Microsoft recently released Windows Admin Center v2103 as well as Windows Admin Center Public Preview in Azure. We will look at new features contained in the new release.

Windows Admin Center has clearly been identified as the GUI management tool Microsoft is endorsing as the modern way to manage your Windows Server landscape. The features and functionality provided in the tool continue to get better and more fully featured. With the release of Windows Server 2022 looming on the horizon, Microsoft is continuing to polish Windows Admin Center with new features and capabilities. Also, they have now added Windows Admin Center as a public preview to Microsoft Azure for server management.

Windows Admin Center—A brief overview ^

For years now, we have been using the classic Server Manager tool to manage Windows Server operating systems. However, coinciding with the Windows Server 2019 release, Microsoft introduced Windows Admin Center, which is undoubtedly the path forward in managing Windows Server. You can see this when you launch Server Manager in Windows Server 2019. Microsoft immediately prompts you to try Windows Admin Center for server management instead.

Windows Admin Center promoted by Microsoft in Server Manager

Windows Admin Center promoted by Microsoft in Server Manager

Windows Admin Center offers many benefits when compared to the legacy Server Manager. It is web-based and easily accessible without a special management console snap-in or direct access to the server console. Microsoft also includes all the newest features in Windows Admin Center, such as deep integration with Azure services and awareness of new technologies such as Azure Arc and Azure Stack HCI. These are features you won't find in the traditional Server Manager.

Below you can see the modern features found in Windows Admin Center, including Azure service integration.

Modern Azure features built into Windows Admin Center

Modern Azure features built into Windows Admin Center

New features in Windows Admin Center v2103 ^

There are new features released with the v2103 Windows Admin Center Update. These include the following and feature great new Windows Admin Center self-lifecycle management:

  • Automatic in-app updates
  • Automatic extension updates
  • Gateway proxy support
  • Pop-out tools
  • Redesign of the Events tool
  • Improved virtual machine extension

Automatic in-app updates

A pain point when using Windows Admin Center has been keeping up with the latest releases. To benefit from the new functionality, you had to make sure you downloaded the latest version and upgraded your installation. With the Windows Admin Center v2103 release, Microsoft has made a concerted effort to improve lifecycle management. Now, you can toggle a setting to keep Windows Admin Center updated automatically.

Windows Admin Center automatic updates

Windows Admin Center automatic updates

Automatic extension updates

In addition to the Windows Admin Center core updating functionality, Microsoft has also added the ability to update extensions to the latest release automatically. This new feature is arguably an even better feature than automatic Windows Admin Center updates. You may have dozens of extensions installed in Windows Admin Center. Manually updating all extensions one-by-one is cumbersome. It is great to see they have added this feature with the new release.

Automatic Windows Admin Center extension updates

Automatic Windows Admin Center extension updates

Gateway proxy support

Organizations often use proxy servers for outbound traffic in the enterprise. With the new Windows Admin Center v2103 release, Microsoft has added the ability to configure a proxy address for outbound traffic. This feature allows aligning Windows Admin Center network connectivity with the existing network security infrastructure.

Configuring a gateway proxy address for Windows Admin Center outbound traffic

Configuring a gateway proxy address for Windows Admin Center outbound traffic

Pop-out tools

This feature was a sort of "secret" that Microsoft had embedded in the last preview of Windows Admin Center. The functionality was only visible by setting a special developer flag. However, with the v2103 release, the ability to pop out Windows Admin Center tools and undock them from the Windows Admin Center console is now generally available. If you hover over any of the extensions listed, you will see the small pop-out indicator icon. Click this to pop the extension tool out of the main window.

In Windows Admin Center you can pop tools out to their own windows

In Windows Admin Center you can pop tools out to their own windows

Events tool redesign

Microsoft is putting a great deal of effort into redesigning tools that have been around for decades as IT admins are looking for new and better ways to view and consume information. They started with their redesign of the Performance Monitor in Windows Admin Center a few releases ago and seem to be working through the legacy toolset that IT admins have been using for years now. With the Windows Admin Center v2103 release, Microsoft has introduced a redesign of the Events tool. This redesign is in preview form at the moment and can be accessed by a simple "preview" toggle in the upper right corner of the Events extension.

Events tool redesign preview mode

Events tool redesign preview mode

IT admins can tailor the event experience for specific events and severity levels. You can also display the data over a period of time. It works off a new "workspace" concept, much like the new Performance Monitor. There are no longer restrictions in viewing more than one event at a time. It is essential to note that the current preview of the Event extension is still missing critical functionality. For now, the original Events extension is still available for classic event viewing and management.

New workspace functionality in the Windows Admin Center v2103 Events tool

New workspace functionality in the Windows Admin Center v2103 Events tool

Improved Virtual Machine extension

Windows Admin Center v2103 has great improvements for virtual machine management. New features in this release include:

  • Ability to configure virtual switches during a VM live migration—Previously, a live migration would fail if the source and destination virtual switches were not the same. Now you can choose the destination virtual switch during a VM move.
  • Manage integration services settings—New with this release is an Integration Services tab in the VM settings menu.
  • Editable columns and grouping—In this release, you can now edit the columns and groups related to virtual machines to choose which information you want to have shown.
Windows Admin Center virtual machines extension

Windows Admin Center virtual machines extension

Windows Admin Center in Azure Public Preview ^

Another exciting release regarding Windows Admin Center is the release in public preview of Windows Admin Center in Azure. Now IT admins can use Windows Admin Center natively within Azure to manage Windows Server 2016 and higher Windows Server operating systems.

To make use of Windows Admin Center, simply create a new Windows Server 2016 or Windows Server 2019 server in Microsoft Azure.

Installing Windows Admin Center for Windows Server 2019 in Azure

Installing Windows Admin Center for Windows Server 2019 in Azure

Once you click Install, the Windows Admin Center installation will begin. It can take up to five minutes for the installation to complete. Afterward, you can log in to your Windows Admin Center instance using the same credentials you configured for the Azure virtual machine. After login, you will see the expected Windows Admin Center dashboard and metrics for the new server and the expected default extensions.

Windows Admin Center management for a Windows Server 2019 Server running in Azure

Windows Admin Center management for a Windows Server 2019 Server running in Azure

Wrapping up ^

Windows Admin Center is the new GUI server management tool for modern versions of Windows and Microsoft Azure. Microsoft is feverishly adding new features to Windows Admin Center, no doubt preparing for new Azure integration in Windows Server 2022. The new Windows Admin Center lifecycle features will take much of the complexity and effort to keep the platform and extensions up to date.

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This release has other excellent features that help extend Windows Admin Center's capabilities, including the newly written Events tool and new features found in the Virtual Machine extension. The new Windows Admin Center Public Preview enables Windows Admin Center for Windows Server 2016 and higher operating systems to manage Azure infrastructure with the same features. It will allow IT admins to have a uniform tool for both on-premises and Azure resources.

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