Create an Azure Stack HCI cluster using Windows Admin Center

Applies to Azure Stack HCI, version v20H2

In this article you will learn how to use Windows Admin Center to create an Azure Stack HCI cluster that uses Storage Spaces Direct. The Create cluster wizard in Windows Admin Center will do most of the heavy lifting for you. If you'd rather do it yourself with PowerShell, see Create an Azure Stack HCI cluster using PowerShell. The PowerShell article is also a good source of information for what is going on under the hood of the wizard and for troubleshooting purposes.

You have a choice between creating two cluster types:

  • Standard cluster with at least two server nodes, residing in a single site.
  • Stretched cluster with at least four server nodes that span across two sites, with at least two nodes per site.

For more information about stretched clusters, see Stretched clusters overview.

If you’re interested in testing Azure Stack HCI, but have limited or no spare hardware, check out the Azure Stack HCI Evaluation Guide, where we’ll walk you through experiencing Azure Stack HCI using nested virtualization, either in Azure, or on a single physical system on-premises.

Before you run the wizard

Before you run the Create Cluster wizard, make sure you:

  • Have read the hardware and related requirements in System requirements.
  • Have read the Physical network requirements and Host network requirements for Azure Stack HCI.
  • Install the Azure Stack HCI OS on each server in the cluster. See Deploy the Azure Stack HCI operating system.
  • Have an account that’s a member of the local Administrators group on each server.
  • Install Windows Admin Center on a PC or server for management. See Install Windows Admin Center.
  • If you are using an Integrated System from a Microsoft hardware partner, make sure you have the latest version of vendor extensions installed on Windows Admin Center to take advantage of integrated hardware and firmware updates.
  • For stretched clusters, set up your two sites beforehand in Active Directory. But not to worry, the wizard can set them up for you too.

If you're running Windows Admin Center on a server (instead of a local PC), use an account that's a member of the Gateway administrators group, or the local administrators group on the Windows Admin Center server.

Also, your Windows Admin Center management computer must be joined to the same Active Directory domain in which you'll create the cluster, or a fully trusted domain. The servers that you'll cluster don't need to belong to the domain yet; they can be added to the domain during cluster creation.

Here are the major steps in the Create Cluster wizard:

  1. Get Started - ensures that each server meets the prerequisites for and features needed for cluster join.
  2. Networking - assigns and configures network adapters and creates the virtual switches for each server.
  3. Clustering - validates the cluster is set up correctly. For stretched clusters, also sets up up the two sites.
  4. Storage - Configures Storage Spaces Direct.

After the wizard completes, you set up the cluster witness, register with Azure, and create volumes (which also sets up replication between sites if you're creating a stretched cluster).

Before you start the wizard, make sure you have the latest extensions installed, particularly the Cluster Creation extension for Windows Admin Center, and any partner extensions. To do so:

  1. Open Windows Admin Center and click Settings (gear icon) at the upper right.
  2. Under Settings, select Extensions.
  3. Select Cluster Creation and then click Install.
  4. Select Cluster Manager and click Install also while you are at it.
  5. Select any applicable hardware vendor extensions, and install them as well.

Now you are ready, so let's begin:

  1. In Windows Admin Center, under All connections, click Add.

  2. In the Add or create resources panel, under Server clusters, select Create new.

  3. Under 1. Choose cluster type, select Azure Stack HCI.

    Create cluster wizard - HCI option

  4. Under Select server locations, select one the following:

    • All servers in one site
    • Servers in two sites (for stretched cluster)
  5. When finished, click Create. You will now see the Create Cluster wizard, as shown below.

    Create cluster wizard - Get Started

Step 1: Get started

Step 1 of the wizard walks you through making sure all prerequisites are met, adding the server nodes, installing needed features, and then restarting each server if needed.

  1. Review 1.1 Check the prerequisites listed in the wizard to ensure each server node is cluster-ready. When finished, click Next.

  2. On 1.2 Add servers, enter your account username and password, then click Next. This account must be a member of the local Administrators group on each server.

  3. Enter the name of the first server you want to add, then click Add.

  4. Repeat Step 3 for each server that will be part of the cluster. When finished, click Next.

  5. If needed, on 1.3 Join a domain​, specify the domain to join the servers to and the account to use. You can optionally rename the servers if you want. Then click Next.

  6. On 1.4 Install features, review and add features as needed. When finished, click Next.

    The wizard installs the following required features for you:

    • BitLocker
    • Data Center Bridging (for RoCEv2 network adapters)
    • Failover Clustering
    • File Server
    • FS-Data-Deduplication module
    • Hyper-V
    • RSAT-AD-PowerShell module
    • Storage Replica (installed for stretched clusters)
  7. On 1.5 Install updates, click Install updates as needed to install any operating system updates. When complete, click Next.

  8. On 1.6 Install hardware updates, click Get updates as needed to get available vendor hardware updates.

  9. Follow the vendor-specific steps to install the updates on your hardware. These steps include performing symmetry and compliance checks on your hardware to ensure a successful update. You may need to re-run some steps.

  10. On 1.7 Restart servers, click Restart servers if required. Verify that each server has successfully started.

Step 2: Networking

Step 2 of the wizard walks you through configuring virtual switches, network adapters, and other networking elements for your cluster. RDMA (both iWARP and RoCE ) network adapters are supported.

For more information on RDMA and Hyper-V host networking for Azure Stack HCI, see Host network requirements.

Note

If you see errors listed during any networking or virtual switch steps, select Apply and test again.

  1. Select Next: Networking.

  2. On 2.1 Check network adapters, wait until green checkboxes appear next to each adapter, then select Next.

  3. On 2.2 Select management adapters, select one or two management adapters to use for each server. It is mandatory to select at least one of the adapters for management purposes, as the wizard requires at least one dedicated physical NIC for cluster management. Once an adapter is designated for management, it’s excluded from the rest of the wizard workflow.

    Create cluster wizard - Select management adapters

    Management adapters have two configuration options:

    • One physical network adapter for management. For this option, both DHCP or static IP address assignment is supported.

    • Two physical network adapters teamed for management. When a pair of adapters are teamed, only static IP address assignment is supported. If the selected adapters use DHCP addressing (either for one or both), the DHCP IP addresses would be converted to static IP addresses before virtual switch creation.

    By using teamed adapters, you have a single connection to multiple switches but only use a single IP address. Load-balancing becomes available and fault-tolerance is instant instead of waiting for DNS records to update.

    Now do the following for each server:

    • Select the Description checkbox. Note that all adapters are selected and that the wizard may offer a recommendation for you.
    • Clear the checkboxes for those adapters you don't want used for cluster management.

    Note

    You can use 1 Gb adapters as management adapters, but we recommend using 10 Gb or faster adapters for carrying storage and workload (VM) traffic.

  4. When changes have been made, click Apply and test.

  5. Under Define networks, make sure each network adapter for each server has a unique static IP address, a subnet mask, and a VLAN ID. Hover over each table element and enter or change values as needed. When finished, click Apply and test.

    Note

    To support VLAN ID configuration for the cluster, all networks adapters on all servers must support the VLANID property.

  6. Wait until the Status column shows Passed for each server, then click Next. This step verifies network connectivity between all adapters with the same subnet and VLAN ID. The provided IP addresses are transferred from the physical adapter to the virtual adapters once the virtual switches are created in the next step. It may take several minutes to complete depending on the number of adapters configured.

  7. Under 2.3 Virtual switch, select one of the following options as applicable. Depending on how many network adapters there are, not all options may be available:

    • Skip virtual switch creation - choose if you want set up virtual switches later.

    • Create one virtual switch for compute and storage together - choose if you want to use the same virtual switch for your VMs and Storage Spaces Direct. This is the "converged" option.

    • Create one virtual switch for compute only - choose if you want to use a virtual switch for your VMs only.

    • Create two virtual switches - choose if you want a dedicated virtual switch each for VMs and for Storage Spaces Direct.

      Create cluster wizard - virtual switches

    The following table shows which virtual switch configurations are supported and enabled for various network adapter configurations:

    Option 1-2 adapters 3+ adapters teamed adapters
    single switch (compute + storage) enabled enabled not supported
    single switch (compute only) not supported enabled enabled
    two switches not supported enabled enabled
  8. Change the name of a switch and other configuration settings as needed, then click Apply and test. The Status column should show Passed for each server after the virtual switches have been created.

  9. Step 2.4 RDMA is optional. If you are using RDMA, select the Configure RDMA (Recommended) checkbox and click Next.

    Create cluster wizard - configure RDMA

    For information on assigning bandwidth reservations, see the Traffic bandwidth allocation section in Host network requirements.

  10. Select Advanced, then select the Data Center Bridging (DCB) checkbox.

  11. Under Cluster heartbeat, assign a priority level and a bandwidth reservation percentage.

  12. Under Storage, assign a priority level and a bandwidth reservation percentage.

  13. When finished, select Apply changes and click Next.

  14. On 2.5 Define networks, review and edit the Name, IP address, Subnet mask, VLAN ID, and Default gateway fields for each adapter listed.

    Create cluster wizard - Define networks

  15. When finished, click Apply and test. You may need to Retry connectivity test if status is not OK for an adapter.

Step 3: Clustering

Step 3 of the wizard makes sure everything thus far has been set up correctly, automatically sets up two sites in the case of stretched cluster deployments, and then actually creates the cluster. You can also set up your sites beforehand in Active Directory.

  1. Select Next: Clustering.

  2. On 3.1 Validate the cluster, select Validate. Validation may take several minutes.

    If the Credential Security Service Provider (CredSSP) pop-up appears, select Yes to temporarily enable CredSSP for the wizard to continue. Once your cluster is created and the wizard has completed, you'll disable CredSSP to increase security. If you experience issues with CredSSP, see Troubleshoot CredSSP for more information.

  3. Review all validation statuses, download the report to get detailed information on any failures, make changes, then click Validate again as needed. You can Download report as well. Repeat again as necessary until all validation checks pass. When all is OK, click Next.

  4. On 3.2 Create cluster, enter a name for your cluster.

    Create cluster wizard - Create cluster

  5. Under IP address, select either static or dynamic IP addresses to use. The IP address must be entered in the following format: IP address/current subnet length. For example: 10.0.0.200/24.

  6. Select Advanced. You have a couple of options here:

    • Register the cluster with DNS and Active Directory
    • Add eligible storage to the cluster (recommended)
  7. Under Networks, select whether to Use all networks (recommended) or Specify one or more networks not to use.

  8. When finished, click Create cluster.

  9. For stretched clusters, on 3.3 Assign servers to sites, name the two sites that will be used.

  10. Next assign each server to a site. You'll set up replication across sites later. When finished, click Apply changes.

Step 4: Storage

Step 4 of the wizard walks you through setting up Storage Spaces Direct for your cluster.

  1. Select Next: Storage.
  2. On 4.1 Clean drives, you can optionally select Erase drives if it makes sense for your deployment.
  3. On 4.2 Check drives, click the > icon next to each server to verify that the disks are working and connected. If all is OK, click Next.
  4. On 4.3 Validate storage, click Next.
  5. Download and review the validation report. If all is good, click Next. If not, run Validate again.
  6. On 4.4 Enable Storage Spaces Direct, click Enable.
  7. Download and review the report. When all is good, click Finish.
  8. Select Go to connections list.
  9. After a few minutes, you should see your cluster in the list. Select it to view the cluster overview page.

It can take some time for the cluster name to be replicated across your domain, especially if workgroup servers have been newly added to Active Directory. Although the cluster might be displayed in Windows Admin Center, it might not be available to connect to yet.

If resolving the cluster isn't successful after some time, in most cases you can substitute a server name instead of the cluster name.

Next steps