Review: Microsoft's Nano Server offers mega advantages

Microsoft’s stripped-down Windows Server 2016 deployment option reduces the ops burden, but supports only a limited number of server roles

Review: Microsoft's Nano Server offers mega advantages
At a Glance

Like every previous Windows Server release, Windows Server 2016 is jam-packed with new features and capabilities. While it is difficult to pick one single feature as the most significant, the new Nano Server deployment option is definitely a strong contender.

As you may recall, several years ago Microsoft gave us the option of deploying Windows in a lightweight Server Core configuration. Server Core deployments achieved their size reduction by sacrificing most of the GUI elements. Nano Server can be thought of as the next evolution in lightweight Windows Server operating systems.

Designed for a new generation of “cloud native” applications based on containers and microservices, Nano Server has a much smaller footprint than even a Server Core deployment. On the downside, Nano Server currently supports only a limited number of server roles.

In spite of these limitations (discussed further below), Nano Servers provide compelling benefits. For example:

  • Reduced storage costs
  • A smaller attack surface
  • Faster backups, live migrations, and reboots
  • Less frequent patching, and required reboots

The most remarkable aspect of Nano Server is its tiny size. How small is Nano Server? For the sake of comparison, I created several virtual machines, each of which I deployed into a Hyper-V virtual machine using a default configuration.

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