Windows Server 2019 was released earlier this year and, with it, there are a number of new features to be considered. This new server OS provides the latest benefits from Microsoft for companies in need of upgrading physical servers as well as taking advantage of improvements for security, application environments and more. Here’s a look at what is new and improved.

The desktop experience is available again in the 2019 version whereas it was not in the server versions 1709, 1803 or 1809. Similar to the 2016 version, the 2019 version offers an option during setup between Server Core and Desktop Experience installation.

Microsoft has developed a new feature for predictive analytics named System Insights in Windows Server 2019. This new function provides machine-learning for local analysis of system data in order to offer fine-tuning of a server with predictive analysis based on performance counters and events. These insights create an opportunity to reduce expenses from issues surrounding server deployments.

Hybrid Cloud optional features are now included in Server Core installations for improved application compatibility. Using Server Core App Compatibility feature on demand (FOD) creates a subset of binaries from Desktop Experience for improved functional compatibility for the leaner installation option and is available on a separate ISO which can be added to the Server Core installation.

Microsoft included a number of security improvements:  

  • Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) & ATP Exploit Guard with improved Application Control are new developments which protect against memory and kernel level attacks. Advanced Threat Protection can both suppress and terminate malicious files and processes. Meanwhile, Exploit Guard uses its components to lock down a device from numerous attacks while blocking common malware intrusion attacks. Four components of the Exploit Guard work cohesively for best use of resources between security and productivity.
  1. Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) is a set of controls which block lateral movement of suspicious code including ransomware.
  2. Network protection uses Windows Defender SmartScreen and negates exposure to untrusted hosts and IP addresses used in web-based attacks.
  3. Controlled folder access cordons off important data from ransomware attacks by blocking suspicious processes.
  4. Exploit protection provides Microsoft customers with the ability to enable at a set of mitigations against exploits for increased protection.

Microsoft also added default Code Integrity (CI) policies to the Windows Defender Application Control for improved ease of use over the original version released with Windows Server 2016.

  • Security improvements also arrived with Software Defined Networking (SDN). This enhanced group of features improves running workloads on both cloud-based services and on-premise environments. SDN arrived with Windows Server 2016 but now includes encrypted networks for virtual machines, firewall auditing, virtual network peering and egress metering (for monitoring data transfers outside of secure networks)
  • Shielded VM’S with branch office improvements, troubleshooting improvements & Linux support.
  1. Branch office improvements now provide shielded VM’s with options for intermittent connectivity with fallback HGS and offline mode. The fallback includes options for alternate sets of URLs for Hyper-V connectivity while offline mode provides the ability to start shielded VMs even if HGS is unavailable (the VM must already have previously started and experienced no configuration changes).
  2. Additionally, troubleshooting for shielded virtual machines is improved with VMConnect Enhanced Session Mode and PowerShell Direct, both of which assist with lost network connectivity of VMs. Once enabled, these support features require no configuration when in use on a Hyper-V host running Windows Server version 1803 or later.
  3. For customers running in mixed-OS environments, Windows Server 2019 now supports an operation of a variety of popular Linux versions inside shielded VMs.
  • HTTP/2 has been introduced for more web security and includes the following:
  1. Connection improvements for uninterrupted encrypted browsing over coalesced connections.
  2. Upgrades to cipher suite negotiation which provides ease of deployment and corrections to connection failures.
  3. More throughput with a new TCP congestion provider using Cubic.

Storage improvements were not overlooked by Microsoft with Windows Server 2019:

  • Storage Migration Service is a new feature which migrates servers to newer versions of Windows Server with ease. A graphical tool enables easy management of migrations through inventories which can then be shifted to newer server versions, even optionally migrating server names for the transition of apps that do not interrupt user experience.
  • Storage Spaces Direct includes improvements to deduplication and compression of ReFS volumes, native support for persistent memory, nested resiliency for dual-node, hyper-converged infrastructures, Windows Admin Center support, scaling for up to 4 PB in a cluster and much more.
  • Storage Replica is now available on Windows Server 2019 Standard Edition while a new feature named Test Failover can mount destination storage for validation of replicas. There are also improvements to replica log performance and additional Windows Admin Center support.
  • Failover Clustering improvements have been made to cluster sets, Azure-aware clusters, migrations of cross-domain clusters, cluster infrastructure with support for Storage Spaces Direct, cluster hardening. Additionally, failover cluster dropped usage of NTLM authentication.

Microsoft included application platform improvements with an eye toward the following:

  • Windows server 2019 now provides support for running Linux-based containers which will provide both flexibility to application developers and consistency to the host container environment.
  • Now included on Windows server 2019 are computing, networking and storage improvements to support Kubernetes. With other improvements to container networking, Windows Server 2019 creates a resilient, enhanced platform performance with the latest networking plugins. New workload deployments via Kubernetes includes network security support that protects Linux and Windows containers.
  • Other container improvements include:
  1. Microsoft addressed numerous limitations of prior Windows server editions with an improved integrated identity which provides a more reliable authentication experience
  2. Application compatibility where applications based in Windows are easier than ever to organize into containers, especially when considering the core server installation. Additionally, API dependent applications now have a third image available.
  3. Issues with startup times, size on disk and download sizes for base container images have also been improved for speedier workflows.
  4. Accessing the containers extension in the Windows admin center public feed provides experience improvements to container management and performance.
  • Encrypted networks also experienced changes for the better. Now virtual network traffic between VMs will communicate when designated as encryption enabled using Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS) which will prevent security breaches by anyone with access to a physical network.
  • Performance for VM workloads has always been a concern and Microsoft has addressed these for improved network performance. New features such as Receive Segment Coalescing in vSwitch and Dynamic Virtual Machine Multi-Queue allow for vastly improved provisioning of VM hosts while decreasing operation and maintenance costs even with an increase of host density.
  • A new network congestion control provider was designed which will yield automatic improvements to applications and users. Low extra delay background transport (LEDBAT) addresses bandwidth concerns especially for use in deploying large updates to avoid impact on customer services.
  • Windows time service got an update in the latest version of Windows Server with the inclusion of a true UTC-compliant leap second support via a newly designed time protocol entitled Precision Time Protocol.
  • The aforementioned Software Defined Networking (SDN) received a boost with high-performance SDN gateways. UI deployments using the Windows Admin Center extension provides deployment and management capability
  • Microsoft also took a step forward by harnessing the power of Hyper-V with improvements to throughput as well as the low latency of persistent memory in VM’s. The new persistent memory support for Hyper-V VMs jolts performance with drastic reductions of memory latency issues in database transactions.

Microsoft stepped forward once again with the release of Windows Server 2019 by addressing a wide range of issues and amid fast-changing technology developments. The changes, improvements and new features over Windows Server 2016 make this latest server version a tantalizing wealth of reasons for upgrading.

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