Manage your Stack with WAC and OpenManage

In a previous post, I briefly mentioned managing your Azure Stack HCI with Windows Admin Center (WAC). When you are using Dell hardware, it’s even better with OpenManage!

Imagine being able to securely control your server stack from any browser? Even if you don’t allow access from outside the network, imagine how nice it would be to be able to have a ‘single pane of glass’ to manage most of your day to day things. Now imagine that it’s free…

Setting up

First you have a decision to make. Do you want to run WAC from your pc or as a service on a server? I like to run the latest General Availability release on a server for our whole team to use, and the latest Insider build on my laptop for testing and comparison.

So how do you get it ? Simply go to the Windows Admin Center web site and download the MSI file. It’s the same install whether you are installing on Windows 10 or Windows Server, so that’s easy.

Before you install, obviously you have to make the decision on the ‘type’ of install you want. There are four main types of installations ranging from the super simple ‘Local Client’ install all the way up to a failover cluster of management servers. Here are the differences.

First is the simplest of installations – the Local Client. This is just you install on your Windows 10 pc that has network connectivity to all of the servers to be managed. This is fine for small, single administrator environments or as I noted above, for testing Insider builds.

Next is the ‘Gateway’ version. It’s installed on a designated Windows 2016 or higher server and runs as a service. This is the best one for access by a small team of admins.

Our third option is worth noting as it is a supported and documented configuration. It’s called ‘Managed Server’. In this scenario, you install the software directly on one of the servers to be managed. I don’t recommend it unless you have some reason not to create a dedicated “gateway” VM. Of course I’m a fan of single purpose servers, so your situation may vary.

The fourth and final option for a LAN installation is a failover cluster. Truthfully if you are in a large environment – this is certainly the way to go. It give you high availability and reliability for your management tools. In a small or medium business, at this time, it’s a little overkill.

My deployment is a bit of a hybrid. I’m running a gateway server on a VM sitting atop a Azure Stack HCI cluster for the team to use. So it’s highly available enough for our needs.

One of the big advantages to WAC over traditional management tools is the extensibility. There is a Windows Admin Center SDK along with examples on Github if you want to write your own. However there are several ready-made extensions provided by Microsoft and a few hardware vendors. Microsoft extensions are things like DNS, DHCP and Active Directory. The real benefit is if your hardware vendor provides an extension.

For example – as noted in my Azure Stack HCI post – I’m using Dell hardware. The Dell EMC OpenManage extension lets me use Windows Admin Center to not only manage my software environmant but my server hardware as well! Disk Health, Temperatures, Fan Speed, and more all in one handy to use dashboard.