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!

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MVP Carsten Rachfahl Visits & Interviews Me On Networking & Storage in Windows Server 2012


Last month Carsten (MVP – Virtual Machine) & Kerstin Rachfahl (MVP – Office 365) visited me in my home town. Apart from a short visit to the historic center & a sushi diner amongst friends we also did an interview where we discussed our ongoing Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V activities. We’re trying to leverage as much of the product we can to get the best TCO & ROI and as early adopters we’ve been reaping the benefits form the day the RTM bits were available to us. So far that has been delivering great results. Funny to hear me mention the Fast Track designs as a week later we saw version 3 of those at MMS2013. The most interesting to me about those was the fact that the small & medium sizes focus on Cluster in a Box and Storage Spaces!

While we were having fun talking about the above we also enjoyed some of the most beautiful landmarks of the City of Ghent as a back drop for the interview. It was filmed in a meeting room at AGIV, to whom I provide Infrastructure services with a great team of colleagues. Just click the picture to view the video.

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You can also enjoy the video on Carsten’s blog http://www.hyper-v-server.de/videos/interview-mit-didier-van-hoye-ber-seinen-storage-netwerk-und-mehr/ All I need to do now is to arrange for Carsten to physically touch the Compellent storage I think.

April 24th–Windows 2003 Is 10 Years Old


I’d like to chime in on a recent blog post by Aidan Finn Hey Look–Your Business Is Running On A 10-Year Old Server Operating System (W2003). The sad thing is this is so true and “the good” thing is some are even still on Windows Server 2000 so even in worse shape. Now I realize that not all industries are the same but keeping your operating systems up to date does have it’s benefits for all types of companies.

  • Security Improvements
  • Improved, richer, enhanced features
  • New functionality
  • Support for state of the art hardware & software
  • Supported for that day the SHTF
  • Future Proofing of your current investments

For one, all the above  it will save you time and money. On top of that mitigates the risks of lost revenue due to security incidents & unsupported environments no one can fix for you.

Think about it, if you’re running Windows Server 2000 or 2003 chances are you are paying for software to provide functionality that’s available right out of the box. You’re also putting in the extra effort & jumping through loops to run those on modern server grade hardware.

You’re also building up debt. Instead of yearly improvements keeping your infrastructure & services top notch you’re actively digging an ever bigger, very expensive, complex and high risk hole where you’ll have to dig your self out off. If you can, that is. Not a good place to be in. Still think leveraging software assurance is a bad thing?

So while way to many companies now have to assigned resources to mitigating that looming problem we’re focusing on other ventures (such as Hyper-V, Azure, Hybrid Cloud, …) and just keep our OS up to date at a steady pace, like before. Well people that doesn’t happen by accident. We’ve maintained a very healthy pace of upgrading to the most recent version of windows in our environments and at times I have had to fight for that and I’m I will again..But look at our base line, even if the economy tanks completely we’re in darn good shape to weather that storm and come out ahead. But it’s not going to happen by sitting there avoiding change out of fear or laziness. So start today.A point where I agree with Aidan completely: if your “Zombie ISV” and other vendors are telling you Windows 2003 is great and you shouldn’t use those new unproven versions of the OS; they are really touting BS. They have fallen behind so far on the technology stack that they need you to stay in their black hole of despair with them or they’ll go broke. Just move one. Trust me, they need you more than the other way around

SMB 3.0 Multichannel Auto Configuration In Action With RDMA / SMB Direct


Most of you might remember this slide by Jose Barreto on SMB Multichannel  Auto Configuration in one of his many presentations:image

  • Auto configuration looks at NIC type/speed => Same NICs are used for RDMA/Multichannel (doesn’t mix 10Gbps/1Gbps, RDMA/non-RDMA)
  • Let the algorithms work before you decide to intervene
  • Choose adapters wisely for their function

You can fine tune things if and when needed (only do this when this is really the case) but let’s look at this feature in action.

So let’s look at this in real life. For this test we have 2 * X520 DA 10Gbps ports using 10.10.180.8X/24 IP addresses and 2 * Mellanox  10Gbps RDMA adaptors with 10.10.180.9X/24 IP addresses. No teaming involved just multiple NIC ports. Do not that these IP addresses are on different subnet than the LAN of the servers. Basically only the servers can communicate over them, they don’t have a gateway, no DNS servers and are as such not registered in DNS either (live is easy for simple file sharing).

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Let’s try and copy a 50Gbps fixed VHDX file from server1 to server2 using the DNS name of the target host (pixelated), meaning it will resolve to that host via DNS and use the LAN IP address 10.10.100.92/16 (the host name is greyed out). In the below screenshot you see that the two RDMA capable cards are put into action. The servers are not using  the 1Gbps LAN connection. Multichannel looked at the options:

  • A 1Gbps RSS capable Link
  • Two 10Gbps RSS capable Links
  • Two 10Gbps RDMA capable links

Multichannel concluded the RDMA card is the best one available and as we have two of those it use both. In other words it works just like described.

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Even if we try to bypass DNS and we copy the files explicitly via the IP address (10.10.180.84)  assigned to the Intel X520 DA cards Multichannel intelligence detects that it has two better cards  that provide RDMA available and as you can see it uses the same NICs  as in the demo before.  Nifty isn’t it Smile

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If you want to see the other NICs in action we can disable the Mellanox card and than Multichannel will choose the two X520 DA cards. That’s fine for testing but in real life you need a better solution when you need to manually define what NICs can be used. This is done using PowerShell Smile (take a look at Jose Barrto’s blog The basics of SMB PowerShell, a feature of Windows Server 2012 and SMB 3.0  for more info).

New-SmbMultichannelConstraint –ServerName SERVER2 –InterfaceAlias “SLOT 6 Port 1”, “SLOT 6 Port 2”

This tells a server it can only use these two NICs which in this example are the two Intel X520 DA 10Gbps cards to access Server2. So basically you configure/tell the client what to use for SMB 3.0 traffic to a certain server. Note the difference in send/receive traffic between RDMA/Native 10Gbps.

On Server1, the client you see this:

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On Server2, the server you see this:

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Which is indeed the constraint set up as we can verify with:

Get-SmbMultichannelConstraint

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We’re done playing so let’s clean up all the constraints:

Get-SmbMultichannelConstraint | Remove-SmbMultichannelConstraint

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Seeing this technology it’s now up to the storage industry to provide the needed  capacity and IOPS I a lot more affordable way. Storage Spaces have knocked on your door, that was the wake up call Winking smile. In an environment where we throw lots of data around we just love SMB 3.0

Design Considerations For Converged Networking On A Budget With Switch Independent Teaming In Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V


Last Friday I was working on some Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V networking designs and investigating the benefits & drawbacks of each. Some other fellow MVPs were also working on designs in that area and some interesting questions & answers came up (thank you Hans Vredevoort for starting the discussion!)

You might have read that for low cost, high value 10Gbps networks solutions I find the switch independent scenarios very interesting as they keep complexity and costs low while optimizing value & flexibility in many scenarios. Talk about great ROI!

So now let’s apply this scenario to one of my (current) favorite converged networking designs for Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V. Two dual NIC LBFO teams. One to be used for virtual machine traffic and one for other network traffic such as Cluster/CSV/Management/Backup traffic, you could even add storage traffic to that. But for this particular argument that was provided by Fiber Channel HBAs. Also with teaming we forego RDMA/SR-IOV.

For the VM traffic the decision is rather easy. We go for Switch Independent with Hyper-V Port mode. Look at Windows Server 2012 NIC Teaming (LBFO) Deployment and Management to read why. The exceptions mentioned there do not come into play here and we are getting great virtual machine density this way. With lesser density 2-4 teamed 1Gbps ports will also do.

But what about the team we use for the other network traffic. Do we use Address hash or Hyper-V port mode. Or better put, do we use native teaming with tNICs as shown below where we can use DCB or Windows QoS?

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Well one drawback here with Address Hash is that only one member will be used for incoming traffic with a switch independent setup. Qos with DCB and policies isn’t that easy for a system admin and the hardware is more expensive.

So could we use a virtual switch here as well with QoS defined on the Hyper-V switch?

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Well as it turns out in this scenario we might be better off using a Hyper-V Switch with Hyper-V Port mode on this Switch independent team as well. This reaps some real nice benefits compared to using a native NIC team with address hash mode:

  • You have a nice load distribution of the different vNIC’s send/receive traffic over a single member of the NIC team per VM. This way we don’t get into a scenario where we only use one NIC of the team for incoming traffic. The result is a better balance between incoming and outgoing traffic as long an none of those exceeds the capability of one of the team members.
  • Easy to define QoS via the Hyper-V Switch even when you don’t have network gear that supports QoS via DCB etc.
  • Simplicity of switch configuration (complexity can be an enemy of high availability & your budget).
  • Compared to a single Team of dual 10Gbps ports you can get a lot higher number of VM density even they have rather intensive network traffic and the non VM traffic gets a lots of bandwidth as well.
  • Works with the cheaper line of 10Gbps switches
  • Great TCO & ROI

With a dual 10Gbps team you’re ready to roll. All software defined. Making the switches just easy to use providers of connectivity. For smaller environments this is all that’s needed. More complex configurations in the larger networks might be needed high up the stack but for the Hyper-V / cloud admin things can stay very easy and under their control. The network guys need only deal with their realm of responsibility and not deal with the demands for virtualization administration directly.

I’m not saying DCB, LACP, Switch Dependent is bad, far from. But the cost and complexity scares some people while they might not even need. With the concept above they could benefit tremendously from moving to 10Gbps in a really cheap and easy fashion. That’s hard (and silly) to ignore. Don’t over engineer it, don’t IBM it and don’t go for a server rack phD in complex configurations. Don’t think you need to use DCB, SR-IOV, etc. in every environment just because you can or because you want to look awesome. Unless you have a real need for the benefits those offer you can get simplicity, performance, redundancy and QoS in a very cost effective way. What’s not to like. If you worry about LACP etc. consider this, Switch independent mode allows for nearly no service down time firmware upgrades compared to stacking. It’s been working very well for us and avoids the expense & complexity of vPC, VLT and the likes of that. Life is good.

Key Take Aways From MMS2013


Introduction

I’ve parked myself at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas awaiting the start of my long haul home to Europe. The new terminal is inspiring me to share as I reflect on the past week and on what’s happening at work.

ICT in the 21st Century

A lot is going on and moving in ICT and even more is coming our way. In the Microsoft sphere we got the official heads up at MMS2013 that new features would be publicly discussed at TechEd 2013 (USA or Europe). So you might want to attend that one. I for one think that’s great. We need that information to verify we’re still are on the right track and fine tune our course. Especially in those areas where we can get quick wins with sometimes significant cost savings & benefits.  I could start telling you about all the great sessions and products at MMS2013 whilst quacking like a duck “cloud, cloud, …, cloud, cloud, cloud, … cloud”. But I will not. You can watch it all here.  I will reflect on the key take away.

Cheaper & Faster

Cheaper AND faster are the new mantra or’ “fast is the new cheap”. Cheaper makes everyone happy especially when quality remains high. Faster is sometimes a bit more of a challenge to sell. “New features, already?”  you say. Yes. The nature of our economies and industry is being transformed by the cloud and commoditization. It brings a lot of benefits, especially in a high speed, low drag world.

Fast is actually faster. For many years now any strategy & execution plan that took more than a couple of years was doomed. You get bypassed and your big investments will never live up to their potential. So, apart from the necessary larger and more long term investments, we evolve more and more towards a perpetual improvements & rapid adoption model. Innovation and the subsequent commoditization of it is pushing this. That’s not bad. By making constant smaller (easier to fund) investments that deliver fast results we get to a more adaptable, agile environment for lesser costs. It’s not that all long term, large scale projects are going away but the ratio is shifting. In smart countries this is already being done for building hospitals and other infrastructure that evolves fast. It’s not unique to ICT. Massive projects taking too long and too much funding lead to out of date solutions at the time of delivery at huge costs. Use this approach where needed but forget about it for the other projects. Cloud will be an important tool in all this, not the goal.

A Word of Warning

Fast and cheap shouldn’t translate into mediocre crap at dump pricing that will bite us. It should also keep in mind the ecosystem and don’t act like a shock & awe offensive leaving everything in it’s track in disarray. It needs to fit into a plan with clear goals an knowing where it fits in and helps.  It’s about balance. That’s the art. Knowing what, where, when and with/for who to do it. Not easy. Now let’s hope some of my managers read this blog. It might help them. As the question beckons an answer: who is it that will lead us in this new era? Well not one single person, far from it. It’s a team effort and to lead a team takes competence and some character.

It takes competence and personality

Competence and personality, combined with  applying both these (skills and  drive) diligently in a sustained fashion. That requires a lot of effort, even when no one is watching you, or perhaps better stated, especially then. Do what needs to be done where and when needed. Not because it could get you promoted or more money. That’s the character part. That’s what drives us to learn by participating in our ICT communities, presenting, attending conferences and networking. But also in those hours spend reading, studying and working in the lab alone or with a buddy. That’s what will make us able to handle the though and bad situations you’ll encounter and overcome them. It’s your resourcefulness that will make you seek and find opportunity in adverse conditions. People like the team members amongst whom I have the distinct pleasure of working. You can’t find such synergy if it’s only about personal gain and getting ahead. There is both a broad and deep skill set needed by all involved and doesn’t come easy nor can it be bought. It has to be acquired through work and experience. The transformation of the ICT landscape is uncharted domain for all but a few of us so it’s going to ask a lot of effort, often outside of our comfort zone.

Sure there are cynics who laugh at this and can’t imagine why someone would do all that without personal and immediate reward. Those are the ones we don’t need and who won’t be there at crunch time. Only after the facts they seek the spotlight to poach the glory if things went well or to condemn those that failed whilst trying. Well, the last so called leader who did that doesn’t work with us anymore. Enough said.

Interviewed by Kerstin Rachfahl on what it’s like to be an MVP


At the end of the 2013 MVP Global Summit I was interviewed by Kerstin Rachfahl @ItsmeKerstin on what it’s like to be an MVP. You can find the results of her diligent & rendering work here or click on the picture for the link.

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If you notice that I mention meeting, learning from and interacting with a large number of intelligent and passionate people a couple of times as one of the best thing about being a MVP than that is because it just is Open-mouthed smile