Microsoft is moving into the containerisation space, so we'll have Docker on Windows as well as on Linux platforms. The philosophy around the use of containers is to move more to a DevOps delivery model. This goes hand-in-hand with public (and hybrid) cloud architectures. The Azure Stack is being made available for “on-prem” deployments (and is in fact already available) so I think we'll see even more of this. There are also Hyper-V containers which will provide full isolation and are therefore aimed at multi-tenant scenarios.
As well as containers, Microsoft are introducing Nano Servers - a very cut down version of Windows; none of the GUI or installation media used to automatically and transparently configure features - just the essentials. This reduces disk overhead but does require us to use Power-Shell for management activities. I suspect these types of installation will underpin specific (and dedicated) applications and roles, but we'll see. (We've had a bit of this previously with Server Core, but they're moving forward again with this new incarnation.) In the virtualisation space Hyper-V will now support VMs within VMs. That's going to get confusing! They are also introducing "Shield VMs". This is where the vhdx's are encrypted so if you're using service/cloud providers their admins will not be able to access the content. Hyper-V will also support rolling cluster upgrades which will be a godsend. OpenSSH, frequently a topic of CTO conversations, is going to be supported in a big way. In fact it's already available for Windows in github. Both OpenSSH client and server will be supported. More than that, it will become a transport (and maybe even the preferred transport) for remote Power-Shell activities.
There are enhancements to PowerShell (now version 5) and a bunch of changes in the storage area, but I'll skip the details on these as I want to get to a non-technical item.
There’s a big change here, and one that needs some analysis. Microsoft are moving to a core-based licensing model for Windows, from the current processor-based one. And the minimum for a physical server (however few processors or cores you have) will be a license for 16 cores! You can then purchase additional 2-core packs to cover whatever configuration you happen to have. We are assured that the minimum will be no worse than today's licensing model, but we must be really diligent with understanding how this scales. In a Hyper-V world we'll be licencing the physical server, then depending on the version of windows in use the VMs/Containers within it (Datacentre edition still has unlimited VMs and now Containers). And we'll still need CALs.
The reason for this change is to better align with Azure services and the likelihood of more and more hybrid environments - with some apps in the Azure cloud, and some still local.
Atos and our clients
So what does this mean for Atos and our clients? Well clearly we will need to prepare, but I don't expect us to rush to implement Windows Server 2016 in production immediately on release. Let’s let the kinks get ironed out first. Windows Server 2012 R2 is our current standard and remains in mainstream support until the start of 2018, with another 5 years of extended support after that. Windows Server 2008, however, is in widespread use and this goes out of extended support (no more security fixes) at the beginning of 2020. So this provides us with a hard-stop, much like last year's Windows Server 2003 situation. My expectation is that we'll build skills during the latter part of 2016 and 2017 with plans to proactively replace Windows Server 2008 from 2018 onwards for those environments that haven’t already been upgraded through natural lifecycle management. The main challenge here will be ensuring application compatibility and support. Where there are green-field opportunities and specific customer requirements we will be able to implement Windows Server 2016 before this of course.
I think the real news here is the hybrid model that we’ll increasingly use to deliver services to our customers … some technology in our datacentres, some applications delivered using the Canopy portfolio and some services delivered using Microsoft Azure. Despite those different scenarios, we’ll be able to use the same underlying technologies and management infrastructure throughout.
What will we and our customers be able to do with Windows Server 2016? I think some of the opportunities will include:
- Green field projects that can begin to use containers; perhaps in conjunction with a DevOps continuous delivery model.
- Organisations and projects wishing to use containers and new VM features for Development and Test environments.
- Taking advantage of increased automation capabilities using PowerShell.
- Exploiting synergies between Windows and Linux in mixed environments (OpenSSH, bash on Windows and PowerShell).
- Organisations seeking to use a hybrid delivery model as part of their journey to cloud services.
As more technical previews are released we may find additional exciting features and compelling usage scenarios. I'll post more as the year progresses.