Show me the documentation

This was written by a co-worker of mine recently and I thought I would post it here as I think it's very good information.

One of the biggest tasks as support engineers at Microsoft is researching the answers to very specific scenarios. I was asked by a colleague today if we support using server manager from a Windows 2008 R2 machine to manage a Windows 2008 machine. To be honest, I never tried this, so my first question was “Are you getting an error?”. Sure enough, I quickly get a screenshot forwarded to me, showing a large pop-up:


                Server Manager cannot connect to ‘serverB’. Click Retry to try to connect again.


Connecting to the remote server failed with the following error message: The client cannot connect to the destination specified in the request. Verify that the server on the destination is running and accepting requests. Consult the logs and documentation for the WS-Management service running on the destination, most commonly IIS or WinRM. If the destination is the WinRM service, run the following command on the destination to analyze and configure the WinRM service: “winrm quickconfig”. For more information, see the about_Remote_Troubleshooting Help topic.



In all fairness, the error is somewhat generic, so it could be misleading. It could be network problem, a firewall issue, permissions or even services not running. That’s tough if you’re not even sure if it’s supposed to work in the first place. So, I start my research. This isn’t nearly as off the wall as most of the questions we get, so I figured I’d just start with Bing instead of our internal tools. I search for “server manager 2008r2 2008” and the third link looks promising. It tells me what was added in 2008 R2 and, more specifically:


 “New Server Manager functionality is available in all editions of Windows Server 2008 R2”


Nothing about backward compatibility, but there are a lot more links that seem more promising. How about “Remote Server Management with Server Manager Help”? Even if this doesn’t tell me what’s supported, maybe it will give me more ideas on troubleshooting the error. The very first thing I see is a section titled “Supported remote management scenarios”. Perfect! This is going to tell me exactly what I want to know, right?

  • Server to server   Server Manager on a full installation of Windows Server 2008 R2 can be used to manage roles and features that are installed on another server that is running Windows Server 2008 R2.
  • Server to Server Core   Server Manager on a full installation of Windows Server 2008 R2 can be used to manage roles and features that are installed on a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 R2.
  • Client to server   Server Manager is installed as part of Remote Server Administration Tools on a computer that is running Windows® 7. This can be used to manage roles and features on a computer that is running either the full or Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 R2.

Not listed as a supported scenario – must not work. I’ve been on the platforms team long enough to know that Windows Server 2008 didn’t have the ability to use the server manager console remotely, so this all made sense to me and I sent the link back to my colleague and got back to the project I was working on. All of the sudden, I get a follow up - “This doesn’t say you can’t use 2008 R2 to connect to 2008. I need documentation that says it’s not supported to close the case.” Having been in that position many times myself, I told him that we could request an edit on the page, but that was about it. And, this must go through review and be translated into a few dozen languages. I also noted that the exact same question had already been commented once before with the same response I gave. But, since it wasn’t in the body of the article, it doesn’t appear to be official. There’s nothing wrong with this article. It just takes a minimalistic approach. With 3 statements, we know what can be done. It could take dozens or hundreds to say what couldn’t. For example, let’s say I added Windows Server 2008 as a scenario that doesn’t work. Great – my problem is solved, but now someone could ask the same for 2003 or 2000. If we get ridiculous enough, I could also throw Unix up there.


This brings me to the ultimate point of this posting, which is that the absence of information doesn’t necessarily mean we forgot it. The authors of this article wrote it as an informational piece. This is what the software CAN DO. As engineers, we’ve become so accustomed to looking at a scenario for its roadblocks, we’ve forgotten how to take in information at its face value. There’s a favorite phrase I hear sometimes at the office - “technically accurate, but completely useless”. I always smile when I hear someone say this or think it myself, because there is truth to it when there’s time and money on the line. But, it wasn’t until I found myself on the other side of the argument that I really understood why it was funny. I had no skin in the game on this one which let me think abstractly instead of focusing only on the question itself. So, my challenge to all of you - the next time you read an article and say it didn’t answer your question, go back again and make sure you understand what the author was trying to tell you.


And if you’re wondering – I did test out the scenario and it doesn’t work. Here’s your documentation.