Microsoft made a big splash with Windows Server 2016 by launching Nano Server, a ridiculously stripped down version of Windows that could run core infrastructure applications as well as containers. This was a big step for Microsoft and was very exciting for many people. However, the practical implementation of Nano on physical hardware could be somewhat tricky, notably around driver configuration and the fully headless nature of it.
For a brief recap on how it works, see our previous blog.
What Microsoft heard from the industry as a whole, however, was that they weren’t that concerned with their physical hardware’s image being massively smaller, and they wanted to keep an easy management method (at least a CLI, if not a UI). This coupled with the announcement that Server Management Tools (SMT) was also being discontinued, which made managing Nano even harder. The industry, however, wanted to keep their containers as small as possible, and using Hyper-V containers, which meant the Nano Server.
What did Microsoft do when left in this situation? They tweaked and are going to be re-releasing Nano soon. Nano is no longer going to be able to host infrastructure features, Hyper-V, file server, DNS, etc. All of that is gone. It will also no longer be able to be installed on physical hardware. It is going to be exclusively for containers. By limiting its working environment, Nano Server is also going to shrink its already small size by more than FIFTY PERCENT. This means that the servers will be tiny and will boot nearly instantly. For containers, that’s great.
The Good and the Bad
The good part of this whole thing is that Nano Server hasn’t been mainstream for long. Most people probably haven’t gotten much deployment behind it yet, except as container hosts. That means that the number of people directly impacted by this announcement will be small. The other good part is that containers are going to be even more efficient with this new release.
The bad part is that if you had been planning your next deployment around Nano Server… stop. If you want a headless OS, go with Core. If you aren’t that worried about it, go with our old trusty and troubleshooting friendly friend: Windows Server with a UI.
As a refresher, review all the new features in Windows Server 2016.