We are approaching the countdown to the release of Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 2016. It is estimated that it will be released sometime during Q3 of this year, most likely early September. We’ve already seen Technical Previews One through Five, each enhancing the previous one and introducing new features.
These features have tempted and beguiled. Storage Spaces Direct—is this Microsoft’s VSAN killer? It appears to fill the same function, and coupled with another new feature, Nano Server running the Hyper-V role, it makes a powerful hyperconverged infrastructure play. And what about the newly displayed Windows Containers from Technical Preview Four—are these Microsoft’s Docker killer, especially given that they can run Docker containers natively on Windows? These, among other new and enhanced features, make for a compelling release. I can not remember ever seeing so many truly new features on a new release.
Will Server 2016 be successful and retain its position as the Microsoft cash cow? That remains to be seen. Yes, it will be widely installed, as the majority of the enterprise is still tied to Windows Server as the core operating system of choice, and we are still a long way from applications of the 3rd Platform, contrary to what the hipsters of Silicon Valley believe. Yes, believe it or not! Many corporations are still vastly physical-biased with their infrastructure requirements and are only now starting their journey to a virtualized data center or moving to a production-centered virtualization-first policy, never mind to cloud-based deployment and funky processes like Agile, automation, and DevOps.
From a virtualization perspective, these companies will be looking at Hyper-V with a keen eye. They are much more cost-sensitive than the first and second movers were. That said, VMware was, on the whole, the only player at the party that could actually play a decent tune on its instrument. Microsoft’s Hyper-V is now a valid and effective hypervisor. For those of you who still have doubts about stability and scale, I suggest you have a look at Azure. These companies also have a tendency to be Microsoft-focused for both their operating systems and their applications. They will most likely already have an investment in System Center Operation Manager and Configuration Manager. Their cost of movement will be significantly lower in terms of training and operational changes.
This makes for a perfect storm. When the marketing machine really kicks in, I hope that it forgets its historical script book and drops the normal razzmatazz. Currently, the online videos explaining the features are remarkably free from FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). The ability to freely download the Tech Previews without having to sign any onerous nondisclosure agreements is cool. Microsoft has already declared its pricing for 2016, including the new licensing arrangements. It has moved to a per-core basis for licensing from a per-socket.
Currently there is no mudslinging, no showboating—other vendors, take note please! (Yes, you know who I am looking at.) That said, there is no guarantee that this will not change nearer to the launch date. Now, though, everything is very civilized.
If you remember the releases of 2008 R2 (the second release to have Hyper-V) and 2012, the mud and FUD being thrown around by Microsoft then would have kept a sty full of hogs happy for several years.
So far, there is no Microsoft Mythbusters–type marketing. If you cannot remember this Giant Fail of Marketing, click the link above. But a brief synopsis: Microsoft played a game of debunking features. There was one problem: it was talking about a product that was not yet released, instead of a product that was shipping. In fact, if you look at the faces of the two characters in the video, you’ll see even they were uncomfortable with what they were saying.
This, to us at The Virtualization Practice, is another insight into the changes in culture that Nadela has imbued into the behemoth that is Microsoft since he came to sit in the top seat. Microsoft is now playing to its strengths rather than trying to undertake a character assassination of competitors’ products. This new Microsoft still has its issues; the sudden lowering of the storage limit on OneDrive from unlimited to 5 GB (there was an initial 15 GB limit) is one example, but that is a business decision.
The turnaround at Microsoft is nothing short of miraculous. It has gone from being written off as a player seen as only legacy to a position of power in which it is seen as a valid and key player in the next-generation software-defined data center, whether that be onsite or remote via cloud delivery.