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There are currently six major versions of SQL Server that I commonly see being used in Production, along with five major versions of Windows Server. Only certain combinations of SQL Server and Windows Server are officially supported by Microsoft, but tracking down this information is a little tedious.
Table 1 shows these possible combinations and whether they are officially supported by Microsoft. One possibly surprising combination is the fact that SQL Server 2012 is not officially supported on Windows Server 2016. Perhaps this is less surprising if you keep in mind that SQL Server 2012 will fall out of mainstream support on July 11, 2017, which is not that far away.
Table 1: OS Support for Recent Versions of SQL Server
The available links that document this are listed below:
Hardware and Software Requirements for Installing SQL Server 2008 R2
Hardware and Software Requirements for Installing SQL Server 2012
Hardware and Software Requirements for Installing SQL Server 2014
Hardware and Software Requirements for Installing SQL Server (for 2016 and later)
If you are getting ready to deploy a new instance of SQL Server 2014 or SQL Server 2016, then you should prefer Windows Server 2016, even though they are also supported on older operating systems. If you are getting ready to deploy a new instance of SQL Server 2008 through SQL Server 2012, then you should prefer Windows Server 2012 R2, even though they are supported on older operating systems.
Finally, if you are getting ready to deploy a new instance of SQL Server 2005, then I feel a little sorry for you! SQL Server 2005 is out of extended support, and it is missing so many useful features that were added in newer versions of SQL Server.
Actually, I recently helped a client deploy some new instances of SQL Server 2005 for some pretty valid business reasons. We ended up deploying to a VM (on new, very fast host hardware) that was running Windows Server 2008 R2, which worked perfectly fine.