Handle Windows servers with Windows Admin Center aka “Project Honolulu”

Tis project has been initially announced on year 2017 on Ignite event. At that time it just gave excitement for server admins who saw this as Swiss army knife to managed the different version of Windows servers. Along with time Microsoft project team has been working very closely with MVP’s and general public getting the feedback how they should be improving this project.

In Year 2018 this has been announced on GA level. So what is Windows Admin Center and it’s advantages? To address that I’ll share the exact information shared by Windows Server Team,

  • Simple and modern management experience: Windows Admin Center is a lightweight, browser-based GUI platform and toolset for IT admins to remotely manage Windows Server and Windows 10 machines.
  • Hybrid capabilities: Windows Admin Center can manage Windows Server and Windows 10 instances anywhere including physical systems, virtual machines on any hypervisor, or running in any cloud. Connect to the cloud with optional value-added features like integration with Azure Site Recovery for protecting your virtual machines, and support for Azure Active Directory to control access with multi-factor authentication.
  • Integrated toolset: Rather than switching between several different tools and contexts, with Windows Admin Center you get a holistic overview of your resources and the ability to dig into granular details. In addition to server and client machines, it allows you to manage failover clusters and hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) deployments.
  • Designed for extensibility: We’ve been working with early-adopter partners to refine the extension development experience in a private preview of our SDK. That means soon you’ll be able to extend Windows Admin Center’s capabilities to 3rd-party solutions. For example, you’ll start to see 3rd party hardware vendors use Windows Admin Center to provide management of their own hardware.

For me it’s really interesting when Jeff Woolsey mention in the Azure Cloud Summit Singapore you can manage your Azure resources as well as on-premise resources from single console.

I’ve already went ahead and tested this on my test lab cross checking server 2012 R2 to all the way to Server vNext (aka Server 2019) version. I’m pretty amazed how simply product can be setup and used. Kindly note there are couple of modes you can setup Windows Admin Center to manage your servers.

PS: Server 2012 R2 had problems due to WMF 5.1 not availbility. This has been documented on Microsoft docs and easily can be fixed.

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In my case I went ahead with setting everything on a Windows 10 Enterprise VM. I think most of the production environments in Sri Lanka would be fine with Singe Gateway mode. If you’re a service provider managing lot of customer resources then it’s fine to move ahead with Windows Admin Center on failover cluster to provide additional resiliency.

In my test lab I’ve both Server 2016 and Server 2019 in command level. Whatever said and done it’s not that easy when you miss the GUI Smile. Windows Admin Center resolves that problem like a charm. I’ve managed to connect to both servers seamless level and manage them remotely. Only problem I came across is when I tried to enable remote access to both servers from Windows Admin Center. Finally I end up using sconfig and enable remote desktop access. Soon after that I’ve managed to get RDP to both servers for console access.

Few screenshots of my small lab environment,

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Managing Server 2019 (Yes Microsoft didn’t make Server 2016 the final version Smile with tongue out )

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I like the simplicity UI plus plethora of tools given for managing the servers.

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This reminds me storage explorer tool. It’s very cool to manage server core systems just like you’re having full GUI on it Smile

In todays blog article I’ve only briefly touch the product capability. There are few more things to be discovered. I’m yet to explore the feature of Azure management from single console. Apart from that Microsoft promise we can manage our HYPER-V failover clusters and hyper-converged clusters as well. Apart from that if you’re using ASR to protect your hyper-v VM’s to Azure you can manage that fro Admin Center. As I said earlier I didn’t had all the lab scenarios in my hand right now but look forward to share my experience whenever I get my hands to such environments. In the meantime you’ll can share your exact experience when using this product.

PS: At this stage don’t take Windows Adin Center as you final destination to manage your Windows Server environment. At this stage Microsoft is very clear Admin Center will not replace your MMC consoles, Monitoring tools like SCOM, OMS and rest management tools. But Microsoft has given very clear picture where they heading on server management path. It would be really amazing when this product improved to manage services on server less environments as well.

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Azure Site Recovery–Story revamped using new portal

In this blog post I’ll guide how to setup Azure Site Recovery (ASR) on the new portal using ARM model. If you’re not familiar with the ASR concept you can refer here. Compared to setting up ASR on old Azure portal, Microsoft ASR team carried out significant enhancement on the new portal and make it very much UI friendly.

In this blog post I’ll explain how to protect HYPER-V VM’s. You can protect VM’s hosted on single HYPER-V (Stand alone) or HYPER-V cluster (without VMM) using these steps. Few things I won’t cover in this blog post are how to create resource group, Virtual network….etc. I’ll provide relevant links for that for you to get in depth idea.

1. Wow to create a resource group in Azure – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/azure-resource-manager/resource-group-overview

2. How to setup networking for ASR – https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/networking-infrastructure-setup-for-microsoft-azure-as-a-disaster-recovery-site/

So with the assumption you have HYPER-V server with bunch of VM’s (on-premise) and have a Azure tenant and in that you’ve created,

  • Resource Group
  • Created Virtual network
  • Created storage account to hold replicated VM’s data

Now let’s go ahead and create a Recovery Vault in the Resource Group you have created. In my case I’ve pre created a RG name as ASR-DR. Inside that I’m going to create the Recovery Vault name “ASR-RV”

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Once the RV created we can follow the step-by step guide or based on your experience jump straight into the relevant steps. In below screenshot I’ve demonstrated the step by step method.

I’m selecting the option to protect the hyper-v vm’s which is not managed by VMM environment.

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Now you need to create a “HYPER-V site” and then click on the “+ Hype-v server” and register the nodes. Once you complete that task of setting up agents into the on-premise server you’ll be registering your HYPER-V servers with the RV. In below picture you can see I’ve added two HYPER-V hosts.

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in the next step you’ll need to define the Azure subscription. RV will read the resources in that vault and will highlight what is usable for ASR purpose.

PS: But I warn you to create the resources earlier for ASR purpose and not to borrow Smile

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Now you need to define replication policy and associate. If you have done this step previously you only have to associate that, if not create a one. You can go ahead and create a new one keeping the defaults value and change them later.

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Step 5 I’ve skipped that since I’ve make sure planning has been carried out previously.

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Now the basic steps are completed and real game begins Smile

Go to “Replicate Application” section and start highlighting the VM’s you need to replicate to Azure for protection.

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In the next step you need to map the Azure resources you created previously very carefully. I’ve highlighted the areas which need your special attention. Careful planning becomes a virtue in this scenario.

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Now if everything goes smoothly you’ll be able to see the VM’s on the HYPER-V host server name list populated on Azure side. Go ahead and select the VM’s you need to protect,

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Finally you need to review the summary and approve to proceed for replication process to execute against the VM you select.

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This will take little time to complete. After that for full sync will occur. For that time depend on your disk size and your internet connection speed Smile. I’m in the process of helping a client to upload over 2 TB data.

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If you have very slow internet links (Like I’ve Smile) you can use Microsoft import/export method to export the VHD files to nearest Azure data-center via courier. Once Azure team upload your VHD to Azure storage account all you have to do is replicate the difference. Sounds easy? Well it is not! there are few steps you need to follow and it will cost you additional money but it all depend on the situation. You can find more information about it here.

My two cents advise is go ahead and setup the Recovery Vault and check the new options in the RV,

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You’ll find new GUI and options given are so rich. In my future article I’ll cover more details about them and also the recovery procedure.

Event ID 19050 on HYPER-V 2016 cluster

Recently one of my customer’s HYPER-V environment recovered from power failure. Despite having secondary power to maintain the servers up and running switches redundancy power has not been overlooked Winking smile. Nevertheless after the power restore some of the VM’s in the cluster has been started acting funny inside the HYPER-V manager console.

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When I overlook at the cluster MMC VM’s status is in good mode without any errors. In the particular node event viewer throwing the event id 19050. Further searching on the search engine gave me this result, not much help though. Based on the scenario we knew VM is functioning properly and this has to be intermittent problem. Our final resolution has been restart the VM and let the VM move to correct host based on the priority order.

Virtual machine load balancing in server 2016 cluster

If you’re virtualization expert (on Microsoft world Smile) you’re well aware above feature is possible when we implement System Center Virtualization Manager (SCVMM) to manage the HYPER-V cluster. Not every customer can afford to have System Center Datacenter SKU purchase right?

Virtual machine load balancing comes in exact time to help you do that without SCVMM. In a nutshell we can monitor the CPU and memory usage on the host an based on the pre-defined rules and allow VMs to move across the HYPER-V nodes in the cluster.

Do we have option to configure this parameter? Why not we can configure the aggressiveness of the this feature by using parameter ‘AutoBalancerLevel’. To control the aggressiveness run the following in PowerShell:

(Get-Cluster).AutoBalancerLevel = <value>

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VM auto balancing can be configured via GUI and PowerShell both.

In the cluster properties right-click on your cluster name and select the “Properties” option
Graphic of selecting property for cluster through Failover Cluster Manager
  1. Select the “Balancer” pane
    Graphic of selecting the balancer option through Failover Cluster Manager

From the PowerShell command point of view,

(Get-Cluster).AutoBalancerMode = <value>

Parameter values are,

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PS: VM autobalancing is enable by default in server 2016. If you use SCVMM 2016 to manage the cluster then this feature will be disabled.

Are you ready for the next big offer from Microsoft?

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Don’t we all love some hush hush news come in advance to our attention? Well Microsoft just did it again Smile If you’re a VMware customer then it’s time for you to pause your renewal and give attention to Microsoft direction and offering. Microsoft is ready to give away big surprise!!!

Ok let me make it short and come to the core story Smile 

If you switch from VMware to Hyper-V from during September 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017, you can get free Windows Server Datacenter licenses when buying Windows Server Datacenter + Software Assurance. That ultimately means you only pay for Software Assurance.

All the latest information about this offer and how to calculate the TCO can be found in here. If you’re wondering what kind of enhancement HYPER-V 2016 can provide then you’ll be surprised too. Detail information can be found here.

So for my VMWare customers all I can say is don’t delay this opportunity, contact your Microsoft Account Manager and start engaging on this process.

When it comes to deployment or if you need support from the beginning stage then feel free to get in touch with Infront team

System Center Universe 2016 @ APAC

One of the best System Center summit happening around the world. As a Infront employee I’m happy to announce our company did host the event for the third time in APAC region. This time in Malaysia soon after that in Australia. All the well known System Center experts in one room sharing their knowledge. I’m glad that I got the opportunity to be among those experts and carry out two sessions.

Azure becoming key topic for developers and IT Professionals. How we can save time be leveraging templates. This is where we can leverage Azure Resource Manager Templates. Carried out a session to show how ARM really can help for IT Professionals in their journey.

Disaster recovery can be taken to next level by leveraging the Azure cloud. Delviered another session covering how Microsoft extend their love to protect VMWare customers as well Smile In this session we covered about Azure Site Recovery for HYPER-V, VMWare & Physical servers. We also demo what is “Enhanced mode for VMWare” and what that is so cool.

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Linux Integration Services Version 4.1 for Hyper-V

Microsoft-Loves-Linux

Microsoft released the latest Linux Integration Services (LIS) for the guest Linux VM’s running on HYPER-V. With this latest update following improvement has been introduced.

•Expanded Releases: now applicable to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS, and Oracle Linux with Red Hat Compatible Kernel versions 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, and 7.2.
•Hyper-V Sockets.
•Manual Memory Hot Add.
•SCSI WNN.
•lsvmbus.
•Uninstallation scripts.

You can get the latest LIS from here.