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Windows Server 2016 Nano Server

Microsoft have pushed the envelope of a minimal footprint server by introducing Nano Server. Nano Server is a completely headless installation with no local GUI or console, with no ability to install a server operating system on top of a Nano Server.

With organisation running more VMs on their hosts in private and public cloud scenarios, Microsoft have recognised that the large footprint of their traditional server operating systems was the high footprint for servers which often ran basic functions.

It has resulted in a stripped down server, efficiently capable of running a set of applications and services, without the overhead of the operating system itself. In addition to removing the user interface, Microsoft has left out features such as 32 bit compatibility as well as MSI support. So, you have a Server with no local login, 64-bit only support for applications and tools.

The minimal footprint and feature set also means that security is increased and less updates are required with Microsoft stating that the server will required 93% less critical updates and 80% fewer reboots. The approach is perfect for single function servers such as a DNS or web server, or for applications running within a container.

Essentially, the aim here is to start off with the minimal server requirements and bring in the applications or services, and only those functions that are required. Therefore only requiring the resources, patching and maintenance needed to deliver that function. On its own, a Nano 400MB and 500MB in size, resulting extremely fast boot times. Administrating a Nano server is done through a remote Windows PowerShell, System Centre tools, Remote Server Administration Tools, or 3rd party products.

Microsoft has been clear about its intended scenarios that it has built Nano Server for. The first being Cloud Operating System Infrastructure such clustered Hypervisors, storage and networking roles. The second is applications that where developed for the cloud such as .Net Core.

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