Is PowerShell Really the Only Future for Windows Admins?
Whether or not the future of Windows administration will be the command line, you're doing yourself a disservice by not at least strongly considering this possibility (and preparing accordingly).
- By Greg Shields
Right now, you've got a choice if you want to remain relevant as an IT professional: Learn Windows PowerShell, or learn ‘Do you want fries with that?'"
These harsh but eye-opening words are attributed to Redmond columnist Don Jones, both my business partner at Concentrated Technology and a world-renowned Windows PowerShell trainer. In but a few sharp words, Jones asserts that Windows PowerShell is the undeniable future. And while it might have a learning curve, which technologies in IT don't?
Either figure it out, or find something else to do.
While "Jones' Dilemma" is particular to Windows PowerShell itself, its roots have me thinking even further out. His wisdom makes me wonder how Microsoft envisions its server OS into the medium-term future. As one ponders the advancements -- those both publicly heralded and others quietly updated under the covers -- one might connect the dots toward a future where the only Windows Server UI no longer offers the "G."
The Next Generation
That future state strikes sheer terror into the heart of many an IT pro, most specifically the newest generation. This latest class represents individuals who didn't feel the early pains of Windows. For an industry barely past its infancy, ah, how things have changed.
And yet the potential attributable to the command-line-only Windows Server is patently impressive. Check Task Manager on any freshly built Windows Server today and you'll find dozens of running processes, many of which exist merely to make things pretty for the eager mouse-clicking administrator. Run a network scan against that same server and you'll find dozens more ports open and listening.
Eliminating the Endpoints
Running Windows securely has long required a litany of third-party "security" solutions (quotes intentional), many of which exist for no more reason than to reactively protect OS endpoints that needn't be there in the first place. Eliminate the GUI, and you go far toward eliminating the endpoints.
Arguably, as Jones is known for pointing out, a command-line OS also substantially improves administrative efficacy -- but only if you know Windows PowerShell.
It's exactly those automations that make the command-line OS that much more powerful to its text-only shell elite. A competent scripter can create or modify 7,000 user accounts as quickly as seven. That same shell savant can validate a server's configuration with a keystroke, eliminating all the silly graphical crutches one requires to do the same with Windows Server today. Truly brilliant shell experts might wield thousands of
Windows Servers beneath their well-worn keyboard, returning the role of systems administrator back to its venerable roots in green-screen intelligentsia, rather than highly paid button-clicker.
All this might sound great if you're the grey-bearded mainframe guru, yearning for those good old days when servers were few and computers were science. But the other you, responsible for ensuring the datacenter runs the business, should pay respect to this potential command-line future. There simply isn't much of the intelligentsia to go around today, and one can bet that those remaining as part of it don't come cheaply.
That's why recognizing and acting now on Jones' Dilemma is so vitally important. Notwithstanding, if you're the systems administrator who's affected by the OS of the future or the manager in charge of them, that day just feels soon at hand. Everything about security and performance, administrative optimization and automation -- the entirety of what IT is all about -- seems to point toward the Windows of tomorrow being the Unix of decades ago.
Just in case it does happen, you might start prepping now. Those grease burns...well...they hurt more than your former career path could've ever imagined.
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Greg Shields is Author Evangelist with PluralSight, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @concentratedgreg.