IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

CloudConnect Rolls Out Hosted Versions of Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10

Both Microsoft operating systems are available immediately to the infrastructure- and desktop-as-a-service vendor’s partners at no additional charge. By Rich Freeman

CloudConnect LLC has added support for Microsoft’s Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10 operating systems to its hosted infrastructure platform.

Based in Natick, Mass., CloudConnect sells cloud-based virtual servers and desktops through a network of MSPs, VARs, and other channel pros. Those partners can now upgrade existing servers or deploy new ones on Windows Server 2016, and provide emulated Windows 10 desktops to their clients as well.

Douglas Sherwood, CloudConnect’s national channel manager, expects the new Windows Server 2016 option to be popular with partners running earlier editions of Microsoft’s flagship server operating system, which are rapidly approaching end-of-life milestones. Microsoft terminated mainstream support for Windows Server 2008 R2 in January of last year, for example, and will cancel extended support as well in January of 2020. Mainstream support for Windows Server 2012, meanwhile, expires in January of 2018.

“[Windows] Server 2016 is going to be supported for years and years and years to come,” Sherwood observes.

Microsoft launched Windows Server 2016 at its Ignite conference for IT professionals in September, and officially put the final code into general availability in mid-October.

According to Sherwood, interest in hosted Windows 10 desktops is strong among CloudConnect partners, especially those with clients still running Windows 7.

“A lot of people didn’t want to deploy the Windows 8 desktop,” he notes, adding that those companies now have an upgrade path past Windows 8 to its more popular successor, which features an updated version of the familiar Start menu.

“Users will know how to navigate [Windows] again,” Sherwood says.

Both Microsoft operating systems are available immediately at no additional cost, as CloudConnect bases its pricing principally on resource consumption variables like how many cores and how much storage partners use rather than what operating system they select.

Partners can choose between installing customized Windows Server 2016 deployments or utilizing one of two complete, pre-installed images CloudConnect provides instead. The first such pre-configured option utilizes CloudConnect’s standard desktop services architecture, which is based on software from Citrix Systems Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., to deliver virtual PCs. The other is a somewhat less expensive option for customers that wish to use Windows Server 2016’s built-in Remote Desktop Services solution instead.

There are multiple options for provisioning virtual Windows 10 desktops as well, including a desktop configuration tool and the automated Desktop Deployment Wizard that CloudConnect rolled out in July.

“It’s very turnkey and it’s largely unattended,” Sherwood says of the latter system.

A new tool that automates upgrades from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 is now available as well. Users of virtual Windows 7 desktops must upgrade to Windows 8.1 before taking advantage of that system, however.

According to Microsoft, 400 million devices worldwide are running Windows 10 at present. Some 38 percent of participants in a survey of IT professionals conducted by Austin, Texas-based membership organization and tools vendor Spiceworks Inc. in July, roughly a year after Windows 10 debuted, said they had already deployed the operating system to end users.

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