Streamlined Windows Server 8 Offers Key Benefits | PC Advisor. (No longer available online. Original text included below.)
Windows Server has always been a bit different. It looks like your desktop computer, and includes dozens of features that you have no interest in using. Some would say that’s not a problem, just don’t use the ones you don’t need. Others would point out the potential vulnerabilities in those unneeded services, or the need to reboot when a patch is issued for a service you don’t even use. Windows Server 8, now available in beta, will enable a core that can selectively add and remove components so businesses can only run what they need.
On Tuesday David Cross, Partner Program Manager in Windows Server group posted an article on the Windows Server Blog that discussed how the Windows Server 8 Server Core could be used to build more efficient cloud services. Microsoft spent one year and $10 million dollars talking to cloud solution builders to learn how to best tailor its offerings for them. Since large cloud deployments can include thousands of servers, optimizing the servers to have a small footprint and dedicated functions was defined as a clear need.
Windows Server has been delivered as a “monolithic component” known as “Windows Foundation” which included Windows Explorer, .NET framework, desktop shell, drivers, multimedia support, and Internet Explorer. You could then install server roles and optional features on top of that. Server Core was introduced with Windows Server 2008, allowing stripped down server roles to be installed, but wasn’t widely used due to the limited number of roles it supported, lack of popular management tools, and inability to customize the configuration.
Server Core + Roles
Windows Server 8 addresses these issues, providing a core that can expanded to provide any required services. 14 server rolls are now available, each able to be installed and removed as needed:
- Active Directory Certificate Services
- Active Directory Domain Services
- Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services
- Active Directory Rights Management Server
- DHCP Server
- DNS Server
- File and Storage Services
- Print and Document Services
- Remote Desktop Services sub roles
- Routing and Remote Access Server
- Streaming Media Services
- Web Server
- Windows Server Update Server
Beyond the available roles, even the GUI is optional, with the standard interface being a command line. The traditional Windows Explorer desktop with Internet Explorer can be optionally installed, as well as a Minimal Server Interface which provides GUI access to only core configuration options.
[image core.png: Windows Server 8 core and component structure.]
Though the move to a less monolithic installation was driven by a need to compete in the web server market, all businesses will see benefits from the changes made to Windows Server 8:
- Minimizing the footprint of each server installation will save disk space for businesses that run servers in virtual machines.
- Servers will have fewer security vulnerabilities since unneeded services aren’t present.
- Fewer reboots will be required since only updates for enabled services will be installed.
- Businesses can install or remove any roles without having to “start over” by reinstalling the server.
- Administrators with limited roles can be given access to a server with only those roles.
Microsoft isn’t the first to create a minimal server that is highly configurable, in fact, it’s closer to being the last. Unix and Novell Netware were providing focused, modular systems in the 1980s and 1990s. Microsoft’s changes are probably most driven by Linux, which has offered a minimalistic yet highly configurable server platform since the early 1990s, and has become the dominant web server operating system. With many computing services moving to the cloud, Microsoft needs to improve its web server offering to compete against Linux. With the changes coming in Windows Server 8, all businesses will now benefit from the improvements.