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What’s New with Server 2016: Nano Server

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With the release of the fourth technical preview of Windows Server 2016 a little while back, it’s a great time to dive into the new features that make this software as the most advanced server OS in the Microsoft universe.

Michael Watkins wrote a blog post earlier this week and hosted a webinar highlighting a few of the most relevant features to your future with the product. He strongly encourages anyone who hasn’t looked under the hood to get in there. “When you do,” he said, “you will find there is much that feels familiar to your Server 2012 R2 environment but with greater refinement and some critical advances.

Though the new Nano Server capability ranked rather low on IT pros’ minds  in this Spiceworks survey from November, it is an important improvement for the OS.

Here’s the Nano Server breakdown:

Microsoft Windows Nano Server is a new installation option being introduced with Windows Server 2016. It’s a “headless” operating system — that is a stripped down version of Windows Server that excludes any and all elements required to support a graphical user interface (GUI).

And then Microsoft made it even leaner by also eliminating capabilities like 32-bit and .NET support. The result is an operating system that has an extremely small footprint compared even to Server Core introduced with Windows Server 2008.

What I can do with it?

Nano Server is designed specifically to run in cloud environments, supporting infrastructure services such as Hyper-V virtual environments, high availability clusters, and file servers, as well as cloud-based application services and/or development environments that expect user interfaces to be handled by client devices.

Microsoft also said that Windows Server 2016 and Nano Server will support Docker containers — an alternative form of virtualization that has been popular for Linux apps and will now be available for Windows-based applications.

Because it does not support a graphical user interface, Nano Server must be managed using remote management tools, such as Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), PowerShell, System Center tools, the new web-based Remote Server Management Tools (RSMT), or similar.

Why is it important?

With its tiny footprint — reportedly less than a tenth of what a full Windows Server image requires — ops managers can squeeze a lot more virtual machines, or application containers, into their physical server boxes. Nano Server requires less disk space, it’s faster to set-up, and it will restart faster than a full-fledged Windows Server.

Microsoft is telling us that Nano Server will require far fewer updates and therefore restarts, which should make for better SLAs!

In addition, they expect fewer security bulletins and critical patches, which — with its much smaller footprint — should make Nano Server less susceptible to ‘bad guy’ attacks.

All this continues Microsoft’s push to the cloud and promises improved utilization of physical servers and disk storage, less downtime and more stable server operations, as well as more secure operating environments.

While You’re Waiting for Windows Server 2016

Certainly, wide-scale Windows Server 2016 and Nano Server deployments are some time away — and Windows Server 2016 certification is not here yet! So if you’re on your path to become an MCSE, you can certainly keep yourself busy…

Check out James Conrad’s course Microsoft Windows Server 2012 70-410 with R2 Updates, a key stepping stone towards MCSE certification, plus it shows how to configure Server Core, the precursor to Nano Server.

If you’ve already cleared that certification hurdle, the Microsoft Windows Server 2012 70-414 with R2 Updates course gives you a view on some of the more advanced applications (cloud computing, clustering, high availability storage, etc.) for which Microsoft Nano Server is aimed.

And for those who are Linux-literate and want to learn about containers ahead of the Server 2016 wave, check out our Docker course.


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