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Windows Server 2008 catching up with Linux

PowerShell and Server Core add scripting and security to Windows Server 2008, making it more modular, adaptable and Linux-like.

Windows Server 2008 will never be Linux. And it's not likely to woo Linux users away from open source anytime soon.

[Microsoft has] to make it easier for Unix customers to move to Windows.
Al Gillen,

But two of Windows Server 2008's new features, PowerShell and Server Core, solve long-lamented Windows shortcomings in snappy Linux-like fashion, potentially easing migration concerns of restless Unix admins who might otherwise move to Linux, said IDC analyst Al Gillen.

"There's an anti-Microsoft bias in Unixland," Gillen said. "The more Microsoft continues to erase objections [with features like PowerShell and Server Core], the harder it is to make the argument that Windows doesn't meet their needs."

Windows Server 2008 includes a long list of general improvements to make it a better product and more competitive in the marketplace, but these two features fill specific gaps in Windows functionality versus that of Unix or Linux, he said.

"As Microsoft strives to grab a larger market, it needs to look where it's not competitive … so it's going after pieces where it hasn't been successful," Gillen added. "They have to make it easier for Unix customers to move to Windows. They aren't trying to capture customers from Linux."

For starters, Server Core is a computing core that can be adapted for any specific role or roles, with configuration and maintenance transmitted through command interfaces or a remote management console. No operating system is required; and a GUI is optional as well.

Like Unix, which already has layered, removable functionality, Windows Server 2008 can be used for any purpose: a Web server, a print or file server or any other function, with just the software required for the given task.

Such pared-down functionality offers myriad advantages: performance, security, management, flexibility. But foremost, Gillen said, is reducing security risk. Like a house with fewer entryways, a smaller core reduces the surface area for attack by malicious code and therefore removes vulnerable access points, he said.

"This strips away everything except the essential," concurred analyst Christopher Voce at Forrester Research Inc. "On the flip side, it does impact the way administrators manage platforms. They'll need to shift their reliance from the operating system to external management tools [for some tasks].

"It's still a good move," Voce added. "It's more modular. More purpose-like."

Similarly, Windows Server 2008's PowerShell fills its predecessor's scripting gap, automating routine tasks and enabling users to write scripts to build servers without answering questions each time, which is especially helpful for remote or blind installs. "PowerShell is one of the biggest improvements," Voce said. "It will be the foundation for many Microsoft management tools going forward . . . and will tie together and automate tasks like user or virtual server provisioning."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Pam Derringer, News Writer .

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