Post MVP Summit – Back to reality


Coming home after the MVP Global Summit is a moment of reflection, or better the trip home is. The Summit is a time of intense interaction with peers who are very varied bunch of experienced technologists. Next to their hands on Microsoft stack expertise they also bring their experience with other technologies and companies. This gives us the opportunity to talk to each other and exchange knowledge and views. Poor in the feedback and the discussions with the Microsoft Program Managers and their management. This goes on from sun rise to sunset. It pays to come early and stay an extra day. It opens time for more meetings and discussions in and around Redmond.

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The end result is a truck load of information impressions we need to parse. That can take some time. And we need to filter our conclusions for our management. The content of the MVP Summit and all talks around it are strictly NDA. The insight and ideas we harvest from that we can leverage, but we cannot expose the information.

On Microsoft’s side they get a reality check, open and honest feedback, they get our opinions and ideas. They learn about our successes and challenges in the real world. If that was not helpful to them they wouldn’t want us to show up on their campus disrupting their work week.

To me it’s also a reality check. What am I doing. How am I doing that and why? Even more importantly where am I doing this things and is what I use the best choice. It show my own strengths and weaknesses. That’s valuable as well.

Well the good news is that judged by some requests and opinions of my peers I’m an valued expert and architect. I do have some weaknesses but I’m on track to address those. The balancing act here is that we have to avoid wasting time on dying opportunities that are sill needed but are heading down hill fast. Not as much due to the technology being obsolete or no longer needed but mostly due to politics and a bad understanding on how to deliver IT cost effective and efficiently. The amount of self inflicted wounds and pain can be shockingly high. The trick is to avoid those projects as that’s wasted time, time that should be spent on moving forward. Sometimes this looks like the nineteen nineties all over out there.

One thing is very clear. Those that seek a single solution, a one size fits all approach, just for the sake of simplicity or perceived economies of scale will fail. A bipolar approach without a place for the vast amount of “stuff” in between, let alone a realistic and sound technical plan to integrate it all are going to fail. Ask any plumber Winking smile. Learn how to think independently and don’t grow too dependent on industry analysts. Do what’s right for your needs.

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Quick Demo Video Of Site Failover With KEMP Loadmaster Global Balancing


Here’s a quick video that demonstrates how you can achieve site failover with via the KEMP Loadmaster Global Balancing feature. As long as you know what this can do for you and realize that it about site failover and high availability and not continuous availability without a second of service interruption you can deliver nice results with this technology across city campuses or between cities.

In our scenario we normally connect to the primary data center (weighted round robin) and fail over to the DRC when the primary site fails for some reason.

It’s very busy at the moment but I hope to address this topic a bit more in detail in the future. All of this runs virtualized on Hyper-V and performs just fine.

I’m Attending Ignite, Are You?


Great news in was announced today in It’s here! The Microsoft Ignite Session Catalog. Basically the Ignite session catalog is available as of this moment! That means we can start planning to make sure we make the most of our time there. If you need some tips on what’s the value of a conference and how to make the most of it than please read a previous blog of mine on the subject Why I Find Value In A Conference

But MSFT is also organizing an #IgniteJam on Twitter on February 3rd, 9:00 am Pacific Time (That’s 18:00 in GMT+1). Join them and get your questions answered.

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I know a good many of people in my global network that will be there so that’s great news. Networking and exchanging information is a big part of what makes a conference a success. The right people being there makes a huge difference. Whilst on that subject, here’s a tip to the vendors in the expo hall: make sure you have technical people there as well, only sales and marketing isn’t good enough. Go for the right mix.

Follow @MS_Ignite on twitter for the latest news and developments about the conference. Go to the registration page to secure your ticket and consider add one of the Pre-Day session to the agenda to optimize your investment in time. See you there!

Windows Server vNext Soft Restart – A way to speed up reboots? Not in Technical Preview 9841


As you all probably know I’m also playing around with and testing Windows Server vNext Tech Preview and one of the nice new features in there I have my eye on is Soft Restart.

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There is little information on this feature out there right now but from the description “Soft Restart” looks like a way to get faster Windows boot times by cutting down on device firmware initialization. When it’s not needed that would be a great thing to have as with > 10gbps live migration speeds the boot time of our hardware loaded (DRAC, NICs, HBA, BMC, …) servers is what makes it the longest single step per node during cluster aware updating. Interesting if this is indeed what it’s there for.

But let’s find out if this is indeed what we think it is Smile. First of all the installation of this feature requires a restart. Keep this in mind.

There are 2 ways to kick it off that I know of but to me there must be more … it would be a shame not to have this integrated as an option into Cluster Aware Updating for example.

Option 1: via shutdown

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So let’s try shutdown /r /soft /t 000.  No joy, doesn’t make one bit of difference and nothing logged or so to indicate an issue.

Option 2: PowerShell via Restart-Computer –Soft

No joy here either …

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What could be the problem?

So I figured I needed enterprise grade server hardware with some FC cards & lots of NIC and memory to notice the difference. On a VM it might do nothing, but I assure you I doesn’t do anything on the PC based home lab either. So I dragged a DELL PowerEdge R730 with exactly that into the game. But still no joy. Then I thought some more and decided it might integrate with the hardware capabilities to do so of I went to install the latest and greatest DELL Server Manager software to see if that make a difference. But again, no joy.

It’s probably not lit up yet in this release of the Technical Preview 9841. For now I’ll be content with the 28-30% improved reboot speeds the DELL R730 UEFI brought us. I’d love to speed things up a bit as time is money and valuable Winking smile but we’ll have to wait for the next code drop to see if and how it works …

Workshop Datacenter Modernization -Microsoft Technical Summit 2014 Germany (Berlin)


While speaking (What’s new in Failover Clustering in Windows Server 2012 R2) and attending the Microsoft Technical Summit 2014 I’m taking the opportunity to see how Microsoft Germany and partners are doing a workshop which is based on the IT Camps they have been delivering over the past year. There is a lot of content to be delivered and both trainers Carsten Rachfahl (Rachfahl IT-Solutions GmbH) and Bernhard Frank (Partner Technology Strategist (Hosting), Microsoft) are doing that magnificently.

One thing I note is that they sure do put in a lot of effort. The one I’m attending requires some server infrastructure, a couple of switches, cabling for over 50 laptops etc. These have been neatly packed into road cases and the 50+ laptops had been placed, cabled and deployed using PXE boot /WDS the night before. Yes even in the era of cloud you need hardware especially if you’re doing an IT Camp on “Datacenter Modernization” (think private & hybrid infrastructure design and deployment).

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Not bypassing this aspect of private cloud building adds value to the workshop and is made possible with the help of Wortmann AG. Yes the attendees get to deploy storage spaces, Scale Out File Server, networking etc. They don’t abstract any of the underlying technologies away, I like that a lot, it adds value and realism.

I’m happy to see that they leverage the real world experience of experts (fellow Hyper-V MVP Carsten Rachfahl) who helps hosting companies and enterprises deploy these technologies. Storage, Scale Out File Server, Hyper-V clusters, System Center and self service (Azure Pack) are the technologies used to achieve the goals of the workshop.

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The smart use of PowerShell (workflows, PDT) allows to automate the process and frees up time to discuss and explain the technologies and design decisions. They take great care to explain the steps and tools used so the attendees can use these later in their own environments. Talking about their own experiences and mistakes helps the attendees avoid common mishaps and move along faster.

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The fact that they have added workshops like this to the summit adds value. I think it’s a great idea that they are held on the last day as this means that attendees can put the information they gathered from 2 days of sessions into practice. This helps understanding the technologies better.

There is very little criticism to be given on the content and the way they deliver it. I have to say that it’s all very well done. Perhaps they make private cloud look a bit too easy Winking smile. Bernard, Carsten, well done guys, I’m impressed. If you’re based in Germany and you or your team members need to get up to speed on how these technologies can be leveraged to modernize your data center I can highly recommend these guys and their workshops/IT Camps.

Microsoft Keeps Investing In Storage Big Time


Disclaimer: These are my musing on the limited info available about Windows Server vNext and based on the Technical Preview bits at the time of writing. So it’s not set in stone & has a time limited value.

Reading the documentation that’s already available on vNext of Windows it’s clear that Microsoft is continuing it’s push towards the software defined data center. They are also pushing high to continuous availability ever more towards the  “continuous” side of things.

It’s early days yet and we just only downloaded the Technical Preview but what do we read in What’s New in Storage Services in Windows Server Technical Preview

Storage Quality of Service

  • They are giving us more Storage Quality of Service tied into the use of SOFS as storage over SMB3. As way to many NAS solutions don’t support SMB3 or only partially (in a restricted way) it’s clear too me that self build SOFS solution on a couple of servers is and remains the best SMB3 implementation on the market and has just gotten storage QoS.

Little Rant here: To the people that claim that this is not capable of high performance, I usually laugh. Have you actually build a SOFS or TFFS with 10Gbps networking on modern enterprise grade servers line the DELL R720 or 730? Did you look at the results form that relative low cost investment? I think not, really. And if you did and found it lacking, I’ll be very impressed of the workload you’re running.  You’ll force your storage to the knees earlier than your Windows file server nowadays.

  • It’s in the SOFS layer, so this does not tie you into to Storage Space if you’re not ready for that yet but would like the benefits of SOFS. As long as you have shared storage behind the SOFS you’re good.
  • It’s policy based and can apply to virtual machines, groups of virtual machines a service or a tenant
  • The virtual disk is the level where the policy is set & enforced.
  • Storage performance will dynamically adjust to meet the policies & when tied the performance will be fairly distributed.
  • You can monitor all this.

It’s right there in the OS.

Storage Replica

This gives us “storage-agnostic, block-level, synchronous replication between servers for disaster recovery, as well as stretching of a failover cluster for high availability. Synchronous replication enables mirroring of data in physical sites with crash-consistent volumes ensuring zero data loss at the file system level. Asynchronous replication allows site extension beyond metropolitan ranges with the possibility of data loss.”

Look for Hyper-V we already had Hyper-V replica (which is also being improved), but for other workloads we still rely on the storage vendors or 3rd party solutions. But now I can have my storage replicas for service protection and continuity out of the box with Windows.  WOW!

and as we read on ..

  • Provide an all-Microsoft disaster recovery solution for planned and unplanned outages of mission-critical workloads.
  • Use SMB3 transport with proven reliability, scalability, and performance.
  • Stretch clusters to metropolitan distances.
    Use Microsoft software end to end for storage and clustering, such as Hyper-V, Storage Replica, Storage Spaces, Cluster, Scale-Out File Server, SMB3, Deduplication, and ReFS/NTFS.
  • Help reduce cost and complexity as follows:

Hardware agnostic, with no requirement to immediately abandon legacy storage such as SANs.

Allows commodity storage and networking technologies.
Features ease of graphical management for individual nodes and clusters through Failover Cluster Manager and Microsoft Azure Site Recovery.

Includes comprehensive, large-scale scripting options through Windows PowerShell.

  • Helps reduce downtime, and increase reliability and productivity intrinsic to Windows.
  • Provide supportability, performance metrics, and diagnostic capabilities.

I have gotten this to work in the lab with some trial and error but this is the Technical Preview, not a finish product. If they continue along this path I’m pretty confident we’ll have functional & operational viable solution by RTM. Just think about the possibilities this brings!

Storage Spaces

Now I have not read much on Storage Space in vNext yet but I think its safe to assume we’ll see major improvements there as well. Which leads me to reaffirm my blog posy here: TechEd 2013 Revelations for Storage Vendors as the Future of Storage lies With Windows 2012 R2

Microsoft is delivering more & great software defined storage inbox. This means cost effective yet very functional storage solutions. On top of that they put pressure on the market to deliver more value if they want to stay competitive. As a customer, whatever solution fits my needs the best, I welcome that. And as a consumer of large amounts of storage in a world where we need to spend the money where it matters most I like what I’m seeing.

Tip for Microsoft: configurability, reliability and EASY diagnostics and remediation are paramount to success. Sure some storage vendor solution aren’t to great on that front either but some are awesome. Make sure your in the awesome category. Make it a great user experience from start to finish in both deployment and operations.

Tip for you: If you’re not ready for prime time with Storage Spaces , SMB Direct etc … do what I’ve done. Use it where it doesn’t kill you if you hit some learning curves. What about storage spaces as a backup target where you can now replicate the backups of to your disaster recovery site?

Win a free ticket to Experts Live 2014


As you might already know I’m speaking at the Dutch IT community event Experts Live 2014 in the Netherlands. The talk is about “The Capable & Scalable Cloud OS “ where we’ll highlight and show some of the scalable capabilities in Windows Server 2012 R2 when combined with great hardware.

You can find the program at Experts Live 2014 which is very rich in content. There are 7 tracks and over 40 sessions! Chose a track or mix and match to your hearts content between  Microsoft Azure, System Center, Hyper-V, SQL, Windows, PowerShell and Office365. It’s all good.

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To celebrate the success of the event the organizers have allowed us to give away some free entrance tickets. This is a very nice gift that will allow you to enjoy a full day of learning for free.

So convince me you’re willing to put in the time and effort to learn and we’ll help you do exactly that by making sure you get a free ticket!  Leave a reply to this blog post from Thursday October 9th till Thursday October 16th in which you tell me what blog or blogs of mine you’ve enjoyed most. Leave your name, e-mail, your company and function title so we can arrange things for you. Don’t worry we will not publish these.

There is only one request/condition … if you win a ticket come to the event as a no show means some one else can’t come.