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Windows Server 2016 promises exciting new Hyper-V features

What updates and new features does the latest version of Windows Server bring to Hyper-V?

Over the last few years, we have seen massive improvements in Hyper-V. Windows Server 2012 R2 introduced a number...

of important Hyper-V features, and the upcoming Window Server 2016 release boasts even more, as well as improvements to preexisting features. Listed below are some of the new Hyper-V features offered in the latest installation of Windows Server.

Change in VM configuration file: This is the first time Microsoft has changed the format of the VM configuration file. Currently, VM configuration files use an XML-based file that has been changed to a binary format. The new VM configuration file will use the .VMCX file format. The reason for this change is to provide better control over XML-based configuration files; you could easily edit an XML file in an editor like Notepad and make unintended VM configuration changes that could lead to downtime for production VMs.

Nested virtualization: Although you could easily run a Hyper-V role inside a VM with some minor tweaking to the virtualization software, Windows Server 2016 adds nested functionality by default. This allows users to easily run Hyper-V roles inside VMs that are running on a Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V host. In order to use the nested virtualization feature, you must be running Windows Server 2016 or Windows 10 as the guest OS.

Add/remove virtual network interface card or memory on the fly: The ability to hot add and remove virtual network cards and memory reduces the downtime for line-of-business applications. Windows Server 2016 will provide the ability to hot add and remove virtual network cards to Generation 2 VMs and the ability to hot add and remove memory to both Generation 1 and Generation 2 VMs. There is no need to enable the Dynamic Memory feature for a VM before adjusting memory for a running VM.

Linux Secure Boot: Earlier versions of Hyper-V lacked a Secure Boot option for Linux VMs. Windows Server 2016 provides the ability to configure a variety of Linux distributions to use the Secure Boot feature which, in turn, enables organizations to host Linux virtualized workloads on Hyper-V and operate them securely.

PowerShell Direct: As its name suggests, PowerShell Direct can be used to run PowerShell commands interactively against local VMs running on a Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V host. This eliminates the need for a working network connection or firewall changes in order to execute PowerShell commands from a Hyper-V host against local VMs. In order to use this feature, the VMs must be running Windows Server 2016 or Windows 10 as a guest on Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V hosts.

In addition to the new Hyper-V features shown above, Windows Server 2016 will also provide the ability to update Hyper-V Integration Services through Windows Update. This enables Storage Quality of Service for scale-out file servers and bypasses the Hyper-V parent partition by enabling VMs direct access to PCI-based devices, which helps reduce the overall CPU cycles on a Hyper-V host.

Next Steps

Microsoft goes cloud-heavy in Windows Server 2016

Why is nested virtualization important for Hyper-V users?

How to enable and use PowerShell Direct for Hyper-V

Hyper-V nested virtualization makes Windows containers a reality

This was last published in April 2016

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Which of the new Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V features do you think will have the greatest impact?
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