Heterogeneous environments

When we talk about heterogeneous environments the assumption is that we mean a mixture of Windows and Linux machines. Windows and Linux can be viewed as providing the end points of a spectrum of management issues. In reality there is another spectrum – that spectrum exists between Windows machines.

Thinking ONLY of server administration you could easily have Windows 2008, Windows 2008 R2, Windows 2012, Windows 2012 R2 and Windows 2016 servers in your environment. And that’s only the supported operating systems. From experience I’d expect that many organisations still have Windows 2003 servers and I suspect there are still some Windows 2000 servers in quite a few organisations. I wouldn’t be shocked to find a few Windows NT machines still in use!

The five supported Windows Server OSs are bad enough. Windows 2016 is moving to twice yearly updates starting this autumn (that’s fall for non-English readers). Windows 2008 & 2008 R2 go out of mainstream support in  2020 so giving the option for 5 versions of 2016 to be released before it vanishes. The Server 2012 family is supported until October  2023!

The point is that you need to think how you’re going to support a potentially large number of operating system editions going forward. I seriously doubt that anyone will be updating their whole server estate on a twice yearly basis.

Multiple small releases enable updates to particular areas of Windows being released quickly. So one  release may update Hyper-V while another updates containers or storage.

Working out which Windows builds – and you will have to start thinking at the build level – will support particular versions of Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint or any of the other Microsoft products. Expect other vendors of software that runs on top of windows server to panic when you ask them about supporting particular builds – they’re usually so slow at supporting new versions that the next is in beta. That behaviour is going to cause issues.

You could avoid some of this by saying you’ll skip builds – 1, 2, 3 or X years worth – but what happens when a new feature fixes a problem you’ve got now!

Heterogeneity is going to become more widespread. On the plus side it may kill the option of whole sale upgrades and massive server migration projects. You’ll just be permanently upgrading!

At the moment its not too big an issue but I expect over time that  you’ll need to think about build number

PS> Get-CimInstance -ClassName win32_operatingsystem | select -ExpandProperty BuildNumber
15063

as much as version

PS> Get-CimInstance -ClassName win32_operatingsystem | select -ExpandProperty Version
10.0.15063

And that’s before we get to Linux.

If you’re writing scripts that do different things based on Windows version think about dropping down to build number as well. You can always use a –gt <build number> approach.

You’re going to be living in interesting times.

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