2009
04.30

The RC (final test) builds of Win7 and W2008 R2 are officially available via MSDN and TechNet as of this morning (a day earlier than expected).  They’ll be available to the general public next week (probably).

I said “the” release candidates.  Looks like there won’t be a second RC release.  If an RC lasts for around 2 months then when would MS RTM?  There’s a big conference in July in New Orleans: WPC 2009.  After that you have TechEd EMEA in Berlin in November.

2009
04.29

SP2 for Office 2007 was released a few days ago – I missed the news because I’m snowed under with work.  You can read about the improvements.  That page also has some pre-installation reading that you should go through.

2009
04.28

The Irish Windows User Group will be running two events over the next 2 months.  The details are below.  Note that anyone outside of Ireland or not near these venues can still attend online using Live Meeting.  We’re also planning to host the recordings on a new Microsoft TechNet Ireland portal.

Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V Deep Dive (This Thursday)

At TechDays for IT Pro’s 2009 there will be some sessions on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. This will include some information and demonstrations on the new version of Hyper-V. However, due to time constraints, we won’t have time to get into the deep details of how and why things work.

Aidan Finn (C Infinity) will be talking about the new technologies that will be included as part of Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V Server 2008 R2. This includes new functionality and improvements in performance thanks to cooperation between Microsoft and their hardware partners.

Dave Northey (Microsoft Ireland) will be doing some demonstrations of the technology in action, including the much anticipated Live Migration.

Who’s Speaking?

- Aidan Finn – C Infinity

- Dave Northey: Microsoft Ireland

When and Where?

07:30 until 10:00 on April 30th.

Swift Suite 2, Radisson SAS Royal Hotel, Golden Lane, Dublin 8, Ireland (Near St. Patricks Cathedral)

Registration

You can register for the event here: http://www.clicktoattend.com/invitation.aspx?code=137699

Anyone who registered for the event using the old event system does not need to re-register.

Online

The Dublin event on April 30th at 07:30 GMT will be web cast using Live Meeting.  You will need to install Live Meeting to watch.  The entry details are:

Attendee URL: https://www.livemeeting.com/cc/mvp/join?id=H73KPG&role=attend
Meeting ID:  H73KPG

Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services (aka Terminal Services)

Windows Server 2008 R2 sees Terminal Services being expanded and rebranded as Remote Desktop Services.  MVP Alex Yushchenko will be once again presenting for the Windows User Group and sharing his wealth of expertise and experience.  And be sure to check out his own event that is running in Dublin, PubForum.
This presentation will cover the following:

-       New features of Remote Desktop Services (previously known as Terminal Services) in Windows 2008 R2
-       Migration from W2003 or W2008 to R2
-       VDI – Virtual Desktop Architecture built-in
-       Application Delivery, TS Web Access, Session Broker & Load Balancing and Licensing
-       Powershell in Remote Desktop Services
-       Virtualization of Terminal Server?!
-       How to get the most of Remote Desktop Services and maybe even replace your Citrix farm and save costs

About Alex Yushchenko
Alex Yushchenko a.k.a Dr.Conti is a worldwide recognized Virtualization and Server Based Computing expert. He is a Microsoft Terminal Services MVP and Citrix CTP of which there are only about 25, worldwide. With over 10 years of experience in the application virtualization field he often attends Microsoft events as part of “Ask the Experts” team across the globe and is regularly presenting on application virtualization related topics. He is also founder and organizer of European Wide Virtualization and Application delivery Event called PubForum.net in Dublin in June this year. Alex holds a M.Sc. Degree in Information Technology.

Where and When?

May 20th Wednesday
Galway – 9.30 – 12.30: Days Inn Hotel
Cork – 18.30 – 21.30: Rochestown Park Hotel
May 21st Thursday
Dublin – 9.30 – 12.30: Microsoft Atruim Building Block B
Belfast – 18.30 – 21.30: Wellington Park Hotel 

Location details on the event registration pages.

Registrations
There is no fee for attending the event.  You can register for each individual event:

May 20th Wednesday
Galway – 9.30 – 12.30
Cork – 18.30 – 21.30

May 21st Thursday
Dublin – 9.30 – 12.30
Belfast – 18.30 – 21.30

Online

The Dublin event on May 21st at 09:30 GMT will be web cast using Live Meeting.  You will need to install Live Meeting to watch.  The entry details are:

Attendee URL:  https://www.livemeeting.com/cc/usergroups/join?id=6PC9BQ&role=attend
Meeting ID:  6PC9BQ

2009
04.27

Flat Out!

I’m back in Ireland but I won’t be posting too much this week.  While I was away in Virginia, sales built up a good load of business for me to get cracking on.  I’ve also got a Hyper-V presentation to prepare, 2 photography presentations to give and some writing with a deadline to do.

Work comes first so I’ll get back to the blog ASAP.

2009
04.25

I just read about a very new application compatibility slash desktop virtualisation solution that will be available as a free download addition for Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate.  The solution is called Windows XP Mode.  It will be a version of XP Service Pack 3 that runs in a virtualisation solution similar to Virtual PC.  This means that you have a way to run XP applications on Windows 7 just in case they won’t run on Windows 7 natively, even with the shims available from the application compatibility toolkit.

2009
04.23

We all know how annoying it is that important configuration items are being hidden behind layers of GUI in Windows, e.g. how long did it take you to first find TCP properties in Vista?  I’ve been using “NCPA.CPL” to get there quickly for the last couple of months.  Here’s a list of them that was posted after I had networking issues on Win7 Beta during a presentation at Minasi Forum 2009 yesterday – Explorer crashed, I had to reboot and the wifi network I had been on wasn’t appearing in the available list.

2009
04.23

Monitoring Hyper-V Performance

You have to be quite careful about choosing what metrics to monitor when checking out the performance of Hyper-V.  Not is all as it first appears.  This article explains how to and what to monitor.  Of course, if you have OpsMgr 2007 SP1 this becomes a whole lot easier.

2009
04.23

Ben Armstrong has posted an article explaining why a virtual machine might go into a “Paused-Critical” state.  Quickly, it’s because Hyper-V is protecting a VM with a dynamic expanding or a differencing VHD (virtual hard disk) runs out of space to expand on the physical storage.  Importantly, Ben also says:

“Due to a bug in the current version of Hyper-V – it will file warning messages and place the virtual machine into paused-critical even if the virtual machine is using fixed size virtual hard disks, and the drive that is storing the disk runs out of space for some other reason”.

2009
04.23

MinasiForum 2009 Wraps Up

The annual MinasiForum conference has wrapped up and the last stragglers have just returned to the hotel from dinner.  Today we had Joe McGlynn talking about SBS 2008 and James Summerlin talking about SQL Reporting Services.  I had the last (rescheduled) session on Windows 7 for digital photographers.  Yesterday we had (Dynamics MVP) Curt Spanburgh talking about cloud computing/SaaS, (deployment MVP) Rhonda Layfield talking about the latest NetMon and Mark Minasi talking about W2008 Active Directory.  We also tried something new: 3 mini sessions with new speakers which included DR/business continuity, a home lab and how to install MacOS onto a non-Apple computer.

I got some more photography done :-)  I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon and making my way back to wet Ireland.  We’re already planning next year’s conference and I can’t wait to return.

IMG_7838

2009
04.22

I’ve seen some misleading information about Hyper-V logical processor or CPU numbers support.  Some people are taking the operating system edition, e.g. Enterprise or Data Center numbers and applying them to Hyper-V.  DO NOT DO THIS.  The actual support is 32 Logical Processors or Cores, e.g. 16 Dual Core or 4 * 6 Core CPU’s.  Here are the limitations for Hyper-V R2.

image_thumb[1]

Credit: WChomak

2009
04.22

One of the Microsoft guys has posted about how Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 will continue to be free but it will also include CSV and Live Migration (aka VMotion) included.  Hyper-V Server 2008 does not have cluster functionality so you must use Windows Server 2008 Enterprise/Data Center Edition to get this functionality.

Cluster Shared Volume overcomes the shared nothing principle of shared cluster disks by delegating read/write access to individual files to Hyper-V hosts (physical cluster members).  This means you can have many virtual machines on a single disk and they can run on many hosts in the cluster.  It’s not required for Live Migration but it is strongly recommended.  I’m looking forward to it to simplify my disk management.  The current version of Hyper-V doesn’t require (it does with VMM 2008) but should have 1 VM per 1 LUN – this allows VM’s to run on any host; the disk ties a VM to the host.

Live Migration finally gives Hyper-V a VMotion style of VM failover where a VM is “offline” for 10 milliseconds (not noticeable) when it is migrated from host 1 to host 2.  I’ve recently posted a PowerPoint slide deck that explains this.  I’ll be doing a presentation on this online on April 30th.

2009
04.21

I’m having a blast in Virginia Beach.  The conference and the photography is good.  The presentations this year have been excellent.  Eric B. Rux (Windows Home Server MVP) did a great job on a company merger (AD and Exchange) session.  Nathan Winters (Exchange MVP) did a cool session on Exchange (history and 2010) and I was his secret demo monkey in the following Unified Communications session.  We all then had dinner out at a cool restaurant out in the sticks.  I’m about to head out again to do some more photography:

IMG_7275

2009
04.20

Was the Fox News website compromised with a virus?  Is their site dangerous to browse?  Are Rupert Murdoch and Dick Cheney the servants of Satan?  Will these question marks that I’m using the same way Fox News does ever end?

2009
04.20

MinasiForum 2009 Kicks Off

The mini geek conference based on MS technology that is hosted by Mark Minasi (MVP, author, journalist, trainer, speaker and consultant) in Virginia Beach has kicked off.  Saturday saw us all meeting up and a number of us went out to Mark’s house for beers and pizza.  Mark and Rhonda were great hosts as always.

The conference started yesterday.  Mark went through each of the attendees to ask who they are and what they do.  We found what people wanted to learn about or were having trouble with. The big ones were:

  • Virtualisation (almost everyone)
  • Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity
  • Windows 7 and migration from XP
  • Cloud Computing
  • Certificate Services – because everything will require it in some way, shape or form

Mark then did his first Windows 7 feature list presentation.

I followed up with the last session of the day.  My subject was Hyper-V.  I spoke about:

  • The need for machine virtualisation
  • Hyper-V architecture and components
  • Failover Clustering
  • Licensing
  • ManagementW2008 R2: Cluster Shared Volume and Live Migration
  • The possible future

My slides are available here.

Hyper V – Minasi Forum 2009  

View more presentations from joe_elway.

The session went very well and was very interactive. Our crowd at his event is always fun with a high percentage of MVP’s.  A lot of questions and scenarios were covered.  I got great feedback, the best being from another MVP who said MS hadn’t managed to explain things this well in the USA and that I’d made Hyper-V a viable solution for him now.

2009
04.18

Using BizTalk on Hyper-V

I don’t know much about the Business Intelligence stuff and I know less about BizTalk so I don’t know much about this new document from MS:

“The purpose of this guide is to provide guidance for using Microsoft BizTalk Server 2009 with Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V. The emphasis is on BizTalk Server, but the performance evaluation methods and performance testing scenarios are useful for analyzing the performance of virtualized server applications in general. This guidance will be of interest to both the IT Pro and Developer communities”.

2009
04.17

The Windows Core team posted a blog about how to add a pass through disk to a Hyper-V VM or child partition.  Pass through disks are the fastest storage option for VM’s.  Instead of using a VHD file, they are presented with a raw and unformatted volume.  This is dedicated to the VM.  The VM will then format the volume.  You’ll use this option when you need VM’s running things like Exchange or SQL that need the very best in disk performance.  Note that Fixed VHD’s get within 6% of the underlying disk speed.

2009
04.16

The update I referred to a little while ago for Virtual Machine Manager 2008 has been released as part of a rollup package.  This update is said to deal with the unsupported cluster configuration alert.  It also fixes a number of other issues.

“List of issues that are fixed:

Issue 1

When you migrate VMware virtual machines, the resource pools that are associated with the virtual machines are changed.

Issue 2

Hyper-V virtual machines have a status of "unsupported cluster configuration" if a node in a Windows Server 2008 Failover Cluster does not respond or has been restarted.

Issue 3

Differencing disks are lost when the following conditions are true:

  • You migrate a virtual machine from a Virtual Server host.
  • Multiple virtual machines share the same parent virtual hard disk file.

Issue 4

The agent status is not updated for Windows Server 2008 Failover Cluster nodes.

Issue 5

Hyper-V virtual machines in a Windows Server 2008 Failover Cluster have a status of "unsupported cluster configuration" if the cluster has a resource that has an MSCluster_Property_Resource_Cluster_Extension_XP_Type type. This resource type is typically used by storage replication software.

Issue 6

If you add a Virtual Center server by using an account that is a member of the Enterprise Admins group, you receive the following error message when the refresh host job runs:

Error (2951) Virtual Machine Manager cannot complete the VirtualCenter action on server servername.domainname.com because of the following error: Login failed due to a bad username or password. (InvalidLogin).”

EDIT #1:

Normally you’ll get this update via Microsoft Update or WSUS.  However you can manually download it.  Don’t just double click on the MSP otherwise you’ll get a baffling message: "Launch setup.exe for installing virtual machine manager server".  It turns out I’m not the only person to get that one.  I did some digging and found you need to run this command to install the update: "msiexec /p vmmServer64update.msp BOOTSTRAPPED=1”.

EDIT #2:

Part of this update was a request from myself through IT Pro Momentum.  When you patched VMM 2008 managed Hyper-V nodes, 1 at a time, the state of VM’s in that cluster would change to "unsupported cluster configuration".  I’ve installed the rollup update.  On day 1 to test I downloaded security updates onto our redundant host in the cluster.  There were no issues with VM’s.  I forced a VM refresh using the refresh-vm cmdlet in the Powershell interface.  On day 2 I installed Windows Server 2008 SP2.  VMM saw that the agent was offline but the VM states remained managable.

Excellent.  This seems to have fixed an anoying issue.

2009
04.15

Dell has released a guidance document for those planning to use Hyper-V on Dell servers.  I’ve scanned through it quickly and there is no mention of NIC teaming that I can see.

2009
04.15

Microsoft has made the beta for Exchange 2010 available to the general public.  RAM requirements: 4GB plus 5MB per mailbox.  Imagine what the requirements for the next release of SBS will be like?

EDIT #1:

Here’s an early review by pcmag.com.

2009
04.14

Microsoft has issued a beta release of a management pack for monitoring Windows Server 2008 R2 using Operations Manager 2007 SP1.  There’s a set of instructions to get the management pack and to configure your systems.  Note that this management pack and W2008 R2 are beta products and are not mean for production.

2009
04.14

In school, we were forced to study a play called “Philadelphia, Here I Come”.  I hated it.  Now the city is getting it’s own back.  I arrived in 30 minutes early from Dublin.  I did the usual USA Customs baggage dance and dropped off my check-in bag.  I then got my first opportunity to see the status of my 16:40 connecting flight to Virginia.  CANCELLED.  I went to a service desk and got moved to an earlier flight at 15:40.  I was asked where my check in bag was.  Huh?  It was in the logical location – checked in!  The status boards and desks are after the bag-re-check-in outside customs.  Looks like my bag will be lost and I’ll be filing a baggage claim in Virginia for the 4th time in 3 years.

I made my way over to the terminal and sat as my plane sat idle for nearly 2 hours.  Then approaching boarding time we heard there was a delay.  I saw the crew leave the plane and the terminal.  The announcement was made that “the plane is in maintenance and may or may not be replaced.  No status on the flight”.  Yikes!  30 minutes later we heard the flight would be 2 hours late, leaving at 17:45 instead of 15:40.  I’m not banking on that.  Flights have been cancelled all over the place because there is some rain.  I’d like to invite these folks to fly in/out of Dublin – we wouldn’t have an airport if we cancelled a flight every time it rained.

I’m hoping I get out of here today.  I’ve got plans to get out and about with my camera gear.  I’ll be damned if US Airways steals a day of my vacation.

2009
04.13

I’m off to the airport early tomorrow morning to head stateside.  I’ll be in Virginia and North Carolina for a week doing some photography before heading to MinasiForum 2009 in Virginia Beach where I’ll be presenting on Hyper-V.  It’s likely that the blog will go a little quiet for 2 weeks until I return to Ireland.

2009
04.11

We are going to be doing a live cast of the Windows User Group (Ireland) Hyper-V R2 Deep Dive event from Dublin.  The best option will still be to attend the event in person because it gives you the best chance to get questions asked and answered before/after the event not only on the R2 release but also on the current release (which won’t be our main focus).

Anyone who cannot come on that morning can watch the event on Live Meeting:

https://www.livemeeting.com/cc/mvp/join?id=H73KPG&role=attend
Meeting ID:  H73KPG

This requires that you install the Live Meeting client.

2009
04.11

VMM 2008 Hotfix Coming Out Soon

There will be a new update for VMM 2008 released next week on patch Tuesday.  The link won’t work until the release.  KB961893 should fix a problem I blogged about and reported to MS.  The issue occurs when you update a clustered Hyper-V host with updates.  Immediately afterwards the VM’s become unmanageable using the VMM console with an “unsupported cluster configuration” state.  The original plans were that this would only be fixed in VMM 2008 R2.  I made my case on the issue and I was soon told the product group was working on a fix.

Thanks to the VMM product group and a helpful Michelle in PSS for helping out, listening and changing your minds.  And of course to the IT Pro Momentum program for giving me the chance to make the case in the first place.

I’ll be on the road on Tuesday so I won’t be able to check that link’s validity.

2009
04.10

Much like the upcoming NFL draft, I think it’s impossible to judge something in advance.  Those draft grades that’ll be all over the USA sports press in just over 2 weeks time are pointless.  Instead the only grade that works is the one that looks at your draft from a few years ago. 

The same goes with complex IT solutions.  You need to use it and evaluate them.  I put Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 into production about 6 months ago.  Earlier today I thought it might be a good idea to look back.

My preparation took months.  We got in a single DL380 G5 which I ran the beta and RC builds of Hyper-V on.  I was able to build up a lab environment and get to grips with things.  I saw how OEM’s could cause problems.  The HP NC373i NIC required some fudging with VLAN settings, similar to an Intel NIC, to get VLAN trunking working through to the virtual network and the VM’s.  The OEM NIC teaming solutions failed to work on Hyper-V – in fact I found you should keep the software off of the server completely.  Microsoft continued their policy of not supporting NIC teaming in Hyper-V.  That’s a pity and I strongly hope MS reconsiders this and builds NIC teaming into the virtual network to make it like the ESX virtual switch.

My lab machine proved something to me.  Hyper-V could realistically be a production virtualisation environment.  The performance was excellent.  It was stable and the architecture screams security.  I downloaded the RTM release of Hyper-V immediately after it was released and installed it.  Things looked good.

Something was evident though.  I’ve noticed that Microsoft has become poor at documenting their software for installation, configuration and operations.  I’d learned in college that nothing was finished until it was complete.  All we had were scatterings of blog posts from many sources and all too often they focused on coding Hyper-V rather than answering the questions that people had.  That left an opportunity for people like me to do some blogging about our experiences and a bit of writing.  I’d been entered into the IT Pro Momentum program and that gave me a great mechanism for getting questions answered and testing out scenarios.

My employers then made the strategic decision to go with Hyper-V as our virtualised server hosting solution.  We saw where things were going.  Microsoft System Center had proven itself to the directors and to our customers.  We wanted to continue this throughout the infrastructure.

We purchased our servers and storage for our Hyper-V cluster.  We all read how we should use a Core installation for the parent partition.  That’s what I started with.  I liked using a tiny C: drive leaving more space for customers.  Pretty soon I saw this wasn’t going to work.  The hardware management software provided by the OEM’s assumed there was a GUI and couldn’t be configured.  I ditched that and went with a Full installation instead, something I’ve heard many are doing.

I built up WDS images and used those to deploy the servers.  I went through 3 iterations of the host server builds.  The first showed more issues with an OEM NIC, the NC326m.  I’d tested the network trunk by configuring a VLAN tag on the driver.  That forever broke the ability to run the VLAN’s into Hyper-V.  Rebuild.  I then did some serious testing, trying out everything I could think of.  When I was ready, I rebuilt the production system.  This was so quick and so easy I did it in a hotel room in one hour, in between speaking sessions.

The main complaint from people about Hyper-V was Quick Migration.  Instead of Live Migration or VMotion we had something where moving a VM from one node to another on a Windows 2008 Failover Cluster took a little time.  The VM would save its state, the disk would transfer ownership and the VM would restart.  I reckon 90% of servers can tolerate this.  Not every server needs Live Migration – that’s coming in Windows Server 2008 R2 anyway.  Building the cluster takes minutes.  It’s so easy with Windows Server 2008.  The one thing I have liked is that you really need to have 1 storage LUN for every VM.  You can put many VM’s on one LUN but they all must failover at once.  This also isn’t supported by VMM 2008.  This one VM per LUN thing is a little tedious and hampers my ability to do true self service because of the dependence on storage management.  R2 Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) will sort that out.

The next criticism of Hyper-V has been non-Microsoft OS support.  I think this one is valid.  It is changing, though.  Not long after RTM we got the integration components for SUSE Linux Enterprise 10.  In my testing I saw how RedHat and CentOS ran on Hyper-V but not with great performance.  SLES was the same until I installed the integration components.  It then ran quite nicely.  I did away with the GUI for SLES because I had no mouse driver.  A joint program between MS and Citrix recently released a mouse driver.

We got the release of VMM 2008 in November 2008.  I deployed that and it allowed us to finish up our testing before going live.  This gave us a single management point for the virtualisation layer: Hyper-V and Failover Clustering.  We also got integration with Operations Manager 2007 SP1 giving us top to bottom and cradle to grave management of the infrastructure.  It immediately showed how well it worked. 

Deploying VM’s became easier.  I’ve made great use of the library; it’s stuffed full with compressed VHD’s and ISO’s.  I haven’t found the Powershell functionality at all useful to be honest.  ISO sharing doesn’t work with Hyper-V unfortunately.  ISO’s must be copied to the VM and that’s a lot of wasted time when dealing with DVD images.  I’ve seen some funnies in VMM but my participation in IT Pro Momentum allowed me to report them and some even have turned into hotfixes.  In fact, while writing this I was told one would be released to the general public next week.  One other which has stung me is a weird one related to synthetic NIC drivers and VLAN tagging.  For some reason, a NIC created from a hardware template sometimes (rarely) acts up when deployed and needs to be recreated.  It’s immediately visible in a new VM; it does not turn up later.

We did a P2V of the single machine that was a candidate – we’re not your typical server network.  That ran seamlessly in terms of VMM and Hyper-V.  The only thing to watch out for is that you strip out all of the OEM software before you P2V if you want a clean migration.  Otherwise, be prepared for some safe modes and some “hacking”.

Hyper-V Server 2008 was released.  I tried it.  It was simple to get going and it’s basically the same as Hyper-V on Windows Standard Core installation in terms of architecture and performance.  It’s not something I’d use in production because I couldn’t manage it with System Center.  The VMM agent would constantly crash and the OpsMgr agent can’t be installed on it.

Don’t get caught up on the negatives I’ve mentioned.  Hyper-V has worked very nicely.  Before this I ran VMware ESX 3.X with Virtual Center.  I’ve had similar performance.  However I get better management with Hyper-V thanks to System Center.  Server deployment is rapid.  Our licensing costs are low.  And it’s been very stable.  We’re a server hosting company and customers are running happily on it.  I’d easily recommend Hyper-V and VMM. 

But don’t think I’m bashing the likes of ESX.  I think it’s a great solution too.  VMware do some other things better than MS.  Both seem to have a different focus at the moment so pick th
e one that suits your current needs – taking account for the future.

I’m looking forward to W2008 R2 and VMM 2008 R2.  We’ll likely be upgrading to W2008 R2 as soon as VMM 2008 R2 is released with integrated support with OpsMgr 2007 R2 – yeah I’ll be deploying that ASAP.  We’re looking forward to the release of the RedHat integration components, probably later this year.  It’ll be another fun year of new software.  And I can’t wait to see what the strategic data centre strategy of VHD will bring us in Windows Server 8!

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