As interest in Windows PowerShell continues to rise, it's more than just Microsoft's commitment to the technology that is causing users to take notice. The latest edition of PowerShell – version 2.0 – includes more than a handful of changes from its original release.
Enhancements to PowerShell 2.0 include a new graphical interface, debugging tools and a host of new cmdlets. The big feature that is getting the most attention from administrators, however, is version 2's remoting functionality.
In a nutshell, PowerShell remoting allows admins to manage different remote sessions by executing commands on more than one machine. The functionality was developed in response to customer feedback from users looking to administrate on multiple PCs.
"In PowerShell version 1, if I wanted to manage remote machines from my desktop, using WMI was really the best thing I could do," said Jeff Hicks, an IT consultant, author and PowerShell MVP. "I'd have to connect each machine one at a time and deal with the WMI firewall issues and connect. It was a slow and painful approach."
PowerShell 2.0 includes the latest version of Windows Remote Management (WinRM), which Hicks said should cure most admin headaches when it comes to managing remote machines. WinRM provides a secure shell-like experience by default, making the problem of dealing with WMI firewall issues a thing of the past.
"You can do a whole lot more a whole lot faster than you could ever possibly do with [PowerShell 1.0]," Hicks said. "I can sit at my desktop and create a remote session to one computer, run a command, and that command is actually executing on the other machine, and the results then come back to me.
"It gets even better, because I can say that I want to run this command, and I want to run it on these 20 servers, and I can establish 20 sessions to all of those servers, run my command, and it runs simultaneously on all 20 machines. Then the results come back to me."
Remoting was expected to be one of the keys to PowerShell adoption back when the community technical preview (CTP) was first released. Keith Hill, a PowerShell MVP and software engineer based in Fort Collins, Colo., agreed that it should be the feature of most interest to admins.
"From the feedback [the PowerShell development team] got from the 1.0 release, it was loud and clear that, 'Hey you have some pretty nifty stuff here, but we need to be able to administrate on multiple PCs,'" Hill said. "So I think the remoting feature will be a big hit with the administrator crowd."
While PowerShell 2.0 comes out-of-the-box with Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7, admins can still take advantage of the new remoting functionality with older systems by downloading Microsoft's Windows Management Framework. Released in late October, the package includes both PowerShell and WinRM 2.0 along with BITS 4.0 and can be used to manage systems running Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008.