When Windows Server 2008 was previewed to me a few years ago, one of the observations I had was that the Server Manager tool has returned. But this is not the Server Manager tool that we used in the Windows NT Server days, and the Server Manager tool in Windows Server 8 has gone through an extensive overhaul as well.

The key feature of Server Manager on Windows Server 8 is its ability to connect to multiple servers through one console. Sure, with Windows Server 2008 we could connect individually to remote servers; but it’s slow and clunky even though it is a full-featured tool. I’m lucky enough to be on the early access list for Windows Server 8, and configuring the new server console to add additional servers is very easy to do. In many areas of the tool, simply a right-click will show the “Add Servers” menu. Once there, we can add servers by searching Active Directory, entering individual DNS names, or simply loading a text file with system names on it. Figure A shows the dashboard where new servers are added to Server Manager:

Figure A

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Once additional servers are added inside of Server Manager, the aggregated view starts to take shape. A number of different areas provide different contexts to each of the remotely administered servers. One easy task is to search all servers in the Server Manager for a quick status of their state of a particular Windows Service. Figure B below shows a query on all servers running the DHCP client service and their state:

Figure B

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The preview version of Windows Server 8 that I am using doesn’t allow the Server Manager panes to be floated, docked, or unlocked; so, it is slightly constraining to use, requiring additional scrolling to traverse all the real estate of this tool. Systems with very high resolution may have lesser issues, but nonetheless it takes a lot of screen real estate. To be fair, there is a lot of information that is aggregated on this dashboard, so it will require some space.

Older operating systems, like Windows Server 2008 R2 can be added into the Server Manager though not all functionality may be there like a Windows Server 8 system. A number of actionable items can be performed by a handy right-click context that appears on each server in the Server Manager, shown below in Figure C:

Figure C

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I think a consolidated Server Manager tool is really a good idea for managing Windows systems. How do you see this new tool saving your time in administering Windows Servers? Share your comments below.