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Windows Admin Center (WAC) is a flexible, locally-deployed, browser-based management platform and solution. It contains core tools for troubleshooting, configuration, management and maintenance for Windows Server, Windows Client, Software-Defined Storage (SDS), Software-Defined Network (SDN), Microsoft Hyper-V Server, and more.
Microsoft announced several Azure integration services with Windows Admin Center, such as Azure Backup, Azure File Sync, Azure Network Adapter, Azure Site Recovery and more. Please check the following document for the complete list of Azure integration services.
Azure Site Recovery
Azure Site Recovery (ASR) is Microsoft’s Disaster Recovery (DR) strategy. It keeps workloads safe and recoverable through replication from on-premises servers, such as physical servers, Hyper-V based VMs and VMware-based VMs. You can also replicate VMs between different Azure datacenters. Although ASR is designed for disaster recovery, you can also use Azure Site Recovery to migrate virtual machines to the cloud an approach known as “Lift and Shift“.
So what is the difference between both scenarios?
- For disaster recovery, you replicate machines on a regular basis to Azure. When an outage occurs on-premises or in one of Azure datacenter, you can fail the machines over from the primary site to the secondary Azure site, and access them from there. When the primary site is available again, you can fail back.
- For migration, you replicate on-premises (physical/virtual) machines to Azure. Then you fail over from on-premises to Azure and complete the migration process. There’s no failback involved. The key feature of the migration scenario is, ASR will convert automatically all your (VHDX) on-premises to (VHD) and upload them to Azure Blob Storage.
The prerequisites are very simple as follows:
- First, you need to make sure you are running Windows Admin Center (WAC) Version 1809 or later, and your endpoint machine is running either Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V, Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V, or Windows Server 2019 Hyper-V. It’s also worth mentioning that Windows Server Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) version 1709, 1803, and 1809 are also supported.
- Second, you need to connect your Windows Admin Center gateway to Azure. Please check the following article to see how to register your Windows Admin Center gateway with Azure.
Once Windows Admin Center is deployed in your environment, you are ready to start.
Prepare your Hyper-V Host for VM Protection
Open Windows Admin Center portal, and take the following easy steps:
- Navigate to the server or the Hyper-V cluster hosting your VMs that you want to protect (either with Server Manager or Hyper-Converged Cluster Manager).
- Go to Virtual Machines > Inventory and then click Set up now.
- You will be prompted to sign into your Azure account. If you have already authenticated with Azure, then you can skip this step. Azure authentication is required for other services in Windows Admin Center as well.
- Select the target Azure Subscription if you have more than one subscription.
- Select the Resource Group that you want to use or you can create a new one, then select the Recovery Services Vault. If you have an exiting Recovery Services Vault, then the Azure location will be selected for you automatically. When ready click Set up ASR.
- Wait until you see the notification is Completed. Please note that this might take up to 10 minutes to complete. You can watch the progress by going to Notifications (the bell icon at the top right-hand side).
- Behind the scene, Windows Admin Center will automatically installs the latest ASR agent onto the Hyper-V host or nodes (in case of a Hyper-Converged Cluster as described in this example), the best part of it that the agent installation does NOT trigger a reboot of the nodes, this will also register the host on-premises with the Azure Site Recovery service, and finally configure default replication policy named smepolicy and a Hyper-V site named smefabric as shown below. SME stands for (Server Management Experience).
Protect Virtual Machines in Windows Admin Center
Once Windows Admin Center finishes the ASR agent installation and registration, you can start protecting your virtual machines. Open Windows Admin Center portal, and take the following easy steps:
- Navigate back to the server or cluster you configured as described above, and go to Virtual Machines > Inventory.
- Select the VM you want to protect, then select More > Protect VM.
- Select Use Existing or Create New Storage Account to use for this VM’s replication, and then click Protect VM. This step enables replication for the selected Virtual Machine to Azure.
- Azure Site Recovery will start replication/synchronization to Azure. This can take several minutes depending on your network bandwidth. Once the VM is protected, the value in the Disaster Recovery Status column of the Virtual Machine Inventory grid changes to Protected as shown below. Microsoft also added deep links in Window Admin Center, so if you can click on Protected, it will take you directly into the Replicated items in the Recovery Services Vault so you can do more advanced operations directly from Azure.
Azure Site Recovery in Windows Admin Center will automatically sets up the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services (MARS) agent and the Microsoft Azure Site Recovery Provider without having to RDP into the server. So it is not replacing the MARS agent but instead providing an interactive experience (single pane of glass) that allows for remote management of the MARS Agent from setting it up, and being able to enable protection remotely. This is especially useful for server core which does not have GUI.
Please note that Test Failover including Planned and Unplanned Failover tasks must be performed directly from the Azure Portal, as well as creating Recovery Plans and Monitoring replication health for your VMs. Hopefully Microsoft will bring additional integration in the future to Windows Admin Center so you can perform all these operations from a single portal.
As you have seen, Microsoft is investing more and more in Windows Admin Center (WAC), which is making it easy for Windows Server admins to easily leverage services in Azure and ensure a seamless and effective management of servers by providing the best of Azure and on-premises through a single management interface. Thus providing first class management of hybrid infrastructure with the use of optimal combination of on-premises infrastructure and the cloud.
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 the modern server management.
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