Microsoft announced Nano Server on April 2015 and released it on October 2016 with Windows Server 2016. The installation options of Windows Server 2016 include Server with a Desktop Experience, Server Core and Nano Server. Nano Server can be installed from the installation option of the Windows Server setup program. Windows Nano Server is one of the Microsoft’s strategy for being highly competitive in private cloud market.

Windows Nano Server

Nano Server is a deployment option in Windows Server 2016 which is 64-bit only headless server. Nano means “extremely small” and as per its defined meaning Nano server also works. Nano server is deployed as a massively scaled down version of the server OS. Windows Nano Server is not a replacement for Windows Server instead, it is designed particularly to support Infrastructure Services.

Windows Nano Server

Windows Server 2016 is an Enterprise software and is built for hybrid or private cloud implementations, but Microsoft recognized that a minimum footprint is required for some scenarios. Hence, Nano Server which has a smaller footprint came into the deployment option. For Nano Server, Drivers come as a package to install on it and there are no Binaries and Metadata present inside the Nano Server. This lets only the required options to deploy on the server and makes everything minimal as possible.

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Nano Server focuses on the following two aspects:

  1. Born-in-cloud-applications – supports multiple programming languages and runtimes (e.g. C#, Java, Node.js, Python, etc.) running on physical servers, virtual machines, containers
  2. Microsoft Cloud Platform infrastructure – supports storage clusters running Scale-out File Server, clusters running Hyper-V and Storage Spaces Direct

Windows Nano Server different from Windows Server

Windows Nano server does not have GUI (graphical user interface), Command Prompt, PowerShell console and Local Login like the Windows Server. MSI installer support, 32-bit support (WOW64) and many default server core components which are present in WIndows Server are eliminated in Nano Server by Microsoft.

Comparison of Nano server with Windows Server (full and less GUI version)

The table below shows that Nano Server has a smaller footprint than Windows Server and even smaller than Windows Server Core. Microsoft states that Nano Server has 93% smaller VHD size, 92% fewer critical bulletins, and 80% fewer required reboots.

Requirements Full GUI Server version of Windows Server GUI-less Server Core version Nano Server
Reboots 11 6 3
Patches 23 8 2
Ports open 34 26 11
VHD size (GB) 10.4 6.5 0.41

Ideal Environment for Nano Server

The specific purpose of Nano Servers is mainly towards the server roles which include Hyper-V, Cloud-native App Server, and File Server and to provide scalability for large-scale Virtual machine (VM) deployments and efficiency through the smaller footprint offered by Nano Server.

Tools for Nano Server Management

Nano Server Management will be performed remotely through PowerShell and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and can also be done through tools like Microsoft Management Console (MMC), Hyper-V Manager or Services, DSC (Desired State Configuration) and Server Manager.

Scope of Nano Server

Nano server is smaller, faster, secure and is highly stable providing more efficient operation and less management overhead. Nano Server is best suited for infrastructure services and it has reduced more resources to run services and application. Deploying Microsoft Nano Server from Windows Server Setup Program is a new choice for workloads which need only minimal OS for all its applications. Nano Server will be evolving as a future of Data Center and will help Service Providers as well as Enterprise companies to deploy clouds even faster. Thus, Microsoft’s effort in Windows Nano server will definitely be highly useful and successful.

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Nano Server – A Deployment option of Windows Server 2016
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