server storage I/O trends

Microsoft Windows Server, Azure, Nano and life cycle Updates

Spoiler alert, Microsoft is refocusing Nano for containers only, no more Bare Metal...


For those of you who have an interest in Microsoft Windows  Server on-premise, on Azure, on Hyper-V or Nano life cycle here are some recently announced updates.
Microsoft Windows Server Nano Lifecycle

Microsoft has announced updates to Windows Server Core and Nano along with semi-annual channel updates (read more here). The synopsis of this new update via Microsoft (read more here) is:

In this new model, Windows Server releases are identified by  the year and month of release: for example, in 2017, a release in the 9th month  (September) would be identified as version 1709. Windows Server will release  semi-annually in fall and spring. Another release in March 2018 would be  version 1803. The support lifecycle for each release is 18 months.

Microsoft has announced that its lightweight variant of WIndows  Server 2016 (if you need a refresh on server requirements visit here) known as nano will now be focused for WIndows based containers as  opposed to being for bare metal. As part of this change, Microsoft has reiterated that Server Core the headless (aka non-desktop user interface)  version of WIndows Server 2016 will continue as the platform for BM along with other deployments where a GUI interface is not needed. Note that one of  the original premises of Nano was that it could be leveraged as a replacement  for Server Core.


As part of this shift, Microsoft has also stated their intention to further streamline the already slimmed down version of WIndows  Server known as Nano by reducing its size another 50%. Keep in mind that Nano is already a fraction of the footprint size of regular Windows Server (Core or  Desktop UI). The footprint of Nano includes both its capacity size on disk (HDD  or SSD), as well as its memory requirements, speed of startup boot, along with  number of components that cut the number of updates.


By focusing Nano for container use (e.g. Windows containers)  Microsoft is providing multiple micro services engines (e.g. Linux and  Windows) along with various management including Docker. Similar to providing  multiple container engines (e.g. Linux and Windows) Microsoft is also  supporting management from Windows along with Unix.


Does This Confirm Rumor FUD that Nano is Dead

IMHO the answer to the FUD rumors that are circulating around that NANO is dead are false.


Granted Nano is being refocused by Microsoft for containers and will not be the lightweight headless Windows Server 2016 replacement for Server Core. Instead, the Microsoft focus is two path with continued enhancements on Server Core for headless full Windows Server 2016 deployment, while Nano gets further streamlined for containers. This means that Nano is no longer bare metal or Hyper-V focused with Microsoft indicating that Server Core should be used for those types of deployments.


What is clear (besides no bare metal) is that Microsoft is working to slim down Nano even further by removing bare metal items, Powershell,.Net and other items instead of making those into optional items. The goal of Microsoft is to make the base Nano image on disk (or via pull) as small as possible with the initial goal of being 50% of its current uncompressed 1GB disk size. What this means is that if you need Powershell, you add it as a layer, need .Net then add as a layer instead of having the overhead of those items if you do not need tem. It will be interesting to see how much Microsoft is able to remove as standard components and make them options that you can simply add as layers if needed.


What About Azure and Bring Your Own License

In case you were not aware or had forgotten when you use Microsoft Azure and deploy virtual machine (aka cloud instances),  you have the option of bringing (e.g. using) your own WIndows Server licenses.  What this means is that by using your own Windows Server licenses you can cut the monthly cost of your Azure VMs. Check out the Azure site and explore  various configuration options to learn more about pricing and various virtual machine instances from Windows to Linux here as well as hybrid deployments.


Where To Learn More

What This All Means

Microsoft has refocused Windows Server 2016 Core and Desktop as its primary bare metal including for virtual as well as Azure OS platforms, while Nano is now focused on being optimized for Windows-based containers including Docker among other container orchestration.


Ok, nuff said (for now...).