Windows Server 2012: Part 6—Hyper-V

Slalom consultant and accomplished Microsoft systems developer Derek Martin sheds light on Windows Server 2012 (WS12) through his insightful blog series focusing on his research within the technical preview documentation, personal experimentation with the product, and thoughts of how they can apply to the real world as soon as it is released to manufacturing (RTM).

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin is an accomplished Microsoft systems developer and integrator, experienced in developing and deploying SharePoint and CRM solutions, integrating line of business applications, and leveraging existing infrastructure investments.

In Windows 2012, the concept of the private cloud is finally at your fingertips. Long gone are the half-baked, half delivered features of Windows Server that promised ‘virtualization.’ VMWare had Microsoft and the rest of the cloud folks well under control which explains, at least in part, their very unpopular price increase when VSphere 5 rolled out.

In their defense, I’ve never seen a popular price increase but I digress. Windows 2012 introduces so many new features into the basic OS that makes it the premiere choice for building clouds. First among them are the new features within Hyper-V—Microsoft’s hypervisor. Without the other features I’ve already discussed in previous entries of this series, Hyper-V would still have gotten mad props for all the great changes they have made. With those other features, MSFT has truly moved the bar and now it will be the other players that play catch up. Again, following along our list of content from TechNet, we dive in and look at the major changes/additions: Read more of this post

Windows Server 2012: Part 5.4—Cluster Shared Volumes

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin is an accomplished Microsoft systems developer and integrator, experienced in developing and deploying SharePoint and CRM solutions, integrating line of business applications, and leveraging existing infrastructure investments.

Slalom consultant and accomplished Microsoft systems developer Derek Martin sheds light on Windows Server 2012 (WS12) through his insightful blog series focusing on his research within the technical preview documentation, personal experimentation with the product, and thoughts of how they can apply to the real world as soon as it is released to manufacturing (RTM).

Sorry about the delay in continuing my series. In the time I was away, I attended Microsoft TechEd (always an impressive show) and got wrapped up with two different clients. All good things but I got a bit distracted. Here is the next installment of the Windows Server 2012 goodness—cluster shared volumes (CSVs).

If you aren’t familiar with CSVs, see this excellent post on TechNet for the full scoop. The basic rendition is this: let’s say you have a cluster of machines and you want to have common storage among all of the instances. This common storage would be used for like SQL Clusters, file server clusters, etc. The problem with CSVs were many, but the main culprits were: they only worked with certain workloads, they were hard to configure, and often broke (typically around patch Tuesday when the head node rebooted). Read more of this post

Windows Server 2012: Part 5.3—Clustering and Hyper-V Awesomeness

Slalom consultant and accomplished Microsoft systems developer Derek Martin sheds light on Windows Server 2012 (WS12) through his insightful blog series focusing on his research within the technical preview documentation, personal experimentation with the product, and thoughts of how they can apply to the real world as soon as it is released to manufacturing (RTM).

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin is an accomplished Microsoft systems developer and integrator, experienced in developing and deploying SharePoint and CRM solutions, integrating line of business applications, and leveraging existing infrastructure investments.

One of the challenges I can already see with all that is new and good when building out my private cloud is which of the following amazing clustering storage ‘things’ should I use to enable my cloud?

  1. SMB Direct
  2. Cluster Shared Volumes
  3. Traditional Block Storage
  4. Shared Nothing

I don’t have an answer yet, but I do know that there are a variety of tools that SMB2 supports (as discussed in a previous post) brings to the table. Additional items are outlined here. Read more of this post

Windows Server 8: Part 5.2—Cluster Aware Patching

Slalom consultant and accomplished Microsoft systems developer Derek Martin sheds light on Windows Server 8 (WS8) through his insightful blog series focusing on his research within the technical preview documentation, personal experimentation with the product, and thoughts of how they can apply to the real world as soon as it is released to manufacturing (RTM).

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin is an accomplished Microsoft systems developer and integrator, experienced in developing and deploying SharePoint and CRM solutions, integrating line of business applications, and leveraging existing infrastructure investments.

One of my particular annoyances and pain points with Windows is patching. Oh how I hate patching. It happens at least one Tuesday of every month and while WS8 does improve greatly on reducing the attack surface, which reduces the need for restarts, by making the graphical user interface (GUI) optional, it still happens. Patching gets even more complicated when you are running lots of virtual machines (VMs) on a host. They have to get patched and then restarted, then the host has to get patched, the VMs paused (or moved if in a cluster) as the host restarts, then move the VMs back…agh.

Well, there are a variety of features that have been improved in this arena in WS8. At the base of all of these new clustering features is Cluster Aware Updating. Other technologies like Cluster Shared Volume improvements, SMB amazingness improvements, and the management tools help ease these burdens, but again, having your cluster service know what’s happening when you are patching is key. Here’s how it works: Read more of this post

Windows Server 8: Part 5.1—Clustering Fun

Slalom consultant and accomplished Microsoft systems developer Derek Martin sheds light on Windows Server 8 (WS8) through his insightful blog series focusing on his research within the technical preview documentation, personal experimentation with the product, and thoughts of how they can apply to the real world as soon as it is released to manufacturing (RTM).

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin is an accomplished Microsoft systems developer and integrator, experienced in developing and deploying SharePoint and CRM solutions, integrating line of business applications, and leveraging existing infrastructure investments.

I was thinking that I’d just go through each of the technical preview documents, call out the stuff that I thought was cool, break it down into easily readable prose, go in order, and keep each post short and sweet. Then I realized a lot of the documents bounce around, so I took a little bit of time and decided to condense and do them in rough order of feature. My point, I’m trying to paint a picture using the limited documents available, as well as my own encounters as I try each of them out. Read more of this post

Windows Server 8: Part 4—DirectAccess

Slalom consultant and accomplished Microsoft systems developer Derek Martin sheds light on Windows Server 8 (WS8) through his insightful blog series focusing on his research within the technical preview documentation, personal experimentation with the product, and thoughts of how they can apply to the real world as soon as it is released to manufacturing (RTM).

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin is an accomplished Microsoft systems developer and integrator, experienced in developing and deploying SharePoint and CRM solutions, integrating line of business applications, and leveraging existing infrastructure investments.

Remote access is a tough nut to crack. On the one hand, every employee needs access to their corporate resources at all times of the day and from whatever device they can shake a stick at. On the other hand, IT can’t just tear down the firewall and let everyone in for obvious reasons. For a long time, dedicated virtual private network (VPN) equipment (like an ASA appliance) or VPN software (like Microsoft RRAS) was really the best option for secure, reliable connectivity when not on prem.  The challenge with those solutions are several fold: Read more of this post

Windows Server 8: Part 3—BranchCache

Slalom consultant and accomplished Microsoft systems developer Derek Martin sheds light on Windows Server 8 (WS8) through his insightful blog series focusing on his research within the technical preview documentation, personal experimentation with the product, and thoughts of how they can apply to the real world as soon as it is released to manufacturing (RTM).

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin is an accomplished Microsoft systems developer and integrator, experienced in developing and deploying SharePoint and CRM solutions, integrating line of business applications, and leveraging existing infrastructure investments.

Perhpas my favorite Windows Server 8 feature, BranchCache™, has received tremendous updates in this release. BranchCache is a technology originally released in the 08 versions of Windows Server that allows companies with large remote office deployments to ease wide area network (WAN) traffic for file server purposes by securely caching files at remote offices on either servers or even workstations (using something akin to P2P technology). Once a client from a remote office grabs a file off a server via the WAN, it gets cached there (again on either servers or client workstations) for other users to get.  This operation is transparent to the end user–the only thing they notice is files open faster! To me–this is dark magic. Read more of this post

Windows Server 8: Part 2–Making the Administration of Servers Easier

Slalom consultant and accomplished Microsoft systems developer Derek Martin sheds light on Windows Server 8 (WS8) through his insightful blog series focusing on his research within the technical preview documentation, personal experimentation with the product, and thoughts of how they can apply to the real world as soon as it is released to manufacturing (RTM).

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin is an accomplished Microsoft systems developer and integrator, experienced in developing and deploying SharePoint and CRM solutions, integrating line of business applications, and leveraging existing infrastructure investments.

It comes as no surprise that in order to build a private cloud (or a public one if you’re in the hosting space) that the fewer server admins per server, the better. Some enterprises have a hard limit of say 20 to 1, others with impressive automation and orchestration have gotten up to 100 to 1, or more likely, broken out individual server administration tasks to individual teams—this team for patching, that team for AD, etc.

In WS8, the convergence of knowledge around maintaining large numbers of server instances becomes almost fun. There really is no longer a reason to have one large server running dozens or hundreds of apps, simply because they are easier to administer. In fact, because of the continuous fine tuning of memory and processing requirement, dozens of Windows 8 instances can run on a single host without any trouble. But the tools better be there—and they are! Read more of this post

Windows Server 8: Part 1—Active Directory

Slalom consultant and accomplished Microsoft systems developer Derek Martin sheds light on Windows Server 8 (WS8) through his insightful blog series focusing on his research within the technical preview documentation, personal experimentation with the product, and thoughts of how they can apply to the real world as soon as it is released to manufacturing (RTM).

One of the most stable and well designed pieces of software to come out of Microsoft–ever–is Active Directory. While its development was riddled with twists and turns (and the occasional run in with Novell), the identity platform for millions of businesses is a stalwart of stability. Few outside IT Administrators ever know of its existence–and that is the point. The basic ability to authenticate and gain access to corporate resources, be that a computer, a server or a file would not work without the consistent resiliency of this gorgeous database.

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin is an accomplished Microsoft systems developer and integrator, experienced in developing and deploying SharePoint and CRM solutions, integrating line of business applications, and leveraging existing infrastructure investments.

The biggest advantages of Active Directory over other products is its ubiquity. Microsoft has spent untold sums making it accessible and secure to a variety of applications, the entire MSFT stack included. It also is the underpinning of major infrastructural components of many software packages including Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, and thousands of LoB applications. In recent versions, it has gained prominence in the realm of federation, enabling businesses to seamlessly federate their authentication and authorization stores using technologies like ADFS and Claims Authentication. The changes in WS8 around Active Directory continue to provide support for the major system components from previous versions (great backward compatibility) as well as the new features throughout Windows Server (describe later in this series) and support administrators by addressing common pain points. Here’s what’s new:

Simplified Deployment: Similar to Windows 8 Client where everything is touch first, in WS8 everything is PowerShell first! Deploying Active Directory is so much easier now that it can be accurately scripted.  All but the smallest companies have needs to deploy multitudes of AD servers.  In WS8, you can deploy Active Directory on multiple servers at once, export your graphical user interface  (GUI) based configuration to a series of PowerShell scripts and can clone brand new Domain Controllers (think sysprep on steroids) for rapid Active Directory forest topology builds.

Safer Virtualization Support: This exact issue has bitten me! What’s the cardinal sin with virtual machines and Active Directory? DON’T P2V a DC (without following very complex prescriptive processes). The dreaded rollback USN will bite you. Active Directory in WS8, however, recognizes that virtual domain controllers are what enterprises need, so they’ve built in additional replication logic to keep time synchronized with hosts and algorithms that keep things in check when they are virtualized.

These three updates with Active Directory, along with refined management experiences, new/simpler PowerShell commands will make administering your forest much easier. I’ll update this post as more information is learned about any of the underpinnings of Active Directory–I’m particularly interested to see if the schema has changed any!

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The Coming Storm of Windows Server 8–A Multipart Series: Intro

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin is an accomplished Microsoft systems developer and integrator, experienced in developing and deploying SharePoint and CRM solutions, integrating line of business applications, and leveraging existing infrastructure investments.

If ever there was a time when the technology of the world that enables millions of businesses and this new concept of the cloud converged on a single piece of software, it is occurring with Windows Server 8 (WS8). While the rest of the planet contemplates the good, the bad, and the ugly of Windows 8 client (myself included), I wanted to take an opportunity to digest the underpinnings of the server counterpart–to see if the server team was doing things as radical as their client team cousins. The answer? A resounding YES. In fact, in many ways, what is happening on the server side of the shop is more disruptive and compelling than the client side. Sexier even you ask? Only to a nerd’s nerd (me) and maybe a few of my colleagues.

WS8 focuses on making the life of the administrator easier. It streamlines management, completes features introduced in previous versions, and adds a host of new features that make this the largest software update to Windows Server since Windows 2000.

WS8 also bridges many of the remaining gaps between the public cloud and the private cloud. It allows dynamic and automated workflows for the rapid provisioning and re-provisioning of resources. It brings into competitive parity (and then some!) its Hyper Visor with industry heavyweight VMWare and does so at a fraction of the cost.

This series focuses on my research within the technical preview documentation, my own personal experimentation with the product and thoughts of how they can apply to the real world as soon as it is released to manufacturing (RTM). Over the coming months, I hope you enjoy what you see!

Slalom Consulting’s Dallas office Slalom Consulting's Project & Cloud focus
Learn more about our Dallas office Learn more about Slalom Consulting Cloud

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