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Windows Nano Server Will Require Microsoft Volume License Agreements

The Nano Server edition of Windows Server 2016 will only be available to customers with Microsoft's Software Assurance plan, offered with certain volume license agreements. Organizations will have to opt for the Software Assurance requirement to use Nano Server, which also must follow the Current Branch for Business update cycle.

While Microsoft revealed the Software Assurance requirement last week, it may have slipped under the radar for some because it was the subtext of the company's announcement that Windows Server 2016 and System Center will be available this fall.

Microsoft has heavily promoted Windows Serve 2016's Nano Server, which is notable for being a "headless" or lightweight server option that lacks a GUI, although it has management benefits from having a small footprint. One of its touted benefits is to support "cloud-native applications built with containers and micro-services." The Software Assurance requirement will restrict the use of Nano Server to customers with volume license agreements, though a Microsoft official explained that this server deployment option is for customers building scale-out Windows-based infrastructure, which are typically large organizations with such arrangements. Nevertheless, those without Software Assurance won't be able to deploy the Nano Server option.

"They're setting it up that only an enterprise customer will be able to run Nano Server because not all SMB and midmarket customers have Software Assurance," said Clint Wyckoff, Microsoft Cloud, Hyper-V and Datacenter MVP and a technical evangelist at data protection software vendor Veeam Software.

The Current Branch for Business update model, which will typically come with two to three updates per year, makes sense for cloud-scale environments, according to Wyckoff. "If they integrate and add different modules to Nano Server, for instance a new domain controller, or Microsoft adds another technology to Nano Server, all customers will get the latest features and functionality because they are included in the Software Assurance program," he said. "But there is also a higher price tag associated with it."

Indeed, Microsoft wants customers using Nano Server to be on the latest releases because it's intended for cloud-native applications and operations, said Mark Jewett, senior director of cloud platform marketing. "It really is the f ocus on aligning with the pace of innovation," Jewett said. "In fact we want to keep that thing up and the fact we want to have a servicing model relationship with customers established, has helped us do that."

The Current Branch for Business service update model for Windows Server 2016 and Nano Server follows an approach that's similar to that of Windows 10. However, unlike the client OS version, administrators have more manual control over installing the server updates. They still can't be more than two updates behind, though, since at that point the branch stops getting future updates. Microsoft wants organizations deploying Nano Server to be those "moving at a 'cloud cadence' of rapid development lifecycles and wish to innovate more quickly." Microsoft said Software Assurance is necessary to support Nano Server's Current Branch for Business model.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 07/20/2016 at 3:20 PM


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