Ignite 2015–Nano Server: The Future of Windows Server

Speaker: Jeffrey Snover

Reasons for Nano Server, the GUI-less installation of Windows Server


  • It’s a cloud play. For example, minimize patching. Note that Azure does not have Live Migration so patching is a big deal.
  • CPS can have up to 16 TB of RAM moving around when you patch hosts – no service interruption but there is an impact on performance.
  • They need a server optimized for the cloud. MISFT needs one, and they think cloud operators need one too.


  • Headless, there is no local interface and no RDP. You cannot do anything locally on it.
  • It is a deep ra-factoring of Windows Server. You cannot switch from Nano to/from Core/Full UI
  • The roles they are focused on are Hyper-V, SOFS and clustering.
  • They also are focusing on born-in-the-cloud applications.
  • There is a zero-footprint model. No roles or features are installed by default. It’s a functionless server by default.
  • 64-bit only
  • No special hardware or drivers required.
  • Anti-malware is built in (Defender) and on by default.
  • They are working on moving over the System Center and app insights agents
  • They are talking to partners to get agent support for 3rd party management.
  • The Nano installer is on the TP2 preview ISO in a special folder. Instructions here.


  • They are using 3 *  NUC-style PCs as their Nano server cluster demo lab.  The switch is bigger than the cluster, and takes longer to boot than Nano Server. One machine is a GUI management machine and 2 nodes are a cluster. They use remote management only – because that’s all Nano Server supports.
  • They just do some demos, like Live Migration and PowerShell
  • When you connect to a VM, there is a black window.
  • They take out a 4th NUC that has Nano Server installed already, connect it up, boot it, and add it to the cluster.

Notes: this demo goes wrong. Might have been easier to troubleshoot with a GUI on the machine Smile


  • “removing the need” to sit in front of a server
  • Configuration via “Core PoSH” and DSC
  • Remote management/automation via Core PowerShell and WMI: Limited set of cmdlets initially. 628 cmdlets so far (since January).
  • Integrate it into DevOps tool chains

They want to “remove the drama and heroism from IT”. Server dies, you kill it and start over. Oh, such a dream. To be honest, I hardly ever have this issue with hosts, and I could never recommend this for actual application/data VMs.

They do a query for processes with memory more than 10 MB. There are 5.

Management Tools

Some things didn’t work well remotely: Device Manager and remove event logging. Microsoft is improving in these tools to improve them and make remote management 1st class.

There will be a set of web-based tools:

  • Task manager
  • Registry editor
  • Event viewer
  • Device manager
  • sconfig
  • Control panel
  • File Explorer
  • Performance monitor
  • Disk management
  • Users/groups Manager

Also can be used with Core, MinShell, and Full UI installations.

We see a demo of web-based management, which appears to be the Azure Stack portal. This includes registry editor and task manager in a browser. And yes, they run PoSH console on the Nano server running in the browser too. Azure Stack could be a big deal.

Cloud Application Platform:

  • Hyper-V hosts
  • SOFS noes
  • In VMs for cloud apps
  • Hyper-V containers

Stuff like PoSH management coming in later releases.


  • At the base there is Nano Server
  • Then there is Server …. what used to be Server Core
  • Anything with a GUI is now called Client, what used to be called Full UI

Client is what MSFT reckons should only be used for RDS and Windows Server Essentials. As has happened since W2008, customers and partners will completely ignore this 70% of the time, if not more.

The Client experience will never be available in containers.

The presentation goes on to talk about development and Chef automation. I leave here.

4 thoughts on “Ignite 2015–Nano Server: The Future of Windows Server”

  1. I saw the demo. While I like the idea, if you look at the demo when they got stuck with the computer not joining the domain properly, both of them looked a little perplexed. If there is some local ui, it would be trivial to fix. With nano, you are praying that something doesn’t happen to the management NIC, otherwise you can stare at the cursor box all day long and you won’t be able to connect to it to configure it.

    While I can see a use for hyper-v hosts (maybe they should make nano server the hyper-v server 🙂 ), depending on the configuration of the hosts, I feel more comfortable with some ui then doing everything remotely via powershell or wmi as some vendors still require the ui to configure their hardware.


  2. Hi Aidan,
    I was also in that session and was wondering if your opinion of nano server has changed at all?



    1. Not at all. The failed demo simply reinforced it. Plus, Snover is stuck with his head in the clouds. Literally. Nano is for the Azures of the world, not for the other 99.99999% of companies.

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