For most IT professionals, managing servers is something that is done quite regularly on a day-to-day basis. Core services run on servers and without proper management things can become messy quite quickly. Thankfully we’ve had the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) to handle this historically. However, MMC is going on 20 years old now, and the toolset is much the same as it was 20 years ago. With the industry moving to more of a web-based management model, MMC is really starting to show its age. This is where Windows Admin Center comes in.
What is Windows Admin Center?
For those that aren’t aware, Windows Admin Center is the new preferred server management tool from Microsoft. Windows Admin Center provides a modern-day UI for management of our most critical workloads. I like to describe it as something like server manager from Windows Server 2012-2016 on steroids. It’s not the same tool, but a reimagining of it.
With that said, one common concern that often comes up when I’m talking about WAC is what about MMC? Is MMC going to go away? As of the time of this writing, the answer is no. The old tools like MMC will continue to be supported and available. However, all the new functionality will be developed for WAC and not MMC. So over time, I could see MMC going away, but personally, I don’t see that happening for at least 3-5 years.
Building on what we’ve discussed so far, let’s take a little bit of time to cover 5 ways – in no particular order – that Windows Admin Center makes server management a breeze.
1. Web-Based Management
Windows Admin Center is 100% web-based, and the goal from Microsoft is to make it fully HTML5 compatible. While I’ll say it’s nearly there today, there is still some weirdness with non-edge browsers. So, if you’re using chrome/firefox, your mileage may vary. In any case, it’s not hard to launch edge to make sure you have a flawless experience with this new tool, and as soon as you open it for the first time the benefits become quite apparent. As you can see in figure 1 below, all of the various management tools and settings you’re used to seeing are all in one place. If you drill down into the server overview screen on a particular server, you have access to things like regedit, event viewer, and more. This web-based approach ensures access to server management from any device at any time. It’s a big win to be sure.
Figure 1: Windows Admin Center Stand-Alone Server Management
2. Centralized Server/Object Repository
Another huge benefit of this tool is the centralized management of all your Windows Server and Failover Cluster resources. As shown below in figure 2, WAC can pool all of your servers into a single list. Making management of each item just a single click away. Again, this pertains not only to stand-alone Windows Server instances, but also failover clusters, Hypeconverged-Failover Clusters, and event endpoints! Additionally, any or all of the items you add to the list can belong to different domains or workgroups. You simply input the credentials for each object when prompted.
Figure 2: List of all added resources for WAC to manage
3. Azure Integrations
Hybrid cloud is a huge part of Microsoft’s long-term strategy. It’s generally known in the industry that most organizations aren’t going to move cold-turkey to the cloud. Most will adopt a hybrid approach in that some resources live in the public cloud, while some remain on-premises. Windows Admin Center was designed to manage this strategy by including access to things within the UI like management of the Azure Network Adapter. Additionally, update management in WAC has been paid with services in Azure to allow for a more holistic approach to patching. Expect to see much more in this space as WAC continues to grow and evolve.
4. Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Management
Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (or simply HCI) has been the new infrastructure trend in the industry. The idea of HCI is simply the concept of clustering storage and compute within the same server chassis using cheap commodity hardware. Microsoft has enabled this deployment model with Windows Server through Storage Spaces Direct (Called S2D by some). The problem that S2D has had in the past is that there hasn’t been a great management story surrounding it. Historically the solution has needed to be managed via PowerShell, and many IT Pros have been hesitant to adopt a solution without some sort of GUI management platform. Again, WAC to the rescue.
With WAC in place, we now have a management UI for S2D. Within the WAC UI, you’ll see several references to “Hyper-Converged Cluster Manager”. Hyper-Converged Cluster Manager (As shown in figure 3 below) provides much of the monitoring for the HCI cluster itself along with management of the VMs and storage that live on top of it. While there are still some things missing, like the ability to setup S2D clusters with WAC, it’s a HUGE step in the right direction. With WAC, Storage Spaces Direct is very much starting to feel like it’s ready for prime-time.
Figure 3: HCI Management with Windows Admin Center
Finally, the last area we’ll talk about today is extensibility. Microsoft has made Windows Admin Center in a way that allows 3rd party vendors to create extensions. This allows you to extend the functionality of WAC to potentially encompass all of your infrastructures. For example, vendors like DataOn and Fujitsu have made storage related add-ons for WAC when their hardware is in play, and others are actively developing extensions for their own technologies.
Want to Know More?
We have quite a bit of content centered around Windows Admin Center. Fellow Microsoft MVP and Altaro Blogger Eric Siron, and I recently put on a demo-heavy webinar centered around Windows Admin Center.
Watch the on-demand webinar How to Manage Windows Server Like a Boss with Windows Admin Center
Eric has also compiled a fantastic free eBook on the subject as well designed to complement the webinar. The eBook is over 80 pages and covers Windows Admin Center in great detail.
Download your free copy of the eBook How to Get the Most Out of Windows Admin Center
What about you? Have you tried Windows Admin Center yet? How are you liking it? Anything you don’t like? Anything you’d like to hear more about? Let us know in the comments section below!
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Author: Andy Syrewicze