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PowerShell's Presence in Windows Server 8

Microsoft shared some information this week on the relationship between Windows Server 8 and PowerShell.

The graphical user interface (GUI) is still there with the new Server Manager management client, which has the new Metro-style user interface. However, Microsoft sees PowerShell scripting as a key element in managing and automating processes in Windows Server 8. PowerShell runs in a command-line interface (CLI), but it won't be a strict GUI vs. CLI choice for IT pros using Windows Server 8, according to Erin Chapple, a group program member on the Windows Server manageability team.

Instead, Microsoft sees PowerShell as "additive," rather than a replacement for the GUI, she explained in a recent blog post. Microsoft is providing options on how to use the GUI and PowerShell with Windows Server 8.

One example is the Windows PowerShell integrated scripting environment (ISE). It's a shell that supports "intellisense" for code completion when writing scripts. It has a new "show command" window that lists the current 2,300-plus PowerShell cmdlets. Microsoft also added a "snippets" function in the ISE that shows PowerShell scripting patterns that IT pros can grab and use.

Microsoft's best practices concept for Windows Server 8 is to run it in its stripped-down Server Core configuration, which reduces the server's attack surface. It can be managed without the GUI using PowerShell, but those IT pros who get nostalgic about the GUI have an option to get it back that doesn't require reinstalling the server. The GUI can be added or removed from Server Core by using Microsoft's "SCONFIG CLI tool, Windows PowerShell or the Add/Remove Roles and Features Wizard," according to Chapple.

A second best-practices concept for managing Windows Server 8 is to keep the management client off the server to free up server resources. Microsoft is promoting the use of remote management of Windows Server 8, where the management client is not installed on the server. To that effect, a beta of Remote Server Administrative Tools for the Windows 8 consumer preview beta was released last week. The tools include Server Manager, PowerShell, and Microsoft Management Console snap-ins, which will provide a GUI interface to manage Windows Server 8, even in its Server Core configuration, using a remote client. Microsoft is generally promising that IT pros will have a "firewall friendly" remote experience when managing Windows Server 8.

Another scenario is to use the "minimal server experience" tools option. The minimal server experience, according to Chapple, "allows GUI tools to run on Server Core but does not install the desktop shell or Internet Explorer." She describes it as an "in-between option" for managing Windows Server 8 in its Server Core configuration.

Microsoft has explained that it eventually wants to enable IT pros to grab PowerShell scripts from the Server Manager GUI. These scripts can then be plugged into runtimes to help automate processes. While that's the goal, the full capability wasn't quite ready when Microsoft released the Windows Server 8 beta last week.

The move to a CLI-like user interface with PowerShell to manage Windows Server 8 may seem like a step backward for Microsoft with its history of building GUI-friendly products, but it evolved as a way to facilitate automation in Windows Server 8. PowerShell's inventor, Jeffrey Snover, a distinguished engineer on the Windows Server team, set out single-handedly to solve automation issues with Windows Server and his PowerShell scripting process was the result of that work. It's devised along a "think, type and get" scheme.

PowerShell is here to stay on Windows Server 8 for another reason. Server Manager's multimachine management capabilities depend partly on PowerShell's new workflow capabilities, Chapple explained.

"Virtually every operation done using Server Manager can also be done via Windows PowerShell," she added.

So, while Microsoft hasn't killed off the GUI on Windows Server 8, it's definitely upped PowerShell's status as a management tool, and the company has been putting out educational resources along those lines. For instance, Microsoft recently announced that there will be a series of PowerShell educational sessions for administrators hosted by Ed Wilson (also known as Microsoft's "scripting guy") starting on March 12.

Video demos of new Hyper-V PowerShell cmdlets for use with the Windows Server 8 beta can be seen here. Microsoft also announced that it has released a PowerShell reference sheet for file and storage services in Windows Server 8.

Many of Microsoft's PowerShell resources can be found at its "script center" here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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