Most of you have heard about the feature Windows 2008 R2 Server Core. It enables you to install a version of Windows with mush less foot-print and when you boot it, all you get is a command prompt:
Now how in hell do you troubleshoot this one? Well, that’s the first question you should ask yourself before installing Server Core, since this is not for everyone… There are several considerations before deciding to use Server Core. First you have to check which roles you will be installing, since not all roles are fully supported. Then, maybe you don’t have trained local IT-staff so troubleshooting over the phone can be hard. If you’re not running Virtual Machines you have to check what your hardware vendor supports and not (for example, HP ProLiant servers don’t fully support Server Core with some hardware). But then again, since Server Core is a minimum-installation, not as many patches and fewer reboots.
Well, in my case, Server Core was given… we had a remote site in the middle of nowhere where we had one HP ProLiant running Windows 2008 R2 with Hyper-V. Within that machine we had a couple of virtual application servers and there was need for a local Domain Controller for redundancy. A RODC (Read-Only Domain Controller, see my post on this) was perfect since it would only authenticate users. Server Core because we had no skilled IT-staff on site so just having a prompt kept away those wanna-be-IT-admins who wanted to install local apps – they simple wouldn’t know how to. Well of course, troubleshooting is harder but we thought, if the thing crashes or have problems, it’s quicker just to re-install it and during that time, users will use the remote DC in the central datacenter.
Oh, and on top of that, we decided to encrypt the RODC server with BitLocker so if anyone would steal it (or rather, create a clone) they would have no use for it…
And since we had numerous sites like this, deploying each site took no time at all, since we automated most installation tasks.
So we installed Server Core using MDT. Once installed, the server had the correct IP, name, joined to the domain and then stopped at the prompt above. Now what?
What we need is an answer file with all the parameters for an unattended installation. Either use notepad locally on the Server Core or create it on another computer and copy it over the network. In my case, it looked like this:
[DCINSTALL] UserName=<username> UserDomain=<your domain> SiteName=<your site> CreateDNSDelegation=no CriticalReplicationOnly=no Password=<your password> ReplicaOrNewDomain=ReadOnlyReplica ReplicaDomainDNSName=<your domain> DatabasePath="C:\AD\DB" LogPath="C:\AD\LOG" SYSVOLPath="C:\AD\SYSVOL" InstallDNS=yes ConfirmGC=yes SafeModeAdminPassword=<password> RebootOnCompletion=no
Check this article for a a list of parameters and explanations. Then I executed the installation. It will not automatically reboot, but this can easily be changed in the answer file.
That’s how we prepare our local branch offices in minutes.