Microsoft has delivered new preview releases of the forthcoming Windows Server 2016 and System Centre 2016 platforms, adding improvements and updates and making the two products effectively feature-complete in readiness for launch.
Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 5 and System Centre 2016 Technical Preview 5 are available for IT departments to download for evaluation now, and showcase the latest capabilities added to the platforms.
Both are expected to hit full release sometime in the third quarter of this year, providing organisations with the latest version of Microsoft's server platform and associated management platform with support for mixed environments and hybrid cloud operations.
"Windows Server and System Centre 2016 are a key part of our commitment to give you increased options and more flexibility as you take on the challenges of managing your hybrid cloud environment. We're excited about the new releases, and look forward to your feedback," said Mike Neil, Microsoft's corporate vice president for enterprise cloud, on the firm's Server & Cloud Blog.
The technical preview of Windows Server delivers new capabilities to help create a more flexible and cost-efficient data centre using software-defined compute, storage and network virtualisation technologies, Microsoft said.
In addition, it provides extra layers of security to guard against sophisticated cyber attacks, including features to control privileged access and shield virtual machines and servers from emerging threat vectors.
A key feature of Windows Server 2016 is a Nano Server role, a new stripped down deployment image that is claimed to be 25 times smaller than a full Windows Server image with desktop experience, and allows users to build servers with just the functionality they need.
This now comes with an updated module for building Nano Server images, more separation between physical host and guest virtual machine functionality and support for different Windows Server editions.
Earlier previews of Windows Server 2016 added a Shielded mode for virtual machines that enabled BitLocker disk encryption for its virtual disks. Microsoft has added a new Encryption Supported mode in Technical Preview 5 that offers more protection than an ordinary virtual machine, but less than Shielded mode, while still supporting disk encryption, Live Migration traffic encryption and other features.
Meanwhile, System Centre 2016 Technical Preview 5 adds further features to simplify the management of highly virtualised software-defined infrastructure, especially the new capabilities in Windows Server 2016.
These include managing the lifecycle of Nano Server hosts and virtual machines, simplified deployment of the new Windows Server 2016 software-defined networking components, and support for Storage Spaces Direct and replicated storage volumes, Microsoft said.
The new preview adds data-driven alert management that expands the surface area of monitoring and reduces friction for IT operations, according to the firm, as well as increasing the monitoring of Unix and Linux servers and providing streamlined access to management packs.
Microsoft has added support for new Windows 10 features, in-place upgrades and provisioning packages and profiles, a new servicing dashboard and improved mobile device and application management capabilities via the Microsoft Intune cloud service.
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