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Is Windows Nano Server a data center game-changer?

Jonathan Hassell | July 9, 2015
Windows 10 might be getting all the attention, but Microsoft’s new Nano Server could start a quiet revolution in server rooms across the globe.

How much of an impact does stripping out all of that GUI application support framework make? A lot. There is a lot of cruft in the general purpose Windows Server release even though in general the Server releases are very high quality that simply does not exist within the Windows Nano Server environment. Here are some statistics to really drive this point home:

  • Microsoft expects that Windows Nano Server will have a 93 percent smaller installed footprint on a virtual machine than Windows Server Core, which was already meaningfully smaller than a full fat deployment of Windows.
  • The company expects that Windows Nano Server will have 92 percent fewer security bulletins and related patches deemed critical, which is the highest severity rating of all. Less attack surface and less code running equals less places for code to be exploited, and that translates into fewer bulletins and fewer patches required.
  • Windows Nano Server should feature 80 percent fewer reboots required for installations and updates, since a lot of the old Win32 code got initialized at startup and boot time. The newer core operating system code can be patched on the fly with zero downtime. This makes Windows Nano Server well suited for mission critical applications.
  • Windows Nano Server works within itself, so a Windows Nano Server host runs Hyper-V and within it can host Nano Server laden virtual machines. A single Windows Nano Server Hyper-V host can run up to 1,000 Windows Nano Server guest virtual machines with just one terabyte of RAM, a scale that is incomparable with today's Windows Server just try stuffing a thousand VMs onto one host and see how far you get.
  • Windows Nano Server will be managed entirely remotely using a combination of the time-tested Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and PowerShell, both of which are well supported by lots of management tools and third party system administration software. There will also be a new web management tool for Windows Nano Server.

Why is Windows Nano Server important?

For now, Windows Nano Server is designed to work in the cloud. But it's to envision a deployment of a variety of Nano Server virtual machines running custom applications within containers like Docker that just get moved over the wire nearly instantaneously between Azure regions and your corporate datacenter. Especially since the footprint of these virtual machines from a storage perspective is almost a tenth of what it's in big Windows Server images today.

Your developers and operations team can work even more closely together and use container technology to package applications and well configured versions of Nano Server together so that your applications just work, i.e., the whole platform works as one. For web applications and hardened infrastructure roles that could be served with the likes of an appliance, Windows Nano Server could be an intriguing choice come next year when it's expected to be released alongside Windows Server 2016.


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