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What are the Azure Stack HCI deployment, management options?

While the Windows Admin Center is one way to manage the Azure Stack HCI platform, you can also use traditional, battle-tested tools.

There are several management approaches and deployment options for organizations interested in using the Azure Stack HCI product.

Azure Stack HCI is a hyper-converged infrastructure product, similar to other offerings in which each node holds processors, memory, storage and networking components. Third-party vendors sell the nodes that can scale should the organization need more resources. A purchase of Azure Stack HCI includes the hardware, Windows Server 2019 operating system, management tools, and service and support from the hardware vendor. At time of publication, Microsoft's Azure Stack HCI catalog lists more than 150 offerings from 19 vendors.

Azure Stack HCI, not to be confused with Azure Stack, gives IT pros full administrator rights to manage the system.

Tailor the Azure Stack HCI options for different needs

The basic components of an Azure Stack HCI node might be the same, but an organization can customize them for different needs, such as better performance or lowest price. For example, a company that wants to deploy a node in a remote office/branch office might select Lenovo's ThinkAgile MX Certified Node, or its SR650 model. The SR650 scales to two nodes that can be configured with a variety of processors offering up to 28 cores, up to 1.5 TB of memory, hard drive combinations providing up to 12 TB (or SSDs offering more than 3.8 TB), and networking with 10/25 GbE. Each node comes in a 2U physical form factor.

If the organization needs the node for more demanding workloads, one option is the Fujitsu Primeflex. Azure Stack HCI node models such as the all-SSD Fujitsu Primergy RX2540 M5 scale to 16 nodes. Each node can range from 16 to 56 processor cores, up to 3 TB of SSD storage and 25 GbE networking.

Management tools for Azure Stack HCI systems

Microsoft positions the Windows Admin Center (WAC) as the ideal GUI management tool for Azure Stack HCI, but other familiar utilities will work on the platform.

Microsoft positions the Windows Admin Center (WAC) as the ideal GUI management tool for Azure Stack HCI, but other familiar utilities will work on the platform.

The Windows Admin Center is a relatively new browser-based tool for consolidated management for local and remote servers. The Windows Admin Center provides a wide array of management capabilities, such as managing Hyper-V VMs and virtual switches, along with failover and hyper-converged cluster management. While it is tailored for Windows Server 2019 -- the server OS used for Azure Stack HCI -- it fully supports Windows Server 2012/2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016, and offers some functionality for Windows Server 2008 R2.

Azure Stack HCI users can also use more established management tools such as System Center. The System Center suite components handle infrastructure provisioning, monitoring, automation, backup and IT service management. System Center Virtual Machine Manager provisions and manages the resources to create and deploy VMs, and handle private clouds. System Center Operations Manager monitors services, devices and operations throughout the infrastructure.

Other tools are also available including PowerShell, both the Windows and the PowerShell Core open source versions, as well as third-party products, such as 5nine Manager for Windows Server 2019 Hyper-V management, monitoring and capacity planning.

It's important to check over each management tool to evaluate its compatibility with the Azure Stack HCI platform, as well as other components of the enterprise infrastructure.

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