Windows Server Technical Preview and Hyper-V Server Technical Preview Expiration Extension


Great news for all those of us that are running Windows Server Technical Preview v1 in their labs. It was due to expire on April 15th but Microsoft announced they were working on a fix to extend that deadline. They did not mention an ETA for it bit it’s here now, see http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=46447

image

So download, install, reboot and you’re good to go until we get our hands on Technical Preview v2! We’ve been saved by the cavalry and life is good!

Advertisements

Hyper-V Amigos Showcast Episode 8: Storage Replica in a Stretched Cluster


We finally go to make a next “Hyper-V Amigos Showcast”, due to very busy schedules we had to postpone this a couple of times. But we made it! In this Episode (the 8th one) Carsten and I show one application of a new great feature in Windows Server vNext: Storage Replication. This allows us to replicate a volume between two storage systems without caring what that storage system is as long a you have windows volumes on it. Replication can be synchronous or asynchronous and there are multiple scenarios in which to use this.

Here we focus on trying out replication between two clusters or in a stretched cluster scenario. I have already made a video demonstrating server to server replication. In this showcast we demonstrate  the Stretched Cluster scenario (and troubleshoot our own lab).

image

More info is available here:

Enjoy and see you next time!

Video Interview On Rolling Cluster Upgrades in Windows Server vNext


Carsten Rachfahl from Rachfahl IT-Solutions (quite possibly  Germany’s leading Hyper-V, Storage Spaces & Private cloud consultancy) and I got together in Berlin last November at the Microsoft Technical Summit 2014. Between presenting (I delivered What’s new in Failover Clustering in Windows Server 2012 R2), workshops, interviews we found some time to do a video interview.

We discussed a very welcome new capability in Windows Server vNext: “Rolling cluster updates” or “Cluster Operating System Rolling Upgrade” in Windows Server Technical Preview as Microsoft calls it. I blogged about this rather soon after the release of the Technical Preview First experiences with a rolling cluster upgrade of a lab Hyper-V Cluster (Technical Preview).

Videointerview with Didier Van Hoye about Rolling Cluster Upgrade Thumb1

We’ve been able to do rolling updates of Windows NLB for a long time and we’ve been asking for that same capability in Windows Failover Clustering for many years and now, it’s finally coming! And yes, as you will notice we like that a lot!

You need to realize that making the transition form one version to another as smooth, easy and risk free as possible is of great value to the customer as it enables them to upgrade faster and get the benefits of their investment quicker. For Microsoft it means they can have more people move to more modern environments faster which helps with support and delivering value in a secure and modern environment.

At the end we also joke around a bit about DevOps and how this is just as set of training wheels on the road to true site resilience engineering. All fun and all good. Enjoy!

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.

image

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

image

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 …

image

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 …

Windows Server Technical Preview delivers integration services updates through Windows Update


Benefits of delivering updates to the integration services via Windows Updates

In Windows Server  vNext aka the Technical Preview the integration services are being delivered through Windows Update (and as such the well know tools such a s WSUS, …). This is significant in reducing the operational burden to make sure they are up to date. Many of us turned to PowerShell scripting to handle this task. So did I and I still find myself tweaking the scripts once in a while for a condition I had not dealt with before or just to get better feedback or reporting. Did I ever tell you that story about the cluster where a 100VMs did not have a virtual DVD drive (they removed them to improve performance) … that was yet another improvement to my script => detect the absence of a virtual DVD drive. In this day and age, virtualization has both scaled up and out with ever more virtual machines per host and in total. The process of having to load an ISO in a virtual DVD drive inside a virtual machine to install upgrades to integration services seems arcane and it’s very timely that it has been replaced by an operation process more befitting a Cloud OS Winking smile.

I have optimized this process with some PowerShell scripting and it wasn’t to painful anymore. The script upgrades all the VMs on the hosts and even puts them back in the state if found them in (Stopped, Saved, Running). A screenshot of the script in action below.

image

I’m glad that it’s now integrated through Windows Update and part of other routine maintenance that’s done on the guests anyway.

But is not only good news for us “on premises” system administrators and integrators. It’s also important for service/cloud providers and (hosted) private cloud hosters. This change means that the tenants  have control of updates to the integration services of their virtual machines. They update their Windows virtual machines with all updates during their normal patch cycles and now this includes the integration services. This provides operation ease (single method) and avoids some of the discussions about when to upgrade the integration services.

Legacy Operating Systems

Shortly after the release of the Windows Server Technical Preview, updates to integration services for Windows guests began being distributed through Windows Update. This means that on that version the vmguest.iso is no longer needed and as such it’s no longer included with Hyper-V.  This means that if you run an unsupported (most often legacy) version of Windows you’ll need to grab the latest possible vmguest.iso from an W2K12R2 Hyper-V host and try to install that and see if it works.

What about Linux and FreeBSD?

Well nothing has changed and how that’s taken care of you can read here: Linux and FreeBSD Virtual Machines on Hyper-V

Storage Replication – Server To Server Demo


I’ve discussed the efforts Microsoft is putting into enhancing the storage offerings (Storage Spaces, SOFS, SMB) in its OS since Windows Server 2012 (R2) before in previous articles. In my last blog post on this subject  Microsoft Keeps Investing In Storage Big Time I talked about their latest announcements around storage replica in the Windows Server Technical Preview.

In this post I’d like to show case how to set up server to server storage replication and demonstrate how to recover from certain events.  We are doing this asynchronously as the scenario is one were we replicate a backup target off site to another city. Not an uncommon scenario and one that gives copies off site without introducing the cost & operational overhead of portable media.clip_image002

The easiest way to show  this without writing elaborate white papers is a video. I’ll wait with more elaborate writings or demo videos as things are bound to change a lot prior to RTM. After all we still only have the more then 3 month old Technical Preview bits. It’s important to realize what we are now getting in box with Windows Server aka the Cloud OS that used to require 3rd party solutions.

I hope to be doing some talks & presentations on this subject and in good tradition make those presentations demo heavy as I like to really show how technology in action.

Hyper-V Technical Preview Live Migration & Changing Static Memory Size


I have played with  Hot Add & Remove Static Memory in a Hyper-V vNext Virtual Machine before and I love it. As I’m currently testing (actually sometimes abusing) the Technical Preview a bit to see what breaks I’m sometimes testing silly things. This is one of them.

I took a Technical Preview VM with 45GB of memory, running in a Technical Preview Hyper-V cluster and live migrate it.  I then tried to change the memory size up and down during live migration to see what happens, or at least nothing goes “BOINK”. Well, not much, we get a notification that we’re being silly. So no failed migrations, crashed or messed up VMs or, even worse hosts.

image

It’s early days yet but we’re getting a head start as there is a lot to test and that will only increase. The aim is to get a good understanding of the features, the capabilities and the behavior to make sure we can leverage our existing infrastructures and software assurance benefits as fast a possible. Rolling cluster upgrades should certainly help us do that faster, with more ease and less risk. What are your plans for vNext? Are you getting a feeling for it yet or waiting for a more recent test version?