Project Honolulu – First impressions

Project Honolulu is Microsoft’s attempt at revamping the server administration experience.  Historically the Windows server toolkit has been built around using numerous MMC (Microsoft Management Console) plugins – things like Event Viewer, AD Users and Computers and DNS Management are all built on MMC.  We’ve seen a couple of attempts at revamping this in the past, there was Server Manager in 2008 and a refreshed form in 2012.

I suspect one of the driving forces behind Honolulu is the shift from RPC-based connectivity to WinRM for remote administration of servers.  Honolulu seems to represent an alignment with this since it supports only Server 2012 onwards as nodes to manage, and its gateway component installs on Windows 10 or 2016.  The documentation claims the management functions are performed using remote powershell or WMI over WinRM.

 

Installation

The installer for Project Honolulu is only about 30MB.  While it supports installation on a system in a workgroup configuration, the TrustedHosts value for WS-Man needs to include the target nodes to be managed.  The installer can do this for you or you can manually perform the commands to do it.  On a domain joined system this isn’t required.

 

Starting Up Project Honolulu

Following install, the web interface will load with a tour splash screen.  The main landing page is bare to start with.

Clicking on the Add button presents three possible options – a regular server connection, a fail-over cluster or a hyper-converged cluster.  The first 2 options then allow the adding of single items or importing in bulk from a test file.  The hyper-converged cluster option allows only single items.  When adding in the server name or IP, Honolulu will appear to perform ongoing checking of the name to ensure it meets correct requirements and if it can connect with current credentials.

Single sign-on authentication is supported and is the default option.  In the case of my test scenario, the system running Honolulu was in a workgroup and attempting to connect to domain based systems.  For this, I manually specified credentials.  One thing to note is it appears that even if a server is added using IP, the name will be resolved (perhaps by the initial connection) and subsequent connection attempts will fail if this name can’t be resolved by DNS.  For domain-joined installations this should be  a very rare case, in workgroup configurations it could happen.  Honolulu will initiate its connections to the target node on the target’s port 5985.  Assuming initial connection and authentication is successful, you should see a HTTP/1.1 Status 200 in a network capture.  If everything is good, the status will have a tick and say “Online”.  From there you can click on the server’s name, or select it and click Connect to drill down further.

 

Overview Page

The first page shown is an overview of the server and includes some metric graphs like CPU and RAM usage and the ability to shutdown or reboot the server remotely.

On the left is a collapsible menu of the other sections such as events, firewall, registry, processes, etc.

 

Tools

Some of the tools seem quite functional.  The Events one allows filtering of the event log with a reasonable number of criteria and allows exporting.  Files allows browsing of the target node’s file system with the ability to create folders, rename/delete and so on.  The Process section looks to have all the main functions you would typically use in Task Manager, allowing remote termination of processes.

 

Closing Thoughts

Project Honolulu is an interesting tool from Microsoft.  It seems capable of replacing the traditional Server Manager app that most Windows sytem administrators are familar with.  I’ll be most interested in seeing how it develops in terms of extensions.

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