by Melissa Palmer

Microsoft Ignite has once again passed us by, with a slew of new product announcements.  While it was announced before Ignite, Windows Nano certainly was a hot topic of discussion.  I haven’t been this excited about Windows in a long time, the last time was probably when Windows Server Core was announced…and, well we all know how that went.  While it was a great concept, it didn’t quite work as well as we all thought it was.  Windows Nano Server is everything Server Core should have been, and much, much, more.

What is Nano Server?

Nano Server is a stripped down version of the Windows Server we’ve all come to love.  Stripped down doesn’t mean featureless at all, it means more light weight, and much more powerful and several ways.  All the things you’ve done with Windows Server before?  Guess what, you can still do them with Nano, as there is full API compatibility between the two.  Okay, so maybe you won’t do everything the same way, you won’t be firing up a RDP session to connect to it, as Nano Server is meant to be managed using WMI and PowerShell.

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Why Nano Server?

So what would I need a stripped down version of Windows like this for anyway?  Well, let’s think about what some of the features mean.  It seems like a Nano Server environment is meant to be managed in a very programmatic manner.  Perhaps I’d use a tool like System Center or Power Shell scripts to deploy a large number of these Nano Servers, and then configure them to whatever spec I need to.  Such a small footprint like Nano Server may not even make sense to update; it may make sense just to re-deploy a fresh Nano Server with whatever hot fixes I need.  If we listen to what Microsoft has said about this, we may not even have to worry about updating our servers as often, since they are boasting 92 percent fewer critical bulletins, and 80 percent fewer reboots.

Cloudy With a Chance of Nano

If you think of all the features Nano is packed with, one thing comes to the front of our minds, and that is the cloud.  Nano Server will be capable of running Hyper-V, and greatly reduce the overhead from current Hyper-V deployments running on traditional windows.  One of the biggest complaints about Hyper-V has always been the amount of patching and maintenance this particular hypervisor required.  Nano Server eliminates many of these issues, and makes Hyper-V an even better choice for visualized environments, as well as cloud environments which are desired to be massively scalable.

Nano server will also support Windows Server Containers.  In case you haven’t been following the Docker and container trend, Microsoft has made a huge bet on container based technologies.  On the same day Nano Server was announced, Microsoft also released enhanced container technologies.  One of these innovations was Hyper-V Containers, or the ability to ensure containers remain isolated by leveraging Hyper-V.  In addition, Docker has been supported in Windows Azure environments for some time, and eventually .NET applications will run flawlessly in Docker containers.

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(Image is from the Windows Azure blog, Microsoft Unveils New Container Technologies for the Next Generation Cloud)

Nano Inception

Not only can Nano run containers as a delivery system, but those very same containers can also run…you guessed it…Nano!  This allows for the OS to be used as both the host and guest platform.  This allows you to use the very same management tools and frameworks you have for both guest and host ensuring that you keep compliant and controlled as you grow.  Besides using the tools you are familiar with, you may be looking to implement something new, and change some of the methodologies you have in practice today.  Microsoft is also working with partners like Chef to ensure organizations who have begun to go down the DevOps road can also utilize Nano.

Conclusion

Thin is in, and Microsoft has proven they are staying close to the innovation curve with their improvements to Windows.  Microsoft Windows Nano Server is available in Windows Server Technical Preview as of now, so if you’re looking to get a head start, make sure to check out the guide to Getting Started with Nano Server from Microsoft.  Nano Server will undoubtedly change the way Microsoft Windows based cloud deployments are done.

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