Windows Server 2016 – Nano Server

What is Nano Server?

A new way of deploying Windows Server introduced with the 2016 release, Nano Server was, in Microsoft’s words:

A deeply refactored version of Windows Server, …designed to give you the lightest and fastest server OS configuration with fewer patch and update events, faster restarts, better resource utilization and tighter security.

With a greatly reduced footprint, it makes deployment faster and also presents a much smaller area for attackers to focus on.

Nano Server footprint.png

Microsoft gave some examples of where Nano Server would be a great fit:

…it’s particularly useful for clustered Hyper-V, clustered storage and core networking services scenarios; or as an application platform it’s highly optimized for modern distributed and cloud-based apps which leverage containers and micro service architectures

We can see it was aimed at making server infrastructure easier to manage, more secure and more agile. Using the Current Branch for Business/Semi-Annual Channel update model means Nano Server receives new features and updates on a regular basis. This means active Software Assurance (on both Windows Server server licenses AND CALs) is a requirement to run this deployment model.

What’s changed?

In June 2017, Microsoft have said that, from the next release, Nano Server will be for running containers ONLY.

As part of this effort to focus on containers, we will be removing the functionality for infrastructure-related roles.

For organisations looking to deploy smaller Windows Server instances for infrastructure related roles, the recommendation is to now use the Windows Server Core installation option.

Organisations currently running Nano Server for non-container functions such as IIS, Storage hosts etc. will need to understand how this affects them.

  • How many machines will be impacted?
  • Where are they?
  • What are they running?
  • When will they need to move to the next release of Windows Server – bearing in mind they are on the regular semi-annual cadence?
  • How much time and effort is required in switching from Nano Server to Server Core?

As always, I’m interested to hear your views. Will this make a big impact within your organisation? Do you already use Nano Server? Will this focus on Containers change that?

Further reading

Microsoft articles:

Exploring Nano Server

Delivering Continuous Improvements

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