Nutanix Set to Deliver Support for Windows Server 2016: Microsoft Ignite 2017
This post was authored by Mike McGhee, Technical Marketing Engineer at Nutanix
Nutanix takes pride in delivering a platform that provides you freedom of choice, including hypervisor, and our engineering team has been hard at work delivering on our support for Hyper-V with Windows Server 2016. Windows Server 2016 and the System Center 2016 family of products offer a number of improvements which enhance the Hyper-V virtualization experience. We wanted to take some time and showcase the benefits and details of features we’ve been working on as a part of our support for the Windows Server 2016 ecosystem. All features discussed below are expected to be available in an upcoming release later this year.
Windows Server 2016 Support
With our next major release due later this year, Nutanix will support Hyper-V with Windows Server 2016 across the Nutanix NX Series and our OEM partners Dell EMC XC Series and Lenovo HX Series. Nutanix also supports Windows Server 2016 with our software subscription options for Cisco UCS® C-Series and HPE® ProLiant® DL Series servers, which we also expect to be available later this year.
Streamlined imaging with Nutanix Foundation
It starts with Nutanix Foundation which provides hypervisor and Nutanix software installation. Foundation enables environments to be ready, from power on to first use, in under an hour. Foundation was enhanced to support Windows Server 2016 including core and desktop experience across Standard and Datacenter editions.
One-Click rolling upgrade from Windows Server 2012 R2 to Windows Server 2016
Foundation is also a key part of supporting our one-click upgrade experience when moving from Windows Server 2012 R2 on Nutanix to Windows Server 2016. Following Microsoft best practices, Nutanix automates the upgrade by executing a fresh installation of Windows Server 2016 across each node in a cluster. Foundation is the engine for the installation, which is done in a rolling, non-disruptive fashion.
The upgrade process leverages the mixed-OS cluster mode possible with Windows 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016. Existing settings like networking are captured, virtual machines are live migrated to other nodes in the Windows cluster, and the evacuated node is removed from the cluster and reimaged to Server 2016. Following the image process settings are restored and the node is added back to the Windows cluster to support virtual machines. This process continues until all nodes are running Windows Server 2016.
Improved performance with discrete device assignment (DDA)
Independent of hypervisor, Nutanix leverages a controller virtual machine (CVM) on each node of a cluster to manage that node’s internal storage. The CVMs communicate with each other to form the Nutanix Distributed Storage Fabric (DSF) among other services. With Windows Server 2012 R2 pass-through disks were used for presenting the internal drives to each CVM for supporting the DSF.
With Windows Server 2016, DDA was introduced which allows PCI device presentation directly to virtual machines. This allows Nutanix to pass the PCI storage devices directly to the CVM. DDA will help improve underlying storage performance, and will benefit next generation non-volatile memory technologies like NVMe and 3D XPoint as they become more prevalent technologies in the datacenter.
Enhanced security with Kerberos by default
With Windows Server 2016 SMB secure negotiation is no longer an option and must be used with SMB 2 or SMB 3 dialects. Nutanix presents storage to Hyper-V using the SMB 3.0 protocol, therefore secure negotiation is required. Kerberos is now enabled by default with Nutanix for Windows Server 2016 environments, helping to harden the environment out of the box. Nutanix also automates the configuration of constrained delegation within setup workflows which include adding nodes to a domain and forming the windows failover cluster.
Async data protection workflows across Windows Server 2012R2 and 2016
Nutanix provides integrated data protection technologies like snapshots, asynchronous remote replication and synchronous replication between clusters. With Nutanix data protection, additional restore, activate and migrate workflows were introduced to manage the virtual machine registration process during recovery and migration activities.
Hyper-V with Windows Server 2016 introduced a new configuration file format for virtual machines. Configuration files are now stored in a binary format using a .vmcx file extension. Nutanix data protection workflows were enhanced to work with the new format so that disaster protection workflows continue to operate seamlessly. Nutanix also supports replicating between 2012 R2 and 2016 clusters which enables both disaster recovery and migration capabilities across Hyper-V versions.
System Center 2016 Support
Supporting Hyper-V with Windows Server 2016 also entails supporting the System Center family. Several updates were made to continue, enhance or provide new support for System Center components.
Virtual Machine Manager
Nutanix continues support for System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), including upgrading our SMI-S provider to ensure support with SCVMM 2016. SMI-S integration helps to integrate storage with SCVMM for simplified management including file share storage registration and classifications for intelligent virtual machine placement. Automation scripts for registering Nutanix clusters with SCVMM have also been updated for 2016
Nutanix has released a new version of our System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) management pack. The Nutanix SCOM management pack 2.0 consolidates hardware and software monitoring of Nutanix environments and includes support for Nutanix NX, Dell EMC XC Series and Lenovo HX Series clusters.
The SCOM 2.0 management pack includes support for SCOM 2016 and uses Nutanix REST APIs to provide the same health, performance and alerting data available from Nutanix Prism
Data Protection Manager
System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) historically has not provided support for hypervisor (image level) backups for virtual machines running on third party SMB shares. Third party SMB shares are defined as shares which are not natively hosted by the Windows operating system. The SMB shares created by Nutanix for use by Hyper-V are considered third party. This limitation restricted Nutanix support for DPM to only include agent based backups, where agents are installed into virtual machines.
Starting with DPM 2016 UR1 and Windows Server 2016 UR1, third party SMB shares are supported by DPM. With this Nutanix will be able to support DPM hypervisor level backups of virtual machines beginning with Windows Server 2016. This support simplifies DPM backup administration as agents are no longer needed within virtual machines. Also, operating systems like Linux, which did not have DPM agents are supported now as well. Further, the resilient change tracking (RCT) feature native to Windows 2016 and Hyper-V is supported. RCT is a change block tracking (CBT) mechanism that ensures only incremental data from virtual machines is read and written during backup operations.
All of this engineering work is in addition to our application focus, which includes Nutanix Xtract for databases. Xtract for databases enables you to discover, size and migrate your Microsoft SQL Server instances from non-Nutanix infrastructures (source) to Nutanix Cloud Platform (target) with a 1-click operation. You can migrate both virtual and physical SQL Servers to Nutanix. Xtract captures the state of your source SQL Server environments, applies any recommended changes, recreates the state on Nutanix, and then migrates the underlying data.
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