As many of you already know, a few days ago Microsoft already announced the availability of Windows Server 2016 Technology Preview 3. So I grabbed the opportunity to download the new ISO file to check if there are any improvements related to Nano Sever. And there are a lot of them.
First of all it’s a good idea to check this article that clearly describes what’s new in this TP3 version. When we talk specifically about Nano Server, you can still install it on a physical host or as a virtual machine, which is what I did.
NOTE: In case you want to install Nano Server as a virtual machine, you can check this presentation to see how it’s done (presented in Greek, sorry), or you can attend the “Installing & Configuring Nano Server” course that I’ve created in collaboration with Opsgility, a company based in Texas that offers online courses. The online course can be found here.
So the first thing that you immediately notice when you start Nano Server is this minimal interface, called the Emergency Management Console, that allows you to logon as an Administrator to Nano Server. Great improvement, because as soon as you logon, you can check the computer name and the IP address of Nano Server – easily. As the Microsoft blog post suggests, “The new Emergency Management Console enables users to view and fix networking configuration directly from the Nano Server console. In addition, you will find a PowerShell script for creating an Azure VM running Nano Server.”
And this is what you get the first time you start Nano Server:
As soon as you logon, you arrive at the Server Configuration screen, which is presented below. Notice how easy is now to restart or shutdown Nano Server:
If you press the Tab key, you’re transferred to the Network Adapter Settings page, where you have a clear idea about your network configuration:
So let’s try to create a Failover Cluster using 2 Nano Servers as the nodes. When you create the new VHD file by using a PowerShell script (check my presentation again here), you should include the Failover Cluster package:
I have created 2 VMs running Nano Server, which they are up and running. I’ve joined them to the contoso.com domain using the Offline domain join process (instructions on how to do it can be found here) and I’ve used the netsh command to change their network configuration and use static IP addresses:
Let’s create a Failover Cluster now using the console that is installed on a third Windows Server 2016 (normal GUI edition). This machine is used as a domain controller for the domain contoso.com, but also as the “management computer”, the machine that will run all the remote consoles and tools that I need to manage Nano Server remotely:
And here we are: my Nano Server cluster nodes are up and running. It’s impressive that these 2 virtual machines need a few seconds to restart:
A few things to keep in mind, related to the Failover Cluster scenarios using Nano Server:
- Clusters must be managed remotely with Failover Cluster Manager or Windows PowerShell.
- All Nano Server cluster nodes must be joined to the same domain, similar to cluster nodes in Windows Server.
- The domain account must have Administrator privileges on all Nano Server nodes, as with cluster nodes in Windows Server.
- All commands must be run in an elevated command prompt.
And some limitations and features that are not supported in this release:
- Cluster validation tests are not supported for Nano Server nodes (that’s a bit strange, because I’ve managed to run them on my test lab).
- You cannot run failover clustering cmdlets on a local Nano Server through Windows PowerShell.
- Clustering roles other than Hyper-V and File Server. So if you need a Failover Cluster using Nano Servers, it can be a Hyper-V cluster or a File Server one. Remember though that it’s still too early, we’ll see additional functionality in future releases.