I've written about Server Core before -- in my Longhorn Server review of Beta Version 2. It's Microsoft's great new addition to the Longhorn Server product. Essentially, Server Core is a slimmed-down, appliancelike version of Longhorn Server that functions in a couple of limited roles and does nothing else. Server Core, as I see it, has three main advantages: it's extremely focused, which means it does what it does very well, resulting in better performance, resilience and robustness than a full-fledged operating system. It also has limited dependencies on other pieces of the Windows puzzle, in that the Core is designed to work without a lot of other software installed; it can generally work by itself. In comparison, many of the previous Windows components aren't really necessary -- like Windows Explorer or Internet Explorer, for example -- which is something that can't be said for Windows Server 2003.
All of this translates into a far smaller attack surface than the standard Windows Server product, given all of the material that's been stripped out. But there are some aspects of Server Core with which you might not yet be familiar, as well as some interesting facts and limitations of the "core"-based approach to computing. I'll take a look at them here.