Category: Windows Admin Center

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Azure Stack VM Update Management

Using Azure Update Management on Azure Stack

At Microsoft Ignite 2018, Microsoft announced the integration of Azure Update and Configuration Management on Azure Stack. This is a perfect example how Azure services from the public cloud can be extended into your datacenter using Azure Stack. Azure Update and Configuration Management brings Azure Update Management, Change Tracking and Inventory to your Azure Stack VMs. In the case of Azure Stack, the backend services and orchestrator like Azure Automation and Log Analytics, will remain to run in Azure, but it lets you connect your VMs running on Azure Stack.

Azure Update and Configuration Managemen Schemat

Today, the Azure Update and Configuration Management extension, gives you the following features:

  • Update Management – With the Update Management solution, you can quickly assess the status of available updates on all agent computers and manage the process of installing required updates for these Windows VMs.
  • Change Tracking – Changes to installed software, Windows services, Windows registry, and files on the monitored servers are sent to the Log Analytics service in the cloud for processing. Logic is applied to the received data and the cloud service records the data. By using the information on the Change Tracking dashboard, you can easily see the changes that were made in your server infrastructure.
  • Inventory – The Inventory tracking for an Azure Stack Windows virtual machine provides a browser-based user interface for setting up and configuring inventory collection.

If you want to use Azure Update Management and more on VMs on-premise (without Azure Stack) or running at another Cloud Provider, you can do this as well. Have a look at Windows Admin Center, which allows you to directly integrate with Azure Update Management. However, there will be a difference in pricing.



System Center release cadence

System Center 2019 – What’s new

Microsoft just launched Windows Server 2019 and Windows Admin Center, which also raised the interest in System Center 2019. At Microsoft Ignite, Microsoft was talking about what is new in System Center 2019, the future of System Center, and how it fits in with Windows Admin Center and other management tools.

Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management Story

Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management Overview

With Microsoft now offering a range of products to manage your Cloud and Datacenter environments, the question comes up “which is the best solution?”. It is not only depending on the size of your company, it also depends on which services you are using and what your job role is. Coming from the Azure site, you have Azure Security and Management, which allows you not only to manage your Azure resources but also integrates and extends with your on-premises environment. System Center is aimed to manage fatacenter environments at scale, and Windows Admin Center helps you to dig deeper to manage individual servers or single cluster management. Both Windows Admin Center and System Center 2019, can be used side by side and both are integrated into Microsoft Azure.

System Center Windows Admin Center better together

System Center vs Windows Admin Center

I often get the question, does Windows Admin Center replace System Center? The answer to this is no, System Center is aimed to do management at a datacenter scale, while Windows Admin Center is giving you deep management access to a single server or clusters. In small environments you might end up using Windows Admin Center only, but in larger datacenter deployments, you are likely to use a combination of System Center and Windows Admin Center.

System Center 2019 Suite Improvements

System Center 2019 Focus

The System Center 2019 release focuses on three main areas. First of all, it adds more capabilities to the existing components and features which were requested by customers. Secondly, it brings integration for the next version of Windows Server, Windows Server 2019 and brings new Windows Server features to life in System Center. Last but not least, System Center 2019 adds more Hybrid Cloud integrations with Microsoft Azure.



Intel NUC Windows Server

Building a Windows Server Lab with an Intel NUC

With the release of Windows Server 2019, which includes a ton of Hybrid Cloud integration features, it was time to build a new lab environment. The plan is to create a lab and demo environment for my presentations and workshops. Until today, I was still using my hardware from 2011, which was built from Cisco C200 and HPE ProLiant servers. This was, more or less, datacenter grade hardware, it was using a lot of electricity and made a lot of noise. Not really the thing for a home lab on your desk. With some pretty good deals out there, I decided to buy a brand-new Intel NUC. NUC stands for Next Unit of Computing, which is a small, light, cheap and not very noisy computer, which gives you the latest Intel CPUs and ports. Mostly used as desktop or media computers. However, the price and the features, are also making it a great option for a lab running Hyper-V.

If I look at the hardware our customers are using today, there is not really a good way to build a cheap home lab based on datacenter hardware. And with my workloads mostly running in Azure anyway, the Intel NUC seems to be a great option. For most of my demos a single server running Hyper-V should be enough. For demos on Storage Spaces Direct or Clustering I can still use Azure with Nested Virtualization.

Intel NUC Windows Server LAB

I decided to get an Intel NUC NUC8i7BEH – Bean Canyon with the following specs:

  • Intel Core i7-8559U
  • 32GB DDR4 RAM
  • 1TB M.2 Samsung 970 EVO
  • Intel Wireless-AC 9560 + Bluetooth 5.0
  • Gigabit LAN
  • USB-A and USB-C ports
  • Thunderbolt 3 port

Unfortunately, the Intel NUC is limited to 32GB of RAM and this version does not have a TPM chip. The good thing, it runs Windows Server 2019 and Windows Admin Center just fine. So far I don’t have any issues, except that there are some missing drivers for Windows Server 2019. We will see how it works out in the next couple of months.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.



PowerShell Windows Server System Insights

Windows Server 2019 System Insights

Currently Microsoft is releasing preview versions of Windows Server 2019 to the public. In one of the latest Windows Server Insider Preview builds, Microsoft released a new feature called Windows Server System Insights. The Windows Sevrer 2019 System Insights capability is a machine learning or statistics model that analyzes system data to give insight into the functioning of your Windows Server deployment. These predictive capabilities locally analyze Windows Server system data, such as performance counters or ETW events. This is helping IT administrators proactively detect and address problematic behavior in their Windows Server environment.

Windows Admin Center System Insights CPU Capacity forecasting

System Insights runs completely locally on Windows Server. All of your data is collected, persisted, and analyzed directly on your local machine, allowing you to realize predictive analytics capabilities without any cloud-connectivity. However, if you are using for example Azure Log Analytics (OMS), you forward the events created by System Insights to Azure Log Analytics, which than can give you a unified view about your environment.



Windows Admin Center Azure Backup

Setup Azure Backup in Windows Admin Center

With Windows Admin Center you have a great new web-based management experience for Windows Server. With Microsoft efforts to bring Hybrid Cloud capabilities closer to your on-premises systems, they added support for Azure Backup in Windows Admin Center. This allows you to simply configure Azure Backup for your Windows Server with a couple of clicks.

Setting up a cloud backup of a server is simple and safes you a lot of time and resources. It is especially great, if you have a small environment in your datacenter or hosted at a different service provider, where having an own backup infrastructure doesn’t make much sense.

Configure Azure Backup in Windows Admin Center

Windows Admin Center Azure Backup

First you will need to register your Windows Admin Center to Microsoft Azure. This can be done in the settings of Windows Admin Center. If you haven’t done this yet, the wizard will guide you through. After this is done you can go to the Azure Backup Extension in Windows Admin Center and sign in. You can now configure Azure Backup directly in Windows Admin Center.

Configure Azure Backup in Windows Admin Center

This will Azure Backup client on Windows Server and as well as in Microsoft Azure. It will create the Recovery Services Vault and the necessary resources

Windows Admin Center Setting up Azure Backup

Register Recovery Services Resource Provider

If you get the error message “Error Failed to create Microsoft Azure Recovery Services Vault. Detailed error: Das Abonnement ist nicht für die Verwendung des Namespace  Microsoft.RecoveryServices” registriert.” You will need to register the Recovery Services Resource Provider in you Azure Subscription.

Register Azure Recovery Services Resource Provider

Configure and Recover from Azure Backup

Windows Admin Cenetr Azure Backup Settings

After Azure Backup is fully configured, you can see the configuration, the latest recovery points and you also will be able to recover data.

I hope this post was helpful and showed you how simple it is to back up your servers to the cloud using Windows Admin Center and Azure Backup. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

Also check out my blog post about Microsoft investments in Windows Server 2019.



Project Honolulu Server Overview

Microsoft Project Honolulu – The new Windows Server Management Experience

Last week Microsoft introduced the world to Project Honolulu, which is the codename for a new Windows Server management experience. Project “Honolulu” is a flexible, locally-deployed, browser-based management platform and tools to manage Windows Server locally and remote.

Microsoft today launched the Hololulu Technical Preview for the world, I had the chance to already work with Microsoft during the last couple of months in a private preview. Project Honolulu helps you to managed your servers remotely as a new kind of Server Manager. This is especially handy if you run Windows Server Core, which I think is the new black, after Microsoft announced that Nano Server is only gonna live as a Container Image with the next version of Windows Server.

Project Honolulu took many features for the Azure Server Management Tools which were hosted in Azure, and allowed you to manage your servers in the cloud and on-premise. But the Feedback was simple, People wanted to install the Management expierence on-prem, without the dependency to Microsoft Azure. Microsoft listened to the feedback and delivered the with Project Honolulu a web-based management solution, which you can install on your own servers.

Honolulu Management Experience

Project Honolulu Server Overview

Project Honolulu 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.

Honolulu Topology

Project Honolulu On-Premise Architecture

Project Honolulu 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).

Project Honolulu 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 Project Honolulu is straight forward, but If you want to know more about the installation check out, my friend and Microsoft MVP colleague, Charbel Nemnom’s blog post about Project Honolulu.

Project Honolulu Gateways Service can be installed on:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2016

You can manage:

  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2016 and higher

Conclusion

In my opinion Microsoft Project Honolulu provides us with the Windows Server Management Tool we need so much. It helps us to manage our servers from a centralized HTML5 web application, and really makes management of GUI less servers easy. Deployment and configuration is very easy and simple and doesn’t take a lot of effort, while drastically removing the need to locally logon to a server for management reasons. I hope with that we will see a higher deployment of Windows Server Core installations, since we don’t need the GUI on every single server anymore.

You can download the Project Honolulu Technical Preview here: Project Honolulu Technical Preview

You can give feedback to Project Honolulu here: User Voice Project Honolulu