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Windows Server 2008 R2 : Using Windows PowerShell (part 5) - Using Remoting & Using the New-Object Cmdlet

3/15/2011 11:44:59 AM

Using Remoting

When using remoting, three different modes can be used to execute commands. These modes are as follows:

  • 1 to 1— Referred to as Interactive mode. This mode enables you to remotely manage a machine similar to using an SSH session.

  • Many to 1— Referred to as the Fan-In mode. This mode allows multiple administrators to manage a single host using an interactive session.

  • 1 to Many— Referred to as the Fan-Out mode. This mode allows a command to execute across a large number of machines.

More information about each mode is provided in the following sections.

Interactive Remoting

With interactive remoting, the PowerShell session you are executing commands within looks and feels very much like an SSH session, as shown in the following example:

PS C:\> enter-pssession abc-util01
[abc-util01]: PS C:\Users\administrator.COMPANYABC\Documents>

The key to achieving this mode of remoting is a PowerShell feature called a runspace. Runspaces by definition are instances of the System.Management.Automationcmd.exe, and so on). In other class, which defines the PowerShell session and its host program (Windows PowerShell host, words, a runspace is an execution environment in which PowerShell runs.

Not widely discussed in PowerShell 1.0, runspaces in PowerShell 2.0 are the method by which commands are executed on local and remote machines. When a runspace is created, it resides in the global scope and it is an environment upon itself, which includes its own properties, execution polices, and profiles. This environment persists for the lifetime of the runspace, regardless of the volatility of the host machine’s environment.

Being tied to the host program that created it, a runspace ceases to exist when the host program is closed. When this happens, all aspects of the runspace are gone, and you can no longer retrieve or use the runspace. However, when created on a remote machine, a runspace will remain until it is stopped.

To create a runspace on a machine, you can use two cmdlets. The first cmdlet, Enter-PSSession, is used to create an interactive PowerShell session. This is the cmdlet that was shown in the previous example. When this cmdlet is used against a remote machine, a new runspace (PowerShell process) is created and a connection is established from the local machine to the runspace on the remote computer. If executed against the local machine, a new runspace (PowerShell process) is created and connection is established back to the local machine. To close the interactive session, you would use the Exit-PSSession cmdlet or the exit alias.

Fan-In Remoting

Fan-In remoting is named in reference to the ability for multiple administrators to open their own runspaces at the same time. In other words, many administrators can “Fan-In” from many machines into a single machine. When connected, each administrator is then limited to the scope of their own runspace. This partitioning of access can be achieved thanks to the new PowerShell 2.0 security model, which allows for the creation of restricted shells and cmdlets.

However, the steps needed to fully utilize the new security model require a degree of software development using the .NET Framework. The ability of being able to provide secure partitioned remote management access on a single host to a number of different administrators is a very powerful feature. Usage could range from a web hosting company wanting to partition remote management access to each customer for each of their websites to internal IT departments wanting to consolidate their management consoles on a single server.

Fan-Out Remoting

Fan-Out remoting is named in reference to the ability to issue commands to a number of remote machines at once. When using this method of remoting, command(s) are issued on your machine. These commands then “Fan-Out” and are executed on each of the remote machines that have been specified. The results from each remote machine are then returned to your machine in the form of an object, which you can then review or further work with—in other words.

Ironically enough, PowerShell has always supported the concept of Fan-Out remoting. In PowerShell 1.0, Fan-Out remoting was achieved using WMI. For example, you could always import a list of machine names and then use WMI to remotely manage those machines:

PS C:\> import-csv machineList.csv | foreach {Get-WmiObject Win32_NetworkAdapterConfiguration -computer $_.MachineName}

Although the ability to perform Fan-Out remoting in PowerShell 1.0 using WMI was a powerful feature, this form of remoting suffered in usability because it was synchronous in nature. In other words, once a command had been issued, it was executed on each remote machine one at a time. While this happened, further command execution had to wait until the command issued had finished being executed on all the specified remote machines.

Needless to say, attempting to synchronously manage a large number of remote machines can prove to be a challenging task. To address this challenge in PowerShell 2.0, the product team tweaked the remoting experience such that Fan-Out remoting could be done asynchronously. With these changes, you could still perform remote WMI management, as shown in the previous example. However, you can also asynchronously execute remote commands using the following methods:

  • Executing the command as a background job

  • Using the Invoke-Command cmdlet

  • Using the Invoke-Command cmdlet with a reusable runspace

The first method, a background job, as its name might suggest, allows commands to be executed in the background. Although not truly asynchronous, a command that is executed as a background job enables you to continue executing additional commands while the job is being completed. For example, to run the previously shown WMI example as a background job, you can simply add the AsJob parameter for the Get-WmiObject cmdlet:

PS C:\> import-csv machineList.csv | foreach {Get-WmiObject Win32_NetworkAdapterConfiguration -computer $_.MachineName -asjob}

With the AsJob parameter (new in PowerShell 2.0) being used, each time the Get-WmiObject cmdet is called in the foreach loop, a new background job is created to complete execution of the cmdlet. This example shows how background jobs can be used to achieve asynchronous remote command execution when using WMI.

The second method to asynchronously execute remote commands is by using the new cmdlet called Invoke-Command. This cmdlet is new in PowerShell 2.0, and it enables you to execute commands both locally and remotely on machines—unlike WMI, which uses remote procedure calls (RPC) connections to remotely manage machines. The Invoke-Command cmdlet utilizes WinRM to push the commands out to each of the specified “targets” in an asynchronous manner.

To use the cmdlet, two primary parameters need to be defined. The first parameter, ScriptBlock, is used to specify a scriptblock, which contains the command to be executed. The second parameter, ComputerName (NetBIOS name or IP address), is used to specify the machine or machines to execute the command that is defined in the scriptblock. For example:

PS C:\> invoke-command -scriptblock {get-process} -computer sc1-infra01,sc1-infra02

Additionally, the Invoke-Command cmdlet also supports a set of parameters that make it an even more powerful vehicle to conduct remote automation tasks with. These parameters are described in Table 2.

Table 2. Important Invoke-Command Cmdlet Parameters
AsJobUsed to execute the command as a background job
CredentialUsed to specify alternate credentials that are used to execute the specified command(s)
ThrottleLimitUsed to specify the maximum number of connections that can be established by the Invoke-Command cmdlet
SessionUsed to execute the command in the specified PSSessions

As discussed previously, the AsJob parameter is used to execute the specified command as a background job. However, unlike the Get-WmiObject cmdlet, when the AsJob parameter is used with the Invoke-Command cmdlet, a background job is created on the client machine, which then spawns a number of child background job(s) on each of the specified remote machine(s). Once execution of a child background job is finished, the result(s) are returned to the parent background job on the client machine.

Needless to say, if there are a large number of remote machines defined using the ComputerName parameter, the client machine might become overwhelmed. To help prevent the client machine or your network from drowning in an asynchronous connection storm, the Invoke-Command cmdlet will, by default, limit the number of concurrent remote connections for an issued command to 32. If you want to tweak the number of concurrent connections allowed, you would use the ThrottleLimit parameter.


The ThrottleLimit parameter can also be used with the New-PSSession cmdlet.

An important concept to understand when using the Invoke-Command cmdlet is how it actually executes commands on a remote machine. By default, this cmdlet will set up temporary runspace for each of the targeted remote machine(s). Once execution of the specified command has finished, both the runspace and the connection resulting from that runspace are closed. This means, irrespective of how the ThrottleLimit parameter is used, if you are executing a number of different commands using the Invoke-Command cmdlet at the same time, the actual number of concurrent connections to a remote machine is the total number of times you invoked the Invoke-Command cmdlet.

Needless to say, if you want to reuse the same existing connection and runspace, you need to use the Invoke-Command cmdlet’s Session parameter. However, to make use of the parameter requires an already existing runspace on the targeted remote machine(s). To create a persistent runspace on a remote machine, you would use the New-PSSession cmdlet, as shown in the following example:

PS C:\> new-pssession -computer "sc1-infra01","sc1-ad01"

After executing the previous command, two persistent runspaces on each of the specified targets will have been created. These runspaces can then be used to complete multiple commands and even share data between those commands. To use these runspaces, you need to retrieve the resulting runspace object(s) using the Get-PSSession cmdlet and then pass it into the Invoke-Command cmdlet. For example:

PS C:\> $Sessions = new-pssession -computer "sc1-infra01","sc1-ad01"
PS C:\> invoke-command -scriptblock {get-service "W32Time"} -session $Sessions | ft
PSComputerName, Name, Status

PSComputerName Name Status
------------ ---- ------
sc1-ad01 W32Time Running
sc1-infra01 W32Time Running

First, the $Sessions variable is used to store the two resulting runspace objects that are created using the New-PSSession cmdlet. Next, the $Sessions variable is then defined as the argument for the Session parameter of the Invoke-Command cmdlet. By doing this, the command that is defined as the argument for the ScriptBlock parameter is executed within each of the runspaces represented by the $Sessions variable. Finally, the results from the command executed within each of the runspaces is returned and piped into the Format-Table cmdlet to format the output. In this case, the output shows the current status of the W32Time service on each of the specified remote machines.

After you have finished executing commands, it’s important to understand that the runspaces that were created will remain open until you close the current PowerShell console. To free up the resources being consumed by a runspace, you need to delete it using the Remove-PSSession cmdlet. For example, to remove the runspaces contained in the $Sessions variable, you would pass that variable into the Remove-PSSession cmdlet:

PS C:\> $Sessions | remove-pssession

Using the New-Object Cmdlet

The New-Object cmdlet is used to create both .NET and COM objects. To create an instance of a .NET object, you simply provide the fully qualified name of the .NET class you want to use, as shown here:

PS C:\> $Ping = new-object Net.NetworkInformation.Ping

By using the New-Object cmdlet, you now have an instance of the Ping class that enables you to detect whether a remote computer can be reached via Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP). Therefore, you have an object-based version of the Ping.exe command-line tool.

To an instance of a COM object, the comObject parameter is used. To use this parameter, define its argument as the COM object’s programmatic identifier (ProgID), as shown here:

PS C:\> $IE = new-object -comObject InternetExplorer.Application
PS C:\> $IE.Visible=$True
PS C:\> $IE.Navigate("www.cnn.com")
Other -----------------
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