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Why Microsoft continues to buoy the Windows Server GUI

The graphical user interface delivers a familiar environment for many administrators, but it may not have much of a future.

One of the most significant features that is slated to be released as a part of Windows Server 2016 is Nano Server. Nano Server is a new Windows Server deployment model that is far smaller than even the most modest Server Core deployment.

To create such a small operating system, Microsoft eliminated any component that was not essential to the server's functionality. This included the Windows Server GUI. Although Nano Server contains a very lightweight text interface, it is primarily used to modify network and firewall settings. The interface is similar to the one that VMware provides with its hypervisors.

For several years now, Microsoft has been telling its customers that Server Core is the preferred Windows Server deployment type. Server Core marked a radical departure from a traditional GUI interface, and the upcoming Nano Server will abandon the GUI altogether. In the technical previews of Windows Server 2016, the preferred deployment method does not install the GUI by default.

If Microsoft is encouraging customers to deploy operating systems with either a light GUI interface, or no GUI at all, it seems fair to consider why Microsoft continues to produce a GUI interface for Windows Server. To the best of my knowledge, Microsoft has not made an official statement why it continues to allow GUI-based deployments, but I believe there are at least three major reasons.

The demand is still there

The first reason why Microsoft continues to include a GUI is customers still want it. Sure, there are IT pros who prefer using the command line and enjoy creating elaborate PowerShell scripts, but there are still countless administrators who prefer to point and click their way through a task. This isn't surprising when you consider Windows Server has had a GUI since its debut more than 20 years ago.

Administrators have gotten used to using a GUI, and therefore the GUI interface remains the preferred management tool for many.

Consider the backlash Microsoft received when it made the decision to omit the Start menu from Windows 8. A lot of users were angry and frustrated -- all over a single menu. Now imagine if Microsoft decided to abandon the GUI altogether.

Admittedly, it was mostly end users who were upset over the absence of the Windows 8 Start menu, and Windows Server is geared toward IT pros. Even so, the Windows 8 incident demonstrates how passionate some people can be about the interface.

For the sake of accessibility

A second reason why I feel Microsoft has chosen to keep the Windows Server GUI around for the time being is because the management tools have to run somewhere. It's likely that Microsoft will move the administrative tools such as Active Directory Users and Computers and Server Manager out of the server OS and onto either a Web interface or onto a desktop operating system. For now, being able to access the management tools from the server console is a convenience feature, especially for smaller shops.

The GUI is still a necessity

Finally, I think the number one reason why Microsoft continues to include a GUI with Windows Server is because most applications require it. The vast majority of the server side applications that I have installed over the years could not be installed without a GUI.

In Windows Server 2012, Microsoft gave us the ability to remove the GUI. One of the reasons why Microsoft chose to add this functionality is while many applications can be run without a GUI, they cannot be installed without one. The removable GUI makes it possible to install an application and then remove the server's GUI once the application is up and running.

Eventually, the Windows Server GUI will go away, but that day is most likely not to be for many years. Microsoft acknowledges there are both administrators and applications that rely on the GUI, so they are giving customers the ability to run Windows Server without a GUI, but are not taking the GUI away from those who wish to use it.

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What are your thoughts on the prospects of Microsoft removing the Windows Server graphical user interface?
I think I'm a halfway decent network/server administrator but I'm a lousy script writer.  Removing the GUI would be very painful for me and, very honestly, I'm too old to learn that new trick without getting VERY frustrated.
One of windows 2016 TP3 i believe there was an option to add and remove GUI which can be a better option. always keying all the time is really hard. GUI design be lighter so that any time user can add and remove if needed...
One thing that I have observed is that Microsoft seems to be moving away from ease of use.  They seem to have lost sight of the real purpose of a server. Far, far too they have added unneeded features to servers and taken away the needed features.  Most small companies that have servers do not need all the useless features that Microsoft has added to the servers.
I'd be curious as to what percentage of Windows server customers are like me.  I am self taught, work at a public school, and wear many different hats.  I suspect that many share my situation and being a system admin is only one hat of many. 
I won't be to happy. You may have more abilities from a command line, but for ease of use leave the GUI. The reason I feel this way is if the need comes up to train someone, they may grasp the GUI quicker than trying to learn all the commands. 
It is not possible for a GUI to perform the powerful functions as a CLI tool like BASH shell that are required most of the time, particularly with "if else" type clauses that eliminated dozens of GUI screens and forms to fill in, and never quite do the job.

And since the GUI adds unnecessary layers of code complexity to a Server than is ripe for hacking vulnerabilities, the whole concept of GUI on Server have shown to be just catering to the lowest common denominator of server management incompetence that is strictly the province of Windows so-called (amateur) server administrators.

The whole purpose of not having unnecessary GUI components in a Server defeats emphasis on leanness, as expected in Windows Nano Server, and Windows Server admins need to become more sufficiently skilled in core Server administration duties.

There is a reason that UNIX and Linux Server never bothered with such fluff  tools which cater only for amateur, low-aptitude server admins.


I agree in large part with the comments so far posted, except the arrogant and misinformed wanderson.

Microsoft appears bent on concentrating on the large corporate/Enterprise market while trying to force the small companies into the "cloud" and in particular Azure.

The benefit of Windows Server to a small organisation is the integrated security of a domain. I wonder how easy it is going  to be to administer a set of users and devices without recourse to a GUI. To administer a DNS server without a GUI, to administer a DHCP without a GUI and more importantly to easily administer ACLs on shared resources. You may be able to do all this by powershell, but pumping out lists to a text file, reading through that text file to mark out changes will be tedious beyond words

Not all small companies in the UK have adequate internet connections to allow shared resources such as file repositories to be held in the cloud without expensive connections such as leased lines. This could drive us down the route of simply installing a NAS device such those from Synology and maybe Microsoft will shrug its shoulders, but with this we may as well question the reason to go for Windows 10 as well. So beware Microsoft, your arrogance has already driven a lot of people away from you. Now you are going to drive Professional Support firms (get the drift wanderson?) away from you as first choice.