Windows Tip Sheet

Getting Ready for Longhorn

While the next Windows Server will be huge, a core version of it will be excitingly stripped-down and efficient.

Although it's a way off, still (late 2007 is, I believe, the current estimate), that doesn't mean you can't start thinking about what Windows Longhorn Server will mean for your environment. And you'll want it in your environment: Longhorn is possibly the most compelling server OS we've had since...well, Windows NT 3.1, I think. It's not the revolutionary change that Win2000 was (with its introduction of Active Directory), but some of the things in Longhorn will just beg to be used in any environment.

My current favorite is Server Core, a 500MB, stripped-down, "windowless" version of Longhorn that can act as a file server, domain controller (DC), DNS server and/or DHCP server. I know, 500MB. I'm thinking a nice 1U rackmount server or blade that has, oh, 8GB of RAM (x64 processor, of course) and a pretty small hard drive. And this is what you should be thinking of now: how you'll utilize Server Core when it finally arrives. This is going to be the most stable version of Windows ever, simply because it has so few "moving parts." If the industry estimate of 1 bug per 1,000 lines of code is close, I'm betting 500MB of code will contain a lot fewer bugs than the full-on version of Longhorn, which is going to be huge. 500MB means less patches, less potential vulnerabilities and less maintenance. "Windowless" means servers you can lock in a closet and manage entirely from your desktop, since there's no GUI on the server in the first place.

My suggestion: Start arranging your environment so that infrastructure servers include just the servers that Server Core supports. These machines can be the first ones replaced by Longhorn machines (you can't "upgrade" to Server Core; it's a fresh install on a replacement machine). So consolidate DCs, DHCP and DNS onto boxes that have no other functionality on them, making them perfect server-for-server swapouts when Longhorn finally becomes available.

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author/Evangelist for video training company Pluralsight. Don is also a co-founder and President of PowerShell.org, a community dedicated to Microsoft’s Windows PowerShell technology. Don has more than two decades of experience in the IT industry, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. He’s the author of more than 50 technology books, an accomplished IT journalist, and a sought-after speaker and instructor at conferences worldwide. Reach Don on Twitter at @concentratedDon, or on Facebook at Facebook.com/ConcentratedDon.

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