Gaining Server Storage I/O Insight into Microsoft Windows Server 2016

October 13, 2016 – 1:48 pm

Server Storage I/O Insight into Microsoft Windows Server 2016

server storage I/O trends
Updated 12/8/16

In case you had not heard, Microsoft announced the general availability (GA, also known as Release To Manufacturing (RTM) ) of the newest version of its Windows server operating system aka Windows Server 2016 along with System Center 2016. Note that as well as being released to traditional manufacturing distribution mediums as well as MSDN, the Windows Server 2016 bits are also available on Azure.

Microsoft Windows Server 2016
Windows Server 2016 Welcome Screen – Source Server

For some this might be new news, or a refresh of what Microsoft announced a few weeks ago (e.g. the formal announcement). Likewise, some of you may not be aware that Microsoft is celebrating WIndows Server 20th Birthday (read more here).

Yet for others who have participated in the public beta aka public technical previews (TP) over the past year or two or simply after the information coming out of Microsoft and other venues, there should not be a lot of surprises.

Whats New With Windows Server 2016

Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Desktop
Windows Server 2016 Desktop and tools – Source Server

Besides a new user interface including visual GUI and Powershell among others, there are many new feature functionalities summarized below:

  • Enhanced time-server with 1ms accuracy
  • Nano and Windows Containers (Linux via Hyper-V)
  • Hyper-V enhanced Linux services including shielded VMs
  • Simplified management (on-premisess and cloud)
  • Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) and Storage Replica (SR) – view more here and here

Storage Replica (SR) Scenarios including synchronous and asynchronous – Via

  • Resilient File System aka ReFS (now default file system) storage tiering (cache)
  • Hot-swap virtual networking device support
  • Reliable Change Tracking (RCT) for faster Hyper-V backups
  • RCT improves resiliency vs. VSS change tracking
  • PowerShell and other management enhancements
  • Including subordinated / delegated management roles
  • Compliment Azure AD with on premise AD
  • Resilient/HA RDS using Azure SQL DB for connection broker
  • Encrypted VMs (at rest and during live migration)
  • AD Federation Services (FS) authenticate users in LDAP dir.
  • vTPM for securing and encrypting Hyper-V VMs
  • AD Certificate Services (CS) increase support for TPM
  • Enhanced TPM support for smart card access management
  • AD Domain Services (DS) security resiliency for hybrid and mobile devices

Here is a Microsoft TechNet post that goes into more detail of what is new in WIndows Server 2016.

Free ebook: Introducing Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview
Free ebook: Introducing Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview (Via Microsoft Press)

Check out the above free ebook, after looking through it, I recommend adding it to your bookshelf. There are lots of good intro and overview material for Windows Server 2016 to get you up to speed quickly, or as a refresh.

Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) CI and HCI

Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) builds on Storage Spaces that appeared in earlier Windows and Windows Server editions. Some of the major changes and enhancements include ability to leverage local direct attached storage (DAS) such as internal (or external) dedicated NVMe, SAS and SATA HDDs as well as flash SSDs that used for creating software defined storage for various scenarios.

Scenarios include converged infrastructure (CI) disaggregated as well as aggregated hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) for Hyper-V among other workloads. Windows Server 2016 S2D nodes communicate (from a storage perspective) via a software storage bus. Data Protection and availability is enabled between S2D nodes via Storage Replica (SR) that can do software based synchronous and asynchronous replication.

Aggregated – Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) – Source

Desegregated – Converged Infrastructure (CI) – Source

The following is a Microsoft produced YouTube video providing a nice overview and insight into Windows Server 2016 and Microsoft Software Defined Storage aka S2D.

YouTube Video Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) via

Server storage I/O performance

What About Performance?

A common question that comes up with servers, storage, I/O and software defined data infrastructure is what about performance?

Following are some various links to different workloads showing performance for Hyper-V, S2D and Windows Server. Note as with any benchmark, workload or simulation take them for what they are, something to compare that may or might not be applicable to your own workload and environments.

  • Large scale VM performance with Hyper-V and in-memory transaction processing (Via Technet)
  • Benchmarking Microsoft Hyper-V server, VMware ESXi and Xen Hypervisors (Via cisjournal PDF)
  • Server 2016 Impact on VDI User Experience (Via LoginVSI)
  • Storage IOPS update with Storage Spaces Direct (Via TechNet)
  • SQL Server workload (benchmark) Order Processing Benchmark using In-Memory OLTP (Via Github)
  • Setting up testing Windows Server 2016 and S2D using virtual machines (Via MSDN blogs)
  • Storage throughput with Storage Spaces Direct (S2D TP5 (Via TechNet)
  • Server and Storage I/O Benchmark Tools: Microsoft Diskspd (Part I)

Where To Learn More

For those of you not as familiar with Microsoft Windows Server and related topics, or that simply need a refresh, here are several handy links as well as resources.

What This All Means

While Microsoft Windows Server recently celebrated its 20th birthday (or anniversary), a lot has changed as well as evolved. This includes Windows Servers 2016 supporting new deployment and consumption models (e.g. lightweight Nano, full data center with desktop interface, on-premises, bare metal, virtualized (Hyper-V, VMware, etc) as well as cloud). Besides how consumed and configured, which can also be for CI and HCI modes, Windows Server 2016 along with Hyper-V extend the virtualization and container capabilities into non-Microsoft environments specifically around Linux and Docker. Not only are the support for those environments and platforms enhanced, so to are the management capabilities and interfaces from Powershell to Bash Linux shell being part of WIndows 10 and Server 2016.

What this all means is that if you have not looked at Windows Server in some time, its time you do, even if you are not a WIndows or Microsoft fan, you will want to know what it is that has been updated (perhaps even update your fud if that is the case) to stay current. Get your hands on the bits and try Windows Server 2016 on a bare metal server, or as a VM guest, or via cloud including Azure, or simply leverage the above resources to learn more and stay informed.

Ok, nuff said, for now…


Greg Schulz – Microsoft MVP Cloud and Data Center Management, vSAN and VMware vExpert. Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier) and twitter @storageio

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