Category: Work

Last updated by at .

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.

 



Windows 10 Cortana

How to hide Cortana Search Box in Windows 10

During the last Windows 10 event in January, Microsoft showed the Cortana integration in Windows 10 and with Windows 10 Technical Preview 2 (build 9926) Microsoft released it’s first public preview of Cortana for Windows 10. Cortana helps you to do a lot of great things and I am a huge fan since I am using Cortana on my Windows Phone. The problem I have with the integration is the huge text box Cortana uses. And I don’t really need that box since I use the Windows Key anyway to open search.

Windows 10 Cortana Search box

To disable or hide the Cortana Search Box simply right click on the Taskbar, select search and enable “Show search icon”.

 

Hide Windows 10 Cortana Search Box

Now you only see the Cortana Icon instead of the Cortana Search Box. You can still just start to type by pressing the Windows Key or clicking on the Cortana Icon.

Windows 10 Cortana Icon

 



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.

 



System Center Universe Europe

Registration for System Center Universe 2015 Europe is now open

A couple of weeks ago Marcel Zehner, System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP and Organizer and founder of System Center Universe Europe announced date and time for System Center Universe 2015 Europe. SCU 2015 Europe will again be in Basel Switzerland in the same location as SCU 2014 Europe was last year. Today you can finally start to register for the event. There is an early bird pass available and the first 100 registrations can win an invitation to the private “Sponsors & Speakers Party”.

Some more information about the event:

  • When: August 24-26 2015
  • Where: Congress Center Basel, Switzerland
  • Session Language: English
  • First 100 registrations can win an invitation to the private “Sponsors & Speakers Party”
  • Early bird tickets are available until May 31 2015 (CHF 649+10)
  • Regular tickets are available until the conference starts (CHF 729+10)
  • Checkout my review from System Center Universe Europe 2014
  • Already an impressive list of speakers from Microsoft and Microsoft MVPs

 

System Center Universe 2015 Europe

Register today!

 



Microsoft Exam 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions

Passed Microsoft Exam 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions

A couple of weeks ago I passed Microsoft Exam 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions, which is focused on implementing and designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure solutions such as Azure Websites or Azure Virtual Machines (IaaS). I think taking this exam and preparing for it was a great idea. Even if I have already done a couple of projects on Azure I still learned a lot during the preparation and you can find some of the best practices. Since Azure is a huge beast and the rapid deployment of new features, you will definitely find some new stuff you didn’t know before during the preparation for the exam. And of course taking new Microsoft Certifications early helps you to stand out in the IT Pro or Developer world. Of course passing exams alone does not make you an expert, but if you have know-how on a topic it’s is always got to have some kind of paper to prove it.

So what are the skills measured for this exam. The exam 70-533 focuses on 6 topics, Azure Websites, Virtual Machines, Cloud Services, Storage, Azure Active Directory and Virtual Networks. To my surprise I got a really good score on Azure Websites and of course Virtual Machines, since I used to run several of them on Azure. I also found out that Azure Active Directory is one of the parts I have to invest a little more.

Skills measured

Implement websites (15-20%)

  • Deploy websites
    • Define deployment slots; roll back deployments, configure and deploy packages, deploy web jobs, schedule web jobs
  • Configure websites
    • Configure app settings, connection strings, handlers, and virtual directories; configure certificates, custom domains, and traffic manager; configure SSL bindings and runtime configurations; manage websites by using Windows PowerShell and Xplat-CLI
  • Configure diagnostics, monitoring, and analytics
    • Retrieve diagnostics data; view streaming logs; configure endpoint monitoring, alerts, and diagnostics; monitor website resources
  • Configure scale and resilience
    • Configure auto-scale using built-in and custom schedules; configure by metric; change the size of an instance
  • Manage hosting plans
    • Create hosting plans; migrate websites between hosting plans; create a website within a hosting plan

Implement virtual machines (15-20%)

  • Deploy workloads on Azure virtual machines (VMs)
    • Identify supported Microsoft workloads; deploy and connect to a Linux VM; create VMs
  • Implement images and disks
    • Create specialized and generalized images for Windows and Linux; copy images between storage accounts and subscriptions; upload VHDs
  • Perform configuration management
    • Automate configuration management by using PowerShell Desired State Configuration and custom script extensions; enable puppet and chef extensions
  • Configure VM networking
    • Settings include reserved IP addresses, access control list (ACL), internal name resolution, DNS at the cloud service level, load balancing endpoints, HTTP and TCP health probes, public IPs, firewall rules, direct server return, and Keep Alive
  • Configure VM resiliency
    • Scale up and scale down VM sizes; auto-scale; configure availability sets
  • Design and implement VM storage
    • Configure disk caching; plan storage capacity; configure operating system disk redundancy; configure shared storage using Azure File service; configure geo-replication; encrypt disks
  • Monitor VMs
    • Configure endpoint monitoring, alerts, and diagnostics

Implement cloud services (15-20%)

  • Configure cloud services and roles
    • Configure instance count and size, operating system version and family, upgrade and fault domains, ACLs, reserved IPs, and network access rules; configure local storage; configure dedicated and co-located caching, local and cloud configurations, and local disks; configure multiple websites; configure custom domains
  • Deploy and manage cloud services
    • Upgrade a deployment; VIP swap a deployment; package a deployment; modify configuration files; perform in-place updates; perform runtime configuration changes using the portal; scale a cloud service; create service bus namespaces and choose a tier; apply scalability targets
  • Monitor cloud services
    • Monitor service bus queues, topics, relays, and notification hubs; configure diagnostics

Implement storage (15-20%)

  • Implement blobs and Azure files
    • Read data; change data; set metadata on a container; use encryption (SSL); perform an async blob copy; configure a Content Delivery Network (CDN); implement storage for backup and disaster recovery; configure Azure Backup; define blob hierarchies; configure custom domains; configure the Import and Export Service
  • Manage access
    • Create and manage shared access signatures; use stored access policies; regenerate keys
  • Configure diagnostics, monitoring, and analytics
    • Configure retention policies and logging levels; analyze logs
  • Implement SQL databases
    • Choose the appropriate database tier and performance level; configure point in time recovery and geo-replication; import and export data and schema; design a scaling strategy
  • Implement recovery services
    • Create a backup vault; deploy a backup agent; back up and restore data

Implement an Azure Active Directory (15-20%)

  • Integrate an Azure AD with existing directories
    • Implement DirSync, O365 integration, and single sign-on with on-premises Windows Server 2012 R2; add custom domains; monitor Azure AD
  • Configure the Application Access Panel
    • Configure single sign-on with SaaS applications using federation and password based; add users and groups to applications; revoke access to SaaS applications; configure access; federation with Facebook and Google ID
  • Integrate an app with Azure AD
    • Web apps (WS-federation); desktop apps (OAuth); graph API

Implement virtual networks (15-20%)

  • Configure a virtual network
    • Deploy a VM into a virtual network; deploy a cloud service into a virtual network; configure static IPs; configure internal load balancing; design subnets
  • Modify a network configuration
    • Modify a subnet; import and export a network configuration
  • Design and implement a multi-site or hybrid network
    • Choose the appropriate solution between ExpressRoute, site-to-site, and point-to-site; choose the appropriate gateway; identify supported devices and software VPN solutions; identify networking prerequisites; configure regional virtual networks and multi-site virtual networks

Preparation

To prepare for the exam I used several different resources such as Microsoft Virtual Academy, TechNet, Channel9 and of course Microsoft Azure it self. I also found some great community blogs which have some link summaries:

If you are going to take this exam I wish you good luck.



Update Rollup 5 for System Center 2012 R2

Summary: Update Rollup 5 for System Center 2012 R2 and Azure Pack now available

Yesterday Microsoft released a new Update Rollup for System Center 2012 R2 and Azure Pack called Update Rollup 5. Update Rollup 5 has a lot of fixes and new features especially for Windows Azure Pack and System Center Virtual Machine Manager and Data Protection Manager.

Components that are fixed in this update rollup

  • Data Protection Manager (KB3021791)
    • Protect SharePoint with SQL Always on Configuration
    • Protect SharePoint Server, Exchange Server, and Windows Client workloads to Microsoft Azure by using Data Protection Manager
    • Support for multiple retention ranges for long-term backup on Microsoft Azure
    • Ability to transfer initial backup copy offline to Azure
    • Support for protecting Microsoft workloads that are hosted in VMware
    • Display missed SLA alerts on the Data Protection Manager console
    • Enhanced reporting with Data Protection Manager central console
  • Operations Manager (KB3023138)
  • Service Manager (KB3009517)
  • Virtual Machine Manager (KB3023195)
    • Differencing disk as an option in the Windows Azure Pack VMRole deployment
    • New operating system support
    • New ExplicitRevokeRequired parameter to control IP address management when Grant-SCIPAddress is used
    • Support for SQL Server 2014
    • Azure Site Recovery
  • Windows Azure Pack (KB3023209)
    • Adds support for SQL Governor in the SQL Server Resource Provider.
    • Adds administrator support for disabling native Network RP to allow for third-party network provider
    • Provides detail on Virtual Machine Memory type, Memory Startup and Maximum values in the Tenant Portal.
    • Fix to the Get-MgmtSvcRelyingPartySettings PowerShell cmdlet.
    • Fix to the issue of failing to establish Remote Desktop Connection to virtual machines put behind a Network Address Translation (NAT) device.
    • Fix to the Attached Network dialog box where the network entries in the list were disabled.

As you can see you get several new feature with Update Rollup 5. In Data Protection Manager you finally get support for SharePoint, Exchange and Windows Client workload protection to Microsoft Azure, and support for workloads running on VMware infrastructure. Virtual Machines Manager not only brings new features such as support for the Virtual Machine Manager Database to run on SQL Server 2014 it also includes a lot of fixes and a security update (3035898
MS15-017: Vulnerability in Virtual Machine Manager could allow elevation of privilege: February 10, 2015). Some of the most interesting fixes for me are:

  • DHCP extension: Currently, users have to manually update the DHCP extension after update rollup installation on all hosts. This is now automated. After the DHCP extension is replaced in the Virtual Machine Manager server’s installation folder to the latest version, Virtual Machine Manager automatically checks the DHCP extension against all hosts. If the host has an older version of DHCP extensions, the agent version status will be displayed as “DHCP extension needs to be updated in host properties on the Status page.” The user calls the update agent and updates the DHCP extension on the Hyper-V host in the same way that the user did this for the Virtual Machine Manager agent. Also, if the VSwitch is a logical switch, the status will be shown in “logical switch compliance.” The user can remediate the logical switch. This will also update the DHCP extension on the host.
  • Bare-Metal Deployment: If a physical computer profile is created by using vNic (and by using a virtual machine network) and if there are more than one hostgroup for a logical network that also has that virtual machine network when you add a host resource on the “Provisioning Options” page, the host profile will be displayed for only one host group. The profile won’t be displayed for the rest of the host groups.

For Windows Azure Pack also includes some important fixes and improvements on of the is in the Tenant Portal, users can now see details on Virtual Machine Memory type, Memory Startup and Maximum values.

Update Rollup 5 for System Center 2012 R2 brings a lot of new features and important fixes to the table, however before deploying the fixes in your production environment, I recommend to test the Update Rollup and maybe wait for some reports about issues from other users.