Tag: Hardware

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Surface Pro Storage Spaces Boot

Boot from Storage Spaces Virtual Disk in Windows 10

A couple of weeks ago I got my new Microsoft Surface Pro, I decided to go with the 1TB version to have enough space.

Surface Pro Storage

After the first minutes of setup I quickly wanted to run disk optimization, which for SSDs usually does quick trim operations. In my case this was running way longer then on my Surface Book, so I checked what was going on, and I realized that it was running Optimization on a Storage Spaces Virtual Disk, which is kind of strange.

Surface Pro PowerShell Storage Spaces Boot

I checked the disk configuration and really, my Surface Pro (2017) does have a Storage Spaces Virtual Disk which it boots from. The Storage Spaces Pool does include two physical 512GB NVMe drives with one Virtual Disk on top configured as simple (striped) volume. Right now I don’t know how they did it, but it seems now possible to boot Windows from a Storage Spaces Virtual Disk with the Windows 10 Creators Update or some Surface team magic. Then when Storage Spaces was introduced with Windows 8, boot from Storage Spaces was not possible.

 



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)



Surface Pro

First impressions on the Surface Pro 2017

I am one of the lucky persons owning an brand new Microsoft Surface Pro as a new device for work. This is the my devices I used for the last couple of days and weeks as my daily driver and this allows me to write a quick review about my first impressions about the Surface Pro.

After using the Surface Pro, the Surface Pro 2, the Surface Pro 3, the Surface Book became my daily driver. And I had to say that it is a great notebook. But after using the Surface Pro for awhile, I really got used to the form factor. The 2-in-1 form factor and the small and light design, made the Surface Pro a really great travel companion and this was the reason I decided to go with a Surface Pro again.

Surface Pro 2017

My first impression when I took the Surface Pro out of the box was: “wow, this feels premium”. Even the Surface Pro and the Surface Book always felt really great, Microsoft improved it even more. The amazing premium sound of the kickstand,  the new rounded edges and the display of the Surface Pro making it even more premium and as mentioned the build quality is amazing.

The second thing I realized while using it, is the resume form standby is incredible fast. You basically press the on button and you can start working. And this while battery life is still great, I get around a whole working day out of it with a single charge.

Surface Pro 2017 Desk

Unfortunately I couldn’t really test the new Surface Pro Signature Type Cover, because it was not available at launch. But I will included it in my final review of the Surface Pro 2017, after I have used it for a couple of weeks.

 

 



Surface Keyboard

Surface Keyboard User Review

A couple of days ago I finally got the new Microsoft Surface Keyboard to replace my Microsoft Designer Keyboard which I used for the past year. If you just have a quick look at it you might see not a lot of differences, but the new Microsoft Surface Keyboard is a great successor of the Microsoft Designer Bluetooth Keyboard. It is also a Bluetooth keyboard using 4.0 and 4.1 LE, it has a slightly changed key layout and of course it comes in a soft-finish grey as the Surface Pro, Surface Book or Surface Studio, making them a perfect match, and the finishing touch to a well thought-out desk space. Besides these small design changes Microsoft worked on the keys. The key travel and spacing are perfectly engineered for fast, quiet, and responsive typing, making it feel much more premium.

For me, this is the perfect keyboard right now, since I prefer the flat key design which matches the ones of the Surface Pro and the Surface Book.

Home Office



Azure Stack Hardware

Azure Stack TP3, Roadmap and Pricing Update available

Microsoft today not only released Azure Stack TP3 (Technical Preview 3) for the public, Microsoft also announced an update on the Azure Stack roadmap and about Azure Stack licensing. The Technical Preview 3 of Azure Stack brings a couple of new features and scenarios for your hybrid cloud deployment. Right now TP3 is also only the single node POC deployment.

Azure Stack Roadmap

This is great for test and showcases as well as getting your deployment ready for the release of Azure Stack GA, which will be mid-CL17. The Azure Stack POC deployment will also be renamed to “Microsoft Azure Stack Development Kit” after GA.

For the Azure Stack TP3 release, Microsoft will deliver refreshes of that build until the release of Azure Stack GA.

At the Azure Stack GA release this summer, Microsoft will deliver Azure Stack hardware with provides from HPE, Dell and Lenovo. Later in 2017 Microsoft will also deliver Azure Stack with Cisco hardware.

After GA, Microsoft  will continuously deliver additional capabilities through frequent updates. The first round of updates after GA are focused on two areas: 1) enhanced application modernization scenarios and 2) enhanced system management and scale. These updates will continue to expand customer choice of IaaS and PaaS technologies when developing applications, as well as improve manageability and grow the footprint of Azure Stack to accommodate growing portfolios of applications.

Azure Stack POC Downloader

What’s new in Azure Stack TP3

With Azure Stack TP3, we’ve worked with customers to improve the product through numerous bug fixes, updates, and deployment reliability & compatibility improvements from TP2. With Azure Stack TP3 customers can:

  • Deploy with ADFS for disconnected scenarios
  • Start using Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets for scale out workloads
  • Syndicate content from the Azure Marketplace to make available in Azure Stack
  • Use Azure D-Series VM sizes
  • Deploy and create templates with Temp Disks that are consistent with Azure
  • Take comfort in the enhanced security of an isolated administrator portal
  • Take advantage of improvements to IaaS and PaaS functionality
  • Use enhanced infrastructure management functionality, such as improved alerting

Pricing and Licensing

Azure Stack

As mentioned Microsoft will offer Azure Stack from 4 different OEMs. HPE, Dell and Lenovo will deliver a solution at Azure Stack GA in mid-CY17 and Cisco will be available later in 2017. For the pricing model of Azure Stack, Microsoft decided to deliver the licensing of Azure Stack on a pay-per-use base. This meets of course the cloud economics and there will be no upfront licensing costs for customers. Services will be typically metered on the same units as Azure, but prices will be lower, since customers operate their own hardware and facilities. For scenarios where customers are unable to have their metering information sent to Azure, we will also offer a fixed-price “capacity model” based on the number of cores in the system.

 



Windows Server 2016 Whats new in Hyper-V

My Hardware Recommendations for Windows Server 2016

Many people are right now asking me about what they have to look out for, if they are going to buy hardware for there next Windows Server 2016 deployment using Hyper-V, Storage nodes or just physical servers. Of course you should normally not just buy hardware and design the solution after that, you should create an architecture for your datacenter first and than buy hardware for your needs. But still there are several things to look out for, this is probably not easy to say right now but here are several thing I would recommend to you.

My recommendations

  • Windows Server Logo: Make really sure that hardware is certified for Windows Server and Windows Server 2016 when the certification is available
  • Network Adapters:
  • Processor / CPU
    • A 64-bit processor with second-level address translation (SLAT).
    • Of course recommend you do get the latest server grade CPUs from Intel or AMD to get the latest CPU functionalities
    • Think about the new licensing for Windows Server 2016 which will be core based
  • TPM Trusted Platform Module v2.0 – especially for the Hyper-V feature Shielded Virtual Machines or/and BitLocker support.
  • Storage
    • If you are going to deploy new Storage in your Datacenter, make sure you have a look at Storage Spaces and SMB Direct (Hyper-V over SMB) and especially the new Storage Spaces Direct feature, which I will write a bit about later this month. This also allows you to do Hyper-Converged scenarios running Storage and Hyper-V on the same physical hardware.
    • If you are goin to deploy Storage Spaces Direct make sure you choose a good quality of SSDs or NVMe devices. Especially for the caching devices choose Write-Intensive NVMe or SSD disks.

This are just some recommendations if I would buy new hardware I would also look at these features. Of course you don’t need all these features in every scenario, but if you want to make the most out of it, you should definitely look at them. Here are some feature related requirements:

Discrete device assignment

  • The processor must have either Intel’s Extended Page Table (EPT) or AMD’s Nested Page Table (NPT).
  • The chipset must have:
    • Interrupt remapping — Intel’s VT-d with the Interrupt Remapping capability (VT-d2) or any version of AMD I/O Memory Management Unit (I/O MMU).
    • DMA remapping — Intel’s VT-d with Queued Invalidations or any AMD I/O MMU.
    • Access control services (ACS) on PCI Express root ports.
  • The firmware tables must expose the I/O MMU to the Windows hypervisor. Note that this feature might be turned off in the UEFI or BIOS. For instructions, see the hardware documentation or contact your hardware manufacturer.

Shielded Virtual Machines

  • UEFI 2.3.1c — supports secure, measured boot
  • The following two are optional for virtualization-based security in general, but required for the host if you want the protection these features provide:
  • TPM v2.0 — protects platform security assets
  • IOMMU (Intel VT-D) — so the hypervisor can provide direct memory access (DMA) protection

for more detailed specification check out Microsoft TechNet: System requirements for Hyper-V on Windows Server 2016



Surface Hub Skype Meeting

My Microsoft Surface Hub Review

Last week we finally go our Microsoft Surface Hub for our itnetX office in Bern and I had the chance to do some testing. The Surface Hub is an interactive whiteboard developed by Microsoft ideally for business meetings. Before I get started let me show you the specs for the Surface Hub devices. Microsoft offers two models right now, a 84-inch model and a 55-inch model.

Microsoft Surface Hub

The Surface Hub 84” model is ideal for medium and large conference room and it allows three people to comfortably interact with the screen simultaneously. The 84” version has also a 4K resolution, an Intel i7 processor, 128GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and a NVIDIA Quadra K2200 graphics card. The Surface Hub 55” model is perfect for smaller conference rooms and in work environments where you’ll move your Surface Hub into different spaces. The 55” model comes with a Full HD resolution, an Intel i5 processor, 128GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and integrated Intel graphics.

Surface Hub Keyboard Surface Hub Pen

Both model feature a 100-point multi-touch display, 2 passive Infrared Presence Sensors, Ambient Light Sensors, 2 front-facing stereo speakers, 2 wide angle HD cameras, active pen support, Windows 10 and a wireless keyboard. To see the full specs of both devices check out the Microsoft Surface Hub website.

My first impression of the Surface Hub

Surface Hub Welcome Screen

My first impression was the Surface Hub looks great, it is perfect for every meeting room and it is very easy to use. The quality of the devices is, as usual for Microsoft Surface devices, really great and feels like a high quality premium device. When you come in come in the conference room use first see the big screen and showing the time, the next scheduled meetings and the most important apps like the whiteboard, wireless screen sharing.

Different Meeting Options

Surface Hub Startscreen

The Microsoft Surface Hub offers different meeting options. You can use it for in person meetings in the meeting room as a beamer replacement or wireless display for your notebook, as a whiteboard or use other apps like Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Maps app or many more to come. The other thing the Surface Hub does very well is video conferencing using Skype for Business using the same apps and features.

The Surface Hub works perfectly with different deployment types

Perfect for in-person meetings

Surface Hub Whiteboard

If you are using the meeting room for a meeting with persons in the room, the multi touch screen and the apps are great. I really like the whiteboard app which allows you to draw diagrams and other stuff. A nice feature is that when you take on of the pens out of the holder it automatically open ups the whiteboard app and you can immediately start drawing. You can also use the screen as a display for your notebook as beamer replacement.

Surface Hub Screen Sharing

You can use the screen as a wireless display using Windows 10, Windows 8 or Windows 10 Mobile and of course the display also features cable input for DisplayPort, HDMI or VGA. If you use the wireless display connection in Windows 10 you can also allow input from the Surface Hub screen back to your Windows 10 computer. For example you project your screen to the Surface Hub to show a PowerPoint slide deck for example, you can stand up and touch the screen for the next slide or draw on the slide it self. By the way, connecting wirelessly is very fast, I used several different devices to connect with my Windows 10 devices using Miracast, like the Xbox One or the Microsoft Wireless Adapter, but none of the devices connected as fast as to the Surface Hub.

 

And of course this also works with other devices supporting Miracast like Windows 10 Mobile (especially cool with the Windows Continuum feature) and for example Android smartphones.

Skype for Business Video Conferencing

Surface Hub Skype for Business

The other great scenario is using the Microsoft Surface Hub for conference calls. You can join Skype for Business Meeting adding the Surface Hub device as a resource and it will automatically show the Skype for Business Meeting and you can join the meeting. You can also just invite other people using sending Skype for Business invites or using phone numbers to call them. You can also add the Surface Hub to an existing Skype for Business meeting or call your Surface Hub using a phone number. The two wide angle Full HD video cameras are great and show the whole meeting room. If there is a single attendee in the room the camera also focus on him and follows him instead of showing the whole room.

Surface Hub Wireless Display 1

The great thing here is that you again can use the same features and apps like the whiteboard, screen sharing and the apps. For example one scenario can be that several people sitting in the meeting room and one of the shares the screen to the Surface Hub, the Surface Hub is joined to a Skype for Business meeting with some remote attendees. The screen of the Surface Hub, showing the screen of the notebook of attendee in the meeting room is also shared with the Skype for Business remote attendees. Or you can see the screen sharing or presentation of remote attendees.

Surface Hub Call Skype User

The most important thing here is, that is very easy and simple to use and it just works as expected. It looks like we are getting now more Surface Hubs for all the different office locations, so we can do meetings between the office in Bern and Zürich.

Cleaning up a meeting

Surface Hub Cleanup

Now setting up a meeting or joining a meeting is really simple, and basically everything is possible. But what after the meeting is finished? You can very simple clean up your workspace and everything is gone, and no one can access your data.

Apps for the Surface Hub

Surface Hub Apps

As mentioned the Surface Hub comes with different apps like the whiteboard which lets you also do drawings, Office which lets you to use office documents like Word, Excel or PowerPoint and you also have the Maps app and the Microsoft Edge browser available. The Apps for the Surface Hub seem to be limited right now, but my guess is that Microsoft will soon enable the Windows Store to let you download and install apps on the Surface Hub. Microsoft has some example of apps on there Surface Hub website.

You can open Office documents from SharePoint, OneDrive, OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online using Office 365 or connected USB devices directly from the Surface Hub, or you can share them from your notebook using screen sharing.

Overall Impression

The Surface Hub is an amazing device and we are very happy with the it, the device is great, works very easy and simple and it adds a lot of value to your meetings. If you ever have done a meeting using the Surface Hub you really want to have one for your self. If you have more question about the Surface Hub and his features and functionality just leave a comment.