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Monitoring Storace Spaces Direct with Windows Admin Center

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One of the key problems for users new to Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) from Microsoft is the administration and monitoring of the storage subsystem. Powershell is the way to go for both aspects but not everyone, especially the ones coming from the Windows GUI fraction, is glad to do it that way. Especially in projects where you want to give the infrastructure over to the customer you have to guide them through some kind of powershell course just to handle their new storage. Normally not the reason why unexperienced users would decide to use Microsoft. Other SDS like VMware vSAN integrates the management and monitoring of the storage into their central management tool which reduces the impact when changing to a new storage.

Microsoft decided to do it the other way. Project Honolulu was started to develop a web interface to centrally manage and monitor Windows based servers and clients. Honolulu also included a part to manage failover clusters and even the hyperconverged solution. In the past, Honolulu was beta and to use the hyperconverged part that was essentially the part to manage S2D, was only useable if you had Windows Server 2016 in the semi-anual tree. Even if you had this license model to play around in the lab, you normally wouldn't recommend using the semi-anual version for production environments at customers. So Honolulu was more or less unuseable for the HCI part.

A few days ago, Microsoft release Windows Admin Center that is essentially the non-beta product based on Project Honolulu. The good news is, it is free of charge, you can use it with every Windows Server version (not limited to semi-anual tree) and all you have to do is install a simple patch on your HCI nodes to use it for S2D monitoring.

Installation of WAC is quite easy, simply use a Windows Server 2016 based VM or physical server. The server only has some basic requirements, 2 vCPUs and 8GB RAM should be enough. Download WAC from the Microsoft website (~40MB) and execute the setup on you management server. If you missed some requirements for the installatrion, the setup will tell you. So setup is very easy and quick to accomplish.

WAC is web-based so choose a compatible browser (we recommend using Google's chrome as IE in some version isn't supported at all) and start WAC by using the new icon on your desktop.

First thing to do is adding the servers you want to remotely configure and monitor. As you can see in the screenshot below, you can add simple servers, clients and clusters.

WAC 1 

After adding all servers of your HCI solution and having the cluster itself registered in WAC you can switch over to "Hyper-Converged Cluster Manager"



You will see the list of known HCI clusters



By clicking on the name of the cluster you can go into detail view.

If you receive the error below then you have to do two different corrective actions.



First, install at least KB4093120, the "2018-04 Cumulative Update for Windows Server 2016 for x64-based Systems" on ALL systems in the HCI cluster. The funny ting is, there is another update that is called exactly the same but KB number is KB4093119. In all my setups KB4093119 had to be installed before KB4093120 was available for installation through Windows Update.

Secondly, execute the following PowerShell command on one of the cluster nodes to activate S2D monitoring capabilities: "Add-ClusterResourceType -Name "SDDC Management" -dll "$env:SystemRoot\Cluster\sddcres.dll" -DisplayName "SDDC Management""

If everything was okay and you fulfilled all prerequisites then clicking on the cluster reveasls the following dashboard:


You can also get detailed information about drives, servers, vms, virtual switches and volumes.



Quite handy, isn't it? Well WAC isn't a product with a long history so some features you probably want to see here are not (yet) included. Things like email alerting isn't included at all. That's probably because WAC is primarily mentioned to be an ADMINISTRATION tool and not a monitoring tool. The funny thing here is that in the HCI cluster window there is not a single TASK you can execute, it's all about MONITORING. Since there are no real good lightweight alternatives on the market for monitoring S2D except the fully blown-up SCOM or some 3rd party tools like DataON MUST that you will only get if you buy the hardware from them as well, WAC has some potential here.

A more critical function that is not implemented at the moment is the status of the volumes if they currently resync. The volume will be displayed as HEALTHY although there are repair tasks running and several hundreds or thousands of MBs need to be resynced. There will also be no mention if and when an optimization job is/was running. Could be important to know.

Well, WAC is quite new and the community is really excited about this product so we can hope that MS will put some more effort into this product and further develop new functionality to make it a real good tool manage and monitor.


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