Microsoft

Server Core recommended for Windows Server 8: My six objections

With Windows Server 8, the recommendation is to use the server core installation. While it sounds like it is time for that approach, Rickatron lays out his six objections to it.

Let's set the tone right away: I've never been more excited for a Windows Server version that I am with Windows Server 8. It has so many key feature improvements, I can't wait!

Okay, with that being said, I need to focus on one critical point related to the positioning of Windows Server 8 that has been promoted from the start: the core installation option (Server Core) is the recommended configuration for Windows Server 8.

To support that position, Microsoft has done incredible things with the Server Core option with Windows Server 8. Specifically, PowerShell and Server Manager make it easy. Recently, Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Jeffrey Snover introduced an excellent blog post by David Cross at Microsoft outlining Server Core for Windows Server 8: "Building an Optimized Private Cloud using Windows Server 8 Server Core."

I saw the blog post above on Twitter and I responded (selected dialog shown in Figure A below) with my concerns, which was the springboard to this blog post. I also had Jeffrey Snover and David Davis on the InfoSmack Podcast where we talked about Windows Server 8 at length. You should give a listen to that episode!

Figure A

Now, any Windows server admin should read this. I read the whole thing, twice actually. It's complicated and I'm nowhere near as smart as I need to be. But don't get me wrong, this is great stuff and great improvements. But, recommending Server Core? I'm not ready for it. Here's why:

#1 Memory and Disk space requirements are reduced: In the scheme of things, these are not a pain for me. There are a lot of features to support this: deduplication on backups, deduplication on primary storage, memory sharing (vSphere is a cuss-word in this conversation – I understand). #2 I will always have to patch: I appreciate the statistics that Windows Server 2008 Server Core had related to patching, but I've already set up maintenance windows and automated patch mechanisms. Even if I'm using Server Core, I'm not going to undo this. Plus the applications may need to be intervened in these windows. #3 I like the Minimal Server Interface, but: When I need more features, I need them and don't want to wait (or reboot if required). Having them there, like Internet Explorer or Windows Explorer makes my life easier when I have what I need. Further, we don't always know what we need; I'll admit it. Application owners may not have this information, but this is an entirely separate rant. #4 My PowerShell skills suck: I appreciate that Server Core with Windows Server 8 drops in an incredible number of PowerShell cmdlets. But, that doesn't make Rick Vanover any better at using them. Plus, I have a fancy mouse on my desk that I like to use. That's a training issue; I'll work on it. #5 We can now install SQL Server 2012 on Server Core — that works for me but not my DBA: I can't convince database administrators to change big things, not on an initial release. #6 I won't be comfortable troubleshooting in Server Core: My comfort-level is based on my Windows server OS experience since 1996 or so with Windows NT 4 Server using an interactive GUI. I left NetWare for that reason among others! Okay, I feel a lot better now that I got all of that out. I must reiterate, I'm *extremely* happy about Windows Server 8, but not about the recommended install path being Server Core. There are plenty of technologies to support and automate Server Core, such as System Center and Group Policy, but I still feel that the interactive GUI (full-install) is my preferred format.

How do you feel about the recommendation for Server Core with Windows Server 8? Share your objections or comments below!

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

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