Windows Admin Center – The Next Generation Windows Server Management Experience
Back in September Microsoft released Project Honolulu, which is the codename for a new Windows Server management experience. Today Microsoft announced the Windows Admin Center. Windows Admin Center is a flexible, locally deployed, browser-based management platform and tools to manage Windows Server locally and remote. Windows Admin Center (WAC) gives IT Admins full control over all aspects of their Server infrastructure and is particularly useful for management on private networks that are not connected to the Internet.
I had the chance to test and work with Windows Admin Center for a while in a private preview program. This give me the chance to test and work with WAC for quite some time.
Windows Admin Center is the modern evolution of the “in-box” management tools of Windows Server, like Server Manager, MMC, and many others. It is complementary to other Microsoft Management solutions such as System Center and Operations Management Suite. And as Microsoft clearly states, WAC is not designed to replace these products and services. WAC is a replacement for the local only tools and is especially handy if you run Windows Server Core.
Windows Admin Center also became the management user interface for the Azure Stack HCI solutions.
(Picture for Microsoft)
You might remember the Azure Server Management Tools (SMT). SMT were management tools hosted in Azure and allowed you to manage your servers in the cloud and on-primes. Basically, a hosted services of Windows Admin Center. The feedback however was, that a lot of customer preferred a on-premise solution for their management experience. Microsoft took that feedback and created Windows Admin Center formally known as Project Honolulu.
Windows Admin Center Functionality
- Simplified server management – WAC consolidates many distinct tools into one clean and simple web interface. Rather switching between different tools, you can final everything in one place.
- Illuminate your datacenter infrastructure – With WAC you can manage Windows Server 2016, 2012/2012 R2, Hyper-V Server 2012 and higher. WAC not only allows you to manage standalone servers, but also complete solutions such a failover clusters, hyper-converged clusters based on Storage Spaces Direct and much more. And I am sure you can bet it will also support Windows Server 2019 when it arrives.
- The tools you know, reimagined – Windows Admin Center provides the core familiar tools you have used in the past.
- Manage Hyper-Converged Infrastructure – WAC brings solutions to manage your Hyper-Converged systems. You get a single pane of glass to manage and operate your Storage Spaces Direct Clusters. You can easily get an overview about resources, performance, health and alerts.
- Extend your on-prem environment with Azure Hybrid Services – Windows Admin Center lets you easily extend our on-premises environment, or an environment hosted on another cloud platform with Azure services.
Windows Admin Center Management Experience
WAC has different solutions which give you different functionality. In the technical preview there are three solutions available, Server Manager, Failover Cluster Manager and Hyper-Converged Cluster Manager.
The server manager lets you is kind of like the Server Manager you know from Windows Server, but it also replaces some local only tools like Network Management, Process, Device Manger, Certificate and User Management, Windows Update and so on. The Server Manager Solution also adds management of Virtual Machines, Virtual Switches and Storage Replica.
Failover Cluster Manager
As you might think, this allows you to manage Failover Clusters.
Hyper-Converged Cluster Manager
The Hyper-Converged Cluster Manager is very interesting if you are running Storage Spaces Direct clusters in a Hyper-Converged design, where Hyper-V Virtual Machines run on the same hosts. This allows you to do management of the S2D cluster as well as some performance metrics.
WAC Deployment Options
(Picture from Microsoft)
WAC can be deployed in several different ways, depending on your needs.
Windows Admin Center leverages a three-tier architecture, a web server displaying web UI using HTML, a gateway service and the managed nodes. The web interface talks to the gateway service using REST APIs and the gateway connected to the managed nodes using WinRM and PowerShell remoting (Similar like the Azure Management Tools).
You can basically access the Web UI from every machine running modern browsers like Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome. If you publish the webserver to the internet, you can also manage it remotely from everywhere. The installation and configuration of Windows Admin Center is straight forward and very simple.
The WAC Gateway Service can be installed on:
- Windows Server 2016 (LTSC)
- Windows Server, version 1709 (SAC)
- and higher
You can manage the following operating systems
- Windows Server 2012
- Windows Server 2012 R2
- Windows Server 2016 and higher
Identity Provider and RBAC
In Project Honolulu during the preview time, one of the missing pieces was the missing RBAC (Role-Based Access Control). Windows Admin Center now comes with RBAC so you can configure it for your needs. Also new is the possibility to use Azure Active Directory as a Identity Provider. In this case you can use your Azure AD users and groups to access the Windows Admin Center.
In my opinion Windows Admin Center provides us with the Windows Server management tools we were looking for. It helps us to manage our systems form a centralized, modern HTML5 web application and makes managing GUI-less servers easy.
I still think the Server Management Tools hosted in Azure were a better overall solution. Since we only needed to deploy a gateway in our datacenter and we could access and manage our systems from the Azure portal. However, a lot of customers didn’t like the dependency on the cloud, so the Windows Admin Center makes perfect sense as a on-premise solutions with the option to extend the on-prem environment with Azure. The possibility to extend it with solutions and extensions form third parties makes it even better.
You can download Windows Admin Center here.