Build Windows 2011 Review

It’s Friday afternoon in Anaheim USA, I’m sitting in my hotel room (jetlagged), and it’s that time of the week when I have to look back on what’s happened.  First thing’s first; how well did Build Windows go?

The Event

I thought the event was excellent.  There was a little bit of drama by some people about the lack of an agenda before the event.  We knew that “Build Windows” was going to be about Windows 8.  And we also knew that Microsoft wanted to keep as much of the Windows 8 announcements for this week to maximise their impact on the media.  I think that worked … kind of.  I didn’t see the 6 o’clock news, where I’d expect to see a certain California based appliance company be mentioned on one of their launch days.  But just about everyone I met of the 5,000 delegates seemed pretty excited. 

I thought the venue was good, the event was well organised, food/drink was good, the crew managed to get 5,000 people fed without much in the way of queuing, and I can’t complain about getting a UK£999 device with Windows 8 developer preview preloaded on it. 

The Sessions

The two keynotes were well thought out.  Everyone I talked to thought that Steven Sinofsky did a good job.  To be honest, I didn’t notice the time go by.

Most of the speakers knew what they were presenting on.  Was the content level 400?  No – but I wouldn’t expect that here; this was a place to kick things off.  At ask the experts, two of the presenters gave me a good bit of time to answer my questions.

I had a small bit of concern that there wouldn’t be much in the way of content for an IT Pro like myself.  As it turned out, sessions for IT pros were in the minority (as expected for this event) but there were more sessions than I could attend.  I’ll be downloading some to watch on my slate PC on the way home.

What Stood Out?

I don’t believe that Microsoft mentioned that Windows Server 8 is optimised for the cloud.  They should have because it is Winking smile 

I have said over and over that the Hyper-V group listen to feedback like no other, and we got further proof of that this week:

  • NIC teaming by Windows is a reality
  • Snapshot merge is done while the VM is online
  • Hyper-V on the client, with support for wifi and host power settings

And let’s not forget the innovation:

  • Hyper-V replica
  • Hyper-v extended switch
  • Network virtualisation
  • Live migration without Failover Clustering
  • Virtual fibre channel HBA
  • All sorts of offloading
  • VHDX for up to 16 TB of virtual hard disk with metadata
  • A new VDI story on preventing the disk storm
  • Using file shares for VM storage
  • … and on, and on, and on.

If day 2 seemed to be the private cloud/Hyper-V day, then day 3 was the storage and failover clustering day.  It is no secret that I hate Redirected IO and what it does to the backup and CSV design story in Hyper-V.  That has been changed because we now have direct IO during CSV backup.  That’s all I needed to hear to make me happy.  But no, we found out that storage would never be the same again with a new feature called Storage Pools, in which we could create highly available and scalable Storage Spaces.  Combined with 10 GbE, NIC teaming, offloading, and RDMA, and SMB 2.2, we get very fast storage on file shares!!!  It’s simple, it’s cheap, it makes clustering possible for the small business, and it makes storage more flexible for the large enterprise.  Believe it or not, but the thing I most want to try out now is to create one of these active/active clustered file shares on a Storage Spaces located CSV – that’s a mouthful Smile

What’s Next?

The developer preview release is an early pre-beta release aimed at the software developers and hardware manufacturers.  It gives them a chance to start getting their products ready in time for RTM, if not earlier – it would be best to test on RC so a final product is ready on RTM day.  But that isn’t stopping us IT pros from starting to learn.

We can expect Microsoft to start revealing more information.  We IT pros actually learned very little of the new OS this week.  We heard nothing of Active Directory, security and identity, “better together”, OS deployment, and so on.  There isn’t a TechEd Europe this November/December so I guess most of the announcements will either be online, at some other event (that I don’t know of). 

My money is on some kind of event/announcement in January/February 2012 where the complete feature set is detailed. 

ARM devices were on display behind secure Perspex cases at Build.  There is no public ARM build of Windows 8 so that will have to wait.

Until then, we finally have something to install, dig into, and learn about, and isn’t that what the Build event was all about in the end?

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