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Next-Gen Release of Windows Admin Center Now Production-Ready

Microsoft on Thursday announced the general availability of Windows Admin Center version 1809, the latest iteration of its browser-based management portal.

Microsoft had released Windows Admin Center version 1804, the very first production-ready version of the product, back in April. Version 1809, which can be downloaded at this page, is considered to be "the latest generally available release of Windows Admin Center in support of Windows Server 2019," according to Microsoft's announcement. Windows Server 2019 is Microsoft's next server for customer infrastructure, expected to arrive sometime this year, although it hasn't reached general availability yet.

Windows Admin Center runs on Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge browsers only, offers a graphical user interface for IT pros and is considered to be Microsoft's main free management solution for organizations. It has capabilities found in traditional Microsoft "in-box" tools, such as Server Manager and the Microsoft Management Console. In addition, it integrates with various Microsoft Azure services.

Update Deadline
Windows Admin Center gets released under Microsoft's Modern Lifecycle Policy, which requires users to accept all updates to stay supported and continue to receive future updates, including security fixes. Based on that policy, there's a deadline for Windows Admin Center version 1804 users. They have to upgrade to Windows Admin Center version 1809 "within 30 days to remain supported," Microsoft's announcement warned.

Microsoft typically updates Windows Admin Center every one to two months. It's possible to automatically update Windows Admin Center if Microsoft Update is turned on for it.

Windows Admin Center releases also typically include previews of features, even when the product is at the general availability release stage. However, these features get labeled as "previews" within the portal. Microsoft had explained these details, and a few more, in a Q&A back in April.

General Feature Improvements
Microsoft offered a summary of the new features in Windows Admin Center version 1809. Here's a recap.

Microsoft now lets IT pros "see and copy the underlying PowerShell scripts" that are used in the portal's user interface. It's also possible now to view and remove applications installed on Windows Server and Windows 10 with this release. The portal can be used to carry out "multi-VM bulk actions," including "nested virtualization and hypervisor scheduler configuration." The portal also now supports "cluster-aware updating" (an automated software update approach) and IT pros can make changes "across all cluster nodes at once." Microsoft improved the notifications system. Version 1809 also supports Windows Server 2008 R2, but only with "limited functionality."

The portal also includes Microsoft's Storage Migration Service, which promises the ability to "migrate servers and their data without reconfiguring applications or users," and the Storage Replica disaster recovery feature, both of which Microsoft has previously described. Also, System Insights, a machine-learning-based tool that's used to predict future system events, is supported.

Windows Admin Center works with extensions, which can be built by Microsoft or its "third-party" software development partners. At Microsoft's Ignite event, which starts next week, "Cisco, HP, Lenovo, NEC, QCT and Riverbed" will also showcase their software extensions built for Windows Admin Center, the announcement indicated.

Azure Services Support
Microsoft lit up Azure services management capabilities in version 1809 of Windows Admin Center. The portal "automatically provisions required Azure resources, installs necessary agents and initializes the service behind the scenes," Microsoft's announcement explained.

This release integrates with Azure Site Recovery, Azure Backup and Azure Update Management (an Azure Automation feature that lets IT pros manage operating system updates, both on-premises and in public "cloud" datacenters). Other services supported by the management portal include Azure Active Directory, Azure Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) virtual machines running Windows Server and Azure Network Adapter.

Microsoft has touted Azure Network Adapter (an extension within Windows Admin Center) as a means of more easily enabling virtual private network connections between Windows Server 2019 and Azure Virtual Networks. It's used to support remote end user connections to network resources.

HCI Support
This release also is notable for lighting up hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) management capabilities using Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2019, which requires using the Datacenter editions of those products.

"With this update, most HCI functionality is now generally available," Microsoft's announcement declared. Microsoft generally describes how to use Windows Admin Center to manage HCI in this document.

HCI is an architectural approach where compute, storage and networking operations occur on the same cluster. The HCI approach specifically supports Microsoft's Storage Spaces Direct technology, which is a software-defined, shared-nothing storage solution that purportedly is faster and cheaper to use than storage area network (SAN) devices, as Microsoft has previously described.

The new HCI functionality in Windows Admin Center version 1809 includes the same general features that were described above, except for clusters. Microsoft also added software-defined networking tooling support and improved the HCI dashboard.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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