Category: Windows Server 2019

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Windows Admin Center

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 quiet 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 Deployment Overview

(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

Windows Admin Center PowerShell

  • 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.

Windows Admin Center Management Experience

Windows Admin Center Solutions

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.

Server 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

Windows Admin Center Deployment

(Picture from Microsoft)

WAC can be deployed in several different ways, depending on your needs.

WAC Topology

Windows Admin Center On-Premise Architecture

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).

Windows Admin Center On-Premise and Public Cloud Architecture

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

Windows Admin Center Azure Active Directroy

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.

Conclusion

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. Of course WAC brings right now much more functionality then SMT. And the possibility to extend it with solutions and extensions form third parties makes it even better.

You can download Windows Admin Center here: http://aka.ms/WindowsAdminCenter 



Hyper-V HVC SSH Direct for Linux VMs

HVC – SSH Direct for Linux VMs on Hyper-V

If you are running Hyper-V on Windows 10 or on Windows Server 2016, you probably know about a feature called PowerShell Direct. I also mentioned that PowerShell Direct is one of the 10 hidden features in Hyper-V you should know about. PowerShell Direct lets you remote connect to a Windows Virtual Machine running on a Hyper-V host, without any network connection inside the VM. PowerShell Direct uses the Hyper-V VMBus to connect inside the Virtual Machine. Of course this feature is really handy if you need it for automation and configuration for Virtual Machines. As this is great for Windows virtual machines, it does not work with Virtual Machines running Linux. In the latest Windows 10, Windows Server 1803 (RS4) and Windows Server 2019 (RS5) Insider Preview builds, Microsoft enabled a tool called HVC. HVC is at tool which allows you to do some command line VM management. HVC SSH is basically SSH Direct of Linux VMs.

This allows to connect to a Linux VM using SSH over the Hyper-V VMBus. You are also able to copy file inside a virtual machines using scp.

How to connect to Linux VMs using SSH Direct

HVC SSH on Hyper-V

To connect to Linux VMs using SSH Direct (HVC) simply type hvc.exe into the command line or PowerShell. This will give you all the possible command options. Of course SSH has to big configured inside the Linux virtual machine.

To make this work, the SSH server inside the VM needs to be configured.

Final Thoughts

Pretty cool tool which will be available in the official releases of Windows 10 and Windows Server 1803, released this spring. Later this year this feature will also be included in Windows Server 2019. If you want to try it out today, give the Windows Insider Preview builds a spin.

Thanks to Ben Armstrong for pointing this out 😉



Windows Server 2019

Microsoft announces Windows Server 2019 and System Center 2019

Microsoft today announced the next Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) release for Windows Server called Windows Server 2019. In a blog post today, Erin Chapple, Director of Program Management Windows Server, announced the Windows Server 2019, which will be available in the second half of calendar year 2018. You can try out a Windows Server Preview build through the Windows Server Insider Program today. Microsoft also mentions that System Center 2019 will be available to manage Windows Server 2019 infrastructures.

Windows Server 2019 is built on the foundation of Windows Server 2016 and focuses on a couple of key scenarios. Microsoft in four key areas, Hybrid Cloud, Security, Application Platform and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI).

Windows Server 2019 – Hybrid Cloud Improvements

Project Honolulu Server Overview

As of today Hybrid Cloud is more real than ever. With Windows Server 2019 Microsoft is focusing to improve the customer experience in a hybrid cloud world. Taking advantage of public cloud innovation such as Artificial Intelligence and IoT, and connecting them with on-premise services is a huge enabler for customers. At Microsoft Ignite 2017, Microsoft showed of the Technical Preview of Project Honolulu, a web-based management console for Windows Server. One of the goals of Project Honolulu is to connect Windows Server deployments with Azure services. Together with Windows Server 2019 and Project Honolulu, you can easily integrate services like Azure Backup, Azure File Sync, Azure Site Recovery and much more.

Windows Server 2019 – Security

Security was already one of the big investments in Windows Server 2016. Microsoft does not stop there. With Windows Server 2019 Microsoft brings various security improvements like Shielded Virtual Machine support for Linux VMs and Encrypted Virtual Networks. One of my favorite improvements is the possibility to integrate with Windows Defender Advanced Thread Protection (ATP). ATP was first available for Windows 10 and provides preventative protection, detects attacks and zero-day exploits among other capabilities, into the operating system. This gives customers access to deep kernel and memory sensors, improving performance and anti-tampering, and enabling response actions on server machines.

Windows Server 2019 – Application Platform

Ubuntu on Windows Server using WSL

One of the key focus of Microsoft for Windows Server, was always on the developer experience. Microsoft brings a couple of improvements to make it the best application platform out there. Microsoft invests in a couple of scenarios such as bringing the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) to Windows Server. Another key investment area are Windows Server Containers and Windows Server Container images. In Windows Server 2019, Microsoft reduces the Server Core base container image to a third of its current size of 5 GB. This will reduce download time of the image by 72%, further optimizing the development time and performance. Another key improvement in terms of Container support is the integration and support for Container orchestrators like Kubernetes.

Windows Server 2019 – Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI)

The 4th improvement area is the Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). With Windows Server 2016 Microsoft released a new feature called Storage Spaces Direct. Together with Hyper-V and other Microsoft technologies, this was great to build you own infrastructure for your virtualization workloads. Windows Server 2019 will bring a lot of improvements for Storage Spaces Direct, Hyper-V and other related technologies. Microsoft is adding scale, performance, and reliability to the platform. Microsoft also partnered with hardware vendors to provide an affordable and yet extremely robust HCI solution with validated design.

What else?

  • Windows Server will be GA (generally available) in the second half of calendar year 2018.
  • Windows Server will be a LTSC release. LTSC will be the recommended version of Windows Server for most infrastructure scenarios and workloads like SQL Server, SharePoint and Windows Server Software-Defined Datacenter solutions.
  • With the LTSC release of Windows Server 2019, Microsoft will allow customers to use the Server with Desktop Experience as well as Windows Server Core. With the Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) release, Microsoft only provides the Windows Server Core option.
  • There will be another Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) release at the same time as Windows Server 2019 focusing on Container innovations. The SAC releases will be supported as before for 18 months, while the LTSC releases follow the normal 5+5 year support.
  • Licensing will use the same model as Windows Server 2016 today, Microsoft mentions that it is likely that they will increase the pricing for Windows Sevrer Client Access Licensing (CAL), but will share more details later.

With that we can all be very excited for the next LTSC version of Windows Server. Until then the next SAC release of Windows Server, called Windows Server 1803, will be available this spring. The Windows Server, version 1803 will focus on container improvements. If you want to try out, Windows Server 2019 or Windows Server 1803, you can join the Windows Server Insider Program.