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5 min read

First sneak peek of Windows Server, version 1903 Semi-Annual Channel

This blog was co-authored by Ben Schultz, Principal Program Manager and Weijuan Shi Davis, Senior Program Manager, Windows Server.


With the launch of Windows Server 2019 a few months ago, we kicked off a whole new wave of innovation focused on four pillars: Hybrid Cloud, Security, Application Platform, and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure, and it was just the beginning. Today, we’re excited to share with you a few feature areas of the next Windows Server, Semi-Annual Channel release – version 1903.

What’s new in Windows Server, version 1903

For version 1903, we’re focusing on App Platform, edge computing, Windows Admin Center, and App Compatibility.

In this release period, we’ll bring innovation in fundamentals and platform capabilities, closely working with the broader ecosystem to ensure compatibility. Some of the new capabilities will be available with this release, while others will be available through other channels including Azure and our ecosystem partners.

App Platform

Windows Server, version 1903 will continue to serve as an application platform for customers who are modernizing their applications on-premises or in the cloud with Windows containers.

  1. We have been building platform capabilities to support Azure container services and third-party container services.
    • We integrated CRI-Containerd with Host Compute Service to support Pods of Windows Containers and Linux Containers on Windows on Azure.
    • We worked with the Kubernetes community to enable Windows container support. On March 25, 2019, with the release of Kubernetes v1.14, Windows Server node support officially graduated from beta to stable. To learn more, refer to the blog post, “Windows containers now supported in Kubernetes.”
  1. We delivered scalability improvements enhancing overlay networking support for Windows containers, including integration with Kubernetes through the latest release of Flannel and Kubernetes v1.14. Try out Windows support in Kubernetes.
  2. Based on customer interest in GPU acceleration, we’re taking the first step by enabling support for hardware acceleration of DirectX APIs in Windows containers. We believe this will enable new and interesting scenarios such as edge-local machine learning inferencing. Find out more in the blog post, “Bringing GPU acceleration to Windows containers.”
  3. We updated documentation related to container identity/Group Managed Service Accounts (gMSA) with more examples and compatibility information. We’ve also made the Credential Spec module available in the PowerShell Gallery. For more information, refer to the blog post, “What’s new for container identity.”

Note: If you are using the Windows Server, version 1903 Insider Build on Azure, please note the build number is 18342. To ensure that you can run a Windows Server container on that build, use a Windows Server container build the same or lower than 18342. For example, you can run:

“docker pull”


“docker pull”

This practice of ensuring version compatibility applies to any Windows Server containers you may run, not just the case here. Please check the docs on Windows container version compatibility for more details.

Edge computing

As more applications, workloads, and services move to the cloud, certain edge computing scenarios are emerging where the logic is best suited to run locally rather than in the cloud. Applications that use Internet of Things (IoT) provide one example, and additional scenarios include data normalization, data analysis, and device control.

System Insights is a local predictive analytics feature introduced in Windows Server 2019. The System Insights predictive capabilities, each backed by a machine learning or analytics model, analyze Windows Server system data, such as performance counters and events. These capabilities provide insight into server operations, helping reduce the operational expenses associated with reactively managing deployment issues.

With the upcoming April Windows Admin Center (WAC) release, you can use the System Insights WAC extension to find, install, and update new System Insights capabilities. Coming shortly after the April WAC release, we will publish a new capability that allows you to detect anomalies in physical disk metrics. You can download this new capability entirely through WAC without updating your OS. This capability will work on both Windows Server 2019 and Windows Server, version 1903. With this capability, you can avoid setting static thresholds that require prior knowledge of expected behavior, and instead depend on this capability to automatically detect abnormal behavior in your physical disk metrics. In the future, we plan to extend these capabilities, improving the information you can leverage to best administrate your servers and infrastructure.

Windows Admin Center

Hybrid cloud makes it easier to run IT operations locally while still maximizing the benefits of the cloud. This includes easier distribution of data, monitoring infrastructure, and ease of deploying new apps. To improve the experience across cloud and on-premises, version 1903 brings the following innovations:

  • Synergize migration with Azure File Sync: The Storage Migration Service leads to the Azure File Sync (AFS) WAC experience, where a customer who migrates from Windows Server 2008 to Windows Server 2019 then deploys Azure File Sync and manages that data.
  • Allow direct-to-Azure storage migrations with Storage Migration Service (SMS): Customers can migrate from Windows Server 2003, 2008/R2, 2012/R2, or Linux Samba directly to a running IaaS virtual machine.
  • Make Azure cluster witness an opt-out: We now default quorum management into an Azure blob instead of a local store.
  • Expand and iterate on the growing set of WAC’s Azure integration scenarios, including Azure Site Recovery, Azure Backup, Azure Active Directory authentication, Azure Update Management, and Azure Monitor alerts.

Server Core App Compatibility – Feature on Demand

The App Compatibility Feature on Demand for Server Core, introduced with Windows Server 2019 and Windows Server, version 1809, continues to be popular with customers using it in a variety of scenarios. Feedback since launch has led to two significant additions:

  1. Task Scheduler (Taskschd.msc): More easily schedule your apps, actions, and scripts!
  2. Hyper-V Manager (Virtmgmt.msc): Create and connect to virtual machines hosted on Server Core + the App Compatibility feature on demand (FOD)!

A reminder that Server Core is the recommended server OS installation type for production (managed by Windows Admin Center and/or Powershell). The App Compatibility FOD is intended for those specific workloads or enterprise apps that require more than what Server Core alone provides. This helps IT environments to standardize on Server Core.

Reminder: Windows Server Semi-Annual Channel is designed for faster innovation.

Get started today with version 1903

Windows Server, version 1903 Insider Builds

Windows Server, Version 1903 Container Insider Builds

Windows Admin Center 1904 is now generally available. Easily manage your server instances and optionally enable various Azure services to light up hybrid scenarios.

All Insider previews are available for registered Insiders only. Need to register? See the Getting Started with Windows Server Insider Preview page for more information.

Learn more!

Attend our Windows Server Summit virtual event on May 22, 2019 to hear more on what’s to come from our Windows Server Team.