Azure Stack HCI is a Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) cluster solution that hosts virtualized Windows and Linux workloads and their storage in a hybrid on-premises environment. Azure hybrid services enhance the cluster with capabilities such as cloud-based monitoring, Site Recovery, and VM backups, as well as a central view of all of your Azure Stack HCI deployments in the Azure portal. You can manage the cluster with your existing tools including Windows Admin Center, System Center, and PowerShell.
Azure Stack HCI, version 20H2 is a new operating system now in Public Preview and available for download. It’s intended for on-premises clusters running virtualized workloads, with hybrid-cloud connections built-in. As such, Azure Stack HCI is delivered as an Azure service and billed on an Azure subscription. Azure Stack HCI also now includes the ability to host the Azure Kubernetes Service; for details, see Azure Kubernetes Service on Azure Stack HCI.
Get Started with Azure Stack HCI and Windows Admin Center
Windows Admin Center is a locally deployed, browser-based app for managing Azure Stack HCI. The simplest way to install Windows Admin Center is on a local management PC (desktop mode), although you can also install it on a server (service mode).
If you install Windows Admin Center on a server, tasks that require CredSSP, such as cluster creation and installing updates and extensions, require using an account that’s a member of the Gateway Administrators group on the Windows Admin Center server. For more information, see the first two sections of Configure User Access Control and Permissions.
Before you begin, you have to know that Azure Stack HCI is still in Preview and not for Production usage ready. But I’m installing it in my MVPLAB for testing purpose only and learn all the New Features.
What’s New in Azure Stack HCI
Clusters running Azure Stack HCI, version 20H2 have the following new features as compared to Windows Server 2019-based solutions:
- New capabilities in Windows Admin Center: With the ability to create and update hyper-converged clusters via an intuitive UI, Azure Stack HCI is easier than ever to use.
- Stretched clusters for automatic failover: Multi-site clustering with Storage Replica replication and automatic VM failover provides native disaster recovery and business continuity to clusters that use Storage Spaces Direct.
- Affinity and anti-affinity rules: These can be used similarly to how Azure uses Availability Zones to keep VMs and storage together or apart in clusters with multiple fault domains, such as stretched clusters.
- Azure portal integration: The Azure portal experience for Azure Stack HCI is designed to view all of your Azure Stack HCI clusters across the globe, with new features in development.
- GPU acceleration for high-performance workloads: AI/ML applications can benefit from boosting performance with GPUs.
- BitLocker encryption: You can now use BitLocker to encrypt the contents of data volumes on Azure Stack HCI, helping government and other customers stay compliant with standards such as FIPS 140-2 and HIPAA.
- Improved Storage Spaces Direct volume repair speed: Repair volumes quickly and seamlessly.
In the Following Step-by-Step guide we install Azure Stack HCI Cluster with Windows Admin Center.
Click on Add and then Create New Server Cluster.
Choose for Azure Stack HCI.
Here you can also choose for both Azure Stack HCI nodes are in the same Site or you have more Azure Stack HCI Nodes in Two Sites for disaster Recovery and Business Continuity.
In my MVPLAB I have all Azure Stack HCI nodes in One Site. More information about Microsoft Azure Stack HCI Stretching Clusters can be found here.
Prerequisites before you begin with Windows Admin Center wizard for Creating Azure Stack HCI Cluster.
This is what I like about Windows Admin Center, supporting you in all steps and choices for making an Azure Stack HCI Cluster with Storage Spaces Direct.
Specify your administrator Account and password and add the Azure Stack HCI Node Servers
Add the Nodes to the Domain.
Install Required Features on the Azure Stack HCI Node Servers
Install Updates on the Azure Stack HCI Node Servers
Here you get options from your hardware vendor
I don’t get this because it’s virtual.
Restart the Azure Stack HCI Node Servers and Click Next Networking
Networking adapters are UP and Running.
When you have Enough Nics in your Azure Stack HCI Node Server, you can choose here for a Teamed Management NIC.
I choose for a single management NIC.
Plan your Azure Stack HCI Node network
Configure your Production and Storage network
Here you can configure different Switches for your workloads.
Windows Admin Center will work with Software Defined Networking (SDN)
I Skipped this in my MVPLAB.
Before creating the Azure Stack HCI Cluster, we have to Validate the Cluster first.
When the Cluster Validation is done, you can download the Cluster Validation report.
Here we give the Cluster a Name and a static IP.
Click Create Cluster.
Microsoft Azure Stack HCI Cluster is created 😉
Click Next for Storage.
I Got some small disks Click Next.
Storage is validated and suitable for Storage Spaces Direct.
Storage Spaces Direct is enabled on your Azure Stack HCI Cluster.
Click Next for SDN
Here you can configure the Network Controller for the Azure Stack HCI Cluster
Done your Azure Stack HCI Cluster is made 🙂
Here we have the Dashboard in Windows Admin Center of my Azure Stack HCI Cluster
Management of your Azure Stack HCI Cluster
Managing your Azure Stack HCI Cluster with Windows Admin Center is important, because I have connected WAC with my Azure Subscription I can use Azure Monitor.
From here the Cluster is also connected with my Analytics workspace of Azure Monitor.
Azure Stack HCI Cluster Nodes connected with Azure Monitor.
With Windows Admin Center you can manage the Azure Stack HCI updates with Cluster Aware Updating (CAU) without any downtime for your workloads.
Click on Install
One Azure Stack HCI Node is waiting and the other is Installing.
Now the other Azure Stack HCI Node is Installing the Update.
Updates Succeeded on both Azure Stack HCI Nodes.
Microsoft Azure Stack HCI Cluster is Running
Create your Virtual Machine on Azure Stack HCI Cluster.
Windows Admin Center supports you all the way for making your Microsoft Azure Stack HCI Cluster in easy steps deployment wizard. Of course you can make also your own PowerShell deployment scripts when you have to make more Azure Stack HCI Clusters for different platforms like Deploying virtual machines or AKS Kubernetes Clusters for Container Applications or a SQL environment.
Here you find more information about PowerShell commands
After deploying Azure Stack HCI Clusters with your own PowerShell Script, you can add the Cluster into Windows Admin Center for IT Management.
The Installation time of the Cluster is really fast. I hope this will give you more inside information about the Preview of Microsoft Azure Stack HCI Cluster and Windows Admin Center better Together!
Next Step is AKS Kubernetes on Azure Stack HCI 😉