Microsoft Keeps Investing In Storage Big Time


Disclaimer: These are my musing on the limited info available about Windows Server vNext and based on the Technical Preview bits at the time of writing. So it’s not set in stone & has a time limited value.

Reading the documentation that’s already available on vNext of Windows it’s clear that Microsoft is continuing it’s push towards the software defined data center. They are also pushing high to continuous availability ever more towards the  “continuous” side of things.

It’s early days yet and we just only downloaded the Technical Preview but what do we read in What’s New in Storage Services in Windows Server Technical Preview

Storage Quality of Service

  • They are giving us more Storage Quality of Service tied into the use of SOFS as storage over SMB3. As way to many NAS solutions don’t support SMB3 or only partially (in a restricted way) it’s clear too me that self build SOFS solution on a couple of servers is and remains the best SMB3 implementation on the market and has just gotten storage QoS.

Little Rant here: To the people that claim that this is not capable of high performance, I usually laugh. Have you actually build a SOFS or TFFS with 10Gbps networking on modern enterprise grade servers line the DELL R720 or 730? Did you look at the results form that relative low cost investment? I think not, really. And if you did and found it lacking, I’ll be very impressed of the workload you’re running.  You’ll force your storage to the knees earlier than your Windows file server nowadays.

  • It’s in the SOFS layer, so this does not tie you into to Storage Space if you’re not ready for that yet but would like the benefits of SOFS. As long as you have shared storage behind the SOFS you’re good.
  • It’s policy based and can apply to virtual machines, groups of virtual machines a service or a tenant
  • The virtual disk is the level where the policy is set & enforced.
  • Storage performance will dynamically adjust to meet the policies & when tied the performance will be fairly distributed.
  • You can monitor all this.

It’s right there in the OS.

Storage Replica

This gives us “storage-agnostic, block-level, synchronous replication between servers for disaster recovery, as well as stretching of a failover cluster for high availability. Synchronous replication enables mirroring of data in physical sites with crash-consistent volumes ensuring zero data loss at the file system level. Asynchronous replication allows site extension beyond metropolitan ranges with the possibility of data loss.”

Look for Hyper-V we already had Hyper-V replica (which is also being improved), but for other workloads we still rely on the storage vendors or 3rd party solutions. But now I can have my storage replicas for service protection and continuity out of the box with Windows.  WOW!

and as we read on ..

  • Provide an all-Microsoft disaster recovery solution for planned and unplanned outages of mission-critical workloads.
  • Use SMB3 transport with proven reliability, scalability, and performance.
  • Stretch clusters to metropolitan distances.
    Use Microsoft software end to end for storage and clustering, such as Hyper-V, Storage Replica, Storage Spaces, Cluster, Scale-Out File Server, SMB3, Deduplication, and ReFS/NTFS.
  • Help reduce cost and complexity as follows:

Hardware agnostic, with no requirement to immediately abandon legacy storage such as SANs.

Allows commodity storage and networking technologies.
Features ease of graphical management for individual nodes and clusters through Failover Cluster Manager and Microsoft Azure Site Recovery.

Includes comprehensive, large-scale scripting options through Windows PowerShell.

  • Helps reduce downtime, and increase reliability and productivity intrinsic to Windows.
  • Provide supportability, performance metrics, and diagnostic capabilities.

I have gotten this to work in the lab with some trial and error but this is the Technical Preview, not a finish product. If they continue along this path I’m pretty confident we’ll have functional & operational viable solution by RTM. Just think about the possibilities this brings!

Storage Spaces

Now I have not read much on Storage Space in vNext yet but I think its safe to assume we’ll see major improvements there as well. Which leads me to reaffirm my blog posy here: TechEd 2013 Revelations for Storage Vendors as the Future of Storage lies With Windows 2012 R2

Microsoft is delivering more & great software defined storage inbox. This means cost effective yet very functional storage solutions. On top of that they put pressure on the market to deliver more value if they want to stay competitive. As a customer, whatever solution fits my needs the best, I welcome that. And as a consumer of large amounts of storage in a world where we need to spend the money where it matters most I like what I’m seeing.

Tip for Microsoft: configurability, reliability and EASY diagnostics and remediation are paramount to success. Sure some storage vendor solution aren’t to great on that front either but some are awesome. Make sure your in the awesome category. Make it a great user experience from start to finish in both deployment and operations.

Tip for you: If you’re not ready for prime time with Storage Spaces , SMB Direct etc … do what I’ve done. Use it where it doesn’t kill you if you hit some learning curves. What about storage spaces as a backup target where you can now replicate the backups of to your disaster recovery site?

Hot Add & Remove Static Memory in a Hyper-V vNext Virtual Machine


One of the very nice and handy new capabilities in Windows Server vNext Hyper-V (Windows Server 2015 or Windows Server 10?) is the fact that you can now hot add or remove memory from a virtual machine with a fixed amount of memory. Another step towards continuous availability.

Here’s a test virtual machine RAGNAR running the Technology Preview bits on my test cluster. As you can see it has 1024MB of fixed memory. And Dynamic memory is not enabled.

image

I can simply adjust this upward by typing in the value and clicking “Apply”

image

and downwards in the same way

image

Cool huh!

On top of this to make sure you’re not adding memory needlessly when someone says they need more memory for their VM you can see the memory demand now in the GUI. Both in Hyper-V Manager and in the Failover Clustering GUI.

image

image

The technical preview of Windows vNext is looking good even in this early stage and I have no doubt it’s only going to get better Open-mouthed smile.

Some things to note

  • It’s configurable via PowerShell so you can start dreaming of script to query memory assignment & demand and use that output to redistribute memory available on the host amongst the VMs …

image

  • Both Hyper-V host and guest have to run vNext (Technical Preview)
  • The guest has to be a generation 2 VM
  • It’s still virtualization technology and not magic, so if you try to assign more memory than available you’ll get a warning Winking smile

image

Windows Server 2012 R2 Clustering brings improved CSV diagnosability


Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) have can go into different redirected access modes for several reasons. Now a lot of people get (or got) worried about seeing “redirected access” in the GUI. Most of the time however this is due to normal operations such as backups or maintenance (defragmentation) not only losing disk access.

To remediate unneeded troubleshooting, sometimes leading to real issues, calls to MSFT support and so forth it was hidden from the Failover Clustering GUI in Windows 2012 R2. OK, so goal achieved but how do we now troubleshoot and view redirected access that might indicate the presence of real issues? The answer to that is the Get-ClusterSharedVolumeState PowerShell cmdlet. It displays the state of the CSVs on a per node basis for a cluster. You’ll see the type of the IO (Direct, File System Redirected and Block Redirected), if it’s completely unavailable  as well as the reason.

This is what the output looks like on a two node cluster where node A has lost it’s storage path or paths (MPIO) to the CSV. You’ll see that both CSV are in redirected access. Not only that but you can see what type (block redirected) and why (no disk connectivity).

image

Pretty neat and clear. I love this functionality by the way and It’s why I’m leveraging 10Gbps Ethernet extensively to make sure that CSV traffic get’s the bandwidth & latency to handle what it has to. If you realize it leverages SMB3 which provides SMB Multichannel and SMB Direct you know it will get the job done for you in your time of need.

While this is happening in the GUI you’ll see this

image

Nothing is going on … it would seem so a bit of monitoring and alerting would be of use here. The good news is finding out what’s up is very straight forward now.

Now there is still a case where you’ll see that the CSV is in redirected access mode and that when you’ve put it in there yourself via the GUI

image

or via PowerShell for maintenance reasons.

image

As you can see the Icon has change to a networked disk one and it states “Redirected Access”. With Get-ClusterSharedVolumeState the output looks like this.

image

You’ll always see warnings in the event logs.

image

So monitor those with SCOM or another tool that suits your taste and you’ll be in good shape to react when it’s needed and you now know how to find out what’s going on.

First experiences with a rolling cluster upgrade of a lab Hyper-V Cluster (Technical Preview)


Introduction

In vNext we have gotten a long awaited  & very welcome new capability: rolling cluster upgrades. Which for the Hyper-V roles is a 100% zero down time experience. The only step that will require some down time is the upgrade of the virtual machine configuration files to vNext (version 5 to 6) as the VM has to be shut down for this.

How to

The process for a rolling upgrade is so straight forward I’ll just give you a quick bullet list of the first part of the process:

  • Evacuate the workload from the cluster node you’re going to upgrade
  • Evict the node to upgrade to vNext from the cluster
  • Upgrade (no in place upgrade supported but in your lab you can get away with it)
  • Add the upgraded node to the cluster
  • Rinse & repeat until all nodes have been upgraded (that can take a while with larger clusters)

Please note that all actions you administration you do on a cluster in mixed mode should be done from a node running vNext or a system running Windows 10 with the vNext RSAT installed.

Once you’ve upgraded all nodes in the cluster, the situation you’re in now is basically that you’re running a Windows Server vNext Hyper-V cluster in cluster functional level 8 (W2K12R2) and the next step is to upgrade to 9, which is vNext, no there no 10 yet in server Winking smile

You do this by executing the Update-ClusterFunctionalLevel cmdlet. This is an online process.  Again, do this from a node running vNext or a system running Windows 10 with the vNext RSAT installed. Note that this is where you’re willing to commit to the vNext level for the cluster. That’s where you want to go but you get to decide when. When you’ve do this you can’t go back to W2K12R2. It’s a matter of fact that as long as you’re running cluster functional level 8, you can reverse the entire process. Talk about having options! I like having options, just ask Carsten Rachfahl (@hypervserver), he’ll tell you it’s one of my mantras.

image

When this goes well you can just easily check the cluster functional level as follows:

image

When this is done you can do the upgrade of the VM configuration by running the Update-VMConfigurationVersion cmdlet. This is an off line process where the VMs you’re updating have to be shut down. You can do this for just one VM, all or anything in between. This is when you decided you’re committing to all the goodness vNext brings you.  But the fact that you have some time before you need to do it means you can  easily get those machine to run smoothly on a W2K12R2 cluster in case you need to roll back. Remember, options are good!

Doing so updates VM version from 5 to 6 and enables new Hyper-V features (hit F5 a lot or reopen Hyper-V Manager to see the value change.

image

image

Note: If in the lab you’re running some VMs on a cluster node are not highly available (i.e. they’re not clustered) they cannot be updated until the cluster functional level has been upgraded to version 9.

Win a free ticket to Experts Live 2014


As you might already know I’m speaking at the Dutch IT community event Experts Live 2014 in the Netherlands. The talk is about “The Capable & Scalable Cloud OS “ where we’ll highlight and show some of the scalable capabilities in Windows Server 2012 R2 when combined with great hardware.

You can find the program at Experts Live 2014 which is very rich in content. There are 7 tracks and over 40 sessions! Chose a track or mix and match to your hearts content between  Microsoft Azure, System Center, Hyper-V, SQL, Windows, PowerShell and Office365. It’s all good.

image

To celebrate the success of the event the organizers have allowed us to give away some free entrance tickets. This is a very nice gift that will allow you to enjoy a full day of learning for free.

So convince me you’re willing to put in the time and effort to learn and we’ll help you do exactly that by making sure you get a free ticket!  Leave a reply to this blog post from Thursday October 9th till Thursday October 16th in which you tell me what blog or blogs of mine you’ve enjoyed most. Leave your name, e-mail, your company and function title so we can arrange things for you. Don’t worry we will not publish these.

There is only one request/condition … if you win a ticket come to the event as a no show means some one else can’t come.

Hyper-V did not find virtual machines to import from the location . The operation failed with error code ‘32784’.


I got contacted by some people how ran into some issues importing VMs from W2K12R2 Hyper-V into W2K12 Hyper-V. They got bitten by this “little” issue: Importing a VM that is exported from Windows Server 2012 R2 into Windows Server 2012 is not supported

This means you get greeted by

Hyper-V did not find virtual machines to import from the location <folder location>.
The operation failed with error code ‘32784’.

image

No the trick of not exporting the VM but doing an “in place” registration doesn’t cut it. That’s great for W2K8R2 to W2K12 or W2K12 to W2K12R2 but not from W2K12R2 to a lower version. In that way the title of the KB article could be seen as a bit misleading or incomplete, but the contents is pretty clear.

And that’s it. Woeps! What you have 200 VMs on the LUNs form the old cluster you already blew away to build the new one? You do have a tested exit plan for this right? Uh no?

Facepalm Combo

Oh MAN, NOOOOO!

Now if it’s only one or two VMs you can always work around this by creating new VMs using the old VHDXs. This will leave you to deal with networking cleanup inside of the VMs and configuring TCP/IP. PowerShell can help here but in large volumes this remains as serious effort. This is also the time that documentation pays!

Now what if this happens to you when you’re trying to roll back a migration of a hyper-V cluster (revert W2K12R2 to W2K12 for example). Well for one you should have know as you did test all this right? Right?!

What are your other options to roll back other than  the above? From the top of my head and without details?

  • Move back to your old cluster Smile You didn’t already nuke it, I hope.
  • If you have a SAN take a snapshot of the LUNs before you move them to Windows Server 2012 R2 for faster fall back. But beware, if you’re running applications that require some tender loving care in relation to snapshots like Exchange  or Active Directory in those VMs … shutting all VMs down before you create the can help snapshot mitigates issues but is not a full proof approach! “Know thy apps”!
  • A great backup & RESTORE solution to get you back up and running also comes in handy but don’t forget that it requires you to know your apps as well here. Yes, it’s not always just “CLICKEDYCLICKCLICKDONE”
  • Perhaps it’s now time to activate your paused replicas on the DRC cluster or hosts?  You did test this didn’t you?

Now for anyone involved in a migration to Windows Server 2012 R2 there is no excuse not to know this in advance and to test out the new cluster hardware as much as you can. This minimizes the chance you’ll need to fall back. And please test your exit scenarios, really, I mean it.  Also please, you can migrate one LUN/CSV at the time. Try to run the VMs on the first migrated LUN/CSV before you do all the others. That way you can do some damage control.

Now, this is not great but it is what it is and at least now you know before your migrate Winking smile. We’ve also asked MSFT to make falling back a bit less “"involved” in future versions. Perhaps they’ll do that, I’m pretty sure they’ll consider it. And by what we’ve seen in the recently available Technical Preview they did!

Windows 2003? Let it go!


Reflecting on some of the discussions I was in recently I can only say that there is no escaping reality. Here are some reference blogs for you.

You can’t get of Windows 2003 you say? Held hostage by ancient software from a previous century?  Sure I understand your problems and perils. But we do not negotiate with hostage takers. We get rid of them. Be realistic, do you think this is somehow going to get any better with age? What in 24 months? What about 48? You get the drift. What’s bad now will only be horrible in x amount of time.

Look at some issues people run into already:

Issues like this are not going to go away, new ones will pop up. Are you going to keep everything in your infrastructure frozen in time to try an avoid these? That’s not even coping, that’s suffering.

image

What ever it is that’s blocking you, tomorrow is when you start planning to deal with it and execute on that plan. Don’t be paralyzed by fear or indecision. Over 12 years it will have been a supported OS by its end of life. Windows 2003 had a real good run but now it’s over. Let it go before it hurts you. You have no added value from a more recent version of Windows? Really? We need to talk, seriously.

UPDATE: Inspired by Aidan Finn (@joe_elway) who offered a very good picture to get the message across => click the picture to get the soundtrack! LET IT GO!

Embedded image permalink