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Eric Wright

Microsoft says Thin is in; Announces Nano Server

Just as we are getting ready to follow further with the idea of containerizing, Microsoft has upped their stakes in the container game and also put out a very interesting new server build. Today it was announced that there is an upcoming release if Windows server which has been dubbed “Nano”.

This ultra thin OS is geared towards the cloud-friendly, scale-out world. The timing is perfect as many companies are preparing to look towards the cloud, pubic or private, to build their next generation applications.

Server Core Light

Since the launch of Windows Server 2008 R2, there was a new Core Edition which was a basic, command-line only alternative which was framed around providing PowerShell and .NET to the system without the overhead of the GUI.

As Windows versions rose, the feature set of Core Edition became better, and it became smaller and more simple to manage with different tools within the System Center family. This ultimately paved the way for what has now appeared as Windows Nano Server.

Among the very cool features of Nano are some interesting stats that should help the adoption quite a bit, including these three very key metrics:

  • 93 percent lower VHD size
  • 92 percent fewer critical bulletins
  • 80 percent fewer reboots

Those are some powerful numbers when you think of how many Windows developed applications were being ported to thinner OS alternatives, and banking on the .NET on Linux initiative. Some of the biggest drivers to move towards Linux and scale-out designs was the idea of creating smaller application footprints, and more resilient infrastructure.


Now, with the potential to run a thinner Windows server, more application development in the next generation style will be happening on the once worrisome platform. Truthfully, organizations have been building new applications on Windows for years, and this is just a nod to the recognition by Microsoft of some shortcomings in the new cloudy ways of development and deployment.

This will be a big boon for Microsoft to stay up towards the front on the cloud virtual guest game as well as in the hosting platforms as they keep ramping up their Azure platforms. The talk of “Azure-in-a-Box” and the additional announcement about the Hyper-V containers (don’t worry, we will cover that one too), shows that the gauntlet is being thrown down.

How to Manage Nano

Nano will be manageable though remote access via WMI and PowerShell, and it looks like Chef has been aggressive on their involvement with Microsoft as it was hinted that the very DevOps friendly software from OpsCode (now Chef) will be front and center in upcoming releases.

Agile, thinner, faster, and all of the key manageability and workflow-capable features of a DevOps world. Now that is the kind of Windows Server that I think a lot more of us can get behind. The real question will come when we see where this new exciting edition will be landing as far as guest OS compatibility.

Personally, I’d like to see Microsoft launch with a KVM and Xen compatible edition along with the natively compatible option. Having the option to push Nano server out to other hypervisors could be another powerful way to really spur on adoption and growth. It has often been talked about that Microsoft needed to make more friendly development editions like most OS vendors do with tools like Vagrant.

This is an exciting time in the industry for sure, and this is only the beginning of much more development on this story and more from Microsoft. Let’s hope that they deliver and we see the continued competition to drive innovation in the cloud and data center. Time to brush up those PowerShell skills!

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