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Windows Server 2012 Features: Remote Access, Core Server, and New Roles

Feb. 25, 2013
Randy Muller

guylaptop161000979New in Windows Server 2012 is the Unified Remote Access (URA) role. In Windows Server 2008 R2, DirectAccess and Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) were two separate roles.  In fact, they could not be co-located on the same server.  In Windows Server 2012, DirectAccess and RRAS can be co-located, allowing for what is now legacy remote access VPN client connectivity (L2TP/IPsec, PPTP, and SSTP).  This means that the Unified Remote Access provides DirectAccess, Remote Access VPN, and site-to-site VPN and can now serve as your complete remote access solution.

Some of the new features in Windows Remote Access include:

  • Support for Server Core. From a security perspective, it makes a lot of sense to run DirectAccess on Server Core.

  • Simplified management and infrastructure. You no longer need a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), nor do you need to have Forefront UAG to support IPv6 (Windows Server 2012 has built-in support for NAT64 and DNS64).

  • NAT support. Prior to Windows Server 2012, DirectAccess could not be deployed behind a NAT and required two public IPv4 addresses.  Now it can be deployed behind a NAT and can even be used with a single network adapter.

  • PowerShell. You can use PowerShell to fully automate and manage your DirectAccess deployment.

  • User Monitoring. Administrators now have the capability for increased user and server health monitoring.  The Monitoring Dashboard allows the administrator to view resource usage, server loads, user activity, and DirectAccess clients and connections.

  • Network Access Protection (NAP) Integration. Prior to Windows Server 2012, administrators had to manually configure each Group Policy. Now NAP health check policies can be created directly through the setup user interface, and the whole process is automated.

New Windows Server 2012 Default Installation: Core Server

The Server core installation option is not a new feature to Windows Server 2012, as it was introduced in Server 2008 and 2008 R2. What is new, though, are the greatly enhanced features and capabilities introduced in Server Core. Server Core is a minimal installation option; management tasks on Server Core can be performed locally from the command line (and PowerShell) or from another computer. Some of the new features for Windows Server Core includes: a straight forward method for switching between Server Core and a GUI interface, a GUI with a minimal interface, support for a much broader array of roles than was available in previous versions, and support for SQL 2012

One interesting thing to note about Server Core is that it is the default installation for Windows Server 2012, though you can change it at a later time. In Windows Server 2008 there was no method to upgrade to a GUI version. Now, you can install a GUI in Windows Server Core; in fact, there are three available levels of GUI in Server 2012.

  • Full GUI

  • Minimal Server Instance (MinShell)

  • Server Core installation (no GUI)

Upgrading to a GUI version is straight forward and as easy as using a single command and a reboot. How you initially installed Windows Server will determine what method you must use to change the interface for Server Core.

Windows Server 2012 Core Server – New Roles

Windows Server Core 2012 can now host numerous roles, including Branch Cache, Telnet Server, and Active Directory Rights Management Server (ADRMS), which is unavailable in previous versions. SQL Server 2012 can now be installed on Windows Server Core. You can add/remove supported roles using Ocsetup in the command-line or using PowerShell (once the source files are available) Add-WindowsFeature Server-GUI-Shell

  • Active Directory Certificate Services,

  • Active Directory Domain Services

  • Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS)

  • Active Directory Rights Management Server

  • DHCP Server

  • DNS Server

  • File and Storage Services (including File Server Resources Manager).

  • Hyper-V

  • IIS and Web Server

  • Print and Document Services

  • Remote Access Server

  • Windows Server Update Services

SCONFIG.CMD is a utility that can be used to configure Windows Server Core. The SCONFIG.CMD command-line menu can be used to perform most common administrative server tasks.

  • Add a Local Administrator

  • Computer name, Network Settings

  • Configure Domain and Workgroup information

  • Configure Remote Management

  • Windows Activation

  • Windows Updates

You can use Windows PowerShell and sconfig.cmd (as well as remote GUI shells) to fully administer a Windows Server 2012 Core installation.

Reproduced from Global Knowledge White Paper: Twelve Fantastic Features You Need to Know about Windows Server 2012

Related Courses
MCSA: Windows Server 2012 Boot Camp
Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 (M20410)
Administering Windows Server 2012 (M20411)