Category: Hyper-V

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Windows Server Semi-annual Channel Overview

What is next for Windows Server and System Center with a faster release cadence

A couple of weeks ago at the Microsoft Build Conference, Microsoft released some new information about what is coming in the next version of Windows Server like Linux support on Hyper-V Container and much more. Today Microsoft just announced some new details about the next Windows Server releases and how they will work. The biggest change of todays announcement that Windows Server and System Center will also move to the Semi-annual Channel, just like Windows Client and Office moved to the Semi-annual Channel release cycle. The other large announcement is that Microsoft focuses Nano Server on Container and will remove support Nano on Hosts and Virtual Machines. This means you can run Nano Server only as a Windows or Hyper-V Container.

Nano Server is only supported as a Container Image

Microsoft is removing support for the Nano Server operating system running on physical hardware or inside Virtual Machines. Nano Server will be only supported as a Container Image. Windows Server Core will be the preferred installation option for your infrastructure servers like Hyper-V or Storage Spaces Direct.

This next release will focus on making Nano Server the very best container image possible. From these changes, customers will now see the Nano Server images shrink in size by more than 50 percent, further decreasing startup times and improving container density. As part of this effort to focus on containers, we will be removing the functionality for infrastructure-related roles. Instead of using Nano Server for these scenarios, we recommend deploying the Server Core installation option, which includes all the roles and features you would need.

Windows Server Servicing Channel

As mentioned Microsoft will offer Windows Server updates in the Semi-annual Channel as well as in the Long Term Servicing Channel for Nano Server Container Images as well as Windows Server Core.

There will be two primary release channels available to Windows Server customers, the Long-term Servicing Channel, and the new Semi-annual Channel.

Long-term Servicing Channel

The Long-term Servicing Channel is the release model you’re already familiar with (currently called the “Long-term Servicing Branch”) where a new major version of Windows Server is released every 2-3 years. Users are entitled to 5 years of mainstream support, 5 years of extended support, and optionally 6 more years with Premium Assurance. This channel is appropriate for systems that require a longer servicing option and functional stability. Deployments of Windows Server 2016 and earlier versions of Windows Server will not be affected by the new Semi-annual Channel releases. The Long-term Servicing Channel will continue to receive security and non-security updates, but it will not receive the new features and functionality.

Semi-annual Channel

The Semi-annual Channel releases will deliver new functionality for customers who are moving at a “cloud cadence,” such as those on rapid development cycles or hosters keeping up with the latest Hyper-V investments. Windows Server products in the Semi-annual Channel will have new releases available twice a year, in spring and fall. Each release in this channel will be supported for 18 months from the initial release.

Most of the features introduced in the Semi-annual Channel will be rolled up into the next Long-term Servicing Channel release of Windows Server. The editions, functionality, and supporting content might vary from release to release depending on customer feedback.

The Semi-annual Channel will be available to volume-licensed customers with Software Assurance, as well as via the Azure Marketplace or other cloud/hosting service providers and loyalty programs such as MSDN.

Windows Insider Program

At Microsoft Build, Microsoft also announced that Windows Server will be part of the Windows Insider Program, and you will see the first preview builds this summer.

System Center

in the first Semi-annual Channel release from System Center, the team will focus on System Center Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, and Data Protection Manager. The key areas of investment will include support for Windows Server and Linux, enhanced performance, usability and reliability, and extensibility with Azure-based security and management services. Which will bring features like Nested Virtualization support, software load balancing, Storage QoS Self-Service and management support for heterogeneous environments with improved Linux monitoring using a FluentD agent as well as VMware backup. System Center Configuration Manager will continue to offer three releases a year to give you the latest updates for managing servers, PCs, and mobile devices.

Conclusion

This changes will improve the release cadence of datacenter and cloud innovation dramatically. Customers like service providers will have the chance to update their offerings much more often which allows them to add new features and functionality. But there is choice for customers who need a stable and not fast moving environment they can deploy builds from the Long-term servicing channel, which will have long term support. With that you should be able to choose the best solution for your environment and workload.



AzureStack Admin Portal

Microsoft Azure Stack – Azure Extension in your Datacenter

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to attend the Microsoft Azure Certified for Hybrid Cloud Airlift in Bellevue WA, which is close to the Microsoft campus in Redmond. I had the chance to spend the week there and talk with the Microsoft PG about different Azure Stack scenarios. Most of the discussions and presentations are under NDA, but there are a few things I can share, since they are publicly announced. I prepared this blog post already a couple of months ago, when I was talking to a lot of different customers about Azure Stack, and since then Microsoft also shared some new information about the release of Azure Stack Technical Preview 3.

The Azure Stack Announcement

Azure vs Azure Stack

Microsoft announced Azure Stack at Microsoft Ignite in May 2015. Back at this time Microsoft did only mention about the vision of Azure Stack and that Azure Stack will bring cloud consistency between the Microsoft Azure Public Cloud and your Private Cloud. But Microsoft did not really announce exactly what Azure Stack will be and how it will be implemented in your Datacenter.

During the Microsoft World Wide Partner Conference (WPC 2016), Microsoft announced more information about the availability of Azure Stack. For more information, you can read the Microsoft blog posts, but I tried to summarize the most important parts.

Building a true Hybrid Cloud and Consistency with Microsoft Azure

Azure Stack

This is probably the most important part about Azure Stack today. Microsoft Azure Stack will bring Azure consistency between the Microsoft Azure Public Cloud and your Private Cloud or your Hosters Service Provider Cloud using the Azure Resource Manager. So you will be able to not only operate an Azure-like environment, like you could with Windows Azure Pack and System Center, you now get real consistency between Azure and Azure Stack. You not only get the exact look and feel from the Microsoft Azure Public Cloud, you also can use the same Azure Resource Templates and deployment methods as you can in the Public Cloud. This allows customers to really operate in a Hybrid Cloud environment, between the Microsoft Public Cloud, their own Private Cloud and also local Service Provider Clouds.

Bring the agility and fast-paced innovation of cloud computing to your on-premises environment with Azure Stack. This extension of Azure allows you to modernize your applications across hybrid cloud environments, balancing flexibility and control. Plus, developers can build applications using a consistent set of Azure services and DevOps processes and tools, then collaborate with operations to deploy to the location that best meets your business, technical, and regulatory requirements. Pre-built solutions from the Azure Marketplace, including open source tools and technologies, allow developers to speed up new cloud application development.

The Integrated System Approach

Azure Stack Integrated System

(picture by Microsoft)

Microsoft announced that Azure Stack will be available as an appliance from different hardware vendors in Mid 2017. The confirmed hardware providers delivering Azure Stack Appliance at this point in time will be: Dell, HPE and Lenovo and later in 2017 we will also see an appliance from Cisco.

The big difference here is that Microsoft delivers the Azure Stack platform first in an appliance way, which is really different from the way they delivered Windows Azure Pack. Windows Azure Pack was based on System Center and Windows Server and every customer could design his own environment based on their needs.

This was great, but also had some huge challenges for customers. Clouds needed different designs, this ended up in very complex design workshops where we basically discussed the customer solutions. The installation and configuration of a Windows Azure Pack platform was also very complex and a lot of work which needed a lot of resources, knowledge and of course a lot of project costs. Before customers could start saving money, they had to invest money to get things up and running. Of course, system integrators like itnetX and others, built automation to spin up clouds based on Windows Azure Pack, but still the investment needed to be done.

The use of an appliance approach not only helps to spin up clouds faster, but also build environments on tested hardware, firmware and drivers. Another point here which makes a great case for an appliance solution, are management and operations. Management and operation of a cloud-like environment is not easy, doesn’t matter what software you are using. Keeping the platform stable, maintained and operational will end up in a lot of work, especially if every cloud looks different. The last thing I want to mention here is upgrading, if you want real Azure consistency, you need to keep up with the ultra-fast pace of the Azure Public Cloud, which is basically impossible or extremely expensive. An integrated system scenario can really help you keep things up-to-date, since updates and upgrades can be pre-tested before they are released for you to deploy. This will help you save a huge amount of testing since every environment looks the same.

Operating Azure Stack

Azure Stack Administration and Operation

As already mentioned, Azure Stack will be delivered as an integrated system. OEMs, will help you to setup and install your Azure Stack appliance in your datacenter, but they will not fully manage the Azure Stack environment. You will need to have some Cloud Operator managing and operating your Azure Stack. With this all the host will be sealed and administrators do not have access to the hosts or Hyper-V Manager or Failover Cluster Manager to mange the systems. Instead, Administrators or Cloud Operators will manage the system for a management portal.

Azure Stack Platform

Since this is an integrated system, you don’t even need to care what it is running in the background. But still for a lot of us it is still very interesting to see how Azure Stack is built. In the back Azure Stack runs on “common” rack mount servers from HPE, Dell, Lenovo and Cisco, for HPE this is the DL380 Gen9. From the software stack it is running Windows Server 2016, and the Software Define Datacenter features such as Storage Spaces Direct, the new Windows Server 2016 Software-Defined Networking Stack an Hyper-V. In the release version of Azure Stack we will see a Hyper-Converged Storage Spaces Direct architecture starting from 4 nodes. On top of this Microsoft used code from Azure to bring the Azure Resource Manager, Azure Resource Providers and the Azure Portal to the Azure Stack.

Azure Stack POC – Microsoft Azure Stack Development Kit

Azure Stack Development Kit

Very early in the development process of Azure Stack, Microsoft releases Technical Previews to customers, so they could test Azure Stack on one node deployments. This is called the Azure Stack POC and you can download it today on a single physical server, and it was only designed for non-productive, non-HA environments. Microsoft officially announced that they will rename the Azure Stack POC to Azure Stack Development Kit after the General Availability of Azure Stack Mid 2017. This is really a great solution to quickly spin up a test environment of Azure Stack without having to invest in hardware.

Azure Marketplace Syndication

Azure Stack Marketplace Syndication

You will be able to create your own Marketplace items in Azure Stack, building your own templates and images and offer them to your customers. One of the greatest editions Microsoft made in the Azure Stack Technical Preview 3 is the Azure Marketplace Syndication. This allows you to get Marketplace items from Azure and offer them in your Azure Stack offering to your customers. With that you don’t need to build all Marketplace items by yourself.

Azure Stack Identity Management

Azure Stack has to be integrated into your datacenter. In terms of Identity, Microsoft allows you to use two ways to integrate. First, and from my site the preferred option, is Azure AD (AAD) which allows you to integrate with an existing Azure Active Directory. Azure AD can be synced and connected with your on-premise Active Directory and this will allow you to login to Azure as well as Azure Stack. The other option Microsoft is offering is using ADFS to bring identities to your Azure Stack.

The Azure Stack Business Cases

Since Azure Stack is consistent with Microsoft Azure, the question comes up, why are we not just using Azure. There are many good reasons to use Azure, but there are also some challenges with that. Azure Stack can make sense in a couple of scenarios.

  • Data Sovereignty – In some cases data cannot be stored outside of a specific country. With Azure Stack, customers have the option to deploy in even their own datacenter or on a service provider within the same country.
  • Latency – Even Microsoft offers a solution to reduce network latency to Azure, with using Azure Express Route, in some scenarios latency is still a big issue. With Azure Stack can customers place Azure very close to the location where resources are accessed from.
  • Disconnected Scenarios – In some scenarios you really want to benefit form the consistent deployment model, and for example use Azure Resource Manager (ARM), but not everywhere on earth do you have access to Azure or sometimes you have a very bad connection. Think about cruise ships or other scenarios where you need to run IT infrastructure but you are not able to connect to Azure.
  • Private Instance of Azure – For some companies shared infrastructures can be challenging, even security standards in Azure are extremely high, it is not always an option. With Azure Stack, companies can basically spin up their completely own instance of Azure.
  • Differentiation – Service Providers or even Enterprise companies cannot only use the Azure Marketplace, but they can also build their own solutions for the Azure Stack and make them available to their customers.

Pricing and Licensing

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. The hardware needs to be bought directly from the OEM or Partner. Some of the also offer a flexible investment model like the HPE Flexible Capacity. For the pricing model of Azure Stack software, 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, Microsoft will also offer a fixed-price “capacity model” based on the number of cores in the system.

Azure Stack Roadmap

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.

The choice for your datacenter

Windows Azure Pack

Obviously, Microsoft is pushing Azure Stack since it will bring consistency to the Azure public cloud, which means your companies and people need to understand the advantages of using methods like DevOps and Infrastructure in code. This will help you to make the most out of Azure Stack and the Azure Resource Manager. If you already have Microsoft Azure know-how, this is great, because it will also apply to Azure Stack.

No worries, if you are not there yet, or for some reason this doesn’t make sense to you, Microsoft still has a great solution to build traditional Virtualization platforms together with automation using System Center, Windows Server and if needed Windows Azure Pack. Both solutions, System Center and Windows Azure Pack, will be supported in the future and will get updates.



ITCampRO

Speaking at ITCamp 2017 in Cluj-Napoca

This week I am speaking at MMS MOA 2017 in Minneapolis and I am proud to announce that I will speak next week at ITCamp in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, for the second time after 2016. I already was speaking at the ITCamp 2016 and I am happy to be a speaker again this year. You will find a lot of interesting topics and experts to talk to.

In two sessions I will talk about:

The best of Hyper-V

Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V introduced a huge amount of new features. Come to this session to learn about what we have actually been doing with Window Server 2016. Gain insight into what features and functionality you can utilize quickly to get an immediate benefit from using Hyper-V on Windows Server 2016.

The best of Windows Server 2016

Join this session for The Best of Windows Server 2016 — The New Foundation of your Datacenter. You’ll get an overview about the new, exciting improvements that are in Windows Server 2016 and how they’ll improve your day-to-day job. In this 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!

Hopefully see you there!



Azure Nested Virtualization

Hyper-V Container and Nested Virtualization in Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines

Last week Microsoft announced some pretty cool new Azure Stuff, like the Azure Cloud Shell, Azure PowerShell 4.0, Azure Cosmos DB and much more.

In the session about Azure Compute, Microsoft introduced a bunch of new features, like new VM sizes, new experiences and new integration technology as well as updates to Azure Service Fabric, Azure Container Service and Azure Functions. One which really got my interest was the announcement about the new Virtual Machines sizes for Dv3 and Ev3, which will enable customers to use Virtualization inside their Windows Server Virtual Machines on Azure, enabled by Nested Virtualization from Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V. With that Dv3 and Ev3 Azure Virtual Machines are Nested Virtualization enabled.

Azure Nested Virtualization and Hyper-V Containers

You can now run Hyper-V in Azure Virtual Machines and even more important you can now run Hyper-V Container inside Azure Virtual Machines. With the announcements for Windows Server 2016 supporting Hyper-V Containers running Linux and Windows Server this is great news. You will be able to create Container Hosts in Azure running Windows Server and create Windows and Linux Containers on the same Container Host.

Azure VM Sizes

By the way, if you want to run Hyper-V Container in Azure today, and you don’t want to wait until the Dv3 and Ev3 series are available you can run them inside Azure Service Fabric. So yes, Microsoft now allows you to run Hyper-V Containers in Azure Service Fabric.

Azure Nested Virtualization Demo

As you could see in the demo, they are offering quite large Virtual Machines with a lot of RAM, running on Intels Xeon E7 CPUs.



MMS 2015

Speaking at the Midwest Management Summit 2017

I am proud to travel to the US tomorrow to speak at the MMS MOA 2017. The Midwest Management Summit is held in the Mall of America in Minneapolis and I have been there speaking for the past 3 years now from the first one at MMS 2014, second one at MMS 2015 and the last one just last year at MMS 2016. I am proud to be select as a speaker again this year.

The Midwest Management Summit is a 4-day conference purposely capped to just 750 attendees so that nobody gets lost in the crowd. Speakers have time to meet and talk to you. No rushing people out of a session to get the next speaker going. Time to absorb what you see and talk it over with speakers and other attendees. A true learning experience. Real networking. Real-life issues discussed.

This year I will be speaking in 3 different sessions mostly about Windows Server 2016, Nano Server, Hyper-V, Azure and Containers. And I am also proud to speak together with Samuel Erskine (Microsoft MVP) and John Joyner (Microsoft MVP). We have some exiting new stuff to share with the attendees, hopefully see you in the Mall of America!

The best of Windows Server 2016

Join this session for The Best of Windows Server 2016 – The New Foundation of your Datacenter. You’ll get an overview of the new, exciting improvements that are in Windows Server 2016 and how they’ll improve your day-to-day job. In this 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!

Getting Started with Windows Containers, Docker and Azure

In Windows Server 2016 Microsoft released their first version of Windows and Hyper-V Containers. In this session you will get an overview of how containers work and how you can use them for your deployments , as well as how you can get started with Containers and Docker on Windows 10, Windows Server or on Microsoft Azure.

Nano Server - The Future of Windows Server

Nano Server is the future of Windows Server. With Nano Server Microsoft created the foundation for Windows Server for the future. In this session you will get an overview about Nano Server and see some great live demos of how you can deploy, manage and operate Nano Server as well as creating applications for it. Get a better understanding of Nano Server and see how you deploy, manage and operate it.



Hyper-V Windows Containers

Windows Server news from Microsoft Build 2017 – It is all about Container!

Microsoft is just running their annual Developer Conference call Build with some interesting news for developers on Azure, Database Servers, Visual Studio, PowerShell, .NET and much more. But Microsoft also had some interesting things to share about the future of Windows Server. In a blog post, Erin Chapple, General Manager Windows Server, shared some information what Microsoft is doing in the Windows server space and about the next first feature release which will be aligned with the Windows 10 Client Operating System and will be released this Fall.

Windows Server is joining the Windows Insider program – Microsoft will start releasing regular Windows Server Insider builds including container images, which will be available to all Windows Insiders.

Container-optimized Nano Server – The Windows Server team has closely partnered with he .NET Team to bring the .NET Core 2.0 work to Windows Containers with an optimized container image based on Nano Server. This will reduce the footprint of the .NET container image by 50 percent, which will also reduce startup time as well as density improvements.

Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) on Windows Server – At DockerCon Keynote we demonstrated a Linux container running natively on Windows Server. To enable this, the Windows Server team worked to bring the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), also know as bash on Windows 10, to Windows Server. Together with Hyper-V isolation technology, the WSL will allow users to run Linux Containers on a Windows Server Container Host. The great thing here, there is also a choice on the Linux kernel, which will allow you to run different Linux distributions as containers.

Container Orchestration – Microsoft works with different container orchestration technologies, such as Docker swarm and Kubernetes to bring support for Windows Server Containers.

Container Storage – In Windows Containers you could use locally mounted volumes to store persistent data. As another investment in Containers, Microsoft is adding the ability to map SMB file-based storage directly into a container.

Starting this summer, Microsoft will begin to post early builds of the new Windows Server features, including container-optimized Nano Server images to the Docker Hub, support for Linux containers, Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), better orchestration support and SMB storage for containers in the Windows Insider program.

Aligned with the next release of Windows 10, these new features will be delivered as part of our first feature release this Fall. It will be available to customers with Software Assurance who commit to a more frequent release model. For customers who prefer the long-term servicing branch (LTSB) these features will be part of the next major release of Windows Server.



Azure Stack

SCOM Management Pack for Azure Stack

Today, Thomas Roettinger Senior Program Manager in the Azure Stack Team announced the Technical Preview of the Microsoft Azure Stack Management Pack for System Center Operations Manager. System Center is a datacenter management tool used by many enterprises out there, Operations Manager allows you to monitor your complete datacenter environment based on Management Packs which includes the logic and intelligence to monitor different solutions and products. With the release of the Azure Stack Management Pack, Microsoft enables you to monitor Azure Stack using System Center Operations Manager 2012 R2 or System Center Operations Manager 2016.

The Azure Stack Management Pack allows you to send notifications when alerts in Azure Stack pop up. It also allows you to schedule maintenance windows during an Azure Stack update. The MP leverages Azure Stack Health Resource Rest API which is the official API for all Azure Stack help related information and is used by the Azure Stack Portal itself, the PowerShell module and also the Nagios monitoring plugin for Azure Stack. If you are not using SCOM or  Nagios you can of course also work against the Azure Stack Health Resource Rest API to get health data out of your Azure Stack appliance.

Feel free to test the new SCOM Management Pack for Azure Stack (download) and provide feedback to Microsoft.