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Windows Server 8's Minimal Server Interface offers hope for the GUI-dependent

When it comes to Windows Server 8, small is the new big.

In a recent post on the Microsoft Server and Cloud Platform blog, Windows Server Director of Program Management David Cross (not to be confused with this guy) explained how the latest version of the server OS is all about giving system administrators more control of what components are installed, so that they have “just enough” to do what they need, and not a feature more.

You probably know where this is going: Server Core and PowerShell. As we’ve been stressing for a while now, Microsoft is pushing admins toward the command line, adding over 2,300 cmdlets that enable management of server roles; Cross notes that admins can also install and remove GUI elements directly from the command line.

For those who are a bit apprehensive about losing the GUI altogether (PowerShell does have a great GUI, actually), Microsoft has introduced what it’s calling the Minimal Server Interface, an intermediate state that is somewhere between Server Core and the full Server Graphical Shell.  It includes some graphical elements but not the desktop, Windows Explorer, Internet Explorer, or Metro-style application support. It’s not just a safety net for the command-line-phobic, though; it also helps ensure compatibility for applications, such as Microsoft Management Console, that won’t run on Server Core alone, while still offering the reduced footprint and other benefits of that installation. While Server Core is the “preferred solution,” admins will be able to switch between server installations with a single command and reboot in order to test applications.

It should be interesting to see how admins respond to this additional option. Those who have not yet learned PowerShell may feel more confident in the short term, but it’s clear that the overall focus is still on slimming things down and moving to the command line. How does it affect your plans in preparing for Server 8?

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