With all of the excitement about Windows 10 it’s easy to overlook some of the new changes that Microsoft has planned for the server side of the business. One of the biggest pieces of news is Microsoft's announcement about the new Nano Server. In this column I’ll cover the top ten things you need to know about Microsoft’s upcoming Nano Server operating system.

1. What is Nano Server?

Nano Server is a pared down headless version of Windows Server that Microsoft has been developing under the code name Tuva. It is designed to run services and to be managed completely remotely. Microsoft describes Nano Server as “a purpose-built operating system designed to run born-in-the-cloud applications and containers.”

2. How is Nano Server different from Windows Server?

First, Nano Server will be completely headless – there’s no GUI. Next, Nano will be will have a much smaller footprint than Windows Server – even significantly smaller than Windows Server Core. Microsoft states Nano Server will have a 93% smaller VHD size, 92% fewer critical bulletins and 80% fewer required reboots. A smaller OS results in fewer operating system components to maintain with less security exposures than the current Windows Server operating system. This can also improve scalability. This Microsoft Channel 9 video shows a Nano Server with 1TB of RAM running 1000 Nano Server VMs.

3. Will Nano server have any sort of graphical user interface or local management?

Nano will not have a graphical user interface and unlike Windows Server Core it will also have no command prompt and no PowerShell console. Even more, Nano Server will not have a local login. It is designed entirely to support services.

4. Can Nano Server run regular Windows applications?

No. You cannot run traditional Windows GUI applications on Nano Server. Instead, Nano Server is designed to provide infrastructure services.

5. If Nano Server doesn’t run Windows applications what does it run?

Microsoft puts forwards two core scenarios for Nano Server. Server Cloud infrastructure services such as Hyper-V, Hyper-V cluster, and Scale-Out File Servers (SOFSs) and born-in-the-cloud applications that are running in virtual machines, containers, or on development platforms that do not require a UI on the server. Nano Server will support a number of different runtimes including: C#, Java, Node.js, and Python. Nana Server will be API-compatible with Windows Server within the subset of components Nano provides.

6. Besides the GUI and command shell what else did Microsoft remove from Windows Server to make Nano Server?

In addition to dropping the graphical user interface and command shells Microsoft also eliminated 32-bit support (WOW64), MSI installer support and many default Server Core components.

7. How do you manage Nano Server if there’s no GUI and no command prompt?

All management of Nano will be performed remotely using WMI and PowerShell. Microsoft has also stated that Nano will have Windows Server Roles and Features support using Features on Demand and DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management). Nano will also support remote file transfer, remote script authoring and remote debugging including remote debugging from Visual Studio. Microsoft also stated that they will provide a new Web-based management tool for Nano Server.

8. Will Nano Server replace Windows Server?

No. Nano Server is designed to be a specialized infrastructure server. It will be installed as an installation option from the Windows Server setup program much like Server Core. Microsoft will continue to release new versions of Windows Server as a general purpose server operating system for the foreseeable future.

9. When will Nano server be released?

Microsoft has not stated when Nano Server will be available. However, since its a Windows Server option it is expected to be released with the next version of Windows Server in 2016.

10. Where can I find more information about Nano Server?

You can learn more about the upcoming Windows Nano Server at the Windows Server Blog. In addition, Microsoft will be releasing more information about Nano Server at BUILD and Ignite.