Q&A: What's New (and Coming!) in Windows Server 2019

From improved failover clustering and Storage Spaces to changes in containers and storage replica, Microsoft MVP Dave Kawula shares what's most useful (and what to watch for) in Windows Server 2019.

Author, consultant and Microsoft MVP Dave Kawula will be giving several sessions (on Hyper-V, "Project Honolulu" and more) at the the upcoming TechMentor conference, being held on Microsoft's main campus in Redmond, Wash., in August 2018. One of the sessions that caught our eye was "What's New in Windows Server 2019," so we recently asked him some questions about what he's most excited about in this release (and what admins should be wary of). Here's what he shared:

One change administrators are excited about with Windows Server 2019 (currently in preview) is the return of Storage Spaces. Why do you think Microsoft chose to bring them back now and what impact will this have for Windows admins?
I believe that there was a lot of confusion with the release of Windows Server 1709 last fall and the fact that it was part of the Semi-Annual Release. The messaging from Microsoft could have been clearer in the fact that this release was targeted toward containers and other microservices. The real replacement for Windows Server 2016 is Windows Server 2019 LTSC and I have to tell you the long wait has definitely been worth it. Storage Spaces Direct in particular has two new amazing features: Historical Reporting built into the failover cluster that's viewable with Windows Admin Center and de-duplication on ReFS support for Storage Spaces Direct. Those two features are going to make Storage Spaces Direct even more attractive to organizations that were on the fence. To date there have been 10,000-plus Storage Spaces Direct Clusters deployed worldwide which is amazing, considering it has only been available for less than 20 months.

Can you briefly explain how failover clustering is improved in Windows Server 2019?
Failover Clustering has two key new features that I really like in Windows Server 2019: 

No. 1: You can now move a Cluster between domains. In all previous versions of Windows this wasn't possible without destroying the cluster and recreating it. Now, imagine if company A purchases company B and it's running Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct in Company B. It's now possible to simply move the cluster services over to the new domain without having to tear everything down.

No 2: Historical Reporting is now available and can trend up to one year of data in a failover cluster, including key metrics for Storage Spaces Direct. This is invaluable for administrators because now they won't need third-party monitoring solutions or have to deploy System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) just to get metrics and trending from their clusters.

How is Microsoft treating containers differently with this release?
Microsoft has worked to continually improve Windows Server Core and reduce its image size. In the latest insiders build Microsoft has converted non-critical components into optional components (OC) in the core edition. The company has also removed the optional components from Windows Server Core container images. Reducing the footprint improves the deployment time and overall usability.   

What's your personal new favorite feature in Windows Server 2019?
My personal favorite new feature is Storage Replica in Standard Edition. Now, there are a few limitations to the full-blown storage Replica, but I'm OK with that.

The limitations are as follows: 

  • Storage Replica can only replicate a single volume at a time.
  • Servers can have only one partner.
  • A Volume size is limited to 2TB.

Even with these limitations it's a great feature for making your data highly available, especially for smaller customers running Windows Server.

Is there anything you've seen so far that you want to warn Windows admins about before they roll out? Anything touchy or that they should approach carefully?  
Be careful with the in-place upgrade process. I had some issues while in preview with enabling Storage Spaces Direct and the good news was that it was identified as a bug and subsequently fixed up.

Overall, I've really liked what I've seen thus far and will continue to test. Remember we're still ahead of the go-to market release of Windows Server 2019 and I'm really hopefully that Microsoft will announce its release at Microsoft Ignite in September.

When it comes to implementation timelines, what do you recommend?
I think that the first wave of people that will upgrade to Windows Server 2019 will be those that are interested in features like Active Directory 2019, DNS, DHCP and other core infrastructure roles. Remote desktop session host (RDSH) has also been improved, so I would expect the early adopters to come from these waves.

In a more cautious posture would likely be the deployments of Storage Spaces Direct as the vendors that build solutions around this need to get their hardware re-certified inside of the Microsoft Windows Server Software Defined (WSSD) program. This will likely take at least a few months post-general availability of Windows Server 2019.

Anything else you want to share with our readers ahead of your TechMentor session, "What's New in Windows Server 2019"?
Make sure you come ready to learn and please make sure that you download it today and start testing in your labs.   

About the Author

Becky Nagel is the former editorial director and director of Web for 1105 Media's Converge 360 group, and she now serves as vice president of AI for company, specializing in developing media, events and training for companies around AI and generative AI technology. She's the author of "ChatGPT Prompt 101 Guide for Business Users" and other popular AI resources with a real-world business perspective. She regularly speaks, writes and develops content around AI, generative AI and other business tech. Find her on X/Twitter @beckynagel.


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