(13 January 2012)
Microsoft is recommending that admins get used to the idea of not having a GUI on their Windows servers (RedmonMag.com, GUIs On The Way Out
Nice idea, only it comes about 15 years too late.
15 years ago, one of the problems with Windows NT 3.5 Server was that the computers available to run it sucked (to put it politely). Disk was tight. RAM was tight. CPU was tight. And to get in the way of all the things we'd eventually want to run on these Windows servers, Microsoft parked a CPU-eating, RAM-hogging GUI on top of the server, wasting cycles and storage on an interface that the vast majority of the time nobody would be looking at.
If Microsoft had not insisted on their GUI, their server would have been faster and more useful.
Fast-forward to today. Even with the full user desktop environment on the server, we find that CPU is relatively cheap, RAM is even cheaper, and storage is almost too cheap to meter. The overhead of having a GUI is so fractional and so practically non-existant that there's almost no reason to get rid of it.
The problem is that most Windows admins out there depend on the GUI. Sure, powershell is nice, but most of us don't have time to learn it because we only touch these computers occasionally, and everything does have a nice GUI interface to control it.
Some of those GUIs are even usable and complete, which is nice too.
By kicking admins into the deep end, we are going to get a whole generation of people who have not had to worry about living in a shell or shell-like environment experiencing a rude culture-shock.
And that, I think, will lead to a very slow uptake of Windows Server 8.
I'm not saying this is the wrong thing to do. In the long run it will improve matters. Microsoft will have to invent the equivalent of SSH to permit remote management, and Windows admins will slowly come to love the power and flexibility of the shell that unix admins have known for years.
I'm just saying that this move should have been made 15 years ago.