Windows Server 2019 – Windows Admin Center for managing Server Core

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While Command Prompt from the console, remote PowerShell connections, remote Server Manager administration, and even the RSAT tools running on a Windows 10 workstation are all valid and powerful tools for administering our Server Core instances, they have all now been upstaged by the release of Windows Admin Center. You have already learned what Windows Admin Center can do for centrally managing your entire server infrastructure, but what we need to point out here is that WAC can be used for servers both with and without graphical interfaces.

I have spoken with many Windows Server administrators about the topic of Server Core, and one of the biggest blocks to implementing these more efficient and secure server platforms is an apprehension that, once configured, ongoing administration and maintenance of these servers will be more difficult to handle. Admins who are familiar and comfortable working within the Windows Server Desktop Experience know exactly what needs to be done in order to accomplish their daily tasks, but remove that point-and-click interface, and suddenly the workday gets a lot more complicated.

Thankfully, you don’t have to memorize the PowerShell handbook in order to use Server Core! Windows Admin Center treats Server Core instances in the same way that it does a server running Desktop Experience. It just works!

We already have WAC installed onto a server in our test lab, so let’s open it up and add in my new WEB4 server to be administered, and take a look at what options are available for ongoing maintenance of this server.

When we first connect to WEB4 via the WAC console, there is actually nothing in here that even indicates this is a Server Core instance, we have all of the WAC tools and utilities available to click on:

Let’s try a couple of things from Windows Admin Center. You, of course, have power controls right near the top of the screen, from which you could easily shut down or restart the server. That is much easier and faster than having to establish a remote PowerShell connection in order to issue commands to accomplish the same actions. There are also performance metrics on the home screen (if you scroll down), showing your consumed CPU, Memory, and Networking resources. Without WAC, you would need to log into WEB4 and launch Task Manager in order to see these statistics:

Moving away from the home screen, useful as it is, try clicking on one of the Tools listed along the left side of the screen, such asĀ  Events. Without WAC, if you wanted to troubleshoot an issue on a Server Core, it would make sense to look into the Windows Event Logs on that server, but how would you go about doing that from a command-line interface? I suppose you could have logged onto the Server Core console, and used Task Manager to launch EventVwr, but opening up WAC and simply clicking on Events is much easier:

Other examples of useful functions inside WAC, particularly when working with a Server Core instance, would be using Files to navigate the file and folder structure of WEB4’s hard drive, or using the Firewall function here in order to create or remove Windows Firewall rules on WEB4. There is also a Network tool, from which you can manipulate IP addressing configurations.

While many more tools exist inside the Windows Admin Center, the last one I want to point out is that, once again, we have a PowerShell option (similar to what we can launch from inside Server Manager). This PowerShell button will invoke and display for us a remote PowerShell connection to the WEB4 Server Core instance, if ever we can’t find a function that is needed inside WAC and need to dive a little further under the hood in order to accomplish something from a command interface. And the best part is that you never actually had to launch PowerShell! This is still all happening from within your internet browser window:

There is so much more that can be accomplished from inside the Windows Admin Center. Editing Registry, adding Roles & Features, checking the status of your Services, even interfacing with Windows Update. If you aren’t already using WAC, you’re missing the boat!

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