2012
06.29

I love the disclaimers at the end.

I hope you never let your BoxingBot see itself in the mirror!

2012
06.29

I’m taking notes from VIR302 in this post.  I won’t be repeating stuff I’ve blogged about previously.

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Outage Information in SMEs

Data from Symantec SMB Disaster Preparedness Survey, 2011.  1288 SMBs with 5-1000 employees worldwide.

  • Average number of outages per year? 6
  • What does this outage cost per day? $12,500

That’s an average cost of $75,000 per year!  To an SME!  That could be 2 people’s salary for a year.

  • % That do not have a recovery plan: 50%.  I think more business in this space don’t have DR.
  • What is their plan? Scream help and ask for pity.

Hyper-V Replica IS NOT Clustering And IT IS NOT a Cluster Alternative

Hyper-V Replica IS ALSO NOT Backup Replacement

It is a replication solution for replicating VMs to another site.  I just know someone is going to post a comment asking if they can use it as a cluster alternative [if this is you – it will be moderated to protect you from yourself so don’t bother.  Just re-read this section … slowly].

  • Failover Clustering HA: Single copy, automated failover within a cluster.  Corruption loses the single copy.
  • Hyper-V Replica: Dual asynchronous copy with recent changes, manual failover designed for replication between sites.  Corruption will impact original immediately and DR copy within 10 minutes.
  • Backup: Historical copy of data, stored locally and/or remotely, with the ability to restore a completely corrupted VM.

Certificates

For machines that are non-domain joined or non-trusted domain members.  Hoster should issue certs to the customer in the hosted DR scenario. 

Compression

Can disable it for WAN optimizers that don’t work well with pre-optimised traffic.

Another Recovery History Scenario

The disaster brought down VMs at different points.  So VMA died at time A and VMB died at time C.  Using this feature, you can reset all VMs back to time A to work off of a similar set of data.

You can keep up to 15 recovery points per day.  Each recovery point is an hour’s worth of data. 

The VSS option (application consistent recovery) fires every two hours.  Every 2nd hour (or whatever depending on where you set the VSS slider) in the cycle it triggers VSS.  All the writes in the guest get flushed.  That replica is then sent over.

Note that the Hyper-V VSS action will not interfere with backup VSS actions.  Interoperability testing has been done.

So if you’re keeping recovery snapshots, you’ll have standard replicas and application consistent (VSS) replicas.  They’ll all be an hour apart, and alternating (if every 2nd hour).  Every 5 minutes the changes are sent over, and every 13th one is collapsed into a snapshot (that’s where the 1 hour comes from).

Every 4 hours appears to be the sweet spot because VSS does have a performance impact on the guests.

Clusters

You can replicate to/from clusters.  You cannot replicate from one node to another inside a cluster (can’t have duplicate VM GUIDs and you have shared storage).

Alerting

If 20% of cycles in the last hour are missed then you get a warning.  This will self-close when replication is healthy again. 

PowerShell

24 Hyper-V Replica cmdlets:

  • 19 of them via get-command –Module hyper-v | where {$_.Name –like “*replication*”}
  • 5 more via get-command –Module hyper-v | where {$_.Name –like “*failover*”}

Measure-VMReplication will return status/health of Hyper-V Replica on a per-VM basis.

Measure-VMReplication | where {$_.ReplicationHealth –eq “Critical”}

Could use that as a part of a scheduled script, and then send an email with details of the problem.

Replica Mechanism

Refers to the HRL (Hyper-V Replica Log) process as a write splitter.  They use HTTP(s) for WAN traffic robustness.  It’s also hosting company friendly.  The HRL is swapped out before sending for a new HRL.

There is a threshold where the HRL cannot exceed half the VHD size.  If WAN/storage goes down and this happens then HVR goes into a “resync state” (resynchronisation).  When the problem goes away HVR automatically re-establishes replication. 

VM Mobility

HVR policy follows the VM with any kind of migration scenario.  Remember that replication is host/host.  When the VM is moved from host A to host B, replication for the VM from host A is broken.  Replication for the VM starts on host B.  Host B must be already authorized on the replica host(s) – easier with cluster Hyper-V Replica broker. 

IP Addressing VMs In DR Site

  1. Inject static address – Simplest option IMO
  2. Auto-assignment via DHCP – Worst option IMO because DHCP on servers is messy
  3. Preserve IP address via Network Virtualisation – Most scalable option for DR clouds IMO with seamless failover for customers with VMs on a corporate WAN.  Only one for seamless name resolution, I think, unless you spend lots on IP virtualisation in the WAN.

Failover Types

Planned Failover (downtime during failover sequence):

  1. Shutdown primary VM
  2. Send last log – run planned failover action from primary site VM.  That’ll do the rest for us.
  3. Failover replica VM
  4. Reverse replication

Test Failover (no downtime):

Can test any recovery point without affecting replication on isolated test network.

  1. Start test failover, selecting which copy to test with (if enabled).  It does the rest for you.
  2. Copies VM (new copy called “<original VM name> – test”) using a snapshot
  3. Connects VM to test virtual switch
  4. Starts up test VM

Network Planning

  • Capacity planning is critical.  Designed for low bandwidth
  • Estimate rate of data change
  • Estimate for peak usage and effective network bandwidth

My idea is to analyse incremental backup size, and estimate how much data is created every 5 minutes.

Use WS2012 QoS to throttle replication traffic.

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Replicating multiple VMs in parallel:

  • Higher concurrency leads to resource contention and latency
  • Lower concurrency leads to underutilizing and less protection for the business

Manage initial replication through scheduling.  Don’t start everything at once for online initial synchronisation.

What they have designed for:

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Server Impact of HVR

On the source server:

  • Storage space: proportional to the writes in the VM
  • IOPS is approx 1.5 times write IOPS

On the replica server:

  • Storage space: proportional to the write churn.  Each additional recovery point approx 10% of the base VHD size.
  • Storage IOPS: 0.6 times write IOPS to receive and convert.  3-5 times write IOPS to receive, apply, merge, for additional recovery points.
  • There is a price to pay for recovery points.  RECOMMENDATION by MSFT: Do not use replica servers for normal workloads if using additional recovery points because of the IOPS price.

Memory: Approx 50 MB per replicating VM

CPU impact: <3%

2012
06.29

Want to design your own simple management packs for SCOM (OpsMgr) from scratch but, like me, found the authoring kit to be like a mythical Greek maze filled with monsters?  Well I have great news … the Visio Management Pack Designer (VMPD) is finally here!!!!

I blogged about this tool at MMS earlier this year.  You drag and drop what you want done, and it’ll do all the hard work for you.  It’ll be a great addition to any OpsMgr admin/consultant toolkit.

The System Center 2012 Visio MP Designer—VMPD—is an add-in for Visio 2010 Premium that allows you to visually design a System Center Operations Manager Core Monitoring Management Pack. VMPD generates a Management Pack that is compliant to the MP Authoring Best Practices by simply dragging and dropping Visio shapes to describe your application architecture and configuring them through the Shape Properties.

- Visually describe your application architecture which generates classes and discoveries.

- Visually add monitoring to create monitors and rules.

- Start quickly from our pre-canned single server and multi-server patterns.

2012
06.28

I found myself using my iPad really only for two things:

  • Reading – but I since bought a more convenient smaller Kindle that I could read in a wildlife photography hide without scaring off the subject
  • Watching a little bit of TV when I went to bed

The reason I bought it originally was to have lots of battery life at conferences.  But I couldn’t type with it.  The screen keyboard is OK but not fast enough.  The attachable keyboards weren’t rigid and you never have a desk at these events.  So I ended up buying an Ultrabook.

So my iPad became dispensable.  Even though it was an iPad 1, there were no shortage of buyers.  And I didn’t even have to advertise it.  So it’s not like I’m claiming it’s a dead platform or anything.

So what’s my future on the device front?  In my personal lab, it’s a bunch of tower PCs.  That’s tied up for a while with work. 

My Ultrabook is going strong.  It’ll stay on Windows 7 until Windows 8 RTM, and maybe later depending on my work schedule.  My work laptop (the Beast) is already running Windows 8 so I can have a mobile Hyper-V base for demos.

My “tablet” for now is the Build slate, a revved up version of the Samsung slate that you can buy in retail at the moment.  The Release Preview is running nicely on there.  It’s not ideal – it runs hot and the battery life is poor for a tablet style device.  Maybe I’ll sell it later in the year before I get a Windows 8 device.  Or maybe I’ll sell it as a collectible on Pawn Stars Smile

I will look at design-for-Windows 8 devices later in the year.  I work for a Sony and Toshiba distributor so obviously I’ll look at what they have coming.  I haven’t seen anything about Sony’s plans in that space yet.  Toshiba have an interesting slider in the but I’d want to try it out.  I’m not sure about it as a machine for your lap.

The Asus Transformer goes a more portable route.  It’s a laptop and a tablet with an i7 CPU.  I like that as an iPad and Ultrabook replacement. 

The one making the headlines is the Microsoft Surface.  The problem is … what do I want?  If I want a tablet, then either the Pro or the RT would suffice.  The Pro would be great for things like Photoshop and be dock-able as a normal PC.  But I can’t let myself fall into the same trap as I did with the iPad.  That keyboard isn’t rigid – so it will suck at conferences and events, constantly flopping.

I don’t know.  That’s why I will wait and see.

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2012
06.28

Here are my notes from TechEd NA session WSV410, by Claus Joergensen.  A really good deep session – the sort I love to watch (very slowly, replaying bits over).  It took me 2 hours to watch the first 50 or so minutes :)

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For Server Applications

The Scale-Out File Server (SOFS) is not for direct sharing of user data.  MSFT intend it for:

  • Hyper-V: store the VMs via SMB 3.0
  • SQL Server database and log files
  • IIS content and configuration files

Required a lot of work by MSFT: change old things, create new things.

Benefits of SOFS

  • Share management instead of LUNs and Zoning (software rather than hardware)
  • Flexibility: Dynamically reallocate server in the data centre without reconfiguring network/storage fabrics (SAN fabric, DAS cables, etc)
  • Leverage existing investments: you can reuse what you have
  • Lower CapEx and OpEx than traditional storage

Key Capabilities Unique to SOFS

  • Dynamic scale with active/active file servers
  • Fast failure recovery
  • Cluster Shared Volume cache
  • CHKDSK with zero downtime
  • Simpler management

Requirements

Client and server must be WS2012:

  • SMB 3.0
  • It is application workload, not user workload.

Setup

I’ve done this a few times.  It’s easy enough:

  1. Install the File Server and Failover Clustering features on all nodes in the new SOFS
  2. Create the cluster
  3. Create the CSV(s)
  4. Create the File Server role – clustered role that has it’s own CAP (including associated computer object in AD) and IP address.
  5. Create file shares in Failover Clustering Management.  You can manage them in Server Manager.

Simple!

Personally speaking: I like the idea of having just 1 share per CSV.  Keeps the logistics much simpler.  Not a hard rule from MSFT AFAIK.

And here’s the PowerShell for it:

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CSV

  • Fundamental and required.  It’s a cluster file system that is active/active.
  • Supports most of the NTFS features.
  • Direct I/O support for file data access: whatever node you come in via, then Node 2 has direct access to the back end storage.
  • Caching of CSVFS file data (controlled by oplocks)
  • Leverages SMB 3.0 Direct and Multichannel for internode communication

Redirected IO:

  • Metadata operations – hence not for end user data direct access
  • For data operations whena  file is being accessed simultaneously by multiple CSVFS instances.

CSV Caching

  • Windows Cache Manager integration: Buffered read/write I/O is cached the same way as NTFS
  • CSV Block Caching – read only cache using RAM from nodes.  Turned on per CSV.  Distributed cache guaranteed to be consistent across the cluster.  Huge boost for polled VDI deployments – esp. during boot storm.

CHDKDSK

Seamless with CSV.  Scanning is online and separated from repair.  CSV repair is online.

  • Cluster checks once/minute to see if chkdsk spotfix is required
  • Cluster enumerates NTFS $corrupt (contains listing of fixes required) to identify affected files
  • Cluster pauses the affected CSVFS to pend I/O
  • Underlying NTFS is dismounted
  • CHKDSK spotfix is run against the affected files for a maximum of 15 seconds (usually much quicker)  to ensure the application is not affected
  • The underlying NTFS volume is mounted and the CSV namespace is unpaused

The only time an application is affected is if it had a corrupted file.

If it could not complete the spotfix of all the $corrupt records in one go:

  • Cluster will wait 3 minutes before continuing
  • Enables a large set of corrupt files to be processed over time with no app downtime – assuming the apps’ files aren’t corrupted – where obviously the would have had downtime anyway

Distributed Network Name

  • A CAP (client access point) is created for an SOFS.  It’s a DNS name for the SOFS on the network.
  • Security: creates and manages AD computer object for the SOFS.  Registers credentials with LSA on each node

The actual nodes of the cluster nodes are used in SOFS for client access.  All of them are registered with the CAP.

DNN & DNS:

  • DNN registers node UP for all notes.  A virtual IP is not used for the SOFS (previous)
  • DNN updates DNS when: resource comes online and every 24 hours.  A node added/removed to/from cluster.  A cluster network is enabled/disabled as a client network.  IP address changes of nodes.  Use Dynamic DNS … a lot of manual work if you do static DNS.
  • DNS will round robin DNS lookups: The response is a list of sorted addresses for the SOFS CAP with IPv6 first and IPv4 done second.  Each iteration rotates the addresses within the IPv6 and IPv4 blocks, but IPv6 is always before IPv4.  Crude load balancing.
  • If a client looks up, gets the list of addresses.  Client will try each address in turn until one responds.
  • A client will connect to just one cluster node per SOFS.  Can connect to multiple cluster nodes if there are multiple SOFS roles on the cluster.

SOFS

Responsible for:

  • Online shares on each node
  • Listen to share creations, deletions and changes
  • Replicate changes to other nodes
  • Ensure consistency across all nodes for the SOFS

It can take the cluster a couple of seconds to converge changes across the cluster.

SOFS implemented using cluster clone resources:

  • All nodes run an SOFS clone
  • The clones are started and stopped by the SOFS leader – why am I picturing Homer Simpson in a hammock while Homer Simpson mows the lawn?!?!?
  • The SOFS leader runs on the node where the SOFS resources is actually online – this is just the orchestrator.  All nodes run independently – moving or crash doesn’t affect the shares availability.

Admin can constrain what nodes the SOFS role is on – possible owners for the DNN and SOFS resource.  Maybe you want to reserve other nodes for other roles – e.g. asymmetric Hyper-V cluster.

Client Redirection

SMB clients are distributed at connect time by DNS round robin.  No dynamic redistribution.

SMB clients can be redirected manually to use a different cluster node:

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Cluster Network Planning

  • Client Access: clients use the cluster nodes client access enable public networks

CSV traffic IO Redirection:

  • Metadata updates – infrequent
  • CSV is built using mirrored storage spaces
  • A host loses direct storage connectivity

Redirected IO:

  • Prefers cluster networks not enabled for client access
  • Leverages SMB Multichannel and SMB Direct
  • iSCSI Networks should automatically be disabled for cluster use – ensure this is so to reduce latency.

Performance and Scalability

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SMB Transparent Failover

Zero downtime with small IO delay.  Supports planned and unplanned failovers.  Resilient for both file and directory operations.  Requires WS2012 on client and server with SMB 3.0.

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Client operation replay – If a failover occurs, the SMB client reissues those operations.  Done with certain operations.  Others like a delete are not replayed because they are not safe.  The server maintains persistence of file handles.  All write-throughs happen straight away – doesn’t effect Hyper-V.

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The Resume Key Filter fences off file handles state after failover to prevent other clients grabbing files when the original clients expect to have access when they are failed over by the witness process.  Protects against namespace inconsistency – file rename in flight.  Basically deals with handles for activity that might be lost/replayed during failover.

Interesting: when a CSV comes online initially or after failover, the Resume Key Filter locks the volume for a few seconds (less than 3 seconds) for a database (state info store in system volume folder) to be loaded from a store.  Namespace protection then blocks all rename and create operations for up to 60 seconds to allow for local file hands to be established.  Create is blocked for up to 60 seconds as well to allow remote handles to be resumed.  After all this (up to total of 60 seconds) all unclaimed handles are released.  Typically, the entire process is around 3-4 seconds.  The 60 seconds is a per volume configurable timeout.

Witness Protocol (do not confuse with Failover Cluster File Share Witness):

  • Faster client failover.  Normal SMB time out could be 40-45 seconds (TCP-based).  That’s a long timeout without IO.  The cluster informs the client to redirect when the cluster detects a failure.
  • Witness does redirection at client end.  For example – dynamic reallocation of load with SOFS.

Client SMB Witness Registration

  1. Client SMB connects to share on Node A
  2. Witness on client obtains list of cluster members from Witness on Node A
  3. Witness client removes Node A as the witness and selects Node B as the witness
  4. Witness registers with Node B for notification of events for the share that it connected to
  5. The Node B Witness registers with the cluster for event notifications for the share

Notification:

  1. Normal operation … client connects to Node A
  2. Unplanned failure on Node A
  3. Cluster informs Witness on Node B (thanks to registration) that there is a problem with the share
  4. The Witness on Node B notifies the client Witness that Node A went offline (no SMB timeout)
  5. Witness on client informs SMB client to redirect
  6. SMB on client drops the connection to Node A and starts connecting to another node in the SOFS, e.g. Node B
  7. Witness starts all over again to select a new Witness in the SOFS. Will keep trying every minute to get one in case Node A was the only possibility

Event Logs

All under Application and Services – Microsoft – Windows:

  • SMBClient
  • SMBServer
  • ResumeKeyFilter
  • SMBWitnessClient
  • SMBWitnessService
2012
06.27

These are my notes from the TechEd NA recording of WCL321 with Mikael Nystrom.

Virtual Machine Converter (VMC)

VMC is a free-to-download Solution Accelerator that is currently in beta.  Solution Accelerators are glue between 2 MSFT products to provide a combined solution.  MAP, MDT are other examples.  They are supported products by MSFT.

The purpose of the tool is to convert VMware VMs into Hyper-V VMs.  It can be run as standalone or it can be integrated into System Center, e.g. Orchestrator Runbooks.

It offers a GUI and command line interface (CLI).  Nice quick way for VMware customers to evaluate Hyper-V – convert a couple of known workloads and compare performance and scalability.  It is a low risk solution; the original VM is left untouched.

It will uninstall the VMware tools and install the MSFT Integration components.

The solution also fixes drive geometries to sort out possible storage performance issues – basic conversion tools don’t do this.

VMware Support

It supports:

  • vSphere 4.1 and 5.0
  • vCenter 4.1 and 5.0
  • EXS/ESXi

Disk types from VMware supported include:

  • VMFS Flat and Sparse
  • Stream optimised
  • VMDK flat and sparse
  • Single/multi-extent

Microsoft Support

Beta supports Windows VMs:

  • Server 2003 SP2 x64/x86
  • 7 x64/x86
  • Server 2008 R2 x64
  • Server 2008 x64 (RC)
  • Vista x86 (RC)

Correct; no Linux guests can be converted with this tool.

In the beta the Hyper-V support is:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Hyper-V
  • VHD Fixed and Dynamic

In the RC they are adding:

  • Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 Hyper-V
  • VHDX (support to be added in RTM)

Types of Conversion

  • Hot migration: no downtime to the original VM.  Not what VMC does.  But check the original session recording to see how Mikael uses scripts and other MSFT tools to get one.
  • Warm: start with running VM.  Create a second instance but with service interruption.  This is what VMC does.
  • Cold: Start with offline VM and convert it.

VMC supports Warm and Cold.  But there are ways to use other MSFT tools to do a Hot conversion.

Simplicity

MSFT deliberately made it simple and independent of other tools.  This is a nice strategy.  Many VMware folks want Hyper-V to fail.  Learning something different/new = “complexity”, “Microsoft do it wrong” or “It doesn’t work”.  Keeping it simple defends against this attitude from the stereotypical chronic denier. 

Usage

Run it from a machine.  Connect to ESXi or vCenter machine (username/password).  Pick your VM(s).  Define the destination host/location.  Hit start and monitor.

  1. The VM is snapshotted. 
  2. The VMware Tools are removed. 
  3. The VM is turned off. 
  4. The VMDK is transferred to the VMC machine
  5. The VMDK is converted.  You will need at least twice the size of the VMDK file … plus some space (VHD will be slightly larger).  Remember that Fixed VHD is full size in advance.
  6. The VHD is copied to the Hyper-V host. 
  7. The new Hyper-V VM is built using the VM configuration on the VMware host.
  8. The drive is added to the VM configuration.
  9. The VM is started. 
  10. The Hyper-V integration components are installed.

The conversion will create a Hyper-V VM without a NIC.  Supposed to prevent split-brain conversion where source and target VM are both online at the same time.  I’d rather have a tick box. 

If a snapshot is being used … then you will want any services on that VM offline …. file shares, databases, etc.  But offline doesn’t mean powering down the VM …. we need it online for the VMware tools removal.

The Wizard

A VM must has a FQDN to be converted.  Install the VMware tools and that makes the VM convertible.  This is required to make it possible to … uninstall the VMware tools Smile

It will ask for your credentials to log into the guest OS for the VMware tools uninstall. 

Maybe convert the VM on an SSD to speed things up.

2012
06.27

Microsoft just published this document with details on compatibility for SMB 3.0, CSVFS (cluster shared volume for Hyper-V and SOFS), and the new server file system ReFS.

The Application Compatibility with Resilient File System document provides an introduction to Resilient File System (ReFS) and an overview of changes that are relevant to developers interested in ensuring application compatibility with ReFS. The File Directory Volume Support spreadsheet provides documentation for APIs support for SMB 3.0, CSVFS, and ReFS that fall into the following categories: file management functions, directory management functions, volume management functions, security functions, file and directory support codes, volume control code, and memory mapped files.

It is very much aimed towards developers.  There is a little bit of decipherable text in there to describe what ReFS is, something MSFT is not talking about much, not even at TechEd.  My take so far: it’s a file system for the future that will eventually supplant NTFS.

Sections 1.1-1.3 are interesting to us IT Pros, then jump ahead to section 1.11.

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2012
06.27

With Windows 7, Microsoft release a bunch of individual tools and toolkits, each as individual downloads, to aid in our assessment, deployment, and application compatibility testing/reconciliation.  With Windows 8, Microsoft are continuing with the free support tools, but it appears that they will be released in a single kit called the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK).

The tools in the Windows ADK include:

Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT): The Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) helps IT Professionals understand potential application compatibility issues by identifying which applications are or are not compatible with the new versions of the Windows operating system. ACT helps to lower costs for application compatibility evaluation by providing an accurate inventory of the applications in your organization. ACT helps you to deploy Windows more quickly by helping to prioritize, test, and detect compatibility issues with your apps. By using ACT, you can become involved in the ACT Community and share your risk assessment with other ACT users. You can also test your web applications and web sites for compatibility with new releases of Internet Explorer. For more information, see Application Compatibility Toolkit.

Deployment Tools: Deployment tools enable you to customize, manage, and deploy Windows images. Deployment tools can be used to automate Windows deployments, removing the need for user interaction during Windows setup. Tools included with this feature are Deployment Imaging Servicing and Management (DISM) command line tool, DISM PowerShell cmdlets, DISM API, Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM), and OSCDIMG. For more information, see Deployment Tools.

User State Migration Tool (USMT): USMT is a scriptable command line tool that IT Professionals can use to migrate user data from a previous Windows installation to a new Windows installation. By using USMT, you can create a customized migration framework that copies the user data you select and excludes any data that does not need to be migrated. Tools included with the feature are ScanState, Loadstate, and USMTUtils command line tools. For more information, see User State Migration Tool.

Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT): The Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT) enables IT professionals to automate and centrally manage the activation of Windows, Windows Server, Windows ThinPC, Windows POSReady 7, select add-on product keys, and Office for computers in their organization. VAMT can manage volume activation using retail keys (or single activation keys), multiple activation keys (MAKs), or Windows Key Management Service (KMS) keys. For more information, see Volume Activation Management Tool.

Windows Performance Toolkit (WPT): Windows Performance Toolkit includes tools to record system events and analyze performance data in a graphical user interface. Tools available in this toolkit include Windows Performance Recorder, Windows Performance Analyzer, and Xperf. For more information, see Windows Performance Toolkit.

Windows Assessment Toolkit: Tools to discover and run assessments on a single computer. Assessments are tasks that simulate user activity and examine the state of the computer. Assessments produce metrics for various aspects of the system, and provide recommendations for making improvements. For more information, see Windows Assessment Toolkit.
Windows Assessment Services: Tools to remotely manage settings, computers, images, and assessments in a lab environment where Windows Assessment Services is installed. This application can run on any computer with access to the server that is running Windows Assessment Services. For more information, see Windows Assessment Services.

Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE): Minimal operating system designed to prepare a computer for installation and servicing of Windows. For more information, see Windows PE Technical Reference.

If OS deployment is your thing or in your future then this kit and you are going to be close friends.

2012
06.27

Microsoft has just posted a new KB article for a clustered Hyper-V host scenario:

Assume you have a 4 nodes Hyper-V cluster with more than 200 Virtual machines and 10 physical network adapters installed on the cluster node, each virtual machine is configured with 2 virtual network adapters; if you start 50 virtual machines on a single node at the same time or you failover 50 virtual machines to another node, you will find virtual machine configuration resources fail to be online after pending state.

When a virtual machine configuration resource is online, multiple WMI queries will be sent to query the network properties. The number of queries is decided by the number of virtual machines in the cluster and physical network adapters on the cluster node. In the scenario described in Symptoms section, it takes more than 10 minutes for all virtual machine configuration resources online. However, the default resource deadlock timeout is 5 minutes, so you will see resource online failure due to timeout.

The solution is:

Change the virtual machine configuration resource DeadlockTimeout and PendingTimeout value. The exact value depends on the cluster environment.

2012
06.26

I saw something about this last week but didn’t pay much attention until this morning.  Gartner has ranked Microsoft as a leader in their Magic Quadrant for x86 Server Virtualization Infrastructure.

Figure 1.Magic Quadrant for x86 Server Virtualization Infrastructure

They are just behind VMware.  Here’s the fun bit: this is based on Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V and System Center “2007” versus vSphere 5.0.  Wait until they get a load of System Center 2012 and Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.

The cautions that Gartner have for the Microsoft platform are all compete and market awareness based, rather than technical.  And whereas Microsoft have gone for heterogeneous in System Center 2012, Gartner has a caution about the homogeneous virtualisation nature of VMware’s management/cloud vision … customers are concerned about vendor lock-in.

Roll on next year.  By the way, who owns Netscape now?

2012
06.26

Great that TechEd is back in Amsterdam.  I wish I was there.  Berlin is a nice city, but the Messe is a hole.

Brad Anderson

Mentions the Yammer acquisition, Windows Phone 8, and the new Surface tablets.  He’s talking about change.  Is it chaos or is it opportunity?  Pitching the positive spin of innovation in change.

Think of storage, compute, and network as one entity, manage it as such.  In other words: Windows Server 2012, System Center 2012, and Azure are integration into a single solution – you pick and choose the ingredients that you want in the meal.

Patrick Lownds has tweeted a great word: convergence.  This is beyond hybrid cloud; this is converged clouds.

Design with the knowledge that failures happen.  That’s how you get uptime and continuous availability of the service.  Automation of process allows scalability.

Hyper-V: “no workload that you cannot virtualise and run on Hyper-V”.  We’re allegedly going to see the largest every publicly demonstrated virtual machine.

Jeff Woolsey

The energetic principal PM for Windows Server virtualisation.  “Extend to the cloud on your terms”.  Targeted workloads that were not virtualisable.  Dozens of cores.  Hundreds of MB RAM.  Massive IOPS requirements.  This demo (40 SSDs) is same as 10 full sized fully populated racks of traditional SAN disk.  MSFT using SSD in this demo.  VMware: up to 300,000 IOPS.  Hyper-V now beats what it did in TechEd USA: Over 1,000,000 (1 million) IOPS from a Hyper-V VM.

Iometer

Now we see the Cisco Nexus 1000v Hyper-V Switch extension (not a switch replacement like in VMware).  Shows off easy QoS policy deployment.

PowerShell:  Over 2400 cmdlets in WS2012.  Now we’re going to see Hyper-V Replica management via System Center 2012 Orchestrator.  A Site Migration runbook.  It verifies source/destination, and then it brings up the VMs in the target location in the order defined by the runbook.  And we see lots of VMs power up.

Once again, we see System Center 2012 App Controller integrating with a “hosting company” and enabling additional VM hosting capacity beyond the private cloud.

I”m wrapping up here … looks like the keynote is mostly the same as the USA one (fine for 99% of the audience who aren’t hooked to their Twitter/RSS like myself) and I have to head to work.

This keynote recording will be available on Channel 9, and the USA one is already there.  Enjoy!

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2012
06.25

On Sunday evening I tweeted about something I’ve been playing with for the last week …

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… and I was called a tease Smile  Caught, red handed!

Windows Server Backup (WSB) in Windows Server 2012, out of the box with no registry edits, can backup:

  • Running virtual machines on a standalone host – a slight improvement over the past where a registry edit was required to register the VSS Hyper-V Writer
  • Running virtual machines on a cluster shared volume (CSV) – this is absolutely new

Note that WSB does not support VMs that are stored on SMB 3.0 file shares.  You’ll need something else for that.

I’ve done a lot of testing over the last week, trying out different scenarios in the cluster, and restoring “lost” VMs.  Everything worked.  You can backup to a volume, a drive, or a file share.  This is a very nice solution for a small company that wants a budget virtualisation solution. 

As for my step-by-steps … I’m working on it but you’ll have to wait for that … and that is another tease Smile

2012
06.25

Last Sunday Wiley released the electronic version of Microsoft Private Cloud Computing in Amazon Kindle, and other formats such as iTunes

Oddly enough, the paper version is usually released before the digital ones.  I know that sounds backwards but it has always been my experience.  I can confirm that the paper editions are actually available.  There seems to have been an issue with distribution so Amazon still don’t have stock but should have soon.

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2012
06.25

I’ve been asked over and over and over how to upgrade from a Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V cluster to a Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V cluster.  You cannot do an in-place upgrade of a cluster.  What I’ve said in the past, and it still holds true, is that you can:

  1. Buy new host hardware, if your old hardware is out of support, build a new cluster, and migrate VMs across (note that W2008 R2 does not support Shared-Nothing Live Migration), maybe using export/import or VMM.
  2. Drain a host in your W2008R2 cluster of VMs, rebuild it with WS2012, and start a new cluster.  Again, you have to migrate VMs over.

The clustering folks have another way of completing the migration in a structured way.  I have not talked about it yet because I didn’t see MSFT talk about it publicly, but that changes as of this morning.  The Clustering blog has details on how you can use the Cluster Migration Wizard to migrate VMs from one cluster to another

There is still some downtime to this migration.  But that is limited by migrating the LUNs instead of the VHDs using unmask/mask – in other words, there is no time consuming data copy.

Features of the Cluster Migration Wizard include:

  • A pre-migration report
  • The ability to pre-stage the migration and cut-over during a maintenance window to minimize risk/impact of downtime.  The disk and VM configurations are imported in an off state on the new cluster
  • A post-migration report
  • Power down the VMs on the old cluster
  • You de-zone the CSV from the old cluster – to prevent data corruption by the LUN/VM storage being accessed by 2 clusters at once
  • Then you zone the CSV for the new cluster
  • You power up the VMs on the new cluster

Read the post by the clustering group (lots more detail and screenshots), and then check out a step-by-step guide.

Things might change when we migrate from Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V to Windows Server vNext Hyper-V, thanks to Shared-Nothing Live Migration Smile

EDIT#1:

Fellow Virtual Machine MVP, Didier Van Hoye, beat me to the punch by 1 minute on this post Smile  He also has a series of posts on the topic of cluster migration.

2012
06.25

Earlier this week I posted some notes from a TechEd North America 2012 session that discussed the Cluster-In-A-Box solution.  Basically, this product is a single box unit, probably with two server blades, all the cluster networking, and JBOD storage attached by SAS Expanders, all in a single chassis.  For a small implementation, you can install Hyper-V on the blades in the box, and use the shared JBOD storage to create a small, economic cluster.

I’ve been thinking about the process for expanding our scaling beyond this box.  At the moment, without playing with it because it doesn’t exist in the wild yet, I can envision three scenarios.

Scale Up

On the left I have put together a cluster-in-a-box.  It has 2 server blades and a bunch of disk.  Eventually the company grows.  If the blades can handle it, I can add more CPU and RAM.  It is likely that the box solution will also allow me to add one or more disk trays.  This would allow me to scale up the installation.

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Scale Out

I’ve reset back to the original installation, and the company wants to grow once again.  However, circumstances have changed.  Maybe one of the following is true:

  • I’ve reached my CPU or RAM limit in the blades
  • My box won’t support disk trays
  • I’m concerned with putting two many eggs in one basket, and want to have more hosts

In that case, I can scale out by buying another cluster-in-a-box, with the obvious price of having another cluster and storage subsystem to manage.

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Scale Up & Out

I’ve reset once again.  Now the company wants to grow.  Step #1 because my box allows it, is to scale up.  I add more disk and CPU and grow the VM density of my 2 node cluster.  But eventually I start approaching a certain trigger point where I need to buy once again.  What I can do now is add a second cluster in a box, probably starting with a basic kit, and grow it with more disk and CPU as the company grows.

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Migrate To Traditional Cluster & Scale-Out-File-Server (SOFS)

Let’s consider another scenario.  The company starts with a cluster in a box and scales it up.  We’re approaching the point where we need to scale out.  We have a choice:

  • Scale out with another cluster in a box?
  • Migrate to a traditional cluster with dedicated storage?

My big concern might be flexibility and simplicity as I scale the size of the infrastructure.  Having lots of clusters is with isolated storage might be good … but I think that’s a minority of situations.  Maybe we should migrate to something more traditional … but not iSCSI because we already own a cool storage platform!

In this case, I’m going to leverage a few things we can do in Windows Server 2012:

  • Shared Nothing Live Migration will allow me to move my virtual machines from the cluster in a box to a Hyper-V cluster made up of traditional rack/blade servers.
  • SMB 3.0 (with Multichannel and Direct) gives me great storage performance so I can re-use the cluster in a box as a storage platform.
  • I can convert the cluster in a box into a Scale-Out File Server (SOFS). 

Obviously I have not tested this but here’s how I think it could go:

  1. Enable SOFS on the cluster in a box with a single initial share on each CSV
  2. Prepare the Hyper-V hosts and cluster them without storage
  3. Grant admins and the Hyper-V hosts full permission to the SOFS shares
  4. Use Shared Nothing Live Migration to move the VMs to the new Hyper-V cluster, placing VMs in the same CSV as before via the share … this will require some free disk space.

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With this solution you can grow the environment.  The cluster in a box becomes a dedicated storage platform, and you can add disk to it.  Your single Hyper-V cluster can scale well beyond the 2 node limit of the cluster in a box.  And you can do that without any service downtime … well, that’s what I think at the moment Smile  We’ll find out more in the future, I guess.

2012
06.24

I was checking activity on my site and spotted a glut of incoming links from a single site.  That gets my attention.  Meet Roger Jennings (@rogerjenn), of Oakleaf Systems, CA, USA:

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You see, Roger was named on of the top 20 big data influencers by Forbes.  I bet he was just too busy to do his own work, so he though he’d steal from others.  I bet Forbes didn’t know that!

Want some proof?  OK go visit:

Hell, just do a Google site search and you’ll see how much Roger has been copying and pasting.

He is copying entire blog posts.  Stealing in my opinion.  Check this out:

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Now compare it with the original:

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It’s not just me either; Roger Jennings like to copy the work of lots of people.  I wonder if he’ll copy this post?

Oh Roger, I have ways of making it hurt.  Google (hosts of the blog) are now aware, as are a certain other cloud company Smile Remove my blog posts now.

Very sincerely,

Aidan Finn.

Update #1 (25/06/2012):

I received a message overnight from Roger that he’d be removing all the offending posts.  The excuse given: Only 2 other people had complained of his content theft in the past 8 years.  I’m sure a lot of others would complain if they’d only known.

2012
06.22

If TechEd Europe is anything like TechEd North America then you’re in for a challenge.  So far, I have around 50 hours of video downloaded.  A friend who was speaking at the NA event said there were typically 4 sessions in each time slot that he wanted to attend.  What a great problem to have!

Unfortunately I won’t be attending.  I’ve been to a number of events in the past year.  I’m also snowed under with work, trying to prepare some training materials – not to mention a side project that will consume quite a bit of time.  We are sending someone else from the office – there’s just too much new information to ignore.

Fellow Irish MVP and co-author Damian Flynn is not only attending TechEd, but he’s also speaking in four sessions.  Be sure to check out what “Captain Cloud” (I’m calling him that now) has to say.  Damian is an honest and entertaining speaker – and he knows a lot about creating a private cloud with System Center.

Another co-author and UK MVP, Patrick Lownds, is scheduled to be working at the HP stand.  Be sure to check out what he has to tell you in the Exhibition Hall.

My first TechEd was Amsterdam in 2004.  I love the venue there … it was big, well organised, easy to get around, and well connected to the city (bus, street tram, and train from Central).  I’m sure some of you will *ahem* enjoy the local tourist amenities – but make sure you make the most of the sessions.  There is an incredible amount of information being shared at these events.

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2012
06.21

I still encounter people who are confused by the disk options in Hyper-V.  Altaro have updated their blog with a post, discussing the merits of passthrough (raw) disk, fixed VHD, and dynamic VHD and it’s worth a read.  Being a storage company, it’s worth paying attention to their observations.

Further to their notes I’d add:

  • Windows Server 2012 adds a new VHDX format that is 4K aligned and expands out to 64 TB (VHD max is 2040 GB and VMDK is 2 TB).
  • Storage level backup cannot be done using passthrough disks so you have to revert to traditional backup processes.
  • Passthrough disks lock your VM into a physical location and you lose flexibility.
  • Advanced features like snapshots and Hyper-V Replica cannot be implemented with passthrough disks.
  • In production I always favour Fixed VHD over Dynamic.  However, I can understand if you choose Dynamic VHD for your OS VHDs (with no data at all) and place these onto a dedicated CSV (with no data VHDs on it) – assuming that data VHDs are fixed and placed on different CSVs.

Have a read of the Altaro post and make up your own mind.

2012
06.19

Then again, why would Microsoft release Surface at all?  Windows 8 is a huge play call by Microsoft.  By re-imagining Windows, they are bringing in major change.  And there hasn’t been anything like this amount of change since Windows 95.  It’s a risk and everyone wants to mitigate risk.

What we’ve learned in the last 3 years is that the device plays as much of a role in the consumer sale as the operating system, if not more.  Microsoft has always relied on hardware partners for the most part.  Yes, they’ve built a better mouse, a better web cam, and the XBox.  But in the PC realm, they relied on partners.

Look at some of the devices that we’ve seen announced.  There have been many slate PCs and tablets that offer nothing new – just more of the same that used to run Android and would now run Windows 8 – former wannabe iPad killers.  In the the Ultrabook market we have seen some rather strange device choices too … that one with the screen on the outside was ridiculous.

Not all have been silly or lacked innovation.  I like the look of some of the slide-out slates/tablets where the keyboard lives under the screen and can slide out to produce a more normal looking laptop experience.

My guess is that Microsoft wanted to lead on the success of Windows 8, rather than depend on the hardware leadership of others.  By creating Surface, Microsoft has built sexy, stylish, and innovative devices, something that the OEMs should have done.  They have challenged the OEMs to produce something different, something better.  Don’t just reinvent the same old thing with a different OS and new processor version.  Be creative.  Use new form factors.  Take advantage of new components.  Challenge each other and steal the lead from Microsoft.

By launching now instead of at Windows GA (October is my guess) it’s giving the OEMs time to get their act in gear sooner rather than later.  I hope the OEMs do respond positively – I’d like to see cool devices for Windows 8 being sold outside of the USA.

That’s my 2 cents on the matter.

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2012
06.19

Notes from TechEd NA 2012 WSV314:

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Terminology

  • It is a Team, not NIC bonding, etc.
  • A team is made of Team Members
  • Team Interfaces are the virtual NICs that can connect to a team and have IP stacks, etc.  You can call them tNICs to differentiate them from vNICs in the Hyper-V world.

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Team Connection Modes

Most people don’t know the teaming mode they select when using OEM products.  MSFT are clear about what teaming does under the cover.  Connection mode = how do you connect to the switch?

  • Switch Independent can be used where the switch doesn’t need to know anything about the team.
  • Switch dependent teaming is when the switch does need to know something about the team. The switch decides where to send the inbound traffic.

There are 2 switch dependent modes:

  • LACP (Link Aggregation Control Protocol) is where the is where the host and switch agree on who the team members are. IEEE 802.1ax
  • Static Teaming is where you configure it on the switch.

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Load Distribution Modes

You also need to know how you will spread traffic across the team members in the team.

1) Address Hash comes in 3 flavours:

  • 4-tuple (the default): Uses RSS on the TCP/UDP ports. 
  • 2-tuple: If the ports aren’t available (encrypted traffic such as IPsec) then it’ll go to 2-tuple where it uses the IP address.
  • MAC address hash: If not IP traffic, then MAC addresses are hashed.

2) We also have Hyper-V Port, where it hashes the port number on the Hyper-V switch that the traffic is coming from.  Normally this equates to per-VM traffic.  No distribution of traffic.  It maps a VM to a single NIC.  If a VM needs more pipe than a single NIC can handle then this won’t be able to do it.  Shouldn’t be a problem because we are consolidating after all.

Maybe create a team in the VM?  Make sure the vNICs are on different Hyper-V Switches. 

SR-IOV

Remember that SR-IOV bypasses the host stack and therefore can’t be teamed at the host level.  The VM bypasses it.  You can team two SR-IOV enabled vNICs in the guest OS for LBFO.

Switch Independent – Address Hash

Outbound traffic in Address Hashing will spread across NICs. All inbound traffic is targeted at a single inbound MAC address for routing purposes, and therefore only uses 1 NIC.  Best used when:

  • Switch diversity is a concern
  • Active/Standby mode
  • Heavy outbound but light inbound workloads

Switch Independent – Hyper-V Port

All traffic from each VM is sent out on that VM’s physical NIC or team member.  Inbound traffic also comes in on the same team member.  So we can maximise NIC bandwidth.  It also allows for maximum use of VMQs for better virtual networking performance.

Best for:

  • Number of VMs well exceeds number of team members
  • You’re OK with VM being restricted to bandwidth of a single team member

Switch Dependent Address Hash

Sends on all active members by using one of the hashing methods.  Receives on all ports – the switch distributes inbound traffic.  No association between inbound and outbound team members.  Best used for:

  • Native teaming for maximum performance and switch diversity is not required.
  • Teaming under the Hyper-V switch when a VM needs to exceed the bandwidth limits of a single team member  Not as efficient with VMQ because we can’t predict the traffic.

Best performance for both inbound and outbound.

Switch Dependent – Hyper-V Port

Sends on all active members using the hashed port – 1 team member per VM.  Inbound traffic is distributed by the switch  on all ports so there is no correlation to inbound and outbound.  Best used when:

  • When number of VMs on the switch well exceeds the number of team members AND
  • You have a policy that says you must use switch dependent teaming.

When using Hyper-V you will normally want to use Switch Independent & Hyper-V Port mode. 

When using native physical servers you’ll likely want to use Switch Independent & Address Hash.  Unless you have a policy that can’t tolerate a switch failure.

Team Interfaces

There are different ways of interfacing with the team:

  • Default mode: all traffic from all VLANs is passed through the team
  • VLAN mode: Any traffic that matches a VLAN ID/tag is passed through.  Everything else is dropped.

Inbound traffic passes through to one team interface at once.

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The only supported configuration for Hyper-V is shown above: Default mode passing through all traffic t the Hyper-V Switch.  Do all the VLAN tagging and filtering on the Hyper-V Switch.  You cannot mix other interfaces with this team – the team must be dedicated to the Hyper-V Switch.  REPEAT: This is the only supported configuration for Hyper-V.

A new team has one team interface by default. 

Any team interfaces created after the initial team creation must be VLAN mode team interfaces (bound to a VLAN ID).  You can delete these team interfaces.

Get-NetAdapter: Get the properties of a team interface

Rename-NetAdapter: rename a team interface

Team Members

  • Any physical ETHERNET adapter with a Windows Logo (for stability reasons and promiscuous mode for VLAN trunking) can be a team member.
  • Teaming of InfiniBand, Wifi, WWAN not supported.
  • Teams made up of teams not supported.

You can have team members in active or standby mode.

Virtual Teams

Supported if:

  • No more than 2 team members in the guest OS team

Notes:

  • Intended for SR-IOV NICs but will work without it.
  • Both vNICs in the team should be connected to different virtual switches on different physical NICs

If you try to team a vNIC that is not on an External switch, it will show up fine and OK until you try to team it.  Teaming will shut down the vNIC at that point. 

You also have to allow teaming in a vNIC in Advanced Properties – Allow NIC teaming.  Do this for each of the VM’s vNICs.  Without this, failover will not succeed. 

PowerShell CMDLETs for Teaming

The UI is actually using POSH under the hood.  You can use the NIC Teaming UI to remotely manage/configure a server using RSAT for Windows 8.  WARNING: Your remote access will need to run over a NIC that you aren’t altering because you would lose connectivity.

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Supported Networking Features

NIC teaming works with almost everything:

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TCP Chimney Offload, RDMA and SR-IOV bypass the stack so obviously they cannot be teamed in the host.

Limits

  • 32 NICs in a team
  • 32 teams
  • 32 team interfaces in a team

That’s a lot of quad port NICs.  Good luck with that! Winking smile 

SMB Multichannel

An alternative to a team in an SMB 3.0 scenario.  Can use multiple NICs with same connectivity, and use multiple cores via NIC RSS to have simultaneous streams over a single NIC (RSS) or many NICs (teamed, not teamed, and also with RSS if available).  Basically, leverage more bandwidth to get faster SMB 3.0 throughput.

Without it, a 10 GbE NIC would only be partly used by SMB – single CPU core trying to transmit.  RSS makes it multi-threaded/core, and therefore many connections by the data transfer.

Remember – you cannot team RDMA.  So another case to use Multichannel and get an LBFO effect is to use SMB Multichannel …. or I should say “use” … SMB 3.0 turns it on automatically if multiple paths are available between client and server.

SMB 3.0 is NUMA aware.

Multichannel will only use NICs of same speed/type.  Won’t see traffic spread over a 10 GbE and a 1 GbE NIC, for example, or over RDMA-enabled and non-RDMA NICs. 

In tests, the throughput on RSS enabled 10 GbE NICs (1, 2, 3, and 4 NICs), seemed to grow in a predictable near-linear rate.

SMB 3.0 uses a shortest queue first algorithm for load balancing – basic but efficient.

SMB Multichannel and Teaming

Teaming allows for faster failover.  MSFT recommending teaming where applicable.  Address-hash port mode with Multichannel can be a nice solution.  Multichannel will detect a team and create multiple connections over the team.

RDMA

If RDMA is possible on both client and server then SMB 3.0 switches over to SMB Direct.  Net monitoring will see negotiation, and then … “silence” for the data transmission.  Multichannel is supported across single or multiple NICs – no NIC teaming, remember!

Won’t Work With Multichannel

  • Single non-RSS capable NIC
  • Different type/speed NICs, e.g. 10 GbE RDMA favoured over 10 GbE non-RDMA NIC
  • Wireless can be failed from but won’t be used in multi-channel

Supported Configurations

Note that Multichannel over a team of NICs is favoured over multichannel over the same NICs that are not in a team.  Added benefits of teaming (types, and fast failover detection).  This applies, whether the NICs are RSS capable or not.  And the team also benefits non-SMB 3.0 traffic.

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Troubleshooting SMB Multichannel

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Plenty to think about there, folks!  Where it applies in Hyper-V?

  • NIC teaming obviously applies.
  • Multichannel applies in the cluster: redirected IO over the cluster communications network
  • Storing VMs on SMB 3.0 file shares
2012
06.19

So I was wrong.  I was sure the big secret Microsoft announcement last night would just be some streaming media subscription service for the USA.  Instead, 99% of the press got it right and Microsoft announced a Microsoft branded tablet line.  Stealing the name from the table top device … welcome the Surface:

It is thin, 9.3mm, and that depends on which version of the Surface you choose:

It has a case that doubles as a keyboard and comes in different colours.  The case features a built-in kickstand for when you want to prop it up.  There is an audible snap when it closes which is nice.  It is 0.7mm thick, thinner than a hotel room key:

Two Models

The Surface comes in two models.  In broad strokes, the Windows RT (NVIDIA-made ARM-based CPU) is aimed at the consumer and competes with the iPad.  It’s the thinner and lighter of the two devices.  The Windows 8 Pro version is a twofer: it’s a tablet (slate PC) and a PC replacement.  The Pro has an Ivy Bridge Intel i5 CPU and I’m guessing it’ll have around 10 hours battery life based on what we’ve seen from Dell’s future device.

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The Body

No, I’m not talking about Elle McPherson, but sexy is what MSFT is aiming for none-the-less.  The screen is Gorilla Glass 2.  The chassis is made from VaporMg (pronounced Vapor-Mag), an injection moulded metal tolerant down to 0.65mm, and providing a perfectly smooth surface.  The cover is snap on.  It apparently has a solid snapping action which I saw being described by a present journalist as reassuring.  This cover doubles as the keyboard which is flat.  Size-wise, it’s thin.  It’s the 1300 * 768 screen ratio you can expect of Windows 8 devices, with a landscape layout preferred over portrait.

Price

Nothing was confirmed.  The Pro edition will allegedly compete in the Ultrabook price range.  The RT edition will be similar to other ARM based tablets.  The Pro edition will be some 90 days later.

Release Date

Good luck! Smile  Surface RT will be shortly after the Windows 8 GA.  It’ll be sold via Microsoft Stores (USA only) and the Microsoft Online Store. 

Apps

Windows 8 is still a Release Preview.  Metro apps will be released via the Microsoft Store, built into Windows 8.  Being Windows with 300+ million PC sales per year, the apps will definitely come.  Already there are some big names there, and a Netflix Metro app was announced last night too.  This won’t be Windows Phone.  Office 2013 RT will be bundled with the RT edition.  Only Metro apps and Office 2013 RT can run on the RT Surface.  The Pro Surface will run any .exe or Metro app that can run on any Intel/AMD-based Windows 8 PC/laptop.

Reaction

Positive first.  Wow, how the hell did MSFT keep this secret?  We already know the spec for the XBox 720 and that it’ll likely have Azure integration for cloud content/games.  The device is sexy.  It’s got a lot of features that I like … built in kick stand for the plane, and a keyboard cover are cool.

My main concern is simple: Will Microsoft release this device outside of the USA?  Will it suffer from The Curse Of Zune? 

Secondly: how did the CEOs of Acer, Asus, Toshiba, Sony, etc, react when they woke up in Asia this morning?  They’re allegedly being charge $85/device for Windows 8 OEM for their devices.  Now they will compete with Microsoft on device sales?  What will this mean?

The way the announcement was made was strange.  It was 23:30 UK/IE time, 00:30 German/France time and God-knows what time in Korea/Japan.  Choosing 15:30 Pacific Time said to me that this was an event for an American audience.  If an International announcement was important, surely they would have gone for 09:00 or 10:00 PST?  Choosing not to stream the event was strange too.  I’d scream from the mountain tops if I was announcing this.  Inviting 150 journalists, many of whom wouldn’t know Windows from a door, to be your single channel of communications is very strange.  Yes, they want to copy Apple and have exclusivity, but this seems wrong to me.  Just my independent opinion.

People are talking about this device.  I’ve already had 5-6 conversations about Surface this morning in the office in the last 90 minutes.  Strange, considering that it looks like only 5% of the world’s population (USA) will be able to buy one.

Summary

The Surface is a fab looking device.  I’d like to have a try, and maybe consider buying the Pro version.  Will it be an XBox/Kinect or a Zune/Kin?  Will I end up even being able to buy one of these innovative devices?  Time will tell.  Have a look and make up your own mind:

EDIT #1

Some more notes.  MSFT released video recordings of the event.  You can stream it, or download it. 

Above, you can see that the kick stand angles the Surface at 22 degrees.  What if you wanted to record something at the table?  Having the camera pointed downwards would be useless.  The back camera is pointed upwards at 22 degrees to compensate for the kickstand angle.

The keyboard/cover snaps into a magnetically bonded spine.  The Metro UI changes colour to match the colour of the Touch Cover!  There are aligning and clamping magnets to organically connect correctly.  You can hear it snap into place in the video.  When you fold it back, the keyboard turns off, thanks to an accelerometer.  Touch cover allows your fingers to touch the keyboard and it measures force to count those touches as types.  Therefore you can touch type from the rest position.

The Pro edition has a wrap around vent so it’s never blocked. It is silent – I rarely even notice the vent on my Ultrabook, whereas I do on my Build slate.

The screen supports 600 DPI digital ink using a stylus pen.  Zoom in and the ink is still smooth.  The touch digitiser detects the pen being used and blocks touch so your hand on the screen doesn’t cause chaos for the pen digitiser.  The screen is 0.7mm thick, making it the thinnest of it’s kind.  The pen clicks into the side of the Surface.

TPM apparently is included.  It supports HDMI and DisplayPort.  They demo Adobe Lightroom on the Pro edition. 

The cover comes in two models:

  • Touch Cover: a 3mm cover with a multi-touch keyboard.
  • Type Cover: designed for the touch typist wanting great speed.  Key has 1.5 mm travel with full modern trackpad. 

This is a beautifully designed device.  But I’m told that the same was said of Zune which defined The Curse Of Zune by being only available to 5% of the world’s population – the web site wasn’t even visible to us back then!  I’ve asked a person who understands channel, and he reckons it’ll allow MSFT to control the distribution with more quality.  Maybe they’ll reach out to large chains like PC World (UK) and Best Buy (USA) next year, or the year after if Surface doesn’t go the way of Zune.

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2012
06.18

Notes from TechEd NA 2012 session WSV303:

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One of the traits of the Scale-Out File Server is Transparent Failover for server-server apps such as SQL Server or Hyper-V.  During a host power/crash/network failure, the IO is paused briefly and flipped over to an alternative node in the SOFS.

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Transparent Failover

The Witness Service and state persistence enable Transparent Failover in SMB 3.0 SOFS.  The Witness plays a role in unplanned failover.  Instead of a TCP timeout (40 seconds and causing application issues), speeds up the process.  It tells the client that the server that they were connected to has failed and should switch to a different server in the SOFS.

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NTFS Online Scan and Repair

  • CHKDSK can take hours/days on large volumes.
  • Scan done online
  • Repair is only done when the volume is offline
  • Zero downtime with CSV with transparent repair

Clustered Hardware RAID

Designed for when using JBOD, probably with Storage Spaces.

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Resilient File System (ReFS)

A new file system as an alternative to NTFS (which is very old now).  CHKDSK is not needed at all.  This will become the standard file system for Windows over the course of the next few releases.

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Comparing the Performance of SMB 3.0

Wow! SMB 3.0 over 1 Gbps network connection achieved 98% of DAS performance using SQL in transactional processing.

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If there are multiple 1 Gbps NICs then you can use SMB Multichannel which gives aggregated bandwidth and LBFO.  And go extreme with SMB Direct (RDMA) to save CPU.

VSS and SMB 3.0 File Shares

You need a way to support remote VSS snapshots for SMB 3.0 file shares if supporting Hyper-V.  We can do app consistent snapshots of VMs stored on a WS2012 file server.  Backup just works as normal – backing up VMs on the host.

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  1. Backup talks to backup agent on host. 
  2. Hyper-V VSS Writer reaches into all the VMs and ensures everything is consistent. 
  3. VSS engine is then asked to do the snapshot.  In this case, the request is relayed to the file server where the VSS snapshot is done. 
  4. The path to the snapshot is returned to the Hyper-V host and that path is handed back to the backup server. 
  5. The backup server can then choose to either grab the snapshot from the share or from the Hyper-V host.

Data Deduplication

Dedup is built into Windows Server 2012.  It is turned on per-volume.  You can exclude folders/file types.  By default files not modified in 5 days are deduped – SO IT DOES NOT APPLY TO RUNNING VMs.  It identifies redundant data, compresses the chunks, and stores them.  Files are deduped automatically and reconstituted on the fly.

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REPEAT: Deduplication is not intended for running virtual machines.

Unified Storage

The iSCSI target is now built into WS2012 and can provide block storage for Hyper-V before WS2012. ?!?!?!  I’m confused.  Can be used to boot Hyper-V hosts – probably requiring iSCSI NICs with boot functionality.

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2012
06.18

Some notes taken from TechEd NA 2012 WSV324:

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I won’t blog too much from this session.  I’ve more than covered a lot of it in the recent months.

Cluster Validation Improvements

  • Faster storage validation
  • Includes Hyper-V cluster validation tests
  • Granular control to validate a specific LUN
  • Verification of CSV requirements
  • Replicated hardware aware for multi-site clusters

CSV Improvements

  • No external authentication dependencies for improved performance and resiliency
  • Multi-subnet support (multi-site clusters)

Asymmetric Cluster

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BitLocker on CSV

This will get the BitLocker status of the CSV:

manage-bde –status C:ClusterStorageVolume1

This will enable BitLocker on a CSV:

manage-bde –on C:ClusterStorageVolume1 –RecoverPassword

You get a warning if you try to run this with the CSV online.  You need the volume to be offline (Turn On Maintenance Mode under More Actions when you right-click the CSV) … so plan this in advance.  Otherwise be ready to do lots of Storage Live Migration or have VM downtime. 

NOTE! A recovery password is created for you.  Make sure you record this safely in a place independent from the cluster that is secure and reliable.

Get the status again to check the progress.

It’s critically important that you add the security descriptor for the cluster so that the cluster can use the now encrypted CSV.  Get that by:

get-cluster

Say that returns the name HV-Cluster1.

Now run the following, and note the $ at the end of the security descriptor (indicating computer account for the cluster):

manage-bde C:ClusterStorageVolume1 –protectors –add –sid HV-Cluster1$

That can be done while the CSV is encrypting.  Once encrypted, you can take it out of maintenance mode.

AD Integration

  • You now can intelligently place Cluster Name Objects (CNO) and Virtual Computer Objects (VCO) in desired OUs. 
  • AD-less Cluster Bootstrapping allows you to run/start a cluster with no physical domain controllers.  This gets a justifiable applause Smile It’s great news for branch offices and SMEs.
  • Repair action to automatically recreate VCOs
  • Improved logging and diagnostics
  • RODC support fro DMZ and branch office deployments

Node Vote Weight

  • In a stretch or mult-site cluster, you can configure which nodes have votes in determining quorum.
  • Configurable with 1 or 0 votes.  All nodes have a vote by default.  Does not apply in Disk Only quorum model.
  • In the multi-site cluster model, this allows the primary site to have the majority of votes.

Dynamic Quorum

  • It is now the default quorum choice in WS2012 Failover Clustering
  • Works in all quorum models except Disk Only Quorum.
  • Quorum changes dynamically based on nodes in active membership
  • Numbers of votes required for quorum changes as nodes go inactive
  • Allows the cluster to stay operations with >50% node count failure

Thoughts:

  • I guess it is probably useful for extremely condensed cluster dynamic power optimisation (VMM 2012)
  • Also should enable cluster to reconfigure itself when there are node failures

Configuration:

EnableDynamicQuorum edit a cluster common property to enable dynamic quorum

DynamicWeight Node private property to view a node’s current vote weight

Cluster Scheduled Tasks

3 types:

  • Cluster wide: On all nodes
  • Any node: On a random node
  • Resource specific: On the node that owns the resource

PowerShell:

  • Register-ClusteredScheduleTask
  • Unregister-ClusteredShceduledTask
  • Set-ClusteredScheduledTask
  • Get-ClusteredScheduledTask
2012
06.18

Notes taken from TechEd NA 2012 session WSV310:

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Volume Platform for Availability

Huge amount of requests/feedback from customers.  MSFT spent a year focusing on customer research (US, Germany, and Japan) with many customers of different sizes.  Came up with Continuous Availability with zero data loss transparent failover to succeed High Availability.

Targeted Scenarios

  • Business in a box Hyper-V appliance
  • Branch in a box Hyper-V appliance
  • Cloud/Datacenter high performance storage server

What’s Inside A Cluster In A Box?

It will be somewhat flexible.  MSFT giving guidance on the essential components so expect variations.  MSFT noticed people getting cluster networking wrong so this is hardwired in the box.  Expansion for additional JBOD trays will be included.  Office level power and acoustics will expand this solution into the SME/retail/etc.

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Lots of partners can be announced and some cannot yet:

  • HP
  • Fujitsu
  • Intel
  • LSI
  • Xio
  • And more

More announcements to come in this “wave”.

Demo Equipment

They show some sample equipment from two Original Device Manufacturers (they design and sell into OEMs for rebranding).  One with SSD and Infiniband is shown.  A more modest one is shown too:

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That bottom unit is a 3U cluster in a box with 2 servers and 24 SFF SAS drives.  It appears to have additional PCI expansion slots in a compute blade.  We see it in a demo later and it appears to have JBOD (mirrored Storage Spaces) and 3 cluster networks.

RDMA aka SMB Direct

Been around for quite a while but mostly restricted to the HPC space.  WS2012 will bring it into wider usage in data centres.  I wouldn’t expect to see RDMA outside of the data centre too much in the coming year or two.

RDMA enabled NICs also known as R-NICs.  RDMA offloads SMB CPU processing in large bandwidth transfers to dedicated functions in the NIC.  That minimises CPU utilisation for huge transfers.  Reduces the “cost per byte” of data transfer through the networking stack in a server by bypassing most layers of software and communicating directly with the hardware.  Requires R-NICs:

  • iWARP: TCP/IP based.  Works with any 10 GbE switch.  RDMA traffic routable.  Currently (WS2012 RC) limited to 10 Gbps per NIC port.
  • RoCE (RDMA over Converged Ethernet): Works with high-end 10/40 GbE switches.  Offers up to 40 Gbps per NIC port (WS2012 RC).  RDMA not routable via existing IP infrastructure.  Requires DCB switch with Priority Flow Control (PFC).
  • InfiniBand: Offers up to 54 Gbps per NIC port (WS2012 RC). Switches typically less expensive per port than 10 GbE.  Switches offer 10/40 GbE uplinks. Not Ethernet based.  Not routable currently.  Requires InfiniBand switches.  Requires a subnet manager on the switch or on the host.

RDMA can also be combined with SMB Multichannel for LBFO.

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Applications (Hyper-V or SQL Server) do not need to change to use RDMA and make the decision to use SMB Direct at run time.

Partners & RDMA NICs

  • Mellanox ConectX-3 Dual Port Adapter with VPI InfiniBand
  • Intel 10 GbE iWARP Adapter For Server Clusters NE020
  • Chelsio T3 line of 10 GbE Adapters (iWARP), have 2 and 4 port solutions

We then see a live demo of 10 Gigabytes (not Gigabits) per second over Mellanox InfiniBand.  They pull 1 of the 2 cables and throughput drops to 6,000 Gigabytes per second.  Pop the cable back in and flow returns to normal.  CPU utilisation stays below 5%.

Configurations and Building Blocks

  • Start with single Cluster in a Box, and scale up with more JBODs and maybe add RDMA to add throughput and reduce CPU utilisation.
  • Scale horizontally by adding more storage clusters.  Live Migrate workloads, spread workloads between clusters (e.g. fault tolerant VMs are physically isolated for top-bottom fault tolerance).
  • DR is possible via Hyper-V Replica because it is storage independent.
  • Cluster-in-a-box could also be the Hyper-V cluster.

This is a flexible solution.  Manufacturers will offer new refined and varied options.  You might find a simple low cost SME solution and a more expensive high end solution for data centres.

Hyper-V Appliance

This is a cluster in a box that is both Scale-Out-File Server and Hyper-V cluster.  The previous 2 node Quanta solution is set up this way.  It’s a value solution using Storage Spaces on the 24 SFF SAS drives.  The space are mirrored for fault tolerance.  This is DAS for the 2 servers in the chassis.

What Does All This Mean?

SAN is no longer your only choice, whether you are SME or in the data centre space.  SMB Direct (RDMA) enables massive throughput.  Cluster-in-a-Box enables Hyper-V appliances and Scale-Out File Servers in ready made kits, that are continuously available and scalable (up and out).

2012
06.18

A new KB article related to Hyper-V was posted this morning.

You have a Windows Server 2008 R2 system with the Hyper-V role enabled. If the BIOS has been set to inject SMIs at a high rate, 11 SMI/sec for example. The system may hang during boot time.

As the rate of SMI injections increases, the likelihood of failure (system hanging) increases.

Cause

If an SMI occurs before all processors are ready to receive SMIs, Windows boot will hang.

Resolution

Reduce the rate of SMI injection in the BIOS to prevent a hang during Windows boot.

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