The biggest problem with Hyper-V isn’t Hyper-V at all. It’s the management experience. We’ve all had our complaints about that, so I don’t think a rehash is necessary. Thing is, Hyper-V is far from alone. Microsoft has plenty of management issues across its other infrastructure roles and features as well. Enter Project ‘Honolulu’: an attempt to unify and improve the management experience for Microsoft’s infrastructure offerings.

Before I get very far into this, I want one thing to be made abundantly clear: the Honolulu Project is barely out of its infancy. As I write this, it is exiting private preview. The public beta bits aren’t even published yet.

With that said, unless many things change dramatically between now and release, this is not the Hyper-V management solution that you have been waiting for. At its best, it has a couple of nice touches. In a few cases, it is roughly equivalent to what we have now. For most things, it is worse than what we have available today. I hate to be so blunt about it because I believe that Microsoft has put a great deal of effort into Honolulu. However, I also feel like they haven’t been paying much attention to the complaints and suggestions the community has made regarding the awful state of Hyper-V management tools.

What is Project ‘Honolulu’

When you look at Honolulu, it will appear something like an Azure-ified Server Manager. It adopts the left-to-right layouts that the Azure tools use, as opposed to the up-and-down scrolling that we humans and our mice are accustomed to.

Thou shalt not use Honolulu in a window

Thou shalt not use Honolulu in a window

This sort of thing is normative for the Azure tools. If you have a 50″ 4k screen and nothing else to look at, I’m sure that it looks wonderful. If you are using VMConnect or one of those lower resolution slide-out monitors that are still common in datacenters, then you might not enjoy the experience. And yes, the “<” icon next to Tools means that you can collapse that panel entirely. It doesn’t help much. I don’t know when it became passé for columns to be resizable and removable. Columns should be resizable and removable.

As you see it in that screenshot, Honolulu is running locally. It can also run in a gateway mode on a server. You can then access it from a web browser from other systems and devices.

Requirements for Running Project ‘Honolulu’

For the Honolulu Project itself, you can install on:

  • Windows 10
  • Windows Server 2012 through 2016

On a Windows 10 desktop or a Server 2012 system, it will only be accessible locally.

If you install on a server 2012 R2 through 2016 SKU, it will operate in the aforementioned gateway mode. You just open a web browser to that system on whatever port you configure, ex: https://managementmentsystem:6516. You will be prompted for credentials.

When you provide credentials to Honolulu, the systems that you connect to will be associated with your account. If you connect to Honolulu with a different user account, it will not display any of the servers that were chosen under a different account. Each need to be set up separately. You can import lists to reduce the pain.

Note: As it stands right now, I cannot get Honolulu work on a 2012 R2 system. It will open, but then refuses to connect to any server in my organization. I am actively working on this problem and will report back if a solution can be found. That’s one of the dangers of using early software, not a lifelong condemnation of the product.

Requirements for Targets of Honolulu

The target system(s) must be a Server SKU 2012 through 2016. It/they must have Windows Management Framework 5 or higher loaded. The easiest way to tell is by opening a PowerShell prompt and running $PSVersionTable. The PowerShell version and the Windows Management Framework version will always be the same. It also helps if you can verify that you can connect from the management system to the target with Enter-PSSession.

The following screenshot shows an example. I first tested that my management system has the correct version. Then I connected to my target and checked the WMF version there. I should have no problems setting up the first system to run Project Honolulu to connect to the second system.

running project honolulu

If you are running all of the systems in the same domain, then this will all “just work”. I’m not sure yet how cross-domain authentication works. If you’ve decided that security is unimportant and you’re running your Hyper-V host(s) in workgroup mode, then you will need to configure TrustedHosts on the gateway system.

Requirements for Viewing Project ‘Honolulu’

Honolulu presents its views via HTML 5 web pages. Edge and Chrome work well. Internet Explorer doesn’t work at all:

hono_noie

I think it will be interesting to see how that plays out in the enterprise. Windows 10 isn’t exactly the best corporate player, so several organizations are hanging on to Windows 7. Others are moving to Windows 10, but opting for the Long-Term Servicing Branch (LTSB). LTSB doesn’t include Edge. So, is Microsoft (inadvertently?) pushing people toward Google Chrome?

Connecting to a Target Server in Honolulu

When you first start up Honolulu, you have little to look at:

hono_lonely

Click the + Add link to get started adding systems. Warning: If you’re going to add clusters, do that following the instructions in the next section. Only follow this for stand-alone hosts.

Type the name of a system to connect to, and it will automatically start searching. Hopefully, it will find the target. You can click the Submit button whether it can find it or not.

A working system:

hono_goodaddserver

A non-working system:

hono_broken

As you can see in the links, you can also Import Servers. For this, you need to supply a text file that contains a list of target servers.

 

Connecting to a Target Cluster in Honolulu

Honolulu starts out in “Server Manager” mode, so it will only connect to servers. If you try to connect it to a failover cluster in Server Manager mode, it will pick up the owning node instead. In order to connect to a failover cluster, you need to switch the mode.

At the top of the window, find the Server Manager heading. Drop that down and select Failover Cluster Manager.

hono_fcm

Now, add clusters with the + Add button. When it detects the cluster, it will also prompt you to add the nodes as members of Server Manager:

hono_addcluster

Windows Management Framework Error for Honolulu

As mentioned in the beginning, every target system needs to have at least Windows Management Framework version 5 installed. If a target system does not meet that requirement, Honolulu will display that status:

hono_wmf

The Really Quick Tour for Honolulu

I focus on Hyper-V and I’m certain that dozens of other Honolulu articles are already published (if not more). So, let’s burn through the non-Hyper-V stuff really fast.

Right-click doesn’t do anything useful anywhere in Honolulu. Train yourself to use only the left mouse button.

Server Manager has these sections:

  • Overview: Shows many of the things that you can see in Computer Properties. Also has several real-time performance charts, such as CPU and memory. For 2016+ you can see disk statistics. I like this page in theory, but the execution is awful. It assumes that you always want to see the basic facts about a host no matter what and that you have a gigantic screen resolution. My VMConnect screen is set to 1366×768 and I can’t even see a single performance chart in its entirety:
    hono_overview
  • Certificates: No more dealing with all the drama of manually adding the certificates snap-in! Also, you can view the computer and user certificates at the same time! Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like you can request a new certificate, but most other functionality seems to be here.
  • Devices: You can now finally see the devices installed on a Server Core/Hyper-V Server installation. You can’t take any action except Disable, unfortunately. It’s still better than what we had.
  • Events: Event Viewer, basically.
  • Files: Mini-File Explorer in your browser! You can browse the directory structure and upload/download files. You can view properties, but you can’t do anything with shares or permissions.
  • Firewall: Covers the most vital parts of firewall settings (profile en/disabling and rule definitions).
  • Local Users and Groups: Add and remove local user accounts. Add them to or remove them from groups. You cannot add or delete local groups. Adding a user to a group is completely free-text; no browsing. Also, if you attempt to add a user that doesn’t exist, you get a confirmation message that tells you that it worked, but the field doesn’t populate.
  • Network: View the network connections and set basic options for IPv4 and IPv6.
  • Processes: Mostly like Task Manager. Has an option to Create Process Dump.
  • Registry: Nifty registry editor; includes Export and Import functions. Very slow, though; personally I’d probably give up and use regedit.exe for as long as I’m given a choice.
  • Roles and Features: Mostly what you expect. No option for alternate install sources, though, so you won’t be using it to install .Net 3.5. Also, I can’t tell how to discard accidental changes. No big deal if you only accidentally checked a single item. For some reason, clicking anywhere on a line toggles the checked/not checked state, so you can easily change something without realizing that you did it.
  • Services: Interface for installed services. Does not grant access to any advanced settings for a service (like the extra tabs on the SNMP Service). Also does not recognize the Delayed Start modifier for Automatic services. I would take care to only use this for Start and Stop functions.
  • Storage: Works like the Storage part of the Files and Storage Services section in Server Manager. Like the preceding sections, includes most of the same features as its real Server Manager counterpart, but not all.
  • Storage Replica: I’m not using Storage Replica anywhere so I couldn’t gauge this one. Requires a special setup.
  • Virtual Machines and Virtual Switches: These two sections will get more explanation later.
  • Windows Update: Another self-explanatory section. This one has most of the same functionality as its desktop counterpart, although it has major usability issues on smaller screens. The update list is forced to yield space to the restart scheduler, which consumes far more screen real estate than it needs to do its job.

Virtual Switches in Honolulu

Alphabetically, this comes after Virtual Machines, but I want to get it out of the way first.

The Virtual Switches section in Project ‘Honolulu’ mostly mimics the virtual switch interface in Hyper-V Manager. So, it gets props for being familiar. It takes major dings for duplicating Hyper-V Manager’s bad habits.

First, the view:

hono_virtualswitchoverview

Functionality:

  • New Virtual Switch
  • Delete Virtual Switch
  • Rename Virtual Switch
  • Modify some settings of a virtual switch

The Settings page (which I had to stitch together because it successfully achieves the overall goal of wasting maximal space):

hono_vswitchsettings

The New Virtual Switch screen looks almost identical, except that it’s in a sidebar so it’s not quite as wide.

Notes on Honolulu’s virtual switch page:

  • Copies Hyper-V Manager’s usage of the adapter’s cryptic Description field instead of its name field.
  • If you look in the Network Adapter setting on the Settings for vSwitch screenshot and then compare it to the overview screen shot, you should notice something: It didn’t pick the team adapter that I really have my vSwitch on. Also, you can’t choose the team adapter. I didn’t tinker with that because I didn’t want to break my otherwise functional system, but not being able to connect a virtual switch to a team is a non-starter for me.
  • Continues to use the incorrect and misleading “Share” terminology for “Shared with Management OS” and “Allow management OS to share this network adapter”. Hey Microsoft, how hard would it really be to modify those to say “Used by Management OS” and “Allow management OS to use this virtual switch”?
  • No VLAN settings.
  • No SR-IOV settings.
  • No Switch-Embedded Teaming settings
  • No options for controlling management OS virtual NICs beyond the first one

Virtual Machines in Honolulu

All right, this is why we’re here! Make sure that you’re over something soft or the let-down might sting.

Virtual Machine Overview

The overview is my favorite part, although it also manifests the wasteful space usage that plagues this entire tool. Even on a larger resolution, it’s poorly made. However, I like the information that it displays, even if you need to scroll a lot to see it all.

At the top, you get a quick VM count and a recap of recent events:

hono_vmov

Even though I like the events being present, that tiny list will be mostly useless on an environment of any size. Also, it might cause undue alarm. For instance, those errors that you see mean that Dynamic Memory couldn’t expand any more because the VMs had reached their configured maximum. You can’t see that here because it needs two inches of whitespace padding to its left and right.

You can also see the Inventory link. We’ll come back to that after the host resources section.

Virtual Machine Host Resource Usage

I mostly like the resource view. Even on my 1366×768 VMConnect window, I have enough room to fit the CPU and memory charts side-by-side. But, they’re stacked and impossible to see together. I’ve stitched the display for you to see what it could look like with a lot of screen to throw at it:

hono_hostresources

Virtual Machine Inventory

Back at the top of the Virtual Machines page, you can find the Inventory link. That switches to a page where you can see all of the virtual machines:

hono_vminventory

That doesn’t look so bad, right? My primary complaint with the layout is that I believe that the VM’s name should be prioritized. I’d rather have an idea of the VM’s name as opposed to the Heart Beat or Protected statuses, if given a choice.

My next complaint is that, even at 1366×768, which is absolutely a widescreen resolution, the elements have some overrun. If I pick a VM that’s on, I must be very careful when trying to access the More menu so that I don’t inadvertently Shutdown the guest instead:

hono_smoosh

What’s on that More menu? Here you go:

hono_more

That’s for a virtual machine that’s turned on. No, your eyes are not deceiving you. You cannot modify any of the settings of a virtual machine while it is running. Power states and checkpoints are the limit.

I don’t know what Protected means. It’s not about being shielded or clustered. I suppose it means that it’s being backed up to Azure? If you’re not using Azure backup then this field just wastes even more space.

Virtual Machine Settings

If you select a virtual machine that’s off, you can then modify its settings. I elected not to take all of those screenshots. Fitting with the general Honolulu motif, they waste a great deal of space and present less information than Hyper-V Manager. These setting groupings are available:

  • General: The VM’s name, notes, automatic start action, automatic stop action, and automatic critical state action
  • Memory: Startup amount, Dynamic Memory settings, buffer, and weight
  • Processors: Number only. No NUMA, compatibility mode, reservation, or weight settings
  • Disks: I could not get the disks tab to load for any virtual machine on any host, whether 2012 R2 or 2016. It just shows the loading animation
  • Networks: Virtual switch connection, VLAN, MAC (including spoofing), and QoS. Nothing about VMQ, IOV, IPSec, DHCP Guard, Router Guard, Protected Network, Mirroring, Guest Teaming, or Consistent Device Naming
  • Boot Order: I could not get this to load for any virtual machine.

Other Missing Hyper-V Functionality in Honolulu

A criticism that we often level at Hyper-V Manager is just how many settings it excludes. If we only start from there, Project ‘Honolulu’ excludes even more.

Features available in Hyper-V Manager that Honolulu does not expose:

  • Hyper-V host settings — any of them. Live Migration adapters, Enhanced Session Mode, RemoteFX GPUs, and default file locations
  • No virtual SAN manager. Personally, I can live with that, since people need to stop using pass-through disks anyway. But, there are some other uses for this feature and it still works, so it makes the list of Honolulu’s missing features.
  • Secure boot
  • VM Shielding
  • Virtual TPM
  • Virtual hardware add/remove
  • Indication of VM Generation
  • Indication/upgrade of VM version
  • Shared Nothing Live Migration (intra-cluster Live Migration does work; see the Failover Clustering section below)
  • Storage (Live) Migration
  • Hyper-V Replica
  • Smart page file

Except for the automatic critical action setting, I did not find anything in Project ‘Honolulu’ that isn’t in Hyper-V Manager. So, don’t look here for nested VM settings or anything like that.

Failover Clustering for Hyper-V in Honolulu

Honolulu’s Failover Cluster Manager is even more of a letdown than Hyper-V. Most of the familiar tabs are there, but it’s almost exclusively read-only. However, we Hyper-V administrators get the best of what it can offer.

If you look on the Roles tab, you can find the Move action. That initiates a Quick or Live Migration:

hono_migration

Unfortunately, it forces you to pick a destination host. In a small cluster like mine, no big deal. In a big cluster, you’d probably like the benefit of the automatic selector. You can’t even see what the other nodes’ load levels look like to help you to decide.

Other nice features missing from Honolulu’s Failover Cluster Manager:

  • Assignment, naming, and prioritizing of networks
  • Node manipulation (add/evict)
  • Disk manipulation (add/remove cluster disk, promote/demote Cluster Shared Volume, CSV ownership change)
  • Quorum configuration
  • Core resource failover
  • Cluster validation. The report is already in HTML, so even if this tool can’t run validation, it would be really nice if it could display the results of one

Showstopping Hyper-V Issues in Project ‘Honolulu’

Pay attention to the dating of this article, as all things can change. As of this writing, these items prevent me from recommending Honolulu:

  • No settings changes for running virtual machines. The Hyper-V team has worked very hard to allow us to change more and more things while the virtual machine is running. Honolulu negates all of that work, and more.
  • No Hyper-V switch on a team NIC
  • No VMConnect (console access). If you try to connect to a VM, it uses RDP. I use a fair number of Linux guests. Microsoft has worked hard to make it easy for me to use Linux guests. For Windows guests, RDP session cuts out the pre-boot portions that we sometimes need to see.
  • No host configuration

Any or all of these things might change between now and release. I’ll be keeping up with this project in hopes of being able to change my recommendation.

The Future of Honolulu

I need to stress, again, that Honolulu is just a baby. Yes, it needs a lot of work. My general take on it, though, is that it’s beginning life by following in the footsteps of the traditional Server Manager. The good: it tries to consolidate features into a single pane of glass. The bad: it doesn’t include enough. Sure, you can use Server Manager/Honolulu to touch all of your roles and features. You can’t use it as the sole interface to manage any of them, though. As-is, it’s a decent overview tool, but not much more.

Where Honolulu goes from here is in all of our hands. I’m writing this article a bit before the project goes into public beta, so you’re probably reading it at some point afterward. Get the bits, set it up, and submit your feedback. Be critical, but be nice. Designing a functional GUI is hard. Designing a great GUI is excruciatingly difficult. Don’t make it worse with cruel criticism.

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