Installing & Configuring Server Manager on a Windows 8.1 machine

Let’s take a small break from configuring the core server and talk quickly on how to install Server Manager on a Windows 8.1 machine. We will go deep-dive on this tool in the future as it should become your tool for your daily work, but for now I just want to get it installed and quickly configured with one server so I can do some basic tasks. By the way, this tool can do A LOT

We talked already a lot about remotely managing our Windows Server 2012 R2 core servers. One of the things you need to learn (and yes, it requires some adjustments from yourself to learn it) is Server Manager. The thing with Server Manager is that once you get used to it, you actually have no idea how you used to do your work. It is rather good (there is always room for improvement but hey…) and with the correct configuration, you will be able to work much faster.

When you have a Windows 8.1 machine, it comes by default without server manager. And that is even a logical choice. After all, the typical windows 8.1 user does not need to work with servers and server roles so there is no reason at all to include it by default. So you will need to install it yourself (or include it in the System Administrators endpoint image…)

Let’s look at how I made my workstation into a powerful Server Management tool.

First, download the Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 8.1. Note that it comes in a 32- and 64-bit version so you need to download the correct version for your workstation.

Running it in silent mode

For those that want to run the installer in silent mode, this is not a problem at all. So if you are using System Center Configuration Manager or any other tool that provides you with distributed software management, you can add it in there and distribute it automatically. Since it is a windows update standalone installer, you can use the default parameters that exist. To figure out what these parameters are, you can just type Windows8.1-KB2693643-x64.msu /? and you will get a popup that shows you what parameters are possible

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For this specific one, you can just use Windows8.1-KB2693643-x64.msu /quiet /norestart

Or you can just double-click it and install it manually so you actually see when it is finished installing.

Note that you don’t need to restart afterwards, but as always, make sure you run Windows Update afterwards to have the latest updates J

What do we have now?

Basically, I just made my laptop a powerful remote administration machine. We will go very deep on server manager later on, but for today, I only wanted to do two little things.

1. Install it and add one server to my server manager

2. Make sure I can use remote PowerShell to that server.

Installing Server Manager installs also automatically administration tools and PowerShell modules that come with those tools. Since we are on a quest to administer Hyper-V core, I specifically wanted to have that PowerShell module on my laptop, for working remotely on my servers.

But there is much more installed. All tools and notes (and support matrix) can be found here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2693643/en-us

As said, we will work with them later on.

Adding a server to Server Manager

First you will have an empty tool. There will be no servers connected to it. If you use server manager on a server, the local server will be added by default.

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Press the Add other servers to manage or go to manage > Add Servers

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Now you can start adding servers to Server Manager. If your computer is domain joined to the same domain as your servers, you can use this method. As you can see, my workstation is not domain-joined so I can use the DNS or Import option.

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After typing in the DNS name or IP-address I can now add this server

In my case, the first thing you will see is that the server is added but that there will be a red flag immediately. This means something is wrong

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The solution in my case is rather easy. Since I am using a workstation that is not domain-joined, my local user is not known by my server so I have no access to the server

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By right clicking on my server and going to Manage As… I can type in the credentials to manage that server.

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Note that it might take some time before you see the effect. The reason for that is simple. Server Manager is not a real-time tool. So it takes some time to refresh the data in the window. But simply pressing the refresh button solves that fast.

It still doesn’t work!

Depending if you used this computer to manager servers before, it is possible that it still doesn’t work. Don’t forget that I am using a non-domain joined workstation. In a domain environment, this is not necessary.

If you receive this notification:

Error <nameserver>: Configuration refresh failed with the following error: The metadata failed to be retrieved from the server, due to the following error: The WinRM client cannot process the request. If the authentication scheme is different from Kerberos, or if the client computer is not joined to a domain, then HTTPS transport must be used or the destination machine must be added to the TrustedHosts configuration setting. Use winrm.cmd to configure TrustedHosts. Note that computers in the TrustedHosts list might not be authenticated. You can get more information about that by running the following command: winrm help config.

That means PowerShell to the rescue again!

Open a PowerShell window on your workstation and type in the following command:

Set-Item wsman:\localhost\Client\TrustedHosts <nameserver> -Concatenate –Force

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And now I have management over my server

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On to the next step

Now that I have Server Manager and the additional tools and PowerShell modules on my workstation, I can start doing some remote work. In the upcoming weeks and months I will show lots more of Server Manager and its capabilities. But for now, I just wanted it installed, get one server in it and have my PowerShell modules ready so I can take the next steps in our series… Configuring my core server with PowerShell… Remotely.

Till then

Hyper-V Bear

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To core or not to core… Should it be a question?

If you are using Windows Server 2012 or higher, why not go core? I understand that server core has started badly with windows server 2008 R2. The idea itself was great, but it was too much of a hassle for most IT administrators. The problem already started by installing the operating system where you had the choice of an installation with UI, or one without. If you chose the latter, then you had to do configure everything in PowerShell or by the commandline. Actually, most needed to be done through the commandline as PowerShell support wasn’t that big yet before Windows Server 2012.

But probably the worst was the fact that you weren’t able to do everything remotely, and the server manager that existed in 2008 R2 wasn’t really something you could call a success. As a result, many have experimented with it, not many have actually implemented it. The main issue? Not the configuration, but when something went wrong, and you needed to troubleshoot (and under pressure) it was very difficult to get the job done in a timely manner (what was that command again to do that? How can I view those specific logs when I have no remote access to my machine?…)

Fast forward to 2012 and 2012 R2. Not only did server manager improve a lot (and got overhauled completely) but now you are also able to switch between UI, MinShell and Core. Wait, what? MinShell? Before I start talking about switching, you need to understand that there are four options in Windows Server 2012 and R2. Let’s have a look at them:

  • Core: Is literally the baseline of your server installation. It comes with a command prompt, and the possibility to start a PowerShell session.
  • MinShell (aka Minimal Shell): Has the baseline also, but comes with a limited amount of management tools such as server manager but not everything is available. You still have benefits over the UI version (see later) but less than the Core version. On the other hand, you can locally use some tools when necessary…
  • Server Graphical Shell (aka the GUI version): The full blown server version with all the management tools and UI’s as you are used to.
  • Desktop Experience: The UI version and the full desktop experience, like you would be running windows 8 (server 2012) or windows 8.1 (server 2012 R2). This is only used in RDP desktop configurations or VDI implementations. I don’t really see another good reason for installing a desktop experience on servers running other workloads.

Benefits?

If you want to convince someone to run server core or minshell, you need to have some good reasons why you would want to loose the entire UI (or partly in case of MinShell) functionality. The reasons are very simple, and very convincing…

  • Resource consumption: Since it is stripped down from all unnecessary components, the system will have more resources available for running the actual workload instead of wasting those to something that is not necessary. With core you will have more resource savings than with MinShell, but even then you save on resources compared to the UI. The footprint is also smaller with less OS files on the disk.
  • Security: Because a lot of components are away, the attack surface becomes smaller. In fact, we all know patching very well because of the many vulnerabilities in (for example) Internet Explorer. With no IE on the box, you have less attack surface and the risk of 0-day and other security holes are greatly reduced.
  • Reduced management: Less patching to start with, but also less components means less troubles and therefore less troubleshooting.

But management is still harder!

Yes, I know, the moment you loose the UI, the management becomes harder. But you can do almost anything remotely with the new RSAT tools and Server Manager, so that is not an issue anymore. On top of that, because it will force you NOT to RDP to the box anymore, you will save resources again. Double win Smile. But I do realize it isn’t that easy to start with. In fact, the first couple of days I worked with Server Manager, it annoyed me having to learn a complete new way of working, but after that, I honestly can’t say I want to go back to the previous way of working. Again…

But as stated in the beginning… What if there is a problem, and you can’t use your remote tools anymore. Then it is up to you and your commands. Let’s answer that question a bit further.

Workloads?

Does every workload run on core? No, unfortunately not. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use it for other workloads. Almost every core infrastructure service of Microsoft is supported, and the latest SQL server is supported also. For more information, you can go to http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh831786.aspx

But the workload that interests us is Hyper-V of course. (Although I don’t see a good reason to run Hyper-V in core mode and then the workloads on it in full UI mode… But that’s another discussion

But management is still harder!

Yes, indeed, and as promised, I will write a bit more about that. To start with, I always make sure that I have my list of commands and PowerShell cmdlets with me. In my case I use OneNote that is shared over all of my devices, but it can be on a piece of paper, word, whatever you prefer. In case of an emergency, I can always use that ‘cheat-sheet’ to do my work. Let’s be honest here, I am a Bear, and every command that I don’t use on a daily basis I forget. And that is exactly why I have that cheat sheet Smile

And that is what I will start to share with you all in the upcoming posts… All of the things I need to successfully manage core, specifically Hyper-V core, and even much more. The next post we will start with the fact that you can switch from GUI to Core (or MinShell inbetween) and vice versa very easily, although it will require a reboot. Another great thing that came with 2012 and later and wasn’t in 2008 R2

Conclusion

To run core or not should not be a real question anymore. The only question you should ask is whether you can run the workload in core mode or not. If it is possible, then you should. Is management a bit harder? Certainly, but with the right tools and the right set of commands and cmdlets available, you should have no issues with that. And that is what we are going to provide…

Till then

Cheers

Hyper-V Bear