Welcome to the Server Manager Blog, where we will discuss in depth the features and capabilities of Server Manager in Windows Server 2012. I am Wale Martins, a program manager and feature team lead on the Server Manager team. The team is super-excited about this release of Server Manager, and we will be using this blog to tell you all about the new and exciting scenarios it enables.
Erin Chapple, group program manager for the team that develops Server Manager, recently wrote a great overview of the investments we’ve made in managing Windows-based servers: Rocking the Windows Server “8” Administrative Experience. In this post, I’ll do a double-click on the Server Manager section of Erin’s blog post, and provide you a more in-depth view into the new Server Manager.
In the weeks ahead, and as we get ready to roll out the final release of Windows Server 2012, look for blog posts from me and other members of the Server Manager team to provide more detailed “how-to” information. We want this to be a two-way conversation, and I encourage you to engage with us in the comments section. We will respond to questions, take note of comments and feedback, and also capture ideas for more topics you would like us to write about.
Let’s get started!
When we released the first version of Server Manager in Windows Server 2008, it was an instant hit with server administrators, as they embraced the one-stop-shop console. We’d eased the pain they experienced launching individual management tools for the roles and features they manage. From that warm reception emerged the #1 feature request for the next release in Windows Server 2008 R2: the ability to target Server Manager at a remote server from a Windows client-based source computer. Administrators, like other information workers, tend to use a client-based computer for their daily work. In the Windows Server 2012 release of Server Manager, we maintain these legacy scenarios and add much more. Before I go into these, I’ll briefly discuss two relevant items.
The diagram in figure 1 below provides a conceptual framework of Server Manager. I don't intend to describe this in depth; instead I have placed it here as a reference point that you can go to at any time as we discuss the new scenarios enabled by Server Manager.
Figure 1 - Conceptual Framework
From a manageability perspective, if we were to tune in to the voice of the IT Professional after he’s had a chance to use Windows Server 2012, this is what we'd expect to hear:
“As an IT pro, I increasingly need to manage my estate more efficiently as the size, number, and complexity of my data centers increase. I need to manage workloads consisting of components that span multiple servers (physical/virtual), rather than managing individual servers. The in-box management tools and solutions in Windows Server 2012 better match the way I need to work—enabling me to manage change across computers, and respond with greater speed and agility to business-critical issues.
The management solutions in Windows Server 2012 provide me with comprehensive management capabilities from my desktop and home environments. I no longer need to visit the data center to resolve problems with individual computers because all my management tasks can be done remotely. A unified console helps me understand how workloads fit together, how they are deployed across computers, and their overall status.”
Now let’s discuss the core scenarios lit up in this release of Server Manager.
Managing from “my client”: As with WS08 R2, we expect most administrators are managing servers from a Windows client-based computer, so this release of Server Manager is included in the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) download package for the Windows 8 client operating system. Also, similar to earlier versions, Server Manager is available by default in Windows Server 2012 (except in the GUI-free Server Core installation option), and this availability makes a Windows Server 2012 installation a valid client from which to manage other servers, if needed.
Selecting “my servers” to manage: As an administrator’s personal tool, Server Manager in Windows Server 2012 allows you – the administrator – to select the servers for which you are responsible from among any number of servers in your organization. Whether those servers are physical or virtual, on-premise or off-premise, one or many, it does not matter as long as each one is running a release of Windows Server that’s no older than Windows Server 2003. How do I select these servers? In the Add Servers dialog box (Manage > Add Servers), you have three options to find servers to add to your server pool (see figure 2):
Figure 2 - Add Servers dialog
Understanding “my estate”: After you select all of the servers you want to add to your server pool and click OK, Server Manager opens connections to and starts inventory collection from those servers. Significant among the inventory it collects are the roles and features installed on each server. Server Manager creates a role group for each unique role found across all your servers (refer to figure 1) and displays the role group as a thumbnail on its dashboard. Server Manager also creates an All Servers group that contains all of the servers in your Server Manager pool; this group lets you manage any server in your pool that does not yet have a role installed. From the dashboard, you are immediately able to answer questions about your server estate: How many servers am I managing? What roles are installed across those servers? What is the number of servers I have running a specific role?
Determining issues and their priorities: Dashboard thumbnails indicate issues in your server environment that might require attention with red rows, and with numbers indicating the instance count for any issue type raised (refer to figure 3). By clicking the thumbnail rows, you can get more details about issues or problems, helping you to make faster, informed triage decisions. The at-a-glance thumbnail status is particularly useful when multiple issues occur at once (something many administrators will tell you is par for the course).
Figure 3 - Notice the red Services row and its instance number in the Fax Server thumbnail
Sometimes, I really do need more data: Yep, we thought so! Beyond the at-a-glance data shown on the dashboard, Server Manager remotely gathers detailed data about servers in your pool, and provides you views to these within the console. We’ve already discussed one type of data that’s represented on the dashboard (the installed roles inventory), but there are more, including inventories of services, events, Best Practices Analyzer results, and performance counters. Another inventory type includes properties for the server, such as IP address, installed memory, and product activation status. Navigating to a role or group page in the console enables you to view the full set of inventoried data about your servers.
Whoa – that’s a lot of data! How can I make sense of it? Rich controls! As you select a single server in the Servers tile, the data displayed in other tiles (such as Events, Services, Best Practices Analyzer, Performance, and Roles and Features) changes scope to show only data for the selected server. To see and compare data across two or more servers, multi-select them; the remaining tiles’ scope changes to show data for only those servers you’ve selected. Cool, eh! Each tile includes controls that let you filter data, sort or group by various columns (as shown in figure 4), and create and save custom queries to help you perform analyses and comparisons. Lastly, you can resize a tile–and widen, add, remove or rearrange its columns –to bring more data into view or to organize the data in a way that makes sense to you.
Figure 4 - The user has grouped the data in the Events tile by Server Name and also filtered the events to only those containing string '1008'
Where do I find and perform administrative tasks? There are three ways to access tasks in Server Manager:
Figure 5 - Entry points for contextual tasks/tools (arrows 1 & 2), non-contextual tasks (3), and non-contextual tools (4)
Deployment! Deployment!! Deployment!!! Because trends indicate that administrators will likely be performing more deployment tasks than before, in this release of Server Manager, we have made significant improvements to the deployment experience, including new deployment scenarios that enable you to perform deployment tasks faster and with more options. [Note: deployment refers here to installation of roles and features and not OS deployment.]
In a world where server administrators require the power of multiple servers and technologies to deliver new services and enhance existing ones, we believe that they should not be limited by the complexities of their management tools. Server Manager in Windows Server 2012 steps up as a management tool to enable you to leverage the power of many servers with the simplicity of managing one.
Very informative. Thanks for writing it.
You have shared great post on Server Manager. Keep posting in future, too.
Something that I find missing. Is the ability for server manager to automatically populate a server group based on OU, in case I install a new server which is a terminal server and it is located in a terminal server OU I would wish to automatically pop-up in Windows Server Manager
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