Windows Admin Center, formerly known as Project Honolulu, provides IT administrators with a unified management interface for Windows Server Management tools that were once only accessible through disparate management tools. To date, Windows Admin Center has over 250,000 unique connection instances across 25,000 customer deployments and over 50,000 downloads.
We’ve been kicking the tires of Windows Admin Center (WAC) for almost a year when we first got wind of the preview at Microsoft Ignite. Since then, we’ve monitored its progress, evaluated its strengths and weaknesses and taken a look at how it might sit in an enterprise environment. We also considered what organizations would need to complement its functionality.
What is Windows Admin Center, and what are its strengths and weaknesses?
Windows Admin Center is designed for IT Administrators who manage Windows Server and Windows. Typically, these people open many different consoles, be it event viewer, device manager, disk management, task manager or server manager – the list continues. The aim of Windows Admin Center is to simplify and streamline the experience.
What Windows Admin Center Does Well
First, Windows Admin Center represents the clear evolution of established yet legacy platforms like Microsoft Management Console (MMC), and even native tools like event manager and task manager. Using Windows Admin Center is intuitive and easy.
Anywhere, anytime web-based management is a requirement for today’s management tools. By connecting your Windows Admin Center gateway to the internet, you can be off and running in no time (with no Azure dependency mind you).
Vendors like 5nine are able to build extensions that plug into the Windows Admin Center Console. This provides a rich ecosystem for third-party software vendors to empower IT administrators with additional, yet centralized, capabilities.
4. Azure Integration
IT administrators of the future will be required to simultaneously manage private, public and physical workloads. Windows Admin Center provides a critical first step of enabling admins to manage hybrid environments – be it Azure workloads, virtual machines or even physical storage.
5. Lightweight and Easy to Install
It’s pretty easy to get started with Windows Admin Center. Download, follow the wizard and go. Users have the choice of installing locally or on a Windows 2016 Server that acts as a gateway.
What Admins Need to Be Wary Of
1. Access Control
Windows Admin Center provides some out-of-the-box access controls, but they aren’t yet at the granular level enterprises require. Today, Windows Admin Center offers three types of roles: Administrators, Readers and Hyper-V Administrators. Microsoft states, “At this time, you cannot create custom roles for your organization, but you can choose which users are granted access to each role.” This could be a challenge as many organizations need custom roles like storage admins, tenant admins, etc. to carry out their daily tasks. We’ve heard about this concern from many users of 5nine Cloud Manager, our Unified Management Platform for the Enterprise, who use our platform to address those issues.
2. Historic Data and SQL Support
Monitoring key metrics like memory usage and available disk space is a challenge because there’s no support for historic data. The absence of this capability makes it difficult to benchmark against historic trends, or go back in time to understand an incident. This all means that IT Administrators must have a deep monitoring solution to accompany any ad hoc or lightweight monitoring they would be doing with Windows Admin Center.
3. Scalability and Distributed Infrastructures
Microsoft hasn’t yet completed performed extensive testing and isn’t recommended for Enterprise environments with over 500 nodes. In this case, Microsoft recommends using solutions like System Center to get the job done.
Is Windows Admin Center Ready for the Enterprise?
Yes and no. Windows Admin Center makes a great complementary solution to enterprise management tools like System Center, but is not a recommended replacement. Organizations looking for the unified feel of Windows Admin Center, but the pure power, breadth of functionality and scalability of System Center, should consider a robust enterprise solution. 5nine’s Unified Management and Security Platform provides a centralized interface for migration, management, monitoring, backup and security – all with the access control and scalability customers need.
We’ll continue to use this blog to update the greater Microsoft community on Windows Admin Center’s news and developments.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2018 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.