Notes from the Summit: Day 2 Summary

Being the second installment of my daily notes from the 2016 Global Powershell and DevOps Summit. Day 1 wrap-up is here.


Morning Sessions

9 AM (Neema Saeedi, Windows Server & Services Program Manager): Nano Server and Remote Management

Nano Server is coming, ready or not. And it looks like Microsoft’s new skinny server option is a lot readier than it was at last year’s Powershell Summit in Charlotte. Last year’s big reveal was the fact that Microsoft would offer a web-based remote management console for Nano, including familiar tools like Registry Editor and Task Manager that won’t be available on the headless server itself, as well as a Powershell prompt right in the browser.  That management console is now in preview, and Neema Saeedi from the Nano team spent some time today demonstrating the interface as well as providing updated stats about Nano’s current size and deployment time.

The good news: even with another year’s worth of tweaks, Nano is still tiny. It takes only a few seconds to boot and supposedly requires about 512MB of disk space. It’s a bit ironic that Microsoft didn’t take steps to address their Windows Server bloat until it bit them when they started cramming VMs into Azure, but it does give them the ability to use “born in the cloud” as a selling point, so, silver linings I guess. (Silver linings in the cloud. See what I did there?)

The big kicker with Nano’s remote management tools right now, as far as I can tell, is that because the tools are actually hosted in Azure, you will need an Azure account to use them no matter where your servers are actually deployed. I understand the architectural reasons for providing the management tools as a separate service, but man, it would be nice to be able to browse to a management IP address on the server and access the tools inside your own datacenter. I wonder if Nano may be slightly too minimal for its own good. Then again, lots of things about this new setup will just take some getting used to.

Either way, though Saeedi stressed that Nano is the future of Windows Server, it will be awhile before it’s the only option. Nano can’t run a lot of existing apps due to missing DLLs and other dependencies, so Server Core and even a GUI-based option will still be around in Server 2016 and maybe beyond.

10 AM (Josh Atwell): Managing the Infrastructure Stack with Powershell

I was excited for this session because my personal Powershell experience has been mainly in the realm of build automation, and I always like to hear what others are doing in this space. This session was a pretty deep dive, but didn’t disappoint. Atwell works for NetApp and knows his way around a Windows app stack, particularly the storage end. His talk revolved around automating a coherent management solution for multiple layers of a stack, using Powershell at each layer and exporting XML/JSON/SQL/etc to a central registry. I think he is trying to solve a problem that many IT pros haven’t considered, which left a portion of his audience seeming a little confused, but this was a high-quality presentation with some really challenging thoughts behind it. I might look this one up later on the YouTube channel to watch again.

Afternoon Sessions: Powershell Team Presentations

This afternoon was devoted to a series of code demos and a “state of the shell” address from various Microsoft engineers, including Powershell managers Kenneth Hansen and Angel Calvo. (Sadly, Jeffrey Snover is on vacation and did not put in an appearance.)

There wasn’t any particularly big news broken today (the closest was a day-old announcement that the PowerShell documentation is going open source, which, yay), so the tone of the afternoon was more about the Microsoft engineers repeating how much they are doing to engage the Powershell community, and how much they would love our feedback and participation as they seek to improve the Windows ecosystem.

In general I’m a bit suspicious of corporate efforts to create a “community” around a product. A sufficiently awesome product will develop a diehard community all by itself, and that’s in fact exactly what has happened with Powershell over the last 10 years. What Microsoft is doing at this point is attempting to engage that existing community in a way that’s unprecedented for them: by open sourcing everything they can, managing a community script gallery, and in general making it clear that they know upon which side their collective bread is buttered. I haven’t been around that long, but even I can understand and appreciate what a welcome departure this is from the old Microsoft way.

(Random note: did you know that Microsoft has an official Powershell product page? There’s no reason this should surprise anyone, and yet that’s not where most of us are used to getting our Powershell news. It sounds like the Powershell team is going to start putting more of their formal announcements on this page, though, and using social media/HN/Reddit/etc for some of the randomness that is currently on their Technet blogs, so be advised.)

Lots of good stuff happening today. I’m looking forward to interacting with the Powershell team during a light reception at the convention center tonight. As I said yesterday, this is a superbly-organized conference.

Check back again tomorrow for one last Powershell Summit wrap-up!

Notes from the Summit: Day 2 Summary

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