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Windows Server 2019: A Comprehensive Overview

Windows Server 2019 is the latest release of Microsoft’s Windows server operating system, delivering major improvements in performance, security, application support, and hybrid cloud capabilities. As organizations continue to adopt hybrid IT strategies, Windows Server 2019 provides an optimal on-premises complement to Azure services.


Introduction to Windows Server 2019

Windows Server 2019 builds on the foundation of Windows Server 2016, Microsoft’s cloud-ready operating system. It was designed for the workloads and scenarios of today, with a focus on hybrid capabilities, security, application platform, hyper-converged infrastructure, and improved management.

Some of the major goals with Windows Server 2019 included improving hybrid cloud support, enhancing security through shielded VMs, expanding Linux and open source workload support, improving hyper-converged infrastructure, and simplifying management and troubleshooting.


Key New Features and Enhancements


Expanded Hybrid Capabilities

Windows Server 2019 expands the hybrid cloud capabilities first introduced in Windows Server 2016. Key improvements include:

  • Azure Arc Integration – Allow on-premises servers to be managed through Azure Arc, simplifying management.
  • Azure Backup Support – Backup Windows and Linux VMs directly to Azure without separate backup software.
  • Azure File Sync – Sync on-premises file shares bidirectional with Azure Files.
  • Site Recovery Support – Use Azure Site Recovery to orchestrate disaster recovery and failovers of on-premises VMs.


Enhanced Security

Windows Server 2019 introduces new security capabilities for protecting critical workloads:

  • Shielded VMs – Encrypted VMs to prevent theft of confidential VM data or tampering with the VM.
  • Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection – Bringing enterprise-grade threat detection and response capabilities natively to Windows Server.


Improved Application Platform

Developers and organizations running key workloads will benefit from these improvements:

  • Linux Support – Expanded support for running Linux containers and Linux-based apps within Windows Server.
  • Open Source Database Support – Built-in support for PostgreSQL and MySQL makes it easier to run open source databases.
  • Larger Container Images – Container image support increased to better support real-world application containers.


Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Windows Server 2019 improves storage replication, scaling, and troubleshooting for hyperconverged environments:

  • Faster Replication – Storage Replica synchronous replication improved to 200ms latency for better HCI performance.
  • Software-defined Networking – Makes it easier to scale HCI while maintaining high performance.
  • Advanced Monitoring – New diagnostics tools for better monitoring and troubleshooting.


Management Enhancements

Day-to-day server management is easier with new tools:

  • Windows Admin Center – Provides modern browser-based management across servers, clusters, hyperconverged infrastructure, and file servers.
  • Reduced Downtime for Updates – Can service VMs without shutting down Hyper-V hosts during Windows Server updates.
  • Expanded PowerShell Support – New cmdlets for managing features like containers, storage, and clusters.


Comparison with Windows Server 2016

Windows Server 2016 introduced many changes that are built upon in Windows Server 2019. Here is a side-by-side comparison:

Features Windows Server 2019 Windows Server 2016
Hybrid Cloud Capabilities Expanded Azure integration Limited Azure integration
Security Shielded VMs, Windows Defender ATP Just Enough Admin, Shielded VMs
Container Support Improved management, larger images Hyper-V isolation, image support
HCI Enhancements Improved replication, diagnostics Storage Spaces Direct, HCI foundation
Linux / Open Source Support Expanded Linux, MySQL, PostgreSQL support Limited support
Cloud-based Management Windows Admin Center No equivalent capability

Usage Scenarios for Windows Server 2019

Windows Server 2019 is well-suited for a variety of usage scenarios:

Hybrid Cloud – The enhanced Azure integration makes extending on-premises environments into Azure much simpler for backup, disaster recovery, and cloud bursting.

Hyperconverged Infrastructure – Organizations can build highly efficient HCI clusters using the Windows Server Software Defined program added in Windows Server 2019.

Private Cloud Environments – WS 2019 allows organizations to build robust private clouds with SDN, containers, efficient scaling, and modern management.

Running Open Source Apps – With built-in support for Linux, PostgreSQL, and MySQL, Windows Server 2019 is great for running open source application stacks.

Containerized Applications – Developers can build and run modern containerized applications using Kubernetes orchestration and enhanced container management.


Technical Overview of Key Capabilities


Hybrid Cloud Capabilities

Windows Server 2019 focuses on making hybrid cloud simpler. Here are some of the key technical capabilities:

  • Azure Arc – Uses Azure Arc to manage WS 2019 servers directly through Azure Resource Manager.
  • Azure Backup Support – Install the Azure Backup agent to natively backup files and folders to Azure blob storage. Backups can be application-consistent.
  • Azure File Sync – Install the Storage Sync Service to replicate file shares on WS 2019 to Azure Files, supporting cloud tiering.
  • Site Recovery Support – Orchestrate disaster recovery and failover of VM workloads to Azure or secondary sites using Azure Site Recovery service.


Security Enhancements

Windows Server 2019 improves the security capabilities of Windows Server:

  • Shielded VMs – Hyper-V hosts can now create shielded VMs, which are encrypted to prevent theft of VM data and hardened against tampering. Shielded VMs require hardened Hyper-V hosts.
  • Windows Defender ATP – Includes the Defender ATP service for detecting and responding to advanced threats using behavioral analysis and machine learning. Draws on the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph.


Improved Application Platform

Key improvements for running applications and workloads:

  • Expanded Linux Support – Includes the Windows Subsystem for Linux to natively run ELF64 Linux binaries on Windows. Also supports Linux containers.
  • PostgreSQL – Fully supported relational open source database added in Windows Server 2019.
  • MySQL – Added MySQL 5.7 in Windows Server 2019 for running the popular open source database.
  • Container Image Size – Maximum container image size increased to better support real-world containerized applications.


Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Key enhancements for HCI environments:

  • Storage Replica Synchronous Tier – Cut latency of synchronous storage replication from 700ms to 200ms for better performance.
  • Software-defined Networking – Makes it easier to scale HCI clusters while maintaining network performance.
  • Diagnostics Tools – New troubleshooting tools for storage latency in clusters, crash dumps, performance auditing.


Management Improvements

Admins have new tools to simplify management:

  • Windows Admin Center – Provides modern browser-based management of Windows Servers, failover clusters, hyperconverged infrastructure, and file servers.
  • VM Live Migration During Updates – Can now live migrate VMs off a host without shutting down during Windows Server updates. Reduces downtime.
  • Expanded PowerShell Support – New PowerShell cmdlets added for containers, SDN, storage, and cluster management.


Conclusion

Windows Server 2019 represents a major release for Microsoft’s server OS, with meaningful improvements in hybrid capabilities, security, application platform support, hyperconverged infrastructure, and management. For organizations running Windows-centric datacenters, Windows Server 2019 offers many compelling reasons to upgrade from older versions. It continues to be an excellent on-premises complement to Microsoft’s Azure public cloud.

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