Category: Hardware

Last updated by at .

Surface Keyboard

Surface Keyboard User Review

A couple of days ago I finally got the new Microsoft Surface Keyboard to replace my Microsoft Designer Keyboard which I used for the past year. If you just have a quick look at it you might see not a lot of differences, but the new Microsoft Surface Keyboard is a great successor of the Microsoft Designer Bluetooth Keyboard. It is also a Bluetooth keyboard using 4.0 and 4.1 LE, it has a slightly changed key layout and of course it comes in a soft-finish grey as the Surface Pro, Surface Book or Surface Studio, making them a perfect match, and the finishing touch to a well thought-out desk space. Besides these small design changes Microsoft worked on the keys. The key travel and spacing are perfectly engineered for fast, quiet, and responsive typing, making it feel much more premium.

For me, this is the perfect keyboard right now, since I prefer the flat key design which matches the ones of the Surface Pro and the Surface Book.

Home Office



Performance Tuing Guidelines for Windows Server 2016

Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Performance Tuning Guide

Yesterday Microsoft released the official Windows Server 2016 Performance Tuning Guide. The guide provides a collection of technical articles with guidance for IT professionals responsible for deploying, operating and tuning Windows Server 2016 across the most common server workloads. The guide is especially helpful if you deploy roles like, Active Directory, Hyper-V, Storage Spaces Direct, Remote Desktop Servers, Web Servers, Windows Server Containers and Networking features.

It is important that your tuning changes consider the hardware, the workload, the power budgets, and the performance goals of your server. This guide describes each setting and its potential effect to help you make an informed decision about its relevance to your system, workload, performance, and energy usage goals.

You can find the documentation on the new docs.microsoft.com platform, where now all the Windows Server 2016 documentation is available. Here you can find the: Performance Tuning Guidelines for Windows Server 2016

If you are looking for hardware recommendations check out my blog post: My Hardware Recommendations for Windows Server 2016 and you can also check my blog post about Getting started with Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016



Azure Stack Hardware

Azure Stack TP3, Roadmap and Pricing Update available

Microsoft today not only released Azure Stack TP3 (Technical Preview 3) for the public, Microsoft also announced an update on the Azure Stack roadmap and about Azure Stack licensing. The Technical Preview 3 of Azure Stack brings a couple of new features and scenarios for your hybrid cloud deployment. Right now TP3 is also only the single node POC deployment.

Azure Stack Roadmap

This is great for test and showcases as well as getting your deployment ready for the release of Azure Stack GA, which will be mid-CL17. The Azure Stack POC deployment will also be renamed to “Microsoft Azure Stack Development Kit” after GA.

For the Azure Stack TP3 release, Microsoft will deliver refreshes of that build until the release of Azure Stack GA.

At the Azure Stack GA release this summer, Microsoft will deliver Azure Stack hardware with provides from HPE, Dell and Lenovo. Later in 2017 Microsoft will also deliver Azure Stack with Cisco hardware.

After GA, Microsoft  will continuously deliver additional capabilities through frequent updates. The first round of updates after GA are focused on two areas: 1) enhanced application modernization scenarios and 2) enhanced system management and scale. These updates will continue to expand customer choice of IaaS and PaaS technologies when developing applications, as well as improve manageability and grow the footprint of Azure Stack to accommodate growing portfolios of applications.

Azure Stack POC Downloader

What’s new in Azure Stack TP3

With Azure Stack TP3, we’ve worked with customers to improve the product through numerous bug fixes, updates, and deployment reliability & compatibility improvements from TP2. With Azure Stack TP3 customers can:

  • Deploy with ADFS for disconnected scenarios
  • Start using Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets for scale out workloads
  • Syndicate content from the Azure Marketplace to make available in Azure Stack
  • Use Azure D-Series VM sizes
  • Deploy and create templates with Temp Disks that are consistent with Azure
  • Take comfort in the enhanced security of an isolated administrator portal
  • Take advantage of improvements to IaaS and PaaS functionality
  • Use enhanced infrastructure management functionality, such as improved alerting

Pricing and Licensing

Azure Stack

As mentioned Microsoft will offer Azure Stack from 4 different OEMs. HPE, Dell and Lenovo will deliver a solution at Azure Stack GA in mid-CY17 and Cisco will be available later in 2017. For the pricing model of Azure Stack, Microsoft decided to deliver the licensing of Azure Stack on a pay-per-use base. This meets of course the cloud economics and there will be no upfront licensing costs for customers. Services will be typically metered on the same units as Azure, but prices will be lower, since customers operate their own hardware and facilities. For scenarios where customers are unable to have their metering information sent to Azure, we will also offer a fixed-price “capacity model” based on the number of cores in the system.

 



Windows Server 2016 Whats new in Hyper-V

My Hardware Recommendations for Windows Server 2016

Many people are right now asking me about what they have to look out for, if they are going to buy hardware for there next Windows Server 2016 deployment using Hyper-V, Storage nodes or just physical servers. Of course you should normally not just buy hardware and design the solution after that, you should create an architecture for your datacenter first and than buy hardware for your needs. But still there are several things to look out for, this is probably not easy to say right now but here are several thing I would recommend to you.

My recommendations

  • Windows Server Logo: Make really sure that hardware is certified for Windows Server and Windows Server 2016 when the certification is available
  • Network Adapters:
  • Processor / CPU
    • A 64-bit processor with second-level address translation (SLAT).
    • Of course recommend you do get the latest server grade CPUs from Intel or AMD to get the latest CPU functionalities
    • Think about the new licensing for Windows Server 2016 which will be core based
  • TPM Trusted Platform Module v2.0 – especially for the Hyper-V feature Shielded Virtual Machines or/and BitLocker support.
  • Storage
    • If you are going to deploy new Storage in your Datacenter, make sure you have a look at Storage Spaces and SMB Direct (Hyper-V over SMB) and especially the new Storage Spaces Direct feature, which I will write a bit about later this month. This also allows you to do Hyper-Converged scenarios running Storage and Hyper-V on the same physical hardware.
    • If you are goin to deploy Storage Spaces Direct make sure you choose a good quality of SSDs or NVMe devices. Especially for the caching devices choose Write-Intensive NVMe or SSD disks.

This are just some recommendations if I would buy new hardware I would also look at these features. Of course you don’t need all these features in every scenario, but if you want to make the most out of it, you should definitely look at them. Here are some feature related requirements:

Discrete device assignment

  • The processor must have either Intel’s Extended Page Table (EPT) or AMD’s Nested Page Table (NPT).
  • The chipset must have:
    • Interrupt remapping — Intel’s VT-d with the Interrupt Remapping capability (VT-d2) or any version of AMD I/O Memory Management Unit (I/O MMU).
    • DMA remapping — Intel’s VT-d with Queued Invalidations or any AMD I/O MMU.
    • Access control services (ACS) on PCI Express root ports.
  • The firmware tables must expose the I/O MMU to the Windows hypervisor. Note that this feature might be turned off in the UEFI or BIOS. For instructions, see the hardware documentation or contact your hardware manufacturer.

Shielded Virtual Machines

  • UEFI 2.3.1c — supports secure, measured boot
  • The following two are optional for virtualization-based security in general, but required for the host if you want the protection these features provide:
  • TPM v2.0 — protects platform security assets
  • IOMMU (Intel VT-D) — so the hypervisor can provide direct memory access (DMA) protection

for more detailed specification check out Microsoft TechNet: System requirements for Hyper-V on Windows Server 2016



HoloLens

My Microsoft HoloLens arrived – First Impressions

A while back Microsoft announced the Microsoft HoloLens and Windows 10 Holographic, which allows you to work with holograms. Last week my HoloLens finally arrived at my door step. And I had the chance to play with it a little bit over the weekend. I already had the chance to try it the first time a couple of weeks ago when I was speaking at the ITPro.ru event in Cluj. But since then Microsoft released a bigger update to HoloLens with some new feature like Bluethooth keyboard pairing, better voice commands, app improvements and much more.

Unboxing and Setup of the Microsoft HoloLens

HoloLens Package

The Microsoft HoloLens comes in a nice designed and large box with good quality. Basically what you can expect from a premium device which is not that cheap. You also get the HoloLens Clicker which you can pair with your HoloLens to click on things instead of using the click gesture.

HoloLens Box

I was quite surprised that the getting started guide only shows how you wear it and how you turn it on and off, but to be honest, that is all you need since the first setup and calibration experience is very easy, self-explaining and very nice designed.

 

Using Microsoft HoloLens

HoloLens Startmenu

To be honest, since this was the developer edition of HoloLens and it was still one of the first devices and software versions released to the public, I expected thing to be much more difficult and unstable. But already this release for me seems to be pretty good and usable. Even my mum and my dad, which are not really computer nerds, had no problems using it after only a couple of minutes.

To use it you simply look at things, use hand gestures, voice commands or paired Bluetooth devices for input. Especially the voice command and the gestures were working without any problems, things are recognized instantly and with no lag or misbehavior.

HoloLens Package

With the bloom gesture you can get a holographic start menu where you can find all the apps and Cortana, you can simply start an app by tapping on it. After that the app starts as a new hologram and you can first place it somewhere in the room. You can also size it and make sure it is at the right place, for example if you want to pin your Microsoft Edge Browser or pictures to the wall.

HoloLens Hyper-V

You get some default apps but you can also get some apps from the Windows Store. For me I downloaded the Mail and Calendar app and the Remote Desktop App. This allows me to manage my Hyper-V Servers directly from a hologram.

Vision and View

HoloLens Holograms

The view is surprisingly good, even the pictures I made to not really show this quality, but when you wear it the resolution and sharpness etc. are not really a problem.

One of the things you will notices is that the windows you can really see holograms is smaller than your normal viewing angle. So for example if a hologram is on the right edge of your view you can’t see it. But to be honest you get used to this very quickly.

Overall HoloLens Experience

Thomas Maurer HoloLens

So this was a quick summary of my first impressions of the Microsoft HoloLens. I have to be honest, I didn’t expect it to work that good. Microsoft HoloLens really works like Microsoft is advertising it. It is not just a crazy prototype device anymore, it is real. And I really can’t wait to see what developers do with the possibly Microsoft HoloLens offers to them.



Surface Hub Skype Meeting

My Microsoft Surface Hub Review

Last week we finally go our Microsoft Surface Hub for our itnetX office in Bern and I had the chance to do some testing. The Surface Hub is an interactive whiteboard developed by Microsoft ideally for business meetings. Before I get started let me show you the specs for the Surface Hub devices. Microsoft offers two models right now, a 84-inch model and a 55-inch model.

Microsoft Surface Hub

The Surface Hub 84” model is ideal for medium and large conference room and it allows three people to comfortably interact with the screen simultaneously. The 84” version has also a 4K resolution, an Intel i7 processor, 128GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and a NVIDIA Quadra K2200 graphics card. The Surface Hub 55” model is perfect for smaller conference rooms and in work environments where you’ll move your Surface Hub into different spaces. The 55” model comes with a Full HD resolution, an Intel i5 processor, 128GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and integrated Intel graphics.

Surface Hub Keyboard Surface Hub Pen

Both model feature a 100-point multi-touch display, 2 passive Infrared Presence Sensors, Ambient Light Sensors, 2 front-facing stereo speakers, 2 wide angle HD cameras, active pen support, Windows 10 and a wireless keyboard. To see the full specs of both devices check out the Microsoft Surface Hub website.

My first impression of the Surface Hub

Surface Hub Welcome Screen

My first impression was the Surface Hub looks great, it is perfect for every meeting room and it is very easy to use. The quality of the devices is, as usual for Microsoft Surface devices, really great and feels like a high quality premium device. When you come in come in the conference room use first see the big screen and showing the time, the next scheduled meetings and the most important apps like the whiteboard, wireless screen sharing.

Different Meeting Options

Surface Hub Startscreen

The Microsoft Surface Hub offers different meeting options. You can use it for in person meetings in the meeting room as a beamer replacement or wireless display for your notebook, as a whiteboard or use other apps like Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Maps app or many more to come. The other thing the Surface Hub does very well is video conferencing using Skype for Business using the same apps and features.

The Surface Hub works perfectly with different deployment types

Perfect for in-person meetings

Surface Hub Whiteboard

If you are using the meeting room for a meeting with persons in the room, the multi touch screen and the apps are great. I really like the whiteboard app which allows you to draw diagrams and other stuff. A nice feature is that when you take on of the pens out of the holder it automatically open ups the whiteboard app and you can immediately start drawing. You can also use the screen as a display for your notebook as beamer replacement.

Surface Hub Screen Sharing

You can use the screen as a wireless display using Windows 10, Windows 8 or Windows 10 Mobile and of course the display also features cable input for DisplayPort, HDMI or VGA. If you use the wireless display connection in Windows 10 you can also allow input from the Surface Hub screen back to your Windows 10 computer. For example you project your screen to the Surface Hub to show a PowerPoint slide deck for example, you can stand up and touch the screen for the next slide or draw on the slide it self. By the way, connecting wirelessly is very fast, I used several different devices to connect with my Windows 10 devices using Miracast, like the Xbox One or the Microsoft Wireless Adapter, but none of the devices connected as fast as to the Surface Hub.

 

And of course this also works with other devices supporting Miracast like Windows 10 Mobile (especially cool with the Windows Continuum feature) and for example Android smartphones.

Skype for Business Video Conferencing

Surface Hub Skype for Business

The other great scenario is using the Microsoft Surface Hub for conference calls. You can join Skype for Business Meeting adding the Surface Hub device as a resource and it will automatically show the Skype for Business Meeting and you can join the meeting. You can also just invite other people using sending Skype for Business invites or using phone numbers to call them. You can also add the Surface Hub to an existing Skype for Business meeting or call your Surface Hub using a phone number. The two wide angle Full HD video cameras are great and show the whole meeting room. If there is a single attendee in the room the camera also focus on him and follows him instead of showing the whole room.

Surface Hub Wireless Display 1

The great thing here is that you again can use the same features and apps like the whiteboard, screen sharing and the apps. For example one scenario can be that several people sitting in the meeting room and one of the shares the screen to the Surface Hub, the Surface Hub is joined to a Skype for Business meeting with some remote attendees. The screen of the Surface Hub, showing the screen of the notebook of attendee in the meeting room is also shared with the Skype for Business remote attendees. Or you can see the screen sharing or presentation of remote attendees.

Surface Hub Call Skype User

The most important thing here is, that is very easy and simple to use and it just works as expected. It looks like we are getting now more Surface Hubs for all the different office locations, so we can do meetings between the office in Bern and Zürich.

Cleaning up a meeting

Surface Hub Cleanup

Now setting up a meeting or joining a meeting is really simple, and basically everything is possible. But what after the meeting is finished? You can very simple clean up your workspace and everything is gone, and no one can access your data.

Apps for the Surface Hub

Surface Hub Apps

As mentioned the Surface Hub comes with different apps like the whiteboard which lets you also do drawings, Office which lets you to use office documents like Word, Excel or PowerPoint and you also have the Maps app and the Microsoft Edge browser available. The Apps for the Surface Hub seem to be limited right now, but my guess is that Microsoft will soon enable the Windows Store to let you download and install apps on the Surface Hub. Microsoft has some example of apps on there Surface Hub website.

You can open Office documents from SharePoint, OneDrive, OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online using Office 365 or connected USB devices directly from the Surface Hub, or you can share them from your notebook using screen sharing.

Overall Impression

The Surface Hub is an amazing device and we are very happy with the it, the device is great, works very easy and simple and it adds a lot of value to your meetings. If you ever have done a meeting using the Surface Hub you really want to have one for your self. If you have more question about the Surface Hub and his features and functionality just leave a comment.

 



SCU Europe 2015 Azure Pack

Speaking at System Center Universe Europe 2016 in Berlin

I am proud to announce that I will speak at System Center Universe Europe 2016 Conference at August 24-26 in Berlin. System Center Universe is a community conference with a strong focus on systems management and virtualization topics such as cloud, datacenter and modern workplace management.  We present top content with top presenters around Microsoft Windows Server, System Center, Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Microsoft Hyper-V and more and want to build the number one conference for those kind of topics across Europe.

I was happy to speak in the past three events at SCU Europe, check out my recaps:

I will speak in two breakout sessions, early morning discussion and I am also part of the ask the experts area for Cloud and Datacenter.

The best of Windows Server 2016

Join this session for the Best of Windows Server 2016 — The New Foundation of your Datacenter. You’ll be one of the first to know about new, exciting improvements that are coming in Windows Server 2016 and how they’ll improve your day-to-day job. In this hour-long presentation Thomas Maurer (Microsoft MVP) will guide you through the highly anticipated innovations including:

•Hyper-V 2016 features

•Nano Server

•Storage Spaces Direct

•Storage Replica

•Windows Server Containers

•And more!

What's new in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V

With the next version of Microsoft hypervisor Microsoft released some great new features for your Cloud infrastructure. Come to this session to get the details of all the new stuff that is in Hyper-V and learn about how you can play with it “hands-on.” This session includes also the latest updates from the Technical Previews.

Nano Server and Containers better together!

Have a look at the latest Cloud Technologies from Microsoft. Learn about the next Microsoft Cloud Platform Server called Nano Server and Windows Containers. Both solutions are built for the future and will fundamentally change how we do IT. Learn why we need Nano Server and Windows Containers and how we deploy, manage and operate them.

SCU Europe

You can expect a top quality conference with top quality content. During the conference you have many options to learn and connect. Beside learning we guarantee that you will also have a lot of fun at our parties and make new friends. Here we go with a list of available options you have during the conference:

  • 3 conference days
  • 75+ breakout sessions
  • 1 Keynote session
  • 1 Closing session
  • 1 Pre-Party session
  • 5 parallel tracks
  • Lots of Microsoft MVPs on site
  • Ask the experts area
  • Exhibition area (partners)
  • 1-to-few side meetings
  • Top WiFi infrastructure
  • Power available everywhere
  • Food & beverages
  • Networking Party
  • Closing Party
  • Good connected historical city
  • Hotels near the venue

It is going to be a great conference with a lot of skilled people and a lot to learn and of course a lot of fun. So hopefully see you in Berlin!