Leaked Slides Reveal Windows Server vNext Nano Server Role

While much of the news coming from Microsoft in recent months has been focused on Windows 10 and exciting new technologies like Microsoft HoloLens, some news about the next release of Windows Server — tentatively, unofficially, and likely temporarily dubbed Windows Server vNext — has started to leak into the wild, namely a set of PowerPoint slides and an early build of Windows Server vNext, which were posted online by WZor at WZor.Net. True to form, Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet has written up an excellent analysis and summary of the news, including some additional information on a new Windows Server vNext protected VM role called ‘Host Guardian.’

Nano Server: The Future of Windows Server?

The leaked slides bear a Microsoft logo and the name of Program Manager Refaat Issa (@refaat_issa), and begins with the phrase, “Nano Server: The Future of Windows Server Starts Now.” The slides reveal several new details about the next release of Windows Server, as well as a new Server role that Microsoft is calling “Nano Server.” I’ll highlight the biggest news from the slides.

Nano Server — Windows Server Takes a Bigger Step into the Cloud?

The highlight of the leaked deck is undoubtedly the reveal of “Nano Server”, a new server role that is intended to be even more streamlined and efficient than traditional Server Core. The slides refer to Nano Server as a “new headless deployment option for Windows Server” that follows in the footsteps of Server Core by installing a minimal amount of services — or more accurately — mainly the ones you need. This “zero-footprint” model doesn’t include metadata or binaries in server images, and Issa’s slides explicitly state that Microsoft’s goal with Nano Server is to “eliminate the need to ever sit in front of a server.”

Note: Microsoft explicitly refers to the next release of Windows Server as ‘Windows Server vNext’ on at least one slide, but it’s likely that the final release will likely bear Windows Server 2016 branding.

Remote Management and PowerShell

This naturally makes a nice segue into PowerShell, which Microsoft has been pushing heavily as a must-learn skill for every system administrator using the Windows Server stack. We’ve said as much in our guide that outlines nine essential IT skills to learn in 2015, so if you’re not learning PowerShell, then you should have started learning yesterday.

Nano Server supports remote management via PowerShell and WMI, can use PowerShell Web Access to allow the execution of “PowerShell cmdlets on the end-node from anywhere,” and also has full PowerShell language compatibility, supports all cmdlet types, and supports full PowerShell remoting.

Remote Management: Web-Based Replacements for Local Tools

Microsoft’s attempt to blur the lines between their Azure-based cloud services and Windows Server on-prem has some tangible support here, with the slides claiming that formerly local-only and beloved administration tools — like task manager, registry editor, event viewer, file explorer, performance monitor, device manager, and control panel, to name just a few — will get web-based replacements that can be accessed from anywhere. Microsoft is also billing Nano Server as a full-blown cloud application platform with “born in the cloud” app support and the ability to provide availability to those apps from anywhere.

The Status of Nano Server and the Windows Server Roadmap

The last few slides in the leaked deck provide some details as to what we can expect to see in the future for Windows Server, stating that a limited TAP preview will be available in “early 2015”, and that Nano Server will be included in an upcoming preview release of Windows Server vNext. Microsoft ends the deck by stating that “Nano Server is the future nucleus of Windows Server” and will provide a “new foundation for all components.”