With Nano Server, Microsoft engineers have taken a hard look at the types of workloads many customers use Windows Server for: cloud applications, and cloud servers and they've obsessively focused on making a product that would offer these customers exactly what they needed and nothing more. While that might sound very limiting, the results are starting to speak for themselves through system up-time, resource requirements, and security incidents:
- In one test, Nano Server had to be rebooted only 4 times while Server proper needed 12 reboots.
- Nano Server can run on as little as 512MB of memory while Server requires at least 2GB to run comfortable and a bit more if you're going to push the system at all.
- One of the most common security issues has to do with the graphics layer of the software. Nano Server has a remote terminal only and doesn't run a heavy GUI hereby reducing its resource requirements as well as reducing the attack surface that Windows servers often have.
- Server is great at virtualization. VM's are first class citizens on Nano Server and Hyper-V is tuned to squeeze out every drop of performance out of them that it can.
Overall, if you're running the right workload, Nano Server could be the perfect solution for your needs. But there are a few gotcha's (time for another list!):
- Nano Server only runs 64 bit applications. If you need 32 bit apps, you're going to have to go with Server Core.
- Nano Server doesn't have a graphical user interface. If you're application has a graphical UI, it's probably not going to run on Nano Server.
- It is completely remotely managed. You don't walk up to the server, flip on the screen, and log-in anymore. Because Nano Server is for the cloud, you manage it entirely remotely.
It's surprising how aggressive Microsoft has been with the design of Nano Server but it's a nice surprise. It allows more people with lower end hardware to run Windows servers and extends the life of that older hardware if they are performing specific workloads. Overall, Nano Server is quite a breath of fresh air.
If you want to give Nano Server a try, head on over the Microsoft and download the 180 day trial of Windows Server 2016. From there, you can install Nano Server and start to get your feet wet.
Finally, Microsoft is seeing that, indeed, one size does not fit all when it comes to servers. That's a 'good thing'.