Windows Server to join the Insider Program "this summer"

The Windows Insider Program for PCs kicked off in October of 2014, joined a few months later by its Mobile counterpart. Following in the footsteps of Office, then Skype, and Visual Studio, Windows Server is now also part of the Insider Program.

In a post on the Hybrid Cloud blog, Erin Chapple, the GM of Windows Server, details that the help of the community, and the feedback gathered through five previews of Windows Server 2016, has been instrumental in "shaping and refining the experience and functionality" for the final product. One thing testers stated is that they wanted to more frequently get access to builds of Server in order to implement fixes and test features. For that reason, Windows Server is now part of the Insider Program.

Chapple goes on to state that Insiders will get to try out a "container-optimized" image of Nano Server, which will be obtainable through the Docker Hub. Specifically, this will bring the work done on .NET Core 2.0 to containers, thus helping to "reduce the footprint of the .NET container image by at least 50 percent.", which translates into "reduced startup time as well as density improvements."

Taking Microsoft's Linux integration even further, Erin Chapple also says that those who sign-up will get to make use of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), commonly known as Bash on Windows, on their Windows Server installs. In essence, developers and app administrators will be able to "use the same scripts, tools, procedures and container images they have been using for Linux containers on their Windows Server container host." This approach allows for Hyper-V and the Linux kernel of choice to "host the workload", while the tools and management scripts on the host make use of WSL.

In terms of so-called "container orchestration", Insiders will also be able to take advantage of two new features geared towards Kubernetes-based clusters. Specifically, the ability to add a network interface to an already running container, as well as a "first step" at sharing a network interface between two containers "to support pods." Chapple also went on to say:

We have also been working with several community members to understand and build support for mapping named pipes from a container host into a container. This enables specifically configured containers to communicate efficiently with the host and is how many orchestrators are deployed in Linux environments.

Lastly, since SQL Server seems to be the most common container image used, the issue of container storage has cropped up a few times. This will now be solved with via the ability to "map SMB file-based storage directly into a container", whereas this was only available until now via locally mounted volumes, which connected the storage from the host into the container.

The features described above will be coming to users with Software Assurance who choose "a more frequent release model" in Windows Server's "first feature release this Fall", which brings it in lockstep with Office and Windows. Those on the long-term servicing branch (LTSB) will be getting these same capabilities as part of Server's next major release.

While not here just yet, the Windows Server preview builds are expected to start appearing this summer, with all Windows Insiders who want to download and test them being able to do so. The announcement regarding availability will be made via the Windows Server blog and Windows Insider forums.

What do you think of this move? Sound off in the comments below!

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