DELL Has Great Windows Server 2012 R2 Feature Support – Consistent Device Naming–Which They Help Develop


The issue

Plug ‘n Play enumeration of devices has been very useful for loading device drivers automatically but isn’t deterministic. As devices are enumerated in the order they are received it will be different from server to server but also within the system. Meaning that enumeration and order of the NIC ports in the operating system may vary and “Local Area Connection 2” doesn’t always map to port 2 on the  on board NIC. It’s random. This means that scripting is “rather hard” and even finding out what NIC matches what port is a game of unplugging cables.

Consistent Device Naming is the solution

A mechanism that has to be supported by the BIOS was devised to deal with this and enable consistent naming of the NIC port numbering on the chassis and in the operating system.

But it’s even better. This doesn’t just work with on board NICs. It also works with add on cards as you can see. In the name column it identifies the slot in which the card sits and numbers the ports consistently.

In the DELL 12th Generation PowerEdge Servers this feature is enabled by default. It is not in HP servers for some reason, you need to turn in it on manually.

I first heard about this feature even before Windows Server 2012 Beta was released but as it turns out Dell has been involved with the development of this feature. It was Dell BIOS team members that developed the solution to consistently name network ports and had it standardized via PCI SIG.  They also collaborated with Microsoft to ensure that Windows Server 2012 would support all this.

Here’s a screen shot of a DELL R720 (12th Generation PowerEdge Server) of ours. As you can see the Consistent Device Naming doesn’t only work for the on broad NIC card. It also does a fine job with add on cards of which we have quite a few in this server.image

It clearly shows the support for Consistent Device Naming for the add on cards present in this server. This is a test server of ours (until we have to take it into production) and it has a quad 1Gbps Intel card, a dual Intel X520 DA card and a dual port Mellanox 10Gbps RoCE card. We use it to test out our assumptions & ideas. We still need a Chelsio iWarp card for more testing mind you Winking smile

A closer look

This solution is illustrated the in the “Device Name column” in the screen shot below. It’s clear that the PnP enumerated name (the friendly name via the driver INF file) and the enumerated number value are very different from the number in Name column ( NIC1, NIC2, NIC2, NIC4) even if in this case where by change the order is correct. If the operating system is reinstalled, or drivers changed and the devices re-enumerated, these numbers may change as they did with previous operating systems.

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The “Name” column is where the Consistent Device Naming magic comes to live. As you can see you are able to easily identify port names as they are numbered consistently, regardless of the “Device Name” column numbering and in accordance with the numbering on the chassis or add on card. This column name will NEVER differ between identical servers of after reinstalling a server because it is not dependent on PnP. Pretty cool isn’t it! Also note that we can rename the Name column and if we choose we can keep the original name in that one to preserve the mapping to the physical hardware location.

In the example below thing map perfectly between the Name column and the Device Name column but that’s pure luck.image

On of the other add on cards demonstrates this perfectly.image

TechEd North America 2014 Session


There is something extremely rewarding about seeing your name on the intro slide of a TechEd USA presentation. I helped deliver What’s New in Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V together with Ben Armstrong yesterday and it was quite the experience.

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A big thank you to Ben and Microsoft for the confidence they have shown in me and the opportunity to do this. A mention to our CEO who has the ability to look beyond the daily needs and facilitates his and encourages his employees to get out of the village to learn, grow and prosper. This is the principle one of my high school teachers lived and worked by, help people be all they can be.

The IT community around the Microsoft ecosystem is both a local and a global one. In this day and age knowledge gets shared and flows freely. People work with people and with organizations. No one gets anywhere in isolation.I’m happy to see so may of my buddies do so well. It’s great to see people succeed, grow, enjoy their work and reap the fruits of their efforts. Look at Benedict Berger who was presenting in the room next to ours or Aidan Finn, a long time community member and experienced speaker who won speaker idol and by doing so secured a speaker slot for next year. This has many reasons and one of them is people believing in you and giving you the chance to grab opportunities. To those I say, thank you very much!

Attending And Presenting at TechEd North America 2014


As you might well know I’m attending TechEd North America right now. I blogged about that. But I have to correct this a bit. Today I will also be presenting together with Ben Armstrong and help him deliver session DCIM-B380 What’s New in Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V.

Ben Armstrong, Principal Program Manager on the Hyper-V team, will be showing you the wealth of features that provide capability, scalability, performance, availability and reliability in Windows 2012 R2 Hyper-V that make it THE capable and scalable cloud OS.

I’m honored to be able to show case a few of the technologies in Windows 2012 R2 we are leveraging in production today. So can you, really!

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Heading To TechEd North America 2014


Good times ahead as today I’m making my way over to the USA (Houston Texas) or TechEd 2014 North America. I’m in good company of a few of my colleagues and I have a great number of my buddies & industry relations inbound as well.

Time for some serious education, networking & passionate discussions on the state of the industry with people form all over the globe.  I’ll also make good use of my time over there to meet up with the people in my network that are US based.

I’ll be spending time in cloud/hybrid/virtualization tracks and focus on networking and identity. That’s starts off very well with a pre conference track hybrid identity on Sunday by john Craddock, a true scholar!

Network!

No need to bring SFP+ or RJ45, don’t worry. Next to sessions & labs don’t forget to connect with others. The ability to network with peers and industry experts is a great benefit of this conference so make the best of it. There are few events with this concentration of expertise & talent, tap into that resource.

To help all you shy people out there Aidan Finn has launched the The TechEd North America 2014 Hyper-V Amigo Selfie Game. You can read all about it over here and if you play, best of luck!

On Route

But first we need to get there. As I learned during visit of the Boeing factory in Seattle “If it’s not Boeing, I ‘m not going” Winking smile. No worries it appears they’re using a 777?

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So I’m getting out of the village, into the world so tunnel visions and blinders can be avoided. See you all there.

Storage Quality of Service (QoS) In Windows Server 2012 R2


In Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V we have the ability to set  quality-of-service (QoS) options for a virtual machine at the virtual disk level. There is no QoS (yet) for shared VHDX, so it’s a per individual VM, per virtual hard disk associated with that virtual machine setting for now.

What can we do?

  • Limit – Maximum IOPS
  • Reserve – Minimum IOPS threshold alerts
  • Measure – New Storage attributes in VM Metrics

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Limit

Storage QoS allows you to specify maximum input/output operations per second (IOPS) value for a virtual hard disk associated with virtual machine. This puts a limit on what a virtual disk can use. This means that one or more VMs cannot steal away all IOPS from the others (perhaps even belonging to separate customers). So this is an automatic hard cap.

Reserve

We can also set a minimum IOPS value. This is often referred to as the reserve. This is not hard minimum. Here’s a worth of warning, unless you hopelessly overprovision your physical storage capabilities (ruling out disk, controller issues, HBA problems & other risks that impact deliverable IOPS) and dedicate it to a single Hyper-V host with a single VM (ruling out the unknown) you cannot ever guarantee IOPS. It’s best effort. It might fail but than events will alert you that things are going south. We will be notified when the IOPS to a specified virtual hard disk is below that reserve you specified?that is needed for its optimal performance.  We’ll talk more about this in another blog post.

Measure

The virtual machine metrics infrastructure have been extended with storage related attributes so we can monitor the performance (and so charge or show back).  To do this they use what they call “normalized IOPS” where every 8 K of data is counted as one I/O. This is how the values are measured and set. So it’s just for that purpose alone.

  • One 4K I/O = 1 Normalized I/O
  • One 8K I/O = 1 Normalized I/O
  • One 10K I/O = 2 Normalized I/Os
  • One 16K I/O = 2 Normalized I/Os
  • One 20K I/O = 3 Normalized I/Os

A Little Scenario

We take IO Meter and we put it inside 2 virtual machines. These virtual machine reside on a Hyper-V Cluster that is leveraging shared storage on a SAN. Let’s say you have a VM that requires 45000 IOPS at times and as long as it can get that when needed all is well.

All is well until one day a project that goes into production has not been designed/written with storage IOPS (real needs & effects) in mind. So while they have no issue the application behaves as a scrounging hog eating a humongous size of the IOPS the storage can deliver.

Now, you do some investigation (pays to be buddies with a good developer and own the entire infrastructure stack) and notice that they don’t need those IOPS as they:

  1. Can do more intelligent data retrieval slashing IOPS in half.
  2. They waste 75% of the time in several suboptimal algorithms for sorting & parsing data anyway.
  3. The number of users isn’t that high and the impact of reducing storage IOPS is non existent due to (2).

All valid excuses to take the IOPS away …You think let’s ask the PM to deal with this. They might, they might not, and if they do it might take time. But while that remains to be seen, you have a critical solution that serves many customers who’re losing real money because of that drop in IOPS has become an issue with the application. So what’s the easiest thing to do? Cap that IOPS hog! Here the video on how you deal with this on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/82728497

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Now let’s enable QoS as in the screenshot below. We give it a best effort 2000 IOPS minimum and a hard maximum of 3000 IOPS.

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The moment you click “Apply” it kicks in! You can do this live, not service interruption/ system downtime is needed.

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I actually have a hard cap of 50000 on the business critical app as well just to make sure the other VMs don’t get starved. Remember that minimum is a soft reserve. You get warned but it can’t give what potentially isn’t available. After all, as always, it’s technology, not magic.

In a next blog we’ll discuss QoS a bit more and what’s in play with storage IO management in Hyper-V, what the limitations are and as such we get an idea what Microsoft should pay attention to vNext.

Remarks

Well doing this for a 24 node Hyper-V cluster with 500 VMs could be a bit of challenge.

2014 Kicks Offs With A Microsoft MVP Award Renewal!


I can start of the new year at the office tomorrow by whishing everyone a great 2014 and talking to the CEO about making sure we schedule/budget for the MVP Summit in 2014 as I just got this e-mail in:

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This is great news. Somewhere this month, a box will arrive at my house with a new ring for the award trophy and a new MVP Certificate. The trophy itself stands proudly on a cupboard in my parents living room. I might have earned the award, but they made sure I was given the little backpack with the values & the education to make that possible. And while they don’t really understand the technicalities of what I do, they think the world of it when I fly of to the USA because Microsoft likes to talk to me Smile.

While you get the MVP award for contributions over the past year to the community you must realize that being active in the community is a very rewarding endeavor in itself. No, it’s not like you can put a hard dollar amount on it, nor want to. The value is that you help out a lot of people and in return effectively crowd source your IT issues to a global community. It help other and yourself learn and grow. We constantly need to figure out a lot of things in our line of business. Studying, thinking, analyzing, designing, implementing & supporting a wide ever changing IT stack is not a one person or one team job. Sharing insights & experiences (both good and bad) with your peers helps a lot. You grow a global network of highly motivated, experienced & skilled people. A network you can leverage & consult when you need it. A network that you contribute to when you can, where you can. That’s what it’s about. The cost of participating is dwarfed by the return as many hand help make hard work easier. Good bosses & smart organizations have figured this out. During a panel discussion at Dell World Jonathan Copeland used the metaphor that it take a village to raise a kid. I added to it that one day that kid needs to leave the village and go out into the world. Being active in communities helps with both. I’ve also talked about this here.

I’m very happy with my 2014 MVP Award. I cherish the interaction with my fellow MVPs and Microsoft. The 2014 MVP Global Summit is already on my agenda. I’m grateful for the opportunities it brings and the continuous privilege of learning & sharing. See you all on line, at conferences, think tanks & community events & in Bellevue/Redmond.

DELL World 2013 – Tour Of the Acoustic & Storage Testing Labs & Presenting at the Dell TechCenter User Group


While at Dell World 2013, a group of us had the opportunity to visit the Dell offices as part of the Trends in Data Center Technology Think Tank. We saw advancements in fresh air cooling, a hot house,

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the storage lab and, new to me, the acoustic labs. Below is a picture of Chris Peterson, the acoustic Architect (he was involved in the design of the DELL VRTX, which is a unique solution and achievement in the industry). Like wise the also have thermal engineers and both of these expertises are closely related.

I will never look at acoustic / thermal engineering for servers & storage in the same way I used to and I have way more respect for the effort and a better understanding of what efforts go in to this research and why.

For some more information on the acoustic lab read this white paper Dell Enterprise Acoustics and watch these videos:

Dell thermal & acoustic engineers discussing the VRTX
Chris Peterson on Dell PowerEdge Generation 12 Server acoustics

Next to all that I attended briefings, had one to one conversations with network, storage & server managers & engineers. I had a lot of information, questions & request to share from our Microsoft MVP Community in regards to our needs & wishes for the best possible support for Windows Server 2012 R2, Hyper-V, ODX, UNMAP, SMB Direct, SOFS, Management & cloud. I even jumped into an open source breakfast discussion on * cloud computing. Last but not least we joined fellow Rock Stars Jonathan Copeland (@VirtSecurity), Rasmus Haslund (@haslund) & Dell Tech Center’s community manager Jeff Sullivan (@JeffSullivan) to discuss what community & social media means to us.

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I also shared our experiences with Windows Server 2012 R2, Hyper-V, DVMQ, vRSS & ODX at the Dell Tech Center User Group during Dell World 2013.

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Want to talk and demo DVMQ & vRSS? Start with the basics: RSS Smile 

To all my community buddies a very festive end of the year and a great 2014! If you want to know even more about how rewarding being part of a community can be, check out this blog Mindset of the community by Marc van Eijk (@_marcvaneijk)

TechNet Top Support Solutions From Microsoft Support Blog


As this year comes to an end I’d like to draw your attention to Microsoft’s new Top Support Solutions blog on TechNet. It was created this as part of their continuous efforts to keep the various  technical communities informed about the most relevant answers to the top questions or issues experienced with their products. They identify these top issues by analyzing the question in their forums and their other support channels.

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So if you need to find answers for your self or your customers go take a look at the "Top Solutions Content" blog. Changes are you’ll find valuable information about the Microsoft top support solutions for several of their popular products in Server and Tools. It might save you and your clients or manager a lot of time, effort and money. It’s also a great resource to make your colleagues, community, user group or clients aware of.

Attending The Global MVP Summit 2013 (November 18-21)


We have Windows 8.1 running on our desktops & laptops and meanwhile Windows Server 2012 R2 is crunching numbers in our (virtualized) data centers. So it’s time to grab one of those magnificent British Airways Boeing 747 aircraft seats once again and make my way to SEATAC. No rest for the wicked. BAS7400066

Yup, but for now I’ve parked myself in LHR whilst waiting for my flight. Soon I’ll be in the air again for the long haul to the USA. I’m off to Washington State, Seattle to be exact, and from there to Bellevue/Redmond. You might have guessed where I am going already, indeed to the Microsoft campus. I’m attending the Global MVP Summit 2013, November Edition. image

Apart from that magnificent educational & networking opportunity I will spend a lot of the “free” time discussing technology, visions & strategies with my peers and Microsoft employees. I’d like to thank the latter for their patience with me when bugging them with questions Smile. To my buddies, acquaintances & connections, I’ll see you soon. We have a lot to learn & discuss. That’s one of the reasons I’m off a bit earlier. It helps with the jet lag but it also gives me time to meet up with friends and acquaintances I’ve made in the Puget Sound area and talk shop. This helps to keep in touch with what’s happening over the world and to understand where their priorities are, what’s keeping them occupied. While I’m a firm believer in remote and teleworking there is value in getting your boots on the ground every now and then. It prevents tunnel vision and helps avoiding  teleology in our views while enhancing early detection of small trend changes to whole sale tectonic shifts. This is not to be confused with thinking you have a crystal ball or anything.

To my readers & community members I’d like to extend the invitation to pass along feedback to Microsoft. They do listen. So leave a comment, send me a mail (contact via Blog) or ping me on Twitter.

In case you don’t know, everything discussed at the MVP Summit is under NDA, even for MVPs of another expertise. So basically bar some tweets to find our where other MVPs I’ll be going dark.

E2EVC Rome 2013–Attending & Speaking


I’m attending and speaking at the E2EVC (Experts2Experts Virtualization Conference) in Rome, November 1-3.

I’ll be doing a talk on networking features in Windows Server 2012 R2 & Hyper-V. The good, the bad & the ugly. And no, no SDN talk. It’s about the other stuff.

“Session Topic: Networking Options For Virtualization in Windows Server 2012 R2
Short description: In Windows 2012 R2 there are many networking options available to optimize for both speed & redundancy. Let’s talk about some of them and see where and when they can help. The biggest problem is thinking you need  all of them or wanting all of them. Others are knowledge& complexity. Join us for a chalk & talk discussing all this. Some fellow MVPs will be there and we all have different experiences in different environments.
Presenter: Didier Van Hoye, Microsoft MVP”

It will be an interactive chalk & talk based on testing & experiences with these features & demos if the internet holds up.

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It’s a suburb non-commercial, virtualization community Event. It brings the best real life  virtualization experts together to exchange knowledge and to establish new connections. Lots of presentations, Master Classes and discussions going on both the attendees, vendors product teams & independent experts.

Now this is a conference where marketing & marchitecture is shot down fast & hard. But always in a friendly way. These people are all working in the sector and they have to keep it real. They have a business & a livelihood that depends on them delivering results, not fairy tales & management pleasing BS. These people tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear.

Look at the turnout for this event, this twitter list reads as the “Who’s Who In Virtualization”: @pcrampton, @joe_elway, @shawnbass, @ThomasMaurer, @Andrea_Mauro, @hansdeleenheer, @drtritsch, @WorkingHardInIT, @HelgeKlein, @JimMoyle, @neilspellings, @andyjmorgan, @KBaggerman, @CarlWebster, @bsonposh, @gilwood_cs, @E2EVC, @KristianNese, @_POPPELGAARD, @barryschiffer, @RemkoWeijnen, @IngmarVerheij, @WilcovanBragt, @david_obrien, @Microspecialist, @virtualfat, @LFoverskov, @virtuEs_IT, @stibakke, @granttiller, @Easi123, @ChrisJMarks, @arbeijer, @znackattack, @ShaunRitchie_UK, @Rob_Aarts, @StefanKoell, @EHouben, @crachfahl, @JeroenTielen, @plompr, @Gkunst, @drmiru, @espenbe, @marcdrinkwater, @DocsMortar, @AlBayliss, @wedelit, @pzykomAtle, @LoDani, @fborozan, @JeffWouters, @mrpickford, @smspasscode, @schose, @rvanderkruk, @TimmBrochhaus, @HansMinnee, @JZanten, @Sargola, @JaspervanWesten, @airdeca_nl, @danielBuonocore, @PeppelT, @TondeVreede, @pcortis, @ConorScolard, @CarstenDreyer, @arnaud_pain, @RoyTextor, @saschazimmer, @abstrask, @loopern, @PulseITch, @joarleithe, clarecoops9, @rfolmer, @wimoortgiesen  …

Here’s the conference agenda: http://www.e2evc.com/home/Agenda.aspx

See you there Smile and I’m looking forward to seeing my community buddies!