DataOn CiB-9112 V12 Cluster-in-a-Box

In this post I’ll tell you about the cluster-in-a-box solution from DataOn Storage that allows you to deploy a Hyper-V cluster for a small-mid business or branch office in just 2U, at lower costs than you’ll pay to the likes of Dell/HP/EMC/etc, and with more performance.


So you might have noticed on social media that my employers are distributing storage/compute solutions from both DataON and Gridstore. While some might see them as competitors, I see them as complimentary solutions in our portfolio that are for two different markets:

  • Gridstore: Their hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) products remove fear and risk by giving you a pre-packaged solution that is easy and quick to scale out.
  • DataON: There are two offerings, in my opinion. SMEs want HA but at a budget they can afford – I’ll focus on that area in this article. And then there are the scaled-out Storage Spaces offerings, that with some engineering and knowledge, allow you to build out a huge storage system at a fraction of the cost of the competition – assuming you buy from distributors that aren’t more focused on selling EMC or NetApp 🙂

The Problem

There is a myth out there that the cloud has or will remove servers from SMEs. The category “SME” covers a huge variety of companies. Outside of the USA, it’s described as a business with 5-250 users. I know that some in Microsoft USA describe it as a company with up to 2,500 users. So, sure, a business with 5-50 users might go server-less pretty easily today (assuming broadband availability), but other organizations might continue to keep their Hyper-V (more likely in SME) or vSphere (less likely in SME) infrastructures for the foreseeable future.

These businesses have the same demands for applications, and HA is no less important to a 50 user business than it is for a giant corporation; in fact, SMEs are hurt more when systems go down because they probably have a single revenue operation that gets shut down when some system fails.

So why isn’t the Hyper-V (or vSphere) cluster the norm in an SME? It’s simple: cost. It’s one thing to go from one host to two, but throw in the cost of a modest SAS/iSCSI SAN and that solution just became unaffordable – in case you don’t know, the storage companies allegedly make 85% margin on the list price of storage. SMEs just cannot justify the cost of SAN storage.

Storage Spaces

I was at the first Build conference in LA when Microsoft announced Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. WS2012 gave us Storage Spaces, and Microsoft implored the hardware vendors to invest in this new technology, mainly because Microsoft saw it as the future of cluster storage. A Storage Spaces-certified JBOD can be used instead of a SAN as shared cluster storage, and this could greatly bring down the cost of Hyper-V storage for customers of all sizes. Tiered storage (SSD and HDD) that combines the speed of SSD with the economy of large hard drives (now up to 10 TB) with transparent and automatic demand-based block based tiering meant that economy doesn’t mean a drop in performance – it actually increases performance!


One of the sessions, presented by Microsoft Clustering Principal PM Lead Elden Christensen, focused on a new type of hardware solution that MSFT wanted to see vendors develop. A Cluster-in-a-Box (CiB) would provide a small storage or Hyper-V cluster in a single pre-packaged and tested enclosure. That enclosure would contain:

  • Up to 2 or 4 independent blade servers
  • Shared storage in the form of a Storage Spaces “JBOD”
  • Built in cluster networking
  • Fault tolerant power supplies
  • The ability to expand via SAS connections (additional JBODs)

I loved this idea; here was a hardware solution that was perfect for a Hyper-V cluster in an SME or a remote office/branch office (ROBO), and the deployment could be really simple – there are few decisions to make about the spec, performance would be awesome via storage tiering, and deployment could be really quick.

DataON CiB-9112 V12

This is the second generation of CiBs that I have worked with from DataON, a company that specialises in building state-of-the-art and Mcirosoft-certified Storage Spaces hardware. My employers, MicroWarehouse Ltd. (an Irish company that has nothing to do with an identically named UK company) distributes DataON hardware to resellers around Europe – everywhere from Galway in west Ireland to Poland so far.

The CiB concept is simple. There are two blade servers in the 2U enclosure. Each has the following spec:

  • Dual Intel® Xeon® E5-2600v3 (Haswell-EP)
  • DDR4 Reg. ECC memory up to 512GB
  • Dual 1G SFP+ & IPMI management “KVM over IP” port
  • Two PCI-e 3.0 x8 expansion slots
  • One 12Gb/s SAS x4 HD expansion port
  • Two 2.5” 6Gb/s SATA OS drive bays

Networking wise, there are 4 NICs per blade:

  • 2 x LAN facing Intel 1 GbE NICs, which I team for a virtual switch with management OS sharing enabled (with QoS enabled).
  • 2 x internal Intel 10 GbE , which I use for cluster communications and SMB 3.0 Live Migration. These NICs are internal copper connections so you do not need an external 10 GbE switch. I do not team these NICs, and they should be on 2 different subnets for cluster compatibility.

You can use the PCI-e expandability to add more SAS or NIC interfaces, as required, e.g. DataON work closely with Mellanox for RDMA networking.

The enclosure also has:

  • 12-bay 3.5”/2.5“ shared drive slots (with caddies)
  • 1023W (1+1) redundant power


Typically, the 12 shared drive bays are used as a single storage pool with 4 x SSDs (performance) and 8 x 7200 RPM HDDs (capacity). Tiering in Storage Spaces works very well. Here’s an anecdote I heard while in a pre-sales meeting with one of our resellers:

They put a CiB (6 GB SAS, instead of 12 GB as on the CiB-9112)  into a customer site last year. That customer had the need to run a regular batch job that would normally takes hours, and they had gotten used to working around that dead time. Things changed when the VMs were moved onto the CiB. The batch job ran so quickly that the customer was sure that it hadn’t run correctly. The reseller double-checked everything, and found that Storage Spaces tiering and the power of the CiB blades had greatly improved the performance of the database in question, and everything was actually fine – great actually!

And here was the kicker – that customer got a 2 node Hyper-V cluster with shared storage in the form of a DataON CiB for less than the cost of a SAN, let alone the cost of the 2 Hyper-V nodes.

How well does this scale? I find that CPU/RAM are rarely the bottlenecks in the SME. There are plenty of cores/logical processors in the E5-2600v3, and 512 GB RAM is more than enough for any SME. Disk is usually the bottleneck. With a modest configuration (not the max) of 4 x 200 GB SSDs and 8 x 4 TB drives you’re looking at around 14 TB of usable 2-way mirrored (like RAID 10) storage. Or you could have 4 x 1.6 TB SSDs and 8 x 8 TB HDDs and have around 32 TB of usuable 2-way mirrored storage. That’s plenty!

And if that’s not enough, then you can expand the CiB using additional JBODs.

My Hands-On Experience

Lots of hardware goes through our warehouse that I never get to play with. But on occasion, a reseller will ask for my assistance. A couple of weeks ago, I got to do my first deployment of the 12 Gb SAS CiB-9112. We got it out of the box, and immediately I was impressed. This design indicates that engineers had designed the hardware for admins to manage. It really is a very clever and modular design.


The two side-bezels on the front of the 2U enclosure have a power switch and USB port for each blade server.

On the top, you can easily access the replaceable fans via a dedicated hinged panel. At the back, both fault-tolerant power supplies are in the middle, away from the clutter at the side of a rack. The blades can be removed separately from their SAS controllers. And each of the RAID1 disks for the blades’ OS (the management OS for a Hyper-C cluster) can be replaced without removing the blade.

Racking a CiB is a simple task – the entire Hyper-V cluster is a single 2U enclosure so there are no SAN controllers, SAN switches, SAN cables, and multiple servers. You slide a single 2U enclosure into it’s rail kit, plug in power, networking, and KVM, and you’re done.

Windows Server is pre-installed and you just need to modify the installation type (from eval) and enter your product key using DISM. Then you prep the cluster – DataON pre-installs MPIO, Hyper-V, and Failover Clustering to make your life easy.

My design is simple:

  • The 1 GbE NICs are teamed, connected to a weight-based QoS Hyper-V switch, and shared with the parent. A weight of 50 is assigned to the default bucket QoS rule, and 50 is assigned to the management OS virtual NIC.
  • The 10 GbE NICs are on 2 different subnets.
  • I enable SMB 3.0 Live Migration on both nodes in Hyper-V Manager.
  • MPIO is configured with the LB policy.
  • I ensure that VMQ is disabled on the 1 GbE NICs and enabled on the 10 GbE NICs.
  • I form the cluster with no disks, and configure the 10 GbE NICs for Live Migration.
  • A single clustered storage pool is created in Failover Cluster Manger.
  • A 1 GB (it’s always bigger) 2-way mirrored virtual disk is created and configured as the witness disk in the cluster.
  • I create 2 virtual disks to be used as CSVs in the cluster, with 64 KB interleaves and formatted with 64 KB allocation unit size. The CSVs are tiered with some SSD and some HDD … I always leave free space in the pool to allow expandability of one CSV over the other. HA VMs are balanced between the 2 CSVs.

What about DCs? If the customer is keeping external DCs then everything is done. If they want DCs running on the CiB then I always deploy them as non-HA DCs that are stored on the C: of each CiB blade. I know that since WS2012, we are supposed to be able to run DCs are HA VMs on the cluster, but I’ve experienced issues with that.

With some PowerShell, the above process is very quick, and to be honest, the slowest bit is always the logistics of racking the CiB. I’m usually done in the early afternoon, and that includes some show’n’tell.


If you want a tidy, quick & easy to deploy, and affordable HA solution for an SME or ROBO then the DataOn CiB-9112 V12 is an awesome option. If I was doing our IT from scratch, this is what I would use (we had existing servers and added a DataON JBOD, and recently replaced the servers while retaining the JBOD). I love how tidy the solution is, and how simple it is to set up, especially with some fairly basic PowerShell. So check it out, and see what it can do for you.

My First Hands-On With Surface Book

We’re still not able to distribute Surface Book in Ireland, but I got a very brief play with a demo unit in the office yesterday. What was it like?

Let me preface it by saying that I have owned 3 high-end ultrabooks over the last few years:

  • Asus UX31 which is a class piece of design, other than the flat keyboard. The brushed aluminium back always makes people ask “what is that?”. It’s a few years since I’ve had it out on the road, but only 2 weeks ago some people were asking me about that machine at an event I was speaking at.
  • Lenovo Yoga S1 (gen 2 Yoga laptops): I love the hybrid design, and replacing the 1 TB HDD with a 1 TB SSD made this machine fly. The keyboard is superb (my fave by far) but I wish the screen was a bit larger – the bezel is huge.
  • Toshiba KIRAbook (from work): Similar from a distance to the Asus UX31 but it has a plastic body. It’s very light and thin, and the screen is superb – it has the high res of the UX31 and better screen quality than both of the above. On the downside, this consumer machine is not made from parts that were designed for heavy use.

So how did the Surface Book compare? Straight away, the white/gray material stands out from the crowd. This is a machine that will make people ask “what is that?” and that’s certainly a big positive, especially for people that will be paying a premium for this premium machine. When you lift it up, it feels like a sing piece of nice metal (some might say heavy). But there’s a solid and quality feel about it.

The screen is a little big for a tablet, but few will use it as a tablet. I doubt I would. But it detached cleanly for me. You might be worried about compute being in the screen, but the Surface Book seems to be weighted just right to avoid topple-over which every convertible tablet I’ve tried suffers from. And the screen – wow. If you’ve tried Surface Pro then you know what Microsoft can do with a screen. If you like punchy contrast and vivid natural colours, then Surface Pro and Surface Book might be the machines for you … I am into photography so a quality screen for editing is a necessity.

The keyboard is nice -it’s not Lenovo nice but it’s better than the UX31 or KIRAbook. The track pad is lovely and big – and might be the best I’ve used on a laptop. The stylus works very nicely with a lovely sense of friction that I haven’t gotten from the Yoga or a Samsung tablet. My handwriting was as good as it gets.

I tried Windows Hello sign-in via 3D face scan. It works much better than the Lumia 950. It works from normal viewing distance and it is quick. I think I’d use that as my primary way to unlock the Surface Book.

This machine had the recent updates which appear to have resolved most of the issues so it was shutting down quickly and effectively, and start up was instant. We have not noticed any of the old issues.

I didn’t have much time to play so this isn’t what I’d call a full review – see the posts by Brad Sams and Pault Thurrott on for that. But I will say that Surface Book, albeit at a very high price, might be the best quality laptop that I’ve tried.

Broadcom & Intel Network Engineers Need A Good Beating

Your virtual machines lost network connectivity.

Yeah, Aidan Smash … again.

READ HERE: I’m tired of having to tell people to:

Disable VMQ on 1 GbE NICs … no matter what … yes, that includes you … I don’t care what your excuse is … yes; you.

That’s because VMQ on 1 GbE NICs is:

  • On by default despite the requests and advice of Microsoft
  • It breaks Hyper-V networking

Here’s what I saw on a brand new dell R730, factory fresh with a NIC firmware/driver update:


Now what do you think is the correct action here? Let me give you the answer:

  1. Change Virtual Machine Queues to Disabled
  2. Click OK
  3. Repeat on each 1 GbE NIC on the host.

Got any objections to that? Go to READ HERE above. Still got questions? Go to READ HERE above. Got some objections? Go to READ HERE above. Want to comment on this post? Go to READ HERE above.

This BS is why I want Microsoft to disable all hardware offloads by default in Windows Server. The OEMs cannot be trusted to deploy reliable drivers/firmware, and neither can many of you be trusted to test/configure the hosts correctly. If the offloads are off by default then you’ve opted to change the default, and it’s up to you to test – all blame goes on your shoulders.

So what modification do you think I’m going to make to these new hosts? See READ HERE above 😀


FYI, basic 1 GbE networking was broken on these hosts when I installed WS2012 R2 with all Windows Updates – the 10 GbE NICs were fine. I had to deploy firmware and driver updates from Dell to get the R730 to reliably talk on the network … before I did what is covered in READ HERE above.

Dell Buying EMC Is The Daftest Thing I’ve Heard In Years

Last week I wrote a story for about the rumours of Dell buying EMC. Today, the New York Times, Bloomberg, and Fortune all have stories saying that an announcement could be released as soon as today. The purchase could cost as much as $65 billion.


Let me paint you a picture. Let’s say I have a mortgage on a house, and the balance of that mortgage is €110,000. And to get that loan, I had to get funding from several banks. I’m doing OK, but my savings are small every month. Then I decide I want to buy a second home, and I need a loan of €650,000. After some analysis, it’s decided that the value of the second house is dropping and will never recover. What do you think the bank will say to my application?

  • I have a debt already
  • My savings are small – indicating that servicing larger debts would be a challenge
  • I want a huge loan in addition to the one I already have
  • If it all goes crash-bang-wallop, selling the second house will not recoup the €650,000.

You don’t have to be a financial wizard to figure out that the bank will run me out of their office.

And that’s the position Dell is in right now, with around $11 billion in debt, and possibly now looking for an additional $65 billion.

[EDIT] We later found out that the figure will be $67 billion. What’s $2 billion between friends – let’s ask Microsoft …


This storage giant was once a huge force, but their best days (the 1990’s and 2000’s) are behind them. That’s why EMC has been shopping themselves to anyone that will take a call – I declined last Monday. EMC faces huge challenges:

  • HP and Dell bought their way into enterprise storage. It cost Dell lest than $1 billion to get Compellent. These companies offer integrated solutions via a single vendor, which EMC (storage only) cannot do.
  • New arrivals have arrived on the scene with innovative and often more flexible/affordable solutions.
  • There are no SANs in the cloud. Enterprises are moving to the cloud, where software-defined storage based on commodity hardware (JBODs, SAS, SATA, NVMe) are the rule. RAID-based SANs are just too expensive and don’t scale well.

Dell & EMC

I don’t get why Dell wants to buy the Nokia of storage. They’d be picking up a huge company, with a shrinking presence. Sure, EMC has lots of corporate customers, but isn’t this acquisition an expensive as this.

Dell already has $11-$12 billion of debts from their privatisation. And now someone, some financial genius, is going to give Michael Dell another $65 billion to buy a failing storage company?

Dell is one of the companies killing EMC. Dell already has EquaLogic and Compellent SAN storage. Dell partners with Nutanix, one of those new arrivals. And Dell has solutions for software-defined storage.


EMC owns 80% of VMware, a very healthy company. Until a week ago, there were theories that VMware would acquire their parent, EMC! If Dell acquires EMC then they get 80% of VMware. Could that be the goal? if it is, then it might back fire.

Here is the server market share for Q2, 2015 according to IDC:


Do you think that HP, IBM, Lenovo, or Cisco would be happy to partner with Dell on virtualization and private cloud? I sure don’t! I think we’d see more momentum for source cloud in Fortune 1000s and the Microsoft stack. Acquiring VMware would be not as rewarding as Dell might think – VMware was probably already concerned about the threat of public (Google, Microsoft, AWS) cloud and open source private cloud, and marginalization through acquisition  by the #2 server vendor would not help.

Maybe Dell has promised his backers that he’ll sell EMC’s shares in VMware. That might help finance the $65 billion loan. But that leaves Dell just with the EMC portfolio, one that was once great, but has little place in a new world.

Watch this story develop. In two years, we could be reading about one of the biggest corporate write-downs in tech history.

Microsoft Windows 10 Mobile Phones NEEDS To Be Sold Via Partner Channel

I watched Microsoft’s Bryan Roper perform an awesome demo of Windows 10 Mobile’s Continuum feature yesterday, and it confirmed what I suspected: Windows 10 Mobile is for business users, and that’s because, it could be the phone that replaces the PC for a lot of users.

But there’s a problem. Microsoft has relied on the phone networks, such as Verizon (USA) and Vodafone (UK/Ireland/Europe), to sell there phones. And that has failed drastically.

There’s a thing you need to understand about sales people. They sell toasters. That’s my phrase for insulting a salesperson. Sales people typically know nothing about what they are selling. They learn some lines and pitch it. And sales people are often lazy. They’ll sell what they know, and they learn as little as possible. Walk into any store and you’ll be sold and iPhone, a Samsung S6, and whatever the bargain model is that month. They want the quick and easy sale so they can move on to the next customer and hit their target – understandable based on how sales people are measured (something Microsoft has only started to change internally and with partners).

So how does Microsoft work around these networks’ sales people to put their phone hardware and OS into the hands of the intended market?

I have a solution. Why don’t Microsoft sell “One Windows” via the same channel that sells the rest of Windows to business customer? Microsoft should say “screw you <insert network name here>!”, unlock the phones, and sell them via distribution/resellers to the business. This would allow Dell/HP to sell to Fortune 100/government (as was announced recently with Surface) and distribution to sell via authorised device resellers (as was also recently opened up for Surface) to everyone else.

Microsoft has made similar changes in the past. Office 365 was not sold via resellers to SMEs, but Open licensing was introduced after several years of doing nothing in the market. The same has happened with the Surface 3 generation this year (thousands of authorized device resellers being added worldwide) but it took Microsoft several years to realize that enterprises do not pay consumer rates to buy Surface off of some rather dodgy looking webpage.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that selling Microsoft phones via the reseller channel would be a bad idea. I’m not saying that this will solve the app-gap – but it would put more phones in the market and create more demand for universal apps that can run on any Windows 10 device. And right now, Windows 10 Mobile needs some momentum, that Microsoft has never gotten from the networks, and never will. If Microsoft does not make this necessary change now, then they’d save shareholders a lot of money just by killing of the Windows Phone program right now, and focusing on Android and iPhone apps.

[EDIT] I’ve just read that AT&T has an exclusive on the new phones in the USA. Bye-bye, Windows Phone.

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Surface Book Specs, Availability, Peripherals, Models, & Pricing

Here’s a breakdown of what I know so far:


General availability:

  • The US and Canada can get their hands on Surface Book on October 26th.
  • Australia gets it on November 12th, according to the Microsoft Store site.
  • It looks like most countries will be waiting until 2016 for Surface Book – there’s no mention of it on the UK or Germany sites.

Everything we know (at the time of writing, Comic Book Store Guy who will comment in 6 months’ time) about the NVIDIA GPU is listed above and:

  • It’s a new chipset;
  • The Xbox team was involved in tuning.

Neither Microsoft nor NVIDIA are talking specifics.

A lot was made of the NVIDIA GPU in the launch. Note that the 2 cheaper models use Intel HD graphics instead of the NVIDIA GPU. Using the customizer on the US Microsoft store, the following models were available to me:

  • Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD (not NVIDIA GPU): $1,499
  • Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD (not NVIDIA GPU): $1,699
  • Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD: $1,899
  • Intel Core i7, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD: $2,099
  • Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD: $2,699

This machine is not priced to compete with a Dell Inspiron or a Lenovo Thinkpad. This is a high-end machine, targeting the same niche market as the MacBook Pro. I expect we’d see sales to artists, engineers, and management types. Asus’s CEO doesn’t need to complain.

Note that the Surface Book was designed to run Windows 10, not Windows 8.1.


Some notes:

  • The top/tablet is referred to as a clipboard by MSFT marketing
  • The battery is split; 4 hours in the top and 8 hours in the keyboard
  • The models with NVIDIA GPU place the GPU in the keyboard. There’s an Intel GPU in the clipboard/tablet.

The New Surface Pen

  • Included with the Surface Book
  • Aluminium
  • 1024 levels of pressure with
  • 1 year rechargeable battery
  • Compatible with Surface Pro 4, Surface Pro 3 and Surface book

The New Surface Dock:

  • Compatible with Surface Pro 4, Surface pro 3, and Surface Book
  • 2 Mini DisplayPorts
  • 1 Gigabit Ethernet port
  • 4 USB 3.0 ports
  • 1 Audio out port
  • 5.12 x 2.36 x 1.18 in (130 x 60 x30 mm)
  • $199.99

Mini-Display Port adapters:

  • 2 models: To-VGA and to-HA AV adapters
  • Compatible with Surface Pro 4, Surface Pro 3, and Surface Book
  • $39.99
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Surface Pro 4 Specs, Availability, Peripherals, Models & Pricing

Here’s a breakdown of what I know so far:

Surface Pro 4


  • Continuous kickstand
  • No LTE/modem capable models
  • Designed for Windows 10, not Windows 8.1

General availability:

  • The US and Canada can get their hands on Surface Pro 4 on October 26th.
  • Everyone else will have to wait – For example the UK & Germany (and some other big markets) is November 12th and others will wait until November 19th. Check your local online Microsoft Store (some localised sites still have no mention of the new devices, e.g. Ireland).

Using the customizer on the US Microsoft store, the following models were available to me:

  • Intel Core M, 4 GB RAM, 128 GB storage, $899
  • Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, 128 GB storage, $999
  • Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB storage, $1,299
  • Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 512 GB storage, $1,699
  • Intel Core i5, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB storage, $1,899
  • Intel Core i7, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB storage, $1,599
  • Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB storage, $1,799
  • Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB storage, $2,199
  • Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB storage, $2,699

The New Touch Cover

  • Backlit keys
  • 40% larger trackpad
  • Compatible with Surface Pro 4 and Surface Pro 3
  • Colours: Black, blue, bright blue, red, teal, onyx (dark grey)

There are two prices:

  • The normal ones are $129.99
  • The onyx one features Fingerprint ID scanner for Windows Hello and costs $159.99 – this model is aimed at giving Windows Hello to Surface Pro 3 users because the Surface Pro 4 offers facial recognition.

The new Surface Pen

  • Aluminium
  • 1024 levels of pressure with
  • 1 year rechargeable battery
  • Compatible with Surface Pro 4, Surface Pro 3 and Surface book

The new Surface Dock

  • Compatible with Surface Pro 4, Surface pro 3, and Surface Book
  • 2 Mini DisplayPorts
  • 1 Gigabit Ethernet port
  • 4 USB 3.0 ports
  • 1 Audio out port
  • 5.12 x 2.36 x 1.18 in (130 x 60 x30 mm)
  • $199.99

Mini-Display Port adapters

  • 2 models: To-VGA and to-HA AV adapters
  • Compatible with Surface Pro 4, Surface Pro 3, and Surface Book
  • $39.99

Windows 10 Devices Launch

Microsoft is launching Surface Pro 4, the Lumia 950 & 950 XL phones, Band 2, and maybe more. Read on – here’s my live blog of the event.

Already, thanks to a snafu by Microsoft, we know the specs of the new Lumia flagship handsets:

Lumia 950

We also know that there will be a dock for these handsets to leverage Windows 10 Mobile’s Continuum feature, basically turning your phone into a desktop device with a monitor and Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

The Surface Pro 4 is expected to be an evolution of the Surface Pro 3 (which is defeating tablet trends by increasing sales quite a bit year on year), and now Microsoft has copped on and started sales through the partner channel.

Questions I have:

  • Will the phones be sold unlocked through the channel if business is the intended market, as we suspect (Continuum)?
  • Will Surface Pro 4 offer Hello, and if so will it be fingerprint or camera (the phone uses an Iris scan)?
  • Will Microsoft announce something else, maybe a bigger Surface or a laptop?
  • Will Joe Belfiore continue to try to convince us that the Surface is “lap-able”?
  • Will they have a new cool demo of HoloLens?
  • Will there be a demo of Windows 10 on Xbox One?
  • Will the challenge the Wallstreet Journal reporter (a big Apple fan) to take home and use a Surface again?

We do know that Windows 10 head honcho, Terry Myerson, is feeling confident:


Stay tuned and we’ll find out more …


Before the Show

Petri Executive Editor, Brad Sams, isn’t impressed by the wi-fi at the venue in downtown New York – so it’s no different to any recent Microsoft conference:


Paul Thurrott isn’t impressed either. Seriously, if you’re going to invite the tech press to a live event then don’t you want them to communicate about what your are showing?


The Intro

Here we go … it’s all about “moments” … “we live in one of those moments”. “Let’s inspire. Create new experiences and new possibilities. Let’s empower everyone to go further. To do great things. Changing how we touch. ”. And the stream died. Sorry.

Microsoft should look into building a cloud scale data center facility with content delivery networks and media streaming … oh … Seriously, why the frak do they use 3rd party streaming services?

Terry Myerson

Following Twitter, after 10 weeks there are 110 million activated Windows 10 machines. 8 million business PCs running Windows 10. There have been 1.25 billion Store visits on Windows 10. Devs making 4 times more money. Facebook is building new universal apps for Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger.


New devices are the next chapter of Windows 10. Features like Cortana and Continuum are software + hardware, Windows 10 + new hardware. Today is the “start” of that next generation hardware (MSFT is doing cooperative launches with OEMs in the coming weeks).

All Xbox One machines will get Windows 10. Some special editions and the pricey gaming controller coming for Christmas.


Next up HoloLens. They want to show us something different that they’ve developed internally … mixed reality gaming on HoloLens:

Turn every room into your house into a video game level. They show us Project X-Ray, he’s going to defend the stage from an alien invasion.


He has a wearable hologram – a hologram you can hold. FRAK!


Spatial sound so you can use sound/direction. The robots know the room and use it. Me want!


Starting today they are taking registrations for the developer kit, costing $3000 and shipping in Q1 2016.

That’s the audience warmed up.

Microsoft Band 2

Eh. The new prison band from the future from a movie of the past. Sorry, I’m checking my Twitter feed and checking my mail. At $249 it’s the same price as the top end FitBit – you can pre-order today. Hard to win against a brand like that if you’re the same price, even if you have more features.


Surface & Lumia

Surface is worth 3.5 billion dollars per year. Now on to Panos Panay, the new leader of the entire devices family.

Panos Panay

He feels blessed – HoloLens has him and the crowd excited – how new for a devices event at Microsoft!!!



The Lumia 950 family:


Two antennas in the handsets to get “always on connectivity”. They will give you the best connection they can find. 950 5.2” is a hex core and the 950 5.7” XL is a octo core CPU. Liquid cooling was added from Surface to make these phones as powerful/productive as possible.


He is blowing through the specs – “you guys wrote about this already” and jokes with the media in the room.

He’s pushing the Windows 10 piece of the phones and how it uses the OLED to show info without unlocking the phone.

The camera is next (Lumia heritage). Triple LED natural flash (“no redye” and true colour). 20 MP sensor with Zeiss PureView lens. Optical stabiliser. And the usual dedicated camera button.


He’s a stickler for the little design details. He pushes the button (natural reflex)- 4K video, which goes straight to the cloud.

32 GB storage with SD expansion up to 256 GB, and it will support 2 TB when it eventually comes out – wow!

The connector is USB type C to support 5 Gbps transfers. In less than 30 minutes you get more than 50% charge – great in the morning when you forgot to charge it and you can get it topped up while getting ready.

All this power and cooling and Windows 10 … the phone is a PC. Office, Skype, OneDrive, Edge, … it’s the same package that you’ll use on your PC. Continuum baby.

Bryan Roper

Hello is blowing his mind and making some noise.


Unlocking the phone: you just look at it – the Hello beta.

The Microsoft Display Port is shown – how you connect the phone to your monitor, keyboard and mouse.


The phone is docked, and the start screen of the phone is the start menu on the desktop. He starts using Office and Outlook, using it with a mouse and keyboard. Welcome to the future.


The navigation experience is consistent with the desktop. He app switches, etc. He lifts the phone and he can still do all the phone stuff (texting, etc). Universal apps can scale between screen sizes (phone and monitor).

He does some productivity stuff, like editing a Word doc, copies a table, does Alt-Tab, goes to PowerPoint and pastes a table. It’s the same as the PC, just with the universal app version of Office.

The Display Dock supports removable media such as a USB stick. He inserts one with pictures on it and browses the photos on the monitor via the phone.

He has full audio and 1080p. He plays the Jurassic World trailer on the big screen with surround sound in the theatre. And that’s coming from the phone.

Panos Panay

Back on stage to wrap up. The 950 is $549 and and the 950 XL is $649.



They want to make these the most productive devices on the planet. Surface Pro 3 has grown. We’ve seen this (as distributors to resellers). There’s a video of a small CAD/CAM business using Surface to it’s potential (touch, pen, CPU, mobility).

“Competitors are chasing it; it’s pretty cool”.

Do they double down and bring the thunder? Yup. Thunderstruck.

6th generation Intel SkyLake CPU that is 50% faster than the MacBook Air. Up to 16 GB RAM and 1 TB storage. It’s Surface Pro 4. Thinnest Core PC ever shipped. 12.3” diagonal screen (by reducing the size of the bezel so it’s the same size device). 267 PPI screen – 5 million pixels on screen, keeping the screen the best in the biz, IMO.

PixelSense technloogy. 0.4 mm gorilla glass. 1.1mm backlight. Custom chipset called G5 made by Microsoft. Takes the optical stack and brings “best pen & touch experience on any product”.


The pen has an eraser on the back. He jokes that there’s a pencil out there without an eraser, sorry Apple! 1024 levels of pressure. 1 year of battery life in the pen – rechargables break the flow of productivity. The pen connects to the Surface via a magnet by the looks of it – no loop required.


Office & OneNote are integrated. You can quickly launch OneNote and copy content to OneNote using clicks on the pen. An attempted Cortana demo tries to show off the new Microsoft Store in Manhattan – he doesn’t get a spoken result and looks like he was stumped for a second, before recovering.

Inter-changeable pen tips are being introduced. You can select a tip that suits how you work – pencil, ballpoint pen, felt-tip pen, etc.

Surface Pro 4 is 30% faster than the Pro 3. He compares it to the MacBook Air – 50% faster than the Apple.


They stopped thinning the device at 8.4mm so there’s still a USB port there! They demo the Surface Pro docking station – it also supports Surface Pro 3. Four USB 3.0 connectors, 2 x 4k display ports, Ethernet. It looks more like a hub, moving away from the big docking station of the past.

There is a new Surface Pro Type Cover. It is lighter, thinner, and stronger. There is a “pro key set” moving away from the older type keyset. This is also compatible with the Surface Pro 3. The touch pad is 40% larger.

On to Windows Hello:


He shows how his kids use Windows Hello on a Surface to get a unique experience for each of them. Parents will love this. There’s a finger print reader on the keyboard.


The front facing camera appears to support Windows Hello. The starting price is 899. You can pre-order now and it’s available on October 26th.

Catch the promo video on YouTube:

Surface Laptop

Oh yeah – I want this.

“We made the ultimate laptop – we made Surface Book”.


It’s … grey.


13.5” diagonal screen. 6 mp. 267 DPI. Pixel Sense. It has a pen and touch experience. Optically bonded screen. Top quality visuals. The typing experience was a big deal for them.

He jokes that we laughed about lap-ability. The typing is quiet. 1.6mm of travel – they’re using their 20+ years of keyboard experience. The trackpad is optimised by the Windows 10 team – it’s made of glass. 5 points of touch on the screen.

12 hours of battery. GDDR5 memory. Tuned NVIDIA GForce GPU – tuning via XBox team. This thing “is for the game than plays League of Legends”. This is not a $200 laptop. This is the “fastest 13 inch laptop ever made”. And remember – 12 hours of battery.

How does it compare to a MacBook Pro? It’s 2 times faster than the MacBook Pro. The Surface Dock also works with the Surface Book – one chord (the Surface Connector). He copies 3 GB of data from a drive to the desktop in around 3 seconds. They then show Gears of War playing on the Surface Book – It looks smooth. Some movie editing in Premier Pro – it’s happy doing it with full GPU rendering and no glitches.


They start with a case and machine it to 10s of microns – every Surface is unique because of this manufacturing process.


2 USB , SD, backlit keyboard.

Starts at $1,499, available for pre-order now, and also out on October 26th.

“We are relentless … and we can’t just stop”.

Surface Pro 4 was about bringing the thunder. This product is about reinventing categories. We re-watch the Surface Book video. Ah – the tablet undocks from the keyboard – and can be docked backwards. The Surface Book is a convertible, not a traditional laptop!!!!!

It weights 1.6 Lbs. It is 7.7mm thin. It is modelled on the A4 page for a natural feel. The expandability (USB etc) is in the keyboard. The GPU is in the base.

Muscle Wire is used instead of levers and clicks to lock in the screen. You simply pull off the screen from the base. It’s some sort of clever electrical charge thing.


Catch the Surface Book on YouTube:

Satya Nadella

Out comes the CEO.


“We’re making great progress” with the vision they shared in January. This is by far the fastest adoption of a Windows release. A new chapter of Windows 10 is beginning with new devices built for Windows 10 by Microsoft and partners – a new era of more personal computing that focuses on mobility of experience where  you persist, not the device. No single device will be your hub forever – you are the hub so your apps, settings and data need to be mobile with you. This is why they built Windows 10 they way it is, a unified platform for people, developers and IT, on devices from the Raspberry Pi to the HoloLens.

They aren’t just building h/w for h/w’s sake. They consider new forms and functions simultaneously. They plan to invent new personal computers and new personal computing.

Microsoft is now building the most productive phone on the planet. And lots of caring, and envisioning, and … they should have wrapped up on a demo high IMO.

But overall – this was a very successful launch. I need to get our Surface manager to organise me some *cough* demo stock.

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DataON Gets Over 1 Million IOPS using Storage Spaces With A 2U JBOD

I work for a European distributor of DataON storage. When Storage Spaces was released with WS2012, DataON was one of the two leading implementers, and to this day, despite the efforts of HP and Dell, I think DataON gives the best balance of:

  • Performance
  • Price
  • Stability
  • Up-to-date solutions

A few months ago, DataON sent us a document on some benchmark work that was done with their new 12 Gb SAS JBOD. Here are some of the details of the test and the results.


  • DNS-2640D (1 tray) with 24 x 2.5” disk slots
  • Servers with 2x E5-2660v3 CPUs, 32 GB RAM, 2 x LSI 9300-8e SAS adapters, and 2 x SSDs for the OS – They actually used the server blades from the CiB-9224, but this could have been a DL380 or a Dell R7x0
  • Windows Server 2012 R2, Build 9600
  • MPIO configured for Least Blocks (LB) policy
  • 24 x 400GB HGST 12G SSD

Storage Spaces

A single pool was created. Virtual disks were created as follows:


Test Results

IOMeter was run against the aggregate storage in a number of different scenarios. The results are below:


The headline number is 1.1 million 4K reads per second. But even if we stick to 8K, the JBOD was offering 700,000 reads or 300,000 writes.

I bet this test rig cost a fraction of what the equivalent performing SAN would!

Driver Updates By Windows Update Are Ruining Windows 10 For Me

In previous posts I talked about how Windows Update was breaking the Intel HD graphics adapters in my Lenovo Yoga and Toshiba KIRAbook Ultrabooks, and I also posted a solution that should prevent Windows Update from downloading drivers. Well … nothing has worked, and I regularly face broken graphics drivers on my Ultrabooks.

The only solution that I have to solve the issue is:

  • Uninstall the device in Device Manager
  • Refresh
  • Manually install a driver that I downloaded from Intel – I keep this driver for regularly carrying out this process.

I’ve found that Windows Update can silently install the updated fault driver during the middle of a presentation, and suddenly I am no longer sharing my display with the projector/screen – that’s an interesting problem, that requires 5-10 minutes of fixing.

Some folks have suggested that I use the solution in KB3073930, How to temporarily prevent a Windows or driver update from reinstalling in Windows 10. I did, and that worked for 5 days, until Microsoft shipped replacement versions of the driver, the block rule lapsed, and I was back to Square One.

This is the only issue I’m having with Windows 10 … but it is absolutely driving me nuts.

It’s no wonder that Samsung felt like they had to block all Microsoft updates to give customers a stable Windows experience. Please Microsoft, stop shipping frakked up drivers, or give me actual control over these updates on Windows 10, not just the illusion of it!!!

Let me be very clear: the only source of driver updates should be from the PC manufacturer. Microsoft has always sucked at this, and their new “we know best” model with Windows 10 shows how out of touch they are with this subject.