A Festive End Of 2011 & A Great 2012 To All


Well the end of 2011 is getting closer and 2012 is about to knock at my door. 2011 was a very busy year and 2012 show no signs of being different, quite the opposite actually. We’re going to be deploying the System Center 2012 Suite, diving in to Windows 8 Server and I’m doing some storage projects in the  >200TB usable storage space range. Getting our feet wet with the private cloud concept in production etc. On top of that I’m planning to attend some conferences and might be speaking at some of those again on Hyper-V, Clustering, Storage and Windows 8 Server.

I’d like to thank all my readers and let you know I appreciate the feedback and your words of thanks when you’ve found my posts helpful or funny.

To all my IT buddies I’ve been lucky enough to have met up with in 2011 I hope to see you all again in 2012 for some more fun and educational conferences and dinners. There is a very helpful and smart bunch of people out there and I enjoy talking with them.

To those of you who are changing employers, jobs, starting your own companies or going freelance, I wish you all the best. It’s reassuring that in these day of constant economic doom & gloom we see people moving ahead full steam and with confidence.

I have a great small team of great IT Pros & Developers working with in the trenches and hope they continue to have fun and keep finding positive challenges in their jobs. They have “the right stuff” and we couldn’t get things done without their skillsets. The challenge for management is to help ‘m get the job done nothing more or less than that, to take away obstacles and let ‘m be the best they can be.

This year was also the first time I presented to a very stimulating, knowledgeable and communicative technical audience. There is room for improvement in my presenting skills but I enjoyed it and it was very good learning experience for me. It’s not easy to deliver good content, and share knowledge. I thank all of you who make an effort to do so and I wish you all a happy, prosperous, carefree and healthy 2012!

Dell Storage Forum Europe 2012


If you’re into storage and a happy DELL customer / user like me you might very well want to check out the DELL Storage Forum2012 in London (January 9-12). Don’t wait too long however as time is running out. Compellent has some impressive features and conditions (licensing, modularity, easy of use, PowerShell support, Live Motion & federation, Hyper-V support, Snapshots) that I’m very interested in. It’s those abilities that make a SAN worth it’s money in 2012 and beyond, that combined with a way to get out of the forklift upgrade cycle of storage.

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Storage vendors have a lot of competition going on and are under a lot of pressure from customers to provide better value for money due to operational costs, complex licensing and fork lift upgrades, expensive upgrades and sometime lack luster support. Those vendors that can address these concerns best will be in a good spot when they face competition, not only from the storage vendors but also from software SAN producers and Microsoft with Windows 8 Server. I think Compellent is a viable candidate in this space and I’ll be checking them out extensively. Data growth is a huge issue and affordable storage needs are a big concern for most companies. Vendors know that and I hope they compete on offering better & more affordable solutions rather than banking on the fact customers need them that much they won’t need to change their business too much.

Upgrading Exchange 2010 SP1 To SP2


Here is a step by step walk trough of an Exchange 2010 SP2 installation. I needed to document the process for a partner anyway so I might as well throw on here as well. Perhaps it will help out some people. The Exchange Team announced Exchange 2010 SP2 RTM on their blog recently. There you can find some more information and links to the downloads, release notes etc. You will also note that the Exchange 2012 TechNet documentation has SP2 relevant information added. if you just want to grab the bits get them here; Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 2 directly from Microsoft
 
Exchange 2010 SP1 and SP2 can coexist for the time you need to upgrade the entire organizations. Once you started to upgrade it’s best to upgrade all nodes in the Exchange Organization as fast as you can to SP2. That way you’ll have all of them on the same install base which is easier to support and trouble shoot. Before I did this upgrade in production environments I tested this two time in a lab/test environment. I also made sure  anti virus, backup and other agents dis not have any issues with Exchange 2010 SP2. Nothing is more annoying then telling a customer his Exchange Organization has been upgraded to the lasted and greatest version only to follow up on that statement with the fact the backups don’t run anymore.

You can install Exchange SP2 easily via the setup wizard that will guide you through the entire process. There are some well documented “issues” you might see but these are just about the fact you need IIS 6 WMI compatibility for the CAS role now and the fact that you need to upgrade the Active Directory Schema. Please look at Jetze Mellema’s blog for some detailed info & at Dave Stork’s blog post for consolidated information on this service pack.

Changing the Active Directory schema is a big deal in some environments and you might not be able to do this just as part of the Exchange upgrade. Perhaps you need to hand this of to a different team and they’ll do that for you using the  command “setup /prepareschema” as shown below.

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You’ll have to wait for them to give you the go ahead when everything is replicated and all is still working fine. Below we’ll show you how you can do it with the setup wizard.

Order of upgrade is a it has been for a while

  1. CAS servers
  2. HUB Transport servers
  3. If you run Unified Messaging servers upgrade these now, before doing the mailbox servers
  4. Mailbox servers
  5. If you’re using Edge Transport servers you can upgrade them whenever you want.

Let’s walk through the process with some additional information

Once you’ve download the bits and have the Exchange2010-SP2-x64.exe file click it to extract the contents. Find the  setup.exe and it will copy the files it needs to start the installation.

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You then arrive at the welcome screen where you choose “Install Microsoft Exchange Server Upgrade”

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The setup then initializes

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You get to the Upgrade Introduction screen where you can read what Exchange is and does Smile. I hope you already know this at this stage. Click Next.

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You accept the EULA

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And watch the wizard run the readiness checks

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In the lab we have our CAS/HUB servers on the same nodes, so the prerequisites are checked for both. The CAS servers in Exchange 2010 SP2 need the IIS 6 WMI Compatibility Feature. If you had done the upgrade from the CLI you would have to run SETUP /m:upgrade /InstallWindowsComponents and you would not have seen this error as it would have been taken care of installing the missing components. When using the GUI you’ll see the error below.

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You can take care of that by installing this via “Add Role Services” in Server Manager for the Web Server (IIS) role.

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Or you can use our beloved PowerShell with the following commands:

  • Import-Module ServerManager
  • Add-WindowsFeature Web-WMI.

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Now we have the IIS 6 WMI compatibility issue out of the way we can rerun the readiness checks and we’ll get all green check marks.

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So we can click on “Upgrade” and get the show on the road. The first thing you’ll see this step do is “Organization Preparation”. This is the schema upgrade that is needed for Exchange 2010. If you had run this one manually it would not have to this step and you’ll see later it only does is for the first server you upgrade (note that it is missing form the second screen print, which was taken from the second CAS/HUB role server). I like to do them manually and make sure Active Directory replication has occurred to all domain controllers involved. If I use the GUI setup I give it some time to replicate.

Intermezzo: How to check the schema version

You can verify after having run SP2 on the first node or having updated the schema manually that this is indeed effective by looking at the properties of both the domain and the schema via ADSIEdit or dsquery.

The value for objectVersion in the properties of “CN=Microsoft Exchange System Objects” should be 13040. This is the domain schema version. Via dsquery this is done as follows: dsquery * “CN=Microsoft Exchange System Objects,DC=datawisetech,DC=corp” -scope
base -attr objectVersion

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The rangeUpper property of “CN=ms-Exch-Schema-Version-Pt,cn=schema,cn=configuration,<Forest DN>” should be 14732. You can also check this using dsquery * CN=ms-Exch-Schema-Version-Pt,cn=schema,cn=configuration,<Forest DN> -scope base –attr rangeUpper tocheck this value

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Note that you might need to wait for Active Directory replication if you’re not looking at the domain controller where the update was run. If you want to verify all your domain controllers immediately you can always force replication.

Step By Step Continued

First CAS/HUB roles server (If you didn’t upgrade the schema manually)

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Additional CAS/HUB roles server

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… it takes a while …

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But then it completes and you can click “Finish”

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We’re done here so we click “Close”

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When you run the setup on the other server roles like Unified Messaging, Mailbox and Edge the process is very similar and is only different in the fact it checks the relevant prerequisites and upgrades the relevant roles. An example of this is below for a the mailbox role server.

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In DAG please upgrade all nodes a.s.a.p. and do so by evacuating the databases to the other nodes as to avoid service interruption. The process to upgrade DAG member is described here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb629560.aspx

  • Upgrade only passive servers Before applying the service pack to a DAG member, move all active mailbox database copies off the server to be upgraded and configure the server to be blocked from activation. If the server to be upgraded currently holds the primary Active Manager role, move the role to another DAG member prior to performing the upgrade. You can determine which DAG member holds the primary Active Manager role by running Get-DatabaseAvailabilityGroup <DAGName> -Status | Format-List PrimaryActiveManager.
  • Place server in maintenance mode Before applying the service pack to any DAG member, you may want to adjust monitoring applications that are in use so that the server doesn’t generate alerts or alarms during the upgrade. For example, if you’re using Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 to monitor your DAG members, you should put the DAG member to be upgraded in maintenance mode prior to performing the upgrade. If you’re not using System Center Operations Manager 2007, you can use StartDagServerMaintenance.ps1 to put the DAG member in maintenance mode. After the upgrade is complete, you can use StopDagServerMaintenance.ps1 to take the server out of maintenance mode.
  • Stop any processes that might interfere with the upgrade Stop any scheduled tasks or other processes running on the DAG member or within that DAG that could adversely affect the DAG member being upgraded or the upgrade process.
  • Verify the DAG is healthy Before applying the service pack to any DAG member, we recommend that you verify the health of the DAG and its mailbox database copies. A healthy DAG will pass MAPI connectivity tests to all active databases in the DAG, will have mailbox database copies with a copy queue length and replay queue length that’s very low, if not 0, as well as a copy status and content index state of Healthy.
  • Be aware of other implications of the upgrade A DAG member running an older version of Exchange 2010 can move its active databases to a DAG member running a newer version of Exchange 2010, but not the reverse. After a DAG member has been upgraded to a newer Exchange 2010 service pack, its active database copies can’t be moved to another DAG member running the RTM version or an older service pack.

Microsoft provides two PowerShell scripts to automat this for you. These scripts are StartDagServerMaintenance.ps1 and StopDagServerMaintenance.ps1 to be found in the C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\V14\Scripts folder. Usage is straight forware just open EMS, navigate to the scripts folder and run these scripts for each DAG member like below.

  1. .\StartDagServerMaintenance –ServerName “Invincible”
  2. Close the EMS other wise PowerShell will hold a lock files that need to be upgraded (same reason the EMC should be closed) and than upgrade of the node in question
  3. .\StopDagServerMaintenance –ServerName “invincible”

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Voila, there you have it. Happy upgrading. Do you preparations well and all will go smooth.

TechDays 2012: 80% of agenda online and 1 more week to benefit from 15% discount


Just 1 more week to benefit from a 15% discount on your ticket for TechDays 2012: the Early Bird pricing ends on December 21. Registrations are coming in strong, so be sure to secure your spot before we sell out!


Top Speakers




Developer Track
Alex Turner

Brian Keller

Jeff Prosise
IT Pro Track
Corey Hynes

John Craddock

Adam Hall

We are happy to confirm speakers like:

- In the Developer track: Alex Turner, Brian Keller, Bart De Smet, Gill Cleeren, Jeff Prosise, Maarten Balliauw, Matt Milner, Ben Riga, Steve Sanderson, Nikhil Kothari, Rob Miles, Tarek Madkour, Wade Wegner

- In the IT Pro track: John Craddock, Kurt Roggen, Ilse Van Criekinge, Adam Hall, Corey Hynes, Kim Oppalfens, Mike Resseler, Dan Holme 

International speakers are teamed up with our local experts to give you a top content mix.

TechDays program: 80% of agenda is finalized

This year promises to bring a lot of new content from Microsoft. Looking at the next versions of tooling, languages, OS and management you know this is not a standard TechDays event. Our content is split into current and upcoming technology.

Deep Dives (February 16)

Peter Himschoot and Jurgen Postelmans (U2U) will be delivering a full day .NET 4.5 and Visual Studio (Dev11) Futures for Web Development Deep Dive covering all the latest and greatest in .NET 4.5, focusing on Web Development with ASP.NET, HTML5 and WCF.

Rhonda Layfield will be delivering a full day deep dive covering all the different tools and techniques to deploy Windows 7, she will also cover the upcoming Windows OS deployment tools.

Mike Resseler & Tom Shinder will deliver a full day covering private cloud topics, including Management and Operations of your private cloud infrastructure.

About TechDays 2012

Join our 10th anniversary edition in a new location (Kinepolis Imagibraine – Braine l’Alleud) and learn about:
• Windows & Internet Explorer
• Windows Server 8 & Hyper-V
• Windows Phone 7 development
• System Center 2012 & Windows Intune
• Tooling and languages with Visual Studio, C# and VB Futures
• Next generation apps
• Cloud development with Windows Azure Platform
• Web development with HTML5, JavaScript and ASP.NET
• …

> REGISTER NOW

Hope to see you at the TechDays 2012!

Questions? Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook or simply via e-mail.

Anti Virus & Hyper-V Reloaded


The anti virus industry is both a blessing and a curse.  They protect us from a whole lot of security threats and at the same time they make us pay dearly for their mistakes or failures. Apart from those issues themselves this is aggravated that management does not see the protection it provides on a daily basis. Management only notices anti virus when things go wrong, when they lose productivity and money. And frankly when you consider scenarios like this one …

Hi boss, yes, I know we spent a 1.5 million Euros on our virtualization projects and it’s fully redundant to protect our livelihood. Unfortunately the anti virus product crashed the clusters so we’re out of business for the next 24 hours, at least.

… I can’t blame them for being a bit grumpy about it.

Recently some colleagues & partners in IT got bitten once again by McAfee with one of there patches (8.8 Patch 1 and 8.7 Patch 5). These have caused a lot of BSOD reports and they put the CSVs on Hyper-V clusters into redirected mode (https://kc.mcafee.com/corporate/index?page=content&id=KB73596). Sigh. As you can read here for the redirected mode issue they are telling us Microsoft will have to provide a hotfix. Now all anti virus vendors have their issue but McAfee has had too many issues for to long now.  I had hoped that Intel buying them would have helped with quality assurance but it clearly did not. This only makes me hope that whatever protection against malware is going to built into the hardware will be of a lot better quality as we don’t need our hardware destroying our servers and client devices. We’re also no very happy with the prospect or rolling out firmware & BIOS updates at the rate and with the risk of current anti virus products.

Aidan Finn has written before about the balance between risk & high availability when it comes to putting anti virus on Hyper-V cluster hosts and I concur with his approach:

  • When you do it pay attention to the exclusion & configuration requirements
  • Manage those host very carefully, don’t slap on just any update/patches and this includes anti virus products of cause

I’m have a Masters in biology from they days before I went head over heals into the IT business. From that background I’ve taken my approach to defending against malware. You have to make a judgment call, weighing all the options with their pros and cons. Compare this to vaccines/inoculations to protect the majority of your population. You don’t have to get a 100% complete coverage to be successful in containing an outbreak. Just a sufficiently large enough part including your most vulnerable and most at risk population. Excluding the Hyper-V hosts from mandatory anti virus fits this bill. Will you have 100% success, always? Forget it. There is no such thing.

Benign GUI Cosmetic Bug in Failover Cluster Manager (UseMnemonic Property)


Here’s a little issue I‘ve run into with using an ampersand (&) in the naming of the networks in the Failover Cluster Manager.

As you can see the name “Heart Beat & CSV” shows up correctly in the left side navigation pane. In the management pane is show up as “Heart Beat _CSV”.

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So me being a bit an old scripter / VBA / VB developer I have seen this before and I try what I know to do from that far away, long ago and dusky part of my IT history: type in double ampersands (&&). The good old UseMnemonic Property for you in the know Winking smile VB & VBA devies wanting to display an & on a button, label etc. will know this trick of using && to really display a & as a single & indicates an action. But I digress.

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So as you can see it’s fixed in the management pane but now you end up with double ampersands in the left navigation pane.

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And then it also shows up with double ampersands in PowerShell

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This is one for the GUI team to fix I guess. Perhaps the UseMnemonic Property is set to false in the navigation pane label and to true in the management pane label. So far my frivolous reporting on benign GUI cosmetics bugs in Windows 2008 R2 SP1 Open-mouthed smile We’ll be resuming our more serious blog posts in the very near future.

Download The Next Wave Of System Center Suite Products Release Candidates


As you all probably know by now in 2012 there will be a lot of new tools available for us IT Pros. Windows 8 Server alone holds so many new features and added value that it alone will keep us busy for many years to come. On top of that, the 2012 version of the System Center Suite is being released. I hope most of you have started looking at the betas and the release candidates. If not I encourage you to do so. There are a lot of great improvements that will help us enhance our current setups and operations, not to mention enable us to build a private cloud. For some musings on why you might want to do that, even if you have no public cloud plans yet, I refer you to my blog post The Private Cloud A Profitable Future Proofing Tactic?

To help you get started with testing I include some links to some of the most interesting products.

If you select the “Download All Available System Center 2012 Products” option you’ll get all most current versions of the pre release. To fully test the System Center 2012 Suite products you’ll need Windows Server/Hyper-V but also the current line of System Center Suite (upgrade testing).

The full Windows 2008 R2 SP1 OS is available here http://technet.microsoft.com/evalcenter/dd459137.aspx  and you can find the free Hyper-V Server here http://technet.microsoft.com/evalcenter/dd776191.aspx 

The most relevant current System Center Suite products are available via these links:

To top it all of and get acquainted with “The Cloud” grab the “Deploying and Managing Windows Azure Applications” here http://technet.microsoft.com/evalcenter/hh282846.aspx

There you go. All this should keep you usefully occupied and out of trouble during the end of year holidays and make you an knowledgeable and capable IT Pro, ready for the year to come.

TechDays 2012 Belgium – Register Now


TechDays 2012 in Belgium will be here sooner that you think right now. So start planning for it. Set aside the time and get your attendance approved by your management. If you need some help with the latter take a look here for some help with a pre edited e-mail message for IT Pro and for Developers.

Most of you will already know why you would attend these 3 full days of technical sessions for developers and IT-professionals but if you don’t, go take a look at the TechDays 2012 web site for more information.

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TechDays in Belgium has been around for a while and it’s celebrating it’s 10th year of existing. And with good reason. I’ve seen this event grow bigger and especially better over the years. If you work in the IT sector and your involved with Microsoft products this is one of the premier events to attend in Belgium. You won’t be disappointed!

Video Interview on CSV & Storage Design by Carsten Rachfahl


I already mentioned that during the Experts2Experts Virtualization Conference I met a lot of great people and I presented on High Performance & High Availability networking for Hyper-V clusters (10Gbps goodness). Some of the people I met I already knew from the on line community and others were unknown to me until that event. Among the attendees we found some of the usual virtualization suspects in our community like Aidan Finn, Jeff Wouters, Carsten Rachfahl, Ronnie Isherwood.

Now Carsten Rachfahl is a MVP in Virtual Machine expertise but he’s also a dynamic entrepreneur who shows a lot of initiative. Using social media he is really making in effort to get people & customers to notice important snippets of information by providing easy and fast access to them. He’s very active as a speaker, on Twitter and on his blogs. On top of that he does podcasts and video interviews. For Hyper-V information go to http://www.hyper-v-server.de/  which you can also use  as an entry point for his other sites focusing on several aspects of IT in the Microsoft sphere in Germany. Like cloud computing & Licensing. There you’ll also find the videos of interviews on these subjects. It’s quite an impressive endeavor.

Carsten took the opportunity to make some videos with all the above suspects on various subject and he recently released our interview. 2011-12-01-didier-interview

In this video we continued the discussion that Aidan started on CSV and we briefly touched on a subject you could make hour long documentaries about: storage options in Windows Hyper-V now and in the years to come. Enjoy!