Tag: HCI

Azure Hybrid Cloud Bus

An Overview at the New Azure Stack Portfolio

Last week at the Microsoft Ignite 2019 conference, the Azure team announced a lot of new updates. One of the significant focus topics at this year’s Ignite was the investment in the Azure Hybrid Cloud offerings. Starting with the buses driving attendees to the conference venue, over the Ignite keynotes, to the expo floor and breakouts, Hybrid Cloud was everywhere. Today, organizations rely on a hybrid technology approach to take advantage of utilizing cloud innovation in combination with their on-premises investments. Azure is Hybrid by design, and Microsoft is continuing the investment in our hybrid cloud technologies with the announcements of Azure Arc (link) and the new Azure Stack portfolio (link). I already was able to get an early look at Azure Arc for Servers, in this post, I am going to focus on the new Azure Stack portfolio with Azure Stack Hub, Azure Stack Edge, and Azure Stack HCI.

At and after Microsoft Ignite 2019, I got a lot of questions around the Azure Stack announcements. So in this blog, I want to give you a quick overview of that, and if you want to know more, check out the blog post from Talal Alqinawi, Senior Director Azure Marketing.

Azure Stack Portfolio

Azure Stack Portfolio

The Azure Stack family now consists of three members, Azure Stack Hub, formerly known as Azure Stack, Azure Stack HCI, and Azure Stack Edge (formerly known as Azure Databox Edge). This offers customers new capabilities, form factors, and solutions in the Azure Stack portfolio, to ensure that the customer has the right solutions for their edge infrastructure.

Azure Stack Hub

Azure Stack Hub (formerly known as Azure Stack) will continue to be the cloud-native offering for enterprise and public sector customers, especially those interested in operating a cloud environment that is disconnected from public internet or meeting regulatory and compliance requirements. It will continue to bring Azure services to locations where you need them. The Azure Stack Hub team also announced some new capabilities and features, which the team is working on:

  • Working on support for N-Series virtual machines (VMs) which included GPU support
  • Event Hubs Public Preview in 2020
  • Azure Stream Analytics Public Preview in 2020
  • General Availability (GA) of Kubernetes on Azure Stack with Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) engine to automate the creation, update, and scaling of Kubernetes clusters.
  • Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) Private Preview
  • Azure Data Services with Azure Arc Private Preview

Azure Stack HCI

A couple of months ago, I already wrote a blog post about Azure Stack HCI, which enables customers to run a highly efficient hyper-converged virtualization infrastructure. From small 2-node deployments up to high-performance and high capacity clusters, the Azure Stack HCI catalog offers solutions for every scenario. Together with Windows Admin Center, you can also easily connect Azure hybrid solutions and services. With the new automated deployment of Azure Stack HCI clusters, it becomes even easier to deploy new installations. I had the chance to talk about this new feature with Cosmos Darwin on the Microsoft Ignite Live stage, and you can watch the recording here.

I also have an article on ITOpsTalk.com about how Azure Stack HCI fits into the Azure Hybrid Cloud offering.

Azure Stack Edge

Azure Stack Edge (formerly known as Azure Databox Edge) is an Azure managed appliance that brings the compute, storage, and intelligence of Azure to the edge.

Azure Stack Edge

Azure Stack Edge

This is a first-party appliance which customer can order and run as an Azure service with no upfront costs (billed monthly with your Azure bill). In addition to the name change, the Azure Stack Edge team also announced that it soon will be supporting new compute and AI features and capabilities like:

  • Virtual machines on Azure Stack Edge
  • Kubernetes clusters
  • NVIDIA GPU support
  • Support for high-availability

The Azure Stack Edge will also be available in a rugged version as well as in a battery-powered form-factor that can be carried in a backpack.

Azure Stack Edge Rugged series

Azure Stack Edge Rugged series

Azure Stack Edge Rugged series with battery

Azure Stack Edge Rugged series with battery

Next to talking to Cosmos Darwin about Azure Stack HCI, I was also able to have Stephanie Krieger and Chris Dickens on the Microsoft Ignite Live stage to talk about Azure Stack Edge. You can watch the recording here.

Hybrid Cloud in combination with Azure Arc

In conjunction with Azure Arc, which brings Azure services and management to any infrastructure. With Azure Arc, you can deploy Azure Data services on any Kubernetes cluster. Azure Arc and Azure Stack portfolio are complementary.

You can combine the benefits of Azure Arc with Azure Stack portfolio where Azure Arc can manage virtual machines, containers, and run Azure Data Services on Azure Stack portfolio of validated and integrated systems while leveraging the compute and cloud capabilities of Azure Stack.

If you want to know more about Azure Arc, check out my blog post, Azure Arc – Cloud-native Management for Hybrid Cloud, or you can watch my Microsoft Ignite 2019 session about Hybrid Cloud Management.

I hope this gives you an overview of the new Azure Stack portfolio, which was announced at Microsoft Ignite 2019. 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.



Windows Server Banner

Microsoft Windows Server Summit – Online Summit

On Tuesday, June 26, 2018 Microsoft will held the Windows Server Summit Online, a virtual experience to learn tips and tricks for modernizing your infrastructure and applications—regardless of whether you’re running it on-premises or in the cloud. And you can bet you will also get some new information on Windows Server 2019.

Learn how to build the future with Windows Server

Microsoft will talk about the roadmap for Windows Server, and let you discover new skills and best practices, and get your questions answered in conversations with the Microsoft experts behind our products.

This online summit will focus on 4 key areas of Windows Server:

  • Hybrid – Learn how Windows Server helps you integrate Azure services into your on-premises environment and how to better run Windows Server in Azure.
  • Security – Better security starts with the Operating System. Learn how Windows Server helps you elevate your company’s security posture.
  • Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) – Windows Server 2016 introduced new HCI capabilities that are game-changers. Now, check what’s new around HCI for Windows Server 2019.
  • Application platform – Containers are changing the way developers and operations teams run applications. Learn how Windows Server helps you modernize yours.

So if you want to know more, join the Microsoft online event!

 



Windows Admin Center

Windows Admin Center – The Next Generation Windows Server Management Experience

Back in September Microsoft released Project Honolulu, which is the codename for a new Windows Server management experience. Today Microsoft announced the Windows Admin Center. Windows Admin Center is a flexible, locally deployed, browser-based management platform and tools to manage Windows Server locally and remote. Windows Admin Center (WAC) gives IT Admins full control over all aspects of their Server infrastructure and is particularly useful for management on private networks that are not connected to the Internet.

I had the chance to test and work with Windows Admin Center for a while in a private preview program. This allows me to test and work with WAC for quite some time.

Windows Admin Center is the modern evolution of the “in-box” management tools of Windows Server, like Server Manager, MMC, and many others. It is complementary to other Microsoft Management solutions such as System Center and Operations Management Suite. And as Microsoft clearly states, WAC is not designed to replace these products and services. WAC is a replacement for the local-only tools and is especially handy if you run Windows Server Core.

Windows Admin Center also became the management user interface for the Azure Stack HCI solutions.

Windows Admin Center Deployment Overview

(Picture for Microsoft)

You might remember the Azure Server Management Tools (SMT). SMT were management tools hosted in Azure and allowed you to manage your servers in the cloud and on-primes. A hosted services of Windows Admin Center. The feedback, however, was, that a lot of customers preferred an on-premise solution for their management experience. Microsoft took that feedback and created Windows Admin Center formally known as Project Honolulu.

Windows Admin Center Functionality

Windows Admin Center PowerShell

  • Simplified server management – WAC consolidates many distinct tools into one clean and simple web interface. Instead of switching between different tools, you can finally have everything in one place.
  • Illuminate your datacenter infrastructure – With WAC you can manage Windows Server 2016, 2012/2012 R2, Hyper-V Server 2012 and higher. WAC not only allows you to manage standalone servers but also complete solutions such a failover clusters, hyper-converged clusters based on Storage Spaces Direct and much more. And I am sure you can bet it will also support Windows Server 2019 when it arrives.
  • The tools you know, reimagined – Windows Admin Center provides the familiar core tools you have used in the past.
  • Manage Hyper-Converged Infrastructure –  WAC brings solutions to manage your Hyper-Converged systems. You get a single pane of glass to manage and operate your Storage Spaces Direct Clusters. You can quickly get an overview of resources, performance, health, and alerts.
  • Extend your on-prem environment with Azure Hybrid Services – Windows Admin Center lets you easily extend our on-premises environment, or an environment hosted on another cloud platform with Azure services.

Configure Azure Hybrid Services in Windows Admin Center Video Series

I have created a short video series which shows how to set up the Azure Hybrid services directly from Windows Admin Center. You can start with the intro here and then follow the different videos, and check out our overview blog about Configure Azure Hybrid Services in Windows Admin Center.

 

 

Windows Admin Center Management Experience

Windows Admin Center Solutions

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

Server Manager

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

Failover Cluster Manager

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

Hyper-Converged Cluster Manager

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

WAC Deployment Options

Windows Admin Center Deployment

(Picture from Microsoft)

WAC can be deployed in several different ways, depending on your needs.

WAC Topology

Windows Admin Center On-Premise Architecture

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

Windows Admin Center On-Premise and Public Cloud Architecture

You can access the Web UI from every machine running modern browsers like Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome. If you publish the webserver to the internet, you can also manage it remotely from everywhere. The installation and configuration of Windows Admin Center is straight forward and very simple.

The WAC Gateway Service can be installed on:

  • Windows Server 2016 (LTSC)
  • Windows Server, version 1709 (SAC)
  • and higher

You can manage the following operating systems

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

Identity Provider and RBAC

Windows Admin Center Azure Active Directroy

In Project Honolulu during the preview time, one of the missing pieces was the missing RBAC (Role-Based Access Control). Windows Admin Center now comes with RBAC so you can configure it for your needs. Also new is the possibility to use Azure Active Directory as an Identity Provider. In this case, you can use your Azure AD users and groups to access the Windows Admin Center.

Conclusion

In my opinion, Windows Admin Center provides us with the Windows Server management tools we were looking for. It helps us to manage our systems form a centralized, modern HTML5 web application and makes managing GUI-less servers easy.

I still think the Server Management Tools hosted in Azure were a better overall solution. Since we only needed to deploy a gateway in our datacenter and we could access and manage our systems from the Azure portal. However, a lot of customers didn’t like the dependency on the cloud, so the Windows Admin Center makes perfect sense as an on-premise solution with the option to extend the on-prem environment with Azure. The possibility to extend it with solutions and extensions from third parties makes it even better.

You can download Windows Admin Center here.



Windows Server 2019

Microsoft announces Windows Server 2019 and System Center 2019

Microsoft today announced the next Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) release for Windows Server called Windows Server 2019. In a blog post today, Erin Chapple, Director of Program Management Windows Server, announced the Windows Server 2019, which will be available in the second half of calendar year 2018. You can try out a Windows Server Preview build through the Windows Server Insider Program today. Microsoft also mentions that System Center 2019 will be available to manage Windows Server 2019 infrastructures.

Windows Server 2019 is built on the foundation of Windows Server 2016 and focuses on a couple of key scenarios. Microsoft in four key areas, Hybrid Cloud, Security, Application Platform and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI).

Windows Server 2019 – Hybrid Cloud Improvements

Project Honolulu Server Overview

As of today Hybrid Cloud is more real than ever. With Windows Server 2019 Microsoft is focusing to improve the customer experience in a hybrid cloud world. Taking advantage of public cloud innovation such as Artificial Intelligence and IoT, and connecting them with on-premise services is a huge enabler for customers. At Microsoft Ignite 2017, Microsoft showed of the Technical Preview of Project Honolulu, a web-based management console for Windows Server. One of the goals of Project Honolulu is to connect Windows Server deployments with Azure services. Together with Windows Server 2019 and Project Honolulu, you can easily integrate services like Azure Backup, Azure File Sync, Azure Site Recovery and much more.

Windows Server 2019 – Security

Security was already one of the big investments in Windows Server 2016. Microsoft does not stop there. With Windows Server 2019 Microsoft brings various security improvements like Shielded Virtual Machine support for Linux VMs and Encrypted Virtual Networks. One of my favorite improvements is the possibility to integrate with Windows Defender Advanced Thread Protection (ATP). ATP was first available for Windows 10 and provides preventative protection, detects attacks and zero-day exploits among other capabilities, into the operating system. This gives customers access to deep kernel and memory sensors, improving performance and anti-tampering, and enabling response actions on server machines.

Windows Server 2019 – Application Platform

Ubuntu on Windows Server using WSL

One of the key focus of Microsoft for Windows Server, was always on the developer experience. Microsoft brings a couple of improvements to make it the best application platform out there. Microsoft invests in a couple of scenarios such as bringing the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) to Windows Server. Another key investment area are Windows Server Containers and Windows Server Container images. In Windows Server 2019, Microsoft reduces the Server Core base container image to a third of its current size of 5 GB. This will reduce download time of the image by 72%, further optimizing the development time and performance. Another key improvement in terms of Container support is the integration and support for Container orchestrators like Kubernetes.

Windows Server 2019 – Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI)

The 4th improvement area is the Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). With Windows Server 2016 Microsoft released a new feature called Storage Spaces Direct. Together with Hyper-V and other Microsoft technologies, this was great to build you own infrastructure for your virtualization workloads. Windows Server 2019 will bring a lot of improvements for Storage Spaces Direct, Hyper-V and other related technologies. Microsoft is adding scale, performance, and reliability to the platform. Microsoft also partnered with hardware vendors to provide an affordable and yet extremely robust HCI solution with validated design.

What else?

  • Windows Server will be GA (generally available) in the second half of calendar year 2018.
  • Windows Server will be a LTSC release. LTSC will be the recommended version of Windows Server for most infrastructure scenarios and workloads like SQL Server, SharePoint and Windows Server Software-Defined Datacenter solutions.
  • With the LTSC release of Windows Server 2019, Microsoft will allow customers to use the Server with Desktop Experience as well as Windows Server Core. With the Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) release, Microsoft only provides the Windows Server Core option.
  • There will be another Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) release at the same time as Windows Server 2019 focusing on Container innovations. The SAC releases will be supported as before for 18 months, while the LTSC releases follow the normal 5+5 year support.
  • Licensing will use the same model as Windows Server 2016 today, Microsoft mentions that it is likely that they will increase the pricing for Windows Sevrer Client Access Licensing (CAL), but will share more details later.

With that we can all be very excited for the next LTSC version of Windows Server. Until then the next SAC release of Windows Server, called Windows Server 1803, will be available this spring. The Windows Server, version 1803 will focus on container improvements. If you want to try out, Windows Server 2019 or Windows Server 1803, you can join the Windows Server Insider Program.