Recently I got a chance to install Windows Server 2012. I started out with the intention to get acquainted with Server Core, but found that I have to brush up on my command line and PowerShell skills before we do anything with Core in production. To get a feel for the install process I also set up a virtual machine running Windows 2012 with the GUI.
For both installations, the process took just a bit longer than I spent heading across the office to get some coffee. Very impressive. This post isn’t about the time taken to install, but an initial first look at one of my favorite areas of Server 2012, Server Manager. I intend to be high level and not dig too much into the details until I get a better chance to look at the features more.
After first installation of the RTM version of Windows Server 2012, I can honestly say, I do not miss the start menu. I am quite sure I am in the minority here, so let me explain.
The Start Menu was a way to access the installed applications, settings, and documents on a computer. When looking for something on the start menu, it would expand and slide out to produce new levels of the menu. Sometimes the sub-menus would fill the screen. When that happens, there are times when I might miss the option I wanted and click the desktop or another area, launching either the wrong item or canceling the menu and dumping me back to square one to begin again.
I learned this from Microsoft Office when in Office 2010 the File menu became a full screen area called “BackStage” that allowed me to focus on the settings and options of the open program rather than trying to work with menus and submenus.
Now that this has made it to Windows and Windows Server in a manner of speaking through the Start Screen, I rather like the new way of doing things. Even though I have been working with Windows 8 since the early builds, I still have to remember things are different this time around.
While search came in to the forefront in recent versions of Windows, Search is really a focal point in Windows Server 2012. The new charms bar includes a charm for search to help navigate administrators in that direction. Search is the fastest way to locate things in this release. Many of the things that I use as an administrator are now in different locations or run differently in the Windows 8/2012 native style applications and their traditional desktop counterparts. Searching for apps and settings makes them much easier to locate and keeps you from needing to pin things all over the place to find them later.
Being the main entry point for management of a server OS for those using the GUI, the inclusion of features to manage both the local server and remote servers all from the same interface. That is a huge step forward. I will admit, I am working to learn PowerShell to remove reliance on the graphical tools, but until I am comfortable enough to use only command line based tools, the new server manager will be very useful.
My curiosity has me wondering if server manager in Windows Server 2012 can plug into servers running older versions of Windows to reduce the need for remote desktop for those operating systems as well.
Edit: Brian Lewis, Microsoft DPE for Wisconsin wrote a blog post about getting the management tools including PowerShell 3.0 for other versions of Windows - Thanks Brian.
Being able to see information about services and events on the local server right from the main screen is simply useful. No longer do I need to open event viewer and services consoles to investigate issues that may be happening on the server.
My favorite feature in both client and server is Storage Spaces, because of the redundancy they offer with seemingly simple configuration. Because there is some interesting technology behind the scenes of Storage Spaces, it does deserve its own post. That one is coming soon.