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Server Core provides a stripped-down and secure Windows build.
DIFFICULT ON PURPOSE
After lobbing a few curses at our Server Core box for making simple tasks more difficult, it dawned on us that it's no easier to do things in Linux. And the reality is that Server Core is supposed to be more difficult to manage. It's a hardened OS that's designed to be more secure, efficient, and stable, and as far as command-line-only operating environments go, we still found it easier to navigate around a Server Core shell versus a Linux shell.
As we became more comfortable working in a black hole--and absorbed TechNet documentation describing how to execute basic administrative tasks--we realized that Server Core, like PowerShell, will become easier to manage over time as we learn the syntax. And that brings us to the good things about Server Core. The first nicety is a Cisco IOS-like help menu for locating command parameters. For example, if you type Netsh /? or Netdom /? at the command prompt, you'll get a list of possible parameters that you can issue following the Netsh or Netdom command, just as you would on a Cisco router. You can then follow up by issuing a Netdom add /? in an effort to build out an entire command via the help menu.
Another benefit is that, once you're up to speed on command syntax, you can add and remove server roles like lightning. It took just five seconds to install the DHCP server role, for example. Finally, we like how easy it is to list and kill locally running processes on a Server Core build.
The biggest shortcomings are a lack of snap-ins provided by Microsoft to change basic items like computer name, domain membership, networking properties, and hardware additions. It's also annoying that you can't upgrade to a full build of Windows Server from a Server Core build, and vice versa. But these are manageable and worth wrangling to gain the safety and efficiency of Server Core.
Next up in our Longhorn Rolling Review, we'll take a closer look at Server 2008's new capabilities in the Network Access Protection space.
Microsoft Server 2008 Server Core
About This Rolling Review:
In this new breed of Rolling Review, we're analyzing the most intriguing new features of Windows Server 2008. Where competition exists, we'll run bake-offs in our Boston Real-World Labs. When a capability is unique, we'll put it through its paces and tell you what we find.