Windows Server 2019 LTSC 17623 Preview is out

Microsoft released their Windows Server 2019 Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) via the fast ring. There two editions, the Desktop Experience (GUI) and another version called Server Core (w/o GUI).

Windows Server 2019 LTSC
Picture Source: techcentral.ie

Release date

Microsoft plans to release the final version of Windows Server 2019 in the second half this year, there is currently no explicit date given. Microsoft plans to release System Center 2019 Edition as well which will support Windows Server 2019.

Changes in the Preview Release

Security

Microsoft introduced Shielded virtual machines (VMs) in Windows Server 2016 to better protect VMs against attacks. Windows Server 2019 adds support for Linux virtual machines to Shielded VMs.

Other improvements include support for Encrypted Networks which let admins encrypt “network segments” easily, and improved troubleshooting of Shielded VMs when using VMConnect.

Windows Server 2019 includes Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection as well.

Hybrid cloud scenarios

Project Honolulu, a locally deployed platform to manage Windows and Windows Server, will be available as a management platform. Administrators of Storage Spaces Direct can now get easy access to historical performance and capacity data from their cluster.

The Dashboard shows you more details. Picture Source: Microsoft

With Windows Server 2019 and Project Honolulu, customers will be able to easily integrate Azure services such as Azure Backup, Azure File Sync, disaster recovery, and much more so they will be able to leverage these Azure services without disrupting their applications and infrastructure.

Application Platform

Microsoft announced that Server 2019 will improve Windows Server containers and the Windows Subsystem on Linux. Both features are already partially integrated into current Windows versions (even non-server versions).

Two key aspects to call out for the developer community are improvements to Windows Server containers and Windows Subsystem on Linux (WSL).

The Server Core base container image size was reduced by around 72% from its current size of 5 GB which improves the time it takes to deploy the image.

Other improvements include improved support for Kubernetes (beta) and support for OpenSSH, Curl and Tar to help “Linux users bring their scripts to Windows”.

Encrypted Network in SDN

The new SDN encryption mechanism allows the server from data manipulation or data thefts. This process is easier done now and you won’t have to mess with IPSEC directly anymore.

Network traffic going out from a VM host can be snooped on and/or manipulated by anyone with access to the physical fabric. While shielded VMs protect VM data from theft and manipulation, similar protection is required for network traffic to and from a VM. While the tenant can setup protection such as IPSEC, this is difficult due to configuration complexity and heterogeneous environments.

Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI)

Windows Server 2016 supports HCI and customers may use the Windows Server Software Defined program to find appropriate solutions.

In Windows Server 2019 we are building on this platform by adding scale, performance, and reliability. We are also adding the ability to manage HCI deployments in Project Honolulu, to simplify the management and day-to-day activities on HCI environments.

Known issues

  • In‑place OS upgrade: Domain Controllers. During an in-place OS upgrade, Active Directory (AD) Domain Controllers (DC) might not be upgraded correctly. So, back up any AD DCs before performing an in-place OS upgrade.
  • Editing or creating policies for AppLocker can cause the MMC snap-in to crash when generated rules for a packaged app.
  • After upgrading the operating system, the AppX database may have corrupted entries, which causes problems for components that use those entries.
  • Testing of the Windows core may fail because of a timeout while attempting to load the test libraries.

Download

Windows Server 2019 LTSC Build 17623 is available in ISO format in 18 languages. Both server versions are available here:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windowsinsiderpreviewserver

In order to receive the downloads you need to create an account first, alternatively you can download the builds manually from adguard.

Keys

As always Microsoft provides generic trial keys for each Windows version, also so for the Server Editons.

  • Datacenter Edition:   6XBNX-4JQGW-QX6QG-74P76-72V67
  • Default Edition:         MFY9F-XBN2F-TYFMP-CCV49-RMYVH

The Server Core Edition is available in English only, via an ISO or VHDX format. The images are pre-keyed which means you don’t need to enter a key during the installation setup.

Conclusion

Windows gets more secure now with the current changes, the normal Windows people (1709+) are already getting the Windows Defender/EMET security changes and Windows Server will get it with the next major release which helps to fight the malware. The SDN encryption seems really promising especially because it’s totally frustrating to work with IPSEC in Windows since the interface for it is not really ‘optimized’. compared to working with IPSEC in Linux, which is in my opinion easier and better documented.

All other changes and known issue aren’t surprising because Microsoft often shown in their own Blogs what’s coming next and I must admit the changes are overall not bad for administrators and server owners. I’m not sure if it’s enough to compete against Linux on the server market since MS has a possible trust issue and some server owners might want to customize their software how they want and not like MS tries to force you to do, but this is another topic for itself.

I’ll definitely test the final product to see the overall process and might write a short review about it.

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