Back in the days of my youth, long, long ago, you could buy a car with no options—no fancy gee-qaws like leather upholstery, chrome wheels or even a radio. It rolled down the highway on bicycle skinny bias-ply tires with narrow white-wall stripes on the side. Those cars were basic transportation, pure and simple.
Microsoft has embraced the concept of the no-frills model with the introduction of Windows Server Core 2008, an oxymoron of an operating system—Windows without windows—a gui-less, wizard-less, command prompt driven contradiction of everything a Windows administrator, such as myself, was raised to believe in.
But Server Core makes perfect sense when you consider that the graphical version of Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition requires 20 GB of disk space for the 32 bit version, and 32 GB for the 64 bit installation. All of the cool management consoles, diagnostic tools, and enhanced displays requires additional services, and uses more memory and processor power.
Sometimes you don’t need all that. Sometimes Server Core will get the job done for you with less fuss, muss and excitement. It requires as little as 2GB of disk space, and needs far fewer hotfixes, patches and updates to stay secure, because well, there’s less operating system to secure.
Core shines as an infrastructure server functioning as a Domain Controller, Global Catalog, DNS, DHCP, or running the Hyper-V virtualization platform. It is an excellent choice as an RODC in branch office site, and can even be Bitlocked for additional security.
Installation and setup of Core can be a bit of a challenge. Unattended answer files are helpful for initial configuration of Core after setup, and are required when running DCPROMO if you want to create a domain controller. An excellent guide to setup and management for Server Core is found at:
Server Core requires that you get familiar with command line tools such as Ocsetup, Netsh, Netdom and others. Those tools can be very useful on graphical installs of Windows and are worth learning. Powershell is not available in the present version of Server Core, but that will be remedied with the R2 incarnation which is coming soon.
Maybe it is a sign of the times — do more with less – with Server Core.
Author: Mark Menges