Walking Through Windows Admin Center (WAC), The Artist Formerly Known as Project Honolulu: Tools

Last time I introduced the new Windows Admin Center (WAC) and walked through the simple setup and the Overview. Now let’s comb through the rest of the Tools and what they offer you.

The first is Certificates:

In this screen we essentially get all the functionality we had in the Certificates.msc snap-in. We can import certificates to specific repositories, export certificates, but we can also see at a glance what’s installed, what’s expired, near expiration, as well as any event viewer logs related to certificates. Wow, one less 20-year-old GUI. Let’s keep moving forward and see what the rest of these screens look like.

If we click on Devices on the left …

We get what is essentially HTML5 version of Device Manager. It tells us how many devices are enabled under each category. If we expand it, we see each different device. We can disable devices and update drivers. At the bottom we can get general information as well as more specific driver information regarding versions, dates and under details, further information about it. It doesn’t quite have everything device manager does, but it has ninety percent of it. And it is so much better than previous options on Server Core.

Moving further down to Events gives us a similar treatment:

We can see everything we normally see in event viewer, except in a pretty HTML 5 format that we can access from anything. The files tab similarly gives us a nice UI for looking at files:

We can browse the whole server file structure, again without any additional firewall rules. At the top we get interactive bread crumbs like we’ve gotten used to in File Explorer. Once we have Files selected we can create new folders, delete files, download/upload files rename old ones or see properties, which gives us creation times, access times, write times, and permissions.

Firewall

Clicking on firewall gives us high level firewall status. Note, at present you cannot enable/disable the firewall in this UI, but you can edit individual rules.

Click Incoming rules and it gives you the full list.

If you click More and settings, you can get full granular control over the rules specifically:

Local Users & Groups

Local Users & Groups gives the functionality you would expect, the ability to add users, manage group membership and reset passwords.

Network

Under Network, as expected you get all of your adapters and details of them if you click on one. This screen also shows how you can dynamically resize panels as you want, as I wanted to see all the details at once:

Clicking Settings allows you to make the normal and expected IP changes:

PowerShell

Moving on to the PowerShell button, it simply opens a PSremote session to the server in question. It is nice for this to be encapsulated in a HTML5 window though.

Processes

The processes tab opens what is essentially a remote task manager. You can start and stop processes, see CPU, disk memory handles, and various other features.

Registry

Registry opens up, of course, the registry. This isn’t using remote registry, that monstrous security flaw though, it’s all PowerShell and WinRM on the backend, which is really nice. As you would expect you can import, export, modify and delete keys.

Remote Desktop

Remote Desktop similarly opens an HTML wrapped RDP session to the remote host. Obviously, depending on what version of Windows you’re running (Core, etc.) this tab may not be of much use to you.

Roles & Features

This is where install and uninstall roles and features. Surprise!

Services

And similarly, Services shows you services and allows you to Pause and then change logon/recovery and startup type in the settings button.

Storage

The Storage section essentially tries to replace Disk Manager, allowing you to resize disks, format them, change the name/drive letter, create new volumes, and do file shares.

Storage Replica

If we click on Storage Replica, however, we get an error.

No problem, I can just go back to my management server in WAC, up to Roles & Features -> Features -> Remote Server Administration tools -> Feature Administration Tools and click the Storage Replica module.

Click “install” and you get a normal Windows prompt.

If you then click the little bell at the top right, you can see the installation progress:

Now if I go back to Storage Replica, boom:

Updates

Finally, we can go to the Updates tab to see our updates and install any if we need to.

A lot of the above could have been recreated with various tools, though not in a single, easy-to-use pane of glass, and some of it was nigh on impossible before. But what else can it do, you may ask, well let’s investigate.

If we click on the Windows Admin center at the top, it takes us back to the summary screen. This gives us a quick view of everything we can add to this system.

If we click on Server and then Import Servers we can input a comma separated text file with server names to quickly import a lot of servers. This is a good way of sharing your server list amongst employees as well, since this is a per-user setting.

And now I can manage any of those servers just by clicking on them.

You can change the login or tags for one to many different servers by checking the box on the left, and then clicking Manage As or Edit Tags, as seen below.

We can also click on +Add at the top and then Windows PC Connection. Here we can point this towards Windows 10 machines (if they’re reasonably updated). First, we need to enable psremoting on that remote computer.

Once that’s done, we can then do all the same management of the Windows 10 machine.

If we click on computer management at the top and then failover cluster manager, I can then add a failover cluster. This gives some really nice management abilities as well as great visibility:

Under Disks, Networks, Nodes, and Roles you see what you’re used to seeing in Failover Cluster Manager for the last 15 years or so. However, if you go down to Virtual Machines, you can now see a summary of the VMs that are on the cluster, as well as any events from them. My lab is rather boring, so I apologize for the boring “top CPU” numbers.

 

 

If you then click on Inventory at the top, you get another nice summary screen.

 

To make it a bit easier to see, I expanded the columns and zoomed in a bit. These machines are using dynamic memory, so you can both see the demand, and the assigned memory to each VM, which is pretty useful if you’re using that feature.

As you would expect, you can shut down, save, pause, reset, checkpoint, move, rename, connect, and change the settings for a VM.

You can also configure Storage Spaces Direct clusters to be managed, which is something no other UI really seems to currently support.

Additional Capabilities and Compatibilities

Is that all? Nope, there’s still more. WAC can also be clustered for high availability using normal failover clustering. The install is slightly different, but it functions in a normal active/passive manner.

WAC can also be installed on a Core box, headless just to allow for the services to be running. This can be on Semi-annual Channel or Server 2016.

This is probably only for Server 2016 and up though, right? Nope, 2012, 2012 r2 can both be configured with almost complete functionality. 2008 R2 can even get partial functionality. It’s doubtful any more management will come to 2008 since it’s almost end of extended support at this point, though.

WAC can also have extensions added to it to manage other things. Currently there aren’t many examples of this, but there it’s an extensible platform open to the world. DataOn, Fujitsu and SquaredUP all three currently have extensions that are live in the wild.

Lastly, and this won’t come as a shock, it can integrate with Azure AD for authentication if you just want to use it to manage your cloud-based VMs/apps.

This UI can do a LOT of stuff, on any browser. It’s probably expensive though, right? Nope, it’s completely free.

The app does occasionally have a bug or two. During the course of this blog at one point I told it to start loading a whole lot of consecutive remote windows and then clicked off before it finished any of them.  After the ninth or tenth false start (my doing), it seemed to almost lock up. I had to close the webpage and re-open it. It is a relatively new software, after all, so a few of those every once in a while isn’t unexpected.

Also, don’t forget, new versions are released monthly. That means that new features are always going to be on their way, with fixes … and probably additional bugs. But hey, it’s a developer’s world, we just fix the pipes.

If you have any questions about standing up Windows Admin Center or Server 2016, send us an email or give us a call at 502-240-0404!