back to article Windows Server 2016: Leg up or lock in?

Software giant Microsoft is set to officially launch its next-generation server platform next week, but the firm faces growing competition from Linux as corporate customers shift more toward the cloud for IT services. Microsoft’s answer? Tie the most useful parts of Windows Server 2016 to a Software Assurance licensing deal …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    By all accounts, Windows Server 2016 seems a decent upgrade

    Just who is saying that and how much did they get paid?

    1. Chika

      From a software POV as far as I have seen so far, there is little difference between the back end of this and its immediate predecessor, though one thing to note is that the front end looks a little W10-ish. If this includes all the down-points that W10 has, then watch out!

      As far as the article is concerned, however, it raises a number of valid points in that there are less reasons to deploy Windows Server than there once was, especially considering the move to publish a Microsoft SQL framework on Linux. Many other purposes have long been able to run using Linux or Unix derived resources and people are catching on to this.

      I'm not a great advocate of cloud usage but I can see more than one reason why cloud infrastructure tends towards Linux. It's yet another reason why I view Microsoft's recent actions on the desktop as questionable (I've always had my doubts about their server licensing habits!)

  2. Chloe Cresswell

    Windows server

    The only reason I was quoting for a windows server today was Sage.

    If we didn't need windows to run the sage data service for the data, we wouldn't have even bothered.

    1. Milton

      Re: Windows server

      It is striking how frequently nowadays you hear someone saying "We only used/chose Windows because {specific software} runs on it". Less and less do you hear anyone say that they chose Windows because of its innate quality, functionality or value for money.

      MS probably isn't as stupid as it seems, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, and it seems probable that it's been plotting for many years how it can somehow keep alive its place as a business provider. (I'm assuming that no amount of Win10 dirty tricks, or conspiracies to sell computers that won't install Linux, will ultimately prevail, and that gradually even the relatively clueless consumer market will head for *ix (Linux, OSX, Android etc): what could MS possibly do to sustain usage of an expensive, bloated, resource-gobbling, insecure OS when there are better, often free alternatives?)

      If retreat to corporate provision is inevitable, and if even the retarded intellectual metabolism of business finally figures out how much better Linux is, and powerful *ix-friendly business software just keeps coming along, most of it free, MS simply has to do two things: One, try to lock customers in (we know all about that); Two, longer term, reduce its revenue dependence on Windows OSs.

      Personally, if I consider the shape of computing in, say, 20 years, it's hard to see why anyone would be using Windows for anything. There will be legacy, of course, but who would actually choose to adopt it?

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge


        The only value for money MS still has is the millions of coders that are used to coding for it, and the thousands of programs and applications that it can still run.

        Plus : gamers. The PC still has the largest library of games and is still the best gaming platform as far as diversity is concerned.

        However, the bell is tolling because the upcoming generation has not been raised on Windows, but on Android or iPhone. When they get to the professional arena, they are going to consider Windows as a boring office platform and, when that generation attains the level of IT Management and sees the pain that is licensing and maintenance, they are going to replace everything they can with some form of Linux.

        It is just a question of time, and that probably has a lot to do with why MS is porting some of its key jewels over to the platform that it used to qualify of "cancer".

        1. Zakhar

          Re: @Pascal Monett

          *- Coders:*

          ... not sure they didn't move now to iOS/Android... where the money is! The big innovation S. Jobs did with the iPhone/iPad is not technical, he didn't invent the store, that already existed on all Linux (apt-get/yum, etc...). What he did is that he invented a business model: micro payments and serving some money to developers. Micro payments is good because the end user is less reluctant to try a 0,49€ app that to pay 199€ for a big piece software. Nothing new here, Jobs did the same with iTunes, selling music by track instead of full album. And through the flow of micro payments, you can give money back to coders, make them happy and get even more coders.

          That was brilliant.

          So now let's assume you are a coders and can do something useful that users can accept to pay. Would you do it for W$, with no 100% sure way to distribute it and make money, or for Android/iOS with a clear business model that let you earn money? Answer is obvious.

          And if you code as a hobby and don't have in mind getting money, you most probably chose Open Source (Linux/BSD) that is more satisfactory for coder's ego.

          So yes, they are probably still a lot of "legacy" coders out there that still code for W$, especially in the "enterprise" world were things are slower to move. But without a radical change of business model, I don't see this number going up.

          *- Games:*

          ...same as above! Look at Blizzard, one of the most famous PC game creator (Warcraft, WoW, Starcraft, etc...), they just bought King (Candy crush) for an insane amount of money! So yes, the PC is still a good gaming platform, especially for some type of games (MMO, FPS), but the future of gaming (where they make real money), is on mobiles where W$ counts for almost 0.

          The other example of that is the insane amount of money SuperCell (Clash of Clans, Clash Royale) makes every year with just 5 "small" games ("small" in comparison with huge games like WoW).

          *- Servers*

          As for servers (the subject of the paper), I still can't see the relevance of W$ on a server where you should need absolutely no UI. And its name itself says it 'Windows' is meant to display and focused on that, not on doing headless server business.

          Why on earth would you also want antiquated stuff like NTFS on servers (see the perf/feature difference by yourself!)... unless of course you are already locked in with some other piece of software on your enterprise... which is the story here!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Pascal Monett

            While I run both Windows and Linux servers, if you try to make your points, at least be accurate.

            Since Windows Server 2008, you can run a GUI-less system. In fact, the free Hyper-V for Server 2012 is completely non-GUI.

            Just because Blizzard bought some games for smart phones does NOT mean the PC OR Console market is going anywhere soon. Many games work better with a keyboard, joystick, multiple screens, etc.

            The job market is still HUGE for both Java and .Net - neither is going away soon (PS - COBOL is still around today with tons of code).

            Now if you had stated FACTS such as:

            Project Server and Client is a complete mess, and MS refuses to fix EASY bugs. I have so many open tickets it is not even funny. It is the only major app where you need to have patch levels the same for client and server. Yet Open Project looks promising and at least I can fix bugs.

            MS is not even hiding the fact that they are pushing EVERYONE to online hosting. This is not ideal for all companies. Even the government is moving to the cloud - but that would be an improvement as they are typically clueless about security.

            MS spying is a real turnoff - sure you can manage it, but not 100%.

            As far as my servers go, Linux IS far easier to administer than Windows, including a better security model and less reboots. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen users access critical functions EVEN THOUGH DENY is checkmarked for their AD Groups. Yes Linux access is simple - but effective.

            Windows has group policy going for it. However I have seen that mess up as well. I am growing more frustrated with Windows and anything related to Windows as quality is not apparently a high priority.

            Many companies ONLY use Linux such as Google and Facebook. Many more will go this way in the future as cost is lower. The so-called Windows Admins on here probably never look at the clusterf*ck logs where most of them are meaningless. Updates to WSUS were hosed with Windows 10 due to added encryption. If admins actually read all logs or even parsed through them with apps, just trying to see what is noise and reality is a mess.

            Good luck with your Linux environment.

  3. Erik4872

    It's an Azure push

    Most older companies (i.e. those who have been around for more than 10 years or so) have varying degrees of dependence on Windows Server.

    - One of the biggest is AD - in pretty much every mixed IT environment I've been in, all the identity management has been in AD even if most of the servers have been Linux.

    - Windows desktop apps delivered over Citrix are next -- both need Windows Server obviously

    - The next is all the .NET web code that's been created since 1999 and continues to be created.

    Microsoft is preparing for the end of these requirements by making it harder to resist Azure.

    - When you buy a Windows Server VM in Azure, the license is included in the price, no cumbersome software assurance, or anything else needed.

    - They're pushing Azure AD, federated identity and cloud management services like Intune -hard- because they know one of the other last reasons to have on-premises hardware is management tools.

    - All the cool new stuff is being locked up behind these agreements to ensure they still get revenue Azure-style, monthly, for everything you deploy on site. Windows 10 Enterprise is the only way to get a fully manageable (from an IT perspective) client OS anymore now that Home and Pro are the "free" versions.

    So I don't think Windows Server is going away any time soon, but how and where you run it is probably going to change. Look at how quickly CIOs heard the OpEx siren song and switched to Office 365. When they're presented with the bill for licensing, they'll move all their Windows workloads offsite.

    1. DonL

      Re: It's an Azure push

      "Look at how quickly CIOs heard the OpEx siren song and switched to Office 365."

      We bought the Office365 licenses just because it was cheaper than the on-premise-only version but includes the on-premise version as well. We never activated or looked into the online part though.

      MS is obviously just playing weird licensing games to push their agenda. You pay top-dollar for crappy software that doesn't even include support.

    2. TechicallyConfused

      Re: It's an Azure push

      Moving to cloud doesn't necessarily remove your licensing woe's or reduce the complexity of cost of managing compliance. This is a useful article that talks about this very facet...


      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Nice way to push page views on your profile, Jim.

        1. TechicallyConfused

          I thought so :)

    3. Aitor 1

      Re: It's an Azure push

      Citrix: the problem I have with that kind of solution is PRICE.

      It is extremely expensive to do so.. and mainly for licensing. They killed the golden egg laying hen before it grew.

      Now, they have themselves got into this increasingly niche market, and all because of complex and expensive licensing that severely limited with CALs, etc what you could do with the servers.

      Had they been reasonable, most apps would be done these days with .net and executed on thin clients, all over the internet. It is only licensing that prevented this.. and now everyone is expecting most "apps" to be websites...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are other servers?

    Does anyone run anything other than windows Server? You might have a Linux server lying about if you're into self harm...

    1. hplasm

      Re: There are other servers?

      Does anyone sane run windows Server?

      0/10 must troll harder...

    2. kryptylomese

      Re: There are other servers?

      Tell me more about this thing called a "Windows Server" because it sounds very unusual and rare.... they fetch a good price on antiques roadshow?

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: There are other servers?

        Ah, the crop of Servers from the Redmond Estate...

        1) vintage 2003 was quite rough around the edges but most la robust performer.

        2) The 2008 (R2) Crop was the best by a long way.

        3) 2012 was to many, a big dissappointment. The Vintners seemed to get confused between the Desktop and Server for the non core brand. The result is a mixed up mess of white space and strange flavours.

        {see icon}

    3. oldcoder

      Re: There are other servers?

      There are lots. Of all servers only about 32% are Windows based, 35% Linux based, and the rest are mainframes or UNIX servers.

      Try again.

  5. Mikel

    SA and EA

    Software Assurance, Enterprise Agreements and the like are the pinnacle of marketing achievement: money you convince people to pay you !not! for goods or services - heavens no! Selling actual goods and services is for the marketing novice, the software sales plebeians who trudge out to offices in person, in the rain. This is money they pay you -in perpetuity- for the special privilege of being in the exclusive club with the right to buy your most premium products. You make tens of billions a year just from this. And typically they come to you to beg for entry, and you have to tolerate their filthy presence only once.

    Great work if you can get it.

  6. Joerg

    Windows Server 2016 is going to be a huge awful mess just like Windows8.2=10

    It is the same crap all over again.

    How Microsoft managed to turn Windows into a dangerous virus

  7. Sebastian A

    Isn't trying to lock people in via SA just as likely to give them the push they needed to jump ship?

    If I'm weighing up options, adding some ridiculous contract term to one of them makes me far more likely to lean the other way.

  8. SineWave242

    When I think "server" nothing even remotely Microsoft springs to mind. I wouldn't run a server at a garbage disposal with a Microsoft "server". Buggy peace of **** that needs to be watched all the time. It's a server for masochist admins, or rather "admins" who just like to pretend to be admins but have no clue at all and MSCE in their pocket which can only serve as a nice emergency bog-paper.

  9. bombastic bob Silver badge

    who needs a windows server anyway

    I haven't used a windows server since W2k3, and it ran so pig-slow on the same hardware that 2k ran on (by comparison), even after upgrading the RAM to its minimum specs, that I can't justify any reason to have a windows server any more. Pig slow, security crater, IIS and ".Not", and basically a toll-booth for everything you might want to do that requires "a server version of windows" because the pro version was deliberately crippled so as NOT to have "that" in it... (and/or the software won't even run on a non-server OS, go fig.)

    similarly, Linux is a server OR workstation, depending on how you configure it, RHEL and similar 'pay for the value added' distros notwithstanidng.

    and my server runs FreeBSD, with ZFS, on old hardware (Intel dual core 1.8Ghz with 4G RAM) that would probably stutter and stall if it were running a windows server OS. But with FreeBSD, runs *JUST* fine!

    Who needs a windows server anyway?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    One thing I used to see as a sensible idea was keeping windows updates, up to date, (with caveats) that stopped with Win10, MS will push any old crap to your machine now so that limited trust has gone.

    Lock in? It's a big world out there and surprisingly small servers with software other than MS will do a remarkably good job so introducing lock in means MS has realised that too and rather than up their game has run off with the ball thinking we all have to chase after. I don't see the move hurting anyone but MS in the medium term.

  11. 0laf

    Loyalty is a one way bleed

    We're predominantly WinDoze server side here, and most guys are happy Win sysadmins.

    But even these not-quite-fanbois are baulking at the grasping paw of MS. There would be a massive amount of inertia for us to move away from MS in a significant way but the MS cash grab is so bad and so blatant that it's actively being considered.

  12. hoola Silver badge

    Running a Windows Server?

    As ever the usual comments prove that there are many techno-geeks that has no idea of reality in the enterprise. Just tell me how the hell I am supposed to run any of the following on anything other than Windows:

    Active Directory


    Default database SQL2014 supporting all core business applications

    Fileshare that actually supports SMB2/3 properly and performs, not a piece of shite storage that only does CIFS and falls over if more that 10 people open a file at the same time.

    All the small but business critical applications that are only developed on Windows

    Then the desktop, 95% Windows 7 with a handful of Apple and other odds and ends that are a pain in the arse to manage and costing as much as the other 95% and still won't do it properly.

    The reality is that in the real world Microsoft is king. What is running on all the Linux VMs in the cloud?

    The pressure will be there to move stuff into Azure but it will be running Windows.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Running a Windows Server?

      Ah, I see that MS has its claws into your biz already because you mentioned AD and Exchange.

      At least you didn't mention that other things called Sharepoint (or what goes in never comes out).

      You could move Exchange to Azure and if you moved your desktops to something other than Windows then AD would not be a problem.

      Why not try to put your strategic thinking hat on and look objectively at the alternatives. Go talk to companies that have broken the lockin and see what they did.

      Then come up with a strategic plan with costings on how you can move your biz away from MS.

      I might be that it is too late or there is some overriding biz need (don't say all those Accouynting Excel spreadsheet bodges) to stay on Windows but I am sure that you could at the very least reduce your MS costs.

      Go on, give it a go. You might be surprised at what comes out of it.

      If it is to move away from MS then they won't like it but it will I am sure be good for your company in the end.

      [1 week left until my divorce from MS is complete]

      1. TechicallyConfused

        Re: Running a Windows Server?

        Yes, Change your desktop OS. That wont cause an almighty sh*t storm from your user population when they have to adjust to a lifetime of conformity and suddenly have to deal with the @rse baked UI available in most Linux distributions.

        1. nematoad Silver badge

          Re: Running a Windows Server?

          "Yes, Change your desktop OS. That wont cause an almighty sh*t storm from your user population when they have to adjust to a lifetime of conformity..."

          Not that MS don't ever change the UI in their offerings, eh?

          Have you ever tried the desktops in Linux, or are you one of those rare birds happy with Windows 8.* and up?

          Oh, and lastly. Something we can both agree on. Your well chosen handle.

          Suits you sir.

      2. Mark Dempster

        Re: Running a Windows Server?

        How big is your environment? Because I don't really see a viable alternative to Active Directory & GroupPolicy for managing anything really big. Netware's NDS (or whatever the latest name for it is) would have been capable at one time, but no longer has any vendor support that I can see. Open Directory is a toy in comparison. Seriously, what else is there?

        And moving your Exchange or whatever to Azure may move the boxes out of your building, but they're still running on Windows.

    2. Mr_Bungle

      Re: Running a Windows Server?

      @hoola, I agree. The wish fulfillment of a few posters that have installed Linux on a Laptop is laughable.

      I was a contractor at one point working back-fill, the clients were mostly large enterprises. Every single one of them (30+) ran a windows server infrastructure, AD, Exchange, MS SQL, .net applications, new and old web app running on IIS. Most used Linux and Apache for websites, and not much else.

      I honestly have no interest in the Windows/Linux debate, I use both. But the claims that MS server is going down the pan and everyone is living in a Open Source Server Utopia is straight up deluded, tedious fanboy ravings from people who clearly haven't worked in the enterprise space.

      1. Naselus

        Re: Running a Windows Server?

        "the claims that MS server is going down the pan and everyone is living in a Open Source Server Utopia is straight up deluded"

        Completely this. I'm amazed you haven't drowned in a sea of penguinista downvotes for saying it, but you're basically spot-on. The fact is, many of the same people saying this also believe that Linux' 2% combined market share across all distros is the harbinger of TYOLOTD, but simultaneously regard Windows 10's 25% share in a year as a sign of OS death. 'Deluded' barely covers it when you reach that level of divorce from reality.

  13. Tom Paine

    And native bash and GNU utils, and open sourcing Powershell,..

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if MS were offering a Linux distro with a Windowsy userland alongside NT-based OSes in five years' time.

    1. Chika

      No point really. Sling a Linux distro on a reasonable PC, even one of a few years' vintage, add KDE, GNOME, Unity, LXDE, XFCE, TDE or whatever else tickles your fancy and you are already pretty much there.

      Not that I see that detail stopping RedH... er, Microsoft. *^^*

  14. peterjames

    Too true - if you don't know how to run Windows server well, you are better off sticking with dodgy Linux stuff - or studying some properly. Too many an incompetent admin just gave it a bad name - lack of knowledge is the standard in Linux world, but doesn't work well with MS (they - MS - assume you work for money AND have a brain - and will hence expect you to put it to use for real).

  15. Jacques Kruger

    The Concept of Value

    What most of the commentators are missing here is the concept of value: a fair return in goods, services, or money for something exchanged according to Webster.

    We have a hybrid environment with some Cloud (Azure, Exchange Online), some SaaS (ERPs and DMSs), Some Linux Servers, Some Windows Servers and a tonne of Windows Desktops. The Value we see from each of these aspects to IT is reasonable and that's why we pay subscriptions or licensing where required. Our not-insignificant EA gives us value because a small team can keep a large user-base happy as shit just works. And that includes our Windows servers. I have not had an issue with "buggy" Windows. We virtualize to remove possible driver and hardware issues issues and we update as prescribed by MS. Our Linux boxes the same, use the right tool for the job and you will realize that free is not always value, and a lot of money is not always expensive. Do your ROI calcs and you'll see why the biggest businesses in the world have some use for MS; they keep their staff productive and that makes them profitable.

    And without the competition between the major players we would all still have been in the dark ages. You should thank MS for their part in that.

    If you want to complain about licensing look at PBX systems like Siemens or Alcatel where you cannot do anything without a license.

  16. david 64

    SA is relevant to larger organisations who have take DR seriously and need to failover hundreds or thousands of Windows VMs to failover sites. Instead of licensing for the primary physical virtualisation hosts, and the failover hosts, you only pay the SA percentage on top to license both and can failover at your leisure.

    To the small fry with 5 Windows servers and a couple of old Linux boxes who think they're Mr Robot, the real benefit of these 'outrageous' and 'extortionate' licensing schemes is not something easily grasped.

    That's not to say I disagree with the terms 'outrageous' and 'extortionate' with respect to some MS licensing (ahem SQL server Ent ahem) - just that their offensiveness is dynamic based on the scale at which you're looking at these costs.

    ROI calcs, based on hard facts not Utopian whims, can often have surprising results....

    I also believe that you can run a medium-sized enterprise's IT environment, from desktop through apps to servers and virtualisation, a lot cheaper using MS Windows over, say 5 years, than attempting to run a purely non-MS shop of the same scale, with the same requirements, same results, same end-users IT literacy (lack thereof) - mainly because I believe this sort of environment can be built and run by a smaller, cheaper IT technical team than an equivalent *nix environment.

    Reminds me of the classic adage: "Linux is only free if your time has no value". Of course things have moved on a lot since that phrase was coined but in terms of enterprise requirements (not a farm of web servers, or containers, or Facebook\Google, or specialist requirements - real-world enterprise log-on-and-do-your-work environment), you buy MS Windows and hit the ground running. Fast.

    MS know what these companies want and expect from their IT and IT staff, and what they're prepared to pay for it. And yes stretch it a bit. OK a lot.

    Of course this is just now, and will change over time. And that is a great thing about our industry right?

  17. Michael Sanders

    If you think about it though, most of the things that "just work" in Windows are ancient. The exception is Hyper-V. But all virtualization's real appeal is in kicking the can down the road on proper software development. So I think it's fair to say the whole windows universe is just one great rewrite away from obsolescence.

    Google Chrome OS has done an impressive job in such a short time. And it's amazing what Apple has done with Unix as well. It's 10 times the usability of Linux and comes with an impressive software suite.

    While not complete alternatives in and of themselves they demonstrate what I'm saying. Microsoft has been sitting on it's hands for years. It's not really a software company is it? It's an incubator for stocks. And if people are seriously considering the admittedly poor alternatives it shows just how awful and extortive the product line really is.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows Server

    Is this still around for nostaligic value?

    I have a very hard time these days recommending it.

    If im working on a Windows Server its generally because ive been made to.

    I seriously dont miss it otherwise. Especially other associated crap like MSSQL.

    Anyone that has spent anytime tuning a MSSQL server knows exactly what im talking about.

    I dont miss .NET devs either palming their crap code off as having "environmental issues"

    Seriously, for people that effectively specialise in skinning databases you don't half take yourselves seriously.*

    *I know there are .NET devs that do other things, Office plugins don't write themselves...but they are incredibly rare.

    Downvotes / no votes will prove my point. Upvotes will make a mockery of me.

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