Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
GUI Microsoft Windows Technology

Windows Admins Need To Prepare For GUI-Less Server 780

msmoriarty writes "We knew Windows Server 8 was going to be a departure for Microsoft, including an 'optional' GUI, but in a blog post made earlier this week, the Windows Server team said that working without the GUI will be the 'recommended' method, and is telling developers not to assume a GUI will be present. According to Windows consultant and author Don Jones, this is a big hint to Windows admins that they better get used to not having a GUI in future releases. From the article: 'I'm well aware that many Windows admins out there aren't looking forward to a GUI-less server operating system from Microsoft. ... I'm sure Microsoft has, too.They're proceeding anyway. We have two choices: adapt or die.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Windows Admins Need To Prepare For GUI-Less Server

Comments Filter:
  • by antitithenai ( 2552442 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:13AM (#38685914)
    Often Windows servers are also used to run actual programs with GUI's, like you do on your home computer. Having them on server means you have access to much better bandwidth and your programs can run 24/7, and you can easily deploy more servers if you need to. If GUI's are completely removed then you would need to run desktop version of Windows on a server, which is far from ideal. Servers aren't just used for web servers and things like that, they are also used for supporting programs or having a remote location. Windows server with RDP works really well for that. Even Linux servers can have GUI, as it's easy to install X11 and some desktop environment.
    • Reading the actual quotes from Microsoft, what they are saying is that if you are developing a server application, you need to expect that there may not be a GUI and you should develop the application with that understanding. Microsoft never said that a GUI may not be available to install, but that applications should be able to handle the case of their not being a GUI. This is drastically different from what the headline is implying.

      • by aztracker1 ( 702135 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @12:36PM (#38687368) Homepage
        Not to mention that a GUI-less mode was available in Windows Server 2008 already.
      • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @04:24PM (#38690946)
        Microsoft will have to imply the GUI won't be there or else developers will just continue and tell the admins to install the GUI system and effectively eliminating any benefits of keeping the GUI out of the server.

        What is this, something like 15 years after they put the GUI into the NT kernel in NT 4.0? That fantastic Window 95 desktop wasn't even close to the OS/2 WPS yet still was a performance sucking pig so they had to pull the GUI into the kernel to keep an acceptable performing GUI experience.

        I wonder what's causing them to do back to pulling the GUI out of the kernel and even telling server software vendors to code to this configuration? It's SOP for *nix systems so what's going on? From what I've seen running Windows in VM's, you can fit way more Linux servers in VM's than you can Windows and it has everything to do with the performance requirements(CPUs and memory) of the environments. Where's the leaked memo about this anyways?

    • How did you manage to type your 125-word post the exact minute this story was posted?

      Genuine question -- how did you do that?
      • by nman64 ( 912054 ) *

        * Be a subscriber (this is the key)
        * Be signed in, see the summary early (before it is "posted")
        * Visit the summary, write your comment
        * Wait until the "posted" time on the summary
        * Hit "Submit"

        • Be a subscriber (this is the key)

          He isn't. The alternative is that he has a script that alerts him to specific stories in the firehose and in the main page, or that he submits the stories himself. See also the previous Google is Evil story.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @12:58PM (#38687780) Homepage Journal

      "Having them on server means you have access to much better bandwidth and your programs can run 24/7, and you can easily deploy more servers if you need to"
      Really what are you talking about? If you are running a GUI application on a server that is not just wrong but down right silly.
      You need more bandwidth? Then you get it more bandwidth.
      Now if you are talking about machines with more than one CPU and a lot of memory then sure. Those are called workstations. They may use the same motherboard as a server but they are not being used as a server.
      A server needs a GUI like a submarine needs a screen door. If you are going to run anything like that on a server you should really use a VM anyway so that it will not take down the entire box when it crashes.

      Anything on a server that you can get ride of like a video card means less heat, less power used, and less cost. It is also one less thing to fail. RDP? how much bandwidth does that take? A lot more than ssh and command line.
      And that is why real tech companies use Unix/Linux for servers.

    • Server apps shouldn't require GUIs. On Linux you can run a server with no GUI no problem, because it's a well-understood convention in the Linux world that server apps should never require GUIs.

      Although having a GUI can make administration more convenient, much more handy to have something like Scite open with a bunch of config files in different tabs than to be switching vi instances back and forth in the CLI to do the same thing.

  • by Penmanpro ( 2547090 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:17AM (#38685982) Homepage
    So we are going back to command line and dumb terminals... how very retro
  • Core (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sir_Eptishous ( 873977 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:19AM (#38686006) Homepage
    We've been running out DC's as Core for a year now. It was a tricky setup/configure, and management also takes getting used to. However, it's not that bad. Just use your custom mmc for remote management, works great.
  • Obligatory quote (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:20AM (#38686028)

    Those who do not understand UNIX are doomed to reinvent it, poorly.

  • by ThinkDifferently ( 853608 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:21AM (#38686060)
    Maybe call it Prompts from now on?
  • 3D Pinball (Score:5, Funny)

    by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:22AM (#38686070) Homepage

    How are we supposed to play 3D pinball in the server room now?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:26AM (#38686134)

    I, for one, welcome our windowless windows overlords.

  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:27AM (#38686152) Journal

    Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. But now, what's the point to windows if there's no GUI?

  • by bWareiWare.co.uk ( 660144 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:28AM (#38686158) Homepage

    What they actually recommended is running the GUI on the client.

  • by Robert Zenz ( 1680268 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:28AM (#38686160) Homepage
    Who wants to run a GUI on a server anyway?
  • The Ancient Battle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spinlock_1977 ( 777598 ) <Spinlock_1977@noSpAm.yahoo.com> on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:33AM (#38686236) Journal

    GUI vs. Command Line. I lived through that argument in the 80's and 90's. With a GUI, syntax problems go away - IF you can figure out how to find/launch the GUI. On the command line, all commands are available in one spot, but the syntax can be challenging. We really just traded one problem for another.

    But for those of us who run production shops, a GUI isn't scriptable and is therefore not testable. Command line scripts can be tested in an offline environment, emailed around, put under version control, and printed out for enjoyable bathroom reading. Who doesn't love command line scripts???

    • by eth1 ( 94901 )

      GUI vs. Command Line. I lived through that argument in the 80's and 90's. With a GUI, syntax problems go away - IF you can figure out how to find/launch the GUI. On the command line, all commands are available in one spot, but the syntax can be challenging. We really just traded one problem for another.

      They way I usually put this is that GUIs are easy to learn, but tend to be difficult and inefficient to actually use, while CLI is difficult to learn, but once you do, they're very easy and quick to use. Which one is better depends on your particular use case.

      • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

        As I see it, GUIs present a limited surface of options to the user. Assuming that the user wants the options provided by the interface, this is fine. Command lines can have a potentially infinite list of options, limited only by the user's willingness to look them up and type them.

        Consider all the option dialog boxes you've seen with multiple tabs and buttons to open new dialog boxes with scrolling lists of options on yet another tab (eg, "Internet Options") as an attempt to get a huge number of options in

  • by Spad ( 470073 ) <slashdot@spad.[ ]uk ['co.' in gap]> on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:34AM (#38686246) Homepage

    Most competent Windows server admins don't need a GUI on the actual server anyway; between the RSAT (Remote Server Admin Tools) and Powershell, there's very little that you need to be "on the box" to do.

    Most good Windows server admins can do almost everything via Powershell anyway - of course it would be much easier if Microsoft would write decent Powershell modules for DNS and DHCP so you didn't have to do everything via COM objects and dnscmd.

  • Bad idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <onyxruby@[ ]cast.net ['com' in gap]> on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:36AM (#38686290)

    I'm pretty comfortable with a CLI, it's what I grew up with and use on a routine basis for many things. That being said there is a lot out there in terms of server based applications that are wholly dependent upon having a GUI.

    Were not talking about simply rearranging the desktop here, were talking about removing the very interface that is depended on by an entire ecosystem of software. That market is easily in the billions of dollars per year. If your going to force all those developers and legacy applications to run as CLI only than your giving those companies an opportunity to re-evaluate the platform they use for a CLI based tool.

    If your giving companies the impetus to decide what platform to use for a CLI based tool than many of them are simply going to switch to *nix support since there is a strong legacy ecosystem to support it. In other words if Microsoft were to do this for all of the Window Server based platforms it would be suicidal. That's a pretty poor business case and it simply doesn't make sense.

    I think the far more likely case is that certain versions of Windows server will be available as CLI only (web platform etc), which they already are. I really have to question if the source of the story got their facts right, it doesn't make sense unless they didn't.

  • by acoustix ( 123925 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:37AM (#38686310)

    I like the move, but it will be difficult or impossible to run older (poorly written) applications that need a GUI to run.

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:37AM (#38686312)

    Finally the manager in our IT dept will have to get a clue.
    I'm guessing he will do everything he can to hold off upgrading as he knows he wont be able to cut it.
    I'm actually hoping he will get moved out so we can finally move to Linux.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:40AM (#38686360)

    From TFA: "In addition to Server Core (the existing CLI from Server 2008) and Server Graphical Shell (the usual GUI), we are introducing a new experience in Windows Server 8 called the Minimal Server Interface."

    Also from TFA: "Technically, the Minimal Server Interface is a full Windows Server install excluding Internet Explorer, Windows shell components such as the desktop, Windows Explorer, Metro-style application support, multimedia support, and the Desktop Experience."

    In other words, you'll have a command-line only version, like you do today, a GUI version that behaves like the latest Windows desktop OS, and a GUI version that behaves like a locked down server is expected to behave (the "Minimal Server Interface"). Or at least that's how I read it.

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:44AM (#38686416) Homepage


    "In Windows Server 8, users can transition between Server Core and Server Graphical Shell at any time, with a single command and a single reboot."

    Don't they EVER learn? It took them literally years to be able to do application and driver installs without required endless reboots. Not poor windows admins need to reboot just to start the GUI?? Why on earth can't MS come up with the equivalent of "xinit" to kick off the GUI?? This is 1980s level functionality FFS!

  • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:49AM (#38686522)

    "According to Windows consultant and author Don Jones, this is a big hint to Windows admins that they better get used to not having a GUI in future releases."

    Is it? or is that theory just completely made up?

    Just because the server doesn't locally have a GUI doesn't mean it wont allow RDP connections, and doesn't mean you wont just be able to use the likes of event viewer, IIS manager, or whatever, installed on your local system, to connect to and manage a remote server.

    I don't think most people manage Windows servers locally anyway nowadays, most IT staff are too busy enjoying the fact they no longer have to get off their arse to go to the server room because they can do everything they need with a GUI from their desk. I don't see anything to indicate that side of things is changing - just that Windows Server will no longer by default sit their handling a locked GUI for local users no one ever fucking uses anyway whilst continuing to offer the console based management option that was introduced in what, Windows 2008 Server? even then I suspect, being Microsoft, the Windows GUI will only be a quick click or command away but will simply be initialised on demand, rather than always there.

    • Thank goodness, someone who made a sensible point and got modded up.

      The majority of this discussion so far has been rampant speculation. Rant: why can't people read the &^%* articles occasionally? End rant

      The second linked article from Technet gives a lot of answers. This is particularly useful:

      In Windows Server 8, the recommended application model is to run on Server Core using PowerShell for local management tasks and then deliver a rich GUI administration tool capable of running remotely on a Windows client.

      (Emphasis mine.)

      It also goes into quite a bit of detail about something called the Minimal Server Interface.

      The Minimal Server Interface enables most local GUI management tasks without requiring the full GUI Shell or Internet Explorer to be installed. It is an intermediate state that is installed by enabling the Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure Windows feature and not enabling the Server Graphical Shell feature.

      As you say (and as most people on /. should realize), managing a server locally is pretty anachronistic

  • Innovation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raxhonp ( 136733 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:52AM (#38686604)

    Microsoft, the company for which the future is what everybody else is doing for more than 30 years.

  • by g0bshiTe ( 596213 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @11:56AM (#38686652)

    The Minimal Server Interface enables most local GUI management tasks without requiring the full GUI Shell or Internet Explorer to be installed.

    This sounds like a solid move to me. I've been wanting for a long time for MS to separate IE from the GUI, and it's about time they did.

  • by Vermyndax ( 126974 ) <vermyndax@g a l a x y c o w.com> on Friday January 13, 2012 @12:00PM (#38686758) Homepage

    In general, I like this approach. However, my faith in Microsoft's ability to produce a sane design for CLI management is not high. They have been moving toward this for about 5-6 years now, so it shouldn't surprise anyone. However, working with Powershell is no walk in the park. Sometimes I think they assign commandlet design to different members of the team. Those team members (thousands of them!) work on the commandlets from their own point of view with little oversight into the syntax or object model.

    For instance, the object types that you would expect out of one Powershell commandlet (after you figure out the syntax, that is) is not what the next command expects as input. This has been the most frustrating part of Powershell and I keep hoping that eventually they will attack this with a more holistic approach to produce something with a little more clarity and sanity.

  • by MasterOfGoingFaster ( 922862 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @12:01PM (#38686780) Homepage

    Suddenly Win Admins everywhere switch to Linux because its "easier".

  • by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @12:45PM (#38687536)
    If, combined, will the 2300 cmdlets do as much as awk.
  • by dakohli ( 1442929 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @02:14PM (#38688960)

    So, MS is going to make a shift towards more CLI. I had already heard rumours and stories that some configurations would have to be done on the Command Line. I may be a little cynical here, but consider the following:

    Over the past while, the perceived value of having MS Certifications has dropped somewhat as MS Windows Servers become more easily configured. Now, Administrators will have to know some of the more arcane commands, and have a better understanding of how the systems work in order to properly configure Windows Server without the GUI's.

    Aside from some of the improvements that folks have already mentioned, would this not also revitalize the revenue stream that MS gets from the training and certifications? And, make these certifications actually more relevent?

  • by Myopic ( 18616 ) * on Friday January 13, 2012 @02:19PM (#38689052)

    I'm baffled by this because the Windows command line is absolutely, positively useless in every way. It lacks a proper history function, proper tab completion, proper environment variables, it is not possible to configure most things with text files, scheduling tasks is practically impossible, the multi-rooted filesystem is an unfunny joke, and most of all Batch scripts are literally, not figuratively, the least useful form of programming I have ever seen, including taking a shit on a keyboard and hoping for the best. The entire Windows stack is completely inappropriate for use in any business, let alone as a server, and thinking of using it without the GUI makes me fear and hate it even more than I fear and hate Windows right now.

    No. No, Microsoft, no. No, no, no. If you want to make the world a better place, here is a three-step plan:

    1. Discontinue Windows. Burn it in a fire, and then apologize for it.
    2. ???
    3. The world is a better place.

  • by Paracelcus ( 151056 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @02:21PM (#38689102) Journal

    I'm guessing that the reason for using a Windows server is to support some very Windows specific application(s) otherwise why bother? For almost any purpose Linux is better/cheaper/faster/more secure! Just like you would use Solaris for a Solaris-specific server application or NSK for something very critical/scalable. Windows has been eclipsed, and the GUI is compatible with existing code.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel