Tag: Hardware

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Download Azure Stack Update

How to install and manage Azure Stack Updates

At itnetX, we help customers to implement as well as to operate  Azure Stack. One part of operating Azure Stack is keeping it up-to-date. This means installing Microsoft Azure Stack Updates, hotfixes as well as OEM update packages like drivers and firmware. In this blog post I will cover all the information you need to keep your Azure Stack up-to-date.

Why should you update your Azure Stack

Azure Stack Update

This may sound like a simple question, but a lot of people ask for it. First of all, Microsoft and the hardware vendors are obviously delivering quality fixes and security updates to keep Azure Stack stable and secure. But Microsoft also adds new functionality with their updates packages to keep up with the rapid cloud development on Azure. This is important if you want that your Azure Stack stays consistent with Azure in terms of functionality.

Another important reason to stay current is to stay supported. You are allowed to be behind two major versions of Azure Stack, which means 2-3 months. You basically should update monthly, to make sure that you are secure and stable, however there are reasons why you might have to defer an update. For example, this can happen for some companies, when they are in a freeze period where they are not allowed to do changes in their systems. If you are more than 3 major versions behind, your Azure Stack is considered out of support and will not be supported from Microsoft, until you have the at least required version installed.

You can read more about the Azure Stack servicing policy on the Azure Stack documentation site.

Updates for the Azure Stack Integrated System

Azure Stack Operations

As mentioned before, there are basically three types of updates to Azure Stack. The monthly Azure Stack Update Packages from Microsoft, Hotfixes and OEM updates.

  • Microsoft software updates – Microsoft is responsible for the end-to-end servicing lifecycle for the Microsoft software update packages. These packages can include the latest Windows Server security updates, non-security updates, and Azure Stack feature updates. These update packages are non-cumulative updates and need to be installed one after the other. These updates are fully automated and will update the complete Azure Stack infrastructure.
  • OEM hardware vendor-provided updates – Azure Stack hardware partners are responsible for the end-to-end servicing lifecycle (including guidance) for the hardware-related firmware and driver update packages. In addition, Azure Stack hardware partners own and maintain guidance for all software and hardware on the hardware lifecycle host.
  • Microsoft hotfixes – Microsoft provides hotfixes for Azure Stack that address a specific issue that is often preventative or time-sensitive. Each hotfix is released with a corresponding Microsoft Knowledge Base article that details the issue, cause, and resolution. Hotfixes are downloaded and installed just like the regular full update packages for Azure Stack. Other the the major updates, Azure Stack hotfixes are cumulative per iteration.
 ReleaseCumulativeWhere to find
Microsoft Software UpdatesMonthly (4th Tuesday of very month)NoRelease Notes
OEM Hardware Vendor UpdatesDepending on OEMDependsOEM Website
Microsoft HotfixesWhen neededYesKnowledge Base article

By the way, you can only update Azure Stack multi-node systems, the Azure Stack Development Kit needs to be redeployed.



Azure Stack

Video: HIAG Data and itnetX enable hybrid IT with HPE and Microsoft Azure Stack

When I had the chance to speak about our Azure Stack project together with HIAG Data at HPE Discover 2017 in Madrid last year, I also had the chance to record a short video. In that video I am speaking about how HIAG Data and itnetX enable Hybrid Cloud with HPE and Microsoft Azure Stack.

Enjoy the quick customer case marketing video 😉

HIAG Data partnered with itnetX which helps its customers with cloud transformations by utilizing HPE & Microsoft Azure Stack . You can find out more about how your business can implement a hybrid IT strategy based on HPE at https://hpe.com/cloud/azurestack

 



Azure Stack Capacity Calculator

Azure Stack Capacity Calculator Tool

One of the most common questions I get when a customer decided to buy Azure Stack is, how you can calculate the sizing of your Azure Stack. He also wants to know how larger the server should be for his workloads and which Azure Stack Hardware SKU he should go for. Microsoft just released the Azure Stack Capacity Calculator (Version 1801.01). This tool will assists customers in the pre-purchase capacity planning of the Azure Stack hardware configuration. This helps you decided on how large your Azure Stack solution should be configured. This sizes server configuration and amount of servers you need to run your workloads on a Azure Stack integrated system. This also helps you in your Azure Stack Pricing Calculation.

The Azure Stack capacity planner is intended to assist in pre-purchase planning to determine appropriate capacity and configuration of Azure Stack hardware solutions.

The Azure Stack capacity planner helps you make informed decisions with respect to planning capacity in two ways: either the by selecting a hardware offering and attempting to fit a combination of resources or by defining the workload that Azure Stack is intended to run to view the available hardware SKUs that can support it. Finally, the spreadsheet is intended as a guide to help in making decisions related to Azure Stack planning and configuration.

The spreadsheet is not intended to serve as a substitute for your own investigation and analysis.  Microsoft makes no representations or warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information provided within the spreadsheet.

Azure Stack Capacity Planner

Azure Stack Resource Calculator

You can download the Azure Stack Capacity Planner from the TechNet Gallery. It is a simple to use Microsoft Excel file, where you enter your workload data. I will out put some information about the configuration you need and even allows you to compare different hardware SKUs. It will also indicate which one will be the best solution for you.

Download Azure Stack Capacity Calculator: TechNet Gallery Azure Stack Capacity Planner (Version 1801.01)

 



Microsoft Modern Keyboard

Mini Review of the Microsoft Modern Keyboard with Fingerprint ID

As you may know I am a big fan of the Microsoft peripherals like the Microsoft Arc Mouse, Surface Pen, Surface Precision Mouse, Surface Dial and the Surface Keyboard. The last one I have just upgraded to the Microsoft Modern Keyboard. The Microsoft Modern Keyboard almost looks the same when you compare it to the Surface Keyboard, except for some minor changes, like the on/off button, the USB charging port or the integrated Fingerprint reader.

As like the Surface Keyboard, the Microsoft Modern Keyboard feels extremely comfortable to type on, and in my opinion also looks perfect on your desk. It is thin and light and matches the style of the other Surface products. Microsoft Modern Keyboard with Fingerprint ID’s aluminum frame makes it not only of the highest quality, but heavy and virtually indestructible. The keyboard not only supports Bluetooth Low Energy  4.0 / 4.1 / 4.2, it also supports USB as a wired connection, which allows it to be a great choice even at work.

Microsoft Modern Keyboard Fingerprint Reader

One of the main new advantages of the Microsoft Modern Keyboard is the new integrated Fingerprint reader. This allows you to use it together with Windows Hello, to easily login to your computer, without the need of a password.

Microsoft Modern Keyboard On Off Button

You also get a on off switch for they keyboard, which is really handy, especially when you are traveling and storing the keyboard in your bag.

Microsoft Modern Keyboard USB Charger

The Surface Keyboard came with batteries which you needed to replaces after a while. The Microsoft Modern Keyboard brings a rechargeable battery, which can be easily recharged using the included USB cable, which also lets you connect the keyboard not only using Bluetooth, but also using the wired USB connection. Microsoft promises up to 4 months battery life on full charge.

After using the Surface Keyboard and before the Microsoft Designer Bluetooth Desktop since 2015, the Microsoft Modern Keyboard with Fingerprint ID is a great successor.



Surface Precisiaon Mouse Box

Microsoft Surface Precision Mouse Review

Last week I got the Microsoft Surface Precision Mouse delivered. The Surface Precision Mouse will become the replacement mouse for my Microsoft Sculpt Mouse, which I used for the last couple of years. Now I want to give you some impressions about the Surface Precision Mouse, since I am very happy and very surprised about the feature set.

Surface Precision Mouse

First of all the Microsoft Surface Precision Mouse feels awesome, very high quality and it is very comfortable in your hand. It feels very precise and you get very quickly used to it.

Now let me write about some extra features you might didn’t know about. You first get a button to configure the scroll wheel in two different speeds, one feels very light and fast and the other one is slower and is more resistant, so you can choose what you like more and switch between them, depending on your task.

Microsoft Surface Percision Mouse Settings

Of course you get some extra buttons which you can customize with different shortcuts, for example to open the Windows 10 Tasks View or other applications. You can also customize the buttons depending on the application you are working with.

Surface Precision Mouse Bottom

By already having the perfect mouse, in terms of feeling, comfort, precision and customizability, you get a really cool extra feature. The Surface Precision Mouse gives you more multi-tasking power by allowing you to work seamlessly across up to three computers, supports both Bluetooth and wired USB connections. You can pair your Surface Precision Mouse with three different devices and you can manually switch between them with the button on the bottom of the mouse, or you can use something called Smart Switch.

Microsoft Surface Percision Mouse Smart Switch

Smart Switch on the Surface Precision Mouse can be enabled by using the Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center. It allows you to setup the workplace layout in the app and now you can move the cursor to the border of the screen and the mouse will seamlessly switch to the other device. So if you are working on your desktop and you have your notebook right next to it, you can easily move the mouse from one device to the other.

Overall I am super happy with the new device!

 

Surface Precision Mouse Specs

The mouse also works with Windows 7, Windows 10, Windows 8.1 and macOS devices as long as they support Bluetooth 4.0 or higher.

 
InterfaceUSB 2.1, Bluetooth® Low Energy 4.0/4.1/4.2Dimensions4.8 x 3.05 x 1.7 (122.6 mm x 77.6 mm x 43.3 mm)
Wireless Frequency2.4GHz frequency rangeWeight4.76 ounces (135 grams) including rechargeable batteries
Buttons6 buttons, including right and left click and scroll wheel buttonBatteryRechargeable lithium ion battery (included)
DesignErgonomic design with side gripsBattery LifeUp to 3 months
ScrollingSmooth or magnetic detent customizable horizontal and vertical scrolling1ColorGray


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)