How to manage multiple servers in Windows Server 2012

Tutorial - Managing multiple servers with Windows Server 2012

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Ed Baker, a Windows Server Instructor at Firebrand Training explains how to manage multiple servers in Microsoft Windows Server 2012

Now cloud computing is here, Server Manager needed to move from a single- to a multi-server view of the environment. Now you can see all your servers, check their performance and fix any issues – all from the Server Manager dashboard.

Windows Server 2012 allows multiple servers; with remote management, monitoring, installations and roles. I can now make changes to a group of DCHP or DNS servers – regardless of where they are physically.

On the Windows Server Blog, Jeffrey Snover groups the design of the all-new Server Manager into three principles: glance-able, actionable and relevant.

  • Glance-able – You can glance at the Server Manager dashboard to get an overall view of the server environment. You can then quickly spot the key issues that need your attention
  • Actionable – You can fix these issues without opening another tool. Via the Server Manager dashboard, you can start and stop services across multiple machines
  • Relevant – The Server Manager dashboard is completely customisable. You can create a custom group - based on your needs - to display on the dashboard.

What you need to get started

For most of us, the Server Manager application is the starting point for all server management in Windows Server 2012, both local and remote. However, just about everything can be done from the Command Line too, using PowerShell 3.0. Indeed it is possible to have your whole server estate running on Server Core installations; and to manage the servers remotely either by PowerShell, Server Manager from an additional administrative server, or from RSAT in Windows 8 (which has its own Server Manager app).

To fully manage a server remotely from Windows Server 2012 (or RSAT Server Manager on Windows 8), it must have the following installed:

  • A Windows Server operating system, 2008R2 or newer
  • .Net 4.0 framework
  • WMF 3.0 (which includes WinRM 3.0 and PowerShell 3.0)

How to monitor your Server estate from one console

Windows Server 2012 remote monitoring is simplicity itself. In previous versions it was possible to set up event subscriptions to see historical activity and even take action based on such activity. This was based on WinRM 2.0 and PowerShell to carry out these functions.

With the release of Windows Server 2012, the design goals have all been achieved. The dashboard view of Server Manager is 'Glance-able'. The below screenshot shows a rather unhealthy server dashboard which is monitoring seven roles, three server groups, containing five servers - one of which is a Virtual Server.

From this one screen it is possible to see the status of all the individual roles deployed, as well as the overall status of any server groups, the local server and all servers. This screen will monitor a server whether it is a physical machine or a virtual machine. Each of the tiles visible can be accessed for detailed information (the welcome tile can easily be hidden or displayed).

How to manage multiple servers on Windows Server 2012 - step 1
How to manage multiple servers on Windows Server 2012 - step 1

The screenshot below shows the effect of clicking on the HostGroup Tile, BPA (Best Practice Analyzer) entry. This list can be filtered by Severity, Category or Server.

How to manage multiple servers on Windows Server 2012 - step 2
How to manage multiple servers on Windows Server 2012 - step 2

What about managing roles and taking action on the remote servers?

Displaying information from a number of roles, servers and groups of servers is all very well. But to be of real use, we need to be able to manage these servers either individually or as a group, and carry out tasks on each one.

By selecting a role in the left hand side of Server Manager, the servers which are available - which hold that role - are displayed. In this case both The Primary server and Z600monster servers hold the DNS Server role.

How to manage multiple servers on Windows Server 2012 - step 3
How to manage multiple servers on Windows Server 2012 - step 3

A Simple right-click on the server name brings up the menu below:

How to manage multiple servers on Windows Server 2012 - step 4
How to manage multiple servers on Windows Server 2012 - step 4

This menu provides a shortcut to all the server management functions available on that server from this menu. Design goal number two achieved – Actionable, I can run DNS manager and make changes on the server concerned directly. If I had accessed the menu from the All Servers tile, this is what I would have been presented with. All still actionable. Note I can add roles remotely too. I can even add roles to OFFLINE VHDs