An early look at new features in Server Core

At Tech∙Ed last week some information emerged on Windows Server 2008 R2. Specifically some information was handed out on the Server Core installation option in the successor to Windows Server 2008. Let’s take an early look at the differences between Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 and Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 R2.

Note:
This information applies to Windows Server 2008 R2 during the pre-Beta timeframe. In the time up until the Release to Manufacturers (RTM) of the successor to Windows Server 2008, this information may change.

 

New features

.Net framework available

The first big difference between Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 and Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 R2 is the availability of .Net Framework in the latter installation. The availability of .Net Framework also indicates support for managed code. All rumors indicate .Net Framework will be available as a separate installable role.

.Net Framework 2.0 will be included as well as a subset of .Net Framework 3.x. For .Net Framework 3.x this means the Windows Communications Foundation (WCF), Windows Workflow (WF) and Language Integrated Query (LINQ) will be included, but not the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) part.

Powershell included

Microsoft will also support Powershell locally on Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 R2. Today, in a Windows Server 2008 Server Core installation using Powershell on the console of Windows Server 2008 is not supported. (possible though) Using Powershell to remotely manage Server Core through WMI is possible in both Server Core installations.

Improved Internet Information Services

With the advent of .Net Framework in Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 R2, the Internet Information Services (IIS) feature set can also be expanded. ASP.Net will be a supported configuration on Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 R2.

Active Directory Certificate Services Role

James O’Neill mentions on his blog Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 R2 will include the ability to install the Active Directory Certificate Services role, to make a Server Core installation a Certificate Authority. This to me is a huge improvement in the “Server Core as Infrastructure Server” category. I’m very interested to see how this pans out. My main questions at this point are whether a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 can be made an Enterprise Root Certificate Authority (CA) and whether a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition will be able to offer certificate auto-enrollment.

File Server Resource Manager (FSRM)

File Server Resource Manager (FSRM) will be a new role in Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 R2 as well. File Server Resource Manager (FSRM) expands the capabilities of a Windows file server with quota management, file screens and storage reports. This is a huge improvement for administrators wanting to deploy Server Core installations as file servers in their environments.

In-place Upgrade

Another interesting tidbit in Server Core in the Windows Server 2008 R2 timeframe is the ability to upgrade a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 to a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 R2 in-place.

Console tool

Hyper-V Server 2008 (Microsoft’s free and ‘stand alone’ hypervisor) includes a tool named HVConfig.cmd. This tool helped administrators to more easily configure the box.

Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 don’t include a tool like that and several Server Core enthusiasts have created a couple of useful tools to assist you. A similar tool to easily configure Server Core installations will be included in Windows Server 2008 R2.

 

 

Architecture

An important thing to remember for Windows Server 2008 R2 is there will not be a 32bit (x86) version. Windows Server 2008 R2 will be 64bit only. Microsoft has announced this architecture focus almost 1½ years ago. I called it Route 64 back then.

Windows on Windows (WoW) support for 32bit applications is included in Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 R2. Andrew Mason, the Program Manager for Server Core, indicates this support is currently included as an optional component.

 

 

Concluding

Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 R2 will provide more features. A trend is set to continue to provide a valuable alternative to Full installations, but it will still take years before any workloads beyond Windows Server Roles can be added in a supported way.

It would be nice to make a Server Core installation your Microsoft Exchange 2007 Edge Transport server, one of the Office Communications Server 2007 Edge servers or even a Microsoft Windows Terminal Services Remote Desktop Services gateway, wouldn’t it?

Further reading

Server 2008 R2 – Server Core changes.
Server Core changes in Windows Server 2008 R2
PowerShell on Server Core
File Server Resource Manager
Les nouveautés de Server Core dans Windows Server 2008 R2
Windows Server 2008’s Enterprise Ambitions
Windows 2008 R2 – 32 bit support optional
Server Core changes in Windows Server 2008 R2
Preview: Windows Server 2008 R2

Disclaimer Beta Software

The information on this webpage applies to software from Microsoft that was in testing phase but utilizable by experienced users by the time the webpage was written. This software has not been released for sale, distribution or usage for the general public. The information on this webpage and the beta software are provided “as is” without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.

2 Responses to An early look at new features in Server Core

  1.  

    Hi Sander,

    The side-effect of adding these features to Server Core is that you will most probably have more patches which also will apply to server core. Suppose you want to patch anyway even if you have or don’t have the feature enabled.

    What’s your opinion on this?

    Regards,

    Kenneth

  2.  

    Hi Kenneth,

    Thanks for your reply!

    From what I understood from Andrew Mason the goal is to make these new features separately installable after initial installation. The process would be the same as with the Active Directory role in Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008: When you add the role through ocsetup.exe, the binaries get copied from the role repository first and the role gets installed after that. When the Active Directory Domain Controller role is not installed, there are no vulnerable binaries installed, so there’s usually no need to install the patches destined for this role.

    In your case it seems you’d want to see a method to patch roles before installation. (Correct me if I’m wrong) The idea you might have at this moment is to customize a Windows Server 2008 image within the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) per role (or logical role group) with the installation of the role and the updates that apply to the role. You can then install the role and updates as part of the deployment sequence. You can easily find the updates that apply on The Hot Blog.

    Alternatively you can download and install the updates manually on a Server Core installation before installing the role, but my guess is some of these patches will check for role installation and thus won’t apply.

    If your goal is to simply update a Server Core installation as quickly as possible after installing a role you’d best take a look at my post on Manually updating a Server Core installation and combining it with Windows Server Update Services. You’re touching the box already, so why not touch it twice…

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