To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade

After installing Windows server core and booting up, all you get is a command line box and a minimum UI. With a Windows server core installation, you get none of the following: desktop shell (aero, wallpaper, etc.), CLR and .NET Framework, MMC console or snap-ins, start menu, control panel, Internet Explorer, Windows Mail, WordPad, Paint, Windows Explorer, run box, etc. It is bare bones.

You do get the kernel and that is all you need. It allows you to have a very secure deployment of a specific role of Windows. This type of configuration allows a corporation to easily consolidate Windows server to very specific locked down roles. For example, you can have a dedicated command line IIS Web server, dedicated DHCP server, DNS Server. You could even take it one step further and virtualize these systems. Many data centers and network operation centers (NOCS) will take advantage of a Windows server core installation. It is a very secure and tight installation.

Additionally, many IT administrators prefer command line over a UI. A new scripting language will be included in Windows Server 2008 called Powershell. It allows IT administrators to script out many tasks and allows for automation of many Windows administration tasks. Best of all the language is based on .NET and has more than 130 standard command lines tools if you are not up to speed on this technology or are not a scripting expert.

Imaging being able to write a script that quickly checks the service pack level and network configuration on every server in your environment. The sky is the limit with this scripting language. It is Microsoft’s plan to have you be able to script every task in Windows that has a UI.

The needs of your remote users could also cause you to migrate to Windows Server 2008 more quickly than other people. Currently, if you want remote users to access your system, you configure a virtual private network (VPN) connection into your network. Some may feel that this provides remote users too much access to the network and is an unacceptable risk.

In Windows Server 2008, you could use terminal services gateway (TSG) to allow your remote users securely through your firewall to applications running on terminal servers on your network. Combine this with the ability to publish applications, which is new in Windows Server 2008, and you have a much more secure deployment for end users. If none of this matters to you and you feel you have a secure VPN than migrating may not make much sense.

As you can see, there is no clear-cut answer on whether or not you should migrate to Windows Server 2008. If you can benefit from any of the new features of Windows Server 2008, it is a good idea for you to migrate to the new platform. If you are happy with Windows Server 2003, stay the course and be content.

Now, if you are running Windows Server 2000 the next logical upgrade would be to Windows Server 2008. You wouldn’t want to upgrade to Windows Server 2003 when a new server OS is coming out right around the corner.

On the other hand if you are planning a desktop upgrade from Windows 2000 ProfessionalWindows XP to Windows Vista, in the next 18-24 months, moving to Windows Server 2008 is ideal since it will be designed to run best with Windows Server 2008. The choices all revolve around your specific needs. There is no wrong decision.

Steven Warren is an IT consultant for the Ultimate Software Group and a freelance technical writer who has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic, TechProGuild, CNET, ZDNET, and, now, CIO Update. He the author of “The VMware Workstation 5.0 Handbook” and holds the following certifications: MCDBA, MCSE, MCSA, CCA, CIW-SA, CIW-MA, Network+, and i-Net+.