Microsoft News Summary – 8 October 2014

Welcome to today’s cloud-heavy Microsoft news compilation.

Windows Server

clip_image001

Windows Client

Azure

  • Introducing the Azure Automation Runbook Gallery: The time it takes to create functional, polished runbooks is a little faster thanks to the new Azure Automation Runbook Gallery.
  • More Changes to Azure by Scott Guthrie: Including support for static private IP support in the Azure Preview Portal, Active Directory authentication, PowerShell script converter, runbook gallery, hourly scheduling support.
  • Microsoft Certification Test Tool Preview for Azure Certified: The Microsoft Certification Test Tool for Azure Certified is designed to provide an assessment of compliance to technical requirements as part of the Azure Certified program. The test tool includes a wizard style automated section and questionnaire section to assess characteristics of a Virtual Machine image running in Microsoft Azure and generate results logs. More information on the Azure Certified program is available.
  • Announcing Support for Backup of Windows Server 2008 with Azure Backup: Due to feedback. Please note that this is x64 only and that there are system requirements.
  • Hybrid Connection Manager ClickOnce Application: ClickOnce installer for the Hybrid Connection Manager.
  • D-Series Performance Expectations: The new D-Series VMs provide great performance for applications needing fast, local (ephemeral) storage or a faster CPU; however, it’s important to understand a little about how the system is configured to ensure you’re getting an optimal experience.
  • Cloud App Discovery – Now with Excel and PowerBI Support: One of the top customer requests was to be able to perform analytics on the data collected in tools like Excel and PowerBI. Now you can take cloud app discovery data offline and explore and analyze the data with tools you already know–Excel and PowerBI.
  • A new region will open in India by the end of 2015: It makes sense; there are 1 billion people and some big corporations there.
  • Microsoft Azure Speed Test: Which Azure region is closest to you (remember that Internet geography is different to the planet’s geography. For example, where I work is a few miles from Europe North (Dublin), but the test shows me that Europe West provides me with lower latency (beaten, obviously, by CDN). My own testing using Azure Traffic Manager with geo-dispersed websites has verified this.

clip_image002

Office 365

Miscellaneous

Microsoft News Summary – 1 October 2014

There’s not all that much news to cover this morning. Oh … hold on …

Hyper-V

Windows Server

clip_image001

Windows Client

clip_image002

System Center

Azure

Security

Office 365

  • Delivering the first chapter of Groups in Office 365: Grouping of users will be rolled out to all customers that have an Exchange Online or Office 365 commercial subscription, both new and existing. Eligible Office 365 plans include the Office 365 Enterprise E1–E4 subscription plans (including the corresponding A2–A4 and G1–G4 plans for Academic and Government customers, respectively), Office 365 Business Essentials and Business Premium plans, Office 365 Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business plans and Office 365 Kiosk plan.
  • Step-By-Step – Setting up the new Azure AD Sync Tool: AAD Sync is Microsoft’s new directory synchronization tool that simplifies the process of connecting Azure AD to Windows Server AD. It also makes it more simple to connect complex, multi-forest deployments.

The Funnies

  • America’s CBS attempts to out-dumb CNN:

clip_image003

Microsoft News Summary – 19 September 2014

The positive highlight for me is the excellent TechNet article on managing tiered Storage Spaces. The lowlight was the unannounced price changes in Azure – (A) it was unannounced (B) there was no notice, and (C) it means that customers cannot plan; customers hate each and every one of those, especially the latter.

Hyper-V

Window Server

Windows

  • The September 30th Microsoft Event: Paul Thurrott (on Windows Weekly) confirmed that this event will not be streamed. Major mistake in my opinion. The attendees are a small set of media, and the subject matter is Windows “Threshold” in the enterprise. Sure … let’s not let the IT pros who will make the recommendation see the event. That’s reeeealllly sensible. Let the Windows 8 insanity continue.

Azure

Office 365

    clip_image001

Licensing

  • SPLA Audit start to finish: SPLA is based on an honour system – but audits have become a way of life with such licensing programs.

Miscellaneous

RunAs Radio – Software Defined Storage with Aidan Finn

I recorded an episode of the RunAs Radio podcast as a guest with MVP Richard Campbell a couple of of weeks ago, where we talked about using Windows Server in conjunction with commodity hardware to build software-based storage solutions:

Richard talks to Aidan Finn about Software Defined Storage. Picking up he left off in April talking about Microsoft’s Scale-Out File Server, the whole concept of Software Defined Storage is abstracting the details of the storage hardware away from the actual storage process. Aidan digs into how mixtures of SSD and spinning drives to optimize performance using Windows 2012 R2 Storage Spaces reduces costs and simplifies getting significant amounts of storage without any custom gear. And as Aidan says, in the end, it’s all just Windows. Storage continues to evolve, and not just for the big enterprise folks – there are clustered storage solutions for small and medium businesses too!

Here is the whitepaper that I refer to where 1,000,000 IOPS was achieved with a single JBOD tray. Here is the video that I produced that Richard mentions.

You can subscribe to the podcast (RSS here) via all the usual means, and you can download the MP3 here.

Or maybe you would like to see how a new 2U Cluster-in-a-Box (for cloud, branch office and SME deployments) model from DataOn has hit over 2 MILLION IOPS?

Video – Introducing Windows Server Software-Defined Storage

This is a video that I recorded for my employers, MicroWarehouse, a distributor in Dublin Ireland (nothing to do with a similarly named UK company). In it, I introduce the software-defined storage techs of Windows Server 2012 R2, focusing on Storage Spaces, Scale-Out File Server, Cluster-in-a-Box and Hyper-V on SMB 3.0, all built using hardware by DataOn Storage. There are some sample designs, and some indicative RRP pricing.

Note that this is strictly a high-level video that is intended to introduce concepts.

image

Microsoft News Summary – 27 August 2014

The rumours on “Threshold” are swirling through the Ethernets. Take nothing seriously until you see it for yourself on your own monitor.

Windows Server

image

System Center Operations Manager

Windows 9

Azure

Microsoft News Summary – 18 August 2014

The big news this morning is that Microsoft has had to withdraw 4 of last weeks automatic updates. But in other news:

Microsoft News Summary – 15 August 2014

Here’s the latest from the last 24 hours:

KB2980661 – August 2014 Update Rollup for WS2012 R2 Added Tiered Storage Spaces Performance Metrics

This KB informs us that Microsoft added much needed performance counters to Windows Server 2012 R2 for monitoring tiered Storage Spaces. You can find more details here. The new perfmon metrics are:

  • Avg. Tier Bytes/Transfer
  • Tier Transfer Bytes/sec
  • Avg. Tier Queue Length
  • Avg. Tier sec/Transfer
  • Tier Transfers/sec
  • Current Tier Queue Length
  • Avg. Tier Bytes/Write
  • Tier Write Bytes/sec
  • Avg. Tier Write Queue Length
  • Avg. Tier sec/Write
  • Tier Writes/sec
  • Avg. Tier Bytes/Read
  • Tier Read Bytes/sec
  • Avg. Tier Read Queue Length
  • Avg. Tier sec/Read
  • Tier Reads/sec

Storage Spaces – Not Just For SMEs

I read a comment today that Storage Spaces was great for small/medium deployments. And yup, it is. I use Storage Spaces to store my invaluable photo library at home (a pair of Toshiba USB 3.0 3 TB drives). At work, we use a single DataOn Storage DNS-1640 24 x slot JBOD that is dual SAS attached to a pair of 2U servers to create an economical Hyper-V cluster. And we have sold 2U DataOn Storage CiB-9220 “Cluster in a Box” units for similar deployments in SMEs.

But most of our sales of JBODs have actually been for larger deployments. Let me give you an example of scalability using an image from my software-defined storage slide decks:

image

In the above diagram there are 4 x DataOn Storage DNS-1660 JBODs. Each has 60 x 3.5” disk slots. Using 6 TB drives (recently certified by DataOn) that gives you up to 1440 TB or just over 1.4 petabytes of raw storage. That’s with 7200 RPM drives and that just won’t do. We can mix in some dual chanel SAS SSDs (using 3.5 to 2.5 adapters) to offer peak performance (read and write).

In the above design there are 4 SOFS cluster nodes, each having 2 x direct SAS connections to each JBOD – 4 JBODs therefore 8 SAS connections in each server. Remember that each SAS cable has 4 SAS ports. So a 6 Gb SAS cable actually offers 24 Gbps of throughput.

Tip from DataOn: If you’re using more than 48 drives then opt for 12 Gb SAS cards, even if your JBOD runs at 6 Gb; the higher spec cards circuitry performs better even with the lower speed SAS disks/JBODs.

Now this is where you say that this is all great in theory but surely no one is doing this. And there you would be wrong. Very wrong. MVP Carsten Rachfahl has been deploying large installations since late 201 in Germany. The same is also true of MVPs Thomas Maurer and Michael Rüefli in Switzerland. At my job, we’ve been selling quite a few JBODs. In fact, most of those have been to replace more expensive SAN installations from legacy vendors. This week I took this photo of the JBODs in the above architecture while they were passing through our warehouse:

Yup, that’s potentially over 1 PB of raw storage in 16U of rack space sitting on one shipping pallet. The new owner of that equipment is building a SAS solution that will run on Hyper-V and use SMB 3.0 storage. They’ll scale out bigger and cheaper than they would have done with their incumbent legacy storage vendor – and that’s why they’re planning on buying much more of this kind of storage.