2012
07.31

There are no such things as:

  • W2012
  • Windows Server 8.  That was the old codename before the official title was announced.
  • Hyper-V v3.0
  • Hyper-V R3

The name of the server is Windows Server 2012.  The short for that is WS2012.

The name of the hypervisor is Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.  The short for that is WS2012 Hyper-V.  There is also the free download, called Hyper-V Server 2012.

Hyper-V is available on Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise.  It’s official name is Windows 8 Client Hyper-V.

2012
07.31

This page is out of date. You can find more up to date post here.

The list of supported guest OSs from TechNet for WS2012 Hyper-V is listed below.  If this is like W2008 R2, the TechNet list will remain static while the actual supported list will be accurately reflected on TechNet Wiki.

Guest Operating System (Server) Notes
Windows Server 2012 Integration services do not require a separate installation because they are built-in.
Windows Server 2008 R2 with Service Pack 1 (SP 1) Datacenter, Enterprise, Standard and Web editions. Install the integration services after you set up the operating system in the virtual machine.
Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter, Enterprise, Standard and Web editions. Upgrade the integration services after you set up the operating system in the virtual machine.
Windows Server 2008 with Service Pack 2 (SP 2) Datacenter, Enterprise, Standard and Web editions (32-bit and 64-bit). Install the integration services after you set up the operating system in the virtual machine.
Windows Server 2008 Datacenter, Enterprise, Standard and Web editions (32-bit and 64-bit). Install the integration services after you set up the operating system in the virtual machine.
Windows Home Server 2011 Edition information is not applicable. Install the integration services after you set up the operating system in the virtual machine.
Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Standard editions. Install the integration services after you set up the operating system in the virtual machine.
Windows Server 2003 R2 with Service Pack 2 (SP2) Standard, Web, Enterprise, and Datacenter editions (32-bit and 64-bit). Install the integration services after you set up the operating system in the virtual machine.
Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 2 Standard, Web, Enterprise, and Datacenter editions (32-bit and 64-bit). Install the integration services after you set up the operating system in the virtual machine.
CentOS 6.0 – 6.2 Download and install Linux Integration Services v3.3.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.0 –6.2 Download and install Linux Integration Services v3.3.
SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP2 Integration services do not require a separate installation because they are built-in.

Note: The TechNet article indicates you should use Linux Integration Services v3.2 but they have been superseded by v3.3.

And for the client operating systems (VDI):

Guest Operating System (Client) Notes
Windows 8 Release Preview Integration services do not require a separate installation because they are built-in.
Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 (SP 1) Ultimate and Enterprise editions (32-bit and 64-bit). Upgrade the integration services after you set up the operating system in the virtual machine.
Windows 7 Ultimate and Enterprise editions (32-bit and 64-bit). Upgrade the integration services after you set up the operating system in the virtual machine.
Windows Vista with Service Pack 2 (SP2) Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate, including N and KN editions. Install the integration services after you set up the operating system in the virtual machine.
Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3) Professional. Install the integration services after you set up the operating system in the virtual machine.
Windows XP x64 Edition with Service Pack 2 (SP 2) Professional. Install the integration services after you set up the operating system in the virtual machine.

Remember that even built-in integration services will have to be upgraded at a later time, e.g. for WS2012 Service Pack 1 if/when it comes out.

2012
07.30

Lots of people have been debating whether the Metro UI of Windows 8 can succeed on normal laptops and PCs without touch screens. Yesterday I blogged about a Logitech Wireless Touchpad that’s been around for a while.  I was talking about that at work today when one of our Apple folks told me to come back when Windows was doing something new Smile

This afternoon Brandon LeBlanc of Microsoft blogged about a series of new designed-for-Windows 8 keyboards and mice that are being launched by Microsoft … the day after I plonked down cash for a new 3000 series keyboard and mouse.  Paul Thurrot also covered the story this morning (before the Microsoft blog post) of the new devices.

I personally cannot stand the look of the new wedge touch mouse. But there is a 50/50 pro/anti split in the guys who deal with consumer hardware in our office.  This is no normal mouse.  Besides looking weird, it offers touch and gesture support for Windows 8.  I guess the unusual flat surface is to assist in the touch experience.

The Wedge is not out yet, but the Microsoft Touch Mouse is, and I have one on my desk at the moment. One of the guys just gave it to me to play with.  Unlike the newly announced keyboards and mice, this one does use a dongle to connect to the computer.

The mouse has touch sensors all over the front of it. The sensors support multitouch.  The mouse also uses the bluetrack motion sensor to work on “any surface”. Right now, the only gesture stuff I got when I connected the mouse to Windows 8 was the scroll wheel action.  But that is changing according to Engadget.  You’ll basically get gestures for app switching, charms, scroll, and Semantic Zoom.  The mouse will be updated when Windows 8 “goes on sale”, so I guess that’ll happen on or after October 26th.  I’m looking forward to trying the update out when it is released!

EDIT#1

I downloaded a software update for the Microsoft Touch Mouse on Windows 8 x64.  It made the touch UI smoother and added the current set of Windows 7 gestures with thumb, one finger, two fingers, and three fingers. This will be updated at when Windows 8 is out for Windows 8 gestures.

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2012
07.30

The Performance Tuning Guidelines for Windows Server 2012 document is available and I’m reviewing and commenting on notable text in it.

The recommendation stays the same. A Hyper-V host is a Hyper-V host, and should not be a domain controller, file server, backup server, DNS server, database server, SBS, etc.  Don’t try to get clever with your language – you might think you can out-manoeuvre this but all you’re doing is being stupid and putting your employer/customer(s) at risk.

System administrators should consider carefully what software is installed in the root partition because some software can adversely affect the overall performance of the virtualization server.

The support folks word this more strongly, as they should. Would you really try to install Apache or MySQL on a VMware host (if you could)? And if you wanted to, then you shouldn’t be working in IT, in my opinion.

2012
07.29

Windows 8 was designed to be touch first but you can use it with a keyboard and a mouse.  I do that with my work laptop, the beast, which I use to run Windows 8 Client Hyper-V for deployment demos because it has SSD storage.  But what if you want that touch experience?  Some apps, certainly games (Cut the Rope, Angry Birds) work best with a touch UI.  You could go out and buy a replacement monitor for you PC.  You could replace your laptop.  Or you could go the Apple route and copy what they did for the Mac a while back when they introduced the pricey track pad.

I was just in the store picking up a new keyboard and mouse for some writing work (the real thing always beats a laptop keyboard/pad) and I saw something interesting on a display stand:

image

This is the Logitech Wireless Touchpad with Multitouch, coming in at $32.57 on Amazon.com.  It supports single, double, triple and quad touch as well as swipe.  Locally it was €49.99 in a brick store.  I very nearly picked one up but I was concerned that it might not be a great Windows 8 device; I’ve seen some people having Synaptic driver issues on forums with gesture support on their laptops.  I did a quick search on my iPhone but found nothing conclusive so I left it there.

I returned home but didn’t forget it.  I did some more searching and found one very happy reviewer.  Maybe I’ll get one for the work PC which I’m very likely to upgrade as soon as possible after RTM.

That reminds me.  I love to see what’s happening in the PC world, especially to the all-in-ones.  If I was buying a personal PC then that’s the type I’d want for Windows 8.  I saw a very sexy looking Lenovo IdeaCenter A720.

IdeaCentre A720

It is around $1700 in the USA and €1200 here.  It features a 27 inch 1920×1080 anti-glare 10-touch point screen with a flush bezel.  The spec is i7 (3rd generation), 8 GB RAM, 2 GB NVIDIA GPU.  It was a work of art in my opinion; I’d be happy for it to be placed in my sitting room.

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2012
07.27

The Performance Tuning Guidelines for Windows Server 2012 document is available and I’m reviewing and commenting on notable text in it.

On the subject of a Core installation of Windows Server 2012, the document says:

It features a smaller disk, memory profile, and attack surface. Therefore, we highly recommend that Hyper-V virtualization servers use the Server Core installation option. Using Server Core in the root partition leaves additional memory for the virtual machines to use (approximately 80 MB for the commit charge on a 64-bit edition of the Windows Server operating system).

You’ll save a couple of GB on disk space. When I’m able to buy disks smaller than 300 GB for my hosts I’ll care about this. Smaller disks are price listed, but my experience is that you’ll wait 3 months for them.

I don’t care about saving 80 MB of RAM on hosts with 48 GB, 192 GB, 256 GB, or 4 TB of RAM.

The other pro-Core argument is the number of security patches. I don’t care if I have 1 or 12 patches to install per month. I care about how many reboots I have to do; 1 patch = 1 reboot, 20 patches = 1 reboot. And on reboots, Cluster Aware Updating orchestrates that so I have no service downtime.

I care about easy administration. When there is a problem, I don’t want to be googling PowerShell. I sure as hell don’t want a junior operator/engineer to be searching the net for PowerShell alternatives to tasks that are quick/easy in the GUI. And until the h/w vendors have given us easy/complete non-GUI options for hardware management/troubleshooting, the Full installation is my recommendation, despite what Redmond says.

Microsoft’s recommendation remains unchanged from W2008 and W2008 R2. The Great Big Hyper-V Survey of 2011 shows only a very small percentage of you agreed to follow Microsoft’s advice on Core in the past.  One thing has changed in WS2012.

You can switch on the GUI in a Core via Server Manager, but it requires a reboot, and booting any new piece of server hardware takes 10 minutes these days (compare a WS2012 boot on a PC or laptop where it’s seconds).  That’s 10 minutes more for the customer or boss to be in your ear asking when their email will be back up and running.

In my opinion and experience, the cost of the full GUI is negligible and therefore I continue to recommend that type of installation.  I will consider changing my mind when I can flip from Core-GUI-Core without a reboot.

2012
07.26

There is so much crap out there with some people (usually bloggers) freaking out over the new UI in Windows 8.  I really don’t get it. 

Headlines flew all over the net earlier this week on every IT news site about Gartner allegedly saying Windows 8 was “bad”.  I only saw PC Pro (UK site) carry the story where Gartner corrected that.  The media love controversy and negativity but I guess corrections and positivity don’t get the same numbers of hits.  I was just forwarded a story by an executive from Steam (the online game distributor) saying Windows 8 was bad.  I’m sure the fact that the Windows Store will make his business irrelevant had nothing to do with forming his opinion.

Although my production machines (work and home) are still Windows 7, I use Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 a lot and am doing that via touch and via traditional keyboard/mouse.  Yes, it is different.  No, it did not take me 3 days to get used to.  Sure there’s some muscle memory stuff in mouse navigation but you get over that.

So how do I explain the new Metro UI?  Simple:

  1. The pinned area of your start menu now fills the screen.  That’s called the Start Screen now.  It’s bigger, and has lots more information on screen to show you what’s going on in your apps without having to open them.
  2. You can get to anything that was in All Programs by hitting search or starting to type the name of the thing you want from the Start Screen.  I use the typing approach – Windows Key + Type, e.g. Windows Key + ISE finds me the PowerShell ISE in less than 2 seconds.
  3. The right side of the screen finds things, configures settings, and shares data.
  4. The left side switches between apps.
  5. The top/bottom of the screen interacts with the app that is open.

How many iPhones and Android handsets and iPads have been sold over the last 5 years?  This stuff is not alien to people.  I just don’t get all the negativity from the vocal minority on this one.

The last time I saw this level of anxiety was when Windows XP was released.  It was soooo different.  Many took to calling it Windows FP (Fischer Price) because of the kiddie-like interface (we thought) and we admins hated that everything had moved.  I remember having to deploy it one night in a small government office and dreading going in the following day when people had logged in.  It was my first deployment and I was sure that unhappy users would rip my head off.  They loved it.  In fact, businesses loved XP so much that we’re still trying to get them off of it.

I’m not foolish enough to thing enterprises will leap into Windows 8 straight after finishing still on-going Windows 7 deployments.  But I don’t think Windows 8 is the black death for business either.  I think some of the features in there are quite compelling for business:

  • Built-in BitLocker and BitLocker-To-Go in the Pro edition: something I wished for as a customer, but now I wish it was Enterprise edition only now I’m in the sales business Smile
  • Much better DirectAccess, with a server piece that really is SME friendly
  • Windows-To-Go for BYOD and working from home
  • Improved BranchCache
  • An app development platform that will be common across PC, laptop, tablet and phone – I actually think this is the one that will drive businesses to Windows 8.

And my Windows 7 machines?  My work PC will be upgraded ASAP, and my ultrabook will be upgraded when it fits a current project schedule.

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2012
07.26

The Performance Tuning Guidelines for Windows Server 2012 document is available. I’ve previously read the performance doc for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2, focusing on the Hyper-V piece. Let’s look at some notable sections for Hyper-V in the new 2012 version of the doc.  I had started writing a post with notes from this document but … well … the post was nearly as long as the document itself and that’s a bit pointless.  Read the document for yourself.  There are some very detailed notes on advanced configurations that you should be aware of, even if you might not use them.

I’ll post highlights over the coming days/weeks/months.

2012
07.26

I just glimpsed at a post on NetworkWorld called Email in security hot seat with rise of cloud, BYOD.  In it I saw this piece of text:

IBM famously issued a new set of BYOD policies that, among other things, forbid employees to use a competitor’s cloud service (no more Dropbox, no more Carbonite, iCloud, etc.), to forward corporate email to private accounts, to transmit unencrypted data, or to use Apple’s personal assistant, Siri.

I’ve talked about BYOD now and then for quite a while.  I’ve not made up my mind on it yet.  BYOD has a lot of complexities in terms of technical support, security, compliance, and so on.  Once you put the user in control of choosing a device (a €300 laptop not build for heavy usage versus a proper business machine with support) and managing that device, you lose control.

But here’s my thought’s on the above IBM rule. You’ve put the user in charge.  Users have no interest in rules.  Put all you want in the acceptable usage rights document.  The first people to contravene those rules will be the executives who wanted them put in place.  With BOYD you have ceded control and accepted the premise that the user knows best how they should work.  If that user thinks that DropBox is the best way to get data off of their iPad and onto their PC then that’s what they’ll use (what other choice have they?).  If they want to back up their work then Carbonite is nice an cheap.  If they want to use an iPhone 4s then they’re not going to not use Siri (“This is your reminder to call the vet”), the most marketed feature of the phone.

Rules like this are the lawyers’ answer but don’t deal with the realities of human nature.  The reason IT did lock down PCs was to protect the business’s information property.  With BYOD, you hope that they don’t send stuff all over, that they do install the app that allows remove lockdown and secure wipe, and that they act responsibly.  But hey, these are the same people that will handover their corporate passwords for a free pen in the street outside their office.

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2012
07.26

A new KB article for Windows Server 2008 R2 Failover Cluster validation was posted overnight. 

When you run the Failover Cluster Validation Wizard, the report indicates that one or more nodes contain an unsigned acpipmi.sys driver. However, the actual driver is a signed driver. The validation warning message may resemble the following:

The node ‘node1.contoso.com’ has unsigned drivers.

Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Power Meter Device SYSTEM 6.1.7601.17514 6/21/2006 12:00:00 AM Microsoft acpipmi.inf ACPIACPI000DPMI Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Power Meter Device

This issue occurs when the acpipmi.inf file is missing from the C:WindowsInf folder. The reason why the acpipmi.inf file is missing has not been determined.

To resolve this issue, follow these steps:

  1. On a server that is running the same version of Windows Server 2008 R2, has the same architecture, and the same version of Windows Server 2008 R2 service pack installed, locate the acpipmi.inf file in the following folder:

    C:WindowsInf

  2. Copy the acpipmi.inf to a flash drive or to a network share.
  3. On the server that is experiencing this issue, copy the acpipmi.inf file into the following folder: C:WindowsInf

2012
07.26

Back in 2009, ZDNet asked if we were ready for 4K sector drives.  That was because the storage industry is shifting from 512 byte sector drives to 4K sector drives.  And that is going to cause a problem for operating systems and virtualisation that are not ready for 4K sector disks.

To smooth the shift, the storage industry is giving us Advanced Format 512e disks that are physically 4096 byte (4K) sector aligned but emulate 512 byte disks in their firmware.  This wiki page describes how this emulation works.  Note that the read process should not cause performance issues (but might) but the emulated read-modify-write (RMW – 4K is read in, 512 bytes are modified in the 4K, disk is spun, and old 4K is overwritten) process could actually have a significant performance price (Microsoft say 30% to 80%).

4K Physical Sector is shown with 8 chunks of 512 each. Step 1: Read 4K Sector into Cache from Media. Arrow. Step 2: Update 512-byte Logical Sector in Cache (one of 512 blocks highlighted). Step 3: Overwrite previous 4 K Physical Sector on Media.

The following OS’s support 512e drives:

  • Windows 8
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows 7 w/ MS KB 982018
  • Windows 7 SP1
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 w/ MS KB 982018
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
  • Windows Vista w/ MS KB 2553708
  • Windows Server 2008 w/ MS KB 2553708

Eventually we’ll start to see native 4K disks with no emulation.  Microsoft says:

The current VHD driver assumes a physical sector size of 512 bytes and issues 512-byte I/Os, which makes it incompatible with these disks. As a result, the current VHD driver cannot open VHD files on physical 4 KB sector disks. Hyper-V makes it possible to store VHDs on 4 KB disks by implementing a software RMW algorithm in the VHD layer to convert the 512-byte access and update request to the VHD file to corresponding 4 KB accesses and updates.

RMW is bad, mmm-kay!  If you’re on 4K disks (either native or 512e) then you’re going to want 4K aligned virtualised storage to maintain performance.

Only Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 support native 4K disks (with no 512 emulation) with no emulation.  They also offer us the 4K aligned VHDX file.  That means if you’re using 4K disks (native or 512e) and you want performance, then you should use VHDX files.

Note that vSphere 5.0 does not support 4K disks yet.

2012
07.25

These are notes from an online webcast by the Microsoft Partner Network.  I’m am far from a Lync guy so please bear with me Smile  The recording should be on MPN within 48 hours.

Note that the preview bits are out for evaluation/testing.  GA will probably be quite different.

Every Day Apps We Use

  • Lots of Office pieces
  • Lync tries to unify these for communications.  Single client for easy use and single server for easy administration.

What’s New?

image

Note the federation between Lync 2013 (online and on-premises) and Skype.  No news on 2010 federation yet.

On the DR side, they are “improving” metro-site resiliency (between data centres).  Check the docs – calling it Easy Site Recovery.  Less requirements than 2010 and more functionality offered.

VDI support: There will be some 3rd party support statements.  MSFT has worked on VDI scenarios to provide high quality experience with a small plugin on the client.  It should be much improved over 2012, e.g. not using an IP phone. 

IPv6 is supported in this version of Lync.

Lync 2010 app is forward compatible with 2013 but with 2012 features only.

Multiparty HD Video Gallery

See up t 5 live video streams.  Non-active speakers are thumbnailed below, and are promoted to video as they speak.

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H.264 SVC should make it easier to integrate other video systems into Lync, apparently.  SVC can use codecs for different quality/resolutions for different device types.

The Presenter Is In Control

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The presenter can tune the view to suit the content/meeting as the set up the meeting.

Devices

There is an immersive optimised Windows 8 Lync app:

image

Mobile are getting VOIP and video in the Lync app.  Mobile phones will not have full meeting content in this release.  Desktop/app sharing being added to iPad (full set of meeting content).

The Web app is being enhanced for Windows & Mac.  They are getting VOIP and Video – no need for a 50 MB download for the once-off partner/customer/supplier attendee.  IE, Safari, and FireFox offered on PC and Mac.  There is a control to default to the webapp for Mac users.

Video will not be available on Exchange OWA. 

Mobile Apps will GA some months after the server bits.  The Windows 8 app will GA the same time as the server bits.

Communicate Directly From Office

The people cards are Lync powered.  You can contact anyone from throughout Office apparently.  See what they’ve been saying recently on Social Networks, etc. 

image

OneNote Sharing

OneNote and Lync meetings are integrated.  You can associate a note with a meeting invite.  You can share OneNote as additional in-meeting content.  OneNote updates automatically with the meeting attendees (meeting minutes – see their invite acceptance status).  The notes can be shared from many places: SkyDrive, SharePoint, your PC.

Skype

Federated.  Communicate with hundreds of millions of people with presence, IM, and voice.  E.g. talk to family at home when you’re on the road or in the office.  Talk with other companies that are on Skype.  Provide support to customers on Skype.

Video is not added in this first release of the federation.  To be in a “future”, “very quick” release.  It is a “high priority”.  It won’t take 3 years.

Enterprise Benefits

image

Archiving of IM being added in the online product.  Split domain being added so you can split between on-premises and online – Lync Hybrid.

Today, UK and USA users can add PSTN to their Lync online through a Telefonica subsidiary.  The SIP trunks are to the MSFT data centre (alien speak to me – I’m allergic to phones). 

In this release, you can link your PBX into Lync Online – Lync Hybrid.  You can still use you existing contracts, PBX, etc.  More details to come from MSFT later or in preview documentation.

Persistent Chat not in online product.  Response Groups not in this release of Lync Online. 

Windows 8 Lync App Is Not Public Yet

Metro App, including Windows RT:

image

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Note that the Lync app also uses the Windows 8 charms.

Designed for side-by-side, only possible on Windows 8:

image

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2012
07.25

Oh you just know when RTM is nearby. Documents that don’t talk about beta or release candidate start to trickle out. Overnight I saw a Windows Server 2012/Windows 8 Branch Cache Deployment guide. And just now, Jose Barreto tweeted about a new version of the Performance Tuning Guidelines for Windows Server 2012 document. Can you smell it? The flavour of RTM is in the air, and it’s good!

BTW, MSFT did say first week of August, and that is next week.  But Mary Jo Foley did warn us to watch out for under-promise and over-deliver, i.e. an early RTM.  Let’s hope there are know showstopper bugs logged.

2012
07.25

It’s not often that you come across a Microsoft licensing article that is written in plain English where non-constitutional lawyers can understand complete sentences of the text.  But this one (admittedly a guest post by Amy Konary of IDC) does a very nice job of explaining the differences between Microsoft licenses that you can buy outright and licenses that you can lease.

I didn’t like the idea of the lease model when I first heard about it back in 2002 or thereabouts.  I wondered why you’d want to do it.  But I’ve seen it in the real world, why it’s important, and how it can offer very valuable benefits to customers.

SPLA is a lease model for hosting companies.  Customers have a 1 month commitment to the license, paying for what they use, when they use it.  It’s perfect for the very fluid hosting model, and enables upgrades when new SKUs are available.  SPLA is very specialised licensing and even has it’s own dedicated product usage rights document.

I see a lot of SMEs and service providers to that market who love the Open Value Subscription (OVS) scheme.  There is a low entry cost, enabling the SME to keep cash for business operations.  It’s flexible, enabling the business to true-up or true-down to reflect headcounts.  It builds in Software Assurance giving the customer all the benefits such as Windows Enterprise for the client, free upgrades, and so forth.  And it gives the business peace of mind that they’re probably compliant. 

An example: a company has 100 employees this year and licenses Windows 7 and Office 2010 for them under OVS.  They are entitled to use Windows 7 Enterprise with BitLocker for disk encryption and DirectAccess for a VPN alternative.  In a few weeks when MSVL is updated, they’ll have rights to upgrade to Windows 8 Enterprise, with a simpler/better DirectAccess and Windows-To-Go to enable employees to work from home with company Windows builds booting from a USB 3.0 stick.  Give it another couple of months and they can upgrade to Office 2013 with all it’s new information consumption and touch features.  In the meantime, the company grows to 150 employees and doesn’t have to buy new licensing until their annual report when they true up.  Maybe in a year they hit hard times and shrink to 80 staff.  At the next annual report, they true-down to 80 seats instead of being stuck with 150 perpetual licenses on the books where 70 of them are wasted.  They also have SA so they’re entitled to support calls, MUI, Office roaming rights, TechNet for trial/lab, training vouchers, etc.

For the MSFT partner or service provider, it also means that there’s a reason to talk to the customer on an annual basis, and the customer already has a lot of licensing that can solve problems with some consulting days/hours.

I try to steer clear of the education side of licensing because it is complex.  But there is an OVS in that space which is very cool.  Microsoft licensing in education is already highly discounted.  However, schools under this scheme only have to license full time equivalent employees for the licensing and this covers all the students too.  Imagine a school of 1,000 students with 50 teachers and 20 admin staff (not including cleaners, etc that don’t use PCs).  That school, under this scheme, could license all 1,070 users based on the 70 employees that are full time equivalents and use PCs.  That’s a pretty nice deal! 

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2012
07.25

You’ll find much more detailed posts on the topic of creating a continuously available, scalable, transparent failover application file server cluster by Tamer Sherif Mahmoud and Jose Bareto, both of Microsoft.  But I thought I’d do something rough to give you an oversight of what’s going on.

Networking

First, let’s deal with the host network configuration.  The below has 2 nodes in the SOFS cluster, and this could scale up to 8 nodes (think 8 SAN controllers!).  There are 4 NICs:

  • 2 for the LAN, to allow SMB 3.0 clients (Hyper-V or SQL Server) to access the SOFS shares.  Having 2 NICs enables multichannel over both NICs.  It is best that both NICs are teamed for quicker failover.
  • 2 cluster heartbeat NICs.  Having 2 give fault tolerance, and also enables SMB Multichannel for CSV redirected I/O.

image

Storage

A WS2012 cluster supports the following storage:

  • SAS
  • iSCSI
  • Fibre Channel
  • JBOD with SAS Expander/PCI RAID

If you had SAS, iSCSI or Fibre Channel SANs then I’d ask why you’re bothering to create a SOFS for production; you’d only be adding another layer and more management.  Just connect the Hyper-V hosts or SQL servers directly to the SAN using the appropriate HBAs.

However, you might be like me and want to learn this stuff or demo it, and all you have is iSCSI (either a software iSCSI like the WS2012 iSCSI target or a HP VSA like mine at work).  In that case, I have a pair of NICs in each my file server cluster nodes, connected to the iSCSI network, and using MPIO.

image

If you do deploy SOFS in the future, I’m guessing (because we don’t know yet because SOFS is so new) that’ll you’ll mostly likely do it with a CiB (cluster in a box) solution with everything pre-hard-wired in a chassis, using (probably) a wizard to create mirrored storage spaces from the JBOD and configure the cluster/SOFS role/shares.

Note that in my 2 server example, I create three LUNs in the SAN and zone them for the 2 nodes in the SOFS cluster:

  1. Witness disk for quorum (512 MB)
  2. Disk for CSV1
  3. Disk for CSV2

Some have tried to be clever, creating lots of little LUNs on iSCSI to try simulate JBOD and Storage Spaces.  This is not supported.

Create The Cluster

Prereqs:

  • Windows Server 2012 is installed on both nodes.  Both machines named and joined to the AD domain.
  • In Network Connections, rename the networks according to role (as in the diagrams).  This makes things easier to track and troubleshoot.
  • All IP addresses are assigned.
  • NIC1 and NIC2 are top of the NIC binding order.  Any iSCSI NICs are bottom of the binding order.
  • Format the disks, ensuring that you label them correctly as CSV1, CSV2, and Witness (matching the labels in your SAN if you are using one).

Create the cluster:

  1. Enable Failover Clustering in Server Manager
  2. Also add the File Server role service in Server Manager (under File And Storage Services – File Services)
  3. Validate the configuration using the wizard.  Repeat until you remove all issues that fail the test.  Try to resolve any warnings.
  4. Create the cluster using the wizard – do not add the disks at this stage.  Call the cluster something that refers to the cluster, not the SOFS. The cluster is not the SOFS; the cluster will host the SOFS role.
  5. Rename the cluster networks, using the NIC names (which should have already been renamed according to roles).
  6. Add the disk (in storage in FCM) for the witness disk.  Remember to edit the properties of the disk and rename if from the anonymous default name to Witness in FCM Storage.
  7. Reconfigure the cluster to use the Witness disk for quorum if you have an even number of nodes in the SOFS cluster.
  8. Add CSV1 to the cluster.  In FCM Storage, convert it into a CSV and rename it to CSV1.
  9. Repeat step 7 for CSV2.

Note: Hyper-V does not support SMB 3.0 loopback.  In other words, the Hyper-V hosts cannot be a file server for their own VMs.

Create the SOFS

  1. In FCM, add a new clustered role.  Choose File Server.
  2. Then choose File Server For Scale-Out Application Data; the other option in the traditional active/passive clustered file server.
  3. You will now create a Client Access Point or CAP.  It requires only a name.  This is the name of your “file server”.  Note that the SOFS uses the IPs of the cluster nodes for SMB 3.0 traffic rather than CAP virtual IP addresses.

That’s it.  You now have an SOFS.  A clone of the SOFS is created across all of the nodes in the cluster, mastered by the owner of the SOFS role in the cluster.  You just need some file shares to store VMs or SQL databases.

Create File Shares

Your file shares will be stored on CSVs, making them active/active across all nodes in the SOFS cluster.  We don’t have best practices yet, but I’m leaning towards 1 share per CSV.  But that might change if I have lots of clusters/servers storing VMs/databases on a single SOFS.  Each share will need permissions appropriate for their clients (the servers storing/using data on the SOFS).

Note: place any Hyper-V hosts into security groups.  For example, if I had a Hyper-V cluster storing VMs on the SOFS, I’d place all nodes in a single security group, e.g. HV-ClusterGroup1.  That’ll make share/folder permissions stuff easier/quicker to manage.

  1. Right-click on the SOFS role and click Add Shared Folder
  2. Choose SMB Share – Server Applications as the share profile
  3. Place the first share on CSV1
  4. Name the first share as CSV1
  5. Permit the appropriate servers/administrators to have full control if this share will be used for Hyper-V.  If you’re using it for storing SQL files, then give the SQL service account(s) full control.
  6. Complete the wizard, and repeat for CSV2.

You can view/manage the shares via Server Manager under File Server.  If my SOFS CAP was called Demo-SOFS1 then I could browse to \Demo-SOFSCSV1 and \Demo-SOFSCSV2 in Windows Explorer.  If my permissions are correct, then I can start storing VM files there instead of using a SAN, or I could store SQL database/log files there.

As I said, it’s a rough guide, but it’s enough to give you an oversight.  Have a read of the above linked posts to see much more detail.  Also check out my notes from the Continuously Available File Server – Under The Hood TechEd session to learn how a SOFS works.

2012
07.24

There have been a number of concerns when it comes to virtualising domain controllers.  The biggest of these is KB888794, which is an updated version of an article that I first encountered years previously, maybe in 2004.

USN Rollback

Basically, we had to treat any virtual domain controller like it was a physical installation.  That meant:

  • No snapshots
  • No recovering the DC from VM (host/storage level) backups
  • Don’t do anything to manipulate the virtual DC’s VM storage, such as copy/clone/etc

This was because the VM would “time travel”, effectively screwing up the USNs that are used to track AD object replication and possible cause the reuse of RID pools – in other words, completely frakking your AD and making you wish that you had paid up for that Microsoft Premier support contract.

Physical DC Required

One of the frustrating things, especially for small medium enterprises (SMEs) or smaller branch offices was that they need a local physical domain controller to enable a Hyper-V cluster.  This company might only need to hosts, but had to add another physical machine (small as it was) to enable the cluster to function.

That was the scenario up to now.  Enter Windows Server 2012.

Bootstrapping

Windows Server 2012 Failover Clusters have a new feature called bootstrapping.  It’s been mentioned in public but I’ve not seen any documentation on it yet.  In short, this allows a failover cluster to power up and start working without the presence of a physical domain controller.  The premise is that you instead run virtual domain controllers, hosted on the Hyper-V cluster itself.

That means that you don’t need the physical domain controller.  That’s a major saver for the SME or the branch office.

Virtual DCs are OK

If we’re OK with the idea of virtual domain controllers, then how do we deal with them?  How do we back them up easily?  In a true cloud where there might be a one-size-fits-all backup policy, how do admins (with zero knowledge of VM contents/roles) safely backup virtual domain controllers that might be created legitimate by the cloud’s tenants?

VM-GenerationID and Safe DC Virtualisation

Microsoft has come up with a new mechanism called VM-GenerationID (also seen documented on TechNet and blogged as Generation ID, VM Generation ID, VM-Generation ID and GenID).  It is an attribute called msDS-GenerationID of the DC’s computer object in AD.  This is normally kept in sync with the directory information tree (DIT) if everything is OK with the replication of the DC.

If something happens to the DC VM like a snapshot is applied or a backup of the VM is restored, then the VM effectively travels back in time, potentially causing a USN rollback and enabling RID reuse.  But, the DC compares the VM-GenerationID and the DIT version number.  If they are different then the DC is aware there is a problem.  The RID pool is discarded, a new one created, and a USN rollback is prevented.

Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V is the only hypervisor at this time to support this feature, and the virtual DCs must be running Windows Server 2012.

But There’s More – Rapid Deployment of DCs

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could clone domain controllers?  Normally you cannot.  But this new VM-GenerationID feature, combined with some other work done by Microsoft in WS2012, enabled you to export/import virtual DCs to clone new DCs with very little effort.

The process is simple enough:

  1. Have a PDC Emulator that is running WS2012.  This DC will not be cloned.
  2. Create a new virtual DC running WS2012. 
  3. Add the new template DC to a domain security group called Cloneable Domain Controllers.  This allows domain admins to restrict which (if any) DCs can be cloned.
  4. On the template DC Run Get-ADDCCloningExcludedApplicationList to see if any installed programs/services on the DC can be cloned (check with vendors).  Uninstall any that cannot support cloning.
  5. Run Get-ADDCCloningExcludedApplicationList –GenerateXml on the template DC
  6. Back on the template DC, run New-ADDCCloneConfigFile to create an XML answer file to configure name, IP, etc, for the new DC VM that you are about to create.#
  7. The last step creates a file called DCCloneConfig.xml.  Place this in either the directory where the DIT resides, %windir%NTDS, or the root of a removable media drive (maybe a SCSI attached blank VHD?)
  8. Stop and export the template VM.
  9. Import the VM to crate a new DC VM.
  10. Start the new VM, and you should now have a new DC.

I haven’t had a chance to try this out yet.  I’ll try to update this if I find the MSFT TechNet page is lacking.

Summary

What all this means is that with Windows Server 2012 and a hypervisor that is VM-GenerationID aware (WS2012 Hyper-V) then you can safely virtualise your domain controllers, and treat them just like any other VM, something that is of great importance in a true cloud.

 

2012
07.24

There is an alarming story on TechCentral.ie this morning where that majority of IT managers are admitting that they do not adequately manage the quality of service that their data centres (or clouds) are delivering.

A survey of over 400 European data centre managers found that while 93% of them acknowledged the criticality of optimising application performance across their data centres and networks, the large majority said they were failing to do so

Sounds like they need to start using System Center Operations Manager to monitor network, storage, hardware (servers/blades/chassis/etc), operating systems, applications, code, services, and service level agreement from a component and a service perspective.

Embracing automation (System Center Orchestrator) and self-service (System Center Service Manager and the entire suite) frees up engineer/operator time in the cloud where data centres are filled with centralised, broadly available, and measured/controlled/secured infrastructure and services.  It is the responsibility of the data centre, as the “hosting company” of this cloud, to guarantee SLAs.  SLAs cannot be measured or met without adequate systems management.

So here’s my advice if you are setting company strategy for the cloud:

  • If you’re implementing private cloud then ask your tech staff, IT Manager, CIO (or whatever) what complete and deeply integrated/automated systems management solution they are using.  Nagios is not the correct answer because it meets none of the criteria (complete, deep, integration, automation, etc).  Make sure you’re going to see quarterly/annual reports appearing automatically in your inbox or on a SharePoint site for you to review.
  • If you’re about to place your services in a public cloud, ask the same question.  And make sure you have visibility of the monitoring for yourself.
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2012
07.19

You might have heard that the EU is upset with Microsoft because the Browser Chooser that MSFT agreed would be included in Windows 7 for European Union customers was not active in Windows 7 SP1.  Strangely enough, I (a Chrome browser user) noticed this in my last few builds.

The EU forced Microsoft into introducing the Browser Chooser in Windows 7 for local markets.  This would prevent Microsoft from abusing a then monopoly position and enable other browsers to enter the market.  Fair enough I thought, and it worked well.  When you logged into a new PC, you could pick your default browser.  Some joked that IE was the browser you used to download your preferred browser. 

Then the news broke this week that the EU is investigating an issue where this browser chooser was not working in Windows 7 SP1.  And further, the EU could fine Microsoft up to 10% of their earnings over the 18 or so months period: $7 or $8 billion!

Interesting, because although IE still leads worldwide, I’d been hearing over the months that IE had lost the top position in Europe.  What do the stats say?

According to StatCounter, IE is #3 in Europe:

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According to GetClicky. IE has continued to decline globally, despite the lack of the browser chooser:

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According to W3Counter, IE also continues to decline globally, despite the lack of a browser chooser:

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In other words, with a browser chooser or not, IE continues to lose market share even if Microsoft owns some 95% of the “PC” market.  We could question Microsoft’s monopoly position (IDC reckon they’ll sell 350 million PCs in 2012) too: Apple have 4% or so of the “PC” market, are set to sell 116 million iPhones ad 54 million iPads, almost exclusively using Safari.

Do we really need a Browser Chooser on Windows?  People have figured out what browser they want and IE is sliding.

And where is the EU mandated chooser for IOS devices?

It will be interesting to see what happens with Windows RT where IE and Office run on the desktop and no other programs can be installed there.  I wonder if the decision to include the limited desktop at all in Windows RT will backfire?  But that’s a whole other story and the lawyers/Eurocrats will decide that one (I’m not saying that this is good at all).

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2012
07.19

A lot of organisations are interested in introducing tablets as information consuming devices or as laptop alternatives.  That’s understandable.  But if you know that Windows 8, an application platform that spans PC, tablet (pro and consumer), and phone, is on the way, why would you rush through an introduction now?

19/4/2012 Fiscal Stability Treatys Campaigns

Maybe we should ask the gombeen on the left (above) that question.  He’s Enda Kenny, Taoiseach (prime minister) of Ireland.  The Oireachtas (Irish parliament) has reportedly launched a tender to acquire tablets for every TD (member of parliament) to play work with.

Huh!  OK, I understand using tablets.  But why now.  Why not wait until September when the options will double with new Windows 8 devices.  Application development costs would be reduced with only 1 platform needing to be supported.  But that’s not how Irish politicians and civil service decision makers think.  No wonder Irish tax payers are being screwed over by the political and banking classes.

2012
07.19

Steven Sinofsky announced yesterday at the MSFT MGX conference (for MSFT employees who are sales people) that Windows 8 will be available via retail channels and generally available on October 26th. 

That means you’ll be able to walk into Harvey Normans, PC World, Best Buy and so on, to buy a new Windows 8 PC, laptop, or ARM tablet (if the manufacturers do their part), or get Windows 8 upgrades (going for $14 or $40 depending on when you last bought Windows).

And remember that volume license customers will get their hands on the ISOs sometime soon after the RTM which was previously announced as being in the first week of August, just 2 weeks away.

Watch out for news of local launch events in a few months time.

Meanwhile, the Microsoft Store where you can download and buy Metro apps for Windows 8 will “go live” when RTM rolls around.  There’s some interesting stuff (free and limited trial) on there already and it appears that there is more that will be available at RTM time.

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2012
07.18

I installed Office 2013 on my Windows 8 Build slate PC on Monday night.  Here are some early impressions:

  • It’s very different looking.  The layout has been optimized to make it touch friendly, but still appears to be mouse friendly.
  • The new control that everyone is talking about reminds me of something in the Star Trek’s of the last 20 years.
  • I really like where Word has gone.  Becoming a consumer of information is a great idea.  It is now also a reader, can scale the doc to your tastes, and can remember where you left off.  That makes it very Kindle-like.  It can also open and edit PDF.  Bye-bye Adobe Reader; you and your constant patching requirements (that are usually not done) won’t be missed.
  • As a person who writes the occasional white paper, I like how Word now allows flexible placement of images.  Note that we never embed images when writing books; the editors do that in the later PDF stages.
  • I love the new presenter view in PowerPoint.  I’ve been dreaming of presenting from my slate PC in the past.  I hate being tied to behind a podium when presenting and I don’t like looking back to the screen to remind me of what I’m talking about on this slide.  Plus being able to use “ink” to highlight things will be useful.
  • I haven’t looked into Lync or Outlook too much yet.  I have them working with Office365 with no extra work other than signing in (as usual).

Don’t ask me about Lync, SharePoint, and Exchange servers.  I haven’t a clue what’s new yet.  To be honest, they are usually outside of my scope of work.  There is a boat load of new documentation on download.microsoft.com for the “wave 15” betas of Office.

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2012
07.18

I think I’ve talked about how VDI makes no financial sense once or twice before.  The Register has a story on how Gartner has analysed the costs of implementing and owning VDI.  Long story short: it costs as much if not more (I say much more) than buying and owning PCs.  The reason to implement VDI isn’t simplified management, it isn’t reduced costs.  It is the side effects of centralisation such as easier data access and stricter security. 

Personally I think RDS Session Hosts (Terminal Servers) are a much more cost effective way of getting these same results, possibly with App-V to prevent application silos.

2012
07.18

After a 2 week snafu by the local An Post office in my town and me being abroad, I finally gotten my copies of Microsoft Private Cloud Computing this morning.

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This is the point when you can finally say “it’s finished”.  Now on to other things …

2012
07.17

I was off in Norway for several days taking a few pictures of White-Tailed Sea Eagles catching fish in the fjords of Norway.  I was in Flatanger, about half way up the coast, about 120 KM from the Artic circle.

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This beauty (one of my photos from the trip) is like a North American Bald Eagle, but bigger.

I’m back in the office today playing catch-up.  I guess nothing happened over the last week while I was gone?

Oh … wait …

2012
07.17

A few of us proclaimed it last September: Windows Server 2012 is to VMware as Windows 2000 was to Novell.  Evidence that others agree?

Gigaom reports that:

VMware left its core business exposed, they say, first by announcing heavy-handed vSphere price hikes last year that, in the words of one VMware watcher, “kicked the door open for Microsoft Hyper-V.” VMware has yet to recover from that, in his view.  Silicon Valley is baffled at how easy VMware has made it for Microsoft to come in and take all the easy stuff.

TechCrunch reports that:

Paul Maritz is out as the CEO of VMware and will be replaced by EMC COO Pat Gelsinger.

In my opinion, investing in a VMware solution right now would be like investing in IntraNetware in 2000.  You’ll have buyers remorse come September when Windows Server 2012 goes GA.

According to Google, the VMW stock on the New York Stock Exchange is also trending downwards over the past 3 months.  Meanwhile MSFT is running it’s usual unexciting steady.

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I guess the people have figured out what the Emperor has been wearing for a while.

Meanwhile, the VMware marketing engine is doing their best to tell us how well they did in the past.  Yes, Novell was a market leader once.  So was Netscape.  So was Lotus Notes.  Spotting the trend here?

I’m happily waiting to moderate (aka delete) the VMware marketing/fanboy comments on this one unless they’re so badly informed that I’ll gladly approve to shoot them down with cold hard correct facts Smile

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