Software

The Myth Of The Windows Server 2012 Interface

Windows Server: The Windows 8 interface redesign is controversial, so it’s not surprising that some people are complaining about its appearance on Windows Server 2012 as well. There are arguments for and against that interface, but in a server context, those criticisms almost entirely miss the mark for a more fundamental reason.

I was chatting with a geek friend prior to heading up to TechEd Australia 2012 this week, and mentioned that Windows Server 2012 was going to be a major focus. “No-one’s going to like that much, because it has the new Windows interface,” he commented. I’ve heard similar remarks from other journalists as well, pushing the idea that there’s no way experienced server administrators are going to be happy with the ‘modern’, touch-screen centric look.

My big issue with this argument isn’t whether or not server administrators (or anyone else) will like the interface. It’s that there’s a mistaken assumption that every single element of Windows Server 2012 has seen the UI upgraded. That simply isn’t the case.

Yes, the Start screen has been updated with the new look, and the basic Server Manager interface also takes on the new style. But as soon as you dive any deeper, you’ll end up doing one of two things:

  • Changing properties in a traditional Windows-style interface;
  • Hitting the command line to enter a command or run a script.

The latter is particularly important. A recurring theme through this event has been the usefulness of PowerShell for automating server administration tasks. It’s a theme our guest bloggers have touched on several times. In an administrator context, those features (and others like improvements to Hyper-V) matter far more than whether there have been changes to the first screen you see.

It’s also worth remembering that the new elements aren’t compulsory. If you choose a Server Core installation, you’ll have nothing but a command line to work with. The choice is yours.

No doubt those parts of the Windows Server 2012 interface which have been modernised will attract comment, favourable or otherwise. But to assume that there’s no other way of interacting with the software is just plain ignorant.

Visit Gizmodo’s TechEd 2012 Newsroom for all the news from the show.

Disclosure: Angus Kidman is attending TechEd 2012 as a guest of Microsoft.


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