Why Nano Server

A common question that gets raised around new Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview is around Why we should deploy Nano Server and what’s the benefit. In this blog post I will discuss few benefits when using Nano Server deployment Method.

Starting with Windows Server 2012, we had 3 deployment options

  1. Server Core Deployment Option
  2. MinShell Deployment Option
  3. Full Desktop Experience Deployment Option

Back then, for deployments such as Hyper-V it was recommended to deploy Server Core due to limited attack surface and reduced patches/hotfixes which we had to deploy.

At the moment with Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview , we have following deployment options

  1. Nano Server deployment (Not exposed in the Setup wizard, you need to create your own media file)
  2. Server Core Deployment Option (Note that this option is selected by default)
  3. Full Desktop Experience Deployment Option

Unlike in Server 2012, we cannot switch back and forth in Server 2016 Technical Preview, so if you had selected Full desktop Experience, you will have to stick to it. More info(http://blogs.technet.com/b/windowsserver/archive/2015/08/27/windows-server-2016-installation-option-changes.aspx)

Starting with Windows Server 2016, Hyper-V Team recommends the use of Nano Server deployment for all Hyper-V Deployments. Let’s look at benefits of using Nano Server compared to other deployment type.

  1. Compared to all other deployment types Nano Server requires least number of patches and requires least number of restarts (Comparing with Server Core, which had 8 patches over last 12 months, if we had Nano Server we would only need to deploy one patch requiring only one reboot)
  2. Around 90% smaller install footprint, which means that we can deploy Nano Server within 5 minutes running through the setup process.
  3. Faster reboot experience with Nano Server
  4. Lower memory requirements

Another interesting change with Nano Server deployment is that we need to decide on the purpose of the Server before we deploy Nano Server. Traditionally, we would deploy Windows Server 2012 R2, and then select Roles & Features which are required, but we cannot do this with Nano Server.

At the time of Image creation, we need to decide which roles needs to be included in the image and select. If it’s a Hyper-V Deployment, we would select Hyper-V Role and Failover Clustering features, If it’s a Scale out file Server, we would select the File Server role. List of available roles are available in this location (https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt126167.aspx) and refer to my previous blog post for instructions on host to deploy Nano Server (https://nirmalt.com/2015/11/28/installing-nano-servertechnical-preview-4/)

Continue to use Windows Server Technical Preview 1 (OCT 2014)

In this blog post we will look at how we can continue to use Windows Server Technical Preview and extend its expiry date till 1st OCT 2015.

At the moment when we login to Server Technical Preview before applying the hotfix, we get following message (I have another blog post earlier regarding this https://nirmalt.com/2015/04/04/this-build-of-windows-will-expire-soon-windows-server-technical-preview/)


Checking on Windows Version (winver)


Microsoft recently released a hotfix which will extend the time duration of Windows Server Technical Preview.

Hotfix can be obtained from link below


Once you obtain the fix, you can go ahead use the .msu package and apply the update. If it’s a Hyper-V Server or Server Core version then you cannot apply .msu package and the update needs to be applied using DISM command.

Example : dism /online /add-package /packagepath:Windows6.4-KB3056022-x64.cab



Once it completes, it will request to reboot


After restarting, you will notice that you will not see the expiry warning message anymore after logging to the system. However if check Windows Version (WinVer), you will notice that it still says it’s set to expire on 16th April 2015. we need to have another reboot in order to fix this Smile


If it’s still not updated and if you are also getting a message saying it’s going to expire on 15th April when logging in to Windows, following procedure needs to be followed. This is the case mostly for Physical Servers running Technical Preview. however for Virtual Machine you don’t need to follow below process, and just applying the hotfix will extend the evaluation version till 1st OCT 2015.

Obtain a Windows Server Technical Preview Product Key

Visit http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/evaluate-windows-server-technical-preview and navigate to Preinstall info. You will be able to locate Windows Server Technical Preview product key from this location


Open Server Manager and click on Local Server -> Not Activated, which will open up “Activation Window”. First step is to provide the Product Key



Sometimes you will notice that the activation didn’t complete successfully. If that’s the case, you need to run slmgr /ato to activate the product.


Open PowerShell as an Administrator and run slmgr /ato


Make sure that there’s internet connectivity and within few seconds you will receive following message confirming that the product is now activated.


Restart your Server Preview and you should not see expiry message anymore.

I also created a step by step youtube video on how to apply the hotfix

This Build of Windows will expire soon – (Windows Server Technical Preview)

UPDATE : Hotfix is now available and for more details please have a look at my blog https://nirmalt.com/2015/04/14/continue-to-use-windows-server-technical-preview-1-oct-2014

If you are running Windows Server Preview (Technical Preview 1 Released in 1st Oct 2014), you might have already realized that it’s set to expire on 15th April.




While Microsoft is preparing to release Technical Preview 2 sometime in May, we will need to look for an alternative to continue using Windows Server Preview build. Good news for us, today morning a new blog post was published in the Windows Server blog, stating that there will be a workaround published soon to extend the trial. I will post back with more details when it becomes available.


Cloud Witness in Windows Server vNext Technical Preview (2014-OCT)

In this blog post, we will look at configuring Cloud Witness, a new quorum option introduced in Windows Server vNext Technical Preview (OCT 2014 Release). Cloud witness was introduced as an option similar to a File Share Witness, but hosted on Azure without having to maintain any infrastructure within your datacenter. This allows us to have multi-site clusters without having the need to have a 3rd site as a witness.

Cloud Witness comes is useful in following scenarios

  • DR Multi-Site stretched Clusters without having a 3rd site
  • Clusters without shared Storage
  • Guest Clusters hosted in Azure VMs
  • Guest clusters hosted in Private Clouds

Since Cloud witness requires, internet connectivity, if there’s a Cluster with no internet connectivity, then we will not be able to leverage Cloud witness quorum configuration option.

Cloud witness uses REST APIs to interface with Azure Blob storage and it creates a single blob file per cluster. Because of this, hosting the cloud witness in Azure will only cost you less than a 1$ and the cost for hosting the witness file is negligible. Cloud Witness can be configured using PowerShell or using Failover Cluster Manager. In this, blog post I will demonstrate how we can configure Cloud Witness using Failover Cluster Manager.

Cloud Witness Architecture


Cloud Witness vs File Share Witness Comparison


Step by Step Configuring Cloud Witness

Let’s have a look how we can configure Cloud Witness

Step 01 – Open Failover Cluster Manager


Step 02 – Right click on Cluster Name -> More Actions and select “Configure Cluster Quorum Settings”


Step 03 – After selecting “Configure Cluster Quorum Settings”, this will launch wizard to configure Cloud Witness. Click Next


Step 04 – Select “Advanced Quorum Configuration” and then click next


Step 05 – unless you want to change voting configuration, click next and proceed to the next step


Step 06 – Select “Configure a cloud witness”


Step 07 – Next step requires us to obtain our Azure Storage Account details. Login Azure Management Portal https://manage.windowsazure.com and navigate to your Storage section.


Step 08 – Next select your Storage Account and click on “Management Access Keys”


Step 09 – Note down your Storage Account Name and also Primary Access Key. We need to provide these values when we configure Cloud Witness within Failover Cluster Manager.


Step 10 – Provide Storage Account name and also Storage Account key


Step 11 – Confirmation Window describing recent changes to Cluster Quorum configuration.


Step 12 – We have just completed configuring Cloud Witness. Navigate to your Cluster and under witness section you will notice that it’s now set to “Cloud Witness


We can also Cloud Witness resources added to Cluster Core Resources


You can also have a look at below screen recording, which also includes a Failover Test using Cloud Witness