Deploying VMM 2008 R2 Now?

You need to be aware of a few things if you are deploying System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008 R2 at the moment.

First thing is that VMM 2012 is just around the corner.  The public beta launched yesterday.  It brings about some big changes.  If you are buying that license then I recommend that you tack on some Software Assurance to get the upgrade to SCVMM 2012 when it is released as RTM.

Next up is SQL Server support.  SQL Express has been supported up to now.  That limits you to an on-board 4GB database.  That’s not been an issue for most Hyper-V deployments.  The free license (as opposed to SQL Server Standard edition) was a real money saver and an “obvious” decision – one which I have made myself.

VMM 2012 will not support SQL Express.  You will need SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard (or higher edition).  Yup; you will have to spend that little bit more.  If you are doing the upgrade (after VMM 2012 RTM) then you can probably install SQL Server 2008 R2, detach the database from Express, and reattach the database in SQL Server 2008 R2 (to be verified).

An interesting scenario will be that VMM 2012 can be made highly available.  Some have deployed VMM as a HA VM (which I strongly dislike) to get this effect.  HA VMM will require a clustered file share (for the library) and HA SQL (for the VMM database).

So keep all that in mind if you are deploying VMM 2008 R2 now.

MAP 5.5 Beta

Watch out, the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit 5.5 will be in a store near you real soon.  Microsoft just sent out emails about the start of the MAP 5.5 beta:

What’s new with MAP Toolkit 5.5?

Assess your environment for upgrade to Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8 (or the latest version)

Are you looking for a tool to simplify your organization’s migration to Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8—and, in turn, enjoy improved desktop security, reliability and manageability? The MAP 5.5 IE Upgrade Assessment inventories your environment and reports on deployed web browsers, Microsoft ActiveX controls, plug-ins and toolbars, and then generates a migration assessment report and proposal—information you need to more easily migrate to Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8 (or the latest version).

Identify and analyze web application, and database readiness for migration to Windows Azure and SQL Azure

Simplify your move to the cloud with the MAP 5.5 automated discovery and detailed inventory reporting on database and web application readiness for Windows Azure and SQL Azure. MAP identifies web applications, IIS servers, and SQL Server databases, analyzes their performance characteristics, and estimates required cloud features such as number of Windows Azure compute instances, number of SQL Azure databases, bandwidth usage, and storage.

Discover heterogeneous database instances for migration to SQL Server

Now with heterogeneous database inventory supported, MAP 5.5 helps you accelerate migration to SQL Server with network inventory reporting for MySQL, Oracle, and Sybase instances.

Enhanced server consolidation assessments for Hyper-V

Enhanced server consolidation capabilities help save time and effort when creating virtualization assessments and proposals. Enhancements include:

  • Updated hardware libraries allowing you to select from the latest Intel and AMD processors.
  • Customized server selection for easy editing of assessment data. Data collection and store every five minutes for more accurate reporting.
  • Better scalability and reliability, requiring less oversight of the data collection process.
  • Support for more machines”.

Mastering Hyper-V Deployment Excerpts

Sybex, the publisher of Mastering Hyper-V Deployment, have posted some excerpts from the book.  One of them is from Chapter 1, written by the excellent Patrick Lownds (Virtual Machine MVP from the UK).  As you’ll see from the table of contents, this book is laid out kind of like a Hyper-V project plan, going from the proposal (Chapter 1), all the way through steps like assessment, Hyper-V deployment, System Center deployment, and so on:

Part I: Overview.

  • Chapter 1: Proposing Virtualization: How to propose Hyper-V and virtualisation to your boss or customer.
  • Chapter 2: The Architecture of Hyper-V: Understand how Hyper-V works, including Dynamic Memory (SP1 beta).

Part II: Planning.

  • Chapter 3: The Project Plan: This is a project with lots of change and it needs a plan.
  • Chapter 4: Assessing the Existing Infrastructure: You need to understand what you are converting into virtual machines.
  • Chapter 5: Planning the Hardware Deployment: Size the infrastructure, license it, and purchase it.

Part III: Deploying Core Virtualization Technologies.

  • Chapter 6: Deploying Hyper-V: Install Hyper-V.
  • Chapter 7: Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2: Get VMM running, stock your library, enable self-service provisioning.  Manage VMware and Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1.
  • Chapter 8: Virtualization Scenarios: How to design virtual machines for various roles and scales in a supported manner.

Part IV: Advanced Management.

  • Chapter 9: Operations Manager 2007 R2: Get PRO configured, make use of it, alerting and reporting.
  • Chapter 10: Data Protection Manager 2010: Back up your infrastrucuture in new exciting ways.
  • Chapter 11: System Center Essentials 2010: More than just SCE: Hyper-V, SBS 2008 and SCE 2010 for small and medium businesses.

Part V: Additional Operations.

  • Chapter 12: Security: Patching, antivirtus and where to put your Hyper-V hosts on the network.
  • Chapter 13: Business Continuity: A perk of virtualisation – replicate virtual machines instead of data for more reliable DR.

On-Demand Hyper-V VM Design Webcasts

Do you want to know what the best practices for deploying Exchange, SharePoint and SQL are on Hyper-V (or any virtualization platform)?  Well here you go:

There should be enough in there to keep you hiding from the boss for half a day.

SQL Server 2008 R2 RTM and SQL 2008 R2 Express Downloads

SQL Server 2008 R2 was released to manufacturing.  As usual, a free (and limited scale/functionality) Express edition was also released.  There are three packages, from the version just with the core components, the version with management functionality, and the version that has management and more advanced features:

  • SQL Server 2008 R2 Express: The Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 R2 Express RTM is a powerful and reliable data management system that delivers a rich set of features, data protection, and performance for embedded applications, lightweight Web Sites and applications, and local data stores. Designed for easy deployment and rapid prototyping, this download includes support for Sysprep, Microsoft’s System Preparation Utility for Microsoft Windows operating system deployment.
  • SQL 2008 R2 Express with Management Tools: an easy-to-use version of the SQL Server Express data platform that includes the graphical management tool SQL Server Management Studio (SMSS) Express
  • SQL 2008 R2 Express with Advanced Services: an easy-to-use version of the SQL Server Express data platform that includes the graphical management tool SQL Server Management Studio (SMSS) Express, powerful features for reporting, and advanced text-based search capabilities

The requirements for the Express edition are:

  • Windows 7; Windows Server 2003; Windows Server 2008; Windows Server 2008 R2; Windows Vista; Windows XP
  • 32-bit systems: Computer with Intel or compatible 1GHz or faster processor (2 GHz or faster is recommended.)
  • 64-bit systems: 1.4 GHz or faster processor
  • Minimum of 512 MB of RAM (2 GB or more is recommended.)
  • 2.2 GB of available hard disk space
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MS Ireland SQL 2008 R2, Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 “Launch”

Today sees the the technical preview road show of Office 2010, Sharepoint 2010 and SQL 2008 R2 by Microsoft Ireland.  I’m attending the Dublin event and blogging the highlights.  You can still register for the Belfast, Cork and Galway events so make sure you attend if you can.  I’ll update this post as the afternoon moves along so come back later if you want to read more.

The event kicks off with Enda Flynn (Technical Audience Manager in the DPE team).  Enda tells us that the software will be available on volume licensing on May 12th and on the shelves in June.  The Office 2010 beta is stiff available and a Zune HD draw is running for people in Ireland.  Information about this is available when you download (check the site).

Office 2010

Patrick Herlihy is a partner technical specialist in MS Ireland focusing on the UC and BI stuff and will be up next.  The focus on his presentation is management, security and cost effectiveness.

Deployment Options

Lots of ways:

  • Install
  • Terminal services
  • App streaming
  • Web streaming

Server Integration:

Just a few examples:

  • Presence: Office Communication Server
  • Security: AD Rights Management Services
  • On premises hosting with SharePoint

Groove

This is now called SharePoint Workspace.  Very useful for sharing data with people outside of the office.  Has offline access.  I’ve used Groove once before on a collaboration project.  It’s a little different but it works well.

Services More Discoverable to End Users

  • End users can see services offered by IT through Office Backstage.
  • End users can also create their own applications in Excel and publish them to SharePoint.

PowerPoint

There is online webcasting available.  Video is easier.

Outlook

Lots of new stuff.  Mail tips, e.g. a warning if you try to send an email to all staff.  Conversation view is enabled by default.  Better integration with OCS.

Office Web Apps

You can use online versions of Office 2010.  You host this on premises with SharePoint.  It supports non-MS browsers.

Backstage

Think of this as an expanded File menu that is better presented for end users.  Things are easier to find, whether it be the ability to save in another format or save to the SharePoint server – the latter was always an issue in the past.

SharePoint Workspace Offline

This will work with Office on Windows Mobile 6.5 or higher (or whatever it is called this week).  So now you can have docs on SharePoint, sync them to your laptop for home use, or even sync them to your phone for completely mobile use.  They’ll all sync with SharePoint.  The office, the firewall, and the organisation (forest membership) are no longer boundaries to secure data access.

Security

The trend of attacks is that attacks is that they are increasingly attacking applications more than anything else.  The network and OS transport layers are at the bottom, i.e. least attacked.  Between them and applications are the core OS libraries.

Office 2010 has “increased security” – you’ll probably need to search to get the details.  All of this is manageable using GPO.  An example is Protected View.  Office 2010 can detect documents that are sourced from elsewhere and protect you from them.  You have to verify that the doc expected/OK before it has full functionality.

Document Inspector can be controlled using GPO.  It will run every time a doc is saved.

Accessibility Checker is exposed by Backstage.  This can run against documents (by policy) to ensure a document is accessible compliant.

Deployment

Disk requirements go up by just 1.5GB from Office 2010.  All other requirements are the same.  There are native 32bit and 64bit versions.  Watch out for plugins on 64bit editions.  There is still a problem there.  32bit is still recommended.

It stats up very fast – event the old CTP does.

You can install using GPO startup scripts.  You cannot install using traditional MSI/transform via GPO like you could with XP/2003.  So it’s the same as with Office 2007.  Can install using ConfigMgr or App-V.  You will need App-V 4.6 (the latest version) if you want to do app virtualization for Office 2010.

As usual, there will be an extensive GPO management options.

Licensing

Office now has the same licensing as Windows.  You use either a MAK or a KMS key.  *wait for you reaction here*

Deployment Planning

  • Use MAP v5.0 (still a beta on Connect) to assess readiness for Office 2010.
  • Office Environment Assessment Tool (OEAT) – checks 3rd party add-ins for compatibility.  It uses an online library to warn you.  It’s kind of a similar model as with ACT.
  • Office Compatibility Code Inspector (OCCI) – will inspect custom code that is written.
  • Office Migration Planning Manager – Identify macro issues, migrate office files to OpenXML

Training

There is a pre-packaged “productivity hub” SharePoint site library with training content for end users. You can load it on SharePoint 2010 to teach users how to use SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010.

Office Ribbon Here is a new plug-in.  It’s a game of some sort to challenge and  teach users how to use the ribbon.  We have a few laughs here when Patrick shows us how little he uses MS Word for formatting :)  MS folks do live in Outlook after all.

SharePoint 2010

Aidan Nolan (they keep saying Aidan is up next and I keep double taking thinking WTF!!! I’m not presenting today!) from MS Ireland is up next.

Sales Pitch

  • Connect and empower people
  • Cut costs with a unified infrastructure
  • Rapidly respond to business needs

Gains for the IT Pros

IT productivity

  • Streamlined central admin
  • Management & health monitoring
  • PSH support

Scalable unified infrastructure:

  • Manage and control server resources – large list management
  • Improve data management and availability – high availability
  • Scalable services architecture

Flexible deployment:

  • Quick and simple installation and configuration – configuration wizards
  • Smooth and predictable upgrade – visual upgrade
  • Manage and control custom code – sandboxed solutions
  • Improved features – group policy block and AD marker

We now get a demo of functionality in SharePoint 2010.  Simple things like the ability to stretch an image, context sensitive ribbon, are big wins here, making it much more end user friendly.  The ribbon in SharePoint is just like an Office ribbon.  There is a theme gallery where you can easily update Office themes (templates).  Popups aren’t hidden away like previous versions of SharePoint.  The interface is much more responsive to mouse movement.  Fast Search brings back previews.  You can select the type of content you want to see, e.g. PowerPoint documents, people, etc.  There is a preview where the content can be browsed inline in the search results.  It also links to duplicate content.

Central administration is completely redesigned.  Health is front and centre.  You can see detected faults along with proposed resolution steps. 

Requirements

  • 64 bit only – that’s the entire farm.  Dual CPU
  • 8GB minimum for a role
  • 80 GB disk minimum
  • SQL 2005 x64 SP 2 with CU 12, SP3 with CU 2
  • SQL 2008 x64 Std SP1 + KB970315
  • X64 W2008 SP2 Standard or W2008 R2 Std
  • There’s a crap load of s/w pre-requisites.  There is a pre-requisite tool to do all the detection work for you.  It will download and install all the bits required.  Nice time saver.

Process

  • Prerequisites
  • Install the binaries
  • Configuration Wizard
  • Server Farm Configuration Wizard – a new tool to create new site collection and set up service accounts.

Client

  • Silverlight 2
  • Level 1 browser like IE7.  Includes specified versions of Safari and FireFox.

Upgrade Path

  • In place upgrade: supposed to be next – next – next.  A restart of the process is possible.  All timeouts are removed – reported as a big problem before.  Sites are unavailable during upgrade and retain the URL after the upgrade.  Farm settings are inherited.  Customizations are retained.  Entire farm is offline for some time.
  • Database attach: Can attach content, SSP and Project.  Cannot attach Configuration or Search DB’s.  What you do is install an entirely new farm and attach to existing databases.  Can upgrade many content DB’s at once.  Can consolidate farms.  You lose settings and customizations from old farm(s).  It requires lots of engineering time and bandwidth.  You need direct access to the DB servers – problem in huge organizations where there are DBA teams/depts.
  • Hybrid: Do a bit of both in-place and attach.  Maintain settings and customizations.  Multiple content DB’s at once.  Requires time and direct access.

Gradual upgrade is not supported.  Note that you cannot upgrade from 32bit to 64bit.  That requires a migration.

Normally an upgrade retains the 2007 appearance.  You can do a visual appearance upgrade too.  It is a one way operation.

Introducing PowerPivot for Excel/SharePoint

By Bob Duffy MVP (SQL) and DB architect (not MS).  Bob is one of those guys with a big brain that makes you feel sick with jealousy.  Nice guy too.

The first bit is that you can bring in data into Excel 2010 from any source that you can get a data driver for.  It also can run MUCH more rows and data than previous versions.  The demo example has 1.4 million rows.  Data can be cleansed at the entry point into Excel.  Very useful because BI data can be a bit rough around the edges at times.  You can filter out unwanted fields too.  Bob runs through a demo and shows how flexible PowerPivot is for BI work with large volumes of data.  The demo is very, very cool.  Bob pulls in data from SQL, does graphing, slicing, selections and calculations (using macro) and then pulling in data from an RSS atom feed to join it.

You can save locally or save to SharePoint to share with others.  MIS will want to get involved here to assure that a BI application is valid.  And that’s possible thanks to the PowerPivot Gallery.  Admins can manage PP’s here.  And users can subscribe to them.

Bob went on to demonstrating the reporting capabilities of integrating with SQL 2008 R2.  He put together with (what seemed like) a few mouse clicks a map that subscribed to the PP data from the gallery.  It could even overlay a map from Bing.  Then he pulled data from an RSS atom feed from elsewhere and joined it to compare and contrast how one metric affected another.

EDC and Lanuages

The end of the day was with two guys from the EDC in Dublin.  One showed how you could integrate new languages into the Office hints.  The other showed a video of using SharePoint 2010 MUI’s.  An admin would install and enable a language.  Each user could then select the language of their choice in SharePoint.  That could be displayed on the fly in the interface, including the dialog boxes.

And that was the end of the session.  The evening was all aimed at developers so I skipped that.

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SQL BPA Command Line Has Encountered A Problem And Needs To Close

I was upgrading an application this morning.  Part of the process was to upgrade SQL 2000 to SQL 2005 (the application is developed by a company that tends to not be adventurous about version platform support).  After I’d gone through the setup wizard, it went to do a last check and came up with this error:

image

When you’re dealing with something like a SQL upgrade and see something like this … well … you start looking for the phone and dialling 999 (911 for those of you across the pond). 

A very quick search later and I had the solution.  A simple folder creation and a file copy sorts things out.

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MS Partner Event: Application Platform University

This is a business intelligence “road show” funded by MS Europe, presented in the Dublin office.  The speaker is Tibbs Pereira, hosted by Barry McMahon.  Barry is a good guy; I’ve worked with him in a previous job and he was great at sharing info and helping us out.

They do something interesting to start out.  There’s around 20 visitors in the room.  The speakers have asked each visitor to introduce themselves, say what they want to get out of the day and list objections/fears from the field about MS BI technology.

The Business Imperatives

  • Business intelligence – usable information
  • The web – availability
  • Business applications – processing data to get information and using it to get results
  • Application lifecycle management – continuous development/improvement of functions and features

Traditional business solutions often include the user using multiple styles of non-integrated applications: green screen, installed and web.  We should try to have a unified application platform: one style of integrated interface, even if it’s multiple applications and systems at the back end.  That makes data easier to access and information easier to use.

Using an integrated backend, not a mix of all the platforms (SAP, Oracle, SQL, MySQL, etc) makes application development easier and data more reliable.  Otherwise you’re fudging data through translation services and hoping it stays consistent.  35% planning this convergence.  41% currently have this convergence underway.  24% aren’t going to converge.  According to Forrester Research in 2007.

Underlying this is the optimised infrastructure (well designed and managed).  Ideally it’ll be dynamic too, e.g. automation, and flexible, e.g. self service in VMM.

Benefits of the MS Platform

Innovation Benefits

  • Better time to value
  • Respond quickly to organisation change via flexibility
  • User experience is familiar
  • Largest partner ecosystem for packaged and customised solutions

Operations Benefits

  • High performance, scalability and reliability
  • Solutions have common management skills and tools, e.g. System Center, clustering, etc.
  • Technology investments work well with each other, MS integration, Active Directory for authorisation/authentication
  • Consistent security standards for increased compliance: take advantage of Configuration Manager to audit those policies.

An interesting point is brought up here.  Lots of MS customers already have the licensing for much of this.  For example, a desktop core CAL may include SharePoint CAL’s.  All that remains is the server licensing which is a comparatively small cost.

Customer Thinking

Customers have typically deployed lots of solutions with no standardisation.  “Legacy systems are forever”.  There’s some movement to standardisation.  Oracle, Microsoft and IBM are emerging as the 3 remaining pillars.  Customers now considering standardisation on one of these 3.  SME typically are standardised on Microsoft already because of price and availability.  Larger enterprises have the heterogeneous application platform.  The won’t ditch legacy stuff but they will integrate into a single application platform for data availability and information access and usage.

Business intelligence is the number one spend in IT.  It was in 2009 (4th year in a row, Gartner) and will be in 2010.  It’s “recession proof”, because information is more important now to understand the pains and losses.  Future compliance solutions, as a result of the recession causes, will continue this drive.

Microsoft SWOT

  • Strengths: Office, roadmap
  • Opportunity: CAL up-sell and deployment
  • Weaknesses: brand perceptions
  • Threats: Oracle

Approaches

These are the motivations of customers in BI:

  • Application Led: (SAP and Oracle) point application approach.  I need XYZ and these vendors do this
  • Infrastructure led: (IBM, Microsoft) this is a broader, integrated approach.  The idea is a store of data and access systems are built and applications are built on it.

Business Productivity Infrastructure

  • Unified Communications and collaboration
  • Business intelligence
  • Enterprise content management

These sit on:

  • Worflow
  • Search
  • Business data catalog
  • Extensible UI
  • Open XML file formats
  • Website and secure framework

In other words, think of the big picture, not just the point application.  Reports are produced but how are they stored, shared, accessed, secured, used by other solutions, etc.

And all of this needs to run on a secure, reliable, flexible, scalable and well managed IT infrastructure.  If that foundation is week then the business productivity infrastructure is weak => the business is weak.

Model

  • SQL is the data storage engine
  • SharePoint is the thin client access system
  • Office is the thick client access method.

The Next Wave of MS Products

Both SharePoint 2010 and SQL 2008 R2 are focused on business intelligence.  SP will be RTM before July.  SQL this year.  We get a demo of Excel pulling data from SQL, produces an application (a report based on pivot tables and slices) and publishes it to SharePoint so anyone can access it.  The lesson is that BI is something to sell to and use by the business, not IT. 

This is data access/sharing done by non-IT people using data managed by IT.  It’s ad-hoc self-service where the business doesn’t have to wait on IT, and IT doesn’t get distracted from engineering projects and maintenance.  IT can monitor this.  Then we go back to basic MIS and systems analysis classes from college.  IT should take over important or highly used applications to standardise them and to do QA on them.  Critical applications should be managed.

Excel 2007 can now load hundreds of millions of rows from SQL.  In the demo, the 110,000,000 rows consumed approximately 64KB of data, therefore not hammering the network.

Scalability

RyanAir booking systems runs on SQL 2005.  It was SQL 2000 until recently.  It has 54,000,000 transactions per annum.  Permanent TSB online banking runs on SQL.  Department of family and social affairs runs on SQL.  NASDQ uses it, Citibank uses it, Hotmail, MSN, etc.  So the questions about SQL scalability from the typical 300 user CIO are laughable.  Gartner counts MS SQL as one of the big 3 enterprise database systems.

SQL Reporting Services

The sales phrase being used for SQL is “beyond relational”, i.e. there’s more to MS SQL than storing data: e.g. analysis, integration and reporting.

Competing Against Oracle

Don’t try to tell them to dump Oracle.  Say it’s fine for point applications but MS stack is data/information for the masses.  Chances are, most of the infrastructure and client access licensing are already in place for the MS stack.  You’re likely looking at hybrid solutions where you sell services to merge data into a data warehouse(s) for user access.

Selling SQL Server Advanced Solutions

In BI, MS never talks about the Standard or less editions of SQL.  They always talk about Enterprise.  The same goes when comparing against Oracle. 

There is a new things called the SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse.  It’ll be sold by hardware vendors exclusively.  The idea is that you can scale out a singe data warehouse database across cheaper hardware instead of buying some big gigantic pricey piece of equipment.

There is a new Datacenter SKU as well.  This will be per processor.  Supports up to 256 physical cores.  Unlimited free virtualization on a licesned host.  Unlimited RAM.  Unlimited managed instances. 

Standard price going up by 25%.  Enterprise is going up by 15%.  Now only 4 free VM’s on a licensed host.  Max 2TB RAM.  Up to 25 managed instances.

Standard: 64Gb RAM, 4 physical processors, 1 free VM license. 

Existing Enterprise covered by Software Assurance will be upgraded to Datacenter.

*Hmm, I’d be concerned that these higher costs will further swing SME’s on the online market to MySQL.  It’s probably got over 60% of that market.

BizTalk

This was briefly talked about.  It’s the application and business integration solution from MS, based on XML translation.  Often a possibility to sell with SharePoint.

If you are in Ireland then check out the SharePoint user group and the SQL user group.

SQL 2008 R2 Licensing

Emma Healey (MS Licensing person capable of speaking both English and Microsoft Licensing) has just posted about some changes coming with SQL 2008 R2.  The edition comparisons (available now) are:

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SQL Datacenter edition will continue to allow unlimited virtual machines to run SQL on a host.  Enterprise edition changes to now allow up to 4 SQL instances to run on a host.

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