What’s new in Windows Server 1903

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A few days ago Microsoft revealed what's new in the next Windows Server, Semi-Annual Channel release – version 1903. The most important areas of the new product are App Platform, edge computing, Windows Admin Center, and App Compatibility. Microsoft highlights the following new features and changes.

App Platform

Windows Server, version 1903 will continue to serve as an application platform for customers who are modernizing their applications on-premises or in the cloud with Windows containers.

  1. We have been building platform capabilities to support Azure container services and third-party container services.
    • We integrated CRI-Containerd with Host Compute Service to support Pods of Windows Containers and Linux Containers on Windows on Azure.
    • We worked with the Kubernetes community to enable Windows container support. On March 25, 2019, with the release of Kubernetes v1.14, Windows Server node support officially graduated from beta to stable. To learn more, refer to the blog post, “Windows containers now supported in Kubernetes.”
  1. We delivered scalability improvements enhancing overlay networking support for Windows containers, including integration with Kubernetes through the latest release of Flannel and Kubernetes v1.14. Try out Windows support in Kubernetes.
  2. Based on customer interest in GPU acceleration, we’re taking the first step by enabling support for hardware acceleration of DirectX APIs in Windows containers. We believe this will enable new and interesting scenarios such as edge-local machine learning inferencing. Find out more in the blog post, “Bringing GPU acceleration to Windows containers.”
  3. We updated documentation related to container identity/Group Managed Service Accounts (gMSA) with more examples and compatibility information. We’ve also made the Credential Spec module available in the PowerShell Gallery. For more information, refer to the blog post, “What’s new for container identity.”

Note: If you are using the Windows Server, version 1903 Insider Build on Azure, please note the build number is 18342. To ensure that you can run a Windows Server container on that build, use a Windows Server container build the same or lower than 18342. For example, you can run:

“docker pull mcr.microsoft.com/windows/servercore/insider:10.0.18342.1”


“docker pull mcr.microsoft.com/windows/servercore/insider:10.0.18323.1000”

This practice of ensuring version compatibility applies to any Windows Server containers you may run, not just the case here. Please check the docs on Windows container version compatibility for more details.

Edge computing

As more applications, workloads, and services move to the cloud, certain edge computing scenarios are emerging where the logic is best suited to run locally rather than in the cloud. Applications that use Internet of Things (IoT) provide one example, and additional scenarios include data normalization, data analysis, and device control.

System Insights is a local predictive analytics feature introduced in Windows Server 2019. The System Insights predictive capabilities, each backed by a machine learning or analytics model, analyze Windows Server system data, such as performance counters and events. These capabilities provide insight into server operations, helping reduce the operational expenses associated with reactively managing deployment issues.

With the upcoming April Windows Admin Center (WAC) release, you can use the System Insights WAC extension to find, install, and update new System Insights capabilities. Coming shortly after the April WAC release, we will publish a new capability that allows you to detect anomalies in physical disk metrics. You can download this new capability entirely through WAC without updating your OS. This capability will work on both Windows Server 2019 and Windows Server, version 1903. With this capability, you can avoid setting static thresholds that require prior knowledge of expected behavior, and instead depend on this capability to automatically detect abnormal behavior in your physical disk metrics. In the future, we plan to extend these capabilities, improving the information you can leverage to best administrate your servers and infrastructure.

Windows Admin Center

Hybrid cloud makes it easier to run IT operations locally while still maximizing the benefits of the cloud. This includes easier distribution of data, monitoring infrastructure, and ease of deploying new apps. To improve the experience across cloud and on-premises, version 1903 brings the following innovations:

  • Synergize migration with Azure File Sync: The Storage Migration Service leads to the Azure File Sync (AFS) WAC experience, where a customer who migrates from Windows Server 2008 to Windows Server 2019 then deploys Azure File Sync and manages that data.
  • Allow direct-to-Azure storage migrations with Storage Migration Service (SMS): Customers can migrate from Windows Server 2003, 2008/R2, 2012/R2, or Linux Samba directly to a running IaaS virtual machine.
  • Make Azure cluster witness an opt-out: We now default quorum management into an Azure blob instead of a local store.
  • Expand and iterate on the growing set of WAC’s Azure integration scenarios, including Azure Site Recovery, Azure Backup, Azure Active Directory authentication, Azure Update Management, and Azure Monitor alerts.

Server Core App Compatibility – Feature on Demand

The App Compatibility Feature on Demand for Server Core, introduced with Windows Server 2019 and Windows Server, version 1809, continues to be popular with customers using it in a variety of scenarios. Feedback since launch has led to two significant additions:

  1. Task Scheduler (Taskschd.msc): More easily schedule your apps, actions, and scripts!
  2. Hyper-V Manager (Virtmgmt.msc): Create and connect to virtual machines hosted on Server Core + the App Compatibility feature on demand (FOD)!

A reminder that Server Core is the recommended server OS installation type for production (managed by Windows Admin Center and/or Powershell). The App Compatibility FOD is intended for those specific workloads or enterprise apps that require more than what Server Core alone provides. This helps IT environments to standardize on Server Core.

To try these features in action, you need to become an Insider. Registered Insiders may navigate directly to the Windows Server Insider Preview download page.  If you have not yet registered as an Insider, see GETTING STARTED WITH SERVER on the Windows Insiders for Business portal.

Note: Insider Build 18342 is now available through the Azure portal and the Azure Marketplace.

Also, there are a number of Container Insider Builds available.

Source: Microsoft

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Author: Sergey Tkachenko

Sergey Tkachenko is a software developer who started Winaero back in 2011. On this blog, Sergey is writing about everything connected to Microsoft, Windows and popular software. Follow him on Telegram, Twitter, and YouTube.

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