Category: Hardware

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Surface Pro

First impressions on the Surface Pro 2017

I am one of the lucky persons owning an brand new Microsoft Surface Pro as a new device for work. This is the my devices I used for the last couple of days and weeks as my daily driver and this allows me to write a quick review about my first impressions about the Surface Pro.

After using the Surface Pro, the Surface Pro 2, the Surface Pro 3, the Surface Book became my daily driver. And I had to say that it is a great notebook. But after using the Surface Pro for awhile, I really got used to the form factor. The 2-in-1 form factor and the small and light design, made the Surface Pro a really great travel companion and this was the reason I decided to go with a Surface Pro again.

Surface Pro 2017

My first impression when I took the Surface Pro out of the box was: “wow, this feels premium”. Even the Surface Pro and the Surface Book always felt really great, Microsoft improved it even more. The amazing premium sound of the kickstand,  the new rounded edges and the display of the Surface Pro making it even more premium and as mentioned the build quality is amazing.

The second thing I realized while using it, is the resume form standby is incredible fast. You basically press the on button and you can start working. And this while battery life is still great, I get around a whole working day out of it with a single charge.

Surface Pro 2017 Desk

Unfortunately I couldn’t really test the new Surface Pro Signature Type Cover, because it was not available at launch. But I will included it in my final review of the Surface Pro 2017, after I have used it for a couple of weeks.

 

 



HoloLens

Speaking at E2EVC 2017 Prague

I’m happy to speak at the Experts 2 Experts Virtualization Conference in Prague this year. This will be my 10th E2EVC, I was speaking in many events since 2012 in cities like Rome, Hamburg, Dublin, Copenhagen, Brussels and many more. So I am really happy to speak at this event again. This time I will talk, together with Isidora Katanic, about HoloLens and show some technical background to the device and what Microsoft is doing in VR and AR with Windows Mixed Reality.

HoloYolo

Learn more about HoloLens, the device and VR and AR in Windows Mixed Reality.

E2EVC Virtualization Conference is a non-commercial, virtualization community event. The main goal of the E2EVC is to bring the best virtualization experts together to exchange knowledge and to establish new connections. E2EVC is a weekend crammed with presentations, Master Classes and discussions delivered by both virtualization vendors product teams and independent experts. I am happy to be part of the community and listen to other industry leading experts.

I am looking forward to the E2EVC and hopefully see you in Prague.

 



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.