Tag: Virtualization

Azure Generation 2 Virtual machine

Generation 2 VM support on Azure – and why should I care?

A couple of days ago Microsoft announced the public preview of Generation 2 virtual machines on Azure. Generation 2 virtual machines support a bunch of new technologies like increased memory, Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX), and virtual persistent memory (vPMEM), which are not supported on generation 1 VMs. But more on that later.

What are Hyper-V Virtual Machine Generations

Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V introduced the concept of virtual machine generations. Not to be confused with Hyper-V configuration versions. The generation of a virtual machine defines the virtual hardware of a virtual machine and adds some additional and modern functionality. In Hyper-V, there are two virtual machine generations, generation 1 and generation 2. Generation 2 virtual machines support Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) firmware instead of BIOS-based firmware. The Hyper-V team also removed a lot of the legacy devices and replaced them with a simplified virtual machine model.

On Windows Server Hyper-V Generation 2 VMs support features and improvements like

  • PXE boot by using a standard network adapter
  • Boot from a SCSI virtual hard disk
  • Boot from a SCSI virtual DVD
  • Secure Boot (enabled by default)
  • UEFI firmware support
  • OS disk > 2 TB
  • improved boot and installation times

However, an important note here, not all of these features are currently available on Azure Generation 2 virtual machines, and not all operating systems are supported in Generation 2 VMs. For example, in Windows7, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and 32-bit Windows systems are not supported. You can find more information about Hyper-V Generation 2 VMs here.

Azure Generation 2 Virtual Machines Overview

Azure Generation 2 Virtual Machines are currently in public preview. To be honest, Generation 2 VMs in Azure aren’t that new, with the public preview of Azure Confidential Computing, we already used Generation 2 VMs. However, now we can start using it for other workloads as well. This means that you can now upload and use your local VHD (not VHDX) files based on Hyper-V Generation 2 virtual machines. Before you had to use Azure Site Recovery to replicate and convert your Hyper-V Generation 2 VMs to Azure Generation 1 VMs.

Azure Generation 1 vs. Generation 2 capabilities

Azure Generation 1 vs Generation 2 VM

Currently, Generation 2 VMs are in public preview, and that means next to not having a service level agreement (SLA), the features which are available can and are limited. If you look at features like ASR or Azure Backup, which are currently not supporting Generation 2 VMs.

CapabilityGeneration 1Generation 2
OS disk > 2 TB
Custom Disk/Image/Swap OS
Virtual machine scale set support
ASR/Backup
Shared Image Gallery
Azure Disk Encryption

You can find more information about Azure Generation 2 virtual machines with an updated list of capabilities on Microsoft Docs.

Hyper-V vs. Azure Generation 2 VMs

There are also differences between Hyper-V Generation 2 VMs and Azure Generation 2 VMs. Not all of the features provided in Hyper-V are currently present in the public preview version on Azure.

FeatureOn-prem Hyper-VAzure
Secure Boot
Shielded VM
vTPM
Virtualization-Based Security (VBS)
VHDX format

Again, you can find an up-to-date list on Microsoft Docs.

Getting started

You can get started using the Generation 2 VMs on the following VM Sizes on Azure Premium Storage and Ultra SSD:

Windows Server Azure Generation 2 Virtual Machine

In public preview, you can now also use the following Azure Marketplace images from the “windowsserver-gen2preview” offer.

  • Windows Server 2019 Datacenter (2019-datacenter-gen2)
  • Windows Server 2016 Datacenter (2016-datacenter-gen2)
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter (2012-r2-datacenter-gen2)
  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter (2012-datacenter-gen2)

Create a virtual machine

You can use the Azure Portal to create a new VM or the Azure CLI using the following commands:

 
az group create --name myGen2ResourceGroupVM --location eastus
az vm create \
--resource-group myGen2ResourceGroupVM \
--name myVM \
--image MicrosoftWindowsServer:windowsserver-gen2preview:2019-datacenter-gen2:latest \
--admin-username thomas \
--admin-password myPassword12

Conclusion

I hope this gives you an overview of the benefits and how you can run Generation 2 VMs on Azure. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments.



Windows Sandbox

How to configure Windows Sandbox

With the latest release of Windows 10 (1903), Microsoft introduced a new feature called Windows Sandbox. Windows Sandbox is based on Hyper-V technology and allows you to spin up an isolated, temporary, desktop environment where you can run untrusted software. In this blog post, I will show you how you can set up and configure Windows Sandbox in Windows 10. I will also cover how you can do an advanced configuration of your Windows Sandbox using Windows Sandbox config files.

The sandbox is great for demos, troubleshooting or if you are dealing with malware. If you close the sandbox, all the software with all its files and state are permanently deleted. It is a Windows 10 virtual machines, with the advantage that it is built into Windows 10, so it leverages the existing OS, which gives you faster startup, less footprint, better efficiency, and easier handling, without losing security.

Dynamic Image

Source: Microsoft

Windows Sandbox is a lightweight virtual machine with an operating system. The significant advantage which makes it so small is the usage of existing files from the host, for data which cannot change. For the files which can change, it uses a dynamically generated image, which is only ~100MB in size.

There are much more exciting things happening with the Windows Sandbox like smart memory management, Integrated kernel scheduler, Snapshot and clone, Graphics virtualization and Battery pass-through. If you want to find out more about the Windows Sandbox, check out the official blog post.

Prerequisites

Windows Sandbox comes with a couple of requirements. How more powerful your machine is, the better the experience will be.

  • Windows 10 (1903) Pro or Enterprise build 18362 or later
  • 64-bit architecture
  • Virtualization capabilities enabled in BIOS
  • At least 4GB of RAM (8GB recommended)
  • 1GB of free disk space (SSD recommended)
  • 2 CPU cores (4 cores with hyperthreading recommended)


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.



Veeam Vanguard 2019

Veeam Vanguard 2019

Beginning of this week I got some fantastic news. I was awarded with my third Veeam Vanguard award. I was on of the first Veeam Vanguards in 2015 and was awarded directly after that in 2016. I am proud to again receive the Veeam Vanguard Award in 2019.

A Veeam Vanguard represents the Veeam brand to the highest level in many of the different technology communities in which Veeam engages. These individuals are chosen for their acumen, engagement and style in their activities on and offline.

I am looking forward to community in this virtualization and cloud journey. I also want to thank Veeam, it is an honor to be part of the Veeam Vanguard community again.



Azure IaaS Webinar

Join me for a Azure IaaS Masterclass Webinar!

This Wednesday, Altaro have invited me to give a webinar on Infrastructure as a Service with Microsoft Azure and you’re invited – it’s free to join!

Implementing Infrastructure as a Service is a great way of streamlining and optimizing your IT environment by utilizing virtualized resources from the cloud to complement your existing on-site infrastructure. It enables a flexible combination of the traditional on-premises data center alongside the benefits of cloud-based subscription services. If you’re not making use of this model, there’s no better opportunity to learn what it can do for you than in this upcoming webinar.

I’ll be joined by me good friend from Altaro, Technical Evangelist and Microsoft MVP Andy Syrewicze. I’ve done a few webinars with Andy over the years and it’s always a fun experience to work with him. We have also received great feedback from attendees saying they learnt a lot and enjoy the format in which we present.

The webinar will be primarily focused on showing how Azure IaaS solves real use cases by going through the scenarios live on air. Three use cases have been outlined already, however, the webinar format encourages those attending to suggest their own use cases when signing up and the two most popular suggestions will be added to the list. To submit your own use case request, simply fill out the suggestion box in the sign up form when you register!

Like all Altaro webinars, this will be presented live twice on the day (Wednesday 13th February). So if you can’t make the earlier session (2pm CET / 8am EST / 5am PST), just sign up for the later one instead (7pm CET / 1pm EST / 10am PST) – or vice versa. Both sessions cover the same content but having two live sessions gives more people the opportunity to ask their questions live on air and get instant feedback from us.

Save your seat for the webinar and learn more about Azure IaaS

Altaro Webinar Azure IaaS VMs



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.



E2EVC

Speaking at E2EVC 2018 Athens

I am back from some great travel and speaking opportunities like Experts Live Europe 2018 last week. That said, I’m happy to speak at the E2EVC Conference in Athens this week. E2EVC stands for Experts 2 Experts Virtualization Conference, and brings the best people together to talk about virtualization. This will be my 11th E2EVC, I was speaking in many events since 2012 in cities like Rome, Hamburg, Dublin, Copenhagen, Brussels and last year in Prague. I am really happy to speak at this event again.

In my session I will speak about the great new feature in Windows Server 2019.

Windows Server 2019 - The Next Generation of Software-Defined Datacenter

Join this session for the best of Windows Server 2019, about the new innovation and improvements of Windows Server. Learn how Microsoft enhances the SDDC feature like Hyper-V, Storage and Networking and get the most out of the new Azure Hybrid Integration and Container features. You’ll get an overview about the new, exciting improvements that are in Windows Server and how they’ll improve your day-to-day job.   In this presentation Thomas Maurer (Microsoft MVP) will guide you through the highly anticipated innovations in Windows Server 2019 and the Semi-Annual Channel including: ○ Windows Server Containers ○ Azure Integration ○ Hyper-V features ○ Storage ○ Networking ○ Security ○ Windows Server Containers And more!

About E2EVC

E2EVC Virtualization Conference is a non-commercial, virtualization community event. The main goal of the E2EVC is to bring the best virtualization experts together to exchange knowledge and to establish new connections. E2EVC is a weekend crammed with presentations, Master Classes and discussions delivered by both virtualization vendors product teams and independent experts. I am happy to be part of the community and listen to other industry leading experts.

I am looking forward to the E2EVC and hopefully see you in Athens.