Best of MMS 2013 – SCUG Belgium


Earlier this month I attended MMS2013 in Las Vegas. Today the Belgian System Center Community let’s us know about a live event “Best of MMS” they organize in order to share in-depth System center knowledge/presentations along with their impressions.

No one les than Wally Mead, the Senior Program Manager for System Center Configuration Manager who’s perhaps better know as The Godfather of Configuration Manger, will be joining the event. Wally is presenting twice along side the Belgian SCUG members, many of which belong to Microsoft Extended Experts Team (MEET) and/or are MVPs in Enterprise Client Management, Cloud & Datacenter & Virtual machine.

Grab a seat for "Best of MMS 2013” right here on Eventbrite

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You can find the (non final) agenda on the SCUGBE web site http://scug.be/events/2013/04/27/best-of-mms-19062013/. As you can see I have an early morning session at 09.15  – 10.15 on “Availability Strategies for a Resilient Private Cloud”. This provides the foundation for a high to continuous available private cloud my fellow speakers will be presenting on.

There will be opportunities to network, talk shop, learn and last but not least to win a TechEd Europe 2013 ticket in a lottery!

MMS2013: SD-B303 How to Build Your Strategy For a Private Cloud


Eduardo Kassner delivered a great session. You can look at it here when it becomes available. Give it 24 hours after real time delivery.

What’s more, he was deadly honest about the realities in the field. Only 2% of customers are effectively using a private cloud … He also offered some very simple tool for getting started with projects to get things done and deliver results. All you need is a Hotmail account and an internet connection to use the tool. It produces reports and MS Project files for the needed projects, Visio diagrams etc. The Optimization Assessment Tool generates reports that can serve as the baseline for planning an effective roadmap and as an incentive for optimizing your IT infrastructure. The detailed Roadmap plan will be generated as part of the Discovery tools.

Now we can be skeptical and realistic that this tool is not perfect. But that same reality is that I have seen a lot less results from expensive consulting and “non committed” attempts at doing something with cloud. The two Dilbert cartoons below demonstrate this very adequately while at times being a bit to close to reality for comfort.

January 07, 2011

November 18, 2009

The Microsoft Management Summit 2013


MMS 2013 is in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Time flies fast and it’s time to look ahead to 2013. My continuing investment in myself is part of that.  Despite a lot of rumors about big changes to MMS (its future, location, timing etc.) things will go forward as they’ve been in the past years. That includes the location. As you probably already heard it’s back in Las Vegas, state of Nevada, USA. So after the, for many people, somewhat disconcerting announcement at MMS 2012 indicating the above mentioned changes, MMS 2013 will once again be held in Las Vegas again. As before it will be focused on the entire System Center Suite. That was confirmed by a mail form the MSS conference team recently and a TechNet blog post

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Recently is was announced that the MMS 2013 content survey is now open. So they’re planning for the Microsoft Management Summit 2013 content and they’d like to hear from us. Why? Well, the better they align the content of the conference to our needs, the better it will be as an experience. This means our return on investment will be bigger which is always a good thing. So if you’re going or thinking of going this is the place, MMS 2013 Content Survey, to voice your opinions on what it should look like content wise. You have two more weeks to fill it out and than it’s scheduled to close down.

Why Attend?

It’s great to have an event focused on managing, deploying and protecting the infrastructure we’ve spent so much time, effort and money building. This conference is dedicated to exactly that. Smaller in scale but very focused. All together in the same hotel/conference center for 5 long days living in System Center and nothing else. As the world’s top operators in this space are there, the networking opportunities are also excellent. I can still remember the amount of talking and discussing I did with my colleagues in 2012, that was stimulating.

It’s also the place to provide feedback to Microsoft about System Center. Things you like, don’t like, things that are missing etc. I most certainly have some feedback for them.

Will I attend?

I’ll most certainly try to attend, that’s for sure. So it’s time to fill out the request form and start cutting through the red tape. Let’s hope the economy doesn’t tank completely and that we can go. The chips might be down right now but let’s not cost cut ourselves out of skills, education, opportunities and a future. Remember, keep moving forward and don’t quit yet, you can always give up later Winking smile.

Attending the Dell Tech Summit EMEA


As you read this I’m preparing to get on my way to the DELL Tech Summit in Lisbon, Portugal for a few days. I’ll be discussing the needs we have from them as customers (and their competition actually for that matter) when it comes to hardware in the Microsoft landscape in the era of Windows Server 2012.

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I’m very happy and eager to tell them what, in my humble opinion, they are doing wrong and what they are doing right and even what they are not doing at all Smile  I believe in giving feedback and interaction with vendors. Not that I have any illusion of self importance as to the impact of my voice on the grand scheme of things but if I don’t speak up nothing changes either. As Intel and Microsoft are there as well,  this makes for a good selection of the partners involved. So here I go:

  1. More information on storage features, specifications and roadmaps
  2. Faster information on storage features, specifications and roadmaps
    • Some of these are in regards to Windows Server 2012 & System Center 2012 (Storage Pools & Spaces, SMI-S, ODX, UNMAP, RDMA/SMB3.0 …) and some are more generic like easier & better SAN/Cluster failovers capabilities, ease of use, number of SCSI 3 persistent reservations, etc.
  3. How to address the IOPS lag in the technology evolution. Their views versus my ideas on how to tackle them until we get better solutions.
  4. Plans, if any, for Cluster In a Box (CiB) building blocks for Windows Server 2012 Private Cloud solutions.
  5. When does convergence make sense and when not cost/benefit wise (and at what level). I’d like a bit more insight into what DELLs vision is and how they’ll execute that. What will new storage options mean to that converged network, i.e. SMB 3.0, Multichannel & RDMA capable NICs. Now convergence always seems tied to one tech/protocol (VOIP in the past, FCoE at the moment) and it shouldn’t, plenty of other needs for loads of bandwidth (Live migration, Storage Live Migration, Shared Nothing Live Migration, CSV redirected mode, …).

Now while it’s important to listen to you customers, this is not easy if you want to do it right, far from it. For one we’re all over the place as a group. This is always the case unless you cater to a specialized niche market. But DELL serves both consumers and enterprises form 1 person shops to fortune 500 companies in all fields of human endeavor. That makes for nice cocktail of views and opinions I suspect.

Even more importantly than listening is processing what you hear from your customers. Do you ignore, react, or take it away as more or less valuable information. Information on which to act or not, to use in decision making, and perhaps even in executing those decisions. And let’s face it without execution decisions are pretty academic exercises. In the end management is in control and for all the feedback, advise, research that gathered and done, they are at the steering wheel and they are responsible for the results.

One thing that I do know from my fellow MVPs and the community is that for the past 12 months any vendor who would address those questions with a good plan and communications would be a top favorite while selecting hardware at many customers for a lot of projects.

Windows Server 2012 Cluster in a Box as a New Form Factor?


Let’s look at “Cluster in a Box” (CiB)as a building block or a form factor. Let’s say you’ve committed to building a private/hybrid cloud for your organizations but you’re at the end of your hardware life cycle or you just don’t have the capacity right now to build it. What options do you have. Do you want to acquire storage, data connectivity network gear, servers, NICs with etc. or will you just buy CiB blocks to scale out as you go? Perhaps you’ll buy a Hyper-V fast track solution or if you’re really big a one or multiple containers.

I do think that the modular principle throughout the data center is pretty cool. The industry has done a great job at this with servers and smaller components as well as with the modular containers by SUN, HP, DELL.

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While I do like and admire the concept of the “shipping container form factor” I do find it a couple of sizes too large to be practical for most of us. After all, let’s face it, we’re not all building public cloud service data centers. This means that between what we have seen today with server & storage modularity and the container form factor we’ve got a void. While some of these voids have been filled for specific applications like Exchange 2010 through custom build solutions by some vendors you cannot call this modular. Is a very application specific solution. The other, more generic, solution that has existed for a while now is the hardware that vendors deliver with the Hyper-V fast track we’ve mentioned already. Whiles these are nice, pre-configured solutions these are, again, not very modular. It’s not a complete unit that just needs to be hooked the network and provisioned with power. The time is ripe with the current state of Microsoft Windows Server 2012 to fill that void using the “Cluster in a Box” form factor. That would mean that in the future we could of the same benefits as the big players but at a size that’s fit for our purposes in the smaller data centers. This opens up a lot of scenarios for better efficiency.

What if the entire unit shipped to a customer contains everything packed away internally. That is servers, networking and storage. You just have to mount it in a rack, connect it to redundant power outlets and to redundant network paths. That’s it. Just power it up, fill out the wizard and be done with it. That’s all it takes to have a functional Hyper-V, Scale Out File System, SQL Server cluster etc. With the capabilities delivered by Windows Server 2012 this could very well be a scenario that might evolve. It’s more than just a business in or a branch office in a box. I can also be more that the Scale Out File Server unit for a private cloud solution. It just might be the first step of a new form factor building block for medium to even some large enterprises. If the economies are too good to be ignored I think this might happen.

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The reason I think that this concept will work is that we have virtual machine mobility now so we no longer need to fear the isolation that silos might create. As a matter of fact this is a key element that might drive this. For the applications that are less suited for virtualization today we see two solutions. One is in the scalability of the Hyper-V platform with Windows Server 2012 and the other is the fact that the shared nothing approach is gaining popularity. It started with Exchange 2010 but is no also available with SQL Server 2012.

These clusters in a box can be made with existing servers (blades or not), storage and switches but I think there will be also new designs that are purpose build and not just existing hardware in a “rackable” box as in my drawings below Smile. Those boxes might have some scale up capability or come in different sizes

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But scale out is the way that would make this work in the bigger environments, whatever the size of the Cluster in a Box.

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Answer to Brad at TechEd Europe 2012 Keynote: Pessimists & Tad Don’t like Windows Server 2012


Brad is on stage for the opening keynote asking if the glass is half full or half empty. Well it depends on where you are in the ecosystem. For us the glass is half full and filling up fast.

Some people nag me about the fact that Windows Server 2012 is so different and that it’s wrong to turn the world upside down. Yes, it is different and new in many ways.  There are also many improvements to features that already exist. There is a lot to learn and understand. Why are some people so pessimistic?

Ever since I got my hands on the BUILD Developer Preview bits I have personally invested a lot of my time in Windows Server 2012. With the beta that only increased. Why? Well, that’s the way forward, because that’s where the improvements are. We can’t do tomorrows jobs and meet tomorrows demands with yesterdays technology.

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The picture above is basically the pessimists view of the world. Enjoy your cupper but I’m not joining you. Windows Server 2012 rocks and it’s going to do a whole lot for our industry and businesses. But wait a minute, I do understand why Tad is so pessimistic. But that’s about the future of vLimited and being stuck in the past. Listen Tad, you’d better empty that cup because this is where vLimited becomes history rather than write it.

Does that mean I’ll be throwing away Windows 2008 R2? Nope. I expect to deal a lot with it in the next few years but I’m not going to build future infrastructure on the previous version. I will introduce Windows Server 2012 where and when we benefit from it. For me that is from day one the bits RTM. The benefits are so overwhelming we’d hurt ourselves by not doing it. Your mileage may vary. But don’t get stuck in the past  Here’s a link to your escape pod: Microsoft Virtual Machine Converter Solution Accelerator I’m happy it’s here. That’s what people are asking me more and more about, how to move to Hyper-V.

But what’s with the negativism of some? Sure people are still running Windows Server 2000/2003. Sometimes for good reasons, often for (very) bad ones. Are some going to go through all this again with people clinging to Windows2008 R2? No doubt. Been there, seen it. Very predictable. Is Windows Server 2012 going to fail?  No way.  And what I’m seeing in Windows Server 2012 is great technology. Will it be perfect? No. I already have feature requests for vNext Smile. But this is pushing the ball forward, this is ambitious in the best sense of that word.  There will be bugs, there will be challenges and hiccups. That’s part of the business and the realities of life.  But look at all what’s available in there. Don’t just read some industry press articles. Did you test it your self already? Did you do any clustering? Tested all the new functionality in Hyper-V? The innovations in Live Migration options and networking? Looked at the amount of PowerShell support in there? Notice the improvements in Active Directory, DHCP and other core infrastructure services? Have you used Windows Server 2012 at all yet? You didn’t look at SMB 3.0 and all the storage improvements in there did you? Go talk to Jeff Woolsey, he’s passionate about it and for good reasons. Put in some effort, live a little, get out of your comfort zone and you’ll be going places. Don’t be a pessimist. Think positive or you’ll end up like Tad who was the joke of the party at MMS2012

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Microsoft Private Cloud Computing–The Book


I’d like to mention the launch today of a new book Microsoft Private Cloud Computing written by a group of experts in this subject.

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Take a look at the authors below. You probably know them from the community efforts they put in and might have read previous materials from them or heard them present.They bring a varied background and a mix of experiences and knowledge to the table needed to tackle any aspect of the private cloud and to a write complete book on the subject: hardware (servers, networking, storage), operating systems, hypervisors and the software stack.

Knowing these people and how busy they are this quite an achievement requiring a serious effort.  The technical reviewing was done by Kristian Nese (Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP,@KristianNese), who’s has been working on private clouds from day one.

Well done guys and thank you!

Experience Days by TechNet BeLux


As a Microsoft MEET member and MVP, I’d like to invite you all to attend the Microsoft “Experience Days”.

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There are several tracks at the Experience Days from which you can choose. The complete track information can be found at here.

There are two tracks that are especially of interest to IP Pros: The Best of Microsoft Management Summit (MMS 2012) and Experience Windows Server 2012.

The Best of Microsoft Management Summit (MMS 2012)

During The Best of Microsoft Management Summit (MMS 2012), we will provide you with the best possible opportunity to learn about what’s new in System Center 2012. Led by experts who attended MMS 2012 in Las Vegas, you can expect in-depth sessions on infrastructure management, service delivery & automation, application management, desktop & device management.
Discover the full program

Experience Windows Server 2012

At Experience Windows Server 2012 day you will discover how Windows Server is going beyond virtualization by scaling and securing workload, how it will enable the modern work style by giving people access to information and data regardless of the infrastructure, network, device or application they use to access it. And you will discover the power of many servers with the simplicity of one by efficiently managing infrastructure while maximizing uptime and minimizing failures and downtime.

Join us and learn more about:

  • New Hyper-V Virtualization Platform
  • What’s new in Active Directory
  • Storage and Management Improvements
  • Clustering Improvements
  • Plus much more…   

    Discover the full program

    Hyper-V

    I’ll be talking on June 7th at 15:00 – 16:00 about Windows Server 2012 Storage Evolved For Hyper-V in the Experience Windows Server 2012 track:

    Windows Server 2012 is a very storage centric version. We’ll cover the changes, improvements and additions to Windows Server 2012 storage capabilities and their impact on Hyper-V. We talk about the enhancements with the new virtual disk format (VHDX), offloaded data transfer (ODX), TRIM/UNMAP, large sector disks and the new storage options for Hyper-V including Storage Spaces, ReFS, Bitlocker, CSV 2.0, NTFS online scan/repair and SMB 3.0 file storage and what the latter means for Live Migration & Storage Options for Hyper-V

    Virtualization with Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V is simply the best, bar none. If you watched Brad Anderson’s MMS 2012 Keynotes you know what’s coming and that he encouraged you to take the lead in all this. Well here’s you chance. If you agree that there is war on for talent, you also know and understand that knowledge will give you opportunities and choices. Invest in your future and as such in addressing and solving the business needs of your both clients and businesses. We all know it takes a serious effort in combination with a sustained commitment to become and stay competent in ICT. The TechNet BeLux team & the community is there to help you cultivate your talent and gain the knowledge you need.

     
  • My Best of MMS 2012 Series: Private Cloud 2012 Lessons Learned from Our Early Adopters


    An open discussion on people who have built private clouds at customers.

    Elasticity

    In real live things don’t shrink that often.  Smile Free or real cheap back charge rates are not doing anything to help.

    My take on this is that you should look at elasticity as a flexibility feature. Even if a cloud is no that elastic in both ways. You can shrink a cloud v1 to zero as you migrate the VMs to private cloud v2. Than dump the resources back into another pool, step by step or in one go. I’ll use whatever works to make my live easier.

    Standardizing & Customer Centric Operations = Planning is Key!

    These two can be hard to combine. It takes serious planning and as such an upfront investment.

    Than you need to build it to optimize operations (cost & excellent service). This sounds nice but how good are we at this and what is the shelf life of a solution versus the investment?

    There is a lot of preparation to do. There is a lot of things to consider. Databases, Storage, the network, security boundaries, disaster recovery planning. They advise not to do it cross domain. Hmmm … we need to address this. Seriously..

    Testing => build decent scripts with variables & config files. This will help to deploy in test, acceptance & production without to many changes/work.

    Make sure you define all service accounts, groups and permissions you need.

    It’s all about planning and what’s being told are best practices that exist already, private cloud or not.

    Self Service

    • Service Catalog is a prerequisite.
    • Self Service is key to the private cloud.
    • If people can they will do things differently. You’ll have to learn to deal with this.
    • Billing for services should be clear. Not to much detail. VMs & Storage are two good ones. Keep it simple and don’t go into memory & vCPU. Just set boundaries.

    Demos

    We dive into the System Center products and look at it from both the IT Pro and the consumer side of things.

    Requests => Approval & Deployment

    Approval process should be dynamic based on what is requested & who’s making is. You’ll also need SLAs & chargeback on these. Be careful not over complicating it or you encourage rogue IT.

    RANT: IT should make things as easy as possible. And in this discussion I’m not won over for charge back. It often turns into an excel exercise. Internal IT becomes more and more like an external service provider or integrator in this model. The inherent strength of being part of the business and being in the best position to help that business move ahead is lost. Is this a complot of the integrators? It fits their model but basically a lot of that is broken very badly. The last thing internal IT should do is become like them. That will do nothing for “Business-IT alignment”. We need to leverage the possibilities of the private cloud for our business or we have no unique selling point. Not that the service providers do a better job, but at least they are not on the pay roll so the bean counters like that. And as long as they can use public cloud to get their needs served hey couldn’t care less about who does the private cloud thingy for them. So a functional IT is first and foremost what we need. That is customer centered. Alignment of business & IT is worthless without that. The latter happens ay to much.

    Management

    Well yes this is important. We need reports, reviews, Service Improvement Plans, look for opportunities for automation.

    Personal Best of MMS 2012 Series “Why We Fail–An Architect’s Journey to the Private Cloud”


    Introduction

    The speaker (Alex Jauch) addresses cloud terminology confusion and points out that yet everyone wants it. So the pressure is on to deliver cloud.

    But as an architect you can’t build with such vague notions of what it is. That just doesn’t work. 78% of enterprise IT Shops will deploy a private cloud by 2014 (Gartner) 62% of all IT Projects fail. For the record, building a private cloud is not an easy project.

    For one, what are you building? What is it, way to may definitions. NIST seems to be one of the better definitions around. Specific, direct and actionable. We can work with that. I suggest you visit the NIST site for more information on:

    • Deployment Models:Private Cloud, Hybrid, Public.
    • Service models SAAS, PAAS, IAAS
    • The Essential Characteristics
      The Common Characteristics

    Why We Fail

    What happens:

    • Install Hyper-V
    • Deploy System Center
    • Build a solution

    The essential element of cloud is that  “The cloud is a customer centric business model, not technology”.It’s approached to much as a technology problem and that’s why we fail.

    The architect should not allow this to happen so he is to blame. The architectural practice is to marry business needs and wants to technology as a solution. This really hits home but there are more people involved and than there is the entire business / IT alignment fiasco as you can read in my blog The shortage of skilled employees, are we making it worse? , but the bucks ends with the architect..

    How do we add value to the business? Commodities do not add value, they are necessities. So we need to decide what business we are in. Meeting standards is not a goal. Enabling business is the goal. So they think you’re doing a great job empowering them. After all they are paying for it.

    The Take Away

    Traditional IT needs to evolve (fast) to customer centric IT.  End user departments define the goals. Our operational proficiency used to be our pride but what does it mean to the customer? Problems that do not affect the business don’t matter. So talk to customers to find out about what they want and need. They don’t care about your skill set or certifications. You’ll need t extract the need from their wants.

    The ability to take pain points away from customers. Small & medium sized projects do very well at this. But in a lot of companies they don’t promote you for those “smaller” projects. So the business also has to evolve.

    I’d like to add that Old style IT is also promoted by  a lot of misguided security officers and business lawyers. Strict rules as a guidance and instrument are their instruments and no those are also not always in the business best interest.

    This relates to IT Portfolio Management: Strategic, High Potential, Key Operational & Support. We need to realize that whatever we work on might be strategic or high potential will move to key operational and support. They all need different approaches and types of management. So choose your methodologies wisely. Don’t just pick one and force that square peg in the round hole. This is my advice to both business and IT. I’ve seen business decisions change support level products turned into high cost  high maintenance because due to bad decisions. So we might not have to be our brothers keeper towards the business but than again do we really need those bridging functions and those guys or gals need to be at the top of their game as I stated in The shortage of skilled employees, are we making it worse?

    So keep things a simple and as effective as possible. Do it fast, ride and repeat. You’ll learn a lot and improve along the way. So here comes the build or buy decision and the link to the NetApp plug by the speaker. This is very dependent on the situation of the organization at hand. So the fast track has it’s place here. Is speed of delivery of key importance or absolute flexibility and adaptability? So it will depend. Yes the consultants answer. But being a real consultant is a very respectable job. I can’t hell it that the word has become meaningless due to missuses and inflationary titles for temps for hire.  The System Center stack and how NetApp improves and leverages all this is briefly discussed. He ties the fast track into the discussion of portfolio management and working in a customer centric way.

    Conclusion

    Why are we doing what we do? Think about it. There is a nice book on this subject  “Why we fail? by Alex Jauch.