5 areas of Microsofts vision on Systems Management

Microsoft products cover a multitude of technologies, and thus are managed by a multitude of management attitudes, vision and scenarios. In the past Microsoft products lacked a common vision on management, but Microsoft is slowly changing this.

All Windows Server products will be manageable through:

  • Server Manager (locally on Full installations, remotely on all installations)
  • Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT)
  • Powershell (both locally and remotely)
  • System Center family of products

Depending on the complexity of the environment you could use any tool or any combination of tools to accomplish management tasks. Management in small environments can be done using Server Manager on the console of the server once in a while, where Service Level Agreements (SLA), reporting requirements, heterogeneity of systems and overall complexity in enterprise environments result in System Center implementations and PowerShell scripts to rapidly, consistently address management tasks.

All of these tools would have the same look and feel, so systems administrators would seamlessly be able to step up using more advanced functionality, resulting in an Unified Management experience.

Unified Management in its turn could result in real world implementations of Microsofts Dynamic Datacenter dream: The tools are now available to achieve it to some level.
The choice to implement a Server Core or Full installation in the Dynamic Datacenter can be made on real arguments and using VMWare ESX(i), Hyper-V enabled Windows Servers or Hyper-V servers should not matter.

Let’s take a look at 5 key areas of Microsoft vision on systems management:


1. Tasks-based management

Anyone that has used a MMC 3.0 Snap-in knows the right-hand pane with tasks.
Tasks will become the prevailing elements in the Graphical User Interface (GUI) of Microsofts management tools.


This change can be seen in the new Active Directory Administrative Center (ADAC), that replaces the new Active Directory Users and Computers (ADUC) MMC Snap-in (dsa.msc).
The management tool transforms from object-based to task-based. In the Active Directory Users and Computers (ADUC) MMC Snap-in (dsa.msc) to perform a password reset an administrator would have to drill down the Active Directory structure, right click an user object, select All tasks and then click the task to perform. In the Active Directory Administrative Center (ADAC) a password reset can be performed in the same manner, but also from the task pane with the object selected and straight from the object properties, as shown above:


2. One-Stop Console management

(Full Installations of) Windows Servers have had a Server Manager feature for a long time. Numerous Windows Server versions introduced numerous improvements on this feature.

Since Windows Server 2008 the Server Manager feature is your one-stop management tool for management on the console. The most common management tasks can be performed locally using the Server Manager tool.

In Windows Server 2008 R2 the Server Management feature is slated to be the one stop management tool for both local and remote (reactive) management. In this version of Windows Server the Server Manager console can be pointed to another installation of Windows Server and used to manage it, like you would on the console of that server.


3. Best Practice Management

Microsoft offers several Best Practices Analyzers. It started with the Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer (ExBPA). Soon afterwards several other product groups within Microsoft released their Best Practices Analyzers. Now several products have these analyzers, that can be used to identify and address misconfiguration practices that result in 90% of the unplanned downtime.

While several Server products received Best Practices Analyzers, Windows Server was left out. Fortunately this is going to change with Windows Server 2008 R2. Windows Server 2008 R2 is slated to have Best Practices Analyzers per role inside the Server Manager, as shown below for the Active Directory Domain Services role under Resources and Support:



4. Management through web services

In the past Microsoft products communicated using protocols like RPC and MAPI.  Newer products use protocols, more suitable for scenarios where bandwidth is more of an issue, where interoperability is more of an issue and perimeters are more transparent.

A perfect example of Microsoft web services is the new Active Directory management tools. The new Active Directory Administrative Center (ADAC) uses a web service available on Windows Server 2008 R2 Active Directory Domain Controllers.

Web services offer three distinct benefits:

  1. Web Services are more bandwidth agnostic
    Most of the protocols used in systems management rely on a minimum bandwidth to be able to operate. Below a certain bandwidth time-out errors occur. Web Services use the same optimizations as other web APIs, optimized for browsers in location with low bandwidth. For systems management scenarios where Branch Offices are involved this is very useful.
  2. Web Services can be used by other tools
    Microsoft-only environments are hard to find. In most environments applications and operating systems from other vendors are being used. All these systems need to be interoperable though, to allow productivity. Web services are the preferred standards-based way to realize Services-Oriented Architecture (SOA).
  3. Web Services make use of new technologies
    New technologies like IPv6 with built-in security and IPSec are used to protect the communication between hosts. These security measures or more granular, compared to those in previously used protocols.


5. Management on the command line

In the past Microsoft added commands to the Windows command line where needed to the standard command line, based on the MS-DOS command line. For instance Microsoft introduced the dsadd, dsmod, dsquery, dsget , dsmove and dsrm commands to allow command line management of Active Directory and Active Directory scripting.

Microsoft is slowly leaving these old scattered Windows commands behind in favor of Windows PowerShell. Windows PowerShell is the new command line shell and scripting language for management of systems, both locally and remotely. PowerShell is part of the Microsoft Common Engineering Criteria for 2009.

Products like Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 offer a Management Console that is entirely built upon underlying PowerShell commands. After clicking together a management action the underlying PowerShell command is shown and after executing the task, the output of the PowerShell command is shown:


Offering a consistent and robust scripting language is important to Microsoft. When  administrators use scripts instead of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) to manage systems, they can automate often performed management tasks, perform more management in the same time and make less errors.



Microsoft has a vision on Systems Management. Some parts of it have been around for a fair amount of time. Some are only rearing their head recently. It’s going to take time to execute on the vision.

If Microsoft fusterclucks on the execution I’ll just refer to this post to remind me where it was all heading…

Further reading

What’s New in AD DS: Active Directory Administrative Center
Active Directory Administrative Center – IT-professional Community Blog Dutch
Building a Dynamic Data Center
Solutions for Dynamic Data Centers
The Dynamic Datacenter
Dream Come True
Microsoft aims for unified management console
TechDays: Management and System Center sessions
Tech-Ed SVR318 Building your Next Generation Infrastructure on Windows Server 2008.
Monad’s new name – Windows PowerShell
[PDF] Best Practices for Software Projects: TaskBased Configuration
Service-oriented architecture
New to SOA and Web services
Windows Server 2008: Server Management
Test: Windows Server 2008 R2 Beta Dutch 
Diff between Windows PowerShell versions
PowerShell for Failover Clustering in Windows Server 2008 R2
Top 10 IT Pro Tasks Made Easier by 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.

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