Should I use Hyper-V Server 2012 Core or full Windows Server 2012?

If you are in the process of setting up your virtual environment and you are inclined to implement Hyper-V, you should consider using the Hyper-V Server 2012 Core platform that Microsoft offers for free. It may be a bit overwhelming at first, as there is no graphical interface to assist with configuration or management of your VMs, but if you can stick with it and familiarize yourself with PowerShell cmdlets and freely available scripts, you will likely be very pleased with the stability and performance of your environment. The “user interface” available after install has configuration assistance for required settings, and the last option drops you into a PowerShell window where you can run your unique configuration cmdlets and scripts:

First, consider performance and overhead for your Hyper-V host server. A Server Core installation saves on disk space, as the actual executables and libraries required to run Windows GUIs and management tools are not installed. In fact, only the executables required for the roles you select to configure are installed. This can save up to five gigabytes of disk space, depending on the roles you configure. Similarly, the thinner Core installation consumes less RAM and CPU resources, as there are not as many services running.
Second, consider maintenance of a Server Core installation. There are fewer and less frequent patch and update releases required for Server Core, therefore planned maintenance and reboots are kept to a minimum. Also, since the Core installation contains fewer features, less maintenance is required. Server roles available in Server Core 2012 R2 include:

  • Active Directory (AD)
  • Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (ADLDS)
  • DHCP Server
  • DNS Server
  • File Services
  • BITS Server
  • BranchCache
  • HyperV
  • IIS
  • Printing Services
  • Streaming Media Services
  • iSCSI
  • Load Balancing
  • MPIO
  • qWave
  • Telnet
  • Unix Migration
  • Active Directory Certificate Services

Lastly, consider the significantly reduced threat attack surface for Core installations. Core servers are rarely compromised due to the trimmed down nature of the OS and the reduced services running and available for viruses to exploit.


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