Welcome to Server Manager … 2012-style



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Well, another summer has passed, kids are back in school and the folks here at Microsoft have been reeeeeeally busy getting the final touches on many, many new products.

One of those new products is our newest server Operating System – Windows Server 2012.

In case you hadn’t heard, it recently was RTM’d (Released to Manufacturing). That means we sealed the code on our side and delivered it to our partners so they can finalize their drivers and other work against a ‘locked down’ OS. General availability of the OS is scheduled for September 4th. You HAVE signed up for the virtual launch event, haven’t you?? http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/new.aspx

Similar to prior versions of our Server OS, once you get the new OS installed and logon for the first time, you are welcomed to your new server with a tool/interface to help you manage and configure the server.

The idea of a holistic in-the-box configuration and management tool for Windows Server has evolved over time. There were scattered tools in NT, while improvements in Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003 brought a more unified approach but I’d venture to say, those went mostly unused.

In Windows Server 2008, we introduced a drastically new Server Manager and I considered it pretty darn good except for the GLARING horror that one could not manage remote servers from it.

Windows Server 2008 R2 took what was good in 2008 and made it even better; it even added some management of remote servers (below).



Windows Server 2012 begins a new chapter in our server management story.

Let’s discuss a few aspects of this newest Server Manager. This is not meant to be an end-to-end post but to spark your interest and curiosity.

First, I’ll refer to the TechNet definition of the new Server Manager:

“… a management console in Windows Server® 2012 that helps IT professionals provision and manage both local and remote Windows-based servers from their desktops, without requiring either physical access to servers, or the need to enable Remote Desktop protocol (RDP) connections to each server.”

Second, a few key points about the new Server Manager:

  • Fresh new UI style
    • Echoing the new UI style of Windows 8/Server 2012 and other similar consoles such as the AD Administrative Center
  • Remote and GUI-less management
    • With Server Manager, we can manage multiple servers with a high degree of functionality from a single console, including GUI-less server CORE systems.
    • This makes the idea of wide spread deployment of GUI-less or Server Core systems much more palatable for many enterprises.
  • Powershell integration and self-help/knowledge-share
    • As we evolve application and infrastructure management, the use/development of Powershell continues to grow.
    • Server Manager is following suit like several other GUI Management consoles – Exchange, AD – and becoming a mere GUI front end for Powershell ‘innards’
    • Server Manager has numerous ways to view/export/import Powershell scripts, commands, histories and input files



Once we log in (or ‘sign in’ as it’s called now), Server Manager auto-launches and here is what we see – the ‘Dashboard’ view.


    • The Tiles are interactive and each line-item within each Tile is ‘clickable’
    • We can turn off the auto-launch at logon
    • The default refresh interval is 10 minutes, which can be configured 


    Issues and Status

    Issues are readily seen and line items can be clicked for more information or to begin working issues directly from here

    • Below, we see a Best Practice Analyzer Scan reported one issue on a Domain Controller.

    • We click the red line-item to see what the issue is. Then, once we address the issue, we re-run the scan, which comes back clean. The Tile updates and shows no current issues

    Important: The “status” and other monitoring aspects of Server Manager are helpful but are no replacement for a true monitoring system such as SCOM.

    This TechNet article discusses some of the capacity measures and results that have been tested – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh831453.aspx



    Click the link to launch the Local Server configuration view (similar to the Initial Configuration Task view from 2008/R2):



    Adding Roles and Features is now combined in a single Wizard


    From this Wizard, you can add/remove Roles or Features on:

    • The local server – automatically a member of the “Server Pool” – a group of servers which can be managed from the local Server Manager instance
    • A remote server from the Server Pool
      • In my screenshot, I haven’t added any other servers to the Server Pool, so only the local server is listed
    • You can also target a “virtual hard disk”
      • This allows you to target offline 2012 Virtual Machines

    So, think about this – we can add the AD DS Role and run the complete Promotion Wizard including a reboot for a remote Server 2012 system.


    NOTE: The “DESTINATION SERVER” field helps you keep track of where you’re deploying the Role or Feature.



    I mentioned the Server Pool above – here’s how to add servers to it.

    • From Server Manager, click Manage > Add Servers > reference the screenshots



    Now you can manage the remote server (HildeVM05 in the screen shot) from the local instance of Server Manager (running on HildeVM03)

    • Notice ‘Restart Server’ – a handy way to remotely reboot a server
    • Notice ‘Windows PowerShell’ – this will open a remote-targeted instance of PS
    • Notice ‘Add Roles and Features’ – yes, ladies and gentlemen, we can remotely add/remove Roles and Features
    • To remove a server from the Pool, right-click it and select ‘Remove Server’
    • See the topic below about Server Groups for some caveats on remote legacy OS management



    There are Server Groups created for you based on Role(s) installed locally (i.e. AD DS) but you can also create your own grouping of servers and manage them from your Server Manager console.

    • Example: consider a team supporting an HR application that runs on 4 specific servers as a possible use-case.
    • Start the creation wizard, give the Server Group a name, find, select and add servers and click OK.


    Most of the tools you use are available via right-click of the server or via the “Tools” drop-down.

    • Note – some tools launch targeted at the selected server (i.e. DNS Manager) but some don’t (i.e. ADSIEDIT)
    • Note – repeating some specific coolness, in case you were sleeping earlier:
      • You can remotely reboot a server from here
      • You can open a remote Powershell session from here

    Limited legacy OS support is provided within Server Manager for remote systems – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh921475

    • 2008/R2 requirements – provides partial functionality
      • DotNet Framework 4.0
      • Windows Management Framework 3.0
      • Remote Management & Remote Powershell enabled
      • Hotfix for Performance counters (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2682011)
      • WINRM –quickconfig


    • 2003/R2 requirements – limited functionality (system up/down)
      • DotNet Framework 2.0
      • Windows Management Framework 2.0
      • Remote Powershell – Enable-psRemoting


    BONUS TOPIC – Portability of your well-crafted custom Server Groups

    Wouldn’t it be handy to create one or more Server Groups and have access to them beyond a single machine?

    This would be very helpful as you get into larger Server Groups or teams of people needing to manage multiple Server Groups.

    Check out the guidance at the bottom of this article – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh831456.aspx

    You can copy Server Groups and Server Manager config, too across machines … just another slice of awesome-pie for you J

    The Server Pool is an XML file called “serverList.XML” located in a user’s profile and if you create custom Server Groups, they’ll be in there, too:



    There are several Event Viewer Logs for troubleshooting Server Manager under “Applications and Services Logs”

    I could go on and on, telling you all about Service alerts, Performance trending, Best Practice Analyzer Scans, etc but I don’t want to spoil all your fun.

    Here are some links – go forth and learn MORE!

    Remote server management with Server Manager – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh831456.aspx

    How to do common tasks – http://technet.microsoft.com/library/hh831491.aspx

    Windows Server 2012 on TechNet – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsserver/hh534429.aspx

    Windows Server 2012 Technical Library – http://technet.microsoft.com/library/hh801901.aspx

    Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate Server Manager PDF – http://download.microsoft.com/download/2/E/C/2EC3EA6D-4EE8-4A0F-9CB2-704C9B60305C/WS%202012%20White%20Paper_Server%20Management.pdf