Not much news floating about. But the first two items in my summary makes me worry about Microsoft. V- staff (contractors) are going to be blocked from network access intermittently, making them redundant, and baldy needed human testers are being made redundant.


Microsoft recently clarified their documentation by releasing a specific page to list the supported guest or virtual machine operating systems on Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V (including Hyper-V Server 2012 R2) and Windows 8.1. This page lists the supported Windows client and servers OSs. On the list you will curently (21 July 2014) find:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Window Server 2008 R2 with SP1
  • Windows Server 2008 with SP2
  • Windows Home Server 2011
  • Windows Small Business Server 2011
  • Windows Server 2003 with SP1
  • Windows Server 2003 with SP2
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 7 with SP1
  • Windows 7
  • Windows Vista with SP2
  • Windows XP with SP3
  • Windows XP x64 with SP2

Remember: “supported” and “it works” are two very different things in the Microsoft world:

  • Supported: You call Microsoft, and they will assist, including engineering if there is a bug (subject to time/effort vs priority).
  • It works: Lots of operating systems can install and run in Hyper-V VMs, but they fall outside of the support statements. In other words, they might work fine, but Microsoft won’t support them.

Microsoft DOES support a wide array of Linux distributions/editions/architectures. There is a specific support page for Linux because of the complexity that the variety of distributions introduce. Newer releases come with the Hyper-V Linux Integration Services (LIS) as a part of the install. Older ones require you to download the LIS and install them into the guest OS. On the list you will curently (21 July 2014) find:

  • CentOS 5.5-5.6, 5.7-5.8, 5.9-5.10, 6.0-6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 7.0
  • RedHat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.5-5.6, 5.7-5.8, 5.9-5.10, 6.0-6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 7.0
  • Debian 7.0-7.4
  • Oracle Linux UEK R3 QU1, UEK R3 QU2, 6.4, 6.5
  • Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 11 SP2, 11 SP3
  • Open SUSE 12.3
  • Ubuntu 12.04, 12.10, 13.04, 13.10, 14.04

The support pages (particularly the Linux ones) are subject to frequent change so I suggest that you use the links in this post as a jumping point to get to the newest release by Microsoft. I will not be updating this post to reflect the latest changes – this is a blog, not a documentation site.


Other than the fact that this might be the venue of the most important product announcements in Microsoft’s recent history … hmm … let me think …

Hear what community members say about TechEd at the TechEd Roundtable

I have also recorded a video (on Instagram) that discusess how to convince your boss that you need to go to TechEd Europe.

But honestly, traditional learning mechanisms can no longer keep up with sprint development, new features out every few weeks, and RTMs every 12-18 months. TechEd is like a triple espresso shot of learning … you take 4-5 days, depending on travel, out of your regular work schedule and get immersed in new tech, from keynote, to foundation, to deep dive … and maybe throw in some hands on labs and certification while you’re at it. I learn at TechEd (as an MVP I also am lucky to have MVP sources); a lot of what I write about is sourced from TechEd sessions or materials. TechEd sessions give me access to wide amounts of information … and I can chat with the Microsoft experts in the expo hall afterwards.

There is nothing else like this learning experience in the Microsoft world for the general public. And I’m pretty sure that TechEd Europe 2014 will be a very special education opportunity. We’re on the threshold of a very interesting time.

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I work for a Toshiba distributor so every now and then they let me put my hands on something new … or sometimes something that isn’t coming out for quite a while. A few months ago I got to hold and play with the new Toshiba 8” and 10” Encore 2 tablets. Both were pre-production models. I just got my hands on a production version of the 8” Toshiba Encore 2 (WT8-B-102), running Windows 8.1 with April 2014 Update.

To be precise, this is running Windows With Bing, the free (to OEMs) edition of Windows that is hard coded with Bing as the search engine. The idea is that instead of OEMs paying for Windows and then taking money from another search engine to set them up as the default, the OEM gets a free copy of Windows, and this brings down the cost of the h/w for the consumer.


This is a consumer tablet. It has an Atom processor so it does not run the doomed Windows RT. It’s running a 32-bit copy of Windows 8.1. There is 1GB RAM and 32 GB of storage … don’t fret! This is the April 2014 version of Windows so it features the new magic installation that consumes a lot less space. This tablet has just over 20 GB free out of the box. That’s a big improvement over the original 32 GB Encore which I own. And 1 GB is enough for the light weight consumer stuff that you’ll do with this tablet: apps.

The tablet is slimmer than the Encore 1 and has a smooth back. It is grey instead of “gold”. Also, the Windows button has moved to the top edge, instead of a capacitive button on the front-bottom; I guess that reduces costs.


The Micro-HDMI port of the Encore 1 is gone – cost savings for the masses, I guess. It’s not a big deal; Windows 8.1 defaults to portrait mode on 8” devices and that’s incompatible with a TV. There is an audio jack on the top and an open Micro-SD port on the side for easy access. On the base there is actually a place to tie a wrist cord if you should want one.

There is a normal micro-USB 2.0 port, unlike the dodgy one you get in a Dell Venue 8, which breaks if you do plug in a normal USB cable “upside down” – which the Dell unfortunately allows you to do. One teeny design thing I don’t like: the included power chord is angled and obstructs easy access to the Windows button. You can use any old (Windows or Android) phone charger cable and that solves the issue. The box also includes a USB dongle; with this you can plug in your USB stick/drive into the tablet and it also has an additional micro-USB port so you can continue to power the tablet while using a USB device.

The cameras are 1.2 MP on the front and 5 MP on the back. There is no 3G/LTE option – the thinking here is that people already have mobile phone plans and can enable a hotspot. There is no stylus (above you see a normal pen for a sense of scale) – this is a consumer machine.

I am told that the retail price in Ireland will be around €220 – I only see our buy price as distributors. I have seen this tablet for sale for under €250 on Irish online stores. Amazon.com has it on sale for under $240. Amazon UK has it for under £180. It’s not on Amazon.de yet.

It’s a nice tablet at an affordable price, and has made form factor improvements over the first version. The biggest improvement, though, is the additional free storage capacity in the 32 GB model, thanks to Windows 8.1 April 2014 Update. The only real concern is apps – which is outside of Toshiba’s (Lenovo, Dell, Asus, etc) control, and it’s something that Microsoft must do a better job at sorting out. Either the apps suck (Kindle reader for Windows) or don’t exist, and there are still too many cra-apps in the hard-to-navigate Windows Store.

I hopefully will get to play with the new 10” Encore 2 (under $270 on Amazon.com) in the near future.

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As expected, Satya Nadella announced the redundancy of 18,000 employees from Microsoft. 13,000 of those will go in the next 6 months. 12,500 will go from the Nokia businesses. And after that, it appears that Redmond (MSFT HQ) will be hit heavily. It appears that non-core businesses will be targeted, such as Xbox Entertainment Studios.

Nadella has talked about making Microsoft more agile by removing layers of decision making, i.e. management. That’s important to be able to operate at the speeds that cloud sprint development requires. It also sounds like another reorganisation is taking place; Nadella doesn’t appear to like what Ballmer did before he left. Much of this is to undo the silos between teams in the same groups that should be working closer together.

I have also read that a lot of v- contractors will be let go. This is unfortunate – these are people on very short contracts who are often filling in very important positions that a manager has not had budget for hiring a full time employee.

Hopefully, Microsoft will not be letting go the necessary people that keep the core businesses going. I know how shitty it is to be made redundant, even from a very profitable company. Best of luck to all involved.

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Microsoft announced last week that they had acquired InMage, a company that specialises in replication to the cloud. Microsoft is adding InMage to Azure Site Recovery (ASR) to enable replication to Azure. ASR enables you to use Hyper-V Replica (HVR) to replicate VMs to Azure IaaS. So what does InMage Scout (the product) add?

The key piece of the list of features is:

Support for major enterprise platforms, including Windows, AIX, Linux, VMware, Solaris, XenServer and Hyper-V

Imagine being able to replicate not just Hyper-V, but also vSphere and physical (Windows and Linux) workloads to Azure. Potentially, this is a much bigger solution. Potentially.

And potential is … lost opportunity.

That’s because the decision makers in ASR are, in my opinion, disconnected from reality living way too nicely in the Microsoft ivory tower. Why?

  • ASR can only be used by customers that manage Hyper-V using SCVMM. SCVMM can only be bought as a part of the System Center SML. The SML is cheap for larger businesses, but it’s way too expensive for most SMEs.
  • Only EA customers (large businesses) can get access to InMage:

The Azure Site Recovery subscription license will be available through the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement beginning August 1, 2014 and is the only offer through which InMage Scout usage may currently be purchased.

So, SME’s cannot use ASR or the cool new features that are coming. Large enterprises typically already own or want to own their own DR. And the sweet spot market for a hosted virtual DR (DRaaS) is the SME … the market that cannot afford or get access to ASR.

Oh, the madness continues.


We wondered what Microsoft would do with Lync and Skype back in 2011 when Microsoft made the surprise acquisition of the Luxembourg company. There was a clear divide. Lync was a bulky on-premises corporate tool with phone system aspirations. Skype was a cloud-based consumer product that offered phone services in addition to voice, video and IM.

Skype went on to kill of Live (MSN) Messenger for IM – and unfortunately Skype’s chat has since not improved itself to keep up with what Messenger was as an IM tool. And Skype has other awful behaviours, particularly if you own multiple devices – such as showing you online when you are not, ringing on one device even though you have answered on another, and so on.

Lync went online (phone system availability is limited by country/partner) as a part of Office 365. And other than that, it’s not really improved much.

We did get an integration, somewhat between the 2 disparate MSFT communications tools; a Skype user can chat with a Lync user.

But in this era when Microsoft says that we are using 1 account and 1 (or many) device to span both work and play, do we really want two chat tools with two very different experiences?

In my opinion, Skype offers a superior experience to Lync. I’ve always found the Lync client and experience to be a bit ropey. How many of us have been in Lync events and spent an age waiting for PowerPoint decks to appear, demos to load, or been asked by moderators to flash status if we can/cannot hear. How many of us have had to restart because Lync audio isn’t working? I never get that with Skype.

And look at where the development investment is going. Skype Translate is a genuinely valuable business feature, enabling people who speak different languages to communicate, albeit with some minor hiccups in the sneak previews.

image Skype Translate in action at WPC 2014

I would be fine with the Lync client going away in favour of Skype. I would do the following:

  • Enable Skype clients to be joined (via policy or sign-up) to a Lync service for control – business still needs control
  • Fix the ringing/status issues of Skype
  • Drop the Lync client as it exists
  • Enable 2 profiles in Skype – work and personal, so a user can opt out of work communications outside of hours
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This week’s Microsoft news has been dominated by the cryptic letter by Satya Nadella and the pending (and obviously required) layoffs after the completion Nokia acquisition. Let’s stick to the techie stuff:


The end of support for Windows Server 2003 (W2003) and Windows Server 2003 R2 (W2003 R2) is July 14, 2015. This includes Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 R2. That gives you one year to get off of these server operating systems before all security updates stop. This date will NOT be extended.


Why won’t it be extended? Microsoft wants you to do one of three things:

  • Upgrade to Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Upgrade via deploying Hyper-V
  • Upgrade/migrate to Microsoft Azure

And to be honest, you’re using a server operating system that is currently 11 years old. The features you’ve been asking for are probably in newer versions of Windows Server.

Upgrading will not be easy. You have AD’s to upgrade, LOB applications that are dependent on server resources. And most W2003 installs were 32-bit, there are no more 32-bit server operating systems, and you cannot upgrade x86 to x64. You will have to perform migrations.

So NOW is the time to start planning.

For Microsoft partners that are service providers:

  • We estimate that over 50% of servers in Ireland are of the W2003/R2 generation
  • 92% of Irish business are SME’s and a large percentage of those were SBS customers. Consider deploying Office 365 to replace SBS, and maybe put in Server Essentials if they still require a local server for bulk data/printer sharing.
  • Microsoft (WPC 2014) said that there are 22,000,000 W2003/R2 servers worldwide. That equates to an estimated $6,000,000,000 of business.

Start having the conversations now. Start planning now. Waiting until 2015 will be a fools errand. BTW, there are no stupid questions, only stupid people.


I am live blogged this from the video stream.

No – I am not at the event. And yes, my coverage will be sarcastic as usual. It would be boring otherwise :) This is an event for social networking with partner head honchos who are there for a big party. That’s not my scene apparently. So I am here at the office, watching the keynote live and live blogging. I expect lots of “cloud and devices and experiences and all that jazz”. Expect Nadella to use lots of big words and images.

We open with a pointless video of people climbing hills and herding sheep. Now there’s a story of immigrant buskers who block the way on Grafton Street in Dublin. Feckers! They play the opening song. The sound mixer should be shot – no bass. This performance goes on for quite a while. After 16 minutes, they wrap up.

Phil Sorgen (‎Corporate Vice President – Worldwide Partner Group, Microsoft) comes out. Live. Wow, he’s usually recorded – see the awful Azure on Open videos.

image Microsoft corporate VP, Phil Sorgen

He talks about the partner awards. Boring. No blogging here. There’s a sparkler in the ceiling. Not quite fireworks.

Partners came in from over 130 countries. He is giving us a sense of where Microsoft is headed. The goal of the conference is to show partners how Microsoft will grow their business and why they should invest in more Microsoft solutions.

Office 365 is their fastest growing business ever. We’ve seen that here, with Ireland being a leader in market penetration for Microsoft, with a lot of credit going to my colleagues in MicroWarehouse.


We now get the people, devices, application, data push. Expect him to talk about the new cloud license bundles including Intune, Azure RMS, and Azure AD Premium.

Oooh they are pushing a cult of personality thing with Nadella – quiet but confident. Oh my, Nadella is not talking today. He’s not on stage until Wednesday. That’s a bad move. Good sales: sell your story at the start because that’s the part of the conversation that people remember most.

Long gap – boring video and quotes. My life is not changed.

Now comes out Scott Guthrie – the man that runs the server business (including Azure), taking over from the recently promoted Nadella. Will this be a flood of Azure announcements like at Build?


Yes, new features will be announced and demo’d this week.


A large amount of big and small partners offering services on Azure, including legacy competitors.


The Microsoft cloud is the only one that delivers on each of the three circles:


Hyper-Scale or cloud-scale is not just the size of the data centre, but the local regions. Two new regions in the USA. Now there are 17 regions around the world. 2 times more than AWS, and 5 times more than Google offers. No one else comes close. You can run your apps closer to your customers than ever before.

A region contains up to 16 data centres clustered together. Each is the size of an American football pitch (52 yards by 120 yards – 2 passenger airplanes). Up to 600,000 servers can run in a region. This gives Microsoft a huge scale of economics, and allows customers to scale up/down with confidence based on need. Microsoft plans to differentiate based on enterprise support and hybrid cloud functionality, versus the only 2 competitors: AWS and Google.


Azure government cloud for the USA: a dedicated instance run by US citizens with clearance. Means nothing to non-USA governments.

Hybrid cloud is unique to Microsoft:


ExpressRoute ensures SLA and privacy over a private network

InMage was bought by Microsoft for providing DR replication from Hyper-V and vSphere to Azure. Huh!?!?!? News to me!!!! Will this solve the problems of Azure Site Recovery? From Mary Jo Foley http://www.zdnet.com/microsoft-acquires-disaster-recovery-solutions-firm-inmage-to-strengthen-azure-7000031490/ and from Peter Egerton http://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2014/07/11/microsoft-acquires-inmage-better-business-continuity-with-azure/?wc.mt_id=Social_MSC_Announcement_DI. Looks like the product will be merged into ASR. Not a fix then.

Just tweeted by Mary Jo Foley: Microsoft Azure Continues to Deliver Rapid Innovation in the Cloud


Now on to a demo by Scott Gu. He deploys a SharePoint farm of multiple machines from the gallery using a template in the new portal. This includes domain controllers. This is cool – kind of like a VMM service template. Checking the HA box makes each tier highly available.



Deploy a server farm in minutes. You can do this sort of thing with VMs of your own. We see SAP, Oracle, Riverbed, and Barracuda in the gallery – Azure Certified Program where ISV partners can upload a VM to be in the gallery. Riverbed offers some nice optimization for latent network connections!


Azure is on Open as of August 1st. Distributors have pricing since July 1st. The customer can use their Azure credit on any Azure service. There automated alerts to the customer and the partner of record (must be recorded) if credit is running low.

Now on to Power BI. *yawn for me* James Philips comes out to demo. Not the first time that I’ve seen this exact demo. Time out for me. Bob Duffy (Irish MVP) and Carmel Gunn are the only people on this planet who can do an interesting demo of this stuff.

Back to Scott Guthrie. Azure Machine Learning Service is launching today. This is a future prediction service based on data. And that’s that from Scott. Now for more “life changing” videos. Some fashion dude – yawn.

Brad Anderson, Corporate VP for Enterprise Client & Mobility (moved from the server group) enters the stage. No tight t-shirt to flash his “guns” today.


Expect lots of enterprise mobility suite. How we work has changed. New graduates are always on and expect personalized surfacing of data. Today’s employees waste 1 in 5 days searching for information. They are bringing in personal devices (even if BYOD is banned). They want to use apps of their choice. They want to have mobile working in a workspace that suits them.

Freedom increases risk. 3.1 million smartphones were stolen in the USA last year. Lots of corporate data there. I think he said 1.4 million were lost. That’s more data.


Microsoft is focusing on the end user experience. MSFT wants to give users the apps and devices that they love, but to keep the business secure.

Champion speed talker, Julia White is out on stage. I make fun – I hear she’s a great 1-1 interview. She normally talks Office. Now she’s starting with CRM Online, using a Windows touch app. There is some data browsing via Delve (uses Azure Machine Learning to show you information that you might be interested in, instead of you searching for it). Now some OneDrive for Business in O365. Note the 1 TB of data. Then some collaboration in Word Online. Some “Tell Me” to show the user how to do something in Word Online. Some security is need for the doc: so Azure Recovery Services will protect the doc wherever it goes. The destined customer will be restricted with what they can do with the doc.

Maybe a partner allows a specific customer to read the doc … but they cannot print, copy, or forward the doc to another partner. No more price lists or quotes shared with competitors!

In Ourlook Online, there are groups of people to enable discussion. I think these are Yammer groups – yup they are. Now PowerPoint app on an iPad.

Now a new feature: integration between EMS and Office 365 – MDM of the Office apps on a mobile device. The demo is a restriction of app usage and where data can reside. Only IT approved apps are offered when she tries to open a file. She tries to send an Office file using the native iOS app – the paste/attach option is blocked. The Outlook app allows a paste/attachment. Julia finishes up and back to Brad.

Julia showed the user experience. Brad wants to talk about the IT perspective. Start with the device itself. Put in policies, e.g. password policies, jailbreak restrictions. Enable users to bring devices in, but automate deployment like Wi-Fi configuration. Deploy apps in wrappers/containers to isolate corporate apps/data from personal apps/data. Microsoft goes beyond devices, and protects the file itself (RMS) wherever it goes. Embedding access rights into the file restricts who can access the file and how they can use it. Now on to a demo of EMS.

Intune is first. We can see the policies for things like Samsung KNOX or WiFi and VPN, app retrictions, and encryption policies. App restrictions include things like copy, paste, save as, and so on. He demos an email policy. Require encryption, prevent jail breaking, and require an unlock pin/password.

He talks about Azure RemoteApp now. It’s an easier way to deploy traditional apps to Windows, Android, MacOS and iOS than standing up RDS by yourself. Demo gods strike this down :)

Identity is provided by Windows Azure AD Premium. This powers SaaS apps. Cloud App Discovery allows you to ID SaaS apps being used by users without IT involvement. Discovered apps can be brought under management of IT – synchronize identity and control access to services, e.g. block access when the user leaves the company. Another usage: track user logins based on time and geography – you can force a user password reset or enable 2-factor authentication if a password has been phished.

And that’s Brad done. More quotes and videos to make you cry. I’m crying, alright. Is this Sesame Street?!?!?

Corporate VP of Office Division, Jone Case comes out to talk about the end-end commercial cloud.


The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This is a big thing that most of MSFT field and partners fail to see. This isn’t about point solutions; it’s about the entire integrated solution that gives users a joined up experience, and IT an easier deployment and management experience.



27 million downloads of Office for iPad apps so far. CRM Online will come into Open licensing in this fiscal year (before July 2015).


Product is just half of the story. Successful cloud partners engage on every part of the customer’s journey. There was an IDC study of successful of O365 partners. One UK partner makes £6 of services for every £4 of “software” sold in an O365 deal.


A new program, Cloud Solution Provider, for partners to own the tech and SaaS invoicing via a single monthly invoice to customers. Rolling out through select partners in 48 countries over the next 12 months.


The faster that customers get to usage of the product, the more likely that they are to renew and develop new services leads for the partner. O365 will be improved to allow automated provisioning. MSFT to do a partner attach for every new deal they sell directly – competencies are CRITICAL for this.

Signature Cloud Support is announced for partners. This is a unique tier of support for gold partners for Azure, Intune, Office 356, and Dynamics/CRM. Sounds like there’s unlimited break/fix support in this program.


Partners need to stay engaged with the customer to get the annuity kickback from the customer. IMO, this is also a chance to get additional services. Wow – half are opening the renewal information emails, and only 15% are clicking the link to see the information. PARTNERS – this is easy money and you are losing it!!!

So called “door swinger” easy opportunities:


22 million W2003 installations out there need to be upgraded before July 2015. There is a $6 billion business there.

Gavriella Schuster, GM Worldwide Partner Marketing and Programs (MPN). She’s in charge of that God-awful site.

Training is a blocker for partners to embrace the cloud. In September there will be 3 new partner cloud competencies. Partner success with customers will be a key piece of the entrance. MSFT are investing in 4 areas to enable investment:

  1. The first year of silver fee is being waived.
  2. Those who use the product internally, have 3 times the sales volume. Internal usage rights for O365 and Azure are increasing between 25% and 200% depending on your cloud competency levels.
  3. Unlimited cloud support for O365 and Azure through the Signature Cloud Support program
  4. 10% reduction in all on-premises competency fees.

COO Kevin Turner, one of the most divisive people in MSFT takes the stage. Didn’t he used to have a moustache?


600,000 partners in 190 countries. Microsoft are making progress on transforming and are proud of what they have done so far.


Everything is on the table. For example: partnering with old competitors such as Oracle, releasing apps on Android and iOS before Windows.



More personal devices and services across all platforms. Ugh, they had to drag up Cortana (The Curse Of Zune).

To succeed we have to continually change and evolve. The old world of license-attach is not enough. The world has moved on, and we have to go with it. MSFT has 90% of PC market share, but the opportunity for total device share is HUGE (positive spin):


When you only have 14% of the total device market share (the 90% of PCs included) you have to have a challenger mindset. We have to think like a market disruptor. We have to differentiate from the competition, with clear delivery of the message. We have to know ours and the competitor solutions. We have to have speed: deploy fast, succeed fast and fail fast (and learn from the mistakes fast).

Great tweet I just saw:



The 5 key trends for mega-growth are:


$191 billion market opportunity by 2020 in the cloud. MSFT is at the front of this charge. Get in on Azure now. O365 is running over the objectors. “This is the year of Azure and CRM Online acceleration”. I believe the Azure line. I’ve heard the CRM online line before, so I am sceptical of the latter.

A customer can go to the cloud on their terms (hybrid) if they have AD and System Center completely deployed.


There’s a big push on Office 365 Pro Plus.  “This is the year of Azure”.


Over the last 2 years, MSFT has ate VMware’s lunch, with Hyper-V continuing to grow and VMware losing share. Hyper-V is 4x cheaper with better technology. He calls out VMware partners to come on stage to be baptised :) LMAO.

Here are the current and planned regions, data centers and nodes in the MSFT cloud in the next few months:


Mobility is a force behind the Internet of Things (IoT). Windows Phone has 91% growth YoY. The other metrics are not impressive.

Now they play some video that we cannot see.  Mary Jo Foly tells me that it’s a third party Surface Pro 3 review video. Sigh! Partners do not have a distribution channel for this device and it has no place on stage at a partner conference.

At this point I am getting sleepy and I am losing interest in this overlong keynote. I’m going to stop typing until something new is said. Where’s the Oscars orchestra when you need them?

Good bit: Microsoft will not provide encryption keys to government (US or any). They will not disclose data to the US government that is stored in another place. They will not engineer backdoors. They will (and have) gone to court to fight the government.

53,000 partners transacted in the Microsoft cloud, up over 100% year on year. IDC says that cloud partners make MORE MONEY.


Selling it is only the start – deploying and using it is the key piece. For example, Most System Center customers only using OpsMgr and ConfigMgr.

Microsoft will compete at the low end. For example, there will be $99 Windows tablets and $199 Windows laptops in the market in the USA for this Christmas.


This Toshiba looks like a machine with the new install type. There was over 20GB free on the 32 GB Toshiba Windows 8.1 tablet that I handled recently.


Microsoft will compete with partner/competitors in a competitive and respectful way, not the old way of Ballmer.

“Apple – great company” – Kevin Turner. Windows is too … cos Apple use it to make Macs.


And that’s the end of 3.25 brutally long hours. I am glad I am not there because I would have to have a butt-ectomy from sitting on awful conference seats.


Mary Jo Foley has the scoop on this story on ZDNet, about how Microsoft will sell packaged on-premises Azure (Hyper-V, System Center, and Windows Azure Pack) private or hosted (private or public) clouds through hardware partners. She asks a question: which vendors can offer this solution, which uses Storage Spaces for the Hyper-V VM storage. That is easy enough to answer, as of right now, thanks to the limited number of traditional server PLUS storage vendors in the Storage Spaces HCL category. This includes:

  • Fujitsu: who are not exactly a big player outside of government (at least here in Ireland)
  • Super Micro: A company that builds specifically to order, and doesn’t seem to understand channel sales like a HP, Dell, Fujitsu, etc – mainly a data center player and not a packaged solution vendor.
  • Dell

And that’s where I think we’ll see Microsoft make a play. Microsoft invested billions into Dell. Dell has 2 JBOD models for Storage Spaces. They sell the types of servers that Microsoft envisions for use in a cloud (half U servers). And Dell is the sort of company that sells packaged solutions.

And before you comment: No; I have not mentioned HP. HP has no certified Storage Spaces JBODs, as you can clearly see in the Storage Spaces HCL category. And anyway, HP want to push other things that are not in the Cloud OS vision and compete with Windows Server, System Center, and Azure.

But who knows – it’s just bang on 4 years since Microsoft announced that there would be third-party Azure appliances and they never appeared. Maybe nothing will happen of this – it’s hard to package up a Microsoft solution now because their Cloud OS products are upgrading way too quickly for a big company like Dell to keep up with.


Ed Bott of ZDNet recently posted an analysis of a staff letter that was publicly posted by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. I recommend that you read this article because it is quite revealing. There are two pieces that caught my attention: the use of the words “experience” and “world”.

Microsoft’s biggest failing is in user experience. It always has been. Take an Apple iPad and an Apple TV. I bet you can stream media easily enough. Now take a Microsoft Home Server and an Xbox, or a Windows 8.1 tablet and an XBox and try the same thing. I bet you have to go googling, and even then, it works once and never again. And it’s no surprise that my article on Windows 8.x tablets auto-dimming is a big hitter for me! It’s the little things, the lack of continuity in solutions that is lacking.

Microsoft, from Redmond through to subsidiaries, has a problem: they focus on products (engineering or sales scorecards) instead of solutions. That needs to change for enterprise and consumer products.

I have been sick and tired of Microsoft releasing products/services/features for the USA or “big 7” countries only. Whether it was mobile apps, products, features … they get marketed and shoved down our throats as must haves, including by uneducated employees in non-included countries, and the damned thing might only be available in the USA, e.g. Zune. And that’s why I coined the term “The Curse of Zune” #TheCurseOfZune. The latest one to piss me off is Kinect voice control in Xbox One; the product is sold my Microsoft in Ireland, but if I follow the EULA, I cannot use voice control. I had voice control on my Xbox 360, but I can only have it on the One by violating the EULA and setting my regional settings to UK or USA. Why Microsoft voluntarily shrinks their market is beyond silliness. Apple is a smaller company will a smaller distribution channel, and they have a bigger reach than Microsoft for all their products. Stupid is as stupid does.

Hopefully Nadella will change these things.

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After a week’s break in Finland, I am back with news from the last 10 or so days. It was a busy period!


I am back in action as of today after a week in Finland, where I was photographing bears and wolves along the Russian border.


I am sore and mosquito bitten after 5 x 15 hour overnight shifts sitting in hides deep in the Taiga forests and bogs of Finland. But it was worth it.


Alpha female wolf from the local pack 


Brown bear passing through the forest

image A brown bear reflecting on his options

These are just the rough edits done on my un-calibrated laptop. I’ll be doing real edits on my PC and posting to my photography blog and to my Flickr stream in the coming days.


A while ago I read about how to connect VMs between two VNets and it was nasty: before we could create a VPN tunnel we had to open Endpoints (punch holes through firewalls) and hope for the best!

Since TechEd NA 2014, we have had new functionality where we can connect two VNets, in the same or different data centers, in the same or different regions, or in the same or different subscriptions, via an encrypted & secure VPN tunnel.

As usual, this stuff is announced normally via blogs (it was mentioned in the TechEd keynote I think) and finding instructions can be fun. The first few guides I found were messy, involving exporting VNet configs, editing XML files, and importing configs.

You do not need to do this to set up a simple configuration to connect two VNets. I looked at the instructions, used by experience from site-to-site VPNs with Azure, and tried out a method that uses a temporary local network to enable you to create the VPN gateway and gateway VIPs for each vNet – these are required to create a local network for each VNet. We use local networks to define the details (public VPN IP address and routable private network IP address) of the network that will connect to a VNet.

I tried my method and it worked. And then I found instructions on MSDN that are similar to the method that I used. My method:

  1. Create the two VNets
  2. Create a temporary local network with made up gateway IP address (public VPN IP) and address space (private network address that will route to the VNet subnets)
  3. Configure each VNet to allow site-to-site VPN connections from the temporary local network
  4. Enable the gateway with dynamic routing on each VNet. This can take 15-20+ minutes for Azure to do for you. Plan other work or a break for this step.
  5. Record the address space and gateway IP address of both VNets
  6. Create a local network for each VNet – use the Gateway IP Address and Address Space of the VNet for the details of its local network
  7. Modify the site-to-site VPN configuration of each VNet to dump the temporary local network and use the local network of the other VNet – you’re telling the VNet the details of the other VNet for connection and routing
  8. Use Azure PowerShell cmdlets to run Set-AzureVNetGatewayKey. This will be used to configure a common VPN shared key for both VNets.
  9. Wait … the VPN connection will start automatically … there might be a failure before or just after you st the shared key. Be patient, and one VNet might show a connected status before the other. Be patient!

And that’s it. There is a FAQ on this topic. I’ll be publishing some deeper articles on the subject on Petri.com in the next few weeks.


Not much news for you to read today:


When you replicate a virtual machine from site A to site B then typically the replica VM in site B is powered down. Note that I haven’t specified a hypervisor or replication method, so this article applies to Hyper-V and vSphere, and not just to Hyper-V Replica.

In the past, if you ran SQL Server in a VM in a production site, you could replicate that VM to a secondary site. If the replica VM was powered down, i.e. cold, then you were granted a free license for that cold VM. This has changed with the release of SQL Server 2014, as covered by this post. Now you must have Software Assurance (SA) to cover the cold VM’s license for SQL Server.

This brings SQL Server in line with Windows Server’s SA offsite cold replica benefit.

There are restrictions on failover in the secondary site:

  • You can perform a brief test failover (lasting 1 week) once every 90 days.
  • The production system in the primary site must be powered off to legally perform a failover.
  • You can power up the secondary site VM for a “brief time” during the disaster while the production system is running in the primary site.

After a month of neglect, I have finally caught up with all of my feeds via various sources. Here are the latest bits of news, mixed up with other Microsoft happenings from the last month.


It’s been a long times since I posted one of these! I’ve just trawled my feeds for interesting articles and came up with the following. I’ll be checking news and Twitter for more.


Microsoft released a KB article for when Backing up virtual machines fails when using the CSV writer after installation of update 2919355 in Windows.


Assume that you install update 2919355 on a Windows 8.1-based or Windows Server 2012 R2-based computer. When you try to back up some Hyper-V virtual machines that reside on cluster shared volumes, you receive an error message that indicates the backup request has failed.
Here is a sample of the error messages that you may encounter when this issue occurs:

Error(s): vss_e_unexpected_provider_error
Csv writer is in failed state with unexpected error

Note The error message that an end-user will see is surfaced by the backup vendor products, and therefore it will vary by vendor.

A hotfix is available to resolve this issue.


It has come to the attention of myself and several other Hyper-V MVPs that people are having a nightmare searching for the download ISO for Hyper-V Server 2012 R2. I’ve verified the problem on Bing and Google and Microsoft are aware of the issue.

In the meantime you here is the download page for Hyper-V Server 2012 R2.


I will be one of the presenters in a webcast hosted by the Petri IT Knowledgebase and sponsored by Veeam on July 16th at 13:00 EDT (18:00 UK/Irish Time). In this presentation I’ll be explaining the technologies that enabled Windows Server 2012 R2 (WS2012 R2) software-defined storage and Hyper-V over SMB 3.0. Chris Henley from Veeam will also discuss their backup and disaster recovery technology. And then there will be a Q&A session. There will be a moderator so you can fire in your questions for us to answer.



My 7th Microsoft MVP Award

Yesterday (July 1st) was that my Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award either expired or was renewed. Thankfully, my status as a Hyper-V MVP was renewed by Microsoft, as confirmed by the below (edited by me) email that arrived in yesterday afternoon:


A lot of work goes into my efforts, either here on my blog, writing for the Petri IT Knowledgebase, answering questions on forums, or presenting. This is a nice recognition for those efforts, and quite honestly, it is a career changer thanks to the access to information that we MVPs get … and should share with the community.

My efforts are only made possible thanks to the support of friends and family, the flexibility of my employers at MicroWarehouse, those in Microsoft who value the MVP program, and other community members who give me opportunities in webcasts, podcasts, speaking at events, and so on. Thank you all!

Here’s looking forward to a very interesting and eventful FY2015 (Microsoft financial year runs July to June).


Storage is the bedrock of all virtualisation. If you get the storage wrong, then you haven’t a hope. And unfortunately I have seen too many installs where the customer/consultant has focused on capacity, and the performance has been dismal; so bad, in fact, that IT are scared to do otherwise normal operations that will impact production systems because the storage system cannot handle the load.

Introducing AutoCache

I was approached by TechEd NA 2014 by some folks from a company called Proximal Data. Their product, AudoCache, which works with Hyper-V and vSphere is designed to improve the read performance of storage systems.


A read cache is created on the hosts. This cache might be an SSD that is plugged into each host. Data is read from the storage. Data deemed hot is cached on the SSD. The next time that data is required, it is read from the SSD, thus getting some serious speed potential. Cooler data is read from the storage, and writes go direct to the storage.

Installation and management is easy. There’s a tiny agent for each host. In the Hyper-V world, you license AutoCache, configure the cache volume, and monitor performance using System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM). And that’s it. AutoCache does the rest for you.

So how does it perform?

The Test Lab

I used the test lab at work to see how AutoCache performed. My plan was simple: I created a single generations 1 virtual machine with a 10 GB Fixed VHDX D: drive on the SCSI controller . I installed SQLIO in the virtual machine. I created a simple script to run SQLIO 10 times, one after the other. Each job would perform 120 seconds of random 4K reads. That’s 20 minutes of thumping the storage system per benchmark test.

I have two hosts: Dell R420s, each connected to the storage system via dual iWARP (10 GbE RMDA) SFP+ NICs. Each host is running a fully patched WS2012 R2 Hyper-V. The hosts are clustered.

One host, Demo-Host1, had AutoCache installed. I also installed a Toshiba Q Series Pro SATA SSD (554 MB/s and 512 MB/S write) into this host. I licensed AutoCache in SCVMM, and configured a cache drive on the SSD. Note: that for each test involving this host, I deleted and recreated the cache to start with a blank slate.

The storage was a Scale-Out File Server (SOFS). Two HP DL360 G7 servers are the nodes, each allowing hosts to connect via dual iWARP NICs. The HP servers are connected to a single DataOn DNS-1640 JBOD. The JBOD contains:

  • 8 x Seagate Savvio® 10K.5 600GB HDDs
  • 4 x SanDisk SDLKAE6M200G5CA1 200 GB SSDs
  • 2 x STEC S842E400M2 SSDs

There is single storage pool. A 3 column tiered 2-way mirrored virtual disk (50 SSD + 550 HDD) was used in the test. To get clean results, I pinned the virtual machine files either to the SSD tier or to the HDD tier; this allowed me to see the clear impact of AutoCache using a local SSD drive as a read cache.

Tests were run on Demo-Host1, with AutoCache and a Cache SDD, and then the virtual machine was live migrated to Demo-Host2, which does not have AutoCache or a cache SSD.

To be clear: I do not have a production workload. I create VMs for labs and tests, that’s it. Yes, the test is unrealistic. I am using a relatively large cache compared to my production storage and storage requirements. But it’s what I have and the results do show what the product can offer. In the end, you should test for your storage system, servers, network, workloads, and work habits.

The Results – Using HDD Storage

My first series of tests on Demo-Host1 and Demo-Host2 were set up with the virtual machine pinned to the HDD tier. This would show the total impact of AutoCache using a single SSD as a cache drive on the host. First I ran the test on Demo-Host2 without AutoCache, and then I ran the test on Demo-Host1 with AutoCache. The results are displayed below:



We can see that the non-enhanced host offered and average of 4143 4K random reads per second. That varied very little. However, we can see that once the virtual machine was on a host with AutoCache, running the tests quickly populated the cache partition and led to increases in read IOPS, eventually averaging at around 52522 IOPS.

IOPS is interesting but I think the DBAs will like to see what happened to read latency:



Read latency average 14.4 milliseconds without AutoCache. Adding AutoCache to the game reduced latency almost immediately, eventually settling at a figure so small that SQLIO reported it as zero milliseconds!

So, what does this mean? AutoCache did an incredible job, boosting throughput 12 times above it’s original level using a single consumer grade SSD as the local cache in my test. I think those writing time sensitive SQL queries will love that latency will be near 0 for hot data.

The Results – Using SSD Storage

I thought it might be interesting to see how AutoCache would perform if I pinned the virtual machine to the SSD tier. Here’s why: My SSD tier consists of 6 SSDs (3 columns). 6 SSDs is faster than 1! The raw data is presented below:



Now things get interesting. The SSD tier of my storage system offered up an average of 62,482 random 4K read operations without AutoCache. This contrasts with the AutoCache-enabled results where we got an average of 52,532 IOPS once the cache was populated. What happened? I already alluded to the cause: the SSD tier of my virtual disk offered up more IOPS potential than the single local SSD that AutoCache was using as a cache partition.

So it seems to me, that if you have a suitably sized SSD tier in your storage spaces, then this will offer superior read performance to AutoCache and the SSD tier will also give you write performance via a Write-Back Cache.

HOWEVER, I know that:

  • Not everyone is buying SSD for Storage Spaces
  • Not everyone is buying enough SSDs for their working set of data

So there is a market to use fewer SSDs in the hosts as read cache partitions via AutoCache.

What About Other Kinds Of Storage?

From what I can see, AutoCache doesn’t care what kind of storage you use for Hyper-V or vSphere. It operates in the host and works by splitting the IO stream. I decided to run some tests using a WS2012 R2 iSCSI target presented directly to my hosts as a CSV. I moved the VM onto that iSCSI target. Once again, I saw almost immediate boosts in performance. The difference was not so pronounced (around 4.x), because of the different nature of the physical storage that the iSCSI target VM was on (20 HDDs offering more IOPS than 8), but it was still impressive.

Would I Recommend AutoCache?

Right now, I’m saying you should really consider evaluating AutoCache on your systems to see what it can offer.


This is my presentation from TechCamp 2014 where I showed attendees how to build the Hyper-V on SMB 3.0 storage known as a Scale-Out File Server (SOFS) based on JBODs/Storage Spaces, Windows Server 2012 R2 (WS2012 R2) Failover Clustering, and SMB 3.0 networking.

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