2011
02.28

I’m sitting in a town hall session (all NDA so no details) in the first of my MVP Summit session of the year.

It was a nightmare flight over, but it’s worth it. Yesterday was a chill out day. I hung out in Starbucks, in some bars and in the Cheesecake Factory. I went into the Bellevue Microsoft Store and it was pretty … like Vista. Oops! I tried a Dell slate pc. Damn it was slow. It took 2 seconds for the start menu to appear. And typing was dodgy character recognition that was both slow and inaccurate.

I walked into the Apple store that was two doors down and asked for a new iPad. 5 minutes later walked out with an activated tablet PC that works quite nicely. Sure, I don’t have flash but I do have Madden 11 :-)

I’ve installed Evernote for note taking and I’ve got Kindle running. Movie players are installed and battery life is fantastic.

Bellevue is a pleasant urban environment near Redmond. Local hotels are filled with MVPs. Lots of us were out and about, bumping into each other and networking. That continued this morning at breakfast at the hotels and on the buses to Redmond.

Redmond is basically a city made up of Microsoft buildings. For you Irish people, think a huge Sandyford with Microsoft buildings only, 6 lane highways, MS buses and taxis darting all over, and trees everywhere.

Into session rooms, and we meet the program folks who we talk to online all year long. Some are leads we deal with directly, some are program folks who help us, some are folks who network with us to get feedback. Things kick off and that’s where the NDA kicks in :-)

2011
02.25

Yesterday was a very long day for me.  I was up until 1:00 that morning, completing presentations/demo lab builds, and sorting out registrations.  After 4 hours sleep, I trekked into Dublin to start the event setup in the Guiness Storehouse with Paul Keely (OpsMgr MVP) and John McCabe (lead organiser for this event).

I don’t have the final tally on attendance, but it was around 165 when we kicked off.  More people came along as the day progressed.  We had three active rooms: Systems Management (Paul), Windows/Office 2010 deployment (Me), and cloud for the IT Pro (John).  All were busy.  I did two sessions: MAP 5.5 in the morning, and MDT 2010 Update 1 after lunch.  My room was nearly full.  The cloud room, as I predicted, needed more chairs.  It was the first time that MS cloud content was presented with an IT pro angle; it’s all been SQL, .NET, etc, content since the CTP days which we have zero interest in.

Ergo and Plantronics were the sponsors, with MS being a partner for the event.  That gave us a great venue and coffee/lunch.  So far, feedback has been awesome.  We had talked about a follow up, bigger event in May, leaving the decision until yesterday.  We made up our minds and we announced that another event would take place in May.  Meetings for that start on Monday week.  I’ve got a concept for the Windows track that I think is quite current.

Thanks once again to my fellow organisers, the sponsors, the speakers, and those who came along.  Hope to see you again in May!

2011
02.21

I’ve just recived an email from Sybex to say that the third book that I’ve been involved with, Mastering Windows 7 Deployment, has just started shipping from their warehouse(s).  Right now, Amazon.com is still on preorder but that will likely change in the coming hours or days.  The Wiley (Sybex is part of the Wiley group) site is live right now.

Who contributed?  Me, Darril Gibson (trainer/consultant, also of Mastering Windows Server), Kenneth van Surksum (Dutch MVP and well known blogger), Rhonda Layfield (deployment MVP, author, speaker, trainer), not to mention deployment MVPs/gurus Johan Arwidmark and Mikael Nystrom.  It was quite a cast to work with!  Big thanks to anyone I worked with on the project, especially those in Sybex who worked on the project.

The book takes a very practical look at how to do a Windows 7 deployment project.  It starts out by doing the assessment using MAP.  From there, issues with application compatibility are dealt with.  You learn about WAIK, using WDS, MDT, user state transfer, and even how to do zero touch installations using System Center Configuration Manager 2007 (including R2/R3).  I’d buy it if I wasn’t one of the contributors :-)

2011
02.18

Microsoft has released WAIK for Windows 7 SP1.  This new release supports:

  • Windows 7 Service Pack 1
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
  • Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 2
  • Windows Vista SP1
  • Windows Server 2008 family
  • Windows 7 family
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 family

“The Windows® Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK) is a set of tools and documentation that support the configuration and deployment of Windows operating systems. By using Windows AIK, you can automate Windows installations, capture Windows images with ImageX, configure and modify images using Deployment Imaging Servicing and Management (DISM), create Windows PE images, and migrate user profiles and data with the User State Migration Tool (USMT). Windows AIK also includes the Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT), which enables IT professionals to automate and centrally manage the volume activation process using a Multiple Activation Key (MAK)”.

2011
02.17

Last year was pretty busy.  Not only did I write Mastering Hyper-V Deployment (with MVP Patrick Lownds helping), but that project was sandwiched by me writing a number of chapters for Mastering Windows 7 Deployment.  That Windows 7 book is due out somethime this month.

If you browse onto the Sybex website you can get a sneak peak into what the book is like.  There is a sample exceprt from the book, along with the TOC.

The book aims to cover all the essential steps in a Windows 7 deployment … from the assessment, solving application compatibility issues, understanding WAIK (and digging deeper), learnign about WDS for the first time (and digging deeper), more of that on MDT, and even doing zero touch deployments using Configuration Manager 2007.  A good team of people contributed on the book from all over the place … and the tech reviewers were some of the biggest names around (I wet myself with fear when I saw who they were).

Give it a look, and don’t be shy of placing an order if you like what you see :-)

2011
02.16

I presented at PubForum Frankfurt last year on SP1 beta Dynamic Memory for W2008 R2 Hyper-V.  Alex Juschin (RDS MVP) runs a tight ship and records all the sessions.  I’ve just dug up the URL to the video that he recorded of my session.  In it I talked about the need for Dynamic Memory, how it works, how to use it in the real world, and demonstrated it in action.

While the RTM SP1 version of Dynamic Memory looks different, the changes aren’t all that much.  You’ll get a good idea of the feature from the session.

EDIT:

As usual at PubForum, there were plenty of questions.  I think one of the people asking me a question at the end was Brian Madden.  There was one question about memory clean up that I didn’t have an answer for on the day.  I asked the folks in Redmond and the answer was: Hyper-V just uses standard Windows features to clean up memory; nothing new was required.

2011
02.16

Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 is available to volume license customers and MSDN/TechNet subscribers.  There’s not much more to say at the moment.  I’ve blogged it all before.

I’ll be coming back to Dynamic Memory when I get a chance.  I’m pretty tired right now after a day of assembling servers, and I’ve got 2 presentations to prepare for next week – a side benefit of that will be a lab where I can grab screenshots for a nice long blog post.

2011
02.15

This is a quick reminder that the release-to-web of SP1 for Win7 and W2008 R2 will be tomorrow for anyone on a volume licensing deal, or MSDN/TechNet.  I think most people won’t be in a mad rush to deploy it, but those of us doing Hyper-V virtualisation will be very keen to get our hands on it.  As blogged previously there are a few changes under the covers that’ll impact non-Hyper-V folks but most of them won’t notice any difference other than a build number.

I’d expect the download to appear at around midday Redmond time which is 20:00 GMT or 21:00 CET, or in the following hour.  That seems to be when most big releases happen.

2011
02.14

I’ve just seen this page that lists the updates that MS recommends for VMM 2008 R2 in a number of different scnearios.

2011
02.14

I love it when I read about someone saying “my virtualisation solution support more processors and more memory in a host than your one”.  It’s like arguing over who’s a better captain: Kirk or Picard? By the way, it’s Janeway.

In my experience I’ve yet to see a host with more than 200 GB RAM or 4 sockets (physical processors).  And they’ve been the rare ones.  Most have been 1 or 2 CPUs, with 32-48GB RAM, and often less than that.

For me, sizing a host comes down to a few things that need to be balanced:

  1. How much physical resource (such as RAM, IOPS, storage bandwidth, fault tolerance, CPU, etc) do I need?  An assessment or a proof of concept will help with this.  Failing that, do some googling for a reference architecture (which will give you a guesstimate).
  2. What will this stuff cost me to buy?  Too many people get caught up on this one.  I’ll come back to this in a moment.
  3. What will this stuff cost me to own?  Ah, the forgotten element of the equation!

Purchase cost is only the starting point of the cost of own your new shiny piece of kit.  These things can cost as much to run over 3 years than to purchase.  But I hardly ever hear of anyone trying to figure that cost out, ask about it, or include it in their budgeting.  That €10,000 server can cost you a total of €20,000 over 3 years.  Build a a 10 node cluster and the numbers get big pretty quick.  The ownership cost is complicated, but some of the big elements are host licensing, rack space, and the ever increasing cost of electricity.

OK, let’s assume we’ve done a sizing process and we need host fault tolerance with 40+ vCPUs and 400GB of RAM for the VMs.  Storage will be courtesy of a 10 GB iSCSI SAN.  How do you size those hosts?  Do you get 2 big old beasts with enough capacity for all the VMs?  Or do you get lots of machines that are stocked full of 4 GB DIMMs?

Things got a little more complicated in the last 12-18 months because hardware manufacturers are giving us machines that can support 24, 32 or more DIMMs in a single server.  One machine (a HP DL585 G7) can take 4 * 12 core AMD processors (48 cores – giving you enough vCPU capacity to exceed the maximum support limits of Hyper-V with the new W2008 R2 SP1 ratio of 12:1 vCPUs to cores) and 512 GB RAM by using 16 GB DIMMs.  But here’s the catch: how much does that beastie cost?  A high end CPU can cost around €1,200.  And pricing for DIMMs is not linear.  In other words a 16 GB DIMM costs a good deal more than 4 * 4 GB DIMMs.

On the plus side with the big beastie, you are able to minimise your power consumption.  If carbon footprint is your primary objective then this is your puppy! Or is it?  Doesn’t fewer servers equal less power?

OK, so the big beast is expensive.  What about going for something that uses 4 GB DIMMs?  Typically that’ll mean a 2 CPU server with 96 GB of RAM (96 GB is the new 32 GB). 

This does mean that you’re using more economic components.  But this has an interesting effect on power costs.  They go up.  You’re using more CPUs, more power supplies, more rack space, more networking, and the cost goes on and on.

So where is the sweet spot?  I’ve done some very rough sums using the Irish retail prices of HP servers and components, in combination with the HP power calculator with Irish electricity prices.  I’ve taken the hardware costs, the power costs over 3 years, and created a total cost of owning a host server solution.  And then I took the above requirements to size and price up 4 different solutions using the big iron servers, and the budget spec servers, and a couple of points between.

Host Spec Power Cost Bid Price Hardware (80%) Total Cost (3 Years)
3 * DL385 G7, 2 * 12 Core, 256 GB RAM €21,629 €38,027.40 €59,656.40
4 * DL385 G7, 2 * 8 Core, 192 GB RAM €22,109 €32,836.20 €54,945.2
6 * DL385 G7, 2 * 8 Core, 96 GB RAM €31,567 €39,607.80 €71,174.80
2 * DL585 G7, 4 * 12 Core, 512 GB RAM €27,698 €66,743.60 €94,441.60

A few notes on the pricing first.  I took retail pricing from the HP Ireland site and assumed a 20% discount for the bid price.  That is pretty conservative.  The power costs used Irish retail power rates (all I had available to me).  I did not include rack space costs, or network costs (more servers equals more of those, thus driving up prices).  Each server had additional CPUs (fastest available), an extra dual port 1GB NIC, an extra dual port 10 GB NIC (iSCSI), and 2 * 300 GB SAS drives.

So what was the result?  The big iron DL585 boxes were not the cheapest to power.  In fact, they came in third.  I was a little surprised by this.  I guess all those 16 GB DIMMs and 4 CPUs require a lot of cooling.  There was no low power 16 GB DIMM; I used low power 4 GB and 8 GB DIMMs in the 2 middle specifications.

The DL385 G7 seemed to be the way to go then.  I picked out models that came with the fastest of the AMD CPUs that were available.  I then tweaked the choice of memory, this increasing/decreasing the number of hosts required for the VM RAM load, and further tweaked the CPU cores that were used (8 or 12) to match requirements.

The “budget” hardware purchase using 4 GB DIMMs came with a sting in the tail.  It was the most expensive solution to power (6 servers instead of 2, 3 or 4), possible because it requires 6 servers.  The purchase price was not actually budget at all; it was the second most expensive.

OK, the DL385 G7 is a virtualisation server.  Why not spec it according to the maximums using 12 core CPUs and 16 GB DIMMs.  This gave me a 3 node cluster.  This was the cheapest solution to power, which the greener computing fans will be happy to hear.  The purchase price was the second lowest which is good news.  But over 3 years the total cost for this solution came in second.  Maybe it would do better in a company where servers stay in production for longer.  But virtualisation makes it easier to change hardware every 3 years and newer hardware tends to be cheaper to power and offer greater density.

Finally I found the sweet spot.  I used the DL385 G7, loaded it with 8 Core CPUs and fully populated it with 8 GB DIMMs, giving me 192 GB RAM per host.  This 4 node cluster came with the lowest total purchase price.  The CPU switch and the change from 16 GB to 8 GB DIMMs made a huge dent, despite requiring an extra chassis.  The power cost was the second highest, but not by much.

So what do I make of all this?  I say it in the book, and I find myself saying it several times a week when talking to people.  Your business and technology requirements should drive every decision you make.  If you work for a company that must have a greener image then you’ll pay a little extra for the solution with the smallest footprint.  If you’re concerned about rack space then you’ll take the solution that requires the least number of Us.  If you are worried about fault tolerance then you’ll increase the cluster size to spread the load a little more.  In my example, it appears that the sweet spot is to use a solution somewhere between the extremes, but with regular server models.

My advice to you is to open up Excel, get the various specifications, get the costs, and use a manufacturer’s power calculator to figure you what this stuff will cost you to power.  You’ll probably need someone from Accounts to give you rack space, power, network, etc, costs – or help you calculate them.  Don’t just pick out some arbitrary specification.  And to complicate things: bid pricing (which you should be getting) will always change the equation, as will the inevitable price/model changes, over the following 3 years.  And try to do other memory configurations that I haven’t done.  There might be more possibilities that I haven’t calculated.

2011
02.10

You may know Mark Russinovich as that guy with the huge brain that was behind Sysinternals, has done loads of writing and speaking on Windows internals, and is a “Technical Fellow” in Microsoft.

Well, he’s gone and written a thriller, a fictional novel using his experience and knowledge of IT:

“Arab terrorists, with the collusion of Osama bin Laden, are behind the attack, which is supposed to destroy Western civilization. A New York City law firm enlists cyber expert Jeff Aiken to track down a virus that has knocked out the company’s computer network. While working on this problem, Jeff uncovers the larger threat. With the help of “stunningly attractive” Daryl Haugen, an old friend who becomes his love interest, Jeff attempts to warn the authorities, but to little avail”.

You can pre-order the book now on Amazon.com in paper and for Kindle.  The expected RTM is March 15th, 2011.

2011
02.10

Microsoft released a hotfix rollup package for VMM 2008 R2 via Windows Update on February 8th.  This update includes fixes for 5 issues:

  • Performance and Resource Optimization (PRO) Tip alerts are not displayed in the SCVMM Admin Console if the alert resolution state is set to a value other than 0 in System Center Operations Manager 2007.
  • If a network adapter for a Hyper-V host uses teaming software, Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) may incorrectly bind the Virtual Switch to the host network adapter.
  • A Virtual-to-Virtual (V2V) migration to a Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) volume fails if the cluster node that owns the volume has insufficient disk space on the system volume. Additionally, you receive an error message that resembles the following: “Error 2606 Unable to perform the job because one or more of the selected objects are locked by another job”.
  • A Physical-to-Virtual (P2V) migration from a computer that is running Windows Server 2003 fails. Additionally, you receive an error message that resembles the following: “Error 416 Agent installation timed out while waiting on service VMMAgentInstaller on servername.domain.com“.
  • The network migration of a highly available virtual machine to a different cluster fails. Additionally, you receive an error message that resembles the following: “Error (12711) VMM cannot complete the WMI operation on server servername.domain.com because of error: [MSCluster_ResourceGroup.Name="4168e895-2831-32cf-b4d8-352ac13e28c9"] The cluster group could not be found. (The cluster group could not be found (0×1395))“.

This hotfix rollup package includes also the hotfixes that are documented in the following SCVMM 2008 R2 hotfix rollup packages:

  • 2308590  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2308590/ ) Description of the System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 hotfix rollup package: September 14, 2010
  • 982522  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/982522/ ) Description of the System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 hotfix rollup package: June 8, 2010
  • 978560  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/978560/ ) Description of the System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 hotfix rollup package: February 9, 2010
  • 976244  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/976244/ ) Description of the System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 hotfix rollup package: November 10, 2009

Although the update is made available via Windows Updates, you can also manually download it

Note that the update will require you to update the VMM agents on your managed hosts.  And don’t go installing it on any systems where you are testing the VMM 2008 R2 SP1.

2011
02.09

The news has broken that Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 SP1 has been “released to manufacturing”.  In other words, development and testing have been completed.  TechNet/MSDN customers get access to the download on Feb 16th.  It will go GA on Feb 22nd.

Last year I listed the then-included features of the service pack.  The big two are RemoteFX (HD graphics via RDP for Remote Desktop Services Session Hosts and Hyper-V VDI) and, of course, Dynamic Memory for Hyper-V (memory allocated to VMs as required).

Those who are using VMM should know that the changes affect VMM as well.  VMM 2008 R2 RTM will not be aware of the RemoteFX or Dynamic Memory features.  There is a Service Pack 1 on the way (it’s an RC release now) to add support.  Normally, an update for VMM will follow an associated Hyper-V update 90 days.  But the VMM team has shared that you can expect to see Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 SP1 within 30 days of W2008 R2 SP1.

I’ve set up a cluster with both service packs.  You need to know that the VMM PRO management packs for OpsMgr also need to be updated in OpsMgr.  You can find them in the VMM SP1 media.  They will require updated dependencies.

You may have noticed that my Hyper-V blogging was a little quiet as of late; that’s because we didn’t have much new stuff to talk about.  I plan to get going again in the near future with these new features arriving on our doorsteps soon.

2011
02.03

I’m off to spend a few days with the virtualisation product teams in Redmond (Microsoft HQ) at the annual MVP Summit in a few weeks time.  This is our opportunity to learn some new stuff and to give feedback to the program managers of the various products.  In my experience with MS, the virtualisation folks have probably been the most responsive teams to feedback.  And that leads me to the point of this blog post.

What constructive feedback have you got for them?  Are you having issues with CSV?  If so, what are they?  Is networking proving to be a challenge?  Are you having difficulties with support issues?  What’s your experience been with Linux integration components?  Is there anything else on your mind (keep it constructive!)?

Post a comment on this blog post if you’ve got anything that you’d like me to relay to Redmond.  There are no promises but I’ll pass it on.  I did the same last year, and the folks there were interested – in fact, in some cases they were thinking the same things as you. 

And this year … well … it’s no secret that Windows “8″ will RTM around mid 2012.  That means a new version of Hyper-V is in the works for the server.  And thanks to the MS France blunder, we know that a version of Hyper-V for the desktop OS is also on the way (after years of begging for it).  This is the year to make an impact on design decisions.  2012 will be way too late – we know that substantial changes don’t happen once a product reaches beta stages.

2011
02.02

We’ve just announced the details of the latest user group event in Dublin … it’s a biggie!  I’ll be presenting two of the deployment sessions, on MAP and MDT.

Join us at the Guinness Store House on February 24th at 09:00 for a full day of action packed sessions covering everything from the desktop to The Cloud, and maybe even a pint of Guinness afterwards.

We have our a fantastic range of speakers ranging from MVPs to Microsoft Staff and leading industry specialists to deliver our sessions ensuring a truly unique experience.  During this day, you will have the choice of attending sessions of your choice, covering topics such as Windows 7/Office 2010 deployment, management using System Center, and cloud computing for the IT pro (no developer content – we promise!).

We have our a fantastic range of speakers ranging from MVPs to Microsoft staff and leading industry specialists to deliver our sessions ensuring a truly unique experience. During this day, you will have the choice of attending sessions of your choice, covering topics such as Windows 7/Office 2010 deployment, management using System Center, and cloud computing for the IT pro (no developer content – we promise!).

We promised bigger and better and we meant it.  This session will feature 3 tracks, each with four sessions.  The tracks are:

  1. The Cloud: Managed by Microsoft Ireland
  2. Windows 7/Office 2010 Deployment: Managed by the Windows User Group
  3. Systems Management: Managed by the System Center User Group

You can learn more about the event, tracks, sessions, and speaker on the Windows User Group site.

You can register here.  Please only register if you seriously intend to go; Spaces are limited and we want to make sure as many can attend as possible.

The Twitter tag for the event is #ugfeb24.

2011
02.01

Bye Bye IPv4

Mark Minasi posted on Facebook last night that the very last IPv4 address blocks were distributed to regional IP managers.  That’s it; the last of the IPv4 addresses are now in the control of your local IP managers.

Now is the time to run to the supermarket, stock up on water and canned foods, get as much petrol/diesel as you can, and attend that crash-course survivalist training camp!!!!!!

Oh hold on a sec; Any decent ISP will have a certain allocation to keep them going for a while.  Your internal network is probably NAT’d so you’ve no internal IP issues there.  But where we do have an issue is IPv6.  I can only speak for Ireland but I’m guessing (other than China) most of us are totally unprepared for IPv6.  ISPs have not even started work on it – I’m told by those in the know that they have not taken the problem seriously.  And many network admins (including us server admins) don’t understand IPv6.  It is quite different.  It has different terminology and it works very differently.  For example, asking an end user to ping an IPv6 address will be … different.

My advice is, if you do have an external presence, do your best to stock up on IPv4 addresses now to meet short and medium term requirements.  They may not be there later on, and your local ISPs may not have the alternative IPv6 deployed.  Make sure your network appliances are IPv6 ready.  Start learning.  And put pressure on your ISP.

2011
02.01

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that there were reports of some Windows Phone 7 handsets having an issue where the customer’s bandwidth allowance was being eaten up by some app that was outside of their control.  Paul Thurrot has posted a story with the cause of the leak: “an inefficiency exists in the synchronization of email between the Windows Phone Mail client and Yahoo! Mail”.  Oh yeah, Exchange ActiveSync can also cause issues.  Visit Paul’s site for more details and a workaround for the Yahoo! issue.

Get Adobe Flash player