Microsoft Tailors Windows Server Core For Private Clouds

The company is pitching its upcoming Windows "8" Server Core as a low-cost option for building private cloud systems.

Server Core is a "minimal installation option" of the Windows Server operating system that businesses use for specific server jobs or "roles" such as a file and print server or a DNS server. The product strips out a number of components and features such as Internet Explorer, multimedia support, drivers and the graphical user interface.

[Related: The 17 Best New Features Of Windows Server 8 ]

Server Core's smaller footprint minimizes disk space usage and memory requirements, cutting costs and allowing IT to increase virtual machine density and better scale deployments, according to Microsoft.

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Microsoft offered a Server Core version of Windows Server 2008, but that product "wasn't a huge hit," acknowledged Jeffrey Snover, lead architect for the Windows Server Division, in an introduction to a blog outlining Microsoft's latest Server Core initiative.

Adoption of Server Core for Windows Server 2008 was slow because it offered a limited number of roles and workloads, and some key products such as SQL Server were not supported, wrote David Cross, Windows Server partner program manager, in the blog. The older Server Core was difficult to manage because there was no Server Manager support. And there was no conversion between Server Core and the full server, mean there was no path to a full Windows Server installation and IT managers had to start over if an organization needed to move up from Server Core, Cross said.

The new Server Core will be based on the next major release of Windows Server, currently designated with the code name "Windows Server 8." Microsoft began offering a beta release of Windows Server 8 on March 1. The company has not disclosed a release date for both that product and the new Server Core.

The new Server Core release will offer more deployment flexibility with its ability to support more server roles and with increased support from other Microsoft server applications such as the SQL Server 2012 database. "In planning the release, we spent over $10 million dollars and a year talking to the community and cloud solution builders," Cross wrote. "In those conversations, we heard the clear message that deployment agility and optimization were critical to your success."

The new Server Core "is at the heart of our cloud OS effort," Snover wrote.

The new Server Core supports a broader range of roles including several Active Directory services, DHCP Server, DNS Server, print and documentation services, Hyper-V server, remote desktop services, streaming media services, Web server and Windows Server update server.

The new product also makes it possible, using a single command and no more than a single reboot, to go from a Server Core machine with a prompt-only user interface to Windows Server with a full Windows GUI desktop.