Category: System Center

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VMM 2012 R2 Update Rollup 6 Azure IaaS Management

Generation 2 Virtual Machine in Service Templates and Managing Azure IaaS VMs in VMM with UR6

Microsoft just announced System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager Update Rollup 6 with some highly requested features. Two of them are support for VMM Service Templates with Generation 2 Virtual Machines and managing Microsoft Azure IaaS Virtual Machines directly from the Virtual Machine Manager Console.

If you want to know more checkout that video:



NIC Teaming

Overview on Windows Server and Hyper-V 2012 R2 NIC Teaming and SMB Multichannel

I know this is nothing new but since I had to mention the Whitepaper on NIC Teaming and the use of SMB Multichannel as well as the configuration with System Center Virtual Machine Manager in a couple of meetings I want to make sure you have an overview on my blog.

NIC Teaming

Windows Server NIC Teaming was introduced in Windows Server 2012 (Codename Windows Server 8). NIC teaming, also known as Load Balancing/Failover (LBFO), allows multiple network adapters to be placed into a team for the purposes of bandwidth aggregation, and/or traffic failover to maintain connectivity in the event of a network component failure.

NIC Teaming Recommendation

For design the default and recommended configuration is using NIC Teaming with Switch Independent and Dynamic and in some scenarios where you have the write switches you can use LACP and Dynamic.

Download Windows Server 2012 R2 NIC Teaming (LBFO) Deployment and Management Whitepaper

This guide describes how to deploy and manage NIC Teaming with Windows Server 2012 R2.

You can find the Whitepaper on Windows Server 2012 R2 NIC Teaming (LBFO) Deployment and Management in the Microsoft Download Center.

SMB Multichannel

Hyper-V over SMB Multichannel

If you use Hyper-V over SMB you can use SMB Multichannel as a even better mode to distribute SMB 3.0 traffic across different network adapters or you could use a mix of both, NIC Teaming and SMB Multichannel. Check out my blog post about Hyper-V over SMB: SMB Multichannel, SMB Direct (RDMA) and Scale-Out File Server and Storage Spaces.

Configuration with System Center Virtual Machine Manager

Logical Switch

Some months back I also wrote some blog post about configuration of Hyper-V Converged Networking and System Center Virtual Machine Manager. This guide will help you to understand how you deploy NIC Teaming with System Center Virtual Machine Manager using the Logical Switch on Hyper-V hosts.



Green Cloud Azure Pack

Green Cloud based on Windows Server Hyper-V and Windows Azure Pack

If you try to host some IaaS workloads or build a Hybrid Cloud environment connected to a service provider in Switzerland, you probably want to check out the Green Hyper-V ServerCloud.

Based on Hyper-V technology from Windows Server 2012 R2, Green virtual servers provide you with a powerful, high-availability server platform for your applications. The virtual servers can be seamlessly integrated into your existing IT environment, using Site-2-Site VPN.

Green also offers a own image container function in Windows Azure Pack which allows you to quickly and smoothly migrate your server to the Hyper-V ServerCloud, including configuration and software. Install your VHDX and ISO images and save valuable time on reinstallation and setup.

Options and the ability to gradually expand the system pave the way for future expansion. From individual applications to virtualization of entire IT areas, Server Cloud offers enough scope for your business.

Green Server Cloud

Some of the cool stuff Green offers in there Cloud Solution:

  • Cloud based on Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V and Windows Azure Pack
  • Powerful packages on virtual server with up to 16 CPU cores and 128GB RAM
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012 R2 Images
  • Linux Images (CentOS and more…)
  • Bring your own Server and ISO Images
  • Create VM Checkpoint (Snapshots) right from the Tenant Portal
  • Seamless expansion of local infrastructure through network virtualization and free-of-charge site-to-site VPN
  • Local service and support in three local languages
  • High Security standards implemented in the Green Datacenter
  • Server Location in Switzerland
  • Hyper-V Replica support – Replicated your Hyper-V Virtual Machines to the Green Cloud for DR scenarios
  • 30 days free trial

Green Business Connectivity and Security

Green Cloud Datacenters

Green is using it own datacenter to host the Green Cloud. The GreenCloud is hosted in their Tier 4 and Tier 3 datacenters for maximal security. The newest green.ch data center offers all the benefits of a state-of-the-art data center. It is situated in an excellent location, is the only Swiss data center that was awarded a Tier 4 design certification, and was designed for energy-efficient operation.

The Lupfig site is located west of Zurich in an easy to access location. It is far away from hazardous zones, yet centrally located within the Zurich-Basel-Bern business triangle.

From the very beginning, greenDatacenter Zurich West was designed for highest availability. All systems required for operation are duplicated. Multiple feeds are used for the power and emergency power supply, and the connection to the data network. And these feeds are even separately routed within the data center. Four security perimeters protect the data center against unauthorized access. Security measures include biometric access systems.

The Swiss Federal Office of Energy awarded greenDatacenter Zurich West the Watt d’Or 2013 for exemplary energy efficiency in the buildings and space category.

Green Cloud Technology

Green Cloud Image Container

As already mentioned Green is using the Microsoft Cloud Platform stack with Windows Azure Pack and Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V for their Cloud offering. By using Hyper-V Network Virtualization and Site-2-Site VPN, customers can easily connect their local networks to the Green Cloud and build a Hybrid Cloud scenario. Green also extended their offering beyond the standard WAP offerings by adding additional features such as Hyper-V Replica support, the option to create Checkpoints (Snapshots) of Virtual Machines and the possibility to bring your own server images and ISO images to the Green Cloud.

Green Cloud Checkpoints

So if you are interested in the things Green offers checkout the 30 days free trial offering.

 



Windows Server 2012 Logo

Microsoft Nano Server your new Cloud Platform infrastructure Server

Microsoft yesterday announced the availability of Windows Containers and the new SKU for Windows Server vNext named Nano Server. As Microsoft mentions, Nano Server is a purpose-built operating system designed to run born-in-the-cloud applications and containers. But Nano Server is not only designed for Modern Application, but it also is ready and designed to run on your datacenter fabric such as Hyper-V Server and Scale-Out File Server.

Nano Server is a redesign version of Windows Server Core which is very lightweight, very small footprint and remote managed. The first version of Nano Server is designed for the following key scenarios:

  1. Born-in-the-cloud applications – support for multiple programming languages and runtimes. (e.g. C#, Java, Node.js, Python, etc.) running in containers, virtual machines, or on physical servers.
  2. Microsoft Cloud Platform infrastructure – support for compute clusters running Hyper-V and storage clusters running Scale-out File Server.

As mentioned Nano Server has a very small footprint and the first version show some great improvements versus the Windows Server:

  • 93 percent lower VHD size
  • 92 percent fewer critical bulletins
  • 80 percent fewer reboots

To achieved this results Microsoft removed some parts of Windows Server like:

  • GUI stack
  • 32 bit support (WOW64)
  • MSI support
  • RDP
  • Some default Server Core components

By removing the GUI stack makes this server to a true headless server, without any login screen or RDP support. By removing things like this, a lot of people will need a totally new way to manage this servers. The answer is simple and is the best practice for managing servers for a long time called Remote Management. Nano Server will offer some advanced remote Management features such as:

  • WMI
  • PowerShell
  • PowerShell Desired State Configuration
  • RSAT Tools
  • System Center and other Management tools
  • Web-based management tools (to replace local inbox management tools)

In my opinion the effort Microsoft does with Nano Server really makes sense and will help Service Providers as well as Enterprise companies to deploy clouds even faster, more secure, more efficient and with less management overhead. I am really looking forward to Microsoft Ignite to get some more information on Nano Server. If you want to see a little bit more about Nano Server checkout the following video.

 

 



System Center Logo

System Center 2012 R2 and Azure Pack get supports for SQL Server 2014 in Update Rollup 5

Microsoft just released System Center 2012 R2 Update Rollup 5, which includes a lot of new features and fixes. The update also brings support for SQL Server 2014 as a database server for most of the System Center 2012 R2 components. There will be support for the rest of the System Center components in the Update Rollup 6.

Supports SQL 2014 now:

Operations Manager
System Center Orchestrator
Service Management Automation
Service Provider Foundation
Virtual Machine Manager
Windows Azure Pack

Will support SQL 2014 in UR6:

Service Reporting
Service Manager
Data Protection Manager

For information check out the Microsoft System Center Team Blog.

 



Hyper-V vNext Runtime Memory Resize

Sneak Peek into the Next Version of Hyper-V

Back in October Microsoft released the first public Windows Server Technical Preview for the next release of Windows Server. At TechEd Europe Bed Armstrong, Principal Program Manager on the Hyper-V team at Microsoft, talked about a couple of new features which are coming in the next release of Windows Server Hyper-V. This is a quick list of some of the new features we will get in the next release of Windows Server Hyper-V, there is a lot more coming until the release of Windows Server vNext and System Center vNext in 2016.

Virtual Machine Configuration Changes

Hyper-V vNext VM Configuration Files

In the next release of Hyper-V Microsoft will change the Virtual Machine configuration files. Today the Hyper-V VM configuration files had the xml file format. You were able to open the file and check and edit the virtual machine configuration inside that file, even it was never supported. By running more and more workloads virtual and in a dynamic cloud way, scale and performance gets even more critical. In the next version of Hyper-V Microsoft will change the VM configuration from the xml file to a binary file format. The new binary format brings more efficient performance at large scale. Microsoft also now includes a resilient logging for changes in the configuration files so this should protect virtual machines from corruption.

New file extensions:

  • .VMCX (Virtual Machine Configuration) – replaces the .xml file
  • .VMRS (Virtual Machine Runtime State) – replaces .bin and .vsv file

Production VM Checkpoints (Snapshots)

Hyper-V vNext Production CheckPoint

Virtual Machine Checkpoints or in older versions Virtual Machine Snapshots were a great solution to take a state of a virtual machine and save it, doing some changes and if something fails you could simply revert back to the time you took the checkpoint. This was not really supported to use in production, since a lot of applications couldn’t handle that process. Microsoft now changed that behavior now fully supports it in production environments. For this Production Checkpoints are now using VSS instead of the Saved State to create the checkpoint. This means if you are restoring a checkpoint this is just like restoring a system from a backup. For the user everything works as before and there is no difference in how you have to take the checkpoint. Production Checkpoints are enabled by default, but you can change back to the old behavior if you need to. But still using Checkpoints brings some other challenges, like the growing .avhdx file, which still apply.

Hyper-V Replica support for Hot Add of VHDX

Hyper-V Replica was one of the greatest new features in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V. In Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V, if you have hot added a VHDX file to a Virtual Machine, replication failed. In the next version of Hyper-V when you add a new virtual hard disk to a virtual machine that is being replicated, it is automatically added to the not-replicated set so replication continues to run and you can then online update this set with via PowerShell and the VM will automatically resynchronize and everything works as expected.

Hot add / remove of Virtual Machine Memory

Hyper-V vNext Runtime Memory Resize

In Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V you could decrease the Minimum Memory and increase the Maximum Memory of a Virtual Machine using Dynamic Memory while the VM was running. In the next version of Hyper-V you can now increase and decrease the Memory assigned to virtual machines while they are running, even if they are using static memory.

Hot add / remove of virtual network adapters

Hyper-V vNext Hot Add and Remove Virtual Network Adapters

This was maybe the feature VMware fan boys all over the world have used against Hyper-V. However I didn’t really saw a lot of customers doing this, but it is great that you can now hot add and remove network adapters from Virtual Machines.

Virtual Network Adapter Identification

Hyper-V vNext Virtual Network Adapter Identification

For me more important than hot add or remove virtual network adapters is this feature. When dealing with automation you are always happy you can identify different network adapters. For the Hyper-V hosts we have different solutions such as Consistent Device Naming (CDN), sort by PCI slot using PowerShell and other options to identify network adapters. But we didn’t really have a great solution for Virtual Machines. With Network Adapter Identification this changes. You can name individual virtual network adapters in the virtual machine settings and see the same name inside the guest virtual machine.

PowerShell on the Hyper-V Host

PowerShell in the guest

Hyper-V Manager Improvements

Finally, this is something which is not a problem in most environments , since we know how things work. But a lot of people which are Hyper-V beginners coming from VMware or other platforms, they have some simple troubles with Hyper-V Manager. In the next version there are a couple of create improvements which make things a lot easier.

  • Hyper-V Manager is now connecting via WinRM instead of WMI
  • Support for alternate credentials (Requires that you have CredSSP enabled on the server and client)
  • Connected to Hyper-V Hosts via IP address
  • Mange Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V and the next version of Hyper-V from the latest console

Power Management improvements

SleepStudy Report Connected Standby Transitions

Microsoft updated the hypervisor power management model to support new modes of power management. And this is one of the reasons I run Windows 10 Technical Preview on my Surface Pro 3. Surface Pro 3 is a device which can run Connected Standby, but if you install Hyper-V on Windows 8.1 Connected Standby stops working. In the next version of Hyper-V Connected Standby will work.

Rolling Cluster Upgrade

Hyper-V vNext Rolling Cluster Upgrades

With this new feature you are finally able to upgrade a Hyper-V Cluster from Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V to the next version of Hyper-V without new hardware, no downtime and the ability to roll-back safely if needed. In Windows Server 2012 R2 you had to create a new Hyper-V Cluster while the old Hyper-V Cluster was still running and migrate a Hyper-V Cluster via Cluster Migration Wizard or Live Migration. You can now have Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V Hosts and the next version of Hyper-V running in the same Hyper-V Cluster. To make this scenario possible, the Hyper-V team had to do some changes to the Virtual Machine Upgrade Process

New Virtual Machine Upgrade Process

Hyper-V vNext Update VM Configuration Version

To support Rolling Cluster Upgrades Microsoft had to make some changes to the Virtual Machine Upgrade Process. In the current versions of Hyper-V, Virtual Machines were automatically upgraded from the old to the new version, which means that if you once moved a Virtual Machine to a new Hyper-V host you couldn’t move it back again. In a mixed cluster environment this does not work. In the next version of Hyper-V, Virtual Machines will not be upgraded automatically. Upgrading a virtual machines is a manual operation that is separate from upgrading the Hyper-V host. This allows you to move virtual machines back to earlier version of Hyper-V until they have been manually upgraded.

New way how VM Drivers (integration services) get updated

Since Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V, VM drivers (integration services) were updated with each new host release, and it was required that the VM driver version matches the host version. When new Hyper-V integration services were shipped you had to update the Hyper-V host and form there you could upgrade the VM drivers inside the virtual machine. With Windows Server vNext Hyper-V Microsoft brings VM driver updates over Windows Update. This means also that you now don’t have to have the VM integration services matching the host version, you simply need the latest version of the integration services released.

Secure Boot Support for Linux

Microsoft is pushing hard to bring more and more supported for Linux operating systems such as dynamic memory and other features. With Hyper-V vNext Microsoft bring Secure Boot support for Linux which works with Ubuntu 14.04 (and later) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12.

PowerShell to enable Secure Boot Support for Linux:

Distributed Storage QoS

Hyper-V vNext Storage QoS

In Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V we got the possibility to limit maximum IOPs for an individual virtual hard disk which was a great feature. Everything worked great when you were running the Virtual Machine on a single Hyper-V host, but when you were running multiple Hyper-V hosts with multiple Virtual Machine against the same storage, the Hyper-V host didn’t know that he had to compete with other servers for Storage IOPs or bandwidth. For example the scenario of a minimum IOPs setting did only work on standalone Hyper-V servers. With the next release of Hyper-V and Windows Server Microsoft adds a lot of new stuff. Together with the Scale-Out File Server and Storage Spaces, Microsoft now allows you to define IOPs reservation for important virtual hard disks and a IOPs reserve and limit that is shared by a group of virtual machines / virtual hard disks. This intelligence, build by Microsoft Research, enables a couple of interesting scenarios especially in service provider environments and large scale enterprises.

Virtual Machine Compute Resiliency

Hyper-V vNext Compute VM Reciliency

Microsoft invested heavily into VM resiliency, especially to hardware failure. One of them is the VM Compute Resiliency feature. This feature allows Virtual Machines to run on a host even if the cluster node is not available to the other nodes in the cluster. For example in Windows Server 2012 R2, if the cluster service couldn’t reach the node in the cluster for 30 seconds, the cluster would failover all the virtual machines to another node. If the same things happens in Windows Server vNext Hyper-V, the node would go into isolated mode for the next 4 minutes (default setting) and when the node comes back in four minutes all the virtual machines will still be running. If it doesn’t come back within four minutes the VMs will failover to another node. If a node is flapping from Isolated Mode to running the cluster service will set the node to quarantined and will move all the virtual machines from the node to another node. This should help keep your workloads running even if there are some hardware or network failures.

Evolving Hyper-V Backup

If you are working in IT you know that Backup is always a issues. And things didn’t really get better by running Virtual Machines running on Storage Systems. With the next release of Hyper-V Server Microsoft will release a completely new architecture to improve reliability, scale and performance of Virtual Machine backups. There are three big changes in the backup architecture:

  • Decoupling backing up virtual machines from backing up the underlying storage.
  • No longer dependent on hardware snapshots for core backup functionality, but still able to take advantage of hardware capabilities when they are present.
  • Built in change tracking for Backup of Virtual Machines

RemoteFX

Microsoft also did some improvements on RemoteFX which now includes support for OpenGL 4.4 and OpenCL 1.1 API. It also allows you to use larger dedicated VRAM and VRAM in now finally configurable.

Hyper-V Cluster Management

This is maybe something you will never use by yourself but there is another great improvements in terms of automation and development. If you have ever used WMI against a Hyper-V Cluster you always had to run it against every Hyper-V Host in the cluster to get all the information. In the next version of Hyper-V you can finally run WMI against Hyper-V Cluster and it will handle it as it would be a single Hyper-V host, so you get all the information from all hosts in the cluster.

This was a quick overview over just some of the feature and improvements which are coming in the next release of Windows Server Hyper-V which will be released in 2016. There will be much more coming until Microsoft officially releases the next version of Hyper-V and of course some of the stuff I wrote about will be improved as well.

If you want to know more about the next version of Hyper-V checkout Ben Armstrong’s TechEd Europe session or visit some of our TechNet events.

 



Microsoft KiPi

Microsoft Learning: Know it. Prove it. Challenge for Hybrid Cloud

Some weeks ago I passed Microsoft Exam 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions which means I am now Microsoft Certified on Microsoft Azure technology. Microsoft has just lunched a new certification challenge called Know it. Prove it. which leverages free resources at the Microsoft Virtual Academy and take  Microsoft exams afterwards.

A few things about the challenge:

  • There are 8 different learning tracks, ranging from Cloud Development over Web Development to Hybrid Cloud or Office 365.
  • Each track consists of a learning module which is accessible from anywhere so learners can watch video tutorials and do assessments whenever is easy!
  • During KiPi, learners can track their progress, earn badges and points, compete against other challenges, and share experiences with others who are participating.
  • Although the challenge officially kicked off on February 1st, it’s not too late to get started.
  • The “Know It” portion of the challenge runs all of February and the “Prove It” part (i.e. get certified) will start March 1st and end on March 31st

For all Virtualization and Cloud Architects and Engineers this makes really sense to prepare what is coming next for Microsoft Cloud or Windows Server as well as System Center and Hyper-V. So checkout the the Know it. Prove it. challenge on the Microsoft Virtual Academy.