What’s New in Hyper-V for Windows Server 2016

whatsnewhypervblogMicrosoft’s Hyper-V product got its start in 2006 with the release of Windows Server 2008 R1. Over the next several generations of the Windows operating system, Hyper-V has matured greatly to become a true competitor in the hypervisor marketplace. Hyper-V has been updated with many new features and enhanced capabilities in Windows Server 2016.

Some of these new features can be seen in the client Hyper-V that is included with Windows 10. (Most people don’t know that you can enable Hyper-V on a Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise edition machine.) Many of the more robust Hyper-V server-related features are now available in Windows Server 2016.

Here are some of the more notable features:

General Hyper-V Improvements

Nested virtualization allows for Hyper-V hosts to run inside another Hyper-V host. Previously, the only way to run Hyper-V was directly on hardware that supported hardware assisted virtualization. This new feature will be a great addition for lab and training environments allowing for the use of multiple Hyper-V hosts on a single piece of hardware.

Nano Server can be used as a Hyper-V host, providing the smallest footprint yet for a Windows-based Hypervisor. With Nano Server running as the host, the amount of patching required will be a mere fraction of a full edition server, and significantly less than even Server Core. This will result in far fewer reboots of the Hyper-V host throughout the course of a year.

PowerShell Direct allows PowerShell commands to be sent to virtual machines (VMs) directly through the Hyper-V host. The VM does not need network access or even a virtual NIC. Commands are sent to the Hyper-V host first, then from the host they are passed through to the VM.

Storage Improvements

Storage Replica is a block-level volume replication technology for clusters. This feature will primarily affect Hyper-V, but could be used for other workloads. In previous versions of Windows, a cluster that spanned locations could only be replicated with third-party hardware or software. Now, the ability to replicate data from one location to another is included in Windows Server 2016.

Storage resiliency allows Hyper-V VMs to recover from storage access problems. Interruptions in storage access typically causes a VM to crash with a Stop Screen message. The new Storage Resiliency feature allows Hyper-V to intercept the failed request and places the VM in a critical paused state until such time as the storage interruption has been resolved.

Clustering Improvements

Rolling cluster upgrades affect clustering in general, but will be most useful in a Hyper-V cluster scenario. This can be used to upgrade a cluster from Windows Server 2012 R2 to Windows Server 2016 in an incremental fashion. The cluster can continue to run while the individual members are being upgraded.

Shared vhdx files being used in a guest cluster can now be resized while the VMs using the shared vhdx are online. The shared vhdx files can also be protected against failure by using the Hyper-V Replica feature.

Start order priority can be used to determine in what order VMs will start when they are clustered. This is useful when VMs depend others for services that must be present first.

Hardware Improvements

Hot-add NICs and memory allow virtual network interface controllers (NICs) and memory to be added to a VM without downtime. Previously, VMs had to be shut down to add more memory or virtual network cards.

Discrete device assignment allows a VM to have direct access to some PCIe hardware. This can result in faster access since it is bypassing the Hyper-V stack and can result in a VM having access to hardware that would otherwise be only available to the host.

Networking Improvements

Software-defined networking provides a new network controller role, for centralized management and monitoring of the virtualized network infrastructure.

Network function virtualization allows for services typically provided via hardware appliances to be shifted over to software based virtual appliance. The network function virtualization (NFV) technologies provided in Windows Server 2016 include the Datacenter Firewall, RAS Gateway, Software Load Balancer and NAT.

Switch embedded teaming (SET) allows for multiple network adapters to be configured as a network team providing similar capabilities to the NIC teaming feature in Windows Server 2012 R2. SET, however, is more tightly integrated with Hyper-V and provides better fault-tolerance and performance than traditional NIC teams.

Security Improvements

Shielded virtual machines allow for VMs to be protected from intrusion even by the Hyper-V administrator. This is accomplished by using a virtual trusted platform model (TPM) chip on the VM to encrypt the virtual disks. The VM can also be encrypted as it is transferred from one host to another via live migration. Also, the VM can be isolated so that the memory of the VM is inaccessible while either running or at rest.

Host resource protection helps to protect against attacks coming from other VMs in the infrastructure. VMs are monitored for overconsumption of resources when perpetrating such attacks and can help to prevent denial of service attacks from being successful.

Linux secure boot allows Linux VMs to start up using the Secure Boot feature of the UEFI firmware in Generation 2 VM on Hyper-V. This new feature is used to prevent modification to kernel mode code, and was previously available only to Windows Server 2012 R2 VMs.
With all of these new features in Windows Server 2016, in addition to the capacity increases provided in Windows Server 2012 (R2), Hyper-V is now on par with other players in the virtualization space and provides a compelling option for virtualizing the modern datacenter.

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