Windows Server 2008 Core

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Windows Server 2008, when it ships later this year, will include an installation option called “Server Core” that allows admins to set up a minimal environment to run a handful of roles. At TechEd 2007 in Orlando, Microsoft announced that it will be adding yet another admin-selectable role option to Server Core: Internet Information Services 7.0 (IIS7), Microsoft’s Web server.

Windows Server 2008 (the product which was known, until quite recently as Longhorn Server) has been designed since its inception to consist of a core foundation with roles layered atop it. Instead of uninstalling functionality, customers will add on specific roles and features that they want/need to run.

You can enable 8 different types of role in Core:

  • Active Directory Domain Services
  • Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS)
  • Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) Server
  • DNS Server
  • File Services
  • Print Server
  • Streaming Media Services
  • IIS 7 (just added)
  • Codename Viridian (Hypervisor virtualisation) – Confirmed june 8th. ny Microsoft.

There’s also some basic functionality that you can use:

  • Microsoft Failover Cluster
  • Network Load Balancing
  • Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications
  • Windows Backup
  • Multipath I/O
  • Removable Storage Management
  • Windows Bitlocker Drive Encryption
  • Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)
  • Windows Internet Naming Service (WINS)
  • Telnet client
  • Quality of Service (QoS)

For example, you could have a branch office that requires a lightweight DC but does not have appropriate physical security.  They’ll probably also want DHCP and DNS.  The answer?  Install a Core OS, enable the AD Services, DHCP and DNS roles, promote it to be a read-only domain controller and use BitLocker to encrypt the hard drive.  You’ve now provided the necessary network services for the branch office and protected the infrastructure against potential theft of a DC (something that is very, very bad).

I can also see how Core would be great for organisations with a huge web presence, e.g. hosting companies.  You can deploy many lightweight virtual Core servers with IIS enabled.  Their OS caused disk and RAM footprint will be small which is perfect for virtualisation.  Now you can sell many exclusive use servers to your clients with little impact on your infrastructure and at a much reduced cost.

Microsoft lists the following benefits:

  • Reduced maintenance. Because a Server Core installation installs only what is required to have a manageable DHCP, File, Print, DNS, Media Services, AD LDS, or Active Directory server, less maintenance is required.
  • Reduced attack surface. Because Server Core installations are minimal, fewer services and applications run on the server, thereby decreasing the attack surface.
  • Reduced management. Because fewer applications and services are installed on a server running the Server Core installation, there is less to manage.
  • Less disk space required. A Server Core installation only requires about 1 gigabyte (GB) of disk space to install and approximately 2 GB for operations after the installation.

Check it out if this sounds of interest to you.  Beta 3 of Windows Server 2008 was released to the public (for testing and evaluation only) about a month ago.

About Author

My name is Ronni Pedersen and I'm currently working as a Cloud Solution Architect at EG A/S in Denmark. My primary focus is Enterprise Client Management solutions, based on technologies like AzureAD, Intune, EMS and System Center Configuration Manager. I'm is also a Microsoft Certified Trainer and Microsoft MVP in Enterprise Mobility.

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