Launch dates for Windows Server and System Center 2016

Update: Windows Server 2016 is available for download @EvalCenter  and will be available at October price list. Fully licensed software will be available @VLSC at the mid-October (System Center 2016  Evaluation is here)

As I predicted in the previous posts, TP5 is the latest preview release before Windows Server 2016 RTM/GA. Today Microsoft has finally revealed the official launch dates for Windows Server and System Center 2016.

GA will be announced at Ignite conference that takes place at the end of September and global price lists will be updated in October, 2016 . So, we have enough time to get ready for it. RTM release dates are not available at the moment. But I expect it in August.

Until then let’s review some important facts about upcoming WS and SC new generations.

Windows Server 2016:

  • Datacenter Edition includes new advanced software-defined datacenter capabilities designed for highly virtualized private and hybrid cloud environments. Some new features unique to Datacenter Edition include an Azure-inspired networking stack and Azure-inspired storage enhancements including Storage Spaces Direct
  • Standard  Edition provides the core functionality of Windows Server for lightly virtualized environments
  • Essentials. This edition is designed for smaller organizations with less than 50 users.
  • Standard and Datacenter editions don’t have the same list of features as we have in Windows Server 2012/2012R2 (except AVMA ). Storage Replica , Storage Spaces Direct , Shielded VMs and New Networking stack are available only in Datacenter

System Center 2016 editions:

  • Datacenter is the optimal choice for a large deployments or CSP. 1 license allows you to manage unlimited quantity of OSE (Operational System Environments)
  • Standard is built for small infrastructures and provides management rights for only 2 OSEs

Installation Options in Windows Server

  • Server with Desktop Experience: The Server with Desktop Experience installation option provides an full user experience for those who need to run an app that requires local UI or for Remote Desktop Services Host. This option has the Windows client shell and experience, consistent with Windows 10 Anniversary edition Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB), with the server Microsoft Management Console (MMC) and Server Manager tools available locally on the server.
  • Server Core: The Server Core installation option removes the client UI from the server, providing an installation that runs the majority of the roles and features on a lighter install. Server Core does not include MMC or Server Manager, which can be used remotely, but does include limited local graphical tools such as Task Manager as well as PowerShell for local or remote management.
  • Nano Server: The Nano Server installation option provides an ideal lightweight operating system to run “cloud-native” applications based on containers and micro-services


Licensing model for both Windows Server and System Center has been moved from processors to physical cores which aligns licensing of private and public cloud to a consistent currency of cores and simplifies licensing across multi-cloud environments

To license a physical server, all physical cores must be licensed in the server. A minimum of 8 core licenses is required for each physical processor in the server and a minimum of 16 cores is required to be licensed for servers with one processor.

The most surprised is that if you are going to deploy and use Nano Server in production it is required to have active Software Assurance. Nano Server is awesome but do you agree to pay extra money for that? let’s pray for changes.. (hope dies last)

System Center: Core + Client Management Licenses (CML)

system center 2016 editions and prices

Windows Server: Core + Client Access Licenses (CAL) + additional CALs (RDS and etc) + Software Assurance (required for deploy and operate Nano Server)

windows server 2016 prices and editions

The price of 16-core licenses of Windows Server 2016 Datacenter and Standard Edition will be same price as the 2 proc license of the corresponding editions of the Windows Server 2012 R2 version ’cause core licenses will be sold in packs of two 8 core packs and the  two-core pack for each edition is 1/8th the price of a two proc license for corresponding 2012 R2 editions

Servicing models

Now Windows Server has  “5+5” servicing model meaning that there is 5 years of mainstream support and 5 years of extended support and this will continue with Windows Server 2016. Customers who choose to install full Windows Server 2016 with a desktop experience or Server Core will maintain this servicing experience, which will be known as the Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB).

Nano Server will be covered by active Current Branch Servicing (CSB) model as Windows 10 has. This type of servicing provides new functionality and features.

New features

How to make VMM highly available

Virtual Machine Manager is the core component of a medium- or large-sized virtualization platform. If you have a lot of hosts and virtual instances , private/hybrid clouds or network virtualization, having highly available VMM is strongly recommended. In this post we will discuss how satisfy all requirements for VMM High availability and set up 2 VMM HA instances.

Hardware and settings behind this post

  • 1 Hyper-V host (TP5, CU2)
  • 1 DC (, guest)
  • 2 VMM (VMM01, VMM 02 , guest)
  • 1 SQL Server (SQL01, guest)
  • internal vSwitches
  • all guests and hosts are up-to-date (Windows Update, no exotic  KBs)
  • user for setup: domain/ent administrator

Prepare your environment for VMM HA

1) VMM creates database to keep it’s configuration data, so remote SQL Server instance with Standard edition at least is required.

TIP:  to remove single point of failure I’d recommend to set up SQL Server HA. AlwaysOn FCI and AG are supported.

2) open 445 and 1433 ports on one or more SQL Servers (if your SQL is in HA)

For Windows Firewall (please note I use Domain Profile here):

New-NetFirewallRule -Name "SQL Server 445" -DisplayName "SQL Server 445" -Profile Domain -Direction Inbound -LocalPort 445 -Protocol TCP -Action Allow
New-NetFirewallRule -Name "SQL Server 1433" -DisplayName "SQL Server 1433" -Profile Domain -Direction Inbound -LocalPort 1433 -Protocol TCP -Action Allow

3) create service account for VMM Service and add one to the local Administrator group on each VMM host

#Use Powershell or dsa.msc
New-ADUser -Name "VMM Service Account" -GivenName "VMM SVC" -SamAccountName vmmsvc -UserPrincipalName -AccountPassword (Read-Host -AsSecureString "Type Password For Service Account")
#Use PS/CMD or lusrmgr.msc
ICM -ComputerName vmmservername {net localgroup administrators /add Demolab\VMMSVC}

4) as almost any clustered role in Windows Server, VMM HA is built on the top of the the well-known Failover-Clustering feature and some requirements are similar.

#Install Failover-Clustering feature on every VMM host
Install-WindowsFeature Failover-Clustering -IncludeManagementTools

TIP: it’s also recommended to add and prepare separate network for cluster heartbeats

5) Create a new cluster (cluadmins.msc or PS)

New-Cluster -Name VMMCL -Node VMM01, VMM02 -StaticAdress -NoStorage -AdministrativeAccessPoint ActiveDirectoryAndDns -IgnoreNetwork


6) Check that newly created cluster operates without any errors (cluadmins.msc/cluster core resources and cluster events)


7) VMM encrypts some data in the VMM database by using the Data Protection Application Programming Interface (DPAPI). For example, VMM encrypts Run As account credentials and passwords in guest operating system profiles. VMM also encrypts product key information in virtual hard disk properties for virtual machine role scenarios and configuration.

If you move VMM to another station, VMM will not retain the encrypted data. To be able to operate in HA mode, VMM requires Distributed Key Management which stores encryption data in AD DS.

To get it work you need to define the new container in ADDS (adsiedit.msc or PS)

TIP: The account with which you are installing VMM must have Full Control permissions to the VMMDKM container (use adsiedit.msc and security tab)

TIP: you need to create the container in the same domain as the user account with which you are installing VMM

#Get domain's distinguished name (example, "DC=contoso, DC=com")

#VMMDK container will be created at the root of domain context
New-ADObject -Name "VMMDKM" -Type Container -Path ($DN)

8) Download and install Windows ADK 8.1 with only Deployment Tools and Windows PE features on each VMM host

TIP:  you can download ADK files to a file share and use shared path to install ADK on the next VMM hosts. Timesaver.


VMM Installation

After you created a new cluster and added all of your VMM hosts to one, you are ready to run setup.exe from VMM media.

The steps are the same as for standalone installation. But there are some differences :

  • you cannot define library servers at the library configuration page. you must add them after setup from VMM console (HA File Server is recommended)
  • wizard automatically determinates (checks cluster membership) that you are going to create VMM HA (1st picture)
  • you need to define settings for VMM cluster role (name and IP address)
  • no option to store encryption keys on the local machine. DKM is selected by default.

Then you need to define

  • name, organization, product key
  • Windows Update settings (on/off)
  • SQL Connections settins (Name, Credentials and etc.)
  • Service account (vmmsvc , in my case) and password
  • DKM path (CN=VMMDKM, DC=demolab, DC=com)
  • cluster name (VMMHA) and it’s ip address

Repeat steps on each VMM host.

Download the latest UR (UR 10 for today) and install it then.

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Open cluadmins.msc , go to Roles and verify that clustered role with the name VMMHA was created.


TIP: owner mode shows you current active VMM server for income connections. VMM HA uses active-passive model.

You can retrieve the active node from VMM console as well. Use FQDN of newly created cluster and default 8100 port as for connection string and check Fabric –Infrastructure – VMM Server section

TIP: it’s recommended to install VMM console on the remote station which is not a member of VMM HA cluster


Additional considerations

  • You can only have one implementation of a highly available VMM management server on a given failover cluster.
  • You can have VMM management servers installed on as many as sixteen nodes on a failover cluster, but there can only be one node active at any time.
  • You cannot perform a planned failover (for example, to install a security update or to do maintenance on a node of the cluster) by using the VMM console. To perform a planned failover, use Failover Cluster Manager.
  • During a planned failover, ensure that there are no tasks actively running on the VMM management server. Any running tasks will fail during a failover. Any failed jobs will not start automatically after a failover.
  • Any connections to a highly available VMM management server from the VMM console or the VMM Self-Service Portal (unavailable for new VMM versions (2012 SP1 and later)) will be lost during a failover. The VMM console will be able to reconnect automatically to the highly available VMM management server after a failover.

Thanks for reading.

Have a nice datacenter management!

P.S. don’t know how to upgrade old VMM even if it is installed on 2008 R2? Check my post.