Nano Server is a remotely administered server operating system introduced in Windows Server 2016 optimized for private cloud applications and data centers. It is similar to Windows Server in Server Core mode, but significantly smaller, has no local logon capability, and only supports 64-bit applications, tools, and agents. Windows Nano Server can deliver greater speed, stability and security, as well as dramatically reduce resource consumption. When it does restart, it restarts much faster.
This leads to real-world benefits such as 93 percent lower VHD size, 92 percent fewer critical bulletins, and 80 percent fewer reboots in testing compared to the full Windows Server operating system.
Nano Server was first made available in preview as part of the Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 2 release following initial development under the codename Tuva. Nano Server was officially debut in conjunction with Windows Server 2016 in the second half of 2016.
The Nano Server installation option is available for Standard and Data center editions of Windows Server 2016
Nano Server is ideal for a number of scenarios:
- As a compute host for Hyper-V virtual machines, either in clusters or not
- As a storage host for Scale-Out File Server.
- As a DNS server
- As a web server running Internet Information Services (IIS)
- As a host for applications that are developed using cloud application patterns and run in a container or virtual machine guest operating system
Important differences in Nano Server
It is a lightweight operating system for running cloud-native applications based on containers and micro-services or as an agile and cost-effective data center host with a dramatically smaller footprint, there are important differences in Nano Server versus Server Core or Server with Desktop Experience installations:
- Nano Server is headless; there is no local logon capability or graphical user interface.
- Only 64-bit applications, tools, and agents are supported.
- Nano Server cannot serve as an Active Directory domain controller.
- Group Policy is not supported. However, you can use Desired State Configuration to apply settings at scale.
- Nano Server cannot be configured to use a proxy server to access the internet.
- NIC Teaming (specifically, load balancing and fail-over, or LBFO) is not supported. Switch-embedded teaming (SET) is supported instead.
- Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager and System Center Data Protection Manager are not supported.
- Best Practices Analyzer (BPA) cmdlets and BPA integration with Server Manager are not supported.
- Nano Server does not support virtual host bus adapters (HBAs).
- Nano Server does not need to be activated with a product key. When functioning as a Hyper-V host, Nano Server does not support Automatic Virtual Machine Activation (AVMA). Virtual machines running on a Nano Server host can be activated using Key Management Service (KMS) with a generic volume license key or using Active Directory-based activation.
- The version of Windows PowerShell provided with Nano Server has important differences. For details, see PowerShell on Nano Server.
- Nano Server is supported only on the Current Branch for Business (CBB) model--there is no Long-Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) release for Nano Server at this time. See the following subsection for more information.