Microsoft's many admin UIs: The more the merrier

Microsoft has three types of UIs for server admins. If only all three were available for all its server products

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is an age-old expression we are all familiar with. But in the modern world, someone is always complaining about something being broken. In the administration world, you have people saying, "Hey, there isn't enough command-line control," so Microsoft developed PowerShell. That causes people on the GUI side to proclaim, "Hey, we don't want to learn command-line stuff!" And the world goes round.

A few years back, Microsoft released Windows Server Core, a flavor of Windows Server that doesn't run all the extra UI elements that increase the attack surface for Windows Server in many ways. Although admins loved the decreased attack surface of Windows Server Core, they complained that they couldn't perform administration easily through the command line. Again, the world goes round.

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All those different needs and work styles ultimately means you must offer multiple options so that everyone's needs are met. That's why Micrososoft presents so many UI approaches in Windows Server.

Personally, I like having multiple options for accomplishing tasks. As an example, I appreciate the approach of the Microsoft server and cloud platform team is taking in Windows Server 8 to offer a "minimal server interface." The idea is that you can switch between Windows Server Core and Server Graphical Shell at any time with a single command and a single reboot. Admins will like this because it gives them the best of both worlds.

You can see this flexibility in other areas. For example, I prefer to work with Outlook on my PC to handle email. I'll use Outlook Web Access if I have to, but as nice as OWA is becoming, it's not as good as an actual client app. Browser-based apps are too clunky; then there's that issue of not having offline access to previously received and sent email. But Outlook and OWA aren't meant to be equal; each has its own place. You can get your email on nearly any device via OWA, for example, and it's great when using someone else's device (try that with Outlook!).

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