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PowerShell Shock and the 'Disappearing GUI'

IT pros using Microsoft-stack products partly do so because of their user-friendly graphical user interfaces (GUIs) and relatively good documentation. So, what's with this PowerShell barrage coming lately from Microsoft? Is it some craze, like bell-bottom pant cuffs coming back in style? Well, it would be, if bell bottoms could automate your wardrobe -- especially your tie collection.

The key phrase is "scriptable automation." It's the new (old) marching orders for IT pros, and it's getting heavy promotion from Microsoft in its latest products emerging this year, from SQL Server 2012, System Center 2012 and Windows Server 8.

PowerShell is a command-line interface tool. So, does this PowerShell product integration trend from Microsoft mean (*gulp*) that the GUI is dead? You'd never hear that from Microsoft. With Windows Server 8, Microsoft is now saying that PowerShell is an "additive" tool. You'll get the same message over on the System Center side of things, where Microsoft's Orchestrator runtime modeling solution is capable of extracting PowerShell scripts to help automate processes based on conditional situations to address repeatable operations.

The GUI isn't gone from Microsoft's emerging products (it's "Metro"-ized), but busy IT folks can certainly be excused for wanting one that's robust and easy to use. So, maybe there's a little PowerShell shock out there right now. The good news is that it looks like Microsoft will give you a choice, and the message seems to be this: command-line interface "and/or" GUI.

If you want to keep pace with Redmond, then PowerShell is the way to go. The PowerShell cult is deep. At last month's SQL Server 2012 Workshop held on Microsoft's campus, Dandy Weyn, a Microsoft senior technology product manager, showed off how to install SQL Server 2012 by just using the PowerShell command-line interface. After the demo, I wanted to embrace my inner GUI and never come out of its shell.

Has Microsoft gone completely PowerShell mad? Tell Doug at dbarney@redmondmag.com.
-- By Kurt Mackie

Posted by Kurt Mackie on 03/09/2012 at 1:19 PM


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Reader Comments:

Mon, Mar 12, 2012

The GUI, PowerShell, Command line, etc are all tools. We should use the appropriate tool for the job. Need to create a one or two users and add to a couple groups, use the GUI. Need to create 100 AD accounts,use PowerShell.

Sun, Mar 11, 2012

Give me that old time GUI religion. I find it easier to use to basic things that I need done such as adding, renaming, deleting users from AD. I find the GUI easier to use. I grew up with GUI and like GUI.

Sun, Mar 11, 2012 Marco Shaw

What some don't realize is you need automation when you start talking about self-service cloud computing. For admins in the "10-20 servers world", a UI might be fine. For admins in a "100+ servers world", a UI may no longer be efficient. The cloud is all about automation, and that is one thing that PowerShell is there to address.

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 Alex Connecticut

In my opinion PowerShell is the best thing to come out of Microsoft in the last decade. This is such an elegant and powerful tool that once you get a hang of it, you'll love it and want to use everywhere. In PoSH it is possible to build DSL's, automate routine tasks and just plainly have fun with scripts. Knowing Monad (PoSH) is a must for any serious IT pro on MS platform.

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 kelly chicago

I think microsoft is reverting back to the 80's. who wants to remember all the comand line options. isnt if it just eassyer to just point and click. i guess microsoft dosent think techies can read the options in a gui and have to resort to the so old /?...

Fri, Mar 9, 2012 Dan Iowa

Powershell is not replacing the GUI. It's replacing the old scripting environment, and admin tools with something much more powerful. You can even use GUI tools to integrate with your automation. What you should be talking about is how this changes bat files and vbscripts. See the dirty little secret is the command line was never gone. As much as people talk about GUIs, we all still wrote vbscripts and batch files. You can try to avoid using Powershell, or you can embrace it. I've never seen anyone learn Powershell, and end up thinking that was a waste of time.

Fri, Mar 9, 2012 Bob

I've been in IT for 40+ years, yes, the Dos world. All of us Dos (not commmand prompt) people, jumped up and praised the Lord when GUI arrived. Keep GUI forever. If you can figure out all of the command line text, then you can figure out how to put those in a GUi

Fri, Mar 9, 2012 Mike

"Has Microsoft gone completely PowerShell mad?" I hope so! Without automation we are gonna be buried under all these servers.

Fri, Mar 9, 2012 Crotchety Old Guy

I am one of the folks that began honing my networking skills around 1990 with Novell Netware, Artisoft Lantastic, and BBSes. During the mid to late 90s I embraced the GUI and TCP/IP. By 2000 I had become a Microsoft convert thanks to their intuitive GUIs. In the aughts I peered at Linux now and again. I was intrigued, but kept becoming turned off by the need to use the command line. To this day I am still passionate about my use of the GUI. PowerShell only interests me as a necessary evil, not a primary tool. Along those lines, Metro is also not conducive to the power user’s use of Windows (note the “s”), as it really only supports Window. If I wanted the command line as a primary interface I would have moved to Linux long ago. If I wanted an alternate GUI I can use a Mac or some of the user friendly Linux flavors.

Fri, Mar 9, 2012 Marco Shaw

For as long as I can remember, SQL Server has always had a command-line install interface. To be honest, I'd be surprised if it wasn't the old setup.exe that was used, so this is actually not PowerShell magic perse, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong...

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