Tuesday 17 July 2012

Server Core Versus Server With A GUI Install Options in Windows Server 2012

It took six months to a year to work out all of the needed commands to get our first Hyper-V Server 2008 RTM up and running. We had it up and running in that first three months but it took another three just to find the right people to ask "How do we do _this_ please?"

In the midst of that and beyond it took another three to six months to figure out how to stand up a failover cluster on the Intel Modular Server.

From there it took about three months to get things working with two nodes and a SAS based DAS storage unit.

Was it worth it? Yes.

Would we do it again? Yes.

Is it for everybody? Absolutely not.

Server Core

While the Windows world "pine"d for the command line in Windows, which we received with Core, and then PowerShell (gives the *NIX/*BSD commands and piping a run for their money), the reality hit home really hard.

Figuring out NetDom and NetSH were a heartache and a half. The Man Pages in *NIX/*BSD were vastly superior to the in-OS Help and way beyond the pitiful online stuff at that time.

Microsoft picked up on the Man Pages and now we see that PowerShell has a similar Help structure as do the commands in the command line (not quite in a pitiful state anymore). The online content is still weak especially when a product is new. There are Online Help gems in the rough but they can be a tough find.

Product focused blogs tend to be better sources for specific information and instructions on how to get something going.

Why Core?

  • Secure: It's exposure is ultra-slim relative to its Server with a GUI sibling. Less is More.
  • Stable: It does not need to be patched nearly as much as Server with a GUI.
  • Uptime: We have Hyper-V Server 2008 RTM/R2 servers that have been running for a _long_ time due to load scheduling.
  • Remote Managed: A Core install can be managed just as easily as a Server with a GUI install can (with HVRemote it does not matter whether host/remote are in a domain or not).
  • Consistent: With the right series of scripts in hand the Core setup can be duplicated time and again. It can be argued that Server with a GUI is the same but then if one is using a full set of scripts why is the Server with a GUI there exactly?
  • Resources: Core uses significantly less in the way of hardware resources to get the job done over Server with a GUI. In intense workloads every thread processed by the CPU(s) counts.

The next step for us now is to start into PowerShell since v3 will be on Server Core 2012 providing a very robust server management environment over Server with a GUI.


It is our preference to build out our Hyper-V clusters on Server Core. It is our preference to run high load servers on Server Core. And, it is our preference to run servers and services on Server Core where uptime is an important factor.

There is management overhead and a learning curve involved in Server Core. Getting a remote client to connect to a Server Core host to manage it can be a challenge. And, getting a Server Core install up and running with stability and consistency takes time and practice.

In the end, the skill set learned is _worth_ it. Those skills can be carried into virtually any Windows Server environment and used.

Further Reading

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

*Our original iMac was stolen (previous blog post). We now have a new MacBook Pro courtesy of Vlad Mazek, owner of OWN.

Windows Live Writer

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