Windows Server 2008 includes an installation option we call Core. Core is a stripped down version of Windows Server 2008. It does not have a graphical shell like you’ve seen in Windows for years. But don’t let that fool you. Core is very powerful and allows you to create a server that does what servers should do, efficiently and securely serve.
In the following eight screencasts, you’ll see Core in action. We’re going to start with a technical overview which will layout the premise for all of the subsequent parts.
The Technical Overview
Think of this first screencast like a fully baked chicken. All nice, golden and ready to eat. This screencast was recorded last because it’s the end result of the installation and configuration of Windows Server 2008 Core. In this screencast, we set the stage for what Core is, why you should care, what not to worry about, and other issues you might be thinking about. I’ll demystify a lot in a few short minutes. The screencasts that follow it take us on a journey from the beginning, to the end point which is the baked chicken.
At its “Core”, the Windows Server 2008 Core installation option is a customer requested version of Windows Server. You told us you wanted to build headless servers. You told us to get rid of the fluff and just give you a server you could administer remotely or with scripts. You told us to reduce the attack surface and only run what was needed. You also told us that you wanted to create special purpose servers.
You asked, we delivered.
Windows Server 2008 Core allows you to install the Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS), Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS), DHCP Server, DNS Server, File Service, Print Services, Streaming Media Services and Web Server (IIS) roles. There are also a number of features you can install.
See all the details of installing and configuring Core in the Step-by-Step Guide. I would however recommend you watch each video I produced. There are a few tricks in the videos that are hard to glean from paper especially since all of the demos are performed using Windows Server 2008 virtualization. So sit back, relax, and watch the first screencast video.
Part 1 – Core Technical Overview (6:00)
Installing Core in a WSv Virtual Machine
There are a few things you need to know and learn when using the new hypervisor layer in Windows Server 2008. All of the demos in this series were accomplished using two Windows Server 2008 virtual machines. Each is the 64bit version of Enterprise Edition. One is the full graphical install and the other is of course, a Core installation. I used Camtasia 5 from Windows Vista Ultimate x64 to record each demo. This was done across RDP.
So there’s the first trick. You must have networking established. You must open up the firewall. And you must turn on the remote management feature. Most of this is documented in the Core Step-by-step. See how to do some of this in the next video on WSv prerequisites.
Part 2 – Core WSv Prerequisites (7:37)
By default, Core network adaptors are set to use DHCP to get an ip address. While this is sufficient for most workstations, you’ll likely want to make changes and set a static ip address, specify a DNS server, etc. Using the command line to make these changes is probably new for many of you. NETSH is a powerful network shell interface that can be used for configuration and diagnostics.
Part 3 – Core Networking (6:37)
Nearly all Microsoft products require some form of activation now. Windows Server 2008 is no exception and that includes the Core install option. Fortunately, there’s a handy tool that shipped with Windows Vista, and is now in Windows Server 2008 that lets you display, add, modify or change product key information. SLMGR is a big script that will query, update and delete information related to activation and the product keys in use. See the video for more detail.
Part 4 – Core Activation (5:38)
Now that we have networking and have activated the instance of Windows Server 2008 Core, we might as well join the domain and begin focusing on building out our server. Domain joins can be accomplished either manually, or via unattended operations. If you’ve been watching my previous Windows 2008 screencasts, you’ll recall we created a Read-Only Domain Controller and joined it to the domain via an unattend script and DCPROMO. This time we are just creating a member server, so we’ll use NETDOM. This video is very short but check it out.
Part 5 – Domain Join (2:37)
Core Role Installation
Roles are the working sets of the server. You can build a very specific single purpose server and have it run one role. For instance, imagine you are YouTube and have racks and racks of streaming media servers in a data center. There’s no need to run any other roles since you are focused on scaling media serving heads for all of the client connections.
On the other hand, you may be a branch location. For your location, you many want several roles like Active Directory, File, and Print services. Windows Server 2008 Core is flexible in that regard. You only install the roles you need. See the video on how to do that.
Part 6 – Core Role Installation (3:46)
Core Feature Installation
Installing Core features is nearly identical to role installation. There are a few other tricks and tweaks, but for the most part there is little if any difference. Some of the features are very powerful so I’m wondering why they weren’t promoted to the role designation.
Part 7 – Core Feature Installation (3:49)
I think we went overboard in some ways. We’ve been so busy talking about the greatness of headless and scripting, that many of the demonstrations don’t show that you can continue to use tools you already know to manage a Core server. Don’t get me wrong, command line provisioning and maintenance is cool, and will save a lot of money for big services and hosting providers, but that isn’t the end all be all.
So in the beginning Technical Overview, and in this section I try to bring all of that back home. If you want to do something via the command line, go for it. If you have a helpdesk that uses GUI tools, no problem. Windows Server 2008 Core can be managed either way.
Part 8 – Core Management (6:24)
You are really going to like Windows Server 2008. When you start installing it, be sure to think about the Core option and the services you are placing on your network. You have a lot of flexibility in how to deploy, maintain, monitor and manage those services. I hope this series demonstrates that effectively.
You may have noticed I didn’t cover deployment in this series. That is a very broad topic I plan to cover in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy this series and let me know if you have any questions.