Automatic VM Activation for Windows Server in Windows Admin Center

3 Min. Read

Automatic VM Activation (AVMA) is a feature that was introduced starting with Windows Server 2012 R2 and later releases. AVMA binds the virtual machine activation to the licensed virtualization server and activates the virtual machine when it starts up. This eliminates the need to enter licensing information and activate each virtual machine individually.

This article will show you how to use Automatic Virtual Machine Activation for Windows Server running on Azure Stack HCI with Windows Admin Center.

Introduction

A while ago, I wrote a blog post on how to automatically activate Windows Server Virtual Machines using PowerShell Direct, you can read all about it here.

AVMA is one of the most popular ways of activating Windows Server guests today by simply activating host machines. All Windows Server guests running on top would automatically get activated as well. You no longer need to keep track of keys and licenses for each individual VM.

The good news is, Microsoft just announced that automatic virtual machine activation (AVMA) is now available on Azure Stack HCI through Windows Admin Center as well.

Prerequisites

To use automatic virtual machine activation in Windows Admin Center, you need to have the following:

  1. Azure Stack HCI cluster or Windows Server 2019/2022 Hyper-V cluster up and running (Minimum of 2 servers, maximum of 16 servers).
  2. Windows Admin Center version (1.3.2105.24004) installed or later.
  3. Cluster Manager extension updated to version 1.523.0 or later.
  4. Windows Server Datacenter key(s).
    • Check your volume licensing service with Microsoft or with your OEM.
    • You need to have one key for each host server you are activating.

Once you have all the prerequisites in place, you can proceed with setting up the automatic activation.

Automatic VM Activation

Ensure you’re logged into your Windows Admin Center instance, and then click on your Azure Stack HCI or Windows Server cluster.

Azure Stack HCI Cluster
Azure Stack HCI Cluster

You may be prompted for credentials, so log in with your credentials and then select the “Use these credentials for all connections” box. You should then be connected to your cluster.

After a few moments of verification, the cluster dashboard will open.

On the cluster dashboard, at the very bottom-left of the window, click on Settings as shown in the figure below.

Windows Admin Center - Cluster Settings
Windows Admin Center – Cluster Settings

In the Settings window, click on Activate Windows Server VMs tab. Navigating to this tab will bring the AVMA setup screen as shown in the figure below.

Windows Admin Center - Automatic VM Activation
Windows Admin Center – Automatic VM Activation

When you are ready to begin, click on Set up and enter the Datacenter Key for each host server as shown in the figure below. Please note that for each server in the cluster, you need to enter an activation key for Windows Server 2019 Datacenter Edition or later. Each server requires a unique key unless you have a valid volume license key. In this example, I will enter different unique keys since I have four nodes.

Windows Admin Center - Apply Activation Keys
Windows Admin Center – Apply Activation Keys

Once you have entered keys for all the servers, click Apply to set up AVMA for your cluster. This process will take a moment to complete.

Once the setup has been successful, you can then navigate to the same activate Windows Server VMs tab, which will now show the status of the AVMA, the guest operating system versions you can run, and the last five digits of the keys that you used as shown in the figure below.

Windows Admin Center - Successfully applied activation keys
Windows Admin Center – Successfully applied activation keys

You may now use AVMA, just like you would do on Windows Server Hyper-V today.

What about if your business grows and you want to run more VMs and add more servers to the cluster?

Well, you can easily set up AVMA for these new servers as well. By simply navigating to the same Activate Windows Server VMs tab, as described above, Windows Admin Center will automatically detect a new server that has not yet been activated.

You select the new server and then click on the Manage activation key option. Finally, add a new unique key and then hit Apply.

Once AVMA has been successfully applied, you are ready to deploy and run more virtual machines on the cluster.

That’s it! you have completed configuring the Automatic Virtual Machine Activation (AVMA) for your Azure Stack HCI cluster.

Summary

In this quick article, I showed you how easy it is to automate the activation of your Windows Server virtual machines running on top of Azure Stack HCI in Windows Admin Center.

Windows Admin Center is a freely available management tool for anyone to use and makes managing a set of servers with or without GUI remotely, very easy, especially for “day-to-day activities”. Download the latest copy of Windows Admin Center from here, deploy it in a failover cluster, and enjoy modern server management.

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Thank you for reading my blog.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment.

-Charbel Nemnom-

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