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Q&A: Microsoft Further Clarifies Windows Admin Center Capabilities

Microsoft has answered a few press questions about the newly released Windows Admin Center management tool.

The free browser-based tool, formerly known as Project Honolulu, reached "general availability" on Thursday, meaning it's ready for production use. Microsoft is billing the Windows Admin Center as a graphical user interface-based tool that has traditional "in-box" Windows management capabilities, such as Server Manager and the Microsoft Management Console. It's also a cloud services-connected tool, and can be used for remote manage or management without an Internet connection. Microsoft also will permit extensions to be added to the tool with a new SDK, expected to arrive next month.

On late Thursday, a Microsoft spokesperson provided some answers via e-mail. What follows is a lightly edited Q&A.

Will the Microsoft Management Console, Server Manager or other such tools go away now that Windows Admin Center is at general availability?
Microsoft: Not in the short term. Although Windows Admin Center can manage many common scenarios, it does not completely replace all traditional Microsoft Management Console (MMC) tools or full Server Manager capabilities.

Windows Admin Center is complementary to, and does not replace, RSAT [Remote Server Administration Tools] since roles such as Active Directory, DHCP, DNS and IIS do not yet have equivalent management capabilities surfaced in Windows Admin Center. In addition, Windows Admin Center provides an elegant GUI for a number of scenarios and features that were previously only available via PowerShell. For example, it has Storage Spaces Direct management, hyperconverged management, configuring nested virtualization in Hyper-V, along with rich visuals to provide instant feedback.

Does Windows Admin Center get automatically updated by Microsoft once installed, and if so, what's the update cycle like?
Windows Admin Center updates will be available via Microsoft Update, and users can optionally opt in for automatic updates. Our ring-based flighting model provides updates to NDA [nondisclosure agreement] customers first, followed by Windows Insiders, followed by public release. We expect the update cycle to be every one to two months, leading up to our next big launch in support of key themes for Windows Server 2019 later this year.

Can Windows Admin Center be used to manage Nano Server?
Nano Server is now a container-based deployment and no longer has the management infrastructure required for remote management. Containers in general have a much shorter lifecycle and are provisioned, deleted and reprovisioned with different configuration as opposed to requiring ongoing management.

Can Windows Admin Center be used with Windows 7 clients?
No, there are no plans to support Windows clients earlier than Windows 10.

Can Windows Admin Center be used to manage monthly cumulative Windows 10 client updates for multiple PCs?
Currently, no. We recommend that ad hoc Windows Update functionality be managed locally from the Settings app on Windows 10, or centrally managed via WSUS, SCCM, Intune, et cetera.

Windows Admin Center doesn't replace other Microsoft management tools, but it seems that it can only be used to manage one cluster, one server, one virtual machine or one PC per session. Is that right?
Although Windows Admin Center is optimized for single-target drill-down scenarios, leveraging multiple browser tabs or multiple browser windows allows the user to have simultaneously active connections to manage multiple managed targets of any type in a single user session.

If an organization is using System Center Configuration Manager or Microsoft Intune, when might they want to use the Windows Admin Center?
For organizations using enterprisewide policy-driven management tools, Windows Admin Center provides a complementary browser-based remote toolset which is particularly useful for single-instance troubleshooting scenarios or ad hoc maintenance. Windows Admin Center provides a viable alternative to using a Remote Desktop connection for these scenarios.

While Windows Admin Center isn't dependent on using Azure services, does an organization still need to use Azure Active Directory with it? For instance, to enable role-based access control?
There is no requirement to use Azure Active Directory. Windows Admin Center gateway access control can be configured using on-premises Active Directory groups or local groups. As an alternative, Azure Active Directory is supported to configure gateway access control with richer functionality such as multifactor authentication.

What new security features were added to version 1804 of the Windows Admin Center?
We recently added role-based access control (RBAC) for managing target servers (1804), HTTPS with client certificate on Windows 10 installation (1804), infrastructure hardening (1804), extension signing (1804), gateway access control using Azure Active Directory authentication (1803), plus the previous features like support for LAPS [Local Administrator Password Solution] and resource-based constrained delegation.

Are there any use rights restrictions (that is, licensing-related aspects) associated with using the Windows Admin Center?
No restrictions. It is a simple Windows Supplemental EULA.

What sort of partner extensions might we see with the extension capability of Windows Admin Center?
We are seeing interest from early-adopter partners such as OEMs who are looking to surface hardware status and hardware configuration, and management software ISVs looking to integrate their existing Web-based solution.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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