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How many instances of Windows Nano Server can run on 1 TB of RAM?

The biggest feature of Windows Server 2016 may the tiny Windows Nano Server. Tech expert Michael Otey explains how something so small can be so powerful and secure.

One of the premier new features of Windows Server 2016 is Windows Nano Server, essentially a stripped-down, headless install that is 90% smaller than a full Windows Server install. What does that mean with respect to cloud server workloads and better security resulting from having a much smaller attack surface?

Windows Nano Server is a new feature that's part of Windows Server 2016. It's a headless version of Windows Server that's even smaller than Windows Server Core. Some of the stats say that it has a 93% smaller virtual hard disk space, 92% fewer critical bulletins and it requires 80% fewer reboots. That could be a big feature for cloud implementations. Nano Server, Hyper-V containers and Storage Spaces Direct are three major new features of Windows Server 2016.

Nano Server offers improved density, because you can run a lot more Nano servers than you can full-size Windows servers. That's particularly important if you're trying to develop cloud applications. The Nano Server's reduced size definitely gives it a much smaller attack surface. That makes it a far more secure kind of operating system.

I recall Microsoft doing research where they were running Windows Nano Server as a virtualization host. They found that a 1 TB Windows Nano Server with 1 TB of RAM was capable of running 1,000 Nano Server virtual machines on it. That gives you an idea of the kind of density that you can get out of Nano Server and some of its advantages. Of course, with no GUI and no browser, there's a lot less to attack. So, it is more secure.

One of the negatives, though, is that it is going to be different to manage because there's no local login. There's no UI. You have to manage Windows Nano Server completely remotely. That's going to probably cause a learning hurdle and some slow adoption for a lot of companies, because sometimes that's difficult to get into. That's one of the reasons why Windows Server Core isn't running everywhere. It's a little bit more difficult to manage. So, that requirement on remote management will probably provide at least an initial hesitation for running Nano Server.

The densities and security benefits that you can get through Windows Nano Server are significant, and that is definitely the way that application development, especially in the cloud, is headed.

Next Steps

What are the key benefits to Microsoft's Nano Server?

Microsoft Nano Server: Does less really mean more?

Hyper-V and Windows Server 2016 containers: The same, but different

This was last published in February 2017

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