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Category: Hardware

Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover

First Impressions of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Over a week ago I finally got my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and I will try to cover my first impressions in this blog post. Two years ago I replaced my notebook with the Surface Pro and one year later I replaced the Surface Pro with the Surface Pro 2. I have used both devices as my primary work devices for work as a consultant, at university and at home. The Surface is the perfect work device since I travel a lot. With the Surface I replaced my notebook, my desktop and my tablet with one single device. I always had one complain about the Surface and this was the screen size. If you travel and you work 8-10 hours in front of a 10-inch screen, you start thinking about a bigger screen. Lucky with the Surface Pro 3 Microsoft changed that. Now the Surface Pro 3 got a 12-inch screen and they also changed the ratio from 16:9 to 3:2 which makes a huge difference in terms of space on the screen. I just love the new screen size, it is absolutely perfect and still not too large for traveling. But let me jump back to the review.

Technical Specifications

Surface Pro 3 Specifications

First of all I got the I7 version with 265GB of storage:

  • Windows 8.1 Pro
  • Size: 292.1mm x 201.4mm x 9.1mm
  • Weight: 800 grams
  • Screen: 12” ClearType Full HD Plus
  • Resolution: 2160 x 1440
  • Aspect Ratio: 3:2
  • Touch: Multi-touch
  • Battery Life: Up to 9 hours of web browsing
  • Storage and RAM: 64GB or 128GB storage with 4GB RAM and 256GB or 512GB storage with 8GB RAM
  • CPU: 4th generation Intel® Core™ processor family (i3, i5, i7)
  • TPM Chip for enterprise security
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11ac/802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth® 4.0 Low Energy technology
  • Full-size USB 3.0
  • microSD™ card reader
  • Headset jack
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • Cover port
  • 5.0 megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 5.0 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Stereo microphones
  • Stereo speakers with Dolby® sound
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Magnetometer
  • Surface Pen
  • 36W Power supply

Design and Durability

Surface Pro 3 with Pen

For me a great device includes three different things, design, features and a great eco system for applications and accessories. And this was one of the reason why I was a Apple user for a long time, because they offered great design, great hardware features and they had an ecosystem were software and hardware worked perfectly together.  Microsoft does not disappoint with the Surface line, the first and the second generation was already great and the third generation does not stop there. With the Surface Pro 3 Microsoft could finally make the device a lot thinner and than before. The device now has a larger 12-inch screen and a new 3:2 ratio instead of the 16:9 ratio before. This makes a huge difference if you hold the device in portrait mode to read something or browse the web and it also offers you a lot more space on the screen. Another change Microsoft did was to change the color from the dark VaporMg from the Surface Pro line to the silver color of the Surface 2. I am still not sure which color I like more, but both look great to me. After the size and the color the third big change is the new kickstand. The new kickstand does not only offer two position like the Surface Pro 2, you can now put the Surface in any position you want.

As always the build quality of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is just impressive. As a former Apple product user, I am really happy with quality, design and the durability of the Surface Pro 3. Microsoft sends a clear message here to his partners and competitors, about quality of tablets and notebooks. Everything seems to be at the right place and all buttons and the whole chassis is feeling very “high-class”. I really like the size and dimensions of the Surface Pro 3. The Surface Pro 3 is not only thinner as the Surface Pro 2, it is also lighter. The Surface Pro 3 is 9.1mm thin and 800g light, which makes it a lot more portable than most ultrabooks out there but of course heavier than most tablets.

Display and Audio

Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover

For a tablet the display is the key component, and Microsoft did a great job with the Surface Pro 3. I already liked the screen of the Surface Pro 2 but the new screen is just amazing. Not only do I like the new high resolution (2160 x 1440) and the aspect ratio of 3:2, I also love the colors. One of the most underestimated features of the Surface Pro line is the integrated digitizer pen, which allows you to use digital Ink.

The Surface Pro comes with a digitizer pen which is perfect to take notes with OneNote and other stuff. As I mentioned I am using the Surface Pro at work and at university. At university I am using the pen mostly to take notes and mark some important stuff in documents and PDF files. At work I am not only using it to take notes, it’s also great during workshops or presentation, where you quickly want to draw something instead of using a whiteboard or a flipchart. And for all iPad or Android users, this is not just a normal Pen which buses capacitive touch, which basically is just a simulated finger, this is a digitizer pen which only works with special displays and for example offers pressure sensitivity and automatically deactivates touch input during your writing so you can place your hand on the screen.

The new pen also adds an OneNote button. If you press the OneNote button once you will open up a new page in OneNote even if the Surface is locked. This feature really helps you if you have an idea you want to write down really quickly. If you press the OneNote button twice you will be able to quickly mark the spot on your screen and quickly take a screenshot and save it to OneNote. This feature is just one of the example where Microsoft brings together there products and services for a better customer experience.

Microsoft again improved the audio on the Surface Pro 3. And it is great if you want to watch a movie in the hotel room and it is pretty much better than on any other notebook or tablet I have used. But still if you are a music lover you better get some headphones or external speakers.

Ports and Internals

macbook-air-surfrace-pro-3

The Surface Pro 3 has full-size USB 3.0, microSDXC card slot, a Headset jack, a Mini DisplayPort and at the bottom a Cover port for the Type Cover 3. Of course also the older Covers work perfectly but they just don’t match in size. The position of the ports have changed a little bit from the Surface Pro 2. The great thing here is that Microsoft moved the Mini DisplayPort to the upper right side which allows you now to use that port even you have docked the Surface into your docking station. So you can easily use to 4K displays at the same time.

One the power adapter you get another USB port for charging other devices like your phone, so you can still use your USB 3.0 on the Surface for other things.

Heat and Fan Noise

The Surface Pro 3 comes equipped with a powerful 4th generation Intel i3, i5 or i7 processor. For myself I got the i7 version and if you run some heavy workloads the device gets a little hot. You can feel a little bit of temperature on the back site and you can some fan noise. In normal conditions the Surface stay cold and you can’t here anything from the fan. I think the heat and the fan noise are the result of the new and thinner design.

Wireless

The wireless performance on the Surface Pro 3 seems to be great with no issues or troubles at all. I really can’t wait to get one of the Miracast adapters to stream my display to a beamer or another display.

Type Cover 3

Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover

One of the great features of the Surface product line are the covers. With the Surface Pro 3 Microsoft also released the Type Cover 3 which is basically the successor of the Type Cover 2 and is even thinner. Microsoft are claiming there are a lot of optimizations in Type Cover 3 and the two you will really see are the size which matches the Surface Pro 3 now and the new trackpad. The new trackpad is key here, it is bigger and a lot better than the trackpad of the Type Cover 2. They changed it back to a hard plastic and made it clickable again, which just feels a lot better if you work with it but it does look better than the first version of the Type Cover. The new Type Cover 3 comes with backlit which makes it perfect if you are working low light conditions like the Type Cover 2. The backlighting is automatic and turns of if you are not using it. If your hover over the keyboard with your hand, the Type Cover will automatically turn on the light again.  They also added new color options two the lineup, the Type Cover 3 is available in purple, red, blue, cyan and black.

Again the Type Cover is on of the must have accessories if you want to use you Surface as a laptop replacement. It works pretty well with the build in kickstand.

Battery life and Performance

Surface Pro 3 Lumia 930

The first thing I realized when I did start the Surface Pro 3 was that this thing is a screamer. The performance seems to be amazing but since the Surface Pro 3 is using the same generation of Intel chips I don’t think there is a huge difference between CPU performance. I think the key difference could be that Microsoft is using faster SSD storage in the Surface Pro 3 than in the previous generations. Since performance never was an issue for me I still like the new performance boost. With the new core i7 version you should not only get more CPU power, you should also get some more graphics power.

Microsoft is claiming that you get up to 9 hours of battery life, which fore me is a little more than with the Surface Pro 2. In my first test I think I am pretty close to get this 9 hours. But what impresses me even more is the Connected Standby or InstandGo features which allows you to wake up the Surface Pro 3 within an second. In my first tests the I charged the Surface on Friday and worked during Friday, Saturday and Sunday around 7-8 hours and the battery life was okay until late Sunday evening. But to get exact numbers I still have to run some more tests and see how it behaves in day to day usage.

Camera

Finally Microsoft also upgraded the front-facing camera to a 5 megapixel camera like the Surface 2 already had, but the Surface Pro 2 didn’t get. For me this gets even more important if you do a lot of Conference Calls via Lync or Skype for example.

Software and Accessories

Surface Pro 3 Docking Station

Software is where everything comes together. Windows 8.1 works perfectly on the Surface Pro 3 and I really like the mix between touch and keyboard usage. I use it as a tablet with touch apps and can run a full desktop applications like Office to get real work done. I really love the combination of different Microsoft Services such as Skype or Lync for communication. But where the real power comes together is with OneDrive and OneNote. The new Surface Pen and OneNote are already a perfect combination. You can press the OneNote button on the Surface Pen and OneNote opens instantly and you can start taking notes, even if you are not logged. The notes from OneNote get sync via OneDrive on all your devices like your phone or desktop pc. Microsoft is not only bringing software services together, they are now also integrate hardware.

Microsoft also offers a lot of different accessories like display or Ethernet adapters which you just need to work efficiently. But they also offers some great accessories like the Type Cover 3 which allows you to use your Surface Pro 3 together with the built-in kickstand as notebook replacement or the Surface Pro Docking Station which allows you to dock your Surface if you are at the home or in the office and connect automatically to external displays, external hard drives, keyboards and other stuff. This two accessories complete the whole story of the Surface Pro 3.

Conclusion

Surface Pro 3 Docking Station

Now what can you expect from the Surface Pro 3? The Surface Pro 3 is a high class work machine which can transform to different devices such as a tablet or notebook and with the Surface Docking Station you can even replace your desktop. For me the Surface Pro 3 replaced three devices. It replaces my notebook which I need to get work done and I also use it as my tablet at home or when I watch movies on flights or in the hotel. At home I got the Surface Pro 3 docking station which allows me to use two external displays. Of course if you are looking for just a tablet or just something to replace your iPad, the Surface Pro 3 is probably not the right device for you. But if you like to replace your classic notebook and your tablet with one device, the Surface Pro 3 is just the best machine available right now.



Cisco Microsoft

Cisco and Microsoft Announce Sales and Go-to-Market Agreement

At the Worldwide Partner Conference 2014 Cisco and Microsoft announced a multi-year sales and go-to-market agreement designed to modernize data centers through the delivery and acceleration of integrated solutions. This will focus on bringing a deeper integration between the datacenter technologies of both companies. This includes Cisco UCS and Nexus products as well as Microsoft’s CloudOS solutions based Windows Server, Hyper-V, System Center, SQL Server and Microsoft Azure.

Highlights:

Go-to-Market:

  • Cisco and Microsoft agree to a three-year go-to-market plan focused on transforming data centers through the delivery of integrated solutions for enterprise customers and service providers.
  • In year one, the companies will focus on six countries — the United States, Canada, UK, Germany, France, and Australia — with expansion to additional countries in the following years.
  • Cisco and Microsoft will align partner incentive programs to accelerate solutions selling via mutual channel partners.
  • Cisco and Microsoft sales teams will work together on cloud and data center opportunities, including an initial program focused on the migration of Windows 2003 customers to Windows 2012 R2 on the Cisco UCS platform.

Integrated Solutions:

  • Integrated solutions will focus on private cloud, server migration, service provider, and SQL Server 2014
  • Cisco technologies to include Cisco UCS, Cisco Nexus switching, Cisco UCS Manager with System Center integration modules, and Cisco PowerTool.
  • Cisco-based integrated infrastructure solutions will include FlexPod with NetApp and Cisco Solutions for EMC VXPEX.
  • Microsoft technology includes Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, PowerShell, Microsoft Azure and SQL Server 2014
  • Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure and Cisco InterCloud Fabric to be integrated in the solutions in future releases

Source and More information: www.streetinsider.com

As you may know I am a Microsoft MVP and a Cisco Champion and I really like doing project with Cisco Hardware since they do a lot of integration with the Microsoft Stack especially System Center and PowerShell. In my opinion this could be a strong partnership and will make life of a lot of people a lot easier.



OneGet PowerShell

Windows Management Framework V5 Preview

I know there is a lot of cool stuff going on right now and Microsoft announced a lot of new things. Like Windows Phone 8.1, Cortana, Windows 8.1 Update, Visual Studio 2013 Update 2, Windows Universal Apps, the Nokia Lumia 630, 635 and 930 and much much more. But there just was another announcement from Jeffrey Snover which is really interesting for us automation and management guys. Today Microsoft announced the Windows Management Framework 5.0 Preview, which brings some new stuff to PowerShell and PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC).

In the release 5.0 of the Windows Management Framework Microsoft did some work on DSC to make it more stable and reliable by addressing bug fixes, performance improvements and general optimizations. But there are coming the new feature to Windows PowerShell.

Windows PowerShell OneGet

OneGet is a new way to discover and install software packages from around the web. With OneGet, you can:
  • Manage a list of software repositories in which packages can be searched, acquired, and installed
  • Search and filter your repositories to find the packages you need
  • Seamlessly install and uninstall packages from one or more repositories with a single PowerShell command

Network Switches

Microsoft will offere a new PowerShell module which brings the possibility to manage Network Switches. In this release Microsoft added a set of L2 Layer NetworkSwitch management PowerShell cmdlets to manage Certified for Windows network switches. This effort was part of the Data Center Abstraction (DAL) vision which was led by Microsoft working closely with industry leaders in this space such as: Arista, Cisco and Huawei. Using Windows Server 2012 R2, network switches that pass the Certified for Windows program can now be managed natively by System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 R2 (SCVMM) without the need to write custom plugins.

I think this is not just a small announcement, this is a pretty big one to me.

Get more Information on the Windows Server Blog about the Windows Management Framework V5 Preview.



Distinguished Judges for the UCS Power Scripting Contest

Cisco UCS PowerShell Scripting Contest

In the Microsoft world PowerShell is the tool to automate everything especially in your datacenter. I already mentioned that Cisco offers some great enhancements for the Microsoft Datacenter stack. If you are using a Cisco UCS solution you can integrate System Center Virtual Machine Manager, Orchestrator and others. But Cisco does also offer a PowerShell module for the UCS called Cisco UCS PowerTool. The UCS PowerTool allows you to automate management and deployment tasks very easily via Windows PowerShell. By the way, one of the coolest features in the Cisco UCS PowerTool is the ConvertTo-UCScmdlet.

Cisco announced the UCS Power Scripting Contest

Everyone is invited to share their scripts and possibly win some prizes by entering the UCS Power Scripting Contest on the Cisco Communities.  The contest will run until May 11th.  A distinguished panel of judges (Jeffery Snover, Rob Willis, Don Jones, Hal Rottenberg and Thomas Maurer) along with other members of the community will select the grand prize winner from a set of five finalists.

Distinguished Judges for the UCS Power Scripting Contest

I am proud to be one of the Distinguished Judges for the UCS Power Scripting Contest and I hope we will see some great solutions. To get more information about the contest check out the Cisco Blog from Bill Shields and the UCS Power Scripting Contest website.



Savision Cloud Advisor VMM Tuning Tips

Cloud Advisor for System Center Virtual Machine Manager

As you may know I do a lot of work around Hyper-V, System Center and Windows Azure Pack. One of the most critical parts of the Microsoft Cloud is System Center Virtual Machine Manager. VMM is the component where mostly everything comes together in some way. From the Fabric resource such as Storage, Compute and Networking up to the Virtual Machines and Services running on top of the Fabric layer. Virtual Machine Manager basically allows you to pool resources and offer them to tenants which can than deploy services and virtual machines to the pools.

This means VMM manages not only your Virtual Machines, Virtual Machine Manager also manages your network environment, your storage and a lot more. So wouldn’t it be great to use the data Virtual Machine Manager collects to review your environment and get some tips you can optimize it? This is exactly what Savision did with their Virtual Machine Manager Add-in called Cloud Advisor which includes tuning and optimization recommendations.

Savision’s Cloud Advisor looks for problems like:

  • “Virtual Machine Appears to be Unused”
  • “Prediction: All Available Memory Will Be Consumed By…”
  • “Virtual Guest Services Are Not Installed”
  • “Starting Memory Is Too High”
  • “Low Disk Space On Cluster Shared Volume”
  • “Dynamic Memory is not enabled”
  • and a lot more…

Most of you will think okay, this sounds great but how much will this thing cost. Well that’s the great part, the Savision Cloud Advisor for System Center Virtual Machine Manager is absolutely free. So there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t deploy the Savision Cloud Advisor in your Virtual Machine Manager environment.

Simply go the Savision homepage, download the Cloud Advisor and import it to VMM.

Import Cloud Advisor Addin into VMM

After that you will have to connect to the VMM database and to let the Savision Cloud Advisor his job, showing you tips and recommendations for your environment.

Savision Cloud Advisor VMM Tuning Tips

By the way there are other cool VMM Add-in from Cisco for their UCS Bladecenter and 5Nine for the Virtual Firewall Appliance.



Surface Pro and Nokia Lumia 1020

4 months working and traveling with the Surface Pro 2 and the Nokia Lumia 1020

In October 2013 I got my Surface Pro 2 which replaced my Surface Pro as my daily work device. Some weeks before I also got a Nokia Lumia 1020. In November I had the chance to travel a lot and I want to share some of my impression about this combo. First of all I love the devices from a design and quality view. Both, the Lumia 1020 and the Surface Pro 2 are great devices with a high build quality.

First, the Surface Pro 2 is a perfect machine if you are doing a lot of traveling. I use the Surface Pro 2 as my daily machine for work, university or personal stuff. In November I had the chance to travel a lot and I really enjoy having a really small and light device with me instead of caring a heavy notebook, ultrabook or even an additional tablet. The form factor and the extended battery life makes the Surface Pro 2 is like one device to rule them all. For example I have used the Surface Pro as tablet during long flights to watch movies and videos or at home in front of the TV.

Surface Pro 2

I also used it as notebook replacement for work or at university to take notes. I really love the stylus to draw and highlight things in the slides I printed to OneNote.

Microsoft Surface Pro

I also used my Surface Pro 2 to deliver my presentations and trainings. The stylus and the touchscreen is perfect especially during delivering trainings or in meetings to replace the whiteboard.

Surface Presentation

The second thing I love it the Nokia Lumia 1020. I don’t really own or carry a separate camera, so I use my phone to take pictures. During the presentations I did in Rome, Paris and Berlin I took a lot of pictures and honestly I haven’t owned a better compact camera yet. The quality of the pictures are just amazing.

This are some dedicated features to the devices itself, but what I really love is how they work together using Windows, Windows Phone and Microsoft Online services like SkyDrive (OneDrive). For example I planned and organized all my trips and presentations on my Surface or PC at home and saved everything into an OneNote notebook. The great thing about this is that all this information gets sync across my devices. So for example the e-ticket for my flight shows up on my phone. And even I lose my phone I can still access everything on my Surface or on another PC over the web, which makes it impossible to lose something.

I already mentioned that I took a lot of pictures with my phone. Now the worst thing which could happen, would be losing my phone with all my picture on it. With the Windows Phone SkyDrive integration, pictures get synced over the internet to my SkyDrive and across all of my devices. The same thing is true for my documents and presentation, I never have to think about coping a file from my PC at home to my Surface or something like that. All my files get synced automatically via SkyDrive. This gives me more time to work on my presentations and enjoy the places I can stay.

I really love the devices and I would really hate it if I had to give up on one of them. I think it would make me less productive and of course I would have to carry more stuff like an extra camera, phone, tablet and a notebook. And don’t for get to carry all the power adapters for all those devices. This is another small but great feature of the Surface Pro, the power adapter does not only charge the Surface it also has a USB port, with which you can charge your phone at the same time. I always thinking what could be better and besides lighter and slimmer devices and more battery life (which is always better, even the Surface Pro 2 runs for me mostly more than hours), the only thing I can think of is that I would love to have a Surface Pro with a bigger screen. The screen right now is great, but if you are working with a device for some hours you really start to like bigger screen.



vmem-page-banner-memory-platform

Violin Memory Scale-out Memory Platform with SMB 3.0 Integration

If you are looking at Storage vendors for Hyper-V you really need to have a look at a storage solutions with SMB 3.0 integration. Because the Hyper-V over SMB scenario will be the future. So until some weeks ago you had 3 options, you could choose EMC VNX, NetApp or a Windows Server Scale-Out File server with or without storage spaces. I haven’t had the chance to test the EMC solution but on paper it looks nice, NetApp solutions lacks a lot of integration such as active-active configurations as well as lacking support for SMB Multichannel or SMB Direct (RDMA). A lot of customers also are looking at the Storage Spaces solutions with Scale-Out file Server which basically supports all the features you need but not offers the benefits an appliance solution brings with support.

Some weeks ago Violin Memory announced a solutions called the Scale-out Memory Platform which is built on their 6000-series. Until today Violin Memory Flash Memory Arrays provide power for performance, high availability, and scalability in enterprise block storage environments. Now these powerful arrays provide a new class of file based solutions with Microsoft Server 2012 R2 directly installed on the array. Microsoft and Violin Memory worked closely to develop this class of solution by bringing the power of memory to Microsoft applications such as SQL Server and Microsoft Hyper-V.

This would offer an appliance solution of the Hyper-V over SMB 3.0 scenario. At the moment there are not a lot of information out there but I will expect more information shortly and if you need more information checkout the Violin Memory page.