In September 2016, Microsoft released Server 2016. A couple months ago, they then released Server 1709. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Server 1709 is an upgrade to 2016 – because it’s actually not.
Much like Windows 10, Microsoft have gone down the path of having multiple ‘Channels’ with the Server products. Essentially:
- Server 2016 is the server equivalent of Windows 10 LTSB (Long Term Servicing Branch)
- Server 1709 is the server equivalent of Windows 10 CBB (Current Branch for Business)
Instead of using LTSB and CBB, the server OS’s are ‘Channels’ – so LTSC (Long Term Servicing Channel) and SAC (Semi-Annual Channel).
So what are the main differences?
- Available in Standard, Datacenter and Essential editions
- Available as Server Core, or Server with a GUI
- 5 year mainstream support, 5 year extended support
- New release expected every 2-3 years
- Available in Standard or Datacenter (no Essential edition)
- Only available as Server Core
- 18 months mainstream support, no extended (much like Windows 10 CB and CBB)
- Releases semi-annual
So why would you go with 1709 over Server 2016? In general, it depends on your use-case scenario. The largest improvements for 1709 are around Containers and Nano Containers (with Nano Server being deprecated), along with some Hyper-V. Obviously you’re going to be restricted to Server Core, but that’s not as big of a deal these days when you’re talking about built-in roles (due to significant improvements in remote management for Server 2016). In general, you’re only going to be considering 1709 (or any SAC release) in the following scenarios:
- You’re looking to build a new Server Core server and you don’t mind upgrading it every 12-18 months
- There’s specific features available in 1709 that aren’t available in 2016
For a full list of updated features in 1709, here’s the full list. There’s also a new management interface on the way, currently named ‘Project Honolulu’ – this may help with some of the Server Core management concerns.
A couple of gotchas:
- If you’re using Automatic Virtual Machine Activation (AVMA) on Datacenter Hyper-V hosts, it doesn’t seem to work with Server 1709 – at this stage I’m unable to find official information about this, so it seems that you’ll need to use Manual Activation Keys (MAK) in the mean-time (or…ongoing).
- You can’t upgrade from Server 2016 to Server 1709 (even if it’s 2016 Core) – much like you can’t upgrade from Windows 10 LTSB to CBB.