Gateway Server vs. Windows Admin Center to Admin Azure Stack HCI

Gateway Server vs. Windows Admin Center to Admin Azure Stack HCI

Windows Admin Center is now available in Azure to manage Azure Stack HCI on-premises.

Register Windows Admin Center with Azure – Azure Stack HCI | Microsoft Docs

With Windows Admin Center on Azure, you gain another option to manage Azure Stack HCI and also use the Azure Portal to administrate Azure Stack HCI. But, because the Azure Portal is limited to its capabilities and not every configuration can be set in Azure Stack HCI remotely, Windows Admin Center on Azure is limited.

In this post, I’m going to explain the differences between HCI administration and how to connect it to your Azure Stack HCI nodes.

How to Connect Windows Admin Center to Azure Stack HCI

The Installation is rather simple. First, your Cluster needs to be connected to Azure and Azure ARC.

For steps to configure ARC, use the following guides.

After you connect Azure Stack HCI to ARC, you select the cluster you want to manage and use Windows Admin Center on Azure.

Beneath the settings of that cluster, you will find the Windows Admin Center (Preview) option.

Now you can just click “Set Up” and the configuration will be deployed. There is no VPN or client configuration needed.

The traffic for Windows Admin Center will directly use the port you configured in the deployment and encryption via HTTPs, plus it will configure Windows Remote Management.

The configuration and installation will take around 15 to 20 minutes, get a coffee and take a break.

After a successful configuration, you should see the option to connect to Azure Stack HCI using the Azure Portal.

After connecting to the cluster, you will see a similar interface as you have with Windows Admin Center installed as a Gateway on Windows Server but as you can see, there isn’t one hundred percent feature parity between both Windows Admin Centers.

Let’s cover a few of the differences today (this is in preview after all).

Differences between Windows Admin Center Gateway and Azure Portal

One of the main differences is the deployment. In order to connect Windows Admin Center Portal on Azure to your Azure Stack HCI Cluster, you need to have the Cluster installed.

The installation requires either PowerShell or Windows Admin Center Gateway.

Deploy the Azure Stack HCI operating system – Azure Stack HCI | Microsoft Docs

That continues with most of the deployment parts, as you can see in the screenshot below, network deployments, as well as service deployments, are missing within the Windows Admin Center Portal on Azure.

As you can see, most of the crucial deployment options are missing, like GPU and Security Extension deployment. So, from a management point of view, it seems more like a Portal to view the status right now while the Windows Admin Center Gateway stays the main option for Administration.

Let us continue and investigate settings.

In settings, the limited administration options are also visible.

As you can see from the screenshot and side-by-side comparison, we are seeing crucial options missing. You are still able to configure the nodes and cluster behaviour, Migrations, Affinity rules etc. but you are missing the options you would need to add the additional Azure Stack HCI features.

The only option for Azure Stack HCI feature configuration left within the Windows Admin Center in the Azure Portal is Monitoring data and the option to Join the preview channel.

As we already saw with the Windows Admin Center Gateway main screen, most of the important configurations are only available there. There are several I consider important for example Active Windows Server VMs, Azure Benefits, Resource Bridge or Service Health Data that aren’t there (yet).

Conclusion

The Windows Admin Center on Azure is a good option for day-to-day administration work but it is yet not suitable for configuration and deeper administration tasks.

What I really like is the option to use Role Base Access Management to give users general access to Windows Admin Center without setting up the Azure Sign in on Windows Admin Center Gateway on Windows Server. To do so is much more complex than using the Azure Portal.

Register Windows Admin Center with Azure – Azure Stack HCI | Microsoft Docs

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