Server Manager Responds to Users' Needs
- By Greg Shields
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.
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.
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
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.