Alongside the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Microsoft delivered its first feature update for Windows Server 2016 this week.
While some administrators are just starting to kick the tires, they've already noticed a few surprise omissions from that "Semi-Annual Channel" update, also known as build 1709 (for September, the ninth month, of 2017.)
First, here's a brief recap of what did make it into 1709.
As Microsoft said would happen, the Server Core container image is about 60 percent smaller, while the Nano Server container image is nearly 80 percent smaller, than they were in the original version of Windows Server 2016. Microsoft also added the promised Linux container with Hyper-V isolation support to this release.
SMB1 and guest authentication removal also made it into this release, as did a number of other compute, storage, networking and remote-desktop services updates, listed in this Microsoft Docs article.
But a couple of things were cut from 1709.
For one, the Essentials version of Windows Server 2016 is gone.Windows Server 2016 Essentials edition was a "cloud-connected" first server for small businesses with up to 25 users. Microsoft introduced the Essentials edition in October 2016.
Windows Server 1709 is available only in Standard and Datacenter editions. (As of October 19, Windows Server 1709 also available on Azure.) It's also worth noting that those installing 1709 only get Server Core as an installation option, even though Windows Server 2016 allows both Server Core and Server with Desktop Experience installation options.
I asked Microsoft whether the company would continue to offer an Essentials version of Windows Server in the future and have not heard back.
Storage Spaces Direct spans Windows Server clusters and creates a bus via which the servers can see all of each other's local drives. It was introduced as a feature of Windows Serve r2016 and described by Microsoft as "the foundation for our hyper-converged platform."
I heard last month from one of my contacts that Microsoft wasn't happy with the quality of Storage Spaces Direct and thus opted to block it from being usable for all software-defined Datacenter aplications in 1709. Administrators cannot add servers running 1709 to deployments of Windows Server 2016 where Storage Spaces Direct is being used.
The next possible update to Storage Spaces Direct may be part of "Redstone 4," the update of Windows 10 client and server due to begin rolling out around April next year.
The FAQ makes it clear IT pros have options: Those interested in getting new server features more quickly can opt for the Semi-Annual Channel (feature updates) which are supported for 18 months each and released twice a year. Windows Server 2016 is in the Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) and will continue to be supported for 10 years with a new release out every two to three years.
Those running Server 2016 today shouldn't treat 1709 as a feature update to 2016, officials said. To move from Windows Server 2016 or earlier versions of Windows Server to 1709, users must run a clean install, as no in-place upgrades are supported. Those who want Semi-Annual Channel releases need Software Assurance for their Windows Server licenses or be willing to use the Semi-Annual Channel releases hosted on Azure or other cloud-hosted environments.
Windows Server Essentials releases will only be available in LTSC; Standard or Datacenter are the only supported editions in the Semi-Annual Channel. Also: Server Core is the only installation option support in Semi-Annual Channel (which some users are complaining about).