Windows Server 2016

Nano Server End of Support Is "Spring 2018"

Microsoft recently announced the end of Nano as a viable operating system for physical and virtual machines. This is effectively ending its infrastructure role for scenarios, such as storage and Hyper-V. Some people have Nano Server deployed already, so this will have an impact on them. That impact will be sooner than some might have expected.



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Support Life Cycle

Normally when Microsoft launches an enterprise product, such as Windows Server, we know that it will have 5 years of mainstream support, including development, bug fixing, and security updates. It also usually has 5 years of extended support, which is mostly bug fixing but also limited support for management agents. It generally also has an option to purchase additional Premium Support.

Recent years have seen Microsoft change how they deal with support life cycles. We know this from Windows 10, where the official support statement says that a …

… device needs to install the latest update to remain supported.

Nano Server was intended by Microsoft to be it cloud operating system for customers, as Microsoft stated here.

Nano Server is serviced with a more active model, called Current Branch for Business (CBB), in order to support customers who are moving at a “cloud cadence,” using rapid development cycles.

Nano Server was supposed to have a new release two or three times per year, which never happened. Each release of Nano Server was supposed to be supported if it was no more than two CBB releases behind. None of those CBB releases ever made it into the wild. So that leaves us wondering … “If I have deployed Nano Server, when does it become unsupported?”

End of Nano Support

Any CBB release has a support lifecycle of 18 months. This is a fact that is not easily found on (I have had no success) but has been stated by Microsoft in some public discussions.

The original, and only, release of Windows Server 2016 (and Nano Server) was on October 15, 2016. That means that if we add 18 months to that date, the end of support for Nano Server in an infrastructure role, such as Hyper-V, Scale-Out File Server, Storage Spaces Direct, etc, will be on April 15, 2018. After that date, the only supported way to use Nano Server will be in a Windows Server or Hyper-V container.


Luckily, Microsoft has stated that one of the reasons that they have ended the infrastructure role of Nano Server was because the rate of adoption was quite low. This means that few are affected by the end of support. However, some brave souls walked in rhythm with the banging drum of the first two Microsoft Ignite conferences and deployed Nano Server as storage or Hyper-V cluster nodes. To you few, I salute you, and have the sad duty to inform you that you have some migrations ahead.

You cannot upgrade Nano Server to Server Core or a full installation of Windows Server with the desktop. Nano Server was just too different. Instead, those who went through the challenge of Nano Server will have to redeploy those machines.

In the case of clustered servers, this probably will not be too painful. Sure, there will be some engineering time required but there should not be downtime:

  1. Drain the clustered node of roles/virtual machines.
  2. Evict the node from the cluster.
  3. Rebuild the node with Windows Server 2016 Server Core/desktop.
  4. Add the node back to the cluster.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for each remaining node in the cluster.

I never saw Nano Server as a viable physical infrastructure option for me or my customers. I saw the value at the virtual level, where the cumulative effect of a smaller disk/memory footprint would have a real impact. Here, things could get sticky because you are probably looking at a complete redeployment of applications on new virtual machines. This is followed by a data migration, coupled with an end-to-end application, and consistently testing/checking. Ouch!

Microsoft might argue that this might be a time to consider a “digital transformation” (take a drink!) and migrate to containers or the cloud. I am guessing those of you facing this migration are feeling a little tender at the moment, so my advice will be to go with what you find comfortable now. Consider future paths later. As with all migrations, you should probably start planning now. Leave yourself some breathing room before April 2018. There might be some migration challenges.

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Aidan Finn, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), has been working in IT since 1996. He has worked as a consultant and administrator for the likes of Innofactor Norway, Amdahl DMR, Fujitsu, Barclays and Hypo Real Estate Bank International where he dealt with large and complex IT infrastructures and MicroWarehouse Ltd. where he worked with Microsoft partners in the small/medium business space.
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