James Bannan casts an eye over Windows 8 Server by setting up an instance with System Center Configuration Manager 2012 and SQL Server 2008 R2.
I've been impressed by the new management experience in Windows 8 Server from the developer preview, and wanted to see what the administration/configuration experience was like when trying to do something a lot more complex than just tinkering with roles and features, hence the attractiveness of this RC Sandwich Project (RC on beta).
Of course, all of the usual caveats apply; this scenario is as supported as a backbench MP who has just learned via a press release that he enjoys "the full confidence" of his leader.
So, on with the installation.
The first part is to set-up the server prerequisites, which are documented in this TechNet article. Of course, you can go through and install the necessary roles and features manually via the new Server Manager (Local Server –> Manage –> Add Roles and Features), but personally, I prefer to use PowerShell and let the server figure out what it needs in terms of dependencies.
So, open up a new administrative PowerShell window, and copy in the following:
Install-WindowsFeature NET-HTTP-ActivationInstall-WindowsFeature NET-Non-HTTP-Activ
PowerShell will then step through and install each component, automatically installing any dependencies (such as IIS).
.NET Framework 4.5 is installed and enabled by default, and just like .NET Framework 3.5.1 in Windows Server 2008 R2, it is a server feature. This is useful for registering .NET in IIS, because to do this, you just need to enable/disable the relevant feature, rather than having to use aspnet_regiis.exe.
Once complete, the next step is to spin up an SQL instance. When you fire up the SQL Server 2008 R2 installer, you're presented with a compatibility warning, just like that with the combination of SQL Server 2008/Windows Server 2008 R2.
The "Get help online" option doesn't return any results at this stage — the online help is still in the process of being fleshed out, so this isn't too surprising.
However, we can move past this error, and, given that the SQL instance will be patched up to the latest levels post-install, it's not too worrying.
Select the appropriate SQL components, and step through the installation as is relevant to your environment (making 100 per cent sure that you select SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS as the server collation, because the SCCM 2012 installer will slap you if you don't).
Once complete, take a couple of minutes to jump out to the Start screen. This is where working every day with Windows 8 Server will take some re-adjustment. The SQL applications that have been installed are available on the Start screen in what is probably some kind of order. Given than I'm likely to access Management Studio fairly frequently, I chose to pin it to the task bar, in which case it's now available from the desktop.
Next is to patch the SQL instance. Officially, Configuration Manager 2012 is supported on SQL Server 2008 R2 SP1 CU4, but I installed CU5. I just figured that I've already travelled a long way down the rabbit hole of "WTF, you expect us to support that?" without worrying unduly about an incremental cumulative update.
Next is to kick off the the Configuration Manager 2012 install. Of course, this assumes that you've already done the other non-Windows 8 Server-specific work of assigning server permissions to the System Management container, setting up any required AD groups and configuring internal PKI (if you want HTTPS-only mode).
I'm very happy to report that the installer went through with absolutely no problems whatsoever — it was exactly the same experience as installing on Windows Server 2008 R2.
There were a number of prerequisite warnings, such as SQL Server memory allocation/configuration, and the lack of the WSUS binaries, but nothing to worry about. And, at the end of it all, Configuration Manager 2012 was happily installed and running on Windows 8 Server.
To be honest, I wasn't too worried about installing Configuration Manager 2012 on Windows 8 Server. Microsoft has too much riding on each new major operating system version to introduce too many changes that could lead to backwards-compatibility issues, especially in enterprise space.
What was interesting was working with Windows 8 Server on this little project. There's a lot about the UI, which, as an administrator, you take for granted. I found that I had to pin a few shortcuts to the desktop (like CMTrace, Notepad) because I really needed to access them quickly and often, and that was a little frustrating. However, working with the desktop and Start screen didn't slow me down anywhere near as much as I thought it might. Everything is still accessible, and accessible relatively quickly.
So far, I'm impressed with Windows 8 Server, and it looks like it will serve as the base of my Configuration Manager 2012 lab for a while to come.
Via James Bannan IT