As I’ve pointed out in Part 1, Server Core shines in the typical infrastructure “fire and forget” scenarios. In order for you to truly benefit from these scenarios, it’s time to learn how to prepare for such Server Core installations.

Sander Berkouwer

Sander Berkouwer is a Microsoft Certified Professional and a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with over a decade of experience in IT.

What I’m talking about is that whatever happens to your servers, your organization, and your strategy, you make sure the server you’re deploying will continue to run for the period you need to run it. This period is typically five years, since most organizations write off their equipment in that period. If your organization uses a different period, you need to either try harder (when, for instance, the organization requires servers to be around for eight years) or worry less (when you only need to deploy the server for the time being). During this period, you need to have all bases covered for the server.

Purchase the manufacturer’s warranty ^

For starters, this means the server you just purchased needs to be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty for the full period for the purpose of running 24/7. If anything goes wrong with the server’s hardware, you’ll want to be able to call support to get it fixed. Also, when swapping traditional hard drives for solid state disks (SSDs), make sure the new devices are rated to be always on. Many SSDs, especially the cheaper ones, are only rated to be used 8 hours per day. You don’t need to shell out the same amount of money for the warranty as you did for the server itself. If you’re properly designing your networking infrastructure, there’s nothing wrong with a Next Business Day (NBD) contract.

Consider Microsoft support policies ^

Microsoft is one of IT’s most customer-minded companies in terms of support policies. Microsoft not only gives you support when you use a third-party virtualization solution but also offers support policies with lifecycles that are among the longest in the industry. For example, after 10 years, Windows Server 2003 is still supported today (if you’re running Service Pack 2).

However, every support lifecycle comes to an end. Make sure the period you want to run a specific operating system on your server does not exceed the support lifecycle of the software manufacturer or distributor. Here’s the support lifecycle information for Windows Server:

Properly dimension the machine ^

While you could, potentially, supply your (virtual) Server Core installation with the minimum amount of disk space and Random Access Memory (RAM) required for installations, you will run into problems even with Server Core.

For instance, installing a Service Pack for Windows Server requires free disk space to store the initial download, disk space to unpack the Service Pack files, disk space to store replaced files in case you want to roll back the installation, and disk space to actually install the Service Pack itself. Because 4GB of free disk space is not an uncommon requirement for Service Packs, after one or two Service Packs you’ll be running out of disk space to install the third one.

Besides leaving free disk space for updates, make sure you have sufficient disk space to store the page file and files to run the Server Roles and Features. For instance, as a best practice you’ll log all visits to Web Servers and FTP Servers.

RAM might be an issue with some Server Roles. For example, the Domain Controller role will try to cache the Active Directory database into memory. Depending on the number of users, computers, and groups and their relations, you might be looking at gigabytes of RAM to make sure your Domain Controllers are running the best they can.

ASP and ASP.Net-based websites might also be hungry for RAM, so make sure you properly dimension these.

Choosing the right Server Core flavor ^

Server Core installations come in different flavors:

  • Windows Server 2012 Standard Edition
  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter Edition
  • Hyper-V Server 2012

Windows Server 2012

With Windows Server 2012, Microsoft has simplified licensing for Windows Server. From Windows Server 2012 onward, there will no longer be an Enterprise edition. The difference between the Standard and Datacenter editions is no longer technical; rather, it pertains to licensing. You no longer have to install an expensive edition to gain access to Failover Clustering because it is included in all Windows Server editions. The difference, however, is in the number of Windows Server installations you can perform as virtual machines on top of the Windows Server installation within the license: Windows Server Standard Edition allows for two virtual Windows Server instances per server, whereas Windows Server Enterprise Edition allows for unlimited Windows Server instances per physical processor. Windows Server Datacenter Edition can only be purchased as a two-processor license. More info here.

Hyper-V Server 2012

Hyper-V Server 2012 is a completely different thing altogether. First of all, it’s free. Second, it’s configured by default to operate as a Hyper-V host. Third, it doesn’t come with licensed virtual instances. These three characteristics make Hyper-V Server 2012 the ideal candidate as a Hyper-V host in these instances: when you’re virtualizing your organization’s current physical servers (that are not OEM-based licensed), when your goal is to virtualize a bunch of Linux-based virtual machines, or when your goal is to get Hyper-V hosts deployed as fast as possible (but, in this case, you’ll need to assign Windows Server licenses to the host or processors afterward).

Concluding ^

Since Server Core installations are intended for “fire and forget” scenarios, make sure you fire up your Server Core installation and then forget about the installation by making the right decisions before you start Windows Setup.

In my next post I will describe how to install Windows Server 2012 Server Core.

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  1. Michael Henry 1 year ago

    I wish I had read this over the weekend, it would have helped me a lot for my class assignment.
    R/
    Mike.

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