Posey's Tips & Tricks

Is PowerShell Making System Center Obsolete?

Brien discusses how Microsoft's continued push and integration for PowerShell may be shifting the role System Center has in the enterprise.

Those of you who follow my work know that I write a ton of content each month for a number of different sites. Even so, there is one thing that really makes this blog unique. Out of all of the writing that I do, this blog is the only place where I am able to write about whatever happens to be on my mind at the moment. With that said, I have to tell you about a rather bizarre thought that I had earlier today. I wondered if in some strange, twisted way, Microsoft could be potentially making its System Center products obsolete by placing such a strong emphasis on PowerShell.

OK, I know that many of you are probably scratching your heads and wondering what I am smoking, but let me explain where this idea came from. About a year ago, I was in Redmond for a Windows Server 2012 preview event. During that event, one of the presenters said that going forward PowerShell was going to be the preferred method for managing Windows Server. He went on to explain that Microsoft would be encouraging organizations to install Windows Server 2012 as a server core deployment and to use PowerShell as the primary management tool.

With that in mind, let's fast forward to the present day. Over about the last month I have been working on a book dealing with Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V. Even though the bulk of the book deals with GUI based management tools (the Hyper-V Manager and the Failover Cluster Manager), there is one chapter that serves as a deep dive on PowerShell management for Hyper-V.

I hadn't originally intended to discuss PowerShell management for Hyper-V at length, but I spent a lot of time getting my hands dirty with PowerShell in preparation for writing the chapter. As I did, I was astounded by just how much PowerShell has improved since the days of Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2. By the time that I was ready to start writing, I just couldn't wait to show my readers all of the cool things that they could do with PowerShell.

I wrapped up the PowerShell portion of my book about a week ago. This morning, I was working on an unrelated assignment for TechNet magazine and I decided to install the beta of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1. As I explored the Virtual Machine Manager interface, I began to realize that many of the product's capabilities could be emulated through PowerShell.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that PowerShell is a replacement for Virtual Machine Manager or any of the other System Center products. There are some functions that either cannot be performed through native PowerShell or that are beyond my scripting abilities. Even so, my experiences really made me stop and think.

Right now most of the Windows administrators that I know tend to avoid PowerShell like the plague. Even so, Microsoft has been stressing the fact that Windows admins need to learn PowerShell because PowerShell is not going away any time soon. It therefore stands to reason that there will eventually come a time when most Windows administrators feel comfortable working with PowerShell. This transition might even occur sooner rather than later because Microsoft has been putting more and more PowerShell questions on their certification exams, thereby forcing administrators to learn PowerShell in order to get certified.

So if most Windows admins eventually get comfortable with PowerShell, and if much of the functionality in System Center Virtual Machine Manager can be achieved through PowerShell, then it seems conceivable that there might eventually come a time when some administrators opt to build their own management scripts in PowerShell (or download PowerShell scripts from the Internet) rather than spending big bucks for System Center products.

So is PowerShell making System Center obsolete? In spite of evidence to the contrary, I don't really think so. There will always be administrators who prefer the GUI environment to dealing with PowerShell. Besides, Virtual Machine Manager comes with its own PowerShell module (as do other System Center products) that is designed to simplify PowerShell based management. These modules allow administrators to use simple cmdlets to accomplish tasks that would otherwise require them to write complex PowerShell scripts.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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