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Microsoft goes small with Nano Server

What's more (or less) Server Core than Server Core? Microsoft's Nano Server, expected in the next release of Windows Server, will be all about PowerShell management.

The 2016 version of Windows Server will have a new stripped-down installation option, signaling even more clearly that PowerShell is the management framework of the future.

Dubbed Nano Server, the version of Windows Server can only be run remotely through PowerShell and removes local logon, Remote Desktop, GUI and 32 bit support. What Nano Server lacks in features, it makes up for in API compatibility -- for the components it supports, that is.

For instance, Visual Studio is fully supported in Nano Server, "including remote debugging functionality and notifications," Microsoft said in a blog post.

Nano Server is designed for IT pros who have adopted PowerShell in previous releases, said Wes Miller, research vice president at Directions on Microsoft, a consulting firm based in Kirkland, Wash.

"For those who don't use PowerShell, this is probably a call to action," Miller said.

The company says it has two particular use cases in mind: "born-in-the-cloud" applications that run in virtual machines or containers, and support for compute and storage clusters.

Nano Server is comparable to the lightweight Server Core installation option present in Windows Server 2012, said Jonathan Hassell, president of 82 Ventures, a consulting firm based in Charlotte, N.C. 

 "It still has all of the management problems of Core though," Hassell said. "You do it all remotely through PowerShell or WMI. I'd be using this for single-purpose lightweight machines and not anything that required anything close to constant management."

Per the company's internal testing, Nano Server virtual hard disks (VHD) have a 93% lower VHD size, 92% fewer critical bulletins and 80% fewer reboots.

The Nano Server news comes in conjunction with Microsoft's new container technologies, including a more secure Hyper-V container, within the next version of Windows Server. The company calls Nano Server and Hyper-V containers "an ideal complement" of each other.

Nano Server won't be available in the next Technical Preview of Windows Server expected in May.

"Nano itself is a very isolated thing, [and] it'll make more sense when you've got Hyper-V and Windows Azure Pack to look at in that context," Miller said.

Server Core will remain as a deployment option despite their similarity as lightweight options, Microsoft said.

Contrasting Server Core, Nano Server will not be able to go from a GUI to stripped down environment without a reinstall, said Windows Server lead architect Jeffrey Snover in a Twitter post.

 The new option joins a growing feature list for Windows Server, which entered preview last year and was bumped to release in 2016.

Jeremy Stanley is the site editor of SearchWindowsServer. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @SearchWinServer.

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