It’s been an interesting few months with people asking the above question and lots of opinion and debates as to whether people should install Nano server or not.  It’s completely up to you and your confidence around PowerShell and remoting. 

For those of you who don’t know what Nano server is, firstly where have you been for the past 12 months and secondly it’s a version of Server 2016 which offers a minimal-footprint headless version of Windows Server.  It doesn’t have a GUI, doesn’t support console login locally or via RDP.  All the management management is performed remotely via (WMI), PowerShell and/or Remote Server Management Tools.  One of the biggest advantages is Nano Server has a 93% lower VHD size, 92% fewer critical security advisories, and 80% fewer reboots than Windows Server.  Sounds like heaven doesn’t it?  Well apparently not to some.

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) (think .Net)

  • As a host for applications that are developed using cloud application patterns and run in a container or virtual machine guest operating system

Now for my 10 pence worth.  I think its an amazing move forward but will require some experience in order to be confident to deploy and administer.  For smaller organisations I will still do Full Installs.  For larger organisations who have an enterprise set of hardware then I’ll probably go for Nano.  I saw a comment the other day saying this is “Microsoft’s latest whim that makes it easier FOR THEM to administer their massive cloud scale services” and in a way, I agree.  As I just said if the hardware deployed on prem is at scale, this is a no brainer.   

Deploying NANO just for the sake of “its new” won’t help you.  Todays Microsoft products are all about PowerShell, PowerShell, PowerShell and its a great tool and I’ve come to love it over the years but some don’t use it every day.  I suggest you start learning by using these free resources here.  To manage Nano, you will need this. 

Now I am a realist.  I won’t waffle the Microsoft marketing spiel as most of you that have met me will know.  If you deploy Nano without being confident with the product and how to manage and resolve issues then they will be magnified exponentially by not being able to troubleshoot the server properly without a UI elements.  The memory overhead is trivial at a small scale, security considerations are almost non considerations if you use and secure the thing appropriately. 

So in conclusion, the choice is yours.

To get started, take a look here https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server-docs/compute/nano-server/getting-started-with-nano-server