First Take: Windows Server 2008 Beta 3

Windows Server 2008 Beta 3 (build 6001) has been out for a week, and during the weekend I downloaded the bits and gave it a spin.

It has been long speculated that Windows Server 2008 will add an alternative installation option called “Server Core”. According to Microsoft’s own definition:

“Server Core is a new installation option for selected roles that includes only the necessary components and subsystems without a graphical user interface, to provide a highly available server that requires fewer updates and less servicing.”

So, from what it said there it sounds like it is *nix like. And if so, it would be a major milestone for a Microsoft operating system environment as the incorporation of unnecessary GUI software takes significantly more system resources and increases attacking surface. This almost sounds too good to be true!

And it probably is. When I tried the installation I selected “Server Core”.

After installation I was expecting some sort of command shell where a user name and password are asked. But instead a GUI login screen showed up and after I logged in, I got the following:

Aha, is this what Microsoft characterized as a system “without a graphical user interface”? To me this seems to be stretching the concept quite a bit as the environment of the Server Core looks more like a windows system without explorer (you can get the same look and feel by killing your explorer.exe from task manager) than a true GUIless environment like a Unix shell.

So, it seems that at the end, Windows 2008 still has GUI integrated as part of the OS, just maybe not as tightly as before. And it also seems that Microsoft has realized that it is a bad idea to have GUI components chewing up precious system resources in a server environment where most configurations can easily be done in command mode with skilled system administrators. But it seems that the GUI code is so deeply entangled into the Windows operating system, it might just be virtually impossible to totally componentize  it without having to rewrite the whole system, even for Microsoft.

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