2011
12.26

2012: My Predictions

Hmm, although 2011 still has a few ticks left, it appears I was wrong with my predicted downfall of Steve Ballmer despite employee and dissatisfaction and a dead-before-it-started shareholder mini-rebellion.  So what’s coming in 2012, other than the obvious Windows and System Center stories?

In the next week we’ll see lots of “year of the cloud” stories and predictions.  It’s safe to say that “Year of VDI” is dead.  One has to wonder if “year of the cloud” will go down the hype drain hole or will it just find a place in the mix just like VDI did.  I think it’ll be the latter.

We’ll eventually see the emergence of the Microsoft tablet (on ARM).  I think the consumer market is critical for that to generate acceptance by users in the business.  The slate PC just won’t cut it in that market. 

The ultrabook is interesting; I’m thinking about getting one.  But they’re just too expensive.  People see them as just Windows laptops and therefore don’t care that they’re around the same price or cheaper than the MacBook Air, and either near as light or lighter. 

I am no genius to guess that SSD will increase market penetration in the work/consumer PC.  Supplies of spinning disks are dwindling thanks to the Thailand floods and prices are going up.  Businesses/users need to supply/buy machines and the storage has to come from somewhere.  Maybe the boost in sales will help reduce the cost of SSD and make it the norm in the PC/laptop.

And that’s my prognostication done for the year.  Except ….

2012 will be the year of Hyper-V.

2011
12.23

Today is my last day in the office in 2011 and I’m really looking forward to the coming 10 days off.  I bought some used XBox 360 games to play over the holiday: GTA IV, Modern Warfare 2, and Madden 11.  There probably won’t be any blogging done over the coming days, unless something unexpected happens.  OK, so there is a 2012 predictions post scheduled to go out at a later point; I’m sure it won’t be controversial at all because that just isn’t like me Winking smile

This week has mostly been a week of me reading, trying out some Windows 8 stuff on my laptop, and doing some marketing stuff, etc.  I’ve stumbled on a few interesting things out there.

For The Mobile Gamer

The G155-Gaming and Entertainment Mobile System is a pretty cool looking thing.  The gaming addict addict can put their console in this padded package and it includes 15.5” screen.  All you’ll need is power, and you’ll then be ready to start laying down covering fire for your squad or kill that dragon.

For The Kid In You

I loved Lego as a kid.  I could spend endless hours playing with the Technics bits, making motors do stuff, pistons pump, or gears turn.  And even though they’ve all grown up, a lot of us techies still like to remember those days.  I’ve seen a lot of my colleagues in this grown up world buy and build complex Lego models of Star Wars vehicles.  When I was a kid, the ultimate haves were the AT-AT and the Millenium Falcon.

This topic just came up in conversation with one of the guys in the office and he recommended a radio-controlled Lego Technics digger.  His argument was: TV sucks and this sort of thing gives the techie minded person something interesting and fun to do:

For The RPG Gamer

I played some Ultima back in the day – but I sucked.  World of Warcraft isn’t for me because going online sucks for us non-serious gamers.  I like the ability to pick up and wander, kill, and so on.  The recent release, The Elder Scrolls VS Skyrim is being talked about a lot.  It’s available on PC, XBox, and PS3.

For the American Football Fan (Outside of USA)

We’re at the best point of the regular season and we’re fast closing in on the playoffs.  Every game counts more than ever.  It’d suck if you missed a great game because you were away from home.  With NFL Gamepass (only available outside of the USA) you can watch any NFL game as long as you have Internet access.  I watch it on my slate PC (HDMI into the TV), on my laptop, on my iPhone and on my iPad (via 3G mifi).  I’ve been able to watch my team’s (San Francisco 49ers) unexpected playoff run, even if the local broadcaster is not showing them.  I can watch what I think is the best game of the week in the other slots.  I can watch those Monday and Thursday night games that kick off after 1am Irish time.  That goes double for the playoffs and the Superbowl.  Oh, you also get access to NFL Network online and when you watch the games after broadcast then you get them with the TV ads removed.

For Those Who Want To Try Windows 8

With Windows 8 on the way, the geek in you might want to start playing but you don’t want to muck around with your laptop or PC.  Don’t worry, because you can use Windows To Go.  This allows you to install and boot Windows 8 on a USB 3.0 stick.  Insert this stick and your machine can boot up from that instead of the hard drive, giving you a nice clean way to test/evaluate/use Windows 8 without impacting on your production PC.

OK, it’s a little late for Christmas shopping but maybe there’ll be some vouchers you need to spend in the sales and some of these ideas might keep you sane during the break.

With that, I hope you have a safe and happy holiday, and a Hyper-V new year!

2011
12.22

Those of us who are old enough started working with computers from a scripting interface (BASIC) or via green screen.  You old geezers with punch cards probably find PowerShell really easy.  Those who have grown up using the Windows GUI must find PowerShell totally alien – searching for help  and configuring a machine from a command prompt.

You can make things a little easier using ISE, the Integrate Scripting Environment.  You can add this Windows feature (a subset of Windows PowerShell in Windows 8) to make scripting and configuring a little easier.

The Commands pane allows you to find cmdlets in any or all modules.  Select it, hit Insert and it goes into a PowerShell pane (bottom-left).  Or you can Copy the cmdlet, and paste it into the script pane (middle).

ise

In my previous posts I’ve talked about using help and get-member to figure out what a cmdlet can do.  With ISE, you have Intellisense.  In my example, I’ve used Insert to put the Get-NetAdapter cmdlet into the PowerShell pane.  Then I typed the hyphen and Intellisense kicked in, presenting everything that was valid from that point onwards. 

If you don’t know the cmdlets you’re working with, this is a nice way to figure out things in an environment that can be a little more helpful.

If you run the cmdlet in the bottom-left scripting pane, then the results appear in the top-left pane.  If you write a script in the middle pane and hit the green run arrow that appears in the menu bar, then you see the results in that top-right pane as well.  That keeps the whole environment nice and clean, and allows you to modify things quickly without jumping from window to window.

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2011
12.22

I’ve been using my own iPhone 4 for a year, and I’ve had a HTC HD7 Windows Phone 7.x handset at work since around June.  It’s no secret that I greatly prefer the iPhone over the Windows Phone.  The hardware feel better in my hand, the OS is more friendly and natural, and iTunes beats the holy crap out of The Curse Of Zune. 

Phones that make calls and send texts are being built in the back of bicycle shops.  The trick is building something that does more.  That starts and lives with the OS and the accompanying software (iTunes/Zune).  My experience with Windows Phone 7/7.5 hasn’t been all that impressive.  Install an app … if you can find a decent one … one minute its complaining about being plugged into the PC, the next it’s complaining that it isn’t.  IT SHOULDN’T MATTER!  yesterday I tried to install some apps.  They just kept failing to download, despite being on a stable wifi network that my iPhone had no trouble with.  For example, I installed Lync on iPhone in seconds.  It took 4-5 times as long to get it to install on WP7, at the same time, on the same wifi.  It’s probably just as well that there aren’t too many decent apps, because navigating them on the folder-less list of apps on WP7 would be a nightmare – folders are just so hard to create an name … wooops, no one has problems doing that on real Windows or iOS.

Lets not forget that Android is out there leading on hardware specs and sales, even if the hardware is fragmented and that MSFT might be the biggest earner on Android s/w “sales”.  Even RIM is ahead of WP7 in the market.

Nokia was supposed to vault Windows Phone to a clear #3 or even a #2 in the market.  I’ve not seen the handsets in person but all reports say they are superbly built devices, even if they are underspecified.  Having a HTC, I can say that Windows Phone needed nicely built devices to compete with the iPhone device.  But it’s still Windows Phone.  It’s still got that stigma.  Microsoft hasn’t won over the consumer.  And sales prove it.

And let’s not forget the marketing.  Compare an iPhone TV advert (which you’ll see anywhere) with a Windows Phone TV advert. 

It’s like comparing iTunes with Zune.  One is thought out and complete, and the other is a MacGuyver job.  Even I’ve seen The Apprentice and know that the product being advertised should be in the advert.  Microsoft seem to have launched the concept of a mobile phone about 15 years too late.

PC Pro has reported on a survey by Exane BNP Paribas.   

2% of Europeans looking for a new handset would pick Nokia’s first Windows model, the Lumia 800.

 

Ouch!  Where are ITC and the rest of those groups now?  The vocal minority out there is still blogging and tweeting about the magnificence of Windows Phone 7.  If Europe, once a stronghold for Nokia, isn’t interested then there isn’t really much hope.

Windows Phone is going through more upheaval.  Once more, heads have rolled.  Maybe the code merge between the desktop and the phone will happen more quickly than was originally envisioned?

2011
12.22

This is one of those subjects that can create great debate: is Software Assurance (SA) for Microsoft licensing a real benefit that is worth the expense?  Those who bought it during the XP days may feel like they got burned.  They went a very long time without any upgrades for their desktop OS, and when Vista came along, they decided to wait for Windows 7.  In their opinion, it was money down the toilet.  On the face of it, it’s hard to argue with that point.

However, SA is more than just upgrade rights (even if that is the big reason) and after XP, Microsoft did add more value to SA.  If upgrade rights is the feature you’re most interested in then pay attention.

We happen to be in one of those sweet spots when paying for SA (some software programs such as Open Value Subscription or System Center Management Suite include it automatically)  is of most value.  We know for certain that a whole new family of System Center 2012 is a few month away, and Windows 8 isn’t all that far off in 2012.  Office, Exchange, SharePoint and Lync “Wave 15” will probably go into beta this year meaning new versions in late 2012 or 2013, all within that window.  SQL 2012 is on the way too.  Pretty much anything you buy right now has a new version on the way. 

If you are spending on MSFT licensing now to solve meet business need, then protect that investment by ensuring that you can avail of the features of the newer versions.  And if you’re selling, explain that to your customer (plus the other stuff I’ll cover) and you’ll not only protect their best interests, but you may find yourself selling more services days to do upgrade projects.

Server Virtualisation & Software Assurance

As I’m partial towards virtualisation, let’s have a look at why SA is critical here.  Let’s start off with not caring what virtualisation you use; you should be licensing your Windows Server VMs by the host using Enterprise (less likely – maximum of 4 per host, even for 1 second) or Datacenter (more likely – unlimited rights per host) of Windows Server. 

With SA attached to your per-host licensing, you have rights to upgrade the OS’s of any of the VM guest OSs as and when you need.  You also can deploy 1 or more new VMs with the new version of the Windows Server OS.  Consider the alternative: you don’t attach SA to the host licensing.  You need to do one upgrade or you need to deploy 1 new VM with a new Windows Server OS version.  What can you do?

  • Buy a copy of Windows Server Standard New Version: I have news for you – you have limited mobility rights with that license.  It can move once every 90 days if it’s a volume license and never if it’s OEM.  That’s why we license per host, to cover the maximum number of VMs that can ever be on that host.  It means we don’t need to buy individual licenses per host.
  • Upgrade the Host OS version: There are no upgrade licenses.  To deploy that single VM with a new version of Windows Server, you’d have to re-buy all the per-host licensing if you didn’t buy SA.
  • Be clever & attach SA: With SA attached to the per host licensing of Windows Server, all current and new VMs have rights to whatever is the newest Windows Server version + downgrade rights.  It’s quite simply, the most cost efficient way of licensing Windows Server in a virtualised world, not matter what virtualisation you use.

For you Hyper-V customers, you really want the rights to upgrade your hypervisor because Windows Server 8 Hyper-V is an upgrade you won’t want to miss out on.  It’s is something special, and that applies to the small business and the big enterprise.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

You cannot legally just install any old license of Windows XP or Windows 7 in virtual machines for VDI.  You have two choices:

  • VDA: For dumb terminals or those without SA on the desktop, you can buy this special license to license the VDI VMs for Windows.
  • Desktop OS + SA: One of the benefits of SA on the desktop is rights to deploy a Windows instance in VDI.  Some medium-large organisations use VDI as a piece of the puzzle for application availability/collaboration, rather than as a replacement for the PC.  This license is of benefit to them.

Hidden Value

Things like application whitelisting, disk encryption, removable device encryption, and VPN are typically bought as point solutions.  Each must be separately purchased, deployed, and managed, and offer no integration.   Wouldn’t it be amazing if their was one product that did all of that stuff?  Wouldn’t it make life easier for purchasing (vendor consolidation) and for systems management?

*Ahem* Windows 7 Enterprise (and Ultimate, to be honest) can do all of that stuff.  You have rights to deploy and use Windows 7 Enterprise on your PCs/laptops when you license their desktop OS with SA.  Not only do you get upgrade rights, but you get to consolidate all of those point solutions into one OS integrated package.  This model looks set to continue with Windows 8; Windows-To-Go looks like it will be an Ultimate/Enterprise only feature.

The money you would have spent on point solutions instead goes into SA, which offers all the functionality you need plus all the other SA benefits.  As a customer, that’s a blessing.  As a reseller, that means you become the consultant for all of those systems and therefore lock in that customer and limit opportunity for your rivals.

All The Other Benefits

There’s lots more to SA than just what I’ve covered so far, as can be seen in this chart:

image

  • Step-Up Licensing: Be able to move from a lower edition to a higher one for a limited upgrade cost instead of a complete re-purchase
  • MDOP: Only SA customers can buy the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack
  • Planning Services: Get free consulting (paid for my MSFT) from a certified MSFT partner to plan some project, e.g. Windows deployment
  • License Mobility: I’m not so sure on this one, but I believe OEM that has SA attached can get mobility like volume licensing.  Talk to a licensing specialist.
  • Windows Thin PC: This is a cut down version of the desktop OS that you can use to turn PCs into RDP terminals
  • Office Roaming Use Rights: You can remotely access a virtual desktop and use Office/Project/Visio at no extra cost
  • TechNet: For trial and lab work
  • Microsoft Office Multi-Language Pack: Add extra languages to Office
  • Training Vouchers: The more SA you buy, the more free MOC training rights you get
  • E-Learning: Free online learning for your employees on MSFT software
  • Home Use Program: Using HUP, employees can buy software for use at home at a discount cost, including download rights
  • 24 * 7 Support: Get support calls.  This used to convert into support hours when you also bought a MS Premier support contract
  • Extended Hotfix Support: Get specific hotfix support from MSFT, beyond the norm
  • Spread Payments: Spread the cost of licensing over a number of years
2011
12.21

Let’s face it, the MacBook Air is a sexy wee thing compared to the usual Windows laptop.  It’s slim, it’s light, it’s got long battery life, and it’s airline carry on baggage friendly.  Yes you can run Windows 7 on one of those, but it’s a pricey way to go, and I guess there would be complexity issuesif you needed a h/w repair (I really don’t know).

Until recently we haven’t had a true Windows laptop alternative to compete with the MacBook Air.  That changed this year with Intel’s Ultrabook standard.  The one I’ve gotten to see is the Toshiba Z83X (disclaimer: at work we distribute Toshiba and Sony mobile devices).  This 13.3” machine comes with i3, i5 or i& CPUs, 128 GB SSD, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports and HDMI video output.  And, it is as thin and light as a MacBook Air.  It’s a native Windows machine, and it’s cheaper than a MacBook Air. 

Toshiba Z83X

Reviews have been good on that machine, giving a balance between power (claimed up to 7 hours), battery life, and price.

I like the look of the Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook too.  The S3-951-6828 has an i5 CPU, 4 GB RAM, and a 240 GB SSD.  There is also a claim of up to 7 hours battery life, possibly enough to do a transatlantic hop without charging.

Reviews have been mixed on the S3, but it comes with a nice spec at a competitive price.

If you want to go nuts then have a look at the ASUS UX31 Zenbook.  This has an i7 CPU, 4 GB RAM, and a 256 GB SSD, but all this comes at a higher price.

The reviews has been flattering for this machine, but it is more expensive than the previous machines.

Most people have not heard of Ultrabooks yet.  And they haven’t sold all that well either.  Why?  Well, in Ireland, they are typically starting at around €1200 for an i5 machine with a 128 GB SSD.  Without any scientific searching, I can get a normal i5 laptop with a 500 GB traditional drive for under €600.  So the Ultrabook loses on price.

And when a person is paying €1200 or more for a laptop, then they’re probably looking at a MaxBook Air.  Apple products have a certain prestige that Windows machines do not.  It’s more of a fashion statement than anything else.  The person with more disposable cash wants the trendy item, and they see a Windows Ultrabook as being an overpriced laptop, even if the Ultrabook is the same, if not more, is more manageable in the business, and has more/cheaper software available for it.

I think the future for the Ultrabook is not good if the prices don’t come down.  That might happen after the new year (2012) when they are no longer as new as they once were.  I certainly would stump up the cash for one if the price came down so I could tuck it into my carry on camera bag and not have to hide a traditional laptop in my check-in bag (my camera bag is rather large and full with camera gear).

EDIT:

One of the guys in work gave me a demo Sony Vaio VPCZ21M9E to play with for a little while.  Carbon fibre body, i5 CPU, 4 GB RAM (expandable at order time to 8 GB), 128 GB SSD, 1.2 KG weight, VGA and full HDMI video output, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports.   It feels incredibly light.  Apparently it is 17 mm at the thickest point.  Looking at it, I think they are including the rubber feet.  This thing is so thin you could shave with it.  However, it appears to be twice the price of the competition.  But is a very nice piece of kit and it hurt to give it back.

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2011
12.21

With the PowerShell Window, you can run Help or Get-Help to go looking for information of syntax and flags.  If you want, you can even use the get-member cmdlet, such as:

Get-NetAdapter | Get-Member

There’s two things that are happening with the above command.  Get-NetAdapter is being run, and then we’re using a pipe to send the output as an input to Get-Member.  Get-Member will list all of the attributes of the Get-NetAdapter output, including methods and properties.  You might want to filter that down, and you can do that by running:

Get-NetAdapter | Get-Member –MemberType Property

Where did I get –MemberType from?  Look at the titles of the columns from the previous command.  One of them was called MemberType.

I could have just as easily used:

Get-NetAdapter | Get-Member –Name *Interface*

That would have limited the results to attributes of Get-NetAdapter that contained “Interface” in their name.

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2011
12.20

Note: I’d normally configure TCP-IP at this point but the cmdlets that I seem to need to use either are not working correctly or are very confusing – that’s pre-beta software for you!  I’ll try to return to that topic at a later point if I find a solution.

When you install Windows without some clever imaging solution, the machine comes up with some random (not completely) computer name.  You can PowerShell this if you want:

Rename-Computer MyNewComputerName –restart

In a previous blog post I mentioned that POSH (PowerShell) is great for scripting.  You can put a whole load of these commands in a single PS1 file and run it.  This cmdlet is an example of where you’d need user input.  In that case, the following embeds the prompt for a new computer name inside of the Rename-Computer cmdlet.  When you run this, the embedded Read-Host cmdlet is run and provides the user input to the Rename-Computer cmdlet.

Rename-Computer (Read-Host “Enter a new computer name”) –restart

Once that reboot is done, you can join a domain.  The following cmdlet does just that.  It will fire up a traditional Windows prompt for a user name and password to do the domain join.

Add-Computer –DomainName “demo.internal” –Restart

Want some help and examples beyond what you can get from Get-Help?  Try this:

Get-Help Add-Computer –Online

That should fire up your web browser and bring you to an official MSFT web page for the cmdlet in question.  A nice example you’ll find for Add-Computer is that you can use the –OUPath flag to specify a location to place the new computer object in your domain.  I tend to have a special OU for Hyper-V hosts so that’s where I’d place the computer object.  So instead of using the default computer object creation location (and probably forgetting to move the object to the correct one before the reboot), I can save some human effort by running:

Add-Computer –DomainName “demo.internal” –OUPath “OU=Hyper-V, OU=Servers, OU=Company, DC=demo, DC=com” –Restart

And that’s your host named and in the domain, all ready to manage with SCVMM.

2011
12.20

Any software designer/engineer needs to be aware of how Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA) impacts the performance of services that will run on that hardware.  This goes double for virtualisation administrators, and here’s why.

NUMA is a hardware design feature that divides CPUs and memory in a physical server into NUMA nodes.  You get the best performance when a process uses memory and CPU from within the same NUMA node.  When a process requires more memory, but the current NUMA node is full, then it’ll get memory from another NUMA node and that comes at a performance cost to that process, and possibly all other processes on that physical server.

And that’s why virtualisation engineers need to be aware of this.  In Hyper-V we have Dynamic Memory.  In VMware, there are other techs that do similar (but work differently) things to add memory to a VM under the covers.  When there’s contention in a NUMA node, a VM will be given additional memory from a different NUMA node – and then performance will drop.

When present this topic, NUMA causes a lot of confusion.  Microsoft gave us a rather badly out-dated formula for calculating NUMA node sizes.  It’s actually a hardware specification (that all OS’s and hypervisors have to deal with) so the only really accurate way to determine NUMA node layouts is via PerfMon or chatting to the hardware vendor.  In the meantime, I stumbled across this fantastic article by Benjamin Athawes.  Benjamin explains NUMA superbly and talks about how to determine what’s in your hardware.

In the Hyper-V world, we can disable NUMA node spanning in the host settings.  That’s thanks to how Dynamic Memory works – there isn’t an over-commitment that must be lived up to by the hypervisor.  If we see lots of spanning that impacts performance, then we have choices:

  • Reconsider hardware specs to increase the size of NUMA nodes: if there is a lot of consistent NUMA node spanning that is required to supply badly needed memory to VMs
  • Disable NUMA node spanning to prevent this: when NUMA nodes are normally big enough, but occasionally VMs span NUMA nodes and negatively impact performance

In Windows 8 Hyper-V, guests will have will get a new feature where the guest OS can be NUMA node aware.  That’s really requires because we’re jumping to 32 vCPU support which will likely span many NUMA nodes.  With this feature, guest OS processes/memory can be scheduled to take NUMA node placement into account.

2011
12.19

Windows 8 includes native PowerShell cmdlets for Hyper-V for the first time ever.  You can use this to manage Hyper-V from the command prompt and to automate complex and/or repetitive tasks.  In fact, Hyper-V appears to be going down the Exchange route where only so much is revealed in the GUI, and everything is in PowerShell.  I’d expect System Center Virtual Machine Manager to provide that additional GUI functionality (and use PowerShell under the hood).

But before you even get to doing Hyper-V cmdlets, you’ll need to enable the Hyper-V role.  One could use Server Manager, but we’ll use the Server Manager cmdlets instead.  You can learn lots more about this cmdlets in the chapter that I wrote on Server Manager in Mastering Windows Server 2008 R2.

PowerShell cmdlets are a subset of modules.  To use a cmdlet you have to load the relevant module.  Which one?  You can run a cmdlet to find that out:

Get-Module –ListAvailable

You’ll notice that PowerShell works in the format of Verb–Noun (action-thing to manage) with optional flags.  In this case it’s retrieving the list of all available modules that can be imported.

Then I can run the following to import the Server Manager module to get access to the relevant cmdlets:

Import-Module ServerManager

Try this: type in half of ServerManager and press <TAB>.  This should autocomplete the text for you.

If I now run the following cmdlet then I get a list of all imported modules:

Get-Module

Note: that if I knew what I was doing, I would have just run the Import-Module cmdlet to import ServerManager.

What cmdlets are not available to me?  There’s a cmdlet for that.  I can run Get-Command but that lists every available cmdlet.  I want to see the ones in the ServerManager module:

Get-Command –Module ServerManager

It turns out that I have:

  • Get-WindowsFeature: list what features and roles are available, and what their install status is (indicated by an X).
  • Install-WindowsFeature: install a feature or role
  • Uninstall-WindowsFeature: install a feature or role

Need some help? That’s built in too:

Help Get-WindowsFeature

We want to know what the state of the machine is so we can run

Get-WindowsFeature

This spits out a list of every role, role service and feature that you can install or uninstall via Server Manager.    You should note the name(s) of the ones you want to work with because you you’ll need them for the next step.

When you check the help of Install-WindowsFeature you’ll see some interesting flags:

  • -Whatif: It doesn’t run the cmdlet, but it simulates it.  It will tell you (to the best of its ability) if the command will work or not.
  • -Restart: forces and automatic reboot to happen, rather than prompting for it.  I know that enabling Hyper-V requires a reboot so this is useful.

For example this will simulate the install of the Hyper-V role:

Install-WindowsFeature Hyper-V –Restart –Whatif

If I’m happy, and I know a reboot of the new host is OK then I can run:

Install-WindowsFeature Hyper-V –Restart

A progress bar will appear in the PowerShell window, and the new host will reboot so the Hyper-V role can be enabled and started up.

That sounds like we’d done a lot of cmdlet-ing?  We actually could have consolidated it into two commands or a 2 line script:

Import-Module ServerManager

Install-WindowsFeature Hyper-V –Restart

That simple .PS1 script could have been stored in a file share, attached to a Windows deployment, or used in many different ways to automate a Hyper-V enablement.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What if you want to uninstall Hyper-V?  Well that uninstall is just like the install:

Uninstall-WindowsFeature Hyper-V –Restart –Whatif

Hyper-V is now up and running, and ready to manage.  Sure, you can use the Hyper-V console, and to be honest, that is my primary tool.  But many will want to use PowerShell for automation.  Here’s how you can get started:

Import the modules with:

Import-Module Hyper-V

And list the cmdlets:

Get-Command –Module Hyper-V

There’s lots there to get playing with!

2011
12.16

Cisco has released an update for their UCS (blade servers) software (Cisco UCS Software, Release 2.0) that contains a fix for servers that will run Hyper-V.  The text reads:

After enabling Hyper-V in Windows 2008 R2 SP1 then rebooting, the server no longer shows a black KVM screen and a failure of windows startup and login.

I have not seen Cisco UCS in person (it’s been a HP ProLiants rack/blade history for me), but I know a services company that swears by these servers.  Interestingly, there is even a hardware monitoring management pack for OpsMgr for UCS that you can download from Cisco if you have a support contract.

2011
12.15

After presenting on the topic of Hyper-V to over 250 people (including some VMM) over the last 3 weeks, I’ve become aware that the term “Snapshot” confuses people.  There is an unfortunate amount of confusion created by many different but similar solutions/features:

Hyper-V Snapshot

This is the ability (just like in VMware) to capture a virtual machine’s state (memory, CPU, system state, and disk contents) in a point in time.  You can do some work, and then revert back to that snapshot, thus returning the VM to where it was back then, undoing all the changes made since the snapshot.  You can have lots of snapshots, all tiered, and branched.

Hyper-V snapshots are  supported in production.  But they are not supported by many of the applications you’d install in a VM, e.g. SQL Server, Exchange, etc.  I’m not a fan of snapshots in production, in fact, I hate them because of the problems that people create for themselves (long story where people assume all sorts of silly things that are convenient for them at the time).  But I do use Hyper-V snapshots in lab environments to reset tests or demos.

Checkpoint

This is what System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) calls a snapshot.  Yup, it’s confusing.

EDIT: Microsoft listened to feedback and renamed the Hyper-V snapshot to checkpoint in WS2012 R2. Now it matches SCVMM and shouldn’t be confused with other kinds of snapshot.

Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) Snapshot

This kind of snapshot is an NTFS volume snapshot that allows Windows to backup hot files that are being used (e.g. virtual machines) or databases with data/log consistency (e.g. SQL Server or Exchange).

In the Hyper-V world, you can backup VMs (even running ones) using Hyper-V VSS compatible backup products such as DPM 2010 or Altaro.  VSS creates a snapshot of the NTFS volume that contains the running VMs’ files and then backup can hit the snapshot.

This snapshot is a VSS snapshot, not a Hyper-V Snapshot.  You won’t see it in Hyper-V Manager or in SCVMM.  It exists purely as a hot file backup mechanism.

Interestingly, whereas Hyper-V snapshots may not be supported by many applications, this kind of backup can be, e.g. SQL Server and Exchange.  However, some services, such as Domain Controllers, do not support restoring this kind of backup (in AD it causes USN rollback).

When I’m asked for advice, I tell people to use this kind of backup to “snapshot” a VM instead of Hyper-V snapshots.  There isn’t the pain/mess of mismanaging VHDs, AVHDs and merges, and it is supported by almost every app you’ll need in a VM.

SAN LUN Snapshot

In a SAN, you can create a snapshot of a LUN.  This duplicates the LUN.  How the duplication works depends on the SAN.

The VSS Snapshot mechanism can leverage this to speed up backup by using a SAN manufacturer provided Hardware VSS provider.  Instead of doing a software based VSS snapshot, it will create a SAN snapshot of the relevant LUN and that can then be used by the VSS enabled backup product.  It’s especially useful for Hyper-V clusters with CSV where you want to minimise the amount of Redirected I/O (Mode or Access).

This week I heard that some are telling customer to use a manually created SAN LUN snapshot as a form of backup/restore on an hourly basis.  Painful and it’s probably consuming expensive disk – they’d be better off using an efficient backup solution that writes to more economic disk.

Fixing the Confusion

As you can imagine, all this overuse of the term “snapshot” doesn’t help.  It’s one thing for hardware VS Microsoft, but it’s another this when Hyper-V, SCVMM, and Windows VSS cause the confusion.  If I had one suggestion then it would be this:

Change the term “Snapshot” in Hyper-V to “Checkpoint”.  VSS isn’t going to change, and you’re not going to get the SAN vendors to change.  Doing this would also increase consistency in Windows Server 8.

2011
12.13

In The Great Big Hyper-V Survey of 2011, we found that just 42% of those who had deployed Hyper-V had done an assessment.  My own experiences reveal an interesting trend: those who have architectural, support, or performance issues with their deployment have not done an assessment.  They stuck a wet finger in the air, guessed at an infrastructure sizing and design, and their customer/employer paid the price.

By the way, the best VMware consultants will kick of the project using some assessment.

The tool for a Hyper-V assessment is MAP, and Microsoft recently launched version 6.5 of it.  This new release adds:

  • Discover Oracle instances on Itanium-based servers for migration to SQL Server: useful for SQL Server migration projects when you tire of the price and virtualisation support of Oracle.
  • Assess your software usage and evaluate your licensing needs with the Software Usage Tracking feature, now updated with the Forefront Endpoint Protection (FEP) scenario: get your licensing right before and auditor does.
  • Accelerate planning for the private cloud with Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track Onboarding: FAST is the Microsoft private cloud architecture for their big international partners.
  • Identify migration opportunities with enhanced heterogeneous server environment inventory: this stuff supports MySQL, Linux and VMware scanning.
  • Accelerate planning and migration with the new UI and usability updates in MAP 6.5: All new UI to lay out stuff more logically.

What’s nice about MAP is that you can assess even a large environment with just a small amount of effort.  You have empirical data that can scientifically calculate your environment.  From a Hyper-V perspective, this sizing is difficult to do without an assessment.  In fact, it would be a complete guess without something like the free MAP.  If you do the assessment then at least you and your customer (internal or external) can be sure that you did a scientific calculation that has some sort of backing instead of just assuming.

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2011
12.13

Microsoft has published 3 documents on how they’ve internally deployed some IT solutions:

2011
12.13

Carsten Rachfahl recorded a bunch of video interviews at the recent E2E conference with some of the other Hyper-V/System Center presenters.  This one was with Didier Van Hoye where they talked about Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) and storage design.  And this one was with Ronnie Isherwood where they talked about System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2012.

2011
12.13

I’ve said more than enough about the VMware licensing fiasco from the Summer.  It turns out, that interest in Hyper-V (and System Center) by partners and customers is higher than ever.  And that’s made me busier than ever.  In the past 6 or so weeks I’ve done:

  • 4 corners tour of Ireland road show
  • Countless meetings
  • 3 Hyper-V Immersion events (1 day of crash course education) with 80+ people at each in Dublin.
  • Developed and delivered a bespoke Hyper-V/VMM training course
  • Presented at E2E on Hyper-V (current and future)
  • Done consulting on OpsMgr and ConfigMgr
  • And somewhere in there is a couple of chapters for a book

And between all that and a lull in Hyper-V news, not much blogging was done.  I’ve just had my last scheduled meeting of 2011 and things are quieting down as we head towards the Christmas break.  I’m trying to do a bit of catch up tonight.  I’ve got lab gear on the way for getting into the new stuff.  We’re told a Windows 8 beta is coming in/around the end of Feb.  And that’ll mean there’ll be lots more to talk about.

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2011
12.13

With Windows Server products, you typically have to buy server licensing (SharePoint) and user/device client access licensing (CAL) for each user/device connecting to the server.  One could buy each of these CALs one at a time.  But there are more efficient ways (accounting and cost) to buy them if you’re using several of those products.  You can buy a CAL suite.  There is a Core CAL suite that includes Standard edition CALs (e.g. Exchange Standard and SharePoint Standard), and an Enterprise CAL Suite (e.g. Exchange Enterprise and SharePoint Enterprise).  They include a bunch of products.  From a customer’s point of view, they’re cheaper and easier to account for.  From a resellers point of view, there’s potentially more work there if a customer has CALs for unused solutions.

The documents on this site compare and contrast the two suites and the features that they support.

Core CAL Suite:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 CAL
  • Exchange Server 2010 Standard CAL
  • Lync Server 2010 Standard CAL
  • SharePoint Server 2010 Standard CAL
  • System Center Configuration Manager 2012 client ML (Interesting that it’s listed as “2012”)
  • Forefront Endpoint Protection

Enterprise CAL Suite:

  • Everything in the Core CAL Suite
  • Exchange Server 2010 Enterprise CAL
  • Lync Server 2010 Enterprise CAL
  • SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise CAL
  • System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 client ML
  • System Center Service Manager 2010 client ML
  • System Center Data Protection Manager 2010 client ML
  • System Center Opalis client ML
  • Forefront Protection Suite (Forefront Protection 2010 for Exchange Server, Forefront Protection 2010 for SharePoint, Forefront Security for Office Communications Server, Forefront Online Protection for Exchange(formerly Exchange Hosted Filtering), Forefront Threat Management Gateway Web Protection Service)
  • Forefront Unified Access Gateway
  • Microsoft Windows Rights Management Services
2011
12.09

Nathan Winters, one of the authors behind Mastering Lync Server 2010, tweeted me last night to let me know that my Hyper-V book, Mastering Hyper-V Deployment, is for sale in the company store at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, WA, USA.  I guess I’m officially successful now Winking smile  At least it’s beside all the Cloud and Azure books and not in the bargain bin Smile

Nathan had the “pleasure” of being my roommate at MVP Summit 2010 when I first saw the book in a shop in nearby Bellevue.  Yes, I did go back a second time to admire the view.

Thanks Nathan!

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2011
12.02

Microsoft has updated the Linux Integration Services (aka integration components or the Hyper-V enlightenments) from v3.1 to v.3.2 supporting Redhat Enterprise Linux (x86 and x64, 6.0 and 6.1) and CentOS 6.0 (x86 and x64).

I think no new features are listed.  My guess is that v3.2 includes a fix  or workaround for Key Value Pair exchange and SCVMM.  But that is a guess.  I’ll try to find out more.

You’ll continue to use Linux Integration Services 2.1 for SLES 10 and RHEL 5.

EDIT #1:

I did some comparisons between 3.1 and 3.2 text and noticed this is added in 3.2:

“Integrated Mouse Support: The cursor is no longer bound to the VMConnect window when used with the Linux Graphical User Interface”.

EDIT #2:

Thanks to Mike Sterling (Program Manager at Microsoft) for sharing the following info on new features in the V3.2 Integration Services:

  • Synthetic Mouse Support: The virtualized mouse device is no longer bound to the VMConnect window, and can now be used with a RDP session.
  • Merged Device Drivers: We now present a single device driver for both IDE and SCSI devices (hv_storvsc).
  • Windows 8 Fix: The synthetic network device (hv_netvsc) can now be used with a Windows 8 host, eliminating the hang on boot that was previously seen.
  • SCVMM Fix: This release fixes the issue as described in KB2586286.
  • Improved Setup Experience: Users now only need to run install.sh (as root) to automatically detect the correct architecture and install the appropriate drivers.
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