Category: Hardware

Presenting and Creating Great Tech Demos

How to Create Great Tech Demos and Presentations

I didn’t keep track of the exact number, but I did many presentations at different conferences around the world. Since I am doing a lot of tech presentations and demos, I am always looking at how I can improve and get better. I start to realize that there are a lot of things you need to consider when delivering tech demos during presentations, to make it better for the audience. I started to work on my demos a lot, and I realized that these things also work when you are recording demo videos or screencasts. That is why I came up with the idea to write this blog post with tips and tricks on how you can create great tech demos and presentations.

Create and tell a story, make sure people can see the result 🎬

People have a short attention span, so if you are switching to your tech demo, and in the first couple of seconds, your audience is already lost because they cannot read what is on the screen or they have no context at all, you lost them for good. You need to make sure you create and tell a story, and you show them how to solve a specific challenge. A tech demo is not just good if you can show how you address a particular challenge, but people need to understand it. For example, I have seen many tech demos, that tell you here is the problem, here is the setting to solve it, and done. They didn’t complete the full demo and showed that it is now working. Yes, of course, sometimes showing the setting is enough, but a lot of times you want to show here is the challenge, it is not working now, I do this, and now you can see it is working. This gives attendees a way better experience and understanding of your demo.

Create video recordings of your demos 📽

Live demos are great, but sometimes it is just not possible, or the experience of the attendees isn’t great. For example, if you start a task that takes 5-10 minutes to complete, you don’t want to wait for it to complete as your time is limited in a session. Which leaves you with three options. The first option, you prepare an already finished scenario to jump on like they do in cooking shows. Secondly, you show something else and let the task complete in the background, and jump back to it once it’s done. And the third one, you cut a video before and use your video editing skills to make the waiting time shorter. While option one and two, often work, I realized that jumping away from a specific scenario or using another object which already completed, may confuse people, they lose context and doesn’t give them a great experience. Recording a video can help with that. For example, one of my demos is replicating a virtual machine named VM1, and these can take 30mins to even a couple of hours. I could have prepared a VM2, which would have been already replicated and move on with that one. However, during a lot of presentations, I realized it makes it easier to follow for people if I can use the exact same VM name, during the whole demo.

Creating videos also has an advantage when you run into issues. This can be due to lousy conference Wi-Fi or something just broke out of your control. Even if you plan to do the demo live, it is always great to have a backup, especially if you are doing a demo-heavy presentation, where things build on top of each other.

Resolution and Scaling 💻

You can have the most fabulous demo of all time, but if people can’t see it, it doesn’t matter at all. Rule number one, if you have to ask if people can read it, people can’t read it. So make sure that you are 100% sure that people can see what is going on. My recommendation is, please set your screen resolution to whatever the projector supports. Most of the time, this will be Full HD 1080p (1920×1080) resolution.

Presentation Demo Screen Resolution and Scaling

Presentation Demo Screen Resolution and Scaling

Early in the days, we didn’t have scaling in Windows, so people were using lower resolutions to make everything appear bigger. Guess what, Windows 10 supports scaling, so I usually use Full HD (1920×1080) and 150% scaling, this makes an excellent size to see what is going on the screen but also makes the picture sharp and not blurry. Most of the applications can handle it, and most of the web portals also work the ways they should. That said, I know that not all applications and scenario scale very well. Depending on what you are showing, you need to decide how you want to present it.

Use ZoomIT, and use it wisely 🔎

One of the most excellent tools for presentations is Sysinternals ZoomIT by Mark Russinovich (not PowerShell this time, sorry Jeffrey 😉). ZoomIT is a screen zoom and annotation tool for technical presentations, and as the name says, it lets you zoom. This helps you not just to make things more readable, but also to highlight a specific part of the screen, to show people where they need to focus on.

ZoomIt is a screen zoom and annotation tool for technical presentations that include application demonstrations. ZoomIt runs unobtrusively in the tray and activates with customizable hotkeys to zoom in on an area of the screen, move around while zoomed, and draw on the zoomed image. I wrote ZoomIt to fit my specific needs and use it in all my presentations.

ZoomIt works on all versions of Windows and you can use pen input for ZoomIt drawing on tablet PCs.

ZoomIt

ZoomIt

While ZoomIT is excellent, you need to know how to use it right. Place the mouse where you want to zoom and then zoom in, don’t move the mouse too much after you have zoomed in, you don’t want people to become sick 😵. As you can see, ZoomIT also allows you to do screen annotations, to mark specific things on the screen. Again, use this feature wisely before you start painting on the screen. The great thing about it, you can also use a pen, like the Surface Pen, to draw on your screen.

Font Size and Editor Light Theme 🔠

Okay, one of the many problems I see with many tech presentations is happening when people show code. Coming back to what I said earlier, if you have to ask the audience if they can read it, they can’t read it, so please use a font size they can easily read. Even in Notepad and Terminal, you can easily zoom these days with CTRL + Mousewheel.

Notepad Zoom

Notepad Zoom

If you are showing code in an editor or even in a web portal, a dark theme makes you look cool. However, it is horrible to read. So please help the audience and use a light theme in your editor like Visual Studio Code or in the Azure portal.

Light Theme Editor

Light Theme Editor

By the way, I am not saying that you only should use light PowerPoint slides. Dark PowerPoint slides can be a very powerful tool if they are used right. However, for editors, it is just very simple and way better to view if you are using a light theme. One of my favorite Visual Studio Code themes to present is the PowerShell ISE theme. This theme gives you a simple and light theme, with great color options for syntax highlighting.

Clean up 🧹

You want to make sure that people in your presentation and during your demonstration are focusing on the right thing and don’t get distracted by any clutter. So before your presentation, make sure you clean up:

Close all unnecessary applications

Especially any messengers like Microsoft Teams or Slack, you don’t want to receive any notifications at all during your presentation (Except you are showing Microsoft Teams demos 😉). By shutting down all these applications, you also make sure that you have enough resources like Memory available.

Turn off notifications

Focus assist

Focus assist

In Windows 10, you have a feature called Focus assist, and this allows you to pause all notifications on your PC.

Hide all icons from your desktop

Hide Desktop Icons

Hide Desktop Icons

Yes, there is an option for that! Right-click on your desktop -> View -> Show Desktop Icons.

Browser

Browser

Browser

If you are doing a demo using a browser, make sure your browser is also cleaned up, hide your Favorites Bar, and any additional browser extensions, which might take the focus away.

Taskbar

Keep your taskbar clean, you don’t want people to focus on all the icons there and the program you have installed. You want to make sure there is as little distraction as possible.

Hide System Icons and Time

Windows 10 Turn system icons off

Windows 10 Turn system icons off

This might not always be needed, but if you want to make it cleaner and especially during video recordings, you can also hide the system icons and time. If you are opening the settings app and search for system icons, you can go and hide them.

Full screen

This is a simple one, but if you do a presentation, you don’t want your windows overlapping each other and be confusing, so run your applications in full screen. Exception for this is when you want to show two things in comparison to each other.

Use the Azure Mask browser extension for your Azure demos

If you are doing demos in the Microsoft Azure Portal, you want to have a look at the Azure Mask browser extension. This is a browser extension that will mask GUIDs (such as Subscription IDs), email addresses, keys, and connection strings with a blur. The extension intends to make it easier to do screen recordings without revealing sensitive personal account information that may show up on the screen. It will only run and apply against Azure portal URLs. It’s available in Chrome, Firefox, and also works with the new Microsoft Edge (Chromium).

Virtual Desktops to switch to your tech demo 💻

I am a huge fan of the Virtual Desktop feature in Windows 10. This basically gives you unlimited desktops on your Windows 10 PC, which is excellent for productivity. But I am also using Virtual Desktops during presentations, for example, for switching between the PowerPoint deck to a demo. One the first desktop, I keep my PowerPoint presentation in full screen open, and with CONTROL + WINDOWS + ARROW RIGHT/LEFT, I can switch to other desktops where I, for example, already have my demos ready. You can create new Virtual Desktops by pressing WINDOWS + TAB. This makes switching between PowerPoint and demonstrations, less messy.

Virtual Desktop

Virtual Desktop

If you are presenting somewhere, where you can plug in two devices, you can also use the display switch to switch from your presentation machine to your secondary demo machine, which will have a similar effect. However, a lot of smaller events, don’t have that setup. By using the Virtual Desktops feature, you can clean up the process of switching to different technical demonstrations.

Change Desktop Backgrounds and console colors 🎨

Use different Colors

Use different Colors

If you do a presentation with multiple systems or consoles, you want to make sure people can follow on which system you are working. For example, if you have two different systems deployed to servers, you want to make sure people can easily identify which server runs which application. For example, you can change the color of the terminal or desktop background of VM1 to blue and the one of VM2 to red. If you are working with Windows, you might also use Sysinternals BgInfo, to write the name of the system on the desktop wallpaper.

The mighty Mouse pointer 🖱

Mouse Pointer

Mouse Pointer

If you want to explain something and point to something on the screen, the mouse cursor is a natural option. However, you can also do a lot of damage by using it wrong. First, make sure people can see the mouse pointer. In Windows 10, you can change the size and color of the mouse pointer, so people can easily identify it on the screen. Next, don’t move it fast and don’t go crazy. Move the mouse cursor slow and don’t try to circle things or jump around the screen with it; people will go nuts.

In many cases, it is better to use a tool like ZoomIT, to annotate on the screen.

Laser pointer in PowerPoint 👉

PowerPoint Laser Pointer

PowerPoint Laser Pointer

Many people use PowerPoint for their presentations. However, not many people know that PowerPoint can be an excellent presentation tool. It comes with a lot of features people don’t even know about, and with many of them, it is with any tool in the world; if you are using it wrong, it will not help you at all. One of the tools I want to highlight is the laser point feature in PowerPoint. If you are a presenter, you might have these remote presenters with a laser pointer on it, where you can point on a wall or projected screen. However, in many cases, that is not a good idea. Often the laser pointer is too small for people to see it or in some locations, you have multiple projectors, and you can’t point at all of them at once. PowerPoint can help you with that. You can use a simple on-screen laser pointer to highlight parts of your slides. This comes handy when you show a large technical diagram, which we often try to avoid, but in some cases, it is necessary.

Get prepared 🔧

To deliver great demos, you will need to practice them. First of all, you need to make sure that they actually work, but also that the timing is right. No one wants to wait and watch at the screen for five minutes until something has completed. I usually run through the demo at least twice before my presentations, to make sure that the demo also works multiple times. I usually also run through it a couple of minutes or hours before I go on stage. Especially with demos running in the cloud, I want to make sure that they are still working. It is not just about cloud technologies that can change fast; for example, I also saw software and container images expire.

What if something goes wrong? 👻

Even if you did prepare like crazy, there can always something go wrong. Don’t worry, people understand that things can break. As long as you are prepared, handle it the right way and have a backup plan, you will be fine. If something doesn’t work, you can try to troubleshoot it quickly. But don’t spend too much time on it and move on to the next one, because the audience doesn’t want to see you troubleshooting for minutes. In some cases, the audience can’t even see or doesn’t even realize that the demo didn’t work. In that case, don’t point it out, just move on if the demo is not essential to your presentation.

Conclusion to create Tech Demos and Presentations 😎

I hope you enjoyed my tips on how you can create great technical (tech) demonstrations (demos) and presentations. Let me know what your favorite tips and tricks for great tech demos are!



Surface Pro X User Review

Surface Pro X – First Impressions and Review

I just got my brand new Surface Pro X two weeks ago, and since then, I spent a couple of days with it and started to use it as my daily driver. Since I got a lot of questions around the device, how I am using it, and what the limitations are, I decided to write this short blog post. There are many reviews out there from a lot of professional reviewers who focus more on specifications and restrictions to run all possible workloads. In my Surface Pro X review, I try to share my first impressions and write a short review of how the device works for me. Here is a brief review and my first impressions on the Surface Pro X, which is more focused on my use case and what I think the device is good for as well as where you might hit some limitations.

My First Impression 👓

I want to spend a couple of words on the first impressions I had on the Surface Pro X when I opened the box. Don’t get me wrong, all the Surface devices had an excellent built quality and design, but I have the feeling that the Surface Pro X is on the next level. It is hard to describe why, but the design and the details make it feel a real premium device.

Surface Pro X Body

Surface Pro X Body

On the software side, I was trying to stick with ARM64 apps as much as possible, and with the new Microsoft Edge Insider Canary version, I have almost all the apps I need. With the ARM64 apps, the performance is excellent, with no issues at all. Even emulated x86 32-bit apps like Visual Studio Code run very well for my personal tasks. However, I am not sure what the impact on battery life is if you run these apps most of the time. If you have a Surface Go, which I like very much, I can tell you that the Surface Pro X is way faster.

Why I love the Surface Pro X ❤

After using the Surface Pro X for more than a week, I can say this might be my favorite Surface device ever made. Don’t get me wrong; it can’t run 100% of the workloads I need, like containers and Hyper-V, for example. But for that, I also have my Surface Book 2, which runs all workloads and also provides a larger 15-inch screen.

Surface Pro X vs Surface Pro 7

Surface Pro X vs. Surface Pro 7

However, I was traveling, writing, and presenting a lot in the last couple of days, and I love the weight (774g), the size (287 mm x 208 mm x 7.3 mm), and the 13-inch screen in a 12-inch chassis with very thin bezels. It is very convenient to travel with since it provides the form-factor of a Surface Pro with the kickstand, but it also adds a 13-inch screen. The screen is bright, and the 13-inch display with the 3:2 aspect ratio is fantastic for productivity. The Surface Pro X is also 1mm thinner than the Surface Pro 7, which doesn’t sound like much, but you can feel the difference.

Enabled by the custom Microsoft SQ1 processor, one thing I completely underestimated is the possibility of having an always-on device. If you open up the Type Cover or start the Surface Pro X, it is instantly on and available. With Windows Hello, you are logged in immediately, and you can start working. When you close it and put it in your bag, or you leave it overnight, the battery doesn’t really drain much — speaking about battery life, which seems to be great so far, I get enough out of the machine for a travel day or a day at a conference. Another great feature the new Surface devices have is that they all come with fast-charging, which allows us to charge the machine very quickly.

Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 7

Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 7

The Surface Pro X also comes with a 5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p full HD video and a 10.0MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p HD and 4k video. Since I started to work more with video, having great cameras for recordings and Microsoft Team calls, and great audio with dual far-field studio mics, recording videos and doing conf calls works excellent. The 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium are surprisingly good.

Connectivity Qualcomm

Connectivity Qualcomm

I am also pleased about the connectivity options, the Surface Pro X comes with Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), Bluetooth 5.0 and a Qualcomm Snapdragon X24 LTE Modem with nanoSIM and eSIM support. This is my first tablet with LTE support, and I like to have that option to be always connected. All of the wireless adapters are now coming from Qualcomm, and I didn’t have any Wi-Fi or Bluetooth issues; everything worked fine and at full speed.

The Surface Pro X also comes with two USB-C ports and a Surface Connect port, which means you can use your existing Surface adapters and chargers.

Alcantara Type Cover

Alcantara Type Cover

I am not sure if the Surface Type Cover for the Surface Pro X is different from the Surface Pro 6 and 7; however, for me, it somehow feels different. The typing experience is excellent, and I love the track-pad. I also got a couple of questions around the new Surface Slim Pen, which you can store in the Type Cover and supports wireless charging. For me, I even like it better than the existing Surface Pen. That said, I am mostly using the Surface Pen to take notes or using the Whiteboard app, and for that, it works great.

If you want to know more about the Surface Pro X Specifications, you can find them here.

What do I run on the Surface Pro X 💻

For me, the Surface Pro X is a great travel and work device. The small form-factor, weight, and the 13-inch display combined with all the Surface features like the touch-screen, Surface Slim Pen, kickstand, and many more, make it a great productivity device. I mostly use it for office tasks, mail, web browsing, note-taking, and doing presentations, and the Surface Pro X is excellent in doing all of that. Especially the mobility and always-on feature combine with the connectivity make is a fantastic device for me.

Surface Pro X with Slim Pen

Surface Pro X with Slim Pen

What I use and what works fine:

  • Office Desktop Apps (Office 365, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, Excel) ARM version
  • OneNote ARM version
  • Microsoft Edge Insider (Edge based on Chromium) ARM version
  • Visual Studio Code Emulated x86 32-bit version
  • PowerShell
  • Microsoft Whiteboard App

What I am missing for my workflow:

  • An ARM version of Microsoft Teams, I am currently using the web version of teams and installed it as a progressive web application (PWA), which works great. You can also install the 32-bit version. However, this impacts performance and battery life.
  • Camtasia to do screen recordings
  • A native ARM64 version of Paint.NET. I am currently using the emulated 32-bit version from the Microsoft Store, which works well, but again I would like to see a native ARM64 version with more performance and better battery life.
Install MS Teams PWA

Install MS Teams PWA

I also connect my Surface Pro X to the Surface Docking station, which works great, and it powers to of my monitors.

Limitations and things to consider 🧱

The Surface Pro X runs Windows 10 on ARM, and this is not comparable to Windows RT or Windows 10 S. Windows 10 on ARM can currently run ARM64 apps or emulated x86 32-bit apps. So you can install your Windows applications as long as they are not 64-bit. Something to consider is that applications which are not compiled for ARM64, run emulated. This can have an impact on performance in battery life. In my use case, I run from time to time Visual Studio Code, which doesn’t seem to be an issue or have an impact on battery life. Some of the applications you are using today might are x64 apps. For example, a couple of Adobe apps or others, these apps can currently not run on Windows 10 on ARM. However, Adobe and others are working on bringing and compiling applications to ARM64, so they can run natively on the Surface Pro X and other ARM Windows devices.

Another limitation for me is that I can’t run Hyper-V on Windows 10 on ARM. That means I can’t use it for all my workloads and demos I do with virtual machines and containers. However, that isn’t a big problem, since I am doing more powerful tasks like this on my Surface Book 2 or maybe in the future on a Surface Laptop 3. But yes, you can run the Windows Subsystem for Linux and the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (WSL 2).

  • Drivers for hardware, games and apps will only work if they’re designed for a Windows 10 ARM-based PC. For more info, check with the hardware manufacturer or the organization that developed the driver. Drivers are software programs that communicate with hardware devices—they’re commonly used for antivirus and antimalware software, printing or PDF software, assistive technologies, CD and DVD utilities, and virtualization software.
    If a driver doesn’t work, the app or hardware that relies on it won’t work either (at least not fully). Peripherals and devices only work if the drivers they depend on are built into Windows 10, or if the hardware developer has released ARM64 drivers for the device.
  • 64-bit (x64) apps won’t work. You’ll need 64-bit (ARM64) apps, 32-bit (ARM32) apps, or 32-bit (x86) apps. You can usually find 32-bit (x86) versions of apps, but some app developers only offer 64-bit (x64) apps.
  • Certain games won’t work. Games and apps won’t work if they use a version of OpenGL greater than 1.1, or if they rely on “anti-cheat” drivers that haven’t been made for Windows 10 ARM-based PCs. Check with your game publisher to see if a game will work.
  • Apps that customize the Windows experience might have problems. This includes some input method editors (IMEs), assistive technologies, and cloud storage apps. The organization that develops the app determines whether their app will work on a Windows 10 ARM-based PC.
  • Some third-party antivirus software can’t be installed. You won’t be able to install some third-party antivirus software on a Windows 10 ARM-based PC. However, Windows Security will help keep you safe for the supported lifetime of your Windows 10 device.
  • Windows Fax and Scan isn’t available. This feature isn’t available on a Windows 10 ARM-based PC.

On the hardware, you need to be aware of is that the black color looks great, but it also picks up a lot of fingerprints. I also don’t like it too much that the Surface Connect port (for charging and connecting the docking station) moved a little up on the side. I think the reason for this is that the bottom of the tablet is just too thin. This is not a big deal, but just something to be aware of.

Conclusion 📝

The question is, should you buy it? And my answer is, it depends. Again I love the hardware and how it works together with Windows 10 on ARM. If you are looking for a machine, which can do what you need to do, then it is a no-brainer. If you are running 64-bit apps, for example, some of the Adobe applications, you might want to may go with a Surface Pro 7 or Surface Laptop 3.

For me personally, the Surface Pro X is a great companion to my Surface Book 2 or the Surface Laptop 3. Depending on what I need to do, I only travel with my Surface Pro X, because it is light and brings all the advantages of the Surface Pro form-factor. If I am traveling for a longer period of time, I will also bring my Surface Book 2 with a large 15-inch screen, as a mobile workstation.

Surface Pro X and Surface Laptop 3

Surface Pro X and Surface Laptop 3

If I am traveling, I can use the Surface Pro X as a secondary screen.

Surface Pro X Box

Surface Pro X Box

I hope this review gives you a couple of impressions about the Surface Pro X and why you should or shouldn’t get it. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. Just to make sure, in case you didn’t know, I am a Microsoft employee working in the Azure Engineering team. I am not evolved in the Surface product at all.

By the way, this review was written on the Microsoft Surface Pro X.



Create Azure Dedicated Host

Azure Dedicated Host for your Azure VMs

Last week Ziv Rafalovich, Principal Program Manager in the Azure Compute team, announced the Azure Dedicated Host Public Preview. Azure Dedicated Host is a new Azure service which enables customers to run Windows and Linux virtual machines on single dedicated physical servers. Usually, the Azure host is used by multiple tenants, and the virtual machines are isolated using a multi-tenant hypervisor, with Azure Dedicated Host, the physical server only runs workloads from one tenant/customer. This gives customers the visibility and control on what physical hardware their virtual machines are running, and it allows to address corporate compliance and regulatory requirements.

Azure Dedicated Host Preview provides physical servers that host one or more Azure virtual machines. Your server is dedicated to your organization and workloads—capacity isn’t shared with other customers. This host-level isolation helps address compliance requirements. As you provision the host, you gain visibility into (and control over) the server infrastructure, and you determine the host’s maintenance policies.

You can find more information on Azure.com.

Azure Dedicated Host scenarios

The Azure Dedicated Host offers a couple of benefits and enables some new scenarios.

  • Host-level isolations for compliance requirements
  • Visibility and control over the server infrastructure to manage host maintenance policies, load on the server, fault domain count.
  • You get control over the full performance and capacity from a single Azure host which is not shared with other customers.
  • You get the advantage of unlimited virtualization for Windows Server and SQL Server with Azure Dedicated Hosts using the Azure Hybrid Benefit.

If you need these scenarios, then the Azure Dedicated host is an excellent option for you. However, if you don’t need them, you are more flexible with the shared Azure virtual machine experience.

Licensing and Pricing

Dedicated Hosts are charged at the host level and not on the number of Azure VMs you run on the host. However, software licenses are billed separately from compute resources at a VM level based on usage. There are no upfront costs or termination fees. Currently, the Azure Dedicated Host is a pay-as-you-go service, and you only pay for what you need.

You will have different dedicated host types and VM series/families available. During the preview period, you will be able to choose between Dsv3, Esv3, and Fsv2 VM series.

Dedicated Host Typ 1

Dedicated Host Type 1 is based on the 2.3 GHz Intel Xeon® E5-2673 v4 (Broadwell) processor and can achieve up to 3.5 gigahertz (GHz). Type 1 host has 64 available vCPUs.

    • Dsv3 Series
    • Esv3 Series

Dedicated Host Type 2

Dedicated Host Type 2 is based on the Intel Xeon® Platinum 8168 (Skylake) processor, which can achieve maximum single-core clock speeds of 3.7 GHz and sustained all core clock speeds as high as 3.4GHz with the Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0. Type 2 host has 72 available vCPUs.

    • Fsv2 Series

Dedicated Host configuration table

This is the Dedicated Host configuration table during the Public Preview. This might change later, and you can find the current pricing information on Azure.com.

Azure Dedicated Host configuration table

Azure Dedicated Host configuration table

Additional cost reduction

You can use your on-premises Windows Server and SQL Server licenses with Software Assurance benefits, or subscriptions with equivalent rights, when you migrate your workloads to Dedicated Host (Azure Hybrid Benefit).  Different the before is that with the dedicated host you get unlimited virtualization rights for Windows Server and SQL Server. For more information on the updated Microsoft licensing terms for dedicated hosted cloud services, check out this blog post. With this running Windows Server 2019 in Azure becomes even more attractive.

We are also expanding Azure Hybrid Benefit so you can take advantage of unlimited virtualization for Windows Server and SQL Server with Azure Dedicated Hosts. Customers with Windows Server Datacenter licenses and Software Assurance can use unlimited virtualization rights in Azure Dedicated Hosts. In other words, you can deploy as many Windows Server virtual machines as you like on the host, subject only to the physical capacity of the underlying server. Similarly, customers with SQL Server Enterprise Edition licenses and Software Assurance can use unlimited virtualization rights for SQL Server on their Azure Dedicated Hosts.

You’ll also get free extended security updates for Windows Server and SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2.

Azure Reserved VM Instances are not available for purchase during the preview on Azure Dedicated Host.

Deploy VMs to an Azure Dedicated Hosts

To deploy a new Azure Dedicated Host, we first need to create a host group. After that, we can add hosts to this group, which will be used for our Azure virtual machines. In this blog post, I am going to show you how you can deploy a new host and after that, how you deploy Azure VMs on that host using the Azure portal. If you want to know more and if you want to see how you do this using Azure PowerShell, an Azure Resource Manager (ARM) template or the Azure CLI, check the Microsoft Docs.

Create a host group

Azure Host Groups

Azure Host Groups

You can find a new Azure resource called Host Group. Create a host group and configure the host group with specific settings like availability zones and fault domain count.

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Deploy an Azure Dedicated Host

Azure Dedicated Hosts

Azure Dedicated Hosts

After you have created your host group, you can start creating new hosts and add them to your host group.

  • Select the location (region) of the host
  • Select the dedicated host VM family and hardware generation. You will only be able to provision VMs on this host in the same VM family. During the preview, we will support the following host SKU values: DSv3_Type1 and ESv3_Type1.
  • Configure the fault domain for the host.
  • Enable or disable of automatically replacing the host on a failure.
  • Configure cost savings like the Azure Hybrid Benefit.
Create Azure Dedicated Host

Create Azure Dedicated Host

Your host will be deployed in a couple of minutes. Important, your Azure subscription will need to have enough resources (CPU/Cores) enabled. Some subscriptions are limited to a specific amount of cores you can deploy in your subscription, in that case, you will need to open a support ticket, to raise the number of cores available in your subscription.

Create a VM

Now you can create a virtual machine on the Azure Dedicated Host. There area few things to consider about that VM. First, make sure the VM is created in the region you have created the host. Secondly, choose a virtual machine size of the VM family you had configured when you created the host.

During the creation process, you will find the section Host in the Advanced tab. Here you can select your host group and your host where the VM will be deployed on.

For more information, check out the Microsoft Docs.

Conclusion

The Azure Dedicated Host service enables new scenarios and addresses, especially customers with host-level isolations for compliance requirements. It makes the Azure IaaS platform even more exciting, and together with Azure Migrate, you can quickly move your virtual machines to Azure. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.



Azure Stack Familiy - Azure Stack HCI

Azure Stack HCI – New Member of the Azure Family

Today, the Azure team is proud to announce a new member to the Azure Stack family, the Azure Stack HCI solutions. Microsoft 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. You can find more about this Hyper-converged system on azure.com.

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, customers 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 hyper-converged 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.

You can download Windows Server 2019 Evaluation version from the Microsoft Evaluation Center.

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.