How Longhorn Server’s Server Manager will Change Server Management (Part 1)

by [Published on 12 Oct. 2006 / Last Updated on 12 Oct. 2006]

This article introduces the Server Manager and also discusses its capabilities and which Windows Server 2003 management interfaces it replaces.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

Although Longhorn Server is chocked full of new features, most of the features that existed in Windows Server 2003 still exist. What might be a bit disheartening to some administrators is that the method you use to perform some tasks has changed. One example of this is the new Server Manager tool. The Server Manager, which did not exist in Windows Server 2003. is one of Longhorn Server’s primary management tools. In this article, I will introduce you to the Server Manager. As I do, I will discuss its capabilities and which Windows Server 2003 management interfaces it replaces.

What is the Server Manager?

The Server Manager is a new tool that is designed to simplify a server’s configuration and maintenance. What’s unusual about this tool is that there are a couple of different interfaces to it. One interface is intended to help you to initially configure the server. The other interface is designed more for server maintenance.

The first place the Server Manager manifests itself is immediately after Windows finishes installing. In Windows Server 2003, the Manage Your Server tool, shown in Figure A, appears immediately after Windows finishes installing. It’s job is to help you to configure your server’s roles. In Longhorn Server, the Manage Your Server tool has been replaced by the Server Manager, shown in Figure B.


Figure A: Windows Server 2003 displays the Manage Your Server tool after Windows installation completes


Figure B: Longhorn Server replaces the Manage Your Server tool with the Server Manager

On the surface, these two tools probably look very similar. There are a couple of important differences though. One difference is that the Server Manager is designed to walk you through the process of configuring your server. You will notice in Figure B that it uses a three step process to do things like set the IP address, set the Administrator’s password, and add roles.

Another important difference exists behind the scenes. The server roles are more well defined in Longhorn than they were in Windows Server 2003. When Longhorn initially boots, it is running a bare minimum set of services. When you install a role, Windows is aware of exactly what services (and dependency services) are required in order to facilitate that role. This has a couple of implications.

First, it means that setting up a server is going to be a lot easier for less experienced administrators. The administrator no longer has to worry about skipping a step or leaving out some important service. Windows walks the administrator through the configuration process and makes sure that nothing gets left out. This is important because some roles have dependencies that have to be met. For example, if you want to install the Rights Management Services, then the server must also be running IIS. If you install the Rights Management Services through the Server Manager, the Server Manager will take care of installing IIS (if it is not already running) rather than just issuing an error message.

The other implication is that Longhorn could potentially be more secure than a comparable Windows 2003 Server based on the fact that no unnecessary services are being installed.

Once the server has initially been configured, you will usually use the Server Manager’s other interface for adding or removing services or for performing other maintenance tasks. You can see what this interface looks like in Figure C.


Figure C: This is the Server Manager’s primary interface

As you look at Figure C, you will notice that the Server Manager console is divided into several different sections, each with its own individual purpose. In the sections below, I will discuss each section individually.

Server Summary

The section that takes up most of the screen in Figure C is the Server Summary, which is sub divided into the System Information and Security Summary sections. The Server Summary section doesn’t really do much on its own, but that doesn’t mean that it is useless.

As you can see in Figure C, the Server Summary gives you all sorts of vital information on the server’s configuration. This might not be a big deal if you know your server’s configuration inside and out but, for consultants who routinely work with unfamiliar servers, it’s great to have all of this information in one place.

As you look at Figure C, you will also notice that the far right side of the Server Summary section contains a set of commands for doing things like changing the system properties, changing the Administrator account, and viewing network connections. As I said earlier, the Server Summary section doesn’t really do anything by itself. These commands are simply links to external tools that you are probably already familiar with from Windows Server 2003. For example, if you click on the Change System Properties link, the Server Manager will open the System Properties sheet.

Managing Roles

Role Management is where the Server Manager really shines. If you click on the Manage Roles link on the left side of the console, you will see a screen that’s similar to the one that’s shown in Figure D. Notice that this screen shows you a summary of which roles are installed and which services are enabled in order to facilitate each role. There are also links that you can use to add and remove roles and services.


Figure D: The Manage Roles node displays a summary of the roles that are installed and the underlying services that support that role

The summary information that I showed you in Figure D is nice, but there is a lot more that the Server Manager can do in the way of managing roles. If you look at Figure D, you will notice that there is a File Server node beneath the Manage Roles node in the tree on the left side of the screen. If you click on this node, you will see more detailed information regarding the services that facilitate the selected role. You will notice in the figure that you can even start and stop services through the Server Manager (the Server Manager does not open a separate tool for this).

The other interesting thing about the Server Manager is that you can perform actual management tasks through it. For example, in this case my server is configured with the File Server role. Take a look at Figure E and see what happens when I expand the File Server node. The tools for managing shared folders are presented from directly within the Server Manager. In Windows Server 2003 you had to go to the Computer Management console to manage shares.


Figure E: Role specific management tasks can be performed directly through the Server Manager

As you can see, the Server Manager is quite a tool. If it seems like something is missing, you are correct. If you look at some of the earlier screen shots, you will notice that the server was configured to use the Distributed File System (DFS). Even so, no DFS management tools are included in this portion of the Server Manager. Keep in mind that Longhorn Server is still in beta and isn’t slated for release until sometime in 2007. As such, there is a good chance that the current beta is not feature complete.

Conclusion

In this article, I have introduced you to Longhorn Server’s Server Manager tool. I then went on to demonstrate some of the Server Manager’s capabilities. In Part 2 I will continue the discussion by showing you some of the Server Manager’s troubleshooting capabilities.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

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