First look: Windows Server 2016 goes on a cloud diet

Under the familiar skin, Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 2 offers something very different

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Windows Server 2016 is both an evolution of the current Windows Server 2012 R2 release and a revolution in the making. If you plan to use Windows Server 2016 in the same way you’ve used Windows Server all along, you’ll be able to pick it up and work with it with very little learning curve. But if you are ready to abandon the old ways and embrace the new world of cloud servers, containers, and microservices, Windows Server 2016 has something new for you.

That something new would be the Nano Server install option, which uses a refactored Windows Server to deliver a headless, compact (with a footprint currently around 400MB), remotely managed server. With no local log-on at all, Nano Server is the most extreme encapsulation of Microsoft’s philosophy behind redesigning Windows Server for tomorrow’s data centers. Instead of point and click, the focus is on managing Windows Server through scripts and configuration management tools.

It’s been some time since Microsoft released the first Technical Preview of Windows Server 2016, and this second release has many new features and makeovers, with changes in Active Directory, file and storage services, clustering, networking, and PowerShell. Many of the new features are designed to help build cloudlike data centers and to make Windows Server behave more like Azure.

Good-bye GUI

Running the Windows Server 2016 installer makes it abundantly clear that Microsoft is deprecating the GUI in Window Server, continuing the migration toward the concept of servers as an element in a programmable infrastructure. Installing the full server now defaults to what would have in the past been the GUI-less Server Core. Installing a GUI requires choosing a “with local admin tools” option. You won’t see a Nano Server option in the Window Server installer, as installing Nano Server requires building a custom image and using Windows’ remote installation tools.

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