Category: Server Core

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Project Honolulu Server Overview

Microsoft Project Honolulu – The new Windows Server Management Experience

Last week Microsoft introduced the world to Project Honolulu, which is the codename for a new Windows Server management experience. Project “Honolulu” is a flexible, locally-deployed, browser-based management platform and tools to manage Windows Server locally and remote.

Microsoft today launched the Hololulu Technical Preview for the world, I had the chance to already work with Microsoft during the last couple of months in a private preview. Project Honolulu helps you to managed your servers remotely as a new kind of Server Manager. This is especially handy if you run Windows Server Core, which I think is the new black, after Microsoft announced that Nano Server is only gonna live as a Container Image with the next version of Windows Server.

Project Honolulu took many features for the Azure Server Management Tools which were hosted in Azure, and allowed you to manage your servers in the cloud and on-premise. But the Feedback was simple, People wanted to install the Management expierence on-prem, without the dependency to Microsoft Azure. Microsoft listened to the feedback and delivered the with Project Honolulu a web-based management solution, which you can install on your own servers.

Honolulu Management Experience

Project Honolulu Server Overview

Project Honolulu has different solutions which give you different functionality. In the technical preview there are three solutions available, Server Manager, Failover Cluster Manager and Hyper-Converged Cluster Manager.

Server Manager

The server manager lets you is kind of like the Server Manager you know from Windows Server, but it also replaces some local only tools like Network Management, Process, Device Manger, Certificate and User Management, Windows Update and so on. The Server Manager Solution also adds management of Virtual Machines, Virtual Switches and Storage Replica.

Failover Cluster Manager

As you might think, this allows you to manage Failover Clusters.

Hyper-Converged Cluster Manager

The Hyper-Converged Cluster Manager is very interesting if you are running Storage Spaces Direct clusters in a Hyper-Converged design, where Hyper-V Virtual Machines run on the same hosts. This allows you to do management of the S2D cluster as well as some performance metrics.

Honolulu Topology

Project Honolulu On-Premise Architecture

Project Honolulu leverages a three-tier architecture, a web server displaying web UI using HTML, a gateway service and the managed nodes. The web interface talks to the gateway service using REST APIs and the gateway connected to the managed nodes using WinRM and PowerShell remoting (Similar like the Azure Management Tools).

Project Honolulu On-Premise and Public Cloud Architecture

You can basically access the Web UI from every machine running modern browsers like Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome. If you publish the webserver to the internet, you can also manage it remotely from everywhere. The installation and configuration of Project Honolulu is straight forward, but If you want to know more about the installation check out, my friend and Microsoft MVP colleague, Charbel Nemnom’s blog post about Project Honolulu.

Project Honolulu Gateways Service can be installed on:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2016

You can manage:

  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2016 and higher

Conclusion

In my opinion Microsoft Project Honolulu provides us with the Windows Server Management Tool we need so much. It helps us to manage our servers from a centralized HTML5 web application, and really makes management of GUI less servers easy. Deployment and configuration is very easy and simple and doesn’t take a lot of effort, while drastically removing the need to locally logon to a server for management reasons. I hope with that we will see a higher deployment of Windows Server Core installations, since we don’t need the GUI on every single server anymore.

You can download the Project Honolulu Technical Preview here: Project Honolulu Technical Preview

You can give feedback to Project Honolulu here: User Voice Project Honolulu

 



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)



Microsoft Ignite Speaker

Speaking at Microsoft Ignite 2017

I just came back from Experts Live Europe 2017 in Berlin where I was speaking about Container, Azure Stack and Windows Server. Now I already started preparing for the largest Microsoft Conference in September. I am happy to announce that I will be speaking at the Microsoft Ignite 2017 Conference in Orlando Florida.

Thomas Maurer Speaking

This is a huge honor and I am happy to speak in several sessions. The first one I want to announce is my Theater Session about Windows Server 2016:

Lessons learned from deploying Windows Server 2016

Join this session to learn about how to deploy Windows Server 2016 in your datacenter. Learn about real-world experience for Storage Spaces Direct, Nano Server, Hyper-V, and a lot more.

I will announce other sessions soon as they are public available. I hope you join Microsoft Ignite and see you in my sessions.



Thomas Maurer Speaking

Speaking at Experts Live Europe 2017 in Berlin

I am proud to announce that I will speak at Experts Live Europe 2017 Conference at August 23-25 in Berlin. Experts Live, formerly known System Center Universe, is one of Europe’s largest community conferences with a focus on Microsoft cloud, datacenter and workplace management. Top experts from around the world present discussion panels, ask-the-experts sessions and breakout sessions and cover the latest products, technologies and solutions. It’s the time of the year to learn, network, share and make valuable connections. Experts Live presents top content with top presenters around Microsoft Windows Server, System Center, Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Intune and much more.

ExpertsLive Europe

After speaking at different System Center Universe and different Experts Live events in the past years around the world, such as Bern, Basel, Kuala Lumpur, Ede, Melbourne and many more, I am really happy to speak this year again at one of the greatest community conferences in Europe.

If you want to know more about the events from the past check out my blog posts:

This year I have the chance to speak in a couple of different sessions, about some really cool stuff focusing on Azure Stack, Windows Server vNext and Azure, Docker and Containers.

Azure Stack - Everything you need to know!

Microsoft released Azure Stack as a Azure appliance for your datacenter. Learn how you deploy, manage and operate a Azure Stack in your datacenter. Learn about the features and options you will get by offering Azure Stack to your customers.

Getting started with Windows Containers, Docker and Azure

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

Windows Server - What is next in Redstone 3

A little less than one year ago Microsoft released Windows Server 2016. This Fall Microsoft will update Windows Server to the next Current Branch for Business release with new features and improvements together with the Windows 10 Client release. Windows Server will also join the Windows Insider Program and we will see the first innovation coming this summer. Join this session for the best of Windows Server. You will get an overview about the new, exciting improvements that are in Windows Server and how they will improve your day-to-day job.

In this presentation Thomas Maurer (Microsoft MVP) will guide you through the highly anticipated innovations including:

Windows Server Containers, Hyper-V features, Nano Server, Storage, Networking, Security, Windows Server Containers and more!

enjoy summer and hopefully see you in Berlin!

 



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.