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

Windows Server 2016 new update model

Microsoft have recently announced a couple of upcoming changes to Windows Server 2016.

The first relates to the Windows Server 2016 update schedule:

Semi-annual Channel

Those of you working with Windows 10 or Office 365 may well be familiar with this term and concept already. This is Microsoft’s “Cloud Cadence”, giving feature updates twice a year – with each release being supported for 18 months from release.

As these updates bring new features, they are classed as new versions so it’s perhaps not surprising that:

Servers without Software Assurance do not have rights to the Semi-annual Channel releases

To access this new update schedule, customers must have Software Assurance on their Windows Server Standard or Datacenter licenses.

Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC)

For situations where such regular updates won’t work, there is the Long Term Servicing Channel which is effectively Windows Server with the same release & support schedule we’re all used to:

5 years mainstream support + 5 years extended support

and of course the option for a further 6 years with the purchase of Premium Assurance.

What does it look like?

This diagram from this Microsoft article gives a good visual representation of how the update schedule will work:

WS Channel

Organisations will have the option to skip a release and wait until the next release before upgrading.

The naming convention, as you can see above, will follow that of Windows 10, System Center etc. using the year and month. This means a new Windows Server release in March 2018 will be 1803 for example.

What does this mean?

It will be interesting to see how many organisations will move their server infrastructure to what is quite a rapid update schedule, particularly where they need to remain in step with support for 3rd party applications.

I’m intrigued to hear people’s thoughts on this. Do you see this being used within your organisation? What positives/negatives do you think this will bring?

Further Reading

Microsoft Articles:

Delivering continuous innovation with windows server

Semi Annual Channel overview

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