What IT pros need to know after Microsoft Build & Ignite

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Microsoft just tied up its Build and Ignite conferences, both of which were jam-packed with valuable information for IT pros. If you happened to miss any of it, you can breathe a sigh of relief, because we've rounded up the most noteworthy items from each of these events. And even though these Microsoft conferences were a few weeks ago, here are the top takeaways and how these updates and changes will affect IT pros like you in the near future. Here they are, in no particular order.

Microsoft's release cycle

About a year ago, Microsoft implied that we'd no longer see service packs. Around the same time, the company suggested that there would be an increase in releases, providing us with new OS versions every two years or so. Now, it's almost official that v.Next for Microsoft products will come with a 2016 label (e.g. Windows Server 2016, System Center 2016). Unfortunately, it's not yet clear what Microsoft has in store for the Windows client side, but it will likely transition to an Apple OS X-like release cycle and will provide a stream of incremental updates for Windows.

The end of Patch Tuesday

If the whole idea of Patch Tuesday gives you a headache, you'll be happy to know that it's likely coming to an end. Moving forward, Microsoft will offer Windows Update for Business which, thankfully, is more exciting than it sounds. Any IT pro helping to support a large base of end-users can now rest easy, as they'll have more control over patch releases.

Things are getting smaller

Microsoft is taking a second run at providing a stripped-down version of Windows Server. It all started with the 2008 version, but really improved with Windows Server 2012/2012 R2. Nano Server will take this all a step further by making the server OS more pure (it will also remove more dependencies that need to be in place for local administration via graphical user interfaces).

Physical to virtual

Last year, Microsoft started doing various things with Docker. To put it simply, rather than offering a one-to-one model, Docker provides a many-to-one model. It's basically the next logical evolution in hosting, providing many applications per server, whether physical or virtual. Even in a virtualized environment, customers and developers might end up waiting for systems to be deployed before they can use them--Docker helps reduce this deployment process.

Containers, of course, aren't really new, but it'll be interesting to see how they're adopted by organizations using Microsoft Windows Server. Currently, it's unclear if containers will provide a solution for OS updates--but, how nice would it be if this were simply a matter of  moving a container from an older OS version to a new, supported one?

System Center

Microsoft also announced the second technical preview of its System Center 2016 suite. In addition to this, there's the Operations Management Suite, a product that aims to provide a centralized management view for hybrid cloud deployments. It supports OpenStack, which is the first Microsoft product to handle this open-source cloud management software. The cloud-based service would run from Microsoft's cloud and would help manage the various cloud services a company may own.

As for the SCCM 2016 release schedule, it's a bit confusing. Most likely, this will all go down in two major product releases: One slated for the same time as Windows 10 (this summer), and the second to coincide with the entire System Center 2016 release.

SQL, Exchange and SharePoint updates

And then there's SQL 2016. Microsoft announced that a preview will hit this summer, and will (hopefully) come loaded with new features. It should be noted here that Microsoft recently finalized its acquisition of Revolution Analytics (a company that was a leader in the R space). R was the first language offered as part of Microsoft's Azure Machine Learning service, so be on the lookout for that.

As for Exchange 2016, it will likely be released near the end of this year. There's been talk of it being little more than an incremental update to Exchange 2013, so don't get too excited just yet. SharePoint, on the other hand, appears to be the last in line for Microsoft's 2016 products release, with a public beta near the end of this year and a final version slated for Spring 2016.

Azure in your Data Center

Microsoft is still pushing its Azure cloud service and releasing new, related features. This means it's important to start thinking in terms of some (possibly all) services moving to the cloud. The company previously indicated that it would offer an Azure service for a private cloud, but none of its previous attempts ever really seemed complete. Now, it's making another attempt to provide a full-featured private cloud with Azure Stack. The new product should launch sometime in 2016.

Open source and Apple

The new Microsoft seems to believe that in order to grow, it needs to embrace the things around it that have gained good market share or companies that have become leaders in the industry. The proof is in the examples:


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Marco Shaw

Marco Shaw is an IT consultant working in Canada. He has been working in the IT industry for over 12 years. He was awarded the Microsoft MVP award for his contributions to the Windows PowerShell community for 5 consecutive years (2007-2011). He has co-authored a book on Windows PowerShell, contributed to Microsoft Press and Microsoft TechNet magazine, and also contributed chapters for other books such as Microsoft System Center Operations Manager and Microsoft SQL Server. He has spoken at Microsoft TechDays in Canada and at TechMentor in the United States. He currently holds the GIAC GSEC and RHCE certifications, and is actively working on others.