Category: Containers

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Windows Server 1709

Microsoft released Windows Server 1709

Microsoft just released the new Windows Server version 1709 which is the first release in the Semi-Annual Channel. The Semi-Annual Channel release cadence to deliver innovation at a faster pace, but you will also need to keep updating your systems to newer versions of Windows Server. As of today, you can download Windows Server 1709 from the Volume license portal or deploy it in Microsoft Azure, since it is available in the Azure Marketplace.

Windows Server 1709 Features and Improvements

Windows Server 1709 will drive innovation in the container space and in the Windows Subsystem for Linux, as well as some Cloud Host improvements in Hyper-V with new support for Storage Class Memory and more. Windows Server 1709 will be only available as Windows Server Core (Standard and Datacenter).

If you want to know more about the new features and improvements in Windows Server 1709, check out my blog post and check also out the Microsoft What’s new in Windows Server 1709 page.

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

New Windows Server Management Experience

If you want to know more about the new Management Experience called Project Honolulu, check out my blog post:

Microsoft Project Honolulu – The new Windows Server Management Experience

Windows Server Servicing

For more information about the Semi-Annual Channel and Windows Server Servicing check out my blog posts:

Windows Server release information – Windows Server Semi-Annual Channel and LTSC

 

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

Windows Server, version 1709 is only the first step in this new world of faster release cadences. The most important aspect of having new releases twice a year is customer feedback will shape the product. You can try the preview builds of Windows Server in the Semi-Annual Channel and provide feedback by joining the Windows Insiders program. You can also join the conversation in the Microsoft Tech Community where we have tons of professionals and experts sharing their learnings and answering questions.



Windows Server Semi-annual Channel Overview

Windows Server release information – Windows Server Semi-Annual Channel and LTSC

As mentioned a couple of months ago, Microsoft has updated the Windows Server servicing model. The Semi-Annual Channel is a twice-per-year feature update release with 18-month servicing timelines for each release and the Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) will be support for 5+5 years as we know it form previous Windows Server releases as Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016. This is similar servicing model as the Windows 10 client.

In short:

The Semi-Annual Channel provides opportunity for customers who are innovating quickly to take advantage of new operating system capabilities at a faster pace, both in applications – particularly those built on containers and microservices – and in the software-defined hybrid datacenter.

Customers also have the option to continue using the Long-Term Servicing Channel releases, which continue to be released every 2-3 years. Each Long-Term Servicing Channel release is supported for 5 years of mainstream support and 5 years of extended support.

You can find more information about the Windows Server Servicing changes in my blog post: What is next for Windows Server and System Center with a faster release cadence

Today Microsoft released a page where you can get an overview about the Windows Server versions and their support end dates.

Windows Server current versions by servicing Overview

This will quickly get you an overview about the Windows Server releases.

 

 



Speaking at Microsoft Ignite 2017

My impressions from Microsoft Ignite 2017

Okay, I know, Microsoft Ignite 2017 was already a couple of weeks ago. But still, I finally had time to write about my impressions from Microsoft Ignite, after the conference plus my visit in Seattle for the Intelligent Cloud Architect Bootcamp and spending my days in meetings and back at work in Switzerland. Since there is a lot of stuff and important changes coming, I think it is still valid to write about my impressions.

First, I have to say Orlando is great, I really loved spending my time there. This was my second Microsoft Ignite after the first one in Chicago. I have to say, it was very well organized and organizing such a huge conference is definitely not easy.

The Speaking part…

Speaking at Microsoft Ignite 2017 Theater

I had the great opportunity to speak in several Microsoft Ignite sessions and this was huge fun. It is always fun for me to stand in front of a couple of people and show them some stuff I am working on. I not only had the chance to do my Theather session about “Lessons learned from deploying Windows Server 2016”, I also spoke in two breakout sessions about our customer cases focusing on System Center and Storage Spaces Direct.

The Networking part…

One of the most important parts of such a conference is networking with others. The point is that all the videos are going to be online available for later review, but you get time to meet with people from Microsoft, customers and partners, and talk, share and learn from them. The connections you make at such a conference will be helpful in the future, trust me…

The Learning part…

One of the main reasons for me to attend, was to learn. Not only learn about the latest and greatest technology, but also about where the industry is heading. I believe that our industry is heading to one of the biggest changes in history since the transition from Mainframes to client server topology. I think this is not new to most of us, but what is interesting and something I underestimated is, how fast that transition will be going forward. Cloud Computing, AI, Big Data, IoT and modern applications are going to be big topics in the future and technologies like containers and methods like DevOps are going to accelerate this change. My lesson learned from these events is that we all in the industry have to learn much faster and be ready to adapt to change much quicker.

With that, I hope to see you soon at other conferences and events or again at Microsoft Ignite on September 24 – 28 in Orlando, Florida.



Azure vs Azure Stack

Speaking at the InfoNet Day 2017 about Azure Stack

I am proud to announce that I will be speaking at the annual InfoNet Day event in Olten, Switzerland on October 31 2017. The event is focused on a technical audience and covers Microsoft topics across the board – cloud, datacenter and workplace. In my session I will speak together with Uwe Luethy from Microsoft Switzerland. The session is called “Microsoft Azure Stack – Hybrid Cloud. The Modern System Architecture”.

Microsoft Azure Stack – Hybrid Cloud. The Modern System Architecture

Microsoft Azure Stack – Hybrid Cloud. The Modern System Architecture

And by the way, Marcel Zehner (MVP) will talk about “Cloud Trends – Microsoft IT Professional Edition” in one of the keynotes. So hopefully see you there.



Ubuntu on Microsoft Azure

Microsoft and Canonical create Azure optimized Ubuntu Kernel

Ubuntu is a popular choice for Virtual Machines running on Microsoft Azure and Hyper-V. Yesterday Microsoft and Canonical that they will provide an Azure Tailored Kernel for Ubuntu. Microsoft and Canonical were already working on a lot of projects together, like Linux Containers on Windows using Docker, or the Windows Subsystem for Linux.

Canonical, with the team at Microsoft Azure, are now delighted to announce that as of September 21, 2017, Ubuntu Cloud Images for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS on Azure have been enabled with a new Azure tailored Ubuntu kernel by default.  The Azure tailored Ubuntu kernel will receive the same level of support and security maintenance as all supported Ubuntu kernels for the duration of the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS support life.

The kernel itself is provided by the linux-azure kernel package. Some of the special feature this kernel provides are:

  • Infiniband and RDMAcapability for Azure HPC to deliver optimized performance of compute intensive workloads on Azure A8, A9, H-series, and NC24r.
  • Full support for Accelerated Networking in Azure.  Direct access to the PCI device provides gains in overall network performance offering the highest throughput and lowest latency for guests in Azure.  Transparent SR-IOV eliminates configuration steps for bonding network devices.
  • NAPI and Receive Segment Coalescing for 10% greater throughput on guests not using SR-IOV.
  • 18% reduction in kernel size
  • Hyper-V socket capability — a socket-based host/guest communication method that does not require a network.
  • The very latest Hyper-V device drivers and feature support available.

Source: https://insights.ubuntu.com/2017/09/21/microsoft-and-canonical-increase-velocity-with-azure-tailored-kernel/

I am sure these improvements will not only help Ubuntu Virtual Machines running on Azure, but also Ubuntu Virtual Machines running on Hyper-V

Canonical and Microsoft also promise to work close in the future to deliver more new feature.

As we continue to collaborate closely with various Microsoft teams on public cloud, private cloud, containers and services, you can expect further boosts in performance, simplification of operations at scale, and enablement of new innovations and technologies.

Really looking forward how this works. Also funny to see the comments on the Tweet from the @Ubuntu on twitter, which shows how many people live in the old world.



Hyper-V Enhanced Session Mode

10 hidden Hyper-V features you should know about!

Microsoft added some amazing new features and improvements to Hyper-V over the past few years. A lot of them you can use in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V today, but there are also a lot of features hidden in the user interface and they are also included in Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise. I think this list should you a good idea about some of them.

Nested Virtualization

Hyper-V Nested Virtualization

Hyper-V Nested Virtualization allows you to run Hyper-V in a Hyper-V Virtual Machine. This is great for testing, demo and training scenarios and it work on Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise. Microsoft Azure will also offer some new Virtual Machine which will offer the Nested Virtualization feature in the Azure public cloud. Nested Virtualization is not just great if you want to run virtual machines inside a virtual machine, it is also great (and I think this will be the largest use case in the future) you can also run Hyper-V Container inside a Hyper-V or Azure Virtual Machine. Hyper-V Containers are a feature will brings the isolation of a Virtual Machine to a fast, light and small footprint container. To enable Nested Virtualization you have the following requirements:

  • At least 4 GB RAM available for the virtualized Hyper-V host.
  • To run at least Windows Server 2016 or Windows 10 build 10565 (and higher) on both the physical Hyper-V host and the virtualized host. Running the same build in both the physical and virtualized environments generally improves performance.
  • A processor with Intel VT-x (nested virtualization is available only for Intel processors at this time).
  • Other Hypervisors will not work

Configure the Virtual Machine for Nested Virtualization follow the following steps:

  • disable Dynamic Memory on Virtual Machine
  • enable Virtualization Extensions on the vCPU
  • enable MAC Address Spoofing
  • set Memory of the Virtual Machine to a minimum of 4GB RAM

To enable the Virtualization Extensions on the vCPU you can run the following PowerShell command

PowerShell Direct

PowerShell Direct Enter-PSSession

Hyper-V PowerShell Direct is also one of the great new features in Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V. PowerShell Direct allows you to connect to a Virtual Machine using PowerShell without connecting over the network. Instead of the network, PowerShell Direct uses the Hyper-V VMBus to connect from the Hyper-V host to the virtual machine. This is handy if you are doing some automation or you don’t have network access to the virtual machine. In terms of security, you will still need to provide credentials to access the virtual machine.

To use PowerShell Direct you have the following requirements:

  • The virtual machine must be running locally on the Hyper-V host and must be started.
  • You must be logged into the host computer as a Hyper-V administrator.
  • You must supply valid user credentials for the virtual machine.
  • The host operating system must run Windows 10, Windows Server 2016, or a higher version.
  • The virtual machine must run Windows 10, Windows Server 2016, or a higher version.

To use PowerShell Direct just use the Enter-PSSession or Invoke-Command cmdlets with the -VMName, -VMId or VM parameter.

Hyper-V Virtual Switch using NAT

Hyper-V Virtual Switch NAT Configuration

If you are running Hyper-V on your workstation, laptop you know that networking could have been kind of a problem. With the Hyper-V Virtual Switch using NAT, you can now create an internal network for your virtual machines and still allow them to for example have internet access, like you would run your virtual machines behind a router. To use this feature you have the following requirements:

  • Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 build 14295 or later
  • Enabled Hyper-V role

To enable you can first create an internal switch using PowerShell, the the IP Address on the Virtual NIC on the Management OS and then set the NAT configuration:

To create NAT forwarding rules you can for example use the following command:

Virtual Battery for Virtual Machines

Hyper-V VM battery

With the Windows 10 Insider Build XXXX and later with the release of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Microsoft enabled a Virtual Battery feature for Hyper-V Virtual Machines. This will allow Hyper-V VMs to see the battery status of the host. This is great when you are running Hyper-V on a notebook or if you have a SUV battery on your server

Hyper-V VMConnect – Enhanced Session Mode

Hyper-V Enhanced Session Mode

Interacting with Virtual Machines can be difficult and time consuming using the default VM console, since you can not copy paste or connect devices. VMConnect lets you use a computer’s local resources in a virtual machine, like a removable USB flash drive or a printer and in addition to this, Enhanced session mode also lets you resize the VMConnect window and use copy paste. This makes it almost as if you would use the Remote Desktop Client to connect to the Virtual Machine, without a network connection, instead you will make use of the VMBus.

The Enhanced Session Mode feature was introduced with Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1. Enhanced session mode basically provides your Virtual Machine Connection with RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) capabilities over the Hyper-V VMBus, including the following:

  • Display Configuration
  • Audio redirection
  • Printer redirection
  • Full clipboard support (improved over limited prior-generation clipboard support)
  • Smart Card support
  • USB Device redirection
  • Drive redirection
  • Redirection for supported Plug and Play devices

Requirements for the Enhanced Session Mode are:

  • The Hyper-V host must have Enhanced session mode policy and Enhanced session mode settings turned on
  • The computer on which you use VMConnect must run Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2016, or Windows Server 2012 R2 or higher
  • The virtual machine must have Remote Desktop Services enabled, and run Windows 8.1 (or higher) and Windows Server 2012 R2 (or higher) as the guest operating system.

You can simply use it, by pressing the enhanced session button (if you have all the requirementsOn the Windows 10 Client this is enabled by default on the “host”. On Windows Server you have to enable it first in the Hyper-V Manager under Hyper-V Settings

Hyper-V Manager Zoom Level

Hyper-V VMConnect Zoom Level

In the Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft introduced a new feature to the VMConnect Console. This feature allows you to control the zoom level of the Virtual Machine console, this is especially handy if you have a high DPI screen.

Virtual TPM Chip

Hyper-V Virtual TPM

If you are running Windows 10 or Windows Server 2016 or higher you can make use of a feature called Shielded Virtual Machines. This allows you to protect your virtual machines form being accessed from the outside. With this feature Microsoft added different levels of security enhancements. One of them is the possibility to add a Virtual TPM chip to the virtual machine. With that enabled you can use BitLocker or another encryption technology to encrypt your virtual machine disks from inside the VM.

Enable Hyper-V vTPM PowerShell

You can enable the Virtual TPM chip using the Hyper-V Manager or PowerShell. The virtual machine needs to be shut down.

Just to make sure, if you really need full protection, have a look at Shielded Virtual Machines with the Host Guardian Service (HGS).

VM Resource Metering

Hyper-V VM Resource Metering

With Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Microsoft introduced a new feature in Hyper-V called VM Resource Metering which allows you to measure the usage of a virtual machine. This allows you to track CPU, Memory, Disk and network usage. This is a great feature especially if you need to do charge back or maybe even for trouble shooting.

You can enable VM Resource Metering using PowerShell

To measure the virtual machine, you can used the following command

Export and Share Hyper-V Virtual Machines

Export and Share Hyper-V Virtual Machine

Another feature a lot of people do not know about is that you can export Hyper-V Virtual Machines to copy them to another computer or server. The great thing about this, this can even be done while the virtual machine is running and you can even export the state of the virtual machine with it. You can use the UI to do this, or you just run PowerShell using the Export-VM cmdlet.

In the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Microsoft also added a button to shared the Virtual Machine. This does not only export the virtual machine but it also create a compressed VM Export File (.vmcz).

Hyper-V Containers

Hyper-V Windows Containers

In Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 you can run Windows Containers using Docker. While on Windows Server you can choose between running a Windows Container or a Hyper-V Container, you will always run a Hyper-V Container on Windows 10. While Hyper-V Containers and Windows Containers are fully compatible with each other, what means you can start a Windows Container in a Hyper-V Container runtime and the other way around, the Hyper-V Container gives you an extra layer of isolation between your containers and your operating system. This makes running containers not just much more secure but since the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update and Windows Server RS3 (Redstone 3), it will also allow you to run Linux Containers on a Windows Container Host, which will make Windows the best platform to run Windows Containers and Linux Containers side by side.

I hope this short list was helpful and showed you some features you didn’t know were there in Hyper-V. Some of these features are still in preview and are might not available in production versions of Hyper-V. Leave your favorite secret Hyper-V features in the comments!



Windows Server Software-Defined Datacenter Solutions

I am sure you have heard already about the great new improvements of Windows Server 2016 which launched almost a year ago. Especially features like Hyper-V, Storage Spaces Direct, Storage Replica and the Software-Defined Networking part got some great updates and new features. Windows Server delivers a great foundation for your Software-Defined Datacenter.

  • Compute – Hyper-V delivers a highly scalable, resilient and secure virtualization platform.
  • Storage – Storage Spaces Direct (S2D), Storage Replica and ReFS file system improvements, deliver a affordable high-performance software-defined storage solution
  • Network – The new Windows Server Software-Defined Networking v2 stack, delivers a high performance and large scale networking solution for your datacenter

However, deploying a Software-Defined Datacenter can be challenging and expensive. The Microsoft Software-Defined Datacenter certification allows you to simplify deployment and operations with a certified partner solutions. I have worked on a couple of deployments and building complex solutions can be expensive and time consuming. The Microsoft Software-Defined Datacenter certification allows you to have a pre-validated solution which result in faster deployment times, accelerated the time to value, a more reliable solution and optimized performance.

Windows Server Software-Defined Solutions WSSD

Microsoft is working with different partners like DataOn, Dell EMC, Fujitsu, HPE, Lenovo, Quanta (QCT) and SuperMicro to deliver these solutions. Partners offer an array of Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) solutions that work with Window Server 2016 to deliver high-performance storage or hyper-converged infrastructure. Hyper-converged solutions bring together compute, storage, and networking on industry-standard servers and components, which means organizations can gain improved datacenter intelligence and control while avoiding the costs of specialized high-end hardware.

Three types of Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) solutions

These partners offer three types of Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) solutions:

  • Software Defined Storage (SDS) – Enterprise-grade shared storage solution built on server node clusters replaces traditional SAN/NAS at a much lower cost. Organizations can quickly add storage capacity as needs grow over time. Support for all-flash NVMe drives delivers unrivaled performance.
  • Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) Standard – Highly virtualized compute and storage are combined in the same server node cluster, making them easier to deploy, manage, and scale. By eliminating traditional IT compute, storage, and networking silos, you can simplify your infrastructure.
  • Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) Premium – Comprehensive “software-defined datacenter in a box” adds Software-Defined Networking and Security Assurance features to HCI Standard. This makes it easy to scale compute, storage, and networking up and down to meet demand just like public cloud services.

Windows Server Software-Defined solution features comparison

These three types offer different features depending on your needs.

Windows Server Software-Defined Solution

If you are thinking do build your next software-defined datacenter or private cloud, I recommend that you have a look at these solutions. Find a partner at www.microsoft.com/wssd

Download a white paper about Microsoft hyper-converged technologies

Read a datasheet about the Windows Server Software Defined partner program

(Image Credits: www.microsoft.com/wssd)