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Microsoft Windows 10 Pro for Server Grade Workstations Announced

In the past, small businesses often purchased in-house servers running Microsoft’s Windows Small Business Server operating system, which included Exchange, File Services, Active Directory, a basic version of SQL Server and more. Now that many of these items are moving to cloud services like OneDrive or Office 365, the need for legacy Windows SBS servers has diminished.

In fact, Microsoft actually killed SBS way back in 2012 — but plenty of customers and partners held onto the system well past that deadline.

Still, reality has set in for most of us. As companies move away from in-house servers and rely more on cloud servers and services, they may start choosing extremely high-end desktops to handle some business functions internally. I imagine this shift, from onsite servers to high-end desktops for executives and employees, has caused Microsoft to build an OS platform that isn’t quite SBS, but more powerful than their consumer-level offering.

Windows 10 Pro for Workstations: Nearly A Server?

This new OS has just been announced and is being called Windows 10 Pro for Workstations. This new edition of Windows 10 Pro is designed to meet the needs of advanced users deploying Workstation PCs in demanding and mission-critical scenarios, the company states. It sort of sounds like 1996 all over again, when Microsoft was pushing Windows NT 4.0 Workstation for advanced desktops, and Windows 95 for mainstream PCs.

Sure, it’s likely to appeal mostly to high-end graphics designers and engineers. But some of the features sound almost server-centric. For instance, Microsoft claims that Windows 10 Pro for Workstations allows for scaling up across a high number of logical processors and large amounts of memory. The architectural changes in the Windows kernel take full advantage of high-end processors families, such as Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron, that package a high number of cores in single or multi-processor configurations.

Some of the new features exclusive to Windows 10 Pro for Workstations, according to Microsoft, include:

  • ReFS (Resilient file system): ReFS provides cloud-grade resiliency for data on fault-tolerant storage spaces and manages very large volumes. ReFS is designed to be resilient to data corruption, optimized for handling large data volumes, auto-correcting and more. It can protect data with integrity streams on mirrored storage spaces. Using its integrity streams, ReFS detects when data becomes corrupt on one of the mirrored drives and uses a healthy copy of the data on the other drive to correct it.
  • Persistent memory: Windows 10 Pro for Workstations provides the most demanding apps and data with the performance they require with non-volatile memory modules (NVDIMM-N) hardware. NVDIMM-N enables reading and writing files with the fastest speed possible, the speed of the computer’s main memory.
  • Faster file sharing: Windows 10 Pro for Workstations includes a feature called SMB Direct, which supports the use of network adapters that have Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) capability. Network adapters that have RDMA can function at full speed with very low latency, while using very little CPU. For applications that access large datasets on remote SMB file shares, this feature enables:
    • Increased throughput: Leverages the full throughput of high speed networks where the network adapters coordinate the transfer of large amounts of data at line speed.
    • Low latency: Provides extremely fast responses to network requests, and, as a result, makes remote file storage feel as if it is directly attached storage.
    • Low CPU utilization: Uses fewer CPU cycles when transferring data over the network, which leaves more power available to other applications running on the system.
  • Expanded hardware support: Run Windows 10 Pro for Workstations on devices with high-performance configurations including server grade Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron processors, with up to 4 CPUs (today limited to 2 CPUs) and add massive memory up to 6TB (today limited to 2TB).

Windows 10 Pro for Workstations will be delivered as part of the Fall Creators Update, available this fall.

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