The Windows Server 2008 Books: The Plan

Many of you have written me to ask, “are you doing a Mastering Windows Server 2008 book, and if so, when?,” so I’ve put together this Web page in answer. The short answer is that no, I’m not doing a 2008 book..… I’m doing three 2008 books.  They’re slated to arrive periodically throughout the remainder of calendar year 2008. In this page, I want to give my readers a sneak peek at what my co-authors and I are up to, why we’re doing it, and why I think you’re going to like it. There's lots to tell, so I've got the "short version" and the "long version."  I'm hoping you'll stay for the whole thing, but if not...

The Short Version

The big points are:

  • My co-authors and I are writing three Server 2008 books, each about 1000 pages in length.
  • Book 1 is called Mastering Windows Server 2008:  Networking Foundations and it's basically a "beginner" book aimed at people who've used Windows networking, but only as a user, and who want to learn how to create and administer Microsoft networks.  It will be available some time around early June 2008.
  • Most people who have already read one of my previous Mastering Windows Server books should not buy this first book, as most of it will be too elementary for them.
  • Book 2 is called Mastering Windows Server 2008: Essential Technologies, and it aims to show you how to create a 2008-based network that uses those network services that virtually everyone needs:  Active Directory, file and print sharing, IIS 7 and the like.  It will be available around September 2008.  People who are already comfortable with administering previous versions of Windows Server will be able to pick this book up and find it useful without Book 1.
  • Book 3 is called Mastering Windows Server 2008: Enterprise Technologies, and its is mainly a "topics" book that covers the "next steps" after you've already set up and mastered the "everyone needs them" technologies covered in Book 2, things like Windows SharePoint Services, network quarantine, Windows-based VPNs, etc.  It will be available around December 2008.

The Longer Version

Fifteen years ago, I beta tested a new product from Microsoft called Windows NT 3.1 Server. Yes, it was rough-edged, but I liked it from the beginning, leading me ultimately to write Mastering Windows Server 3.5 in 1994. Since then, we’ve seen 13 editions of the book and millions of readers. (By the way, I’m betting that if you’re reading this, then you’re one of them — so let me not forget to thank you!)

Windows Server 2008 ships on 27 February 2008 and as is usual with new versions of Server, it brings a host of changes. There are bazillions of them, but to name just a few, Server Core is a GUI-less server that’s a bit harder to administer, but requires a whole heckuva lot less RAM and disk than it’s GUI-equipped counterpart, the “full” Server 2008 install. There’s a network quarantine system that lets you withhold IP addresses from would-be network clients until they prove that they’ve got (for example — it's configurable) the latest patches and hotfixes and run with their firewall up. Read-Only DCs bring a sort of “forward to the past” element to Windows Active Directory Domains, as they offer what might be the best of the strengths of NT 4-based domains and 2003-based Active Directory domains. (And while I'm mentioning AD, one of its best new features lets you create a separate password policy for any user and/or group.) Yup, there’s a lot of new stuff in Server 2008. As a matter of fact, Microsoft has a document on their Web site that summarizes all of the changes in Windows Server between Windows Server 2003 SP1 and Windows Server 2008. I printed it out so I could read it on a long flight and found myself toting around a stack of paper two inches high. (And yes, I hear the chuckling from those of you who’ve lugged around a copy of Mastering Windows Server 2003, my 1800-page book on the previous version of Server. I’ve heard you all, and, I promise, I’ve got some good news for you, as you'll see below.)

Why three books rather than one? What more do they offer than the Mastering Windows Server 2003 book did? What was I trying to do when I laid out this project? Well, let’s start out with that three book thing…

Why Three Books?

A few reasons, actually.  It just got too big to bind, the scope of things we've got to include is, believe it or not, much larger than it was in 2003, and because breaking things up into a beginner book and two "operational" books offers people who already own a copy of an earlier Mastering Windows Server book the opportunity to skip the basics.

The Book Simply Outgrew Its Binding

I’m told that the machines that bind printed pages into a book have a semi-standard maximum size of about three and half inches. Mastering Windows Server 2003 could apparently just fit, but adding a few more pages would have made it “unbindable.” In addition, I’ve heard from many readers that while they liked the 2003 book, hauling around an eight pound book was like having to carry a second laptop, was it intended to be a stealth fitness program, and did I know that sitting the book in one’s lap raised welts? Honest, I heard you folks.

We’ve Got a Lot More to Include

Additionally, the sum total of things that are now in Server, an in-the-box aspect of Server 2008, is considerably larger. Server 2008 now includes Windows SharePoint Services (Microsoft’s proposed successor to file servers), Windows Server Update Services (the server that hands out hotfixes, patches and service packs), a cut-down copy of SQL Server 2005, a completely new set of Internet infrastructure code (“IPv6”), an FTP server that is finally quite useful, a tool for rolling out Windows images that’s light-years better than its largely-ignored predecessor, and the aforementioned network quarantine service. All new stuff, which meant more pages. In short, Mastering Windows Server 2003’s unwieldy nature and a need to cover a lot more all of that added up to one thing: the day of the single-volume Mastering Windows Server book was over.

Return Readers Will See More “New” Stuff

As I've already mentioned, the first of the three books is sort of a "beginner's" book, and so many readers of previous Mastering Windows Server books may choose to skip it.  That partially addresses a request from some readers that I would very much like to grant but can't for reasons I'll cover later, the "why can't you write a second version of every Server book that only contains the things that have changed since the last version of Server?"

Those are the three main reasons why I've decided to move the book to three pieces — here's a bit about how they're broken up.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised to find that I didn't just take the 21 chapters and create three seven-chapter books.

Three Books: Networking Foundations, Essential Technologies, and Enterprise Technologies

How to break the book up? It would have been simple to just write a 3000 page book and then divide it up into three books by putting the first thousand pages into Volume I, the second thousand into Volume II, and the whatever’s left into Volume III, but it would have been a terrible idea, as anyone who couldn’t find a copy of Volume II would have no way of knowing if Volume III would be of any value to her. Thus, I’ve designed these books so that they’re sort of a series of loosely-coupled books rather than a mandatory “buy us all or you’re wasting your money” sort of deal. It also occurred to me that a three-book-series (and I ask you, what author doesn’t want to have his name on a Trilogy?) would let me better serve the needs of my “return readers,” the folks who have purchased a previous edition of Mastering Windows Server and who want the new stuff, but don’t need to be reminded about how TCP/IP works. So here’s what I came up with.

click this text to pre-order Mastering Windows
Server 2008 Networking Foundations from Amazon

The first book, Mastering Windows Server 2008: Networking Foundations, aims to assist someone who’s just entering the Microsoft networking world, someone who already knows XP or Vista and who’s used networks as a user, and who’s probably used the Internet for e-mail and Web but who’s never set up a Microsoft-based network. The book starts the reader with a quick overview of what networking’s all about and then offers some hands-on immersion in network building. Then it explains the fundamental concepts of Microsoft security, shows how to set up a server and control it via the GUI, command line, Registry and group policies. With those low-level fundamentals out of the way, the second half of the book tackles Windows storage concepts, IP networking, the mysteries of network naming systems (NetBIOS and DNS), delivering Internet addresses and configuration information simply and centrally with DHCP and finishes with an introduction to Active Directory. By this time, the reader is ready to create a foundation for a working Microsoft network, and is almost ready to set up an Active Directory on that network — but AD's going to have to wait for the second book. (By the way, if you’re reading this and you haven’t read any of the previous Server books, then don’t be scared away by all of the acronyms. Book 1 explains those concepts in detail, and that’s a promise!)

click this text to pre-order Mastering Windows
Server 2008: Essential Technologies from Amazon

Book 2, Mastering Windows Server 2008: Essential Technologies picks up where Networking Foundations leaves off. The idea in Essential Technologies was to focus on the, well, essential parts of a 2008-based Windows Active Directory network that I felt that everyone needs to know: how to set up a 2008 Server and an AD-friendly DNS infrastructure, then set up a 2008-based Active Directory atop that, and then provide basic everyone-needs-them server services. Once the book helps you get AD set up, you’ll then move to user account management, file and print servers and see how to connect Windows clients to your AD. File servers sound like old hat? Then hold onto your hat, as Windows’s most important file share — SYSVOL — gets uprooted and retooled with a completely new replication engine, DFS-R. (Better to learn about now then after it fails, right?) Then you’ll meet the completely new and rebuilt from-the-ground-up Internet Information Server 7.0. Then it’s time to see how to monitor your AD with the completely new “AD health model” and — believe it or not — a completely rewritten Event Viewer that lets you centralize events of any kind from zillions of Vista and 2008 systems to just one computer.) System monitoring goes hand-in-hand with maintenance and, unfortunately, recovery, so get ready for yet another completely rewritten system — Server’s backup tool, which I think you'll agree is about a zillion times better than what's in the box for 2003 backup.  Along the way, you’ll learn how 2008 and Vista have TCP/IP stacks with some significant performance improvements and how you can know when it’ll benefit you, the new DNS features that might let you finally drive a stake into WINS’s heart, and meet the new and new-and-improved remote server administration tools. Oh, and how could I have forgotten Server Core? There’s an entire chapter devoted to how it works, what it’ll do for you and — most important — a guide to the command-line tools that’ll let you run your Server Core system.


click this text to pre-order Mastering Windows
Server 2008: Enterprise Technologies from Amazon

What’s left for Mastering Windows Server 2008: Enterprise Technologies, the third book? Plenty.  Book 2 explained the 2008 technologies that I think everyone will use; Book 3 explains the extra stuff that almost everyone will use in some combination or another.  On the Active Directory side, not everyone uses multiple sites and domains, or migrates ADs from one organization to another. Thus, I didn't cover those AD topics in Book 2, so they're in Book 3.  With multiple sites comes the opportunity to talk about one of 2008's coolest new AD features, the Read-Only Domain Controller (RODC).  From there, it's mostly a series of self-contained topics, with coverage of Windows Deployment Services, IPv6, certificates, 2008's VPN technology (with a much-improved IPsec user interface), the new network quarantine service that lets you withhold IP addresses from poorly-secured systems, the drastic and delightful changes to Terminal Services, advanced user account management (logon scripts, roaming profiles, folder redirection, etc), the all-new FTP server (I know, you hated the old one — that's why they wrote the new one), Windows Internal Database (an SQL engine built into Server), 2008's SMTP service (which now lacks a POP3 service unfortunately), Windows Server Update Services (a tool that's been around for a while but is now in the box), and Microsoft's putative replacement for the file server / collaborative tool / document management application, Windows SharePoint Server.

Should You Buy  Book 1 (Networking Foundations) or Not?

Book 1 — Mastering Windows Server 2008:  Networking Foundations — is the "catch up" book for those getting started in Microsoft network planning, installation, administration and troubleshooting, as you probably saw when you looked over its topics.  If you're solid on Windows storage, DNS, WINS, using the command line, TCP/IP (IPv4, that is), DHCP, and the "why do I care" part of AD, then you already know most of what's in the book.  In fact, most of the prospective buyers of the Mastering Windows Server 2008 series who have already read an earlier one of my Mastering Windows Server books should not buy Networking Fundamentals.

In fact, let me strongly emphasize that point: I would really, really hate for a loyal reader to buy a book that won’t teach him or her anything, so if you’re a return reader, then please look closely at Book 1, Networking Fundamentals before you buy it. In contrast, I’ve designed Books 2 and 3 with both the return reader, as well as anyone who’s read Book 1, in mind.

Then Who Should Buy Book 1?

As I've suggested before, it's mainly for people who need to quickly move from a knowledge of working with Windows desktops, email and the Web to understanding the fundamental elements of not just using a network, but creating one — to move from “user” to “administrator.” In Networking Foundations, you’ll start from a quick look at why people want to build Microsoft networks in the first place and move from there to understanding how to make a network work. You’ll learn how to make a computer into a Windows server, and then understand how to control it. Along the way, you’ll see firsthand how Microsoft networks are secured and how to create an intranet infrastructure. At that point, you’ll have a network foundation in place and ready for the next book, which tackles the business of building on that foundation to create a useful network.

Having said that, is the book only for beginners?  Not entirely.  First, 2008 does change some things in those topics, although I've tried to be careful to repeat coverage of the relatively small amount of changes in Book 2 for the repeat readers who opt not to buy Book 1.  Second, the 2008 books cover everything in a somewhat more in-depth manner than the previous books did, because I feel that we're obligated to show you how to accomplish everything not only from the GUI as usual, but also from the command line — Server Core requires that.  (Well, that and the fact that I've always been a command-line junkie proponent.  As I always say, "I hate doing repetitive tasks, and you can't put mouse clicks in a batch file!")  Third, I know that some of you have been in the business for quite some time but haven't read any of my previous books, but you've been working so long in some narrow part of their enterprise’s network that you’d like a broader view of the Microsoft networking landscape, and a "beginner" volume helps there.

Why Not Do a "Delta" Book?

When dividing up the books, I tried to remedy a concern voiced by a small number of return buyers who felt that they shouldn’t see any material repeated from previous books. For example, someone who first purchased my Mastering Windows NT Server 4.0 book in 1997 and learned the fundamentals of TCP/IP in that book, but later purchased my Mastering Windows 2000 Server book in 2001 objected to the fact that the basic “this is how IPv4 works” chapter hadn’t changed very much, and angrily wondered why was I “recycling” so much material? The answer is this: first-time readers of any Windows networking book need to know how TCP/IP works. TCP/IP, however, just doesn’t change all that much from one version of Windows to another. (Unless, of course, we're talking Server 2008, which loads IPv6 by default — but we've got plenty of coverage on that.) It would, then, be crazy for me to waste time trying to write a whole new TCP/IP chapter that says pretty much the same things as the old one, but which is worded differently. TCP/IP is, of course, just one example of concepts that change slowly; there are many.  In fact, with the exception of the change from NT 4 to Windows 2000, we’ve never seen a new version of Windows Server that’s more than about 20 percent different from its predecessor, and so of course every Mastering book on Windows Server must by its very nature have large sections of text that have been revised from the previous version rather than completely rewritten.

Some have suggested that one answer would be to turn out two versions of every edition of Mastering Windows Server. One would be the “complete” version, the books that I've outlined here.  The other would be the “delta” version, which would only cover the changes in the operating system from its previous version. It's a great idea and I've always wanted to produce both versions of each edition of the book, but the fact is that there’s simply no money in it, honest.

You see, I've always been curious about whether a delta book would work or not, so when Server 2003's SP1 and then Server 2003 R2 appeared, I had a perfect opportunity.  Most service packs are pretty ho-hum, but 2003 SP1 (and XP SP2) were major re-writes of the operating system, as anyone who looked at their multi-hundred-megabyte download size saw. Additionally, R2 added a bunch of features that had been available for quite some time as separate downloads, and also added a small number of features that you simply couldn't get anywhere else.  I said to my publisher, "let's do Mastering Windows Server 2003, second edition — we'll revise the 2003 book and have an even better book!"  The publisher didn't agree, partly because of that "how do we expand an 1800 page book?" issue, so I said, "well, then let's try releasing a 'delta' book," and so 2006's Mastering Windows Server 2003 Upgrade Edition for SP1 and R2 was born.  I wrote the majority of it and the rest was written by two of my favorite techie authors (Lisa Justice and Rhonda Layfield), both of whom are among my favorites because they're "technical Rottweilers" — they don't let a concept go until They Understand Every Little Thing... and they're sure that you do, too. It is a pure delight watching either one of them harass the heck out of programmers to get the scoop on something. (Rhonda is the co-author who has contributed the second largest number of chapters to the 2008 series.  Lisa's not with us for this set of books because she's been in the middle of delivering something else — his name is Rowan and he's a cute little tyke.  But Uncle Mark hopes to infect him with the computer bug as soon as possible so his mom will have to write some more just to stay ahead of him.  Heh, heh...)

Anyway, Mastering Windows Server 2003 Upgrade Edition for SP1 and R2 tanked.  I think we sold about 2000 copies.  In author royalty-speak, that corresponds to groceries for a couple of months, and given that it took me six months to write my part, it's not anything that I'd be wise to do again.  (Not that I was really surprised — other book series that have tried delta books have run into lackluster sales of those delta books.  I'm not complaining, though, as it was all fun stuff to write and nice to finally have a chance to give "deltas" a try.)

So delta books aren't economically feasible, but, as I've said, we've been able to reduce the amount of “I’ve seen this before” for return readers by putting much of the basic stuff in a separate volume — Book 1, Networking Foundations. That’s one benefit of separate volumes, and I hope the returning readers find it of value.

The "Prime Directives" for These Books

But let's get back to all three of the books.  I want to tell you a bit more about what you'll find in the three volumes, but first, I thought I'd share with you the things that I asked of the publisher and my co-authors.

Written from the Final Code, Not Betas

You've almost certainly noticed that these books won't be ready on 27 February 2008, the date that Microsoft shipped Windows Server 2008. That’s a break with tradition, as we normally try to get the book out at the same time as the product; what’s different now?

There’s always this one annoying problem with books delivered at the same time as a piece of software: they’re always wrong to a certain extent. Books like this take months and months to write and, after being written, publishers need another couple of months to edit, lay out, print, bind, box and ship those books. If, therefore, we had created a “publish at Server 2008 delivery date” book, then you wouldn’t be reading a book about Server 2008; instead, you’d be reading a book about Server 2008, Beta 3 — an incomplete product, and I do mean "incomplete;" several major pieces didn't exist at all as of Beta 3. Does it really matter whether a book about a product matches that product exactly? I believe so, as it can be disturbing to try to follow an example in a book, only to find that the example doesn’t work because some button’s in the wrong place or some command doesn’t work as advertised by the book. It’s also sort of disquieting to examine a screen shot of some dialog box where that screen shot doesn’t match what you’re actually seeing on the screen. (I recall an extreme example of this back in 1992, when I was writing a DOS 6.0 book and Microsoft pulled DOS-based server networking out of DOS 6.0 literally at the last moment, forcing me to pull the chapter on the topic at the last minute.) As a result, I asked the publisher to let us wait until the final product was finished before releasing the book, and they kindly agreed.

Accuracy Is the Watchword

I believe our decision to wait until RTM — the "released to manufacturing" version — will also serve a very important goal: the best accuracy that we can provide. When books are rushed to print, then things fall through the cracks. That becomes apparent when you try to follow a step-by-step exercise in some chapter in a book, only to find that the chapter’s author apparently wrote the exercise from his memory of how the software works, rather than actually trying out. Accuracy has of course always been important in my books, but I believe that it’s more important now than ever — after all, if you, the reader, are willing to put up with inaccurate advice and explanations, then why buy a book, as you can always just search the Internet. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) I’m not promising perfection, but we’ve tried to only claim what we've actually tried, and tried everything that we claimed.

The Command Line Is a Must!

A long time ago, I was asked to be on a panel of “industry experts” at some conference. We took Q&A from the audience and someone asked me why I thought the Windows Server products were beating the pants off the Novell server products, which were excellent in their own right and were the unquestioned king of the server market as recently as the mid-90s. My answer went something like, “the thing that NT Server [the name of Windows Server prior to the year 2000] contains that Novell doesn’t is the GUI. If you can figure out how to play Solitaire, then you’re halfway to being an NT administrator.” Okay, I was mostly looking for a laugh there, but in truth I think that Server’s early GUI-centric nature made for an easier learning curve and contributed strongly to Windows Server’s rapid outpacing Novell, market share-wise.

I’ve always thought, though, that while GUIs are good for accomplishing things you only do occasionally, in the end analysis you can get a lot of tasks done more quickly with a command-line tool than a GUI tool, and so I’ve always tried to learn both the GUI and CLI way to get things done, and I’ve always tried to teach my students and clients both ways.  Additionally, I have, since 1997, been writing a monthly column about command line tools in Windows IT Pro magazine. I was, pleased, then so see that Server 2008 includes a version of itself that runs basically without a GUI, a version called “Server Core.” It has a very, very minimal GUI, meaning that anyone running a Server Core system had better be pretty good with the CLI. To that end, my co-authors and I have attempted to offer both the GUI and CLI ways to get things done in these books, and I hope you find that useful.

The Books:  More Details

If you've stayed with me this long (thanks!), you may be interested in more information about the three volumes.

Mastering Windows Server 2008: Networking Foundations

Somehow I suspect that me merely saying, “buy this book if you’re new to the industry or want a broader perspective on Server,” may not provide sufficient incentive for you to decide to part with thirty bucks. So here’s what you’ll find inside Mastering Windows Server 2008: Network Foundations.

First, I needed to ensure that people of all technical levels could make use of this book, and so Chapter 1, “Why Network?,” provides a quick background on Windows networking, discussing the benefits of networks, their component hardware, software, and protocols, and some “baseline” concepts so you’ll be ready for the rest of the book. In Chapter 2, we skip the concepts and go straight to the skills, as we show you how to build two Windows Server 2008 systems, create a file share, access that file share, and more. I don’t know about you, but I can learn things much more quickly if I can get my hands around them by playing with them, so we provide a step-by-step “cookbook” about creating these two servers. I think you’ll find that having two working servers will make following the rest of the book easier, as you can always put the book aside and try out what you’ve been reading.

Chapter 3 fixes a problem that I’ve been meaning to fix in the book for quite some time. Once upon a time, security in networking was something of an afterthought: for most organizations, it was "first get the network working, and then go secure it when you get time." But unfortunately that’s 20th century thinking; the modern network administrator must understand and be thinking about security from Day One. That’s why this book has an all-new chapter, “Microsoft Security Concepts: Where Windows Keeps the Locks and Keys” that explains how logons work, what permissions, rights, and privileges are, and where they live in Windows. With a bit of hands-on and the “basic basics” out of the way, it’s then time to see how to install Windows Server 2008 in Chapter 4. This is actually the first of three chapters on Windows setup and deployment in this series, as the same topic re-appears in Books 2 and 3 in increasing levels of sophistication. The chapter in this book tells you about the several different flavors of Server available, some advice on acquiring Server-friendly hardware, a guide to running Setup (which looks very different from 2003's Setup) and then the initial setup process.  It then ends with a cook’s tour of the literally dozens of aspects of Server 2008 that you can enable or disable.

Once the system’s set up, it’s time to meet its dashboard or, rather, dashboards. In the next four chapters, you’ll meet the four big tools that administrators use to reconfigure and control Windows Server: its GUI, its command line interface (CLI) tools, its “Registry,” the place where Windows keeps the settings, and its group policy settings, a sort of all-in-one-place location for several thousand Windows settings, levers, dials and switches. Chapter 5 starts the four chapters off with coverage of the Microsoft Management Console, a graphical framework for small programs called “snap-ins” that can be mixed and matched to allow you to create your own “administrative cockpit,” and also includes some advice for those moving from the Windows 2000 or Server 2003 user interface to Server 2008’s new desktop. Chapter 6 moves you from the GUI to the command line with an introduction to administration from the command line, a useful chapter that’s a guaranteed cure for “C:\>”-sickness. (Get it, “seasickness?” You see, from the command line you sometimes just see “C:,” and … okay, not my best joke, I admit it.) Chapter 7 covers the Registry from tip to toe, starting from its structure and purpose and moving quickly to some straight-talk advice about its realities (“don’t expect the meaning of different Registry settings to be consistent — there is no Registry Police!”) and from there to procedures to modify the Registry when necessary, backing it up, securing it, and understanding how its structure can cause many of the software incompatibilities that we run into when moving from older versions of Windows to Vista and Server 2008, and what you can do about it. Chapter 8 then offers a soup-to-nuts look at something called a “local group policy object,” a very, very useful tool for local server administration — and one that’s undergone some significant changes over the local group policy objects in Server 2003.

With all of that out of the way, it’s time to see how to do just enough basic server management to get us past the “beginner” stage to the “intermediate” level that we need in order to tackle Book 2. Chapter 9, “Windows Storage Concepts and Skills,” explores how to install, configure and manage drives on Windows Server, as well as creating fault-tolerant stores, protecting them with volume shadows and more. Chapter 10, “TCP/IP and IPv4 Networking Basics,” introduces you to TCP/IP, the language of the Internet. You can’t get your computer onto the Internet (or even your home’s network) without knowing what a “subnet mask” and a “default gateway” are, and you’ll learn about them and more in this chapter. You’ll also see how to troubleshoot a failed Internet connection and how to get it back up and running there as well.

The next three chapters cover a topic that makes networks easier for users to use… but often tougher for administrators to fix. I’m talking here about network names, the things that let you visit my Web site by typing “www.minasi.com” (the Web site’s name) rather than “70.165.73.5” (its network IP address). In a perfect world, this would be a really simple topic, but it’s not, because Microsoft networks use two completely different kinds of names — sort of like what life would be for me if half of the world knew me as “Mr. Minasi” and the other half knew me as “Mark” but if neither half could understand that I could have any name other than the one that they knew me by. Chapter 11, ‘What’s in a Name?” explains how we got into this mess in the first place. Chapter 12, “Old Names: Understanding NetBIOS, WINS and NetBIOS over TCP/IP,” explains how Microsoft networks used to do names — but can’t quite seem to stop doing it — and how you can (and almost certainly must) make those names work on your network. Chapter 13, “New Names: How DNS Works,” explains the Domain Name System (DNS), the naming system that the Internet uses and that Microsoft is using more and more.

You learned about TCP/IP from a “how to use it on my computer” standpoint in Chapter 10, but as a network administrator you need to deliver an IP address to everyone in your network and believe me, you don’t want to have to walk around to every system on your network and give them an address. Modern networks simplify this with a sort of service called the “Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol” or “DHCP server.” If you’ve got an Internet router in your house, then it’s probably currently serving in that role for your home network… but Windows Server can act as an industrial-strength DHCP server that can do way more things than that little Internet router can do, and you’ll learn about that in Chapter 14.

Everything that we’ll have done up to that point is nice and useful, but here’s the ugly truth: it’s all just plumbing. I mean, don’t get me wrong — plumbing is necessary and all, and when someone else’s plumbing doesn’t work, they’ll usually be pretty willing to pay someone (like you, perhaps) decent money to fix the plumbing. But plumbing isn’t all that interesting unless you’ve got something to attach to it — sinks, toilets, bathtubs and the like. Get ready to meet our first big fixture, our first big “this is why we worked so hard to set up these servers” reason: Active Directory. AD is the main focus of Book 2, but I didn’t want to end this first book without giving you a look at AD: what it does, why you want it, and what you can do with it. And with that, we’ll be done with our examination of networking foundations… and ready to move to Windows’ essential technologies.

Mastering Windows Server 2008:  Essential Technologies

Book 2 aims to help people who already know earlier versions of Windows Server and those who’ve just finished MWS 2008:Networking Foundations to work with what I think are the everyone-needs-to-know technologies and concepts, the things that networks large and small need to know.

The book starts off with an overview of what’s new in Server 2008, and then returns in Chapter 2 to the topic of 2008’s Setup program. But this time, we show you how to set up a hands-off setup via an answer file, and what you’ll need to add that first 2008 server to your existing Windows Server 2003-based network. (There will be a little amount of overlap from Book 1 for the benefit of those just joining us in Book 2, but not much — we're going way beyond Book 1 here.) Then it’s time in Chapter 3 to meet the newest member of the Server family, a sleek, trimmed-down, lean-and-mean version called “Server Core.” You’ll do most of your Server Core administration from the command line… so you’ll save days by learning the particular command-line tools you’ll need to run a Core system. And, as I've promised, you’ll find that all three books share the trait that wherever possible you’ll learn not only the GUI method of getting something accomplished, you’ll learn the command-line method as well.

In Chapter 4, we move from the TCP/IP basics covered in MWS 2008:Networking Foundations to a look at what’s new in 2008’s networking code. It's geeky — TCP window sizes and all — but quite significant for many networks, so don't skip it!  Chapter 5 returns us to the topic of DNS for two reasons: to learn what new features 2008 brings to DNS (it wouldn't have been fair to put that stuff in Book 1) and some step-by-step instructions to set up a DNS infrastructure that’ll make your network Active Directory-ready.

With the last of AD’s foundation laid, it’s time in Chapter 6 to actually build an Active Directory, showing you how to implement the simplest — and most common by far — Active Directory implementation, called a “one domain, one site forest.” Now that you’ve got an Active Directory, it needs users, so Chapter 7 explains the care and feeding of 2008-based user accounts, always with an eye to getting your work done in the least time. Then we return to the topic that we previously spent four chapters on in MWS 2008:Networking Foundations — control — as you’ll learn how to expand and multiply the power of group policies with domain-based group policies in Chapter 8. Our examination of how to control AD continues in Chapter 9, where you’ll learn how to divide up the work by creating administrative accounts with fine-grained control of those powers via something called “Active Directory delegation.”

The earliest function of any local area network is file and printer sharing, and so Chapters 10 through 12 take you step-by-step through several aspects of those topics and particular taking veteran Windows Server administrators through a potentially troublesome migration tool. Every Active Directory needs machines called “domain controllers” to run the AD, and every DC needs a special shared folder called “SYSVOL.” Server 2008 completely changes SYSVOL, requiring a migration that, well, can be a little tricky… unless you read Chapter 11.

That room where the company keeps the servers can get pretty hot and noisy, so most of us admin types like remote administration tools, the topic of the Chapter 13. After that, you’ll see how to connect various kinds of Windows clients to your new Active Directory domain in Chapter 14. Then it’s time in Chapter 15 to set up Microsoft’s Web server, the completely rebuilt-from-the-ground-up Internet Information Server 7.0. Finally, you’ll see how to monitor your system’s health and performance in Chapter 16, and the last chapter shows 2008’s Active Directory new maintenance and recovery tools.  At this point, you've built a useful, full-featured basic network.

But you just know you (or your boss, or your clients) will eventually want more.  That's why there's a third book.

Windows Server 2008:  Enterprise Technologies

Once you’ve worked your way through Mastering Windows Server 2008: Essential Technologies, you’ll be well on the way to a good knowledge of the parts of Windows Server 2008 that virtually every Windows network will include (as far as I can see, anyway). Microsoft’s made Windows Server into a fairly big tent in that it comes with a large number of other networking tools beyond what the “essential” stuff. I think of those technologies as the “enterprise” tools and, again, you’re not likely to come across all of them in any one organization, but I’m pretty sure you’ll see differing combinations of some them in virtually every organization.

You may have noticed a sort of narrative thread, a “story line” in the first two books: the first book lays the foundation, and the second raises your network’s house, so to speak. They’re each sort of like a novel in that reading their chapters out of order usually won’t work well. In contrast, you’ll see that Mastering Windows Server 2008: Enterprise Technologies is less of a “novel” and more a collection of “short stories,” coverage of topics like (to continue the house metaphor) putting in an extra bathroom, extending the garage, finishing the basement, and the like.

As with the first two books, we again open on the topic of deployment, this time in Chapter 1 moving beyond the question of rolling out one server and continuing to coverage of Microsoft’s more extensive technologies for rolling out systems by the truckload in a chapter that includes Microsoft’s new imaging tools and their unifying software, Windows Deployment Services. In Chapter 2, you’ll learn about a technology that’s of limited interest by itself but that acts as a foundation for several of the topics covered later — certificate services and public key infrastructure (PKI). Chapter 3 returns to TCP/IP fundamentals, but this time to demystify IP version 6, the new networking software that Microsoft enables by default on all Vista and Server 2008 system. If you’ve been shutting off IPv6 as a matter of course in your modern Windows systems, then this chapter may change your mind. Chapter 4 continues IP coverage with details about how to build an IP infrastructure, including using a Window Server system as an “Internet traffic cop” — an “IP router,” and you’ll learn how to divide your network into “subnets.” You’ll need to understand Windows-based IP routing and subnetting as a prerequisite for the next two chapters.

Chapter 5 shows you how to use a Windows Server computer to allow you to access your organization’s intranet from home or on the road, with coverage of Windows-based virtual private networking (VPN) technologies. Knowing about IP routing and Windows-based VPNs prepares you for one of 2008’s really big all-new technologies, Network Access Protection (NAP). One way that malware gets into your network is when someone with a laptop computer accidentally installs some malware on the laptop and then brings it into your organization. Modern networks, however, can stop the malware at the door through a “quarantining” system that refuses to give a computer an address on the network until that computer’s been through a sort of “health check.” Again, it is one of the few truly new-to-2008 pieces of Server 2008 and you can read all about it in Chapter 6.

In Chapters 7-11, we return to the topics of Active Directory and file shares. Chapter 7 expands on the basic AD structure that we discussed in Essential Technologies with a discussion of running ADs in organizations with multiple locations and branch offices. Chapter 8 introduces another one of Server 2008’s all-new features, the notion of a “Read-Only Domain Controller” or RODC. Microsoft originally created RODCs to address the problem of putting a DC — a server that contains user passwords and thus must be secured properly — into an insecure location like many branch offices. But now that RODCs are available, it’s easy to see a number of other uses for them, as you’ll see in Chapter 8. All of this talk of branch offices is then the jumping-off point for a new form of file server designed with branch offices in mind, “DFS Namespaces.” They first appeared in a sort of incomplete form in Server 2003 R2, but they really take off in Server 2008, as you’ll learn in Chapter 9. Chapter 10 discusses the whys and hows of creating a multi-domain forest, and Chapter 11 explains how to merge and migrate existing Active Directories, as you might do if your organization merges with another, or changes its name. It’s one of the uglier tasks we can ever face as AD managers, but Chapter 11 shows you the most direct ways to get it done.

Chapter 12 discusses an aspect of Server that’s been around for about ten years, but that gets a major overhaul and improvement — Windows Terminal Services. There’s so much new about Terminal Services that this chapter is a must-read for anyone using this valuable tool! Chapters 13 and 14 help out enterprises with non-Windows clients, explaining how to attach Macintoshes and Linux systems to Windows networks as easily and effectively as possible.

Chapters 15 and 16 discuss setting up FTP and e-mail servers on Server 2008 (and here “e-mail servers” does not mean Exchange, Microsoft’s premier email server product, but rather simpler Internet email systems). The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is one of the oldest and still most-used way to exchange files over the Internet, and Windows Server has always included an FTP server… but nobody ever really liked it. It always sort of felt like an afterthought, something that Microsoft did because someone forced them to do. With Windows Server 2008, however, we get a brand-new and quite nice bit of FTP server software, as you’ll see in Chapter 15. Chapter 16 looks at Microsoft’s implementation of the workhorse email standards that handle every byte of Internet e-mail, the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). Server 2003 included a module called the Post Office Protocol (POP3), which meant that Server 2003 had a complete (if bare-bones) email server right in the box, but unfortunately that’s no longer true in Server 2008.

More and more Windows components need to store reasonably large and complex databases and the standard way to access databases has become the Structured Query Language or SQL. Several parts of Windows Server can’t function without a SQL database server present, and so Microsoft includes a basic version of their SQL Server engine in Server 2008. Called “Windows Internal Database,” this server service, once added, requires a bit of care and feeding, as well as introduces new security requirements. Chapter 17 explains those issues, as well as offering a set of “cookbooks” on how to manage this SQL database engine.

The more software you have on your computer, the more potential bugs you’ve got on that computer, and so all the more patches you’ve got to apply. But keeping up with patching is becoming a part-time job… which is why Microsoft includes an entire service to do that, the Windows Server Update Services (WSUS). Chapter 18 shows you what WSUS does, how to set it up and how to manage it.

Microsoft tells us that file servers are a mere thing of the past, and that a Web application of theirs is an even better idea — an application called Windows SharePoint Services. SharePoint’s been around for a while but it keeps getting better. It lets you share documents as file shares do, but with the added benefit of a Web interface, an easy way to not just share files but collaborate with others, share calendars and tons of other things. SharePoint’s more than just a Web app; it’s an, um, way of life as far as I can see, and Chapter 19 covers it.

Enterprise Technologies finishes with Chapter 20, where we return to the matter of user account management with some practical advice on how to use roaming profiles, group policies and logon scripts to simplify things for users — which simplifies things for us administrators. And with that, the Mastering Windows Server 2008 series is done… until Windows Server 2008 R2 appears in a couple of years, that is!

Thanks for stopping by and letting me introduce you to my Server 2008 series.  I hope you like it and find it useful.  As always, I'm always interested to hear your thoughts; I'm at help@minasi.com.  Stay well and thanks again!