The Windows Server 2008 Server Manager is a portal of sorts to the installation, configuration, management and monitoring of the roles and features. Your initial view of those roles and features will be rather empty because of course, you need to install the ones that are germane to your particular server.
Initial Server Manager Stuff
This screencast starts to get into the meat of WS 2008. In Beta 3, there are seventeen roles that are available in the GUI version of Windows Server 2008 Enterprise. The Core implementation of Enterprise has a different set of roles so we'll defer that discussion to some of the Core step-by-step screencasts I recorded.
None of the 17 roles are installed by default. None of the 35 features are installed either. That is by design. The firewall is running and blocking traffic on initial setup of WS 2008 but very little else (from an attack surface perspective) is enabled initially in the server. Role or feature installation is a wizard driven piece of cake. You can also install roles via the command line if needed.
Nope. Although you'll spend some time doing that initially, Server Manager is also a great management and monitoring tool. Think of the WS 2008 Server Man as being a digital dashboard where you can get a quick view of the health and well being of your server. You'll see server manager provide a summary view of the services that are executing, warnings or other critical errors requiring your attention, and access to the tools to diagnose and fix problems.
In the Summary view, you'll see computer, security, role and feature summary information. At a glance you'll see if there is a warning or error. Services that are having issues will be displayed and hot linked so that you can drill for more information and get to a root cause. It's simple and fast. It's task oriented. I think you'll like it because it combines a good set of the overall Windows Server 2008 toolset into a single location.
Must I use Server Manager for all of my server changes?
Nope. Although Server Manager consolidates many of the tools nicely, you can still use the administrative consoles that are specific to a service. For instance, if you install the DNS server service, access to the DNS console is available from the administrative tools group. You'll see that in the screencast demo.
Does Server Manager run on Windows XP or Windows Vista?
Nope. I'm sorry to say that, but that's the current answer. Now obviously that won't set well with a lot of you so I'll just say that we're working on the remote administrative models and have some things cooking I can't disclose at this time. However, you can use the usual tricks from your desktop. You can always use Terminal Services or RDP for remote management. In fact, that is one of the demos we're currently doing in our live seminars. I publish Server Manager as an RDP application and use it from another Windows Vista VM. I'll show you some of that in later screencasts as I show the tricked out VM's I built for our current content.
This screencast is a little longer than the previous two. It's right at nine minutes but gives you a nice demonstration of the capabilities in Server Manager. The next screencasts are around the Core Server implementation and we'll see how to install and configure an Enterprise Core server. For now, check out the following direct link to the Windows Server 2008 Server Manager demonstration: