TechEd 2013: System Center 2012 R2–Virtual Machine Manager

Speaker: Vijay Tewari, VMM PM.

Boostrapping a repeatable architecture

VMM becomes the heart of the data centre.  You deploy everything from VMM console/library.  For example, MSFT will be supplying service templates for deploying the reset of System Center from VMM.

Network Architecture

A sample one:

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Storage

Using SOFS service templates, SMB 3.0 management, SMI-S (including fiber channel support), VMM 2012 R2 can manage the entire storage stack from bare metal to zoning/permissioning.

Demo

Host Profiles has become Physical Computer Profiles.  You can create a file server profile for a SOFS bare metal deployment.  He reaches out to the BMC (DRAC, ILO, etc) to discover, power up, and deploy the OS of the cluster nodes.  If the process completed, a new SOFS would be running and managed by VMM.  Now you can use VMM to provision and permission file shares.  Once done, you can start to place/move VMs on the file share on the permitted hosts.

Note: you don’t touch the file servers, log into them, use Server Manager, use a PoSH cmdlet.  It’s all done from the VMM console.  Very sweet.

See Datacenter Abstraction Layer (DAL).

Synthetic Fiber Channel In The Guest

VMM 2012 R2 adds support for guest fiber channel in Hyper-V.  Uses SMI-S to talk to the SAN.  Involves 2 things:

  • Project a fiber channel virtual adapter in the guest
  • You need to be able to program the fiber channel network

Simplified zone management from the VMM console.

Storage

  • Offloaded data transfer is now supported in VMM 2012 R2 to provision resources from the library.
  • VMM supports WS2012 R2 Hyper-V to create guest clusters using a shared VHDX.  Remember the VHDX is stored on shared storage (CSV or SMB).  MSFT uses this kind of SQL cluster for testing SysCtr.  It’s a check box: Share this disk across the service tier … yes, you can deploy a guest cluster from a service template.

New in Service Templates: the first node online will initialize the cluster, and additional nodes join the cluster.  Service templates understand the need for different tasks on the first and subsequent nodes.  In the demo, he talks about how SQL can be installed on the guest cluster as part of the service template.

IP Address Management

You can create networks in VMM and IPAM will detect it.  Or you can use IPAM to model your networks and VMM will pull in the configuration.

Top of Rack Switches

More DAL.  This is where VMM can configure/manage physical switches using OMI.  In the demo, a host cannot respond to a ping.  In VMM, the host is non-compliant.  The reasoning is that the required VLAN is not piped through the switch port to the host NIC.  There is a “remediate” button – press it and VMM can reach out to an OMI switch to fix the issue …. assuming you have a RunAs account for the switch.  Otherwise you beat your network admin with some Cat5 cables until he relents.

Hybrid Networking

This builds on things like virtual switch extensions, NVGRE, etc.  The ability to move a VM from one network to another without changing the IP, and the VM stays online using HNV.

Windows Azure Pack is shown in the demo.  Vijay spins up a network in a hosting company public cloud.  He configures the IP stack of the new virtual subnet (a subset of a VM network).  A site-site tunnel (VPN) is configured.  Remember, WS2012 R2 RRAS will do this for us (NGVRE gateway too). 

He configures IBGP for routing, and then configures the VPN connection properties (IP, shared key, etc).  Now he has extended his on premise network into the hosting company.

Gateway Service Templates

An out of the box SCVMM 2012 R2 service template will automate the deployment of the WS2012 R2 NVGRE gateway. 

Hyper-V Recovery Manager

This is Hyper-V Replica management via a new SaaS product in the Azure cloud (Recovery Services).  It is in preview at the moment.  A provider (an agent) is installed in the VMM servers in production and DR sites – VMM must manage the production cloud and the DR cloud, with a VMM server in each site.  This only does management; all data replication goes directly from production to DR site, never going to Azure.

He configures cloud to cloud replication policies.  Now from in the VMM console, he can enable replication on a per-VM basis using Enable Recovery or Disable Recovery in the ribbon.  Replica VMs have a slightly different icon than production VMs.

HRM can be used to create recovery plans and be used to invoke them.

Operations Manager Dashboard Monitoring

A new OpsMgr MP, with rich dashboards.  Demo: Drive down into the fabric health.  Clicks on a network node and looks at the network vicinity dashboard to browse the health of the network.  Can diagnose networking issues in the VMM console. 

Summary

Built on features of WS2012 and added support for WS2012 R2 features.

What’s New In Windows Server 2012 R2 Networking

Speakers: CJ Williams and Gabriel Silva

What was done in Windows Server 2012:

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Learning’s from data centres

MSFT has some massive scale data centres:

  • Cutting costs: maximal utilization of existing resources, no specialized equipment
  • Choice and flexibility: no vendor locking, any tenant VM deployed in the cloud
  • Agility and automation are key: automation for the hoster and tenant networks, including core infrastructure services

3  areas of focus

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Virtual RSS (vRSS)

RSS = Receive Side Scaling.  VMs restricted to 1 CPU for network traffic processing in WS2012.

  • WS2012 R2 takes RSS and enables it in the VM.  vRSS maximises resource utilization by spreading network traffic among multiple VM processors.
  • Now possible to virtualize traditionally network intensive physical workloads.
  • Requires no hardware upgrade and works with any NICs that support VMQ.

Example usage: network intensive guest apps that need to scale out from just a single vCPU processing interrupts.

DVMQ on the host NICs (for the virtual switch) allows us to use vRSS.

NIC Teaming

There is a new Dynamic Mode in WS2012 R2.  This balances based on flowlets.  Optimized utilisation of a team on existing hardware.

You can spread your traffic inbound and outbound.  In WS2012, can only balance on outbound.  EG, 1 VM would be pinned to one pNIC.  Now “flowlets” give the OS much finer grained load balancing, across all the NICs, regardless of what workload you are running.

Extended ACLs

In WS2012 you can block/allow/measure based on source and destination address (IP or MAC).

In WS2012 R2, you can allow or block for specific worklaods:

  • Network address
  • Application port
  • Protocol type

There is now stateful packet inspection, understanding a transaction.

Remote Live Monitoring

Remote monitoring of WS2012 traffic can be done, but it is difficult.  In WS2012 R2, you can mirror and capture traffic for remote and local viewing.  GUI experience with Message Analyzer (the new NetMon).  Supports remote offline traffic captures.  Filtering based on IP addresses and VMs.

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Configured using WMI, and truncated network traffic redirected ETW events.

Gabe comes up to demo.

Demo

Dynamic Mode LBFO will be first.  We see traditional WS2012 NIC teaming.  Dynamic is enabled, and we see all NICs being roughly balanced in PerfMon.

Enabling it in the demo sees throughput go up for the VM – yes, CPU utilisation goes up in the VM, but that’s why the VM was given more vCPUs to allow more networking resources – otherwise the traffic is limited by being pinned to a single vCPU.

Test-NetConnection

The goal was to make Ping better.  It’s a new PowerShell cmdlet.  It pings, but it returns back a lot of information: Soutce IP, remote IP latency, test a port, get more detailed info, route information, etc.

IMO, it’s about damned time Smile  This is a very nice tool, and a nice hook to get people into looking at some basic PowerShell scripting, to extend what the cmdlet can already do by itself.

Software Defined Networking (Hyper-V Network Virtualization)

3 promises that the network should provide:

  • Flexibility: HNV and Virtual Switch
  • Automation: VMM – SMI-S, OMI (network devices) and Datacenter Abstraction Layer Putting it all together in VMM)
  • Control: Partner extensions, e.g. Cisco Nexus 1000V

SDN should be

  • Open (DMTF standard for appliance deployment and configuration – OMI), extensible (virtual switch), and standards based (NVGRE industry standard to encapsulate virtualisation traffic).
  • Built in and production ready
  • Innovation in software and hardware (pSwitches for example).

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HNV uses a 24-bit identifier meaning the thing is extremely scalable, when compared to the very limited 4096 possible VLANs.

Dynamic Learning of Customer Addresses

HNV can dynamically learn Consumer Addresses being used in the VM Network.  Allows for guest DHCP and guest clusters to be used in HNV VM Networks.

Performance

NIC teaming is supported on the host.  NVGRE Task Offload Enable NICs will be able to offload the processing associated with NVGRE.  Emulex and Mellanox are early suppliers.

Enhanced diagnostics

A host admin/operator can use a PoSH cmdlet to test connectivity to a VM, and validate that the VMs can communicate without having access to the VM (network-wise).

Hyper-V Extensible Switch

One layer is the forwarding switch.  The Cisco Nexus 100V is out.  NEC has an OpenFlow extension.  In WS2012 R2, the HNV filter is moved into the virtual switch.  3rd party extensions can now work on the Consumer Address and the Provider Address (both VM and physical addresses). 

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Example, a virtual firewall extension might want to filter based on CA and/or PA.

A effect of this is that 3rd parties can bring their own network virtualization and implement it in Hyper-V.  Examples: Cisco CXLan or Open Flow network virtualization.

Standards Based Switch Management

Using PowerShell, you can manage physical switches.  Done via Open Management Infrastructure (OMI).  VMM provides automation for this.  Common management infrastructure across vendors.  Automate common network tasks.  Logo program to make switches “just work”.

Built-In Software Gateways

A WS2012 R2 gateway has 3 features:

  • Site to site multi-tenant aware VPN gateway
  • Multi-tenant aware NAT for Internet access
  • Forwarding gateway for in-datacentre physical machine access

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Demo with Gabe

Site-Site g/w.

2 clients in HNV. Both using different VPN protocols, SSTP and IKEv2.  No access without VPN tunnels.  Connects the VPNs of Red.  Now Red can connect to Red VMs and Blue cannot to anything.  Connects Blue’s VPN and Blue can now connect to Blue VMs.

IP Address Management (IPAM)

Added in WS2012, primarily for auditing IP usage and planning.

In WS2012 R2, you can manage IPs in the physical and virtual spaces.  It integrates with SCVMM 2012 R2, and allows you to deploy IP pools, etc.

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Improvements Summary

In my words, WS2012 innovated, and WS2012 R2 has smoothed the corners, making the huge strides in 2012 more achievable and easier to manage.  And a bunch of new features too.

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Do I Use Public Cloud -OR- Private Cloud? Why Does It Have To Be One Or The Other?

In his session at TechEd NA 2013 yesterday, Ben Armstrong brought up an important point with cloud computing.  People today, ask themselves if they should deploy a private cloud or subscribe to a particular public cloud.  This is a “one or the other” decision in their minds. And the public cloud in their minds is usually just one public cloud.  Ask Netflix what they think of limiting themselves to just one public cloud (Amazon in VA, USA with the uptime of a …. you catch my drift).

On the Microsoft stack, it can be a different question: do I deploy this VM/service on a public cloud or do I place it on my private cloud. And if it’s a public cloud, which one?  Do I use the elasticity and scale of Azure, or do I use the local hosting company that can offer engineering time?

Here is the usual marketing slide at the start of any recent Microsoft presentation on cloud or virtualisation.  Does it mean anything to you?  Fluff, right?

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Maybe this cloud stuff isn’t so fluffy!  I presented the following at E2EVC in Copenhagen last week.  This diagram is based on what you can do right now with Azure, Windows Server 2012, and System Center 2012 (with an NVGRE gateway in the hosting company).

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The hosting company has a multi-tenant cloud, using Hyper-V Network Virtualization (HNV) to simplify the physical networks, and provide tenant isolation.  VMM manages the cloud(s).  SPF resides in-front of a HA VMM installation, and provides a hosting API. 

Coca Cola *ahem* is running a private cloud.  That’s also managed by VMM.  Users of this cloud use the portal provided by App Controller and can deploy services on this private cloud, availing of the security, SLAs, custom engineering, etc that they expect from IT. 

The cloud admins have created a contract with the hosting company, enabling App Controller to interact with SPF in the hosting company.  Now the users in Coca Cola can deploy services on-premise or in the hosting company.  It’s no longer an exclusive-or (XOR) decision when placing services, it has become an and/or decision.  Look at the diagram; Pepsi and Lidl *ahem* are also in this hosting company’s public cloud, completely isolated from Coca Cola thanks to HNV.

Coca Cola’s cloud admins have also created a contract with Azure, and App Controller can reach into there too.  Now the self-service users have a choice when deploying a service:

  • Use the highly secured and managed on premise cloud
  • Deploy services into the more scalable but local hosting company with a customised services contract
  • Or use the instantly scalable and elastic Azure IaaS service

And it’s not just a placement decision.  You can re-evaluate placement and move virtual machines (offline) from one cloud to another.  There is no migration, no OVF to mess with, etc.

This is the benefit of having 1 consistent platform, with Windows Server and System Center running in all three environments. 

For the hosting company, they aren’t left in the cold against Azure.  Windows Azure Services for Windows Server (aka “Katal” and vNext is called Windows Azure Pack) provides the exact same portal for their own use.  It can be skinned and customized.  Now the hosting company can provide the very same services as Azure, using the very same Hyper-V and HNV as is used in the Microsoft public cloud.

Now look at that slide again.  It’s not marketing fluff anymore.  It’s one stack, designed from the ground for this purpose, in many clouds that empowers you with the ability to choose.

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TechEd NA 2013: Keynote – The Post VMware Era

I am love blogging this session so please hit refresh to get the latest notes.

Pre-show, everything is running nice and smoothly.  I got in at 7am and check-in was running nicely (lots of desks) but I was even luckier by being able to register at the media desk.  One breakfast later and we were let into the keynote hall after just a few minutes’ wait, and I went into the press reserved area up to the left of the front.  We had lots of handlers there … handy when my ultrabook refused to see the TechEd network and I had to find other means to connect.

Rock music was playing, and then came out a classic New Orleans brass band to liven things up.  All we needed was some beer Smile

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Lots of well known media types start appearing in the press section as the band plays “The Saints Come Marching In” (at least until the 49ers D crushes them). 

TechEd 2014 is in Houston next year.  Hopefully there is a route that does not include Dallas Fort Worth airport.

Brad Anderson

A pre-video where “the bits have been stolen” and Brad goes all James Bond to get them back, chasing the baddies in an Aston Martin while wearing a tux.  The Windows USB key is being unsuccessfully uploaded (BitLocker to go)?  And he recovers his shades Smile  And he drives out onto the stage with the Aston Martin.  Best keynote entrance ever.

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All new versions of datacenter products:

-Devices
-Services to light up devices and enable users (BYOD)
-Azure and Visual Stuid to create great apps
-SQL Server to unlock insights into data
-The cloud platform: what enables the entire stack

Iain McDonald (Windows Core)
Makes the kernel, virtualisation, ID, security, and file system for all the products using Windows Core (Azure, Windows 8, Phone, XBoxOne, etc).  Windows is our core business, he says.  In other words, Windows lets you get your stuff.  Windows 8 is out for 8 months and sold 100,000,000 copies in that time.

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A Windows 8 blurb video, and during that a table full of Windows 8 devices comes out.  Confirms that Windows 8.1 will be compatible, out this year, and free.  Preview bits out on June 26th.    Personalized background on the Start Screen.  Some biz features will be shown:

  • Start Screen control: We can lock down tile customization.  You can set up specific apps and setup.  Set up a template machine.  It’s an XML file export-startlayout.  Set a GPO: Start Screen Layout.  Paste a UNC path to the XML file. GPO refresh on the user machine, and the start screen is locked out.  Windows 8.1 Industry line (embedded) does a lot of lock down and customization stuff for hard appliances.
  • Mirrorcast: a powerpoint display technology.  He pairs a machine with a streamless wiring device.  Now he presents from a tablet.  I want this now.  I need this now.  Much better than VGA over Wifi – which just flat out doesn’t work with animated systems like Windows 8 Start Screen. 
  • Wifi Printer with NFC.  Tab the tablet and it pairs with the printer, and adds the device/printer.  The demo gods are unkind Smile  Eventually he goes into Mail and can open an attachment side-by-side (50/50 split).  And he sends the attachment to a printer.  This is why wifi in big demo rooms does not work: the air is flooded – the print doesn’t appear as expected.
  • Surface Pro is up next.  Can build VPN into apps in 8.1.  Can work with virtual smart card for multi-factor authentication.

On the security front:

  • Moving from a defensive posture to an offensive posture in the security space. 
  • 8” Atom powered Acer tablet (see below).
  • Toshiba super hi-res Kira ultrabook

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Back to Brad

1.2 billion consumer devices sold since last TechEd.  50% of companies told to support them.  20-somethings think BYOD is a right not a privilege.  IT budgets are not expanding to support these changes.

Identity: Windows Server AD syncs with and blends with Windows Azure Active Directory (WAAD).  Windows Intune connects to on-premise ConfigMgr (System Center).  Manage your devices where they live, with a single user ID.  Don’t try to manage BYOD or mobile devices using on-premise systems – that just flat-out doesn’t work.

Aston Martin has lots of widely distributed and small branch offices (retail).  Windows Intune is perfect to manage this, and they use it for BYOD. 

Windows Server and System Center 2012 R2 are announced, as is a new release of Windows Intune (wave E).  Get used to the name of Windows Server and System Center.  Microsoft has designed for the cloud, and brought it on-premises.  Scalability, flexibility, and dependability.

Out comes Molly Brown, Principal Development Lead.

Workplace Join: She is going to show some new solutions in 2012 R2.  Users can work on the devices they want while you remain in control  She has a Windows 8.1 tablet and logs into a TemShare site.  Her access is deined.  She can “join her workplace”.  This is like joining a domain.  Policy is applied to her identity rather than to the device.  Think of this as a modern domain join – Anderson.  She joins the workplace in Settings -Network – Workplace.  She enters her corporate email address and password, and then she has to prove herself, via multifactor authentication, e.g. a phone call.  All she has to do is press the # key when prompted.  Now she can view the Sharepoint site.

To get IT apps, she can enrol her device for management via Workplace (into Intune).  Now she can (if the demo works – wifi) access IT published apps through Intune.

Work Folders: A new feature of WS2012 R2.  Users have access to all their files across all their devices. Files replicated to file servers in the datacenter and out to all devices owned by the user.  Relies on the device being enrolled. 

You can easily leave the workplace and turn off management with 2 taps.  All your personal stuff is left untouched.  BYOD is made much easier.

Remote wipe is selective, only removing corporate assets from personal devices.

App and device management is Intune.  You brand your service to the business, and manage cross-platform devices including Apple and Android (I found IOS device management to actually the be easier than Windows!).

So you empower end users, unify the environment, and secure the business.

Back to Brad

Apps.  Devs want rapid lifecycles and flexibility.  Need support for cross-platform deployment.  And data, any size.  And make it secure while being highly available.

On to the public cloud and Azure sales pitch.  A dude from Easyjet comes out. I hope everyone has paid to use the priority lane to exit the hall.  He talks about cloud scalability. 

Scott Guthrie

Corp VP for Windows Azure.  Cloud great for dev/test because of agility without waiting on someone to do something for you.  Same hypervisor on premise in Hyper-V as in Azure, so you can choose where your app is deployed (hybrid cloud).

No charge for stopped VMs in Windows Azure from now on.  You can stop it and start it, knowing that you’ve saved money by shutting it down.  Now there is pro-rated per-minute billing.  Great for elastic workload.  You can use MSDN licenses on Azure for no charge.  Or you can deploy pre-created images in the portal.  A new rate for MSDN subscribers to run any number of VMs in Azure at up to 97% discount.  MSDN subscribers get monthly credits ($50 pro, $100 premium, $150 ultimate), and you can use these VMs for free for dev/test purposes.  The portal has been updated today to see what your remaining credit balance is.  I might finally fire up an Azure VM.

http://aka.ms/azurecontest .. MSDN competition for subscribers that deploy an Azure app.  Could win an Aston Martin.

Brian Harry

Technical Fellow – Appliance lifecycle management

Next version of Visual Studio and TFS 2013 later this year.  Preview on June 26th in line with Build.  How to help devs to get from idea-implementation-into customer hands-feedback and all over again.  New cloud load test service from the cloud.  Create the test in VS/TFS, upload it to the cloud, and it runs from there.

SQL Server 2014 is announced.  Hybrid scenarios for Azure.  Lots of memory work – transaction processing in RAM.  Edgenet is an early adopter.  They need reliable stock tracking, without human verification.  This feature has moved away from once/day stock inventory batch jobs to realtime.

PixelSense monster touch TV comes out.  And they start doing touch-driven analytics on the attendees.  A cool 3D map of the globe allows them to visualize attendees based on regions. 

Back to Brad

Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 out at the end of the year, and the previews out in June.  These are based on the learnings from Azure for you to use on-premise or to build your own public cloud.  Same Hyper-V as in Azure.  This gives us consistency across clouds – ID, data, services across all clouds with no conversion. 

Windows Azure Pack for Windows Server.  This layers on top of System Center and System Center.  This is the new name for Katal by the looks of it.  Same portal as Azure.  Get density and Service Bus on top of WSSC 2012 R2.  Users deploy services on the cloud of choice.

Clare Henry, Director of Product Management comes out.  You get a stack to build your clouds.  Demo: and we see the Katal portal, renamed to Windows Azure Pack.  Creates a VM from a gallery as a self-service user.  Can deploy different versions of a VM template.  All the usual number/scalability and network configuration options. 

The self-service empowers the end user, builds on top of WSSC for automation, and allows the admin hands-off total control.

On to the fabric and the infrastructure.  Here’s the cool stuff. 

Jeff Woolsey

WSSC 2012 R2 is about agility.  Storage Spaces.  Automated storage tiering is coming to Storage Spaces using SSD and HDD.  Bye bye EMC.  That gave 16x performance improvement from 7K to 124K IOPS. 

Deduplication.  Enabling Dedup will actually improve the performance of VDI.  We now have a special VDI mode for Hyper-V VDI.  It is NOT FOR SERVER VMs.  Dedup will actually 2x the performance of those VDI VMs.

Live Migration just got unreal.  WS2012 R2 Live Migration can use resources of the host to do compression (for 10 GbE or less).  It’ll use some resources if available … it won’t compress if there’s resource contention – to prioritise VMs.

Now LM can use SMB Direct over RDMA.  And SMB Multichannel.  You get even faster LMs over 10 GbE or faster networks using RDMA.

Hyper-V Replica now supports: Site A – Site B – Site C replication, e.g. replicate to local DR, and from local DR to remote DR.

I wonder how VMware’s Eric Gray will try to tap dance and spin that faster Live Migration isn’t needed.  They don’t have anything close to this.

Hyper-V Recovery Manager gives you orchestration via the cloud.  DR was never this easy.

Brad is back

Blue led a new development cadence.  What they’ve accomplished in 9 months is simply amazing. 

We can reduce the cost of infrastructure again, increase flexibility, and be heroes.

 

Post Event Press Conference

Hybrid cloud was the core design principal from day 1 – Brad Anderson.  Organizations should demand consistency – it gives flexibility to move workloads anywhere.  It’s not just virtualization – storage, Identity, networks, the whole stack.

Scott Guthrie: private cloud will probably continue forever.  But don’t make forks in the road that limit your flexibility. 

Windows Azure Pack is confirmed as the renamed next generation version of Katal.  A new feature is the ability to use Service Bus on Windows Server, with a common management portal for private and public.  No preview release date.

Thanks to Didier Van Hoye for this one.  Stockholders not too confident in VMware this morning.  Is it a coincidence that Microsoft stole their lunch money this morning?

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To quote Thomas Maurer: we are entering the post-VMware era.

What is in Windows 8.1 for the enterprise?  It is the "next vision of Windows 8".  "No compromises to corporate IT". 

Making your PC a hotspot is a new feature.  BYOD is huge in the 8.1 release, enabled by Windows Intune.  The Workplace join and selective resets are great.  And the file sync feature controlled by the biz is also a nice one.  XP End of Life: what is the guidance… the official line will be “the easiest path to Windows 8.1 is Windows 8”.  Actually they are being realistic about Windows 7 deployment being the norm.  Mobility and touch scenarios should be future proofed with the right devices.  Windows 8 is the natural OS choice for this. 

On System Center, it is now WSSC, Windows Server and System Center as a combined solution, designed to work at data center scale.  It’s one holistic set of capabilities.  Watch for networking and storage being lit up at scale via System Center.  The new version of Orchestrator is entire based on PowerShell. 

 

My Recent Posts on Petri IT Knowledgebase (May 2013)

Below are the blog posts and articles that I have written for the Petri IT Knowledgebase over the past few weeks, covering topics like Hyper-V storage, Hyper-V snapshots, the Microsoft Cloud OS, and VMM 2012 SP1:
 
System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1: System Requirements

May 22, 2013

Review the system requirements of Microsoft’s System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 Virtual Machine Manager.

Planning Hyper-V Virtual Machine Storage

May 21, 2013

Discover the many considerations when configuring storage for a Hyper-V virtual machine.

Microsoft Cloud OS: An Overview

May 20, 2013

Discover the ins and outs of cloud computing and learn how Microsoft has made a cloud OS with Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 SP1.

Using Hyper-V Snapshots

May 15, 2013

It’s a new Ask an Admin! Discover how to create, manage, and delete Hyper-V Snapshots.

How Hyper-V Snapshots Work

May 13, 2013

Ever wondered how Hyper-V snapshots work? Wonder no more as we go take a walk through how snapshots work and mistakes to avoid.

Hyper-V Snapshots: What, When, and Why

May 8, 2013

What is a Hyper-V snapshot? Read this Ask an Admin for an introduction to Hyper-V snapshots and when you should consider using them.

Choosing Hyper-V Storage: Virtual Hard Disks

May 7, 2013

Looking at Hyper-V storage options? Discover the pros and cons of business friendly, cloud-enabled, virtual hard disks.

Hyper-V Recovery Manager – Orchestration of Hyper-V Replica Failover

Currently in limited preview, Hyper-V Recovery Manager (a part of Windows Azure Recovery Services) provides orchestration of Hyper-V Replica replicated System Center managed clouds.  The concept is:

  • You have a System Center managed cloud in site A.
  • You use Hyper-V Recovery Manager to orchestrate replication via Hyper-V Replica to site B
  • Hyper-V Recovery Manager is used to coordinate failover.

To participate in the limited preview, you must have a Windows Azure account.  Candidates from the program must be from a small set of countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Finland, Australia, Japan, India, or New Zealand.  Well that rules me out then!

The Most Under-Appreciated & Under-Used Feature Of VMM: VM Templates

Over the years, I’ve talked to people who own VMM and I’ve seen a few customer installations.  Way too often I see one of these two things:

  • An empty VMM library
  • People are not deploying VMs from VM templates

The VMM Library

Adding files to the library is easy: you use Windows Explorer to copy the files into the share.  If you can’t do that, maybe a job in IT isn’t appropriate?  The library in the console refreshes every 1 hour by default.  You can wait, or you can right-click the library and force a refresh.  Now you have a repository of reusable contents.

Personally, that’s where I like to keep the ISOs that I download from Microsoft and others.  Some software doesn’t come as an ISO, so I’ll use some free utility to “burn” and ISO with the installer on it.  You’ll find a nicely populated MSSCVMMLibrary folder in our lab at work, and on my Windows 8 (Client Hyper-V) laptop.

To save space, WS2012 deduplication is enabled on the library volume in the VMM server.

This is also where I keep my VHDs.  But more on that Smile

VM Templates

Microsoft has a different way of thinking about VM Templates than VMware.  From what I am told by VMware customers, every virtual machine template in vSphere consists of a VMDK and some metadata.  It’s the Ghost approach – lots of images.

Microsoft went a more modular route.  A VM Template is made up of:

  • A linked VHD/X file: generalised by Sysprep if it’s got a Windows OS
  • An OS profile: how do you want to customise the OS deployment in the VHD/X?  This includes computer naming, local admin password, roles/services, etc.
  • A hardware profile: how do you want to customise the virtual hardware spec of the VM?  This is the entire set including, processors, memory, disks, network (and VM network connection, etc), and so on.

You can have a single WS2012 VHD/X.  You can create lots of OS profiles.  You can create lots of hardware profiles.  And you can create lots of VM templates.  You link:

  • A VHD/X.  A single VHD/X can be reused many times.
  • A OS profile: maybe some VM templates will be for basic servers, some will be file servers (with all the storage stuff enabled), some will be web servers (with IIS enabled), and some will be .NET application servers (with .NET Framework enabled).
  • A Hardware Profile: How should this type of server be specced?  Maybe SQL Servers should have Startup RAM of 1024 GB and 2 additional VHDX files on the SCSI controller?

The concept here is that you can create lots of VM templates from a single VHD/X file.  That means you have a single, already patched and hotfixed, VHDX file for every kind of VM deployment with that OS.  Single image deployment – it’s the achievable dream in OS deployment … and it’s really easy with VMM if you bother to try.  You can deploy new VMs directly from your VM templates.  Maybe you make no changes in the wizard, but you can also further customise the VMs at this point.

Now deployment is easy.  For example, I need to build a lab for a series of events on WS2012 non-Hyper-V features for the next few weeks.  I could waste a lot of time by deploying lots of VMs, not from templates, patch the suckers, customise hardware, lots of reboots, and enabling features/roles, and lots more reboots.  Or I could be clever, and build a single VM, update the patching, turn it into a template (power it down, right click, Create VM Template), create more custom VM templates from that single VHDX file, and deploy my lab really quickly from that.  Which one do you think I’ll be doing? Smile

Give yourself a couple of hours.  Create a couple of VM templates based on your most common deployments, and you’ll save tonnes of time later on.

BTW, you can’t do self-service without templates, and you can have a cloud (of any type) without self-service.

Office 365 Upgrades Are Coming

A common misconception about Office 365 is that existing customers get upgraded immediately.  That is not the case.  New customers get access to the new product at launch time.  Existing customers need to have their service upgraded by Microsoft.  As you can imagine, there must be many petabytes of data to shove about during these upgrades and it happens gradually.  While the BPOS to Office 365 upgrade was extremely complex (BPOS was based on Office products that were not designed for the cloud) it appears that this 2013 upgrade will be much smoother and quicker.

The admins of our Office 365 account at work just got this notification:

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If we wanted to test this upgrade to check for negative impacts:

In about 4 weeks, your organization will receive an upgrade to your Office 365 service. You can experience the service upgrade with a small group of users immediately.

Note that the admin appears to get a customer-specific link for the test.

And if you want to delay the upgrade:

If you really need to, you can postpone the service upgrade right from the Admin page.

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MVP Book: Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 Cookbook

It’s been a big month for fellow VM MVP, Edvaldo Alessandro Cardoso.  First he started a cool new job, and now he’s got a new book called Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 Cookbook on the shelves. 

Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 Cookbook

– Create, deploy, and manage Datacentres, Private and Hybrid Clouds with hybrid hypervisors by using VMM 2012 SP1, App Controller, and Operations Manager.

– Integrate and manage fabric (compute, storages, gateways, networking) services and resources. Deploy Clusters from bare metal servers.

– Learn how to use VMM 2012 SP1 features such as Windows 2012 and SQL 2012 support, Network Virtualization, Live Migration, Linux VMs, Resource Throttling, and Availability.

You can buy this book now from:

Congratulations on the new job and the book Alessandro!

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Azure Services For Windows Server

Microsoft likes to talk about how they are the only company offering both pubic (Azure) and private (Windows Server and System Center) cloud solutions.  What about hosting partners?  Can they implement Azure?  In the immortal words of Vicky Pollard: no but yeah.

You can’t buy Azure appliances.  They were supposed to come via the likes of Fujitsu and Dell but they never emerged.  But there is another way.  You can build a public cloud based on Azure Service For Windows Server, formerly Codename Katal.  A lot of people actually prefer to refer to ASWS as Katal.

Uh oh!  Is this yet another incomplete hosting pack from Microsoft that is forgotten almost as soon as it is released?  The answer: no.  This is something very important to Microsoft, as you can tell by the strategic reuse of the Azure name.  As for the incomplete question: this is a pretty (not 100%) complete solution.

What do you get?  Well, you get a solution that uses VMM and the Service Provider Foundation (SPF). This allows you to build a multi-tenant cloud.  Sticking Katal in front of SPF gives you tenant (customer) and management (cloud admin) portals.  You can build service plans for web hosting (IIS 8.0), database (MySQL and SQL Server) hosting, and IaaS (VM hosting).  Those plans are then made available to tenants who can register via the externally facing tenant portal (and API – both hopefully load balanced).

The tenant experience is amazingly similar to the real Azure.  This is indicative of how important this product is to Microsoft, and how it should be treated differently to past hosting “solutions”.  I’ve paid near no attention to those past offerings – and I used Hyper-V and System Center in hosting!  But I’m paying attention to this release.

Importantly for hosting companies, you can rebrand Katal to suit the company.  The solution is mostly complete.  It comes with the modular source code.  You can add on extra functionality that hosting companies usually build for themselves such as:

  • DNS reselling – there’s a built in pack for reselling GoDaddy
  • Tenant onboarding – maybe you want to capture and validate payment data before completing the new customer registration
  • Billing – you’ll need to work with a partner or develop your own add-on for automated billing

At first you might question the lack of these features.  However, most hosting companies already have these services in place and Katal will have to fit in around them.

Be careful with customization; do it on a documented and modular way so that future upgrades from Microsoft don’t break your cloud (always test before upgrades).

The Katal portals do not integrate with the real Azure.

Katal is aimed at the hosting community but I think the enterprise should pay attention too.  Katal is a superb self-service portal, providing a very user-friendly essential element to the cloud recipe.

If you want to learn more then: