The Performance Tuning Guidelines for Windows Server 2012 document is available and I’m reviewing and commenting on notable text in it.
On the subject of a Core installation of Windows Server 2012, the document says:
It features a smaller disk, memory profile, and attack surface. Therefore, we highly recommend that Hyper-V virtualization servers use the Server Core installation option. Using Server Core in the root partition leaves additional memory for the virtual machines to use (approximately 80 MB for the commit charge on a 64-bit edition of the Windows Server operating system).
You’ll save a couple of GB on disk space. When I’m able to buy disks smaller than 300 GB for my hosts I’ll care about this. Smaller disks are price listed, but my experience is that you’ll wait 3 months for them.
I don’t care about saving 80 MB of RAM on hosts with 48 GB, 192 GB, 256 GB, or 4 TB of RAM.
The other pro-Core argument is the number of security patches. I don’t care if I have 1 or 12 patches to install per month. I care about how many reboots I have to do; 1 patch = 1 reboot, 20 patches = 1 reboot. And on reboots, Cluster Aware Updating orchestrates that so I have no service downtime.
I care about easy administration. When there is a problem, I don’t want to be googling PowerShell. I sure as hell don’t want a junior operator/engineer to be searching the net for PowerShell alternatives to tasks that are quick/easy in the GUI. And until the h/w vendors have given us easy/complete non-GUI options for hardware management/troubleshooting, the Full installation is my recommendation, despite what Redmond says.
Microsoft’s recommendation remains unchanged from W2008 and W2008 R2. The Great Big Hyper-V Survey of 2011 shows only a very small percentage of you agreed to follow Microsoft’s advice on Core in the past. One thing has changed in WS2012.
You can switch on the GUI in a Core via Server Manager, but it requires a reboot, and booting any new piece of server hardware takes 10 minutes these days (compare a WS2012 boot on a PC or laptop where it’s seconds). That’s 10 minutes more for the customer or boss to be in your ear asking when their email will be back up and running.
In my opinion and experience, the cost of the full GUI is negligible and therefore I continue to recommend that type of installation. I will consider changing my mind when I can flip from Core-GUI-Core without a reboot.