At Microsoft Ignite, I had a chance to meet and talk with Jeff Snover…a great honor…and his latest project “Windows Nano Server” is very cool. Windows Nano Server is designed to be as lightweight and compact as possible. ‘Nano Server is a deeply refactoring version of Windows Server with a small footprint and remotely managed installation, optimised for the cloud and a DevOps workflow,‘ as quoted by Jeffrey Snover, Andrew Mason and Alan Back in a joint blog post. ‘It is designed for fewer patch and update events, faster restarts, better resource utilization and tighter security.‘
The result: as compared to the equivalent Windows Server build, Nano Server offers a 93 percent reduction in storage requirements, 92 percent fewer critical security bulletins, and 80 percent fewer reboots during operation. This is great for Security and Network Admins….I spent a lot of nights during my times as a network admin around patching and worry about what might blow up and this is a welcome change, especially for a Hyper-V environment 😉 Go Microsoft…
Naturally, those benefits come at a cost. ‘To achieve these benefits, we removed the GUI stack, 32 bit support (WOW64), MSI and a number of default Server Core components,‘ the team explained. ‘There is no local logon or Remote Desktop support. All management is performed remotely via WMI and PowerShell. We are also adding Windows Server Roles and Features using Features on Demand and DISM.‘ Despite this, Nano Server remains API-compatible with other Windows Server variants – meaning it should, in theory, be relatively straightforward to port applications across to the platform.
Also, It ships with the baseline version of .NET called CoreCLR, which Microsoft in recent months made open source. The OS does not contain the binaries or metadata that typically increase the footprint and developers are expected to package applications along with dependencies in a single unit of deployment.
Core PowerShell, a minimalistic version of PowerShell refactored to run on CoreCLR, provides Remote management capabilities and Nano Server can be installed on physical hardware or virtualized infrastructure.
When Windows Server starts supporting Docker, Nano Server stands to become the become the preferred OS to run containers.
Windows Nano Server won’t be for everyone. Microsoft has indicated that it is targeting two prime markets for the new OS: cloud applications, which includes the ability to run multiple languages and runtimes in containers, virtual machines or physical servers; and of course its own Cloud Platform infrastructure, with support for Hyper-V compute clusters and Scale-out File Server storage clusters. It’s in virtualization where the biggest benefits will be found: with each virtual machine requiring only seven percent the storage space of previous Windows Server instances and consuming considerably fewer resources while running, the overhead of running a virtualized infrastructure is considerably lessened.
Flexibility is key to delivering a modern data center, and by using the combination of Nano Server and its new container technology Microsoft is making a big shift away from its previous monolithic server model to one that’s more aligned with the way we deliver cloud-scale services. That does mean that Nano Server won’t be for everyone. Customers are going to have to have made the shift to a DevOps model, and to using cloud-scale data center infrastructure practices of which I am a big believer in and frankly why I work for Nutanix.
Microsoft has not yet offered a release date or licensing information for Windows Nano Server. Beta bits are available via MSDN on the Windows Server Technical Preview 2 media. Instructions can be found here to get started, if you want to check it out.
In conclusion, with Nano Server, Microsoft stands a chance to blow them all out the water with keeping Windows relevant in the era of linux, containers and microservices.
Until next time, Rob…