Create an Azure Stack HCI cluster using Windows Admin Center

Applies to: Azure Stack HCI, versions 21H2 and 20H2

Now that you've deployed the Azure Stack HCI operating system, you will learn how to use Windows Admin Center to create an Azure Stack HCI cluster that uses Storage Spaces Direct, and optionally Software Defined Networking. 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.
  • Ensure all servers are in the correct time zone.
  • Install the latest version of 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. To install them, open Windows Admin Center and click Settings (gear icon) at the upper right. Select any applicable hardware vendor extensions, and click Install.
  • 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.
  5. SDN - sets up a Network Controller for SDN deployment.

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).

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
    • NetworkATC
    • 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.

  11. On 1.8 Choose host networking, select one of the following:

    • Define intents with Network ATC - we recommend this option. For more information on using Network ATC to simplify host networking, see Network ATC.
    • Manually configure host networking - use to configure host networking manually. For more information on configuring RDMA and Hyper-V host networking for Azure Stack HCI, see Host network requirements.

Step 2: Networking

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

You can choose to use Network ATC to simplify set up of hosting networking for your cluster, or you can have the wizard walk you through manually configuring each networking element.

  1. Select Next: Networking.

  2. On 2.1 Verify network adapters, review the list displayed, and exclude or add any adapters you want to cluster.

  3. To see all adapters available, select See all adapters. Then select the checkbox for any adapters listed that you want to cluster. When finished, click Next.

  4. On 2.2 Define network intents, under Intent 1, do the following:

    • For Intent name, enter a friendly name for the intent
    • For Traffic types, select a traffic type from the pulldown. Storage traffic must be added to exactly one intent, while compute traffic can be carried by one or more intents.
    • For Network adapters, select an adapter from the pulldown.
    • Click Select another adapter for this traffic if needed.
  5. To optionally modify network settings for an intent, select Customize network settings in the adapter properties pane, and select the following as applicable:

    • Traffic priority
    • traffic bandwidth reservation (%)
    • Jumbo frame size in bytes
    • whether to enable RDMA
    • RDMA protocol type
  6. When finished, click Save.

  7. To add another intent, select Add an intent, and repeat step 4.

  8. On 2.3: Provide network details, for each storage traffic adapter listed, enter the following:

    • Subnet mask/CIDR
    • VLAN ID
    • IP address

Manually configure host networking


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.


    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.


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


    We recommend using separate subnets in switchless deployments. For more information on switchless connections, see Using switchless.

  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.


      If you are going to deploy Network Controller for SDN (in Step 5: SDN of the wizard), you will need a virtual switch. So if you opt out of creating a virtual switch here and don't create one outside the wizard, the wizard won't deploy Network Controller.

      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 Create the cluster, specify a name for the cluster.

  3. Under IP address, do one of the following:

    • Specify one or more static addresses. The IP address must be entered in the following format: IP address/current subnet length. For example:
    • Assign address dynamically with DHCP
  4. When finished, select Create cluster.


    The next step appears only if you selected Define intents with Network ATC for step 1.8 Choose host networking.

  5. On Step 3.2 Deploy Networking, click Apply intents. This may take a few minutes to complete.

  6. On 3.3 Validate cluster, select Validate. Validation may take several minutes. Note that the in-wizard validation is not the same as the post-cluster creation validation step, which performs additional checks to catch any hardware or configuration problems before the cluster goes into production.

    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.

  7. 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.

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

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

  10. When finished, click Create cluster.

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

  12. 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.

Step 5: SDN (optional)

This optional step walks you through setting up the Network Controller component of Software Defined Networking (SDN). Once the Network Controller is set up, you can configure other SDN components such as Software Load Balancer (SLB) and RAS Gateway as per your requirements. See the Phased deployment section of the planning article to understand what other SDN components you might need.

You can also deploy Network Controller using SDN Express scripts. See Deploy an SDN infrastructure using SDN Express.


The Create Cluster wizard does not currently support configuring SLB And RAS gateway. You can use SDN Express scripts to configure these components. Also, SDN is not supported or available for stretched clusters.

Create cluster wizard - create Network Controller

  1. Select Next: SDN.
  2. Under Host, enter a name for the Network Controller. This is the DNS name used by management clients (such as Windows Admin Center) to communicate with Network Controller. You can also use the default populated name.
  3. Specify a path to the Azure Stack HCI VHD file. Use Browse to find it quicker.
  4. Specify the number of VMs to be dedicated for Network Controller. Three VMs are strongly recommended for production deployments.
  5. Under Network, enter the VLAN ID of the management network. Network Controller needs connectivity to same management network as the Hyper-V hosts so that it can communicate and configure the hosts.
  6. For VM network addressing, select either DHCP or Static.
  7. If you selected DHCP, enter the name for the Network Controller VMs. You can also use the default populated names.
  8. If you selected Static, do the following:
    • Specify an IP address.
    • Specify a subnet prefix.
    • Specify the default gateway.
    • Specify one or more DNS servers. Click Add to add additional DNS servers.
  9. Under Credentials, enter the username and password used to join the Network Controller VMs to the cluster domain.
  10. Enter the local administrative password for these VMs.
  11. Under Advanced, enter the path to the VMs. You can also use the default populated path.
  12. Enter values for MAC address pool start and MAC address pool end. You can also use the default populated values.
  13. When finished, click Next.
  14. Wait until the wizard completes its job. Stay on this page until all progress tasks are complete. Then click Finish.


After Network Controller VM(s) are created, you must configure dynamic DNS updates for the Network Controller cluster name on the DNS server.

If Network Controller deployment fails, do the following before you try this again:

  • Stop and delete any Network Controller VMs that the wizard created.

  • Clean up any VHD mount points that the wizard created.

  • Ensure you have at least have 50-100GB of free space on your Hyper-V hosts.

Set up a cluster witness

Setting up a witness resource is highly recommended for all clusters. Follow the instructions in Set up a cluster witness.

Next steps

To perform the next management task related to this article, see: