Server Manager Responds to Users' Needs

This installment begins a five-part series by contributing editor Greg Shields and will take a hard look at Microsoft's upcoming Windows Server 2008 operating system, also commonly known as "Longhorn." The series will hold a magnifying glass up to the product's new technical features to evaluate their usefulness to IT admins, as well as how it affects a range of other core Microsoft server and desktop products.

Are you tired of opening 19 different consoles to manage a single Windows server? Does the process of searching for just the right console drive you up the wall? It appears that for most of us it has, because with the upcoming
Windows Server 2008 it looks like Microsoft has listened.

Server Manager is Redmond's new Microsoft Management Console (MMC), which consolidates many, though not all, of the management functions in Server 2008. This centralized console is the replacement for Computer Management in previous versions of the server OS. In addition to augmenting some of the key residents of Computer Management, like adding Reliability and Performance Management and an improved Event Viewer and Task Scheduler, Server Manager centralizes the management and configuration of native server functionality into a single location.

Roles, Role Services and Features
With Server Manager and Server 2008, the responsibilities given to a Windows server are now broken into Roles, Role Services and Features. This componentization of the operating system is done partially to eliminate the security risks of including these services with the core installation. It also means that each dependency for a server responsibility is known at the time of installation. Attempting to install a new server role will automatically present the administrator with the prerequisites that are necessary. It even installs them automatically.

Read the rest of of Greg Shields' five-part "The Drive to Longhorn" series:

Part 1: Server Manager Responds to Users' Needs

Part 2: Longhorn's Terminal Services: The Server Manager

Part 3: Active Directory Improvements

Part 4: Getting Manageable

Part 5: Longhorn's File Services Role

But what are Roles, Role Services and Features? According to the Server 2008's help file, Microsoft labels Roles as those components that "describe the primary function, purpose or use of a computer." Role Services are considered "software programs that provide the functionality of a role." So, we can say here that while a Role is a desired state for a server, the associated Role Services are the components that actually get the job done.

Features are another ballgame completely. Intended to be other functions the server can perform that are either non- or semi-related to the functionality of its installed Roles and Role Services, Features is the optional bits of code that perform additional functions.

Proper Installation
Adding new Roles, Role Services and Features is as easy as right-clicking the correct node in Server Manager and selecting Add Role or Add Feature. All dependencies for the desired new functionality will be identified and any pre-installation configuration questions will be asked before the install begins. By adding components to Server 2008 in this way, the administrator can be ensured that they're being installed properly with the correct prerequisites. There's even a command-line version of Server Manager called servermanagercmd.exe that can install or remove components through scripts or from the command line.

Time will tell if other third-party utilities register themselves with Server Manager or whether its centralized role will be used for Microsoft's products only. Hopefully other vendors will recognize the added value of providing Server Manager-capable components for their products as well. But until then, and until Server 2008 ships, we'll just have to keep going to Add/Remove Programs like we've been doing for years when it comes time to add new functionality to our servers.

About the Author

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.


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