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I am new at setting up servers. I can see people reaching for console-only installations of web and SQL servers. I realize that low-quality graphics drivers and the simple fact that graphics driver took up a significant portion of memory space were real causes for concern. I am looking to run simple scripting tools, but in a windowed environment, since text-only is not available. Is there an update for 2011?

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I'm sorry, but its not clear what you're asking here. "Is there an update for 2011" - update to what? I assume you're talking about Windows core? The reasons why you might select 'full' windows over 'core' have not changed. The technical limitations of core are still the technical limitations of core, and the pros and cons besides that are still there for you to make a decision between. – RobM May 1 '11 at 14:28
@Robert Moir: (i assume that windows core as you refer to it means kernel + drivers) do you feel that graphics driver quality has not improved to the point of being acceptable for server applications? – GregC May 2 '11 at 2:58
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The GUI-penalty for running servers is a lot less now than it was 10 years ago. So much so that I no longer reflexively turn it off when I'm setting up a new Linux server. If I am RAM constrained in a significant way (couldn't wrangle enough money out of higher management to do it right, or I'm in a RAM-constrained VM for some reason) then I'll disable the GUI as part of my optimizations.

Windows is another animal. I have seen various MMCs consume over 200MB of RAM while I'm doing things on the server console, which isn't peanuts. What's more, sometimes these management consoles can be real CPU pigs. It's for these reasons that whenever possible I run the management GUI somewhere else and remote connect to the server.

As for scripting on Windows, remote-PowerShell is as low impact as you can get. The target server will still have to spin up a PowerShell scripting environment to run the thing, but that'll happen whether or not there is a text-box popping up on the console of the server.

Also keep in mind scale. A Windows server running 1280x1024 screen resolution at 32b color depth will consume 40MB of RAM just in maintaining the visible bitmap (the actual amount consumed by GDI will be different, but I'm not certain of how much). 40MB is, in my experience at least, a bit less than the RAM-price of running two PowerShell CLI windows simultaneously.

And finally, hardware. Virtual Machines don't have graphics hardware and the graphics drivers tend to be a lot more homogeneous, take video-RAM right off the top, and generally use a lot LESS RAM than actual hardware. The problems you state are greatly reduced in a VM environment.

Is there a technical reason for avoiding UI on Windows these days? A case can be made, but it is much weaker than it was back around 2001. A much bigger problem is the cost in UI tools not the UI itself.

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that's a well-balanced answer. I like that! Here's what has spawned the question, if you're curious:… – GregC May 2 '11 at 3:12

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