I’ll be on Talk TechNet

I’m going to be a guest on Microsoft’s Talk TechNet webcast on April 27th at 9am PST

“Talk TechNet is all about discussing topics and trends in the world of IT Professionals.  In this show we’ll have guest Aidan Finn. Call in and join us for what promises to be a lively 60 minute session.  Get some burning questions answered on Virtualization.

Presenters: Keith Combs, Sr. Program Manager, Microsoft Corporation, Matt Hester, Sr. IT Pro Evangelist, Microsoft Corporation, and Aidan Finn, Microsoft Virtualization MVP”

It should be interesting … hopefully you’ll be able to tune in!

Mastering Windows 7 Deployment is Published

I’ve just recived an email from Sybex to say that the third book that I’ve been involved with, Mastering Windows 7 Deployment, has just started shipping from their warehouse(s).  Right now, Amazon.com is still on preorder but that will likely change in the coming hours or days.  The Wiley (Sybex is part of the Wiley group) site is live right now.

Who contributed?  Me, Darril Gibson (trainer/consultant, also of Mastering Windows Server), Kenneth van Surksum (Dutch MVP and well known blogger), Rhonda Layfield (deployment MVP, author, speaker, trainer), not to mention deployment MVPs/gurus Johan Arwidmark and Mikael Nystrom.  It was quite a cast to work with!  Big thanks to anyone I worked with on the project, especially those in Sybex who worked on the project.

The book takes a very practical look at how to do a Windows 7 deployment project.  It starts out by doing the assessment using MAP.  From there, issues with application compatibility are dealt with.  You learn about WAIK, using WDS, MDT, user state transfer, and even how to do zero touch installations using System Center Configuration Manager 2007 (including R2/R3).  I’d buy it if I wasn’t one of the contributors 🙂

The Novel Acquisition May Be More Relevant To Microsoft Customers Than You Originally Thought

News broke yesterday that Attachmate was buying up Novell.  “Who cares?” was my original thought.  Linux admins are very wary of Novell so SLES does not have the usage of RHEL (corporate) or CentOS (hosting).  As for XenWorks … hmm.

But, Virtualization.Info posted an article that made me pay attention.  Here’s the highlights: Novell own Platespin and they make a really good virtualisation assessment tool.  Microsoft’s MAP is OK (currently 5.5 release) but the data it produces is a bit basic and hidden away for my liking.  Averages are misleading.  Standard deviations are more useful.  I’ve found the Platespin reports to be quite useful for host sizing.

And it appears that Novell has done quite a lot of work on cloud and workflow automation across multiple hypervisors.  I didn’t know that.  The original article mentions trouble with Opalis.  I’m yet to see a good MS explanation on it. 

But here’s the really interesting bit … Microsoft might be able to get its hands on some of the assets.  Check the original article for more details.  This could really add some clout to the MS offering.

MS Partner Event: Server Licensing in a Virtual Environment

I’m at a MS partner briefing day in Dublin.  The focus is on licensing in a virtualised environment.  I’ve spent most of the last 3 years in a hosting environment with SPLA licensing.  This will give me an opportunity to start getting back in touch with volume licensing.

  • Good News: we got key shaped 8GB USB sticks with the Hyper-V logo Smile
  • Bad News: Sales and marketing are coming in to talk to us Sad smile  I guess we have to take the bad with the good Winking smile

Ideal Process

  1. Technical expert assesses the infrastructure.
  2. Technical expert designs the virtualisation solution.
  3. Licensing specialist prices the requirements and chooses the best licensing.

Definitions

  • Virtual Machine: encapsulated operating environment
  • Instance of software: Installed software, ready to execute.  On a physical hard disk or VHD.  On a server or copied to a SAN.
  • Processor: Socket, physical processor
  • Core: logical processor contained within a physical processor.  For example, 4 cores in a quad core processor.
  • OSE: Operating System Environment.
  • POSE: Physical operating system environment, installed on a physical server.
  • VOSE: Virtual operating system environment.

Licensing

  • You only have to license running instances.  Powered down VMs do not need to be licensed.
  • This guy is saying that OEM licensing with Software Assurance is not tied to the hardware.  I guess I’ll have to take his word for that …. but I’d be sure to verify with a LAR beforehand!
  • Live migration: you can move a VM between hosts as long as the host is adequately licensed.  Exception: application mobility on server farms.  >90 days movement of licenses. (no details given).
  • CALs need to be bought for VOSEs.  Usually don’t need CALs for the POSE unless the POSE is providing direct services to users, e.g. you are silly and make your Hyper-V host into a file server.

Licensing Applications Per CPU

In the standard editions, you license the CPU’s of the OSE.  For example, in a VOSE you count the vCPUs.  In a POSE, you count the pCPUs.

In the Enterprise/Datacenter installations, you should license the host pCPUs.  There are benefits that cover more than one VOSE.  Enterprise usually covers 4 VOSEs (SQL), and DataCenter (if all pCPU’s are licensed with a minimum of 2) covers all VOSEs.

Simple VS Flexibility

We want simple licensing.  MS is claiming the the dynamic nature of virtualisation requires flexibility and this is an opposing force to simplicity.

Predictable:

  • Standard: lest flexible
  • Enterprise: flexible but limited
  • Datacenter: flexible and unlimited

SQL Licensing

God only knows!  The MS folks in the room cannot agree.  Ask your LAR and your local MS office licensing specialists.  The topic of 2008 rights (Enterprise covered all VOSEs) vs 2008 R3 rights (Enterprise covers 4 VOSEs) is debated.  One side says that 2008 rights have ended as of the release of 2008 R2.  The other side says they remain as long as you licensed SQL 2008 prior to the 2008 R2 release with per processor licensing or you bought instances with maintained Software Assurance.  There’s no firm answer so we break for lunch.

OK, there is a discount process.  You can license per processor based on virtual CPU, or physical CPU.  For example, if you have 1 vCPU in a VM on a host with quad core processors then you can buy 1 vCPU license.  If you have 4 vCPUs in a VM on a host with quad core processors then –> that VM runs on 1 pCPU so you can buy 1 per processor license for the pCPU.  If you have 2 * VM’s with 4 * vCPUs on a host with a single quad core processor then you buy 2 per processor licenses –> each VM runs on a single pCPU and you must license each installtion (1 pCPU * 2 VMs = 2 per processor licenses).

If licensing per POSE (host) then you must license each possible host that may license your SQL VM’s.  So, you could use Failover Clustering’s preferred hosts option for your SQL VM’s and set up a few preferred hosts in a cluster, and license those hosts.  And remember to take advantage of the CPU discount process.

Server

You can freely reassign a license within a server farm.  Microsoft has a time zone definition of a server farm, e.g. 3 hours for North America, and 5.5 hours for Europe and the Middle East.

I’m not doing the std, ent, datacenter stuff because it’s done to death.

Most Common Mistakes

  • Virtualising more than 4 VM’s when using Enterprise Server edition
  • Under licensing when using Live Migration or VMotion
  • Under licensing of server application versions, e.g. SQL Standard instead of SQL Enterprise, for hosts when using Live Migration or VMotion
  • Selling OEM/FPP to customers who want live migration …. they either need volume licensing (with/without Software Assurance) or they should have OEM licensing with Software Assurance.

This is where the speaker warns us to never trust someone who claims to fully understand MS licensing rules.  Always qualify the answer by saying that you need to verify it.

VDI

If you have non-SA, legacy or thin clients, then you can use the VDA license for VDI.  If you have SA then your Enterprise licensing entitles you to 4 VM’s per licensed desktop machine and place those VM’s on a virtualisation host.

The VDI standard suite includes a bunch of management systems (SCVMM, SCOM, SCCM, and MDOP) and an RDS license for delivering user access to the VMs.  The VDI enterprise suite extends this by offering unrestricted RDS licensing to allow the user to access both VDI and terminal servers.  You also get App-V for RDS.

Scenarios

If you are running things like SQL, then you may need to consider live migration or VMotion.  There was a real-world example based on VMware.  24 possible hosts (4 CPUs each), 295 VMs and 36 of those running SQL.  How do you license?  For Server, the best scenario is to buy 96 * Datecenter edition.  For SQL, the actual solution (MS, customer, lawyers, etc involved) was to create a cluster of 4 hosts.  The SQL cluster of 4 hosts was licensed with SQL Datacenter edition.  That limited costs and maximised compliance.

Summary

That was an informative session.  The presenter did a good job.  He was accepting of being challenged and seemed to enjoy the 2-way conversation that we had going on.  If you are a partner and get an invite for this type of session, register and go in.  I think you’ll learn something.  For me, the day flew by, and that’s always a good sign.  I can’t say I understood everything and will retain it all.  I think that’s just the nature of this EU treaty-like complexity.

It seems to me that MS licensing for virtualised environments conflicts directly with the concepts of a dynamic data centre or private cloud computing.  For example, SCVMM 2012 gives us elasticity.  SCVMM SSP 2.0 gives us complete self-service.  System Center makes it possible to automatically deploy VMs based on user demand.  IT lose control of licensing that’s deployed in the private cloud because we’re handing over a lot of that control to the business.  What’s to stop the owner of a dozen VMs from deploying SQL, BizTalk, and so on, especially if we are doing cross charging which assumes they have an IT budget to spend?

Microsoft licensing rules assume complete control and oversight.  We don’t have that!  That was tough in the physical world; it’s impossible in the virtual world.  We might deploy VMs onto the “non-SQL” Hyper-V or vSphere cluster but the owners of those VMs can easily go and install SQL or something else on there that requires per-host licensing (for cost savings).  This pushes you back to per-VM licensing and you lose those cost savings.

I think MS licensing needs to think long and hard about this.  The private cloud is about to take off.  We need things to be simplified, which they are not.  On the contrary, I think virtualised licensing (on any of the hypervisors) is more complicated than ever, considering the dynamic nature of the data centre which is made possible by the great tools made by the likes of Microsoft, VMware, and Citrix.

On the positive side, if you understand this stuff, and put it to work, you can really save a lot of money in a virtualised environment.  The challenge is that you have to maintain some very tight controls.  It’s made me reconsider how I would look at designing Hyper-V/vSphere clusters.

Windows User Group Ireland, September 10th 2010

The Windows User Group is back with a day-long event featuring updates on the latest in Microsoft IT infrastructure. Join us on Friday, September 10th in the Microsoft Auditorium in Leopardstown to hear expert speakers talking about Windows Server, virtualization, Exchange, unified messaging, and System Center for the small/medium enterprise. This day will give you valuable information that will educate you on what benefits new technologies from Microsoft will bring to your business.

The agenda is

Start

Finish

Session

Speaker

08:45

09:15

Registration

09:15

10:45

Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2: Dynamic Memory and RemoteFX

Aidan Finn (MVP), System Dynamics

10:45

11:00

Break

11:00

12:30

Service Pack 1 for Exchange 2010

Nathan Winters (MVP), Grey Convergence

12:30

13:15

Lunch

13:15

14:45

Communications Server 14

John McCabe (MVP), CDSoft Limited

14:45

15:00

Break

15:00

16:30

System Center Essentials 2010: Enterprise Management for the SME Customer

Wilbour Craddock, Microsoft

You can register and attend the event for free.

Date: Friday, September 10th, 2010

Location: EPDC-2, South County Business Park, Leopardstown, Dublin 18

Registration: 08:45 to 09:15 with a strict start time of 09:15

The detailed agenda and speakers’ bios are as follows:

Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2: Dynamic Memory and RemoteFX (90 Minutes – 09:15 until 10:45)

Speaker: Aidan Finn (MVP: Virtual Machine), Infrastructure Team Lead with System Dynamics

Webcast: LiveMeeting

Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 is around the corner. It introduces some new features that will be of huge interest to anyone that is interested in Hyper-V or Remote Desktop Services (including Citrix software). Memory is often the main constraint in virtual machine to host density. Dynamic IT provides a new mechanism for configuring virtual machines with a variable amount of memory. Aidan will discuss what over commitment is and how it is bad. He’ll then introduces you to the mechanics behind Dynamic Memory and show it in action. Aidan will also introduce you to RemoteFX. This is a new solution to provide high quality graphics, such as 1080p video, to Remote Desktop clients. This will be used in Remote Desktop Services and compatible Citrix solutions.

About Aidan Finn:

Aidan is the Infrastructure Team Lead with System Dynamics, a consulting services company located in Dublin that provides IT infrastructure and business intelligence expertise. He has been working in IT since 1996 and has specialised in working with Microsoft infrastructure solutions including Server, desktop, System Center and virtualisation. Aidan is an MCSE and a Microsoft Valuable Professional with an expertise in virtualization. Aidan co-wrote Mastering Windows Server 2008 R2 (Sybex), is the lead author of Mastering Hyper-V Deployment (Sybex), and is contributing to Mastering Windows 7 Deployment (Sybex). You can find his blog at https://aidanfinn.com.

Service Pack 1 for Exchange 2010 (90 Minutes – 11:00 until 12:30)

Speaker: Nathan Winters (MVP: Exchange), Unified Communications Lead with Grey Convergence

Webcast: LiveMeeting

Exchange 2010 SP1 was announced at TechEd US 2010 and contains some exciting enhancements to Exchange 2010. This session will first set the context for these new features and then walk you through what is now possible:

· Reminder of the Exchange 2010 core tenets

· An update on where Microsoft is with Exchange Online

· Introduction to the Feature Enhancements of Exchange 2010 SP1 such as:

· The New Exchange Control Panel Management UI

· Improved High Availability and Disaster Recovery functionality

· Improved Outlook Web App UI and Performance

· Better Mobile Device Experience

· New Information Protection and Control

Ø Personal Archive Enhancements

Ø Retention Policy Management Enhancements

Ø Multi-Mailbox Search Enhancements

· Demo

· Questions & Answers

About Nathan Winters:

Nathan Winters is the unified communications lead at Grey Convergence, a specialist Microsoft partner for unified communications and collaboration. Nathan has been working in IT for eight years and specializes in unified communications with a focus on Microsoft Exchange and Office Communications Server. Nathan has consulted at numerous Fortune 100 companies across a variety of vertical markets.

In 2006, Nathan founded the Microsoft Messaging and Mobility User Group UK, which holds regular meetings in the UK to discuss topics related to Exchange. In 2007, Nathan was named an MVP (Exchange Server) for his work with MMMUG and his regular contributions to the Mark Minasi Forum, and he has received the same honour each year since.

Nathan’s articles have been published on leading websites and magazines, including Windows IT Pro Magazine, MSExchange.org, Simple-Talk.com, Microsoft (TechNet Industry Insiders), and the MMMUG website.

You can contact Nathan at nathan@clarinathan.co.uk or through his blog at http://www.nathanwinters.co.uk

Communications Server 14 (90 Minutes – 13:15 until 14:45)

Speaker: John McCabe (MVP: Unified Communications), Technical Consultant with CDSoft

Webcast: LiveMeeting

Communications Server 2010 (Wave 14) is Microsoft’s Next Generation Unified Communications Platform. It brings many new features including a completely new UI. John will bring you through the main features and some of the new supported scenarios available in this platform and discuss how you can even use it now to replace your PBX! This really will be a serious contender for businesses of all sizes.

About John McCabe:

John currently works as a Technical Consultant for CDSoft Limited providing solutions to the Irish Market Place across multiple industries. John has over 12 years in the IT Industry ranging different disciplines from security, networks and of course Microsoft Infrastructure. John has attained MCITP/MCTS/MCP in various tracks as well as a multiple other professional certifications. John was awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award in October 2009 for extensive community work and promoting the Microsoft Product Group.

System Center Essentials 2010: Enterprise Management for the SME Customer (90 Minutes – 15:00 until 16:30)

Speaker: Wilbour Craddock, Partner Technical Specialist, Microsoft

Webcast: LiveMeeting

The aim of this session is to provide a technical overview of the key capabilities of SCE 2010, and how it provides an integrated management solution for SMB customers, from hardware right through to the virtual OS’s running on Hyper-V and applications/services in these VM’s. Attendees will gain valuable information around differentiating SCE with the other System Center technologies, which form part of the Server Management Suites, from both a technical, and pricing perspective. We’ll also cover DPM 2010; part of the new SCE Plus SKU, and how it provides a centralized, powerful SMB-friendly application protection and DR solution, protecting both virtualized servers, application workloads, and desktop data.

To help attendees understand the solutions better, we’ll be constructing a customer scenario to provide a complete solution that can be adapted for specific customer and partner engagements. This solution will include both licensing, and pricing information, to give a better idea of the overall solution cost, and ROI. We’ll focus on delivering a demo of this scenario, concentrating particularly on the virtualization management, PRO functionality, hardware integration, and overall management of the environment.

About Wilbour Craddock:

Wilbour is a former Windows Server MVP and Canadian User Group lead now working for Microsoft Ireland in the Partner Team and frequent speaker on the TechNet Ireland tours. Wilbour’s background is not that dissimilar from most IT Professionals, having started on a help desk and progressed through system administration to leadership roles in government organizations serving as a solutions architect overseeing development and deployment teams and helping set long-term IT strategies. He blogs with the TechNet Ireland team on the IEITPro blog.

Another Way to License Hyper-V: ECI

image

I’ve just been going through some online sales training for MS virtualisation and I came across this.  I had no idea this new license set was launched.  The Enrolment for Core Infrastructure (ECI) licenses the host OS (and guests), System Center CAL’s (host and guests), and ForeFront Client Security.  Not a bad bundle!

Microsoft Becoming a Cloud-First Company

Those in charge have told Microsoft that the corporation is now changing directions.  Much like what happened in the early mid-90’s with Internet technology, the company has been told to change or become less relevant in the future.  And this is why you will see more and more of “cloud” being pushed by Microsoft.

Staff are being brought into seminars to learn about what “cloud” means.  I wonder what definition they’ll use because there is not one accepted definition; every marketer has branded it the way that best represents the products that their company (or favourite company) sells.

Product is changing.  There is an Office online.  It’s even being integrated into Skydrive and Hotmail.  Azure and MS Online Services (BPOS) is being pushed in a big way – it’s the only thing the local office wants to talk about anymore.  System Center is moving towards cloud computing too – we’ll start to get a taste of that in v.Next in 2011 but I suspect 2013 will see direct integration, e.g. ConfigMgr child sites that live in MS Online Services.  And we already have heard that VMM v.Next probably will have the ability to move virtual machines from managed hosts and up into a new VM hosting service in Azure.  I’ve no idea whether Windows 8 will be going this way.  I suspect those going to TechEd in Berlin will be the first in the general public to hear about it.

Yes, I know, only the small organizations will put everything in the cloud and that not everything is appropriate.  However, one can argue that even the Fortune 100’s can put some stuff in the cloud or leverage from Software-as-a-Service products.  The big worry is reliability.  Will the product change and become not what you wanted?  You have no control over version upgrades of cloud services.  Will the service provider liquidate and take your data with them?  There is a certain amount of lock-in with SaaS and it’s very difficult to move between rival products.  Will they hike prices as soon as there is a dependency on them?  In Ireland and many other less developed countries, the network infrastructure often isn’t there to be able to be a cloud company. Outside of the major cities and towns, there is no broadband; only unreliable wireless/3G connectivity which is sometimes lucky to give you a 20KBPS transmission rate.

In reality, there will be a blend of on premises and cloud computing services in mid to large companies.

What I can confirm is: just like that first keynote at MMS (with 80+ mentions of the cloud in 82 minutes), all MS will want to talk to you about is cloud computing.

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Microsoft 25 Years in Ireland

Today is is the 25th anniversary of Microsoft in Ireland.  Their location has evolved a good bit over the years.  Originally it was a CD pressing location and where localization was done.  Now there are lots of developers working on coding the latest version of Windows and Azure services, European computing services are/were run from here, and Dublin is one of the 2 geo-located Azure data centres.

There is something going on but it appears to be reserved to the people MS are selling to – Azure and software developers were mentioned on the news.

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TechNet Wiki

There’s no doubt of a few things:

  • Some people have found Microsoft documentation to be a bit lacking, and sometimes a bit late.  For example, we only recently got clear guidance on networking configuration for Live Migration. I’ve had people contact me who were very confused on different subjects because they’ve only had closely related blog posts to work on, not specific ones.  And that’s just with one “small” subject.
  • The power of the community on the Internet is impressive.  Wikipedia has become a huge source of information, even if that information has to be verified against other sources.  The same goes for blogs.
  • Microsoft TechNet should be one of the first port of calls for IT pros when referencing technical articles on Microsoft infrastructure.  But lets face it, it isn’t.  That might be because of poor searchability, poor/confusing writing or incomplete/missing articles.

So Microsoft is going to try something.  It is a bit of a leap of faith.  Microsoft TechNet is going to launch a wiki.  I think there’s some excitement about this dabbling with the community in Redmond.  The idea is that you, me, or anyone else, can contribute or edit content on this wiki.  It should be documentation about products, solutions, fixes, architecture, etc.  It will be up to the community at large to maintain the content for the community.  I’m not saying MS might not edit it for legal reasons, etc, but in the end it will be down to ordinary people to manage.

Obviously some MVP’s and other assorted nutters will be big writers (not me … doing this blog, my day job and a few projects that are starting up will keep me busy).  But there’s nothing to stop you from adding content and editing.

As it is community content you cannot rely on it solely.  I would recommend trying to verify any statements made on it against other sources.  However, it should quickly become a huge repository of information, making it a great jumping off point on any search.

Microsoft’s Keith Combs talks about the new TechNet Wiki on his blog.  Keith says that it will launch later this year.  As he says at the end, the success or failure of this service will depend on the community, not Microsoft.  Will it succeed?  I don’t know, but I’m sure that people in Redmond are taking it seriously.  It’s a subject worth keeping an eye on.

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