Category: Hardware

Azure Stack Familiy - Azure Stack HCI

Azure Stack HCI – A new member of the Azure Stack family

Today, the Azure team is proud to announce a new member to the Azure Stack family, the Azure Stack HCI solutions. Azure Stack HCI is Microsoft’s hyper-converged solution available from a wide range of hardware partners. Azure Stack shipped in 2017, and it is the only solution in the market today for customers to run cloud applications using consistent IaaS and PaaS services across public cloud, on-premises, and in disconnected environments. With adding the Azure Stack HCI solutions, Microsoft is offering customers a great new choice for their traditional virtualized workloads.

Today, I am pleased to announce Azure Stack HCI solutions are available for customers who want to run virtualized applications on modern hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) to lower costs and improve performance. Azure Stack HCI solutions feature the same software-defined compute, storage, and networking software as Azure Stack, and can integrate with Azure for hybrid capabilities such as cloud-based backup, site recovery, monitoring, and more.

Adopting hybrid cloud is a journey and it is important to have a strategy that takes into account different workloads, skillsets, and tools. Microsoft is the only leading cloud vendor that delivers a comprehensive set of hybrid cloud solutions, so customers can use the right tool for the job without compromise.

It is built on a hyper-converged Windows Server 2019 cluster that uses validated and certified hardware to run virtual machines and workloads on-premises. Azure Stack HCI also allows you to optionally connect Azure services for BCDR, management and more. Azure Stack HCI solutions use Microsoft-validated hardware to ensure optimal performance and reliability. It includes support for technologies such as NVMe drives, persistent memory, and remote-direct memory access (RDMA) networking, to get the best possible performance if needed.

What is behind Azure Stack HCI

Azure Stack HCI Product Overview

Azure Stack HCI is based on Windows Server 2019, parried with validated hardware from OEM partners. With the Windows Server 2019 Datacenter edition, customer get Software Defined Infrastructure and Software Defined Datacenter technologies like Hyper-V, Storage Spaces Direct and many more, which are the base of Azure Stack HCI. Paired with Windows Admin Center, you can use existing skills, gain hyperconverged efficiency, and connect to Azure services.



Microsoft House Zürich

Microsoft House opened in Zürich

Microsoft Switzerland just announced the Microsoft “Pop-Up” House in Zürich. The Microsoft House in Zürich will offer different experiences to dive into the Microsoft world.

Over the next three months, the Microsoft House offers you the opportunity to visit events and workshops and experience our technologies, solutions and latest Surface devices. We look forward to talking to you about your business and what’s important for you and invite you to work with us in our 300 m2 co-working space.

The opening will take place on Monday, December 10th at 12.00 pm. The Microsoft House is located at Poststrasse 5, a few steps away from Paradeplatz, in Zurich.

The Microsoft House in Zürich offers:

  • A temporary Microsoft Store – To discover and buy the latest Microsoft Surface devices and accessories.
  • Experience – You can experience the latest technology like Microsoft Surface devices, HoloLens, Mixed Reality and even the dive into the world of artificial intelligence. Or just enjoying playing games on the latest Xbox One X and explore the history of Microsoft. You can also join workshops for things like Office 365 and more.
  • Open Workspace – There is even a 300m2 co-working pace which you can use.

Microsoft House Zürich Flyer

I will definitely step by and check it out!

 



Intel NUC Windows Server

Building a Windows Server Lab with an Intel NUC

With the release of Windows Server 2019, which includes a ton of Hybrid Cloud integration features, it was time to build a new lab environment. The plan is to create a lab and demo environment for my presentations and workshops. Until today, I was still using my hardware from 2011, which was built from Cisco C200 and HPE ProLiant servers. This was, more or less, datacenter grade hardware, it was using a lot of electricity and made a lot of noise. Not really the thing for a home lab on your desk. With some pretty good deals out there, I decided to buy a brand-new Intel NUC. NUC stands for Next Unit of Computing, which is a small, light, cheap and not very noisy computer, which gives you the latest Intel CPUs and ports. Mostly used as desktop or media computers. However, the price and the features, are also making it a great option for a lab running Hyper-V.

If I look at the hardware our customers are using today, there is not really a good way to build a cheap home lab based on datacenter hardware. And with my workloads mostly running in Azure anyway, the Intel NUC seems to be a great option. For most of my demos a single server running Hyper-V should be enough. For demos on Storage Spaces Direct or Clustering I can still use Azure with Nested Virtualization.

Intel NUC Windows Server LAB

I decided to get an Intel NUC NUC8i7BEH – Bean Canyon with the following specs:

  • Intel Core i7-8559U
  • 32GB DDR4 RAM
  • 1TB M.2 Samsung 970 EVO
  • Intel Wireless-AC 9560 + Bluetooth 5.0
  • Gigabit LAN
  • USB-A and USB-C ports
  • Thunderbolt 3 port

Unfortunately, the Intel NUC is limited to 32GB of RAM and this version does not have a TPM chip. The good thing, it runs Windows Server 2019 and Windows Admin Center just fine. So far I don’t have any issues, except that there are some missing drivers for Windows Server 2019. We will see how it works out in the next couple of months.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.



Surface Headphones

Surface Headphones – First Impressions

Today my early Christmas gift to myself, just arrived, the Microsoft Surface Headphones. Yes, Microsoft at their Surface Event in October, announced a new product called the Surface Headphones. The Surface Headphones are wireless noise cancelling headphones. This is especially handy when travelling or in a open space office. The will compete with products like the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II and the Sony WH-1000XM3. If you are travelling a lot, especially if you fly a lot, you will never ever want to travel without noise cancelling headphones. By myself I was using the first generation Bose Quiet Comfort 35, which were my steady travel companion. I was really happy with it, even the sound quality could have been slightly better. However, with Microsoft releasing the Surface Headphones, it was time for an upgrade.

Microsoft Surface Headphones

Of course, I didn’t really have time to test them yet, but I wanted quickly share my first impression and a little review about the Surface Headphones.

  • First of all, I really like the design and build quality, the have this premium feel and design, like the other Microsoft Surface products.
  • Boy the feel comfortable. Even do they are heavier than my Bose QC 35, the feel lighter and very good when wearing them. Especially when being on a flight for over 10 hours, this is a must.
  • Setup is so easy, Cortana on the Surface Headphones let you quickly go through the whole setup process and everything just worked like you expect it to be. No pairing errors or things like this.
  • They work great with Windows 10, iOS or Android.
  • With Cortana you can also use voice commands to check your calendar or play your Spotify playlist.
  • Connecting multiple devices like the Surface Book 2 and my phone at the same time, is really useful. Especially when a Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams call comes in, you can easily switch to your PC.
  • In my opinion the sound quality of the Surface Headphones is better than on my Bose QC 35, and it is a joy to listen to music. Again, I am not a sound enthusiast, but for me the quality is really good.
  • One of the unique features are the wheels or dial on the side. The wheel on the right allows you just adjust the volume and the wheel on the left allows you to adjust the level of noise cancellation. I like the wheels much better than, the buttons on my Bose headphones, they are way easier reachable.
  • The Surface Headphones also have buttons on the side, which allow you to pick up and end calls, skip to the next track, pause and resume music playback.
  • You cannot only regulate the level of noise cancellation, you can even amplify the background around you, which is handy when someone starts talking to you.

Overall the first impressions of the Surface Headphones has been great, and I can’t wait to test them on my first trips. They are a great edition to the other Surface Peripherals.

If you are living not in the US or UK you can order them from www.bigapplebuddy.com. If you are using the coupon code “THOMASMAURER” you will get $10 off their 1st Big Apple Buddy purchase. This not only works for the Surface Headphones but for other items as well.



HPE Azure Stack Innovation Center

Let’s talk about the HPE Azure Stack Innovation Center

Together with HPE, I did some short videos about HPE Azure Stack and the HPE Azure Stack Innovation Center in Geneva. The videos are very short to just give you a quick idea about the different scenarios and the benefits of the Innovation Center as well as the HPE solutions. If you want to know more about it, you can check out my blog and look for my articles on Azure Stack and Azure.

About the Azure Stack Innovation Centers

To help you get started on your journey with Microsoft Azure Stack, HPE and Microsoft have built Azure Stack Innovation Centers. Staffed by HPE and Microsoft experts, and leveraging the latest industry-leading Azure Stack hardware and software solutions, the Azure Stack Innovation Centers are designed to help simplify and accelerate your hybrid cloud journey.

In simple words, the Innovation Centers are a place to try out Azure Stack multi-node systems, do proof of concepts and test your real-world workloads. We used the Azure Stack Innovations Centers to work with customers, to try out their workloads directly on a full multi-node system. This helps to better understand the benefits and challenges for the specific customer workloads and get some hands-on experience. It is also a great possibility to test out the Azure Stack Operator capabilities and tasks.

Thomas Maurer about the HPE Azure Stack Innovation Center

Thomas Maurer talks about how the HPE Microsoft Azure Innovation Center helps partners and customers on Azure Stack Implementation projects!



Bag for Microsoft Ignite 2018

What’s in my bag for Microsoft Ignite 2018

In a couple of days, I will board the plane and fly to the largest Microsoft Conference in the world – Microsoft Ignite 2018. I am very happy to travel to Microsoft Ignite 2018 in Orlando this year. In this blog, I will quickly share with you what I pack in my bag for Microsoft Ignite.

Microsoft Ignite is an annual conference for developers and IT professionals hosted by Microsoft. You can get the latest insights and skills from technology leaders and practitioners shaping the future of cloud, data, business intelligence, teamwork, and productivity.  I am really looking forward to it and meet other enthusiasts around Microsoft Cloud solutions. And of course, to connect and meet with members of the Microsoft Product Groups.

In the last couple of days, I am already preparing for the event. Besides checking out sessions and preparing side meetings, I am also packing my bag. One of the most important things for larger conferences like Ignite, is that you pack light. The conferences venue is huge, and your sessions and meetings maybe spread over the whole venue. You will walk a lot. It is important that you have good and comfortable shoes and save weight as much as possible, when packing your bag. And this is what I try this time.



Azure Stack Backup with Azure Backup Server

Protect Azure Stack Tenant Workloads with Azure Backup Server

If you are running Azure Stack in your datacenter, you also want to backup workloads running on Azure Stack. This blog post covers how you can backup Azure Stack tenant workloads with Azure Backup Server. Azure Backup allows you to protect on-premise workloads running on different platforms as well as on Azure Stack and store long-term data in Azure.

Why protecting Azure Stack workloads with Azure Backup Server

Microsoft Azure Backup Server is included as a free download with Azure Backup that enables cloud backups and disk backups for workloads like SQL, SharePoint and Exchange regardless if these workloads are running on Hyper-V, VMware, Physical servers or Azure Stack. It also provides a central console to protect these workloads. If you compare this to the Azure Backup Agent, where you have to configure the agent on every single server. The Azure Backup Server also allows you to not only do file backup, but also backup of applications like SharePoint, SQL Server, Exchange and more. This gives you flexibility and centralized management to back up your infrastructure as a service (IaaS) workloads on Azure Stack.