The shortage of skilled employees, are we making it worse?


We still have a serious problem in ICT. Even in this second decade of the 21st century. While the entire industry has been buzzing with IT-Business alignment for many, many years now, I often notice that we have not gotten very far. For one the divide between business & IT is an artificial disconnect. This artifact does exist, but we’ve created it, and all we need to do is stop doing that. No one is giving this much attention to the struggling relations of business with the HRM or the finance departments.

In contradiction of what we might expect, while this artifact is detrimental to the success & profitability of IT, it is not taken seriously enough. Sure the business absolutely needs to define what they need. But in an ever more rapidly changing technology world they do not have the knowledge needed to do that. So we need bridge builders, people with the skills to translate technology used in IT into competitive solutions and highly efficient & profitable systems. It takes a special breed & some serious skills to act on opportunities and see them materialize with the help of IT solutions. It also takes a whole lot of common sense. The latter often seems to be lacking. Why does this happen?

This is not just about business and not just about technology. It’s something in between. As a result it’s often seen as not that critical and this leads to staffing these functions with the wrong skillsets. At best they are populated by people who want to get into the IT sector but don’t like technology that much. This is enforced by all those campaigns to make IT more sexy and attractive to the new generations who associate IT with nerds. It’s beyond me why we’d want to attract people who think so superficially but hey, that’s just me. But aren’t we building our own future nightmare this way? At worst it is used to get people in better pay grades. The functions might very well mandate better pay due to its complexity and the required skill set but this only holds true if you get the right people in those functions. Whatever the reason, this is a major pain point. Why?

The neglect of these bridging functions lets people without the necessary skillsets take responsibility for decisions they are incapable of making. Their knowledge of the technical matters is not up to that task and business wise they’re often in the same boat. So now we have a bunch of people who have way too little understanding of what IT and business is and what they themselves should achieve in that bridging role. Oh great, so fundamentally critical decisions are being made by the unqualified. People who lack skills, experience and context will fall back to methodologies & theories. They use them as cook books. Unfortunately reading and using a cookbook doesn’t make any one a chef. And these are the roles where we need chefs’ people. In reality there is a giant gap between reality and all the theories, methodologies & real or perceived knowledge on how IT can be better aligned with the business and be run more successfully and profitably.

I can only conclude that allowing this to happen means that the functions that are supposed to be bridge that cap is not taken seriously enough. For all the lip service to these efforts it cannot be for lack of acknowledgement of the pain points. But the solution often seems more of what doesn’t work, thereby eroding any credibility of the bridging functions. This is costing us dearly and it will only get worse if we don’t stop this madness. There is of cause the fact that projects become more and more expensive with all the * architects, * analysts & * officers. On top of that the complexity keeps rising and we don’t seem to be very good at managing that. Ask any engineer what the worst enemy in any project is and you’ll get uncontrolled and unmanageable complexity as an answer. But even worse, you are faced with the fact that best people in the business, bridge and technical positions eventually leave. Tired & worn out by the environment that doesn’t value them as they don’t understand their true contribution and skill set.

This means that even today IT retreats into its technical areas of expertise and the business doesn’t learn what IT is & can do. If we don’t get better at bridging that gap we are doomed to keep failing at ever higher costs and you’ll lose ever more valuable employees. The only difference will be we’ll have more parties than IT and business to point our fingers at as the ones to blame.

Upgrading Hyper-V Cluster Nodes to Windows Server 2012 (Beta) – Part 1


This is a multipart series based on some lab test & work I did.

  1. Part 1 Upgrading Hyper-V Cluster Nodes to Windows Server 2012 (Beta) – Part 1
  2. Part 2 Upgrading Hyper-V Cluster Nodes to Windows Server 2012 (Beta) – Part 2
  3. Part 3 Upgrading Hyper-V Cluster Nodes to Windows 8 (Beta) – Part 3

After I got back from the MVP Summit 2012 in Bellevue/Redmond I could wait to start playing with a Windows 8 Hyper-V cluster so I decided to upgrade my Windows 2008 R2 cluster nodes to Windows 8. That means evicting them on by one, upgrading them and adding them to a new Windows 8 cluster. As we can build a one node cluster this can be done a node at the time. This isn’t a fail proof definite “How To”, I’m just sharing what I did.

Evicting a node

Before evicting a node make sure all virtual machines are running on the other node(s). As you can see the cluster warrior has 2 nodes, crusader & saracen (I was listening to some Saxon heavy metal at the time I built that lab setup). We evacuated node saracen prior to evicting it.

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Evict the node & confirm when asked.

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When this is done all storage is off line to the node evicted from the cluster. No need to worry about that.

Upgrade that node to Windows 8

To anyone having installed/upgraded to Windows 2008 R2 this should all be a very recognizable experience. Being lazy, I left the iSCSI initiator configuration in there with the Hyper-V & failover cluster roles installed during the upgrade. Now for production environments I like to build my nodes from scratch to have an exactly known, new and clean installation base. But for my test lab at home I wanted to get it done as fast as possible. If only the days had more hours …For extra safety you can pull the plug (or disable the switch ports) on your iSCSI or FC connections and make sure no storage is presented to the node during the upgrade process. Now please do mind is use Intel server grade NIC adaptors for which Windows 8 beta has drivers. Your situation may vary so I can’t guarantee the 7 year old FC HBA in your lab server will just work, OK!?

So run setup.exe from the Windows 8 (Beta) ISO you extracted to a folder on the server or  from the (bootable) USB you created with the downloaded ISO.

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The Windows Setup installer will start.

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Click on “Install now” to proceed and start the setup process.

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Select to “Go online to get the latest updates for Setup (Recommended)”

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So it looks for updates on line.

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It didn’t find any but that’s OK.

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Select the installation you want. I went with for Server with a GUI as I want screen shots. But as I wrote in the blog post Windows 8 Server With GUI, Minimal Server Interface & Server Core Lesson with the Desktop Experience Feature you can turn it into a Server Core Installation and back again now. So no regrets with any choice you make here, which is a nice improvement that can save us a lot of time.

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Accept the EULA

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We opt to upgrade (in production I go for a clean install)

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I get notified that I have to remove PerfectDisk. I had an evaluation copy of Raxco PerfectDisk installed I used to do some testing with redirected CSV traffic and defragmentation (see Some Feedback On How to defrag a Hyper-V R2 Cluster Shared Volume).

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So the upgrade was cancelled.

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I uninstalled PerfectDisk but still it was a no go. I  had to remove all traces of it in the registry & files systems that the uninstall left or the upgrade just wouldn’t start. But after that it worked.

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That means we can kick of the upgrade! It all looks very familiar Smile It takes a couple of reboots and some patience. But all in all it’s a fast process.

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After this step it takes a couple of reboots and some patience. But all in all it’s a fast process. After some reboots and a screen that goes dark in between those …we get our restyled beta fish.

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And voila we’re where we need to be … Smile

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After the upgrade process I ran into one error. The GUI for Failover Clustering would not start. The solution if found for that was simply to remove that role and add it again. That did the trick.

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So this was a description of the first steps to transition a  Windows 2008 R2 SP1 cluster to a  Windows 8 (Beta) Cluster. As seen we evict the nodes one by one to upgrade them or do a clean install. In the latter case you’ll need to do the iSCSI initiator configuration again,  install the Failover Cluster role and in the case of a Hyper-V cluster the Hyper-V role. The nodes can than be added to a new Windows 8 cluster, starting out with a one node cluster. More on that in the second part of this blog post.

Windows 8 Hyper-V Improved Integration Services Setup


In Windows 8 Beta there is a nice and functional improvement in Hyper-V Manager when you want to install or upgrade the Integration Services. It shows you what version (if any) is installed and if an upgrade is needed or not. Until now it just “mentioned” that “a previous” (no version, could be the latest one) were installed and happily let you reinstall them needed or not. Begs the questions how does this all deal with “corrupted” integration services if such a thing exists. I, personally, have never seen it. Uninstall/reinstall I guess when you come across it as I don’t know of a forced/repair install option.

Walkthrough of The Improved Integration Services Setup

In the Virtual Machine console navigate to Action and select “Insert Integration Services Setup Disk”

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In the Virtual Machine console you’ll see that inserting the integration services disk succeeded.

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Like before, if the setup process doesn’t start automatically just navigate to the DVD and kick start it yourself.

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As you can see below it now shows what version (if any) of the integration services is already installed and asks you if you want to update. In the example below you can see it has the Windows 2008 R2 SP1 version of the integration services. This is as expected as this machine (a W2K3R2SP2 guest) was imported from a Hyper-V cluster running that Windows 2008 R2 SP1.

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You click OK and the installation process for the integration services will start.

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When the installation is done you’ll be notified that the virtual machines needs to restart.

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The server will reboot and if you then try to install the integration services again it will notify you that it has already the correct version of the integration tools running.

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Remarks

If you hit an error in the Beta of Windows 8 Hyper-V I advise two things I have experienced myself in the labs.

  1. Make sure you have enough disk space. I had one test server that had only a few MB left on the C partition and that bit me Smile
  2. Make sure you do it after a clean reboot. Just to make sure you have no pending hardware detection/installs lingering around. I experienced this one on a Windows 2003 R2 SP2 guest. Error code 1618, yup that means Another installation is already in progress.

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Our Visit To The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


I have had the distinct pleasure of visiting the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle during my stay in Bellevue for the MVP Summit. Some of my colleagues and I were invited to tour the data center & discuss some of the challenges they have to deal with and the solutions they’ve found for those.

I cannot go into any details about our visit but I can convey that the technology needs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are being met by a professional crew at all levels of the IT infrastructure stack. On top of that they have invested in a state of the art data center that is purpose build and that really shows in the quality & details. It was also interesting to meet some of our American counter parts. We’ve learned that some of our challenges are the same and that some are very different. For one they have to deal with making their infrastructure earthquake proof and I saw some nifty technology to protect SAN storage racks against such an event. This is something we never have to deal with in our neck of the woods.

In correspondence with their mission to create a better world for all people in order to live better lives they have created a very pleasant work environment that takes care of both the needs of the foundation and its employees. The campus is modern, built to last and designed to minimize it’s environmental impact. It lies in the shadow of the Space Needle and it is brand new (2011).

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A view of the campus.

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It lies in the shadow of the Space Needle in Seattle.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the IT team of the foundation for the invitation and the opportunity to visit. It was an experience to remember and we’ve left with a better understanding of their IT needs in regard to supporting the foundation’s mission.

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MVPs Kerstin Rachfahl, Aidan Finn, Didier Van Hoye, Hans Vredevoort & Carsten Rachfahl during their visit.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the mission of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation I suggest you visit their website. You can also find an animated video showing the new campus & more information here and this link takes you to a pdf brochure about the campus.

I’m very happy to see that the Gates family has invested so much of their wealth in helping to improve lives all over the planet and can only suggest we all do our part, where we can and when we can.

TechEd Europe 2012 (Amsterdam, 25-29 June 2012)


After a sad year of no TechEd Europe in 2011, one of our favorite tech conferences for Microsoft technologies is back in full force. Ladies & Gentlemen, TechEd Europe 2012 will be here sooner than you think.

It’s more than just technical training, it is networking, white board sessions and passionate discussion amongst peers, experts & Microsoft employees who built the products. If you still need more technical content than that take a look at the pre-conference agenda for a full day of expertly delivered education.

No this is not just a commercial, I haven’t missed a TechEd Europe yet this century and for good reasons. If you’d like to read why take a look at this blog post Why I Find Value In A Conference

There will be loads of sessions on all products in the System Center 2012 and Windows 8. In the developer sphere there’s the .NET Framework 4.5 & Visual Studio 2012 to look forward to. Combine this with a lot of experience based guidance on current technologies and you can’t afford to miss out. To avoid disappointment register as soon as possible to join your fellow IT Pros & Developers.

Hope to see you there!

Windows 8 Server With GUI, Minimal Server Interface & Server Core Lesson with the Desktop Experience Feature


I’m one of those people that run Windows Server on their desktop workhorse. The reason for this is that this gives me the server features for rapid testing, scripting and taking screenshots for documentation. When you tweak it right you have a very nice desktop that doesn’t lack anything in functionality compared to a desktop but you do get the extras I just mentioned. An alternative is to run a Virtual Machine locally. The latter has become a lot easier & better now we have Hyper-V in the client Open-mouthed smile.

This subject leads to another interesting capability of Windows 8. You can install Windows 8 as Server Core or Server with GUI, which is the full GUI option. But there is a world between those. This is the Minimal Server Interface option. How do these differ? Well actually “only” by the features that are enabled.

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The feature Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure is the set of features that makes up the difference between a Server Core installation and the Minimal Server Interface option of a Full server installation. This means that uninstalling this feature will convert a Full server to a Server Core installation. Server Graphical Shell cannot live without the Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure as both are needed to get the full GUI server.

Server Graphical Shell is the same user interface that is installed by default when you choose the Server with GUI installation option during Setup. This always installs “Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure” as a prerequisite. To decrease the servicing requirements of your server while still being able to use Microsoft Management Console (MMC) locally, you can uninstall the Server Graphical Shell using Server Manager, leaving you with the Minimal Server Interface. As stated above the Minimal Server Interface requires the “Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure” feature to be installed.

The real good news is that you can switch between these server options with reinstalling. You can switch from Full Server with all whistles & bells to Server Core by enabling or disabling features. This an very nice improvement compared to Windows 2008 (R2) as with those versions you’re stuck with your choice and only a reinstall is the way to change this. Not only that but I can help out when you need the GUI for some reason temporarily.

A Walk Through of Installing The Desktop Experience

Even for lab environments it also can be handy to have some tools available. On my Windows Server 8 Beta Machine I needed the Snipping Tool for example. So I had to install the Desktop Experience feature.

Using the GUI

In Windows Server 8 you’ll find that under Server Manager, Manage “Add Roles and Features”.

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The “Add Roles and Features Wizard “ pops up at the default start screen which you can elect to skip for future use.

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Select the Installation Type.

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Select the server on which you want to work.

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The Desktop Experience is a feature so go straight to “Features”. Scroll down until you see User Interfaces & Infrastructure (Installed), open the tree and you’ll see that you can select Desktop Experience.

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As you can see The Desktop Experience feature requires that you also install the Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure and Server Graphical Shell features, meaning it will only run of the Full Server GUI option.

Once you select that a message will pop up telling you that the Ink Support feature under Ink and Handwriting services and the Media Foundation Feature are required for the Desktop Experience feature. Accept the defaults and click Add Features.

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You can scroll along the GUI to check these features have indeed been selected.

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Click next and you’ll be asked to confirm the installation of the features. You can opt to restart automatically when needed.

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The Add Roles and Features Wizard starts the installation/ Please note that you can close the wizard and get o with something else. You don’t have to baby sit the GUI.

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When finished the shows you need a restart.

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If you closed the wizard and came back to server manager late it will warn you about the fact something is pending with the yellow exclamation mark.

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Using PowerShell

To install Desktop Experience with Windows PowerShell, use the following commands:

Import-Module ServerManager

Install-WindowsFeature Desktop-Experience

You’ll find that this also installs the “Ink Support” under “Ink and Handwriting Services” automatically for you. Note below than wen using DISM you’ have to manage all that yourself.

To install Media Foundation with Windows PowerShell, use the following commands:

Import-Module ServerManager

Install-WindowsFeature Server-Media-Foundation

Using DISM

This works but you need to do some more work. Each and every single feature part needs to be installed separately. You need Server Media Foundation, Desktop Experience, but here you’ll need to add Ink Support AND the yourself or you may run in to issues. In the Example below we left out ink support.

dism /online /enable-feature /all /featurename:ServerMediaFoundation

dism /online /enable-feature /all /featurename:DesktopExperience

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That means It looks like you have no Desktop Experience installed in the GUI while the extra tools do appear on your desktop.

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So to fix this we need to add Ink Support but also Ink And Handwriting Services as top level feature. If you don’t it wont be “grayed in” to indicate sub features have been selected (in our case the Ink Support).

dism /online /enable-feature /all /featurename:InkAndHandwritingServices

dism /online /enable-feature /all /featurename:InkSupport

You might have noted that DISM is a bit more hands on than PowerShell. PowerShell is perhaps the best automation tool to use but don’t forget that DISM has off line editing capabilities that can come in handy for all kinds of stuff from injecting drivers to fine tuning your deploy image. Powerful stuff!

Windows 8 Hyper-V Cluster Beta Teaser


What does an MVP do after a day of traveling back home from the MVP Summit 2012 in Redmond? He goes to bed and gets up early next morning to upgrade his Windows 2008 R2 SP1 Hyper-V Cluster to Windows 8. That means when I boot the lab nodes these days I get greeted by the “beta fish” we knew from Windows 2008 R /Windows 7 but it’s “metro-ized”

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Here is a teaser screenshot from concurrent Live Migrations in action on a new Windows Server 8 Beta Hyper-V cluster in the lab. As you can see this 2 node cluster is handling 2 concurrent Live Migrations at the time. The other guests are queued. The number of Live Migrations you can do concurrently is dictated by how much bandwidth you want to pay for. In the lab that isn’t very much as you can see Winking smile.

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In Hyper-V 3.0 you can choose the networks to use for Live Migrations with a preference order. Just like it was in W2K8R2. So if you want more bandwidth you’ll have to team some NIC ports together or put more NICs in and you should be fine. It does not use multichannel. You have to keep in mind that each live migration only utilizes a single network connection, even if multiple interfaces are provided or network teaming is enabled.  If there are multiple simultaneous live migrations, different migrations will be put on different network connections.

If the Live Migration network should become unavailable the CSV network in this example will take over. The CSV & the Live Migration network serve as each others redundant backup network.

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There is more to come but I have only 24 hours in a day and they are packed. Catch you later!