2015
03.03

I will be doing a webinar with Microsoft’s Rick Claus for Altaro on 26th of March, talking about some of the features in the next version of Windows Server Hyper-V. It should be a good one!

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Register here.

2015
03.03

Here’s the latest in the Microsoft world!

Hyper-V

System Center

Azure

Office 365

Miscellaneous

2015
02.27

One of the biggest blockers, in my personal opinion, to Azure IaaS adoption in the SME space is understanding how to price solutions. I don’t get questions about technology, features, cost, trust or any of that; instead, I get questions such as “how much will this cost me?”. Microsoft does not help themselves with a very complex pricing model – please don’t try to bring up AWS – Microsoft doesn’t sell AWS so I don’t get why they are relevant!

So I’ve started producing some videos for my employers. This one focuses on pricing solutions based on Azure virtual machines.

2015
02.27

Microsoft sent out emails last night to inform Azure customers that the pricing of Azure Online Backup is changing.

Currently, you get 5 GB free and then pay €0.149/month (rounded to €0.15) in North Europe for each additional 1 GB.

On April 1st, the pricing structure changes:

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So, 5 GB free. Then for each machine you backup, you pay at least €7.447, with an additional charge of €7.447 for each additional 500 GB protected on that machine. And that DOES NOT COVER the cost of storage consumed in Azure. You have to pay for that too (GB/month and transactions).

So how much will that be? I have no frickin’ idea. There is no indication what kind of storage or what resiliency is required.

It might be Block Blobs running at €0.0179/GB (LRS) or €0.0358/GB (GRS). But who knows because Microsoft didn’t bother documenting it!

That leads me to an issue. The biggest blocker I’ve seen in the adoption of Azure in the SME space is not cost, technical complexity, or trust. The biggest issue is that few people understand how to price a solution in Azure. If you’re deploying a VM you need the VM/hour cost, storage space, storage transactions, egress data, and probably a gateway. Is there a single place that says all that on the Azure portal? No. What Microsoft has is isolated islands of incomplete information on the Azure website, and a blizzard of pricing in their Excel-based pricing “tools”.

If Microsoft is serious about Azure adoption, then they need to get real about helping customers understand how to price tools. Azure Online Backup was the tool I was starting to get traction with in the SME/partner space. I can see this new announcement introducing uncertainty. This change needs to be changed … fast … and not go through the Sinofskian feedback model.

Grade: F. Must try harder.

2015
02.26

Earlier today I produced a video for my employers to discuss the role of Microsoft Azure infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) in the SME/SMB market. In the video I talk a little about what Azure is, the economic sense of a service like Azure for these businesses, how the Open licensing scheme works, and then I talk about 3 of the core services and some of the scenarios that apply.

2015
02.26

In today’s cloudy link aggregation I have news on Windows Server (2003 end of life to Azure), Private Cloud bugs, Azure, and Office 365.

Windows Server

System Center

Azure

Office 365

2015
02.26

I HATE auto-playing video adverts. They’re loud, they interrupt what I do want to watch & listen to, and they are usually inappropriate. And worse: they are appearing EVERYWHERE.

I use the Chrome browser for my general stuff (IE for the Microsoft stuff). Thankfully, it’s not too hard to selectively disable video on those sites that cause offense, such as The Verge, CIO.com, and TheJournal.ie.

In Chrome, open the content settings by browsing to chrome://chrome/settings/content.

Scroll down the Content Settings dialog until you find Plug-Ins. I like to let plug-ins run automatically and manage the painful exceptions. Click Manage Exceptions.

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Enter in the URL of the site that you are browsing that is running the offending advert (plug-in). You can use wildcards here, such as [*.]cio.com. You can allow, block (totally) or ask (block but allow you to start) any plug-ins on that site.

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Back in the Content Settings dialog you also have the option to manage particular plug-ins. Maybe something is installed that you’d like to block. You can do that there by disabling the plug-in. You can also allow some plug-ins to always run.

But I’m of the preference of punishing those sites that put this shit on my screen and speakers, like The Verge, CIO.com and TheJournal.ie.

And for those of you who want to block video ads in IE or Firefox

2015
02.24

Here is the latest news in the world of Microsoft infrastructure:

Hyper-V

Windows Server

System Center

Azure

Office 365

Miscellaneous

2015
02.21

Two years ago, if you’d asked me which direction I would expand into from Hyper-V, it wouldn’t have been into Azure. But, things change. Back in 2007, I believe that I blogged that I wouldn’t work with Hyper-V and would be sticking with VMware. Then a year later I’m working with Hyper-V, blogging about it, and eventually evangelizing about it too!

But what got me to change my mind about switching to Hyper-V? It was System Center. I was a fan of System Center and I saw the potential of Microsoft big picture thinking for the data centre. How times have changed. In recent years, I have moved more and more away from using System Center. While I still love the potential power of the suite, it has become less and less relevant for me and my customers. Microsoft saw to that back in 2012 when they changed the licensing of System Center. Other things, such as increased complexity of installation and maintenance (hiding necessary upgrade steps while pushing automated upgrades via Windows Update) makes owning System Center more of a complexity than it should be. And meanwhile, the Windows Server group has made the automation of System Center less necessary by giving us PowerShell. The market of System Center has shrunk to a relatively small number of very large sales. And that doesn’t include my market here in Ireland.

Unlike many of my fellow MVPs, who are gravitating to the small amount of but large profit System Center work that is out there, I’m moving in my own direction. The writing is on the wall. The cloud is here, real, and relevant to businesses of ALL sizes. I’ve been adding Microsoft Azure IaaS to my arsenal of Hyper-V, clustering, and Windows Server storage/networking skills over the past year or so. Once again, it appears that I’m swimming in a small pool but I’ve been there before; I swam in the Hyper-V puddle that became an ocean.

There’s so much to Azure and it’s growing and evolving at an incredible pace. It’s not an alien technology. There is the fact that Azure is based on Hyper-V (WS2012 to be exact). But Azure compliments on-premises deployments too. Need off-site backup? Want an affordable DR site? Need burst compute/storage capacity? Azure does all that … and much more … with or without System Center, for SMEs, large enterprises, and hosting companies.

I’ve been running a lot of Microsoft partner training locally since last August. I’ve been doing quite a bit of Azure writing for Petri.com. Expect to see some of that appear here too. Oh!, before you ask, yes, I will still centre on Hyper-V and I’ll continue to talk about the new stuff when the time is right Smile

2015
02.20

I am not writing a WS2012 R2 Hyper-V book, but some of my Hyper-V MVP colleagues have been busy writing. I haven’t read these books, but the authors are more than qualified and greatly respected in the Hyper-V MVP community.

Hyper-V Security

By Eric Siron & Andy Syrewicze

Available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

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Keeping systems safe and secure is a new challenge for Hyper-V Administrators. As critical data and systems are transitioned from traditional hardware installations into hypervisor guests, it becomes essential to know how to defend your virtual operating systems from intruders and hackers.

Hyper-V Security is a rapid guide on how to defend your virtual environment from attack.

This book takes you step by step through your architecture, showing you practical security solutions to apply in every area. After the basics, you’ll learn methods to secure your hosts, delegate security through the web portal, and reduce malware threats.

Hyper-V Best Practices

By Benedict Berger

Available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

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Hyper-V Server and Windows Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V provide best in class virtualization capabilities. Hyper-V is a Windows-based, very cost-effective virtualization solution with easy-to-use and well-known administrative consoles.

With an example-oriented approach, this book covers all the different guides and suggestions to configure Hyper-V and provides readers with real-world proven solutions. After applying the concepts shown in this book, your Hyper-V setup will run on a stable and validated platform.

The book begins with setting up single and multiple High Availability systems. It then takes you through all the typical infrastructure components such as storage and network, and its necessary processes such as backup and disaster recovery for optimal configuration. The book does not only show you what to do and how to plan the different scenarios, but it also provides in-depth configuration options. These scalable and automated configurations are then optimized via performance tuning and central management.

2015
02.19

Here’s the latest in the Microsoft world. Shame on Lenovo for pre-installing adware that is a man-in-the-middle attack. Crapware must die!

Hyper-V

System Center

Azure

Office 365

Microsoft Partners

Miscellaneous

2015
02.19

Yesterday was the first time that I came “this close” to my prefect presenting peripherals setup. I’ve wanted to be able to present from a tablet without the tether of a VGA or HDMI cable for years but it has never been possible. I have tried various things, but none worked out … either the performance sucked, the screen resolution was too low, or it just flat-out didn’t work at all.

Then came along Miracast, powered by hardware and enabled in Windows 8.1 with no drivers required. Last year Microsoft launched the Wireless Display Adapter (Amazon.com, Amazon UK). This is a dongle that plugs into HDMI capable TVs and projectors, and is powered by USB (from the display device or direct from power). I picked one up last November in the USA, and my employer just started distributing them to resellers (not direct via retail) in Ireland.

Previous to yesterday, I have been using my dongle to project ripped video and Netflix to the TV. It works perfectly, sending video and audio to the TV. There are times when I work from home when I’m sitting on the couch working on my laptop while video streams to the TV. And in theory, I could even use the TV as a second monitor! And yes, I’ve even used the TV for rehearsing presentations.

But yesterday was the first time that I presented using Miracast via the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter. I brought along a cheap Windows tablet with Office installed and the dongle was plugged into a nice HDMI ready projector, and power came direct from a socket. The tablet connected flawlessly. However, PowerPoint killed the tablet … 1 GB RAM is just not enough. I ended up using my KIRAbook to present … wirelessly. It was nice to set up in the room where I wanted to be instead of behind a podium. Sure I would have liked to have roamed … but it was not to be.

Anyway, next time, I’ll have a Toshiba Encore that has 2 GB RAM and I’ve verified that PowerPoint will work on. And that will allow me to roam, using presenter mode on the tablet and have my notes in front of me.

FYI: the dongle works really well. But we have a Sony display (a TV without a tuner) at work that we cannot get dongles to work with. Everything else has worked fine.

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2015
02.16

I was away on vacation for a little bit, photographing eagles in Poland. And then I came back and had to dive deep into Azure Site Recovery to prep a training class.

I’m back in the normal swing of things so here we go …

Hyper-V

Windows Server

Windows Client

System Center

Azure

Office 365

Intune

  • How to Set Up Per-App VPN using Microsoft Intune: IT Professionals can specify which managed apps can use VPN on an Intune managed iOS device and makes the connection experience seamless for the user by abstracting the steps taken to connect to a VPN server when accessing corporate documents.
  • February update to Microsoft Intune: New Intune standalone (cloud only) features were made available as part of this service.

Miscellaneous

2015
02.02

I, like everyone else, have no idea what Microsoft’s plans are for release dates. And, BTW, I’ve cared less and less about System Center since the 2012 SP1 release, mainly thanks to Microsoft changing the licensing of System Center back then and killing sales completely in my market. I also have no inside information on System Center. I make guesses based on stages of development cycle, news, rumours, and past practices, etc. But I was damned sure that Microsoft was going to RTM Windows Server vNext in Q3 (July-Sept) 2015. I did think that GA was going to be after the GA of Windows 10, allowing the client OS to get some headlines by itself. But looking back, I forgot one thing, which I’ll get to and should have been obvious all along.

The news that broke last week (I was on the road) that “Windows Server and System Center” were not going to come out until 2016 really surprised me. I’ve seen some speculation on Twitter that “issues” in Windows Server are delaying the release. That is QUITE a jump in logic. I would remind everyone to take a look at the announcement again …

We’d also like to share a little more on what to expect from Windows Server and System Center this year. As we continue to advance the development of these products, we plan to release further previews through the remainder of 2015, with the final release in 2016.

… “Windows Server and System Center. Isn’t it interesting that none of the speculators has mentioned System Center and assumed that “bugs” in Windows Server is the cause of this relatively late release for Windows Server?

Only on one occasion in the history of System Center (including previous to the System Center label) has System Center been released at the same time as Windows Server; that was with the last release (2012 R2) and even then, some customers were unhappy that System Center was not on feature parity with Hyper-V and Windows Server (storage and networking) – they still aren’t BTW. Can System Center catch up with Windows Server by Q3 of this year? Hmm …. let’s see how much Microsoft has already announced in the cloud aspects of Windows Server vNext. That’s quite a bit of work accomplished by the Server group, right? I don’t think System Center could catch up in such a tight time frame. Remember, they don’t just have to keep up, but they have to add value.

So why can’t Microsoft release Windows Server ahead of System Center like they have done before? There’s three aspects to this:

  • Promises: Microsoft promised that System Center would be released with Windows Server. They cannot offer free ammunition to rivals and sceptics.
  • Sales to Cloud/Enterprise: Microsoft account managers do not sell Windows Server. They sell bundles like ECI or CIS to their enterprise customers. The customer is getting Windows Server and System Center. Look at the last quarterly results to see how System Center had double digit growth. That doesn’t come in sales to SMEs – Microsoft killed that market 2 years ago with the SML license.
  • Upgrades: Customers will not upgrade Windows Server if they manage it using System Center. And remember that some elements like VMM do not support newer versions of Windows Server Hyper-V.

My gut is screaming that this delay is nothing to do with Windows Server and everything to do with System Center. But that’s just me … guessing … with a little bit of history influencing my gut.

While I am disappointed that I won’t be talking, writing, and presenting on a new release later this year, I guess it means we’ll get a more feature rich, complete, and tested release sometime in 2016. That’s a good thing. Ignite 2015 will still have LOTS of great content on Windows 10, cloud innovations, and best practices for current tech (which most still aren’t using or are barely using), but Ignite 2016 could be quite the event to launch at! Yeah, I’m guessing that the launch of Windows Server and System Center 2016 will be May 2016 :)

2015
02.02

The big news of the last few days was the announcement that the next version of “Windows Server and System Center” won’t be released until 2016. This is quite disappointing.

Windows Server

Windows Client

Azure

Licensing

  • IaaS Gotchas: Compliance gotchas as it pertains to providing infrastructure as a service.
2015
01.28

Things have quietened down after the Windows 10 and HoloLens news, and Azure is back to dominating this post.

Windows Server

Windows Client

Azure

Intune

Security

Miscellaneous

2015
01.26

Microsoft made the latest Technical Preview release available to the public on Friday evening. Note that this is the edition for PCs/laptops/hybrid devices, and not the phone/small tablet build which will be coming in February.

A blog post by Microsoft goes into more details on this preview release. Highlights include:

  • Updated start menu
  • Cortana (US and English only – aka The Curse of Zune)
  • Continuum adaptive UI for different form factors
  • New Settings app
  • New experience for connecting to audio/video streaming devices, e.g. Miracast
  • New Photos and Maps apps
  • Windows Store beta
  • Xbox app

There are issues with Build 9926:

  • A boot selection menu always appears
  • Xbox Live games that require sign-in won’t start
  • Battery icon always shows on the lock screen, even on non-battery devices
  • Remote desktop is a bit rough
  • Connected Standby enabled machines will have shorter battery life
  • Cortana reminders cannot be edited
  • The Music app will close if minimized within first 16 seconds of launch
  • Sometimes the start menu will fail to launch

Remember that this is a PREVIEW release and not the finished product. Microsoft reminds you that:

    • Remember, trying out an early build like this can be risky. That’s why we recommend that you don’t install the preview on your primary home or business PC. Unexpected PC crashes could damage or even delete your files, so you should back up everything.
    • After you install Windows 10 Technical Preview, you won’t be able to use the recovery partition on your PC to go back to your previous version of Windows.

There is also an ISO that you can download (the Windows 10 preview product key is also on this page).

If you’re limited in hardware and are scared about wiping your existing production install, then you can still try out Windows 10 by installing it in a VHD file via Native VHD.

And for those of you folks who want to deploy using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, here’s a post on Deploying Windows 10 Build 9926 using MDT 2013 Lite Touch.

And no, there is no new release of Windows Server yet. No; I do not have any further information that I can share.

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2015
01.23

I heard “Windows as a Service” or WaaS being mentioned twice at an event on Wednesday. Straight away, as a blogger/speaker, I knew what questions people would ask. Here’s what this means:

Windows as a Service is a mindset from Microsoft. You don’t use an OS; your use apps and content. The OS should be a transparent enabler. However, the OS should be kept up to date with fixes, etc, and functionality can be added. Microsoft intends to offer free upgrades to the OS via updates once you are on Windows 10.

The Free Upgrade Offer

For one year, anyone running Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 can avail of a free upgrade to Windows 10. After that point, it is likely that you will have to pay to upgrade to Windows 10.

Is Windows Moving to a Subscription Model?

No*. Once you are on Windows 10 you will get the continuous improvement updates for free. You will not be charged a monthly/yearly fee.

* Note that some business licensing (OVS and ESA) are actually already subscriptions.

What about Businesses?

Here’s what is explicitly stated (in a mail I received):

The upgrade offer does not apply to Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Enterprise and Windows RT; it also does not it cover XP and Vista. Active SA customers may of course upgrade as part of their SA benefits.

Note that Enterprise customers have SA (Ent is an SA benefit) so they have a free upgrade even without this one-year offer.

I suspect that the other SKUs in businesses (without SA) will have upgrade entitlements in that first year but that has not been explicitly stated. To be honest, there would be no way to enforce it because lots of consumer machines actually do have Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 Pro. And let’s face it, Microsoft wants businesses to upgrade.

When Does the First Year Start?

When Windows 10 is “commercially available”. That is probably the Generally Available (GA) date, which can be several months after the Release To Manufacturing (RTM) date. In other words, when Windows 10 appears in stores either as boxed product or pre-installed machines.

How Long Will You get Windows 10 for Free For?

If your machine was legitimately licensed for Windows 7 or later, you get Windows 10 for free until:

  • The device the OS is installed on stops working
  • Microsoft stops supporting Windows 10

What about Windows RT?

It sounds like there is an “update” for Windows RT, but it might not be an upgrade to Windows 10. Sorry!

What About [Something Else]?

I don’t know yet.

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2015
01.23

If you’ve just emerged from a cave or from under a rock, then you might like to read about Windows 10 and HoloLens. It’s been amazing to see how in “90 minutes”, the image of Microsoft has done a 180 degree turnaround. The carefully orchestrated and timed announcements on Wednesday were very effective.

System Center

Windows Client

Azure

Office 365

  • New Office Visio Stencil: These stencils contain more than 300 icons to help you create visual representations of Microsoft Office or Microsoft Office 365 deployments including Microsoft Exchange Server 2013, Microsoft Lync Server 2013, and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013
  • Azure RMS Migration Guidance: The Azure RMS Migration guidance contains a whitepaper with step-by-step guidance and links to cmdlets and tools to migrate on-premises Active Directory Rights Management Services (AD RMS) server key and templates to Azure Rights Management services (Azure RMS) while preserving access to protected content.
2015
01.21

I am attempting to live blog this event. Hit refresh to see more.

It took me some time to get on the stream. Terry Myerson is talking stuff about things. Just get to the main course already. No one likes dry lettuce.

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He goes on to talk about developers, helping them find their next billion customers with Windows 10. Customers are spread across many versions. This fragmentation makes it challenging to develop for them. Microsoft has developed heavily.

And I gave up. The stream died. Twitter is all a chatter with the abject failure of this stream.

Must do much better, Microsoft. And fire whomever is responsible for this catastrophe.

After 30 more minutes, Joe “Hair” Belfiore is wasting valauable time talking about the Cortana, a feature that only works for a tiny percentage of the world’s population. It’s a waste of time, developers, and program managers.

In the meantime, I saw that Windows 10 will have free upgrades from Windows 8.1 and Windows 7. Excellent news.

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Now on to Windows Phone. It doesn’t look different to 8.1

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He shows the flow keyboard, Yawn, Then on to messaging. Third party messaging apps (IP from telecoms or Skype) can be integrated into  the OS tool.

Universal apps now. This is a critical subject to get apps running across all Windows devices of all kinds, hopefully getting devs to write more for Windows.

Touch-first Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will be included on Windows Phone and “small” tablets. You should get a full fidelity document experience with these versions of Office.

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Recent Documents will roam from device to device. Useful.  He allegedly runs a PowerPoint deck from the phone to the big screen. Hmmm … no he wasn’t doing it wirelessly (admits he used a cable).

There will be a universal app version of the Outlook app for PC, tablet, and phone. He shows this now. Editing an email uses the full Word engine.

Calendar on Windows Phone has colour!!!! Wooo! Photos needed fixing badly. New universal app there too for PC and phone (and tablet – get the message about universal apps?). The Photos app will aggregate photos from OneDrive and local device. The collection view removes duplicates from the view. Auto-enhance will be turned on by default to present the images with more colour, etc. They auto-create collections and create a hero image. You can share this album – it’s in the cloud.

In 1-2 months, you can store your music in OneDrive. Playlists will sync between all devices.

Now onto the last app. Here comes Project Spartan, a new web browser. This is not the IE of the past. There is a new rendering engine. Three new features to make you more productive:

  • How you communicate with others about the web. There is a note-taking mode, which they used when news of Spartan was leaked and on The Verge. BTW, The Verge was not the first to report on Spartan – I think it was Mary Jo Foley. You can use touch, stylus or keyboard to mark-up a page. You can clip or save a page with your mark-up, maybe to OneNote. You can also share the page.
  • Focus on the action of reading. There is a reading mode, giving you a standardised way to read content on the web. There is a reading list in the core browser. That’s a mobile experience so you can read the articles on any device …. yes, the content is saved offline so you can read on the plane, etc. There is built-in PDF support.
  • Cortana. Fuck off Cortana you Zune impersonator.

Spartan will be on PC in later builds, and phone later again. It is a universal app for all devices.

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That’s the end of the hair for now.

Phil Spencer comes to talk about entertainment and gaming on Windows 10. He’s the head of Xbox. Cool stuff!  There will be an Xbox app on Windows 10.  It’s a social networking app from what I can see.

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They show two players cooperating in a game from Xbox One and Windows 10 PC. This was never possible before. Will it really work? The hardware performances will vary quite a bit. They show streaming of a game from Xbox One to a PC. That is very cool.

Windows 10 is coming to Xbox One. This is great news for devs who want to bring their apps to the TV. But … gaming will remain the center of attention for Xbox One.

A new build of Windows 10 for the PC is coming in a week. And then to Windows Phone in February.

Now they show off the new Microsoft Surface Hub (the 4K 84” TV with integrated compute). It detected the demo person when she came in. It has cameras, NFC, and all that jazz. There’s lots of software features to get meetings working, and to share content after the meeting (think of it as automated minutes). And it’s Windows 10.

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Windows Holographic is presented via a video. It appears to be one of those concepts that will not appear. MSFT used to make these videos all the time. It’s based on some glasses that super-impose images on the real world. Great concept. Not unimaginable because there are phone apps that do this sort of thing.

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Holographic APIs are in Windows 10 on all devices.

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Project HoloLens’ key achievement—realistic holograms—works by tricking your brain into seeing light as matter. “Ultimately, you know, you perceive the world because of light,”

They do some live demos. This stuff is amazing looking. We see a person pointing at mid-air, but we also see her view of stuff that’s imposed on her view of the world by the glasses.

Satya Nadella comes out to talk about Windows 10 and HoloLens.

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They want people to move from needing Windows, to wanting Windows, to loving Windows. They’re being very realistic about the position that Ballmer has navigated the company to. Service, mobility, and cross-platform are Satya’s new mantra for 2015.

He says “Windows as a service”. Customers will get a continuous stream of innovation. There will be a focus on mobility of experiences – enabled by one OS. Windows will continue to be the best place for Microsoft experiences. But MSFT will have services everywhere.

Myerson is back out. The media will get to try NASA mars explorer, Skype and Minecraft on HoloLens. He also says “Windows as a Service”.

Here is a blog post by Terry Myerson summarizing the announcements.

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2015
01.20

I’ve let the news build up a little bit. I think the holiday lull is starting to lift.

Hyper-V

Windows Server

Windows Client

  • Windows 10: What We Know So Far: I’ll give a hoot about Cortana when it works outside of 4 or so countries. Microsoft should either fix that limitation or move the developers to something more important than a gadget feature.

System Center

Azure

Office 365

Intune

Events

  • #GlobalAzure Bootcamp 2015: The 2015 #GlobalAzure Bootcamp kicks off on April 25th and you can participate and organize a location too!

Miscellaneous

2015
01.14

Here’s the Microsoft updates from the last few days.

Windows Server

System Center

Azure

Office 365

2015
01.09

In a modern data centre, there is more and more resource centralization happening. Take a Microsoft cloud deployment for example, such as what Microsoft does with CPS or what you can do with Windows Server (and maybe System Center). A chunk of a rack can contain over a petabyte of RAW storage in the form of a Scale-Out File Server (SOFS) and the rest of the rack is either hosts or TOR networking. With this type of storage consolidation, we have a challenge: how do we ensure that each guest service gets the storage IOPS that it requires?

From a service providers perspective:

  • How do we provide storage performance SLAs?
  • How do we price-band storage performance (pay more to get more IOPS)?

Up to now with Hyper-V you required a SAN (such as Tintrí) to do some magic on the backend. WS2012 R2 Hyper-V added a crude storage QoS method (maximum rule only) that was performed on at the host and not at the storage. So:

  • There was no minimum or SLA-type rule, only a cap.
  • QoS rules were not distributed so there was no accounting on host X what Hosts A-W were doing to the shared storage system.

Windows Server vNext is adding Distributed Storage QoS that is the function of a partnership between Hyper-V hosts and a SOFS. Yes: you need a SOFS – but remember that a SOFS can be 2-8 clustered Window Servers that are sharing a SAN via SMB 3.0 (no Storage Spaces in that design).

Note: the hosts use a new protocol called MS-SQOS (based on SMB 3.0 transport) to partner with the SOFS.

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Distributed Storage QoS is actually driven from the SOFS. There are multiple benefits from this:

  • Centralized monitoring (enabled by default on the SOFS)
  • Centralized policy management
  • Unified view of all storage requirements of all hosts/clusters connecting to this SOFS

Policy (PowerShell – System Center vNext will add management and monitoring support for Storage QoS) is created on the SOFS, based on your monitoring or service plans. An IO Scheduler runs on each SOFS node, and the policy manager data is distributed. The Policy Manager (a HA cluster resource on the SOFS cluster) pushes (MS-SQOS) policy up the Hyper-V hosts where Rate Limiters restrict the IOPS of virtual machines or virtual hard disks.

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There are two kinds of QoS policy that you can create:

  • Single-Instance: The resources of the rule are distributed or shared between VMs. Maybe a good one for a cluster/service or a tenant, e.g. a tenant gets 500 IOPS that must be shared by all of their VMs
  • Multi-Instance: All VMs/disks get the same rule, e.g. each targeted VM gets a maximum of 500 IOPS. Good for creating VM performance tiers, e.g. bronze, silver, gold with each tier offering different levels of performance for an individual VM

You can create child policies. Maybe you set a maximum for a tenant. Then you create a sub-policy that is assigned to a VM within the limits of the parent policy.

Note that some of this feature comes from the Predictable Data Centers effort by Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK.

Hyper-V storage PM, Patrick Lang, presented the topic of Distributed Storage QoS at TechEd Europe 2014.

2015
01.09

3 big announcements from Azure last night plus a useful Hyper-V reporting script feature today.

Hyper-V

System Center

Azure

  • Azure Storage to start disabling SSL 3.0 on February 20th, 2015: Protecting against the SSL 3.0 vulnerability. You need TLS 1.0 or higher to continue.
  • Azure is now bigger, faster, more open, and more secure: Azure Key Vault helps customers safeguard and control keys and secrets using HSMs in the cloud, with ease and at cloud-scale. Furthermore, customers can deploy an encrypted Virtual Machine with CloudLink SecureVM with the master keys in Key Vault. The "Goliath" G-series VMs have gone GA. And an image of a Docker-enabled Ubuntu VM is in the Marketplace.
  • Largest VM in the Cloud: G-series sizes provide the most memory, the highest processing power and the largest amount of local SSD of any Virtual Machine size currently available in the public cloud.
  • Introducing Docker in Microsoft Azure Marketplace: Microsoft announced the first Ubuntu image fully integrated with the Docker engine available for fast deployment from the Microsoft Azure marketplace.

Security

2015
01.08

While at the MVP Summit in Redmond, my friend Carsten Rachfahl (also a Hyper-V MVP) recorded a video interview with me to talk about Windows Server vNext and some of our favourite new features.

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