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Windows Admin Center is the biggest news in Windows management tools since the introduction of PowerShell. It provides a very modern, modular application design that offers easy access and tremendous extensibility.
In conjunction with Microsoft's Ignite 2019 event, Microsoft released a new version of Windows Admin Center, version 1910. With this release, there are many great new features to talk about that help to make Windows administration with WAC even better.
Let's take a look at the following new features found in Windows Admin Center 1910.
- New user interface enhancements
- New extensions
- Hybrid cloud features
- HCI enhancements
- Third-party ecosystem
User interface enhancements
Windows Admin Center includes several enhancements to the user interface. Now, when you add a new server, cluster, or HCI resource to Windows Admin Center, you are presented with a new screen to Add Resources to Windows Admin Center. Select from the following options:
- Windows Server
- Windows PC
- Windows Server Cluster
- Azure VM
This leads to some really great "wizardized" improvements to create otherwise complex Windows Sever entities, including Storage Spaces Direct clusters and others.
Microsoft has added a nice feature for those who may not want their Windows Admin Center to hit the internet for any reason, or have a scoped connection profile where only Azure resources can be reached from the Windows Admin Center. Note – This is for Windows Admin Center and not the entire Windows Server.
Navigate to Settings > Internet Access. Three radio buttons are available:
- Full internet access
- Azure services only
- No internet access
In addition, Microsoft displays the specific resources that Windows Admin Center connects to when you scope it to Azure services only.
There is a subtle new security enhancement for Windows Admin Center connections. You can force the WinRM connection to use HTTPS. During the installation of Windows Admin Center 1910, you can choose the Use WinRM over HTTPS only setting.
This is the area where we can get really excited about Windows Admin Center – extensions. In this release, there are many new, really great extensions. In conjunction with the new user interface workflows mentioned earlier, there are the following new extensions:
- Cluster creation (preview)
- Performance monitor (preview)
The new extensions are easily installed by checking Available Extensions, highlight the extension you want to install, and then clicking Install. After installing, you can verify the installation on the Installed Extensions tab.
Cluster Creation Wizard makes creating clusters in Windows Admin Center 1910 easy
Below is an image of the new performance monitor extension that you can install in the new Windows Admin Center 1910. This major overhaul of the legacy Performance Monitor utility is the first major revamp in decades.
Hybrid cloud extensions
Microsoft continues to add major hybrid integration in Windows Admin Center, blurring the lines between on-premises and Azure. This trend will continue as the move to the cloud is emphasized by all vendors, including Microsoft. Microsoft does this in Windows Admin Center by adding many new "hybrid cloud" extensions that facilitate easily making the connection between on-premises and Azure environments. This includes many Azure specific extensions:
- Azure Arc for servers
- Azure Security Center
- Azure File Sync
- Azure Monitor
- Storage Migration Service
- Azure Cloud Shell
- Azure Extended Network
The new HCI enhancements that are part of Windows Admin Center 1910 are mainly due to the new Cluster Creation extension mentioned above. Microsoft's HCI solution, including Storage Spaces Direct and software-defined networking, have been difficult to configure. In the past, this has involved many PowerShell scripts and very convoluted documentation.
Microsoft aims to resolve this with the new Hyperconverged cluster option in the new Cluster Creation extension. It provides a wizard-driven workflow that handles most of the heavy lifting to get the HCI cluster provisioned and configured correctly. As you can see below, the Cluster Creation process breaks the configuration into four major areas:
- Getting started
This will be a major step forward in configuring and provisioning Windows Hyperconverged clusters.
Microsoft continues to partner with new third-party solutions for integration into Windows Admin Center. Partners in the Microsoft ecosystem are jumping on the bandwagon of Windows Admin Center and developing new extensions for their products for WAC integration. The list continues to grow and currently includes vendors such as:
- Pure Storage
Again, integrations continue to be added.
Windows Admin Center 1910 is a milestone release in the evolution of this new graphical Windows Server management tool. Microsoft continues to invest heavily in development resources for the product and it is starting to show. Windows Admin Center is the tool to manage your Windows Server infrastructure moving forward and will no doubt bypass the legacy tools at some point in the future.
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It is great to see that third-party vendors are developing integrations for Windows Admin Center as well. Its modular design allows integrations that are simply not possible with the legacy tools. Download the latest Windows Admin Center here.