Archive for the ‘Windows Server 2012 R2’ Tag

A gathering of links, part 3   Leave a comment


Sorry for the lack of content. I have something I can write about, I think, but work is getting in the way.

For now, a gathering of links instead.

Cripes! I need to do these more often, this took me forever.

If you find these useful, please rate this blog post or leave a comment. There’s really no need for me to spend my morning doing this if no-one’s going to read it. 🙂

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TechEd Europe 2013 – The rest   Leave a comment


Here’s the rest of the stuff I picked up at TechEd Europe that I felt that I couldn’t fit into any of the other posts. This will not be arranged in any particular order so apologies in advance for that. Also, this isn’t a very long post as most of the important stuff is included in my other TechEd posts.

One thing I’m really interested in is using the cloud – which in my case means Azure – to host your test and QA environments. I have one customer in particular that could really benefit from this as they A) have a huge amount of test and QA server in their own (static) data center which equates to a lot of wasted resources and B) haven’t got enough test and QA environments, resulting in the dreaded “test in production” syndrome.

This customer is quite large though and as I mentioned their data center is anything but dynamic so introducing this model is going to be a huge uphill struggle, both from an economic standpoint as well as a political one.

It is very interesting though so I’ll work on a small and simple proposal to test the waters and see what their reaction is.

Speaking of Azure, the new Windows Azure Pack for your private cloud is another interesting subject but I haven’t had the time to read up on it. I just wanted to mention that one idea that Microsoft presented was to use it as a portal for VMM but when I questioned them why this was a better idea than using App Controller or Service Manager I couldn’t really get a straight answer from them.

As I said though, an interesting subject and I’ll try to get back to it later on.

Finally a short note on the new quorum model in Windows Server 2012 R2. The model is very simple now and is just a vote majority where both nodes and the witness disk gets a vote. The dynamic quorum model automatically calculates what gets a vote though so the best practice from Microsoft is to always add a witness disk and then let the quorum decide if the disk should have a vote or not.

The same dynamic also adjusts for failures in nodes or the witness disk so that a cluster can withstand a lot more abuse now. When talking to Ben Armstrong about a customer that might scale up to roughly 30 hosts he mentioned that one subject that Microsoft needs to communicate better is the fact that large clusters aren’t a problem, especially not in 2012 R2.

And that wraps up my TechEd Europe 2013 notes. I probably missed something or talked about something more than once but so be it. If you should have any questions, feel free to ask away in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Thanks for reading.

TechEd 2013 Europe – An interlude   Leave a comment


Before I get into my post about virtual networking I realized that I need to clarify one particular piece of information that might not be clear to those that aren’t closely following the Microsoft information stream.

I’ve been pretty flippant about the possibility to online re-size a VHDX in a VM, mostly just stating that it’s about time this got added. What I, and a lot of others, are forgetting (or perhaps in some cases neglecting) to mention is that this is for a VHDX (only) that is attached to a SCSI controller (only).

The requirement for VHDX is no biggie, you should be using VHDX anyhow, but the requirement for a SCSI controller is a big one. Why? Because you can’t boot a Hyper-V VM off of a SCSI controller which means that you still can’t on-line increase the size of your boot disks.

With this said I’m immediately going to do a 180 and mention that in the new Generation 2 VMs you can boot off of a SCSI disk. This generation only supports Windows 8/8.1 and Windows Server 2012/2012 R2 though, limiting your options quite a bit.

Sure, you should be deploying WS 2012 anyhow but the matter of the fact is that a lot of companies haven’t even moved on to 2008 R2 yet. Some of my customers are still killing off their old Windows 2000 servers.

As an aside I’d like to point out that if you have a working private cloud infrastructure then you shouldn’t have to re-size your boot disk, ever. Just make it, say, 200 Gb, set it to dynamic and make sure that you’re monitoring your storage as well as your VMs.

The post about virtual networking will hopefully be up later today but no promises as I’m catching a flight back to Sweden later.

TechEd Europe 2013 – Hyper-V   Leave a comment


I just counted and I have over 11 pages of handwritten notes1 from the sessions I went to so it’ll take me some time to compile them all into something coherent. This, in addition to the fact that my current theme of the blog doesn’t lend itself very well to long blog posts (though I normally try to go for quality over quantity), means that I’ll chunk the posts into a number of categories; Hyper-V, Networking and Storage as these are the main areas I focused on. Most likely I’ll end up with a “catch-all” post as well.

As the title of the post implies, let’s start with Hyper-V. Now, I know that there are numerous blog posts that cover what I’m about to cover but I’m summarizing the event for both colleagues and customers that weren’t able to attend so bear with me.

Hyper-V Replica

In 2012 R2 Hyper-V Replica has support for a third step in the replication process. The official name is Extended Hyper-V Replica and according to Ben Armstrong it was mainly service providers who asked for this to be implemented although I can see a number of my customers benefitting from this as well.

In order to manage large environments that implement Hyper-V Replica Microsoft developed Hyper-V Replica Manager (HRM), an Azure service that connects to your VMM servers and then provides Disaster Recovery protection through Hyper-V Replica on a VMM cloud level.

This requires a small agent to be installed on all VMM servers that are to be managed by the service. The VMM servers then configure the hosts, including adding the Replica functionality if needed (even the Replica Broker on clusters). After adding this agent you can add DR functionality in VM Templates in VMM.

Using HRM you can easily configure your DR protection and also orchestrate a failover including, among other things, the order you start-up your VMs and manual steps if needed. The service can be managed by your smart phone and there are no plans to allow organizations to deploy HRM internally.

Only the metadata used to coordinate the protection is ever communicated to the cloud, using certificates. All actual replication of VMs are strictly site to site, between your data centers.

If you manage to screw up your Hyper-V Replica configuration on the host level you need to manually sync with HRM to restore the settings. At least for now, R2 isn’t released yet so who knows what’ll change until then.

Finally; you are now allowed a bit more freedom when it comes to replication intervals; 30 seconds, 5 minutes and 15 minutes. Since there hasn’t been enough time to test, Microsoft won’t allow arbitrary replication intervals.

Linux

Linux guests now enjoy the same Dynamic Memory as Windows guests. Linux is now backed up using a file system freeze that gives a VSS alike functionality. Finally; the video driver when using VM connect to a Linux guest is new and vastly better than the old one.

I never got any information on what distros that’d be supported but my guess is that all guests with the “R2” integration components should be good to go.

Live Migration

One big thing in 2012 R2 is that Live Migration has seen some major performance improvements. By using compression (leveraging spare host CPU cycles) or SMB/RDMA Microsoft have seen consistent performance improvements of at least 40%, in some cases 200 to 300%.

The general rule of thumb is to activate compression for networks up to 10 Gbit and use SMB/RDMA on anything faster.

Speaking of Live Migration I’d like to mention a chat I had with Ben Armstrong about Live Storage Migration performance as I have a customer who sees issues with this. When doing a LSM of a VM you should expect 90% of the performance you get when doing a unbuffered copy to/from the same storage your VMs reside on. I might do a separate post on this just to elaborate.

Storage

In 2012 R2 you can now set Quality of Service for IOPS on a per VM level. Why no QoS for bandwidth? R2 isn’t finished so there’s still a possibility that it might show up.

One big feature, that should have been in 2012 RTM if you ask me (and numerous others), is that you can now expand a VHDX when the VM is online.

Another big feature (properly big this time) is guest clustering through a shared VHDX, in effect acting as virtual SAS storage inside your VM (using the latest, R2, integration services in your VM). More on this in my storage post though.

One more highly anticipated feature is active de-duplication of VHD/VHDX files when used in a VDI scenario. Why only VDI? Because Microsoft haven’t done enough testing. Feel free to de-dupe any VHDX you like but if things break and it’s not a VDI deployment, don’t call Microsoft. More on this in my storage post as well.

The rest

Ben Armstrong opened his session with the reflection that almost no customer is using all the features that Hyper-V 2012 offers. To me, that says a lot about the rich feature set of Hyper-V, a feature set that only gets richer in 2012 R2.

One really neat feature that shows how beneficial it is to own the entire ecosystem the way that Microsoft does is that all Windows Server 2012 R2 guests will automatically be activated if the host is running an activated data center edition of Windows Server 2012 R2. There are no plans to port this functionality to older OS, neither for guests nor for hosts.

In R2 you now get the full RDP experience, including USB redirection and audio/video, over SMBus. This means that you can connect to a VM and copy files, text, etc. even if you do not have network connectivity to the VM.

2012 R2 supports generation 2 VMs. Essentially a much slicker, simpler and more secure VM that has a couple of quirks. One being that only Windows Server 2012/2012 R2 and Windows 8/8.1 are supported as guest OSes as of now.

The seamless migration from 2012 to 2012 R2 is simply a Live Migration. The only other option is the Copy Cluster Roles wizard (new name in R2) which incurs downtime.

You can export or clone a VM while it’s running in 2012 R2.

Ben was asked the question if there’d ever be the option to hot-add a vCPU to a VM and the reply was that there really is no need for that feature. The reason being that Hyper-V has a very small penalty for having multiple vCPUs assigned to a VM. This is different from the best practices given by VMware where additional vCPUs does incur a penalty if they’re not used. The take-away is that you should alwasy deploy Hyper-V VMs with more than one vCPU.

During the “Meet the Experts” session I had the chance to sit down with Ben Armstrong and wax philosophically about Hyper-V. When I asked him about the continued innovation of Hyper-V he said that there’s another decades worth of features to implement. Makes me feel all warm inside.

Conclusion

As there haven’t been a lot of time between Windows Server 2012 and the upcoming release of 2012 R2 (roughly a year) the new or improved features might not be all that impressive when it comes to Hyper-V but I honestly think that they’re very useful and I already have a number of customer scenarios in mind where they’ll be of great use.

Not to mention that Hyper-V is only a small slice of the pie of new features in R2. I’ll be writing about some of the other slices tomorrow.

Most importantly though, and this was stressed by a fair number of speakers, is that Windows Server and System Center finally, for the first time ever, have a properly synchronized release schedule, allowing Microsoft to deliver on the promise of a fully functional solution for Private Clouds.

I agree with this notion as it’s been quite frustrating have to wait for System Center to play catch up with the OS, or vice versa.

With that, I bid you adieu. See you tomorrow.

1. Yeah, I prefer taking notes by hand as it allows me to be a lot more flexible, not to mention that I’m faster this way. I took advantage of the offer at this TechEd and bought both the Surface RT and Pro though so who knows, the next time I might use one of those devices.

A small mention about the Windows Server 2012 R2/Windows 8.1 Preview   Leave a comment


Most likely you’ve all seen this post by Hans Vredevoort on how to create a bootable VHDX in order to test WS 2012 R2/Windows 8.1 Preview without jeopardizing your current installation.

If not, please read it – it’s the most painless method by far.

Another small note; if you are using another base language on your RT device than the officially supported 13 languages you will get an error when trying to install the 8.1 Preview. Please see this post for more info.

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