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Top five Hyper-V 2016 features in Windows Server

With more than a dozen new features in Hyper-V 2016, it can be difficult to navigate them all. Save yourself some time and look at these five key features first.

There are a multitude of Hyper-V features meant to ease virtual environment management, making it difficult and time consuming to keep track. Features are differentiated by the challenges they help to overcome and how they ultimately ease administrator responsibilities. And each version of Hyper-V introduces new and improved features.

We reviewed a dozen or so new and improved Hyper-V 2016 features to determine which are the most important for day-to-day use. Here are the top five.

Shielded VM

With high-profile security breaches becoming increasingly common, protecting the data is critical. The Shielded VM feature in Hyper-V 2016 eases that burden, which is why it gets the top spot on this list.

The Shielded VM feature protects generation 2 VMs via BitLocker to encrypt virtual hard disks and a virtual trusted platform module to complete the attestation process. Secure Boot and Host Guardian Service also play a role in the Shield VM feature in Hyper-V 2016. Secure Boot prevents access to the shielded VM on boot; Host Guardian Service only allows the shielded VM to run on designated hosts. Having these measures in place protects environments against data loss and theft.

Nested Virtualization

The Cluster Rolling Upgrade feature enables admins to upgrade existing Windows Server 2012 R2 clusters to Windows Server 2016 clusters without downtime.

The Nested Virtualization feature in Hyper-V 2016 enables admins to run a host inside a VM to virtualize it. Currently, this Hyper-V feature has several production uses, including container support. By combining the cost savings and flexibility of containers with the security that VMs provide, Nested Virtualization represents the best of both worlds.

Nested Virtualization enables enterprises to save money on hardware for dev/test environments and training. This Hyper-V 2016 feature also works with private clouds -- creating a private cloud with Nested Virtualization enables other departments to create VMs and still retain control over resource consumption.

Production Checkpoints

While Checkpoints have been available in Hyper-V features for some time, they weren't supported in production environments. Traditionally, applying a checkpoint to a VM in production could harm applications running on it.

Hyper-V 2016 has the option to use either Standard Checkpoints or Production Checkpoints. The key thing to remember is that the technology varies depending on the guest OS. For a VM running Windows OS, Production Checkpoints use Volume Shadow Copy Services to place the VM and its applications in a consistent state, so the checkpoint can be created without risking damage to the applications. For a VM running Linux, Production Checkpoints flush the file system buffers to create a consistent checkpoint.

Cluster Rolling Upgrade

The Cluster Rolling Upgrade feature enables admins to upgrade existing Windows Server 2012 R2 clusters to Windows Server 2016 clusters without downtime. Prior to this feature, admins had to take the cluster offline, install the new OS, bring the upgraded cluster back online and restart all of the workloads.

The Cluster Rolling Upgrade feature allows VMs and Scale-Out File Server workloads to continue running during the upgrade and reduces the costs associated with performing those maintenance tasks. As long as you don't raise the cluster functional level, which tells Windows whether the cluster should behave as a native or legacy Windows Server 2016 cluster, you can revert the cluster to the previous OS version, as needed.

Host Resource Protection

It can be a challenge to manage resource consumption in a virtual environment. But the Host Resource Protection feature in Hyper-V 2016 handles some of the work.

This feature prevents a VM from consuming so many resources that it negatively affects the performance of neighboring VMs. When the system detects unusually excessive virtual CPU activity, the hypervisor allocates fewer CPU resources to that VM. This feature is disabled by default; to enable it, use the Set-VMProcessor PowerShell cmdlet. Even though there are other ways to manage resource consumption in Hyper-V 2016, the Host Resource Protection feature removes concern about neglected VM settings or accidental misconfigurations.

Next Steps

Understand Hyper-V virtual switches

Learn about Hyper-V and Windows Server 2016 containers

Use PowerShell for Hyper-V health checks

This was last published in April 2017

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