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ESI – EMC Storage Integrator for Windows / Sharepoint

May 6th, 2011

I hope that by now all of you have heard of EMC’s VMware Storage Integrator (VSI).  This is EMC’s FREE vCenter plugin that offers the VMware administrator the ability to interact with EMC storage directly from vCenter.  If you haven’t heard about it then check out this blog post by my boss Chad Sakacc to learn more.

So back to my original topic, this morning I’ve been reading about a great new product that is currently being work on by EMC to help simplify storage provisioning for Windows administrators. It’s simply called the EMC Storage Integrator (ESI). Right now you would probably have had to contact multiple teams or use the following tools to provision and configure storage to a windows server.

  • Array Management Tools (Unisphere / Navisphere)
  • Windows Server Manager
  • Failover Cluster Manager
  • Hyper-V Manager
  • ISCSI initiator / FC Switch Management Tools

 

With ESI you can now provision storage as well as conduct some additional application specific functions from one MMC console, simple, easy, delegated self service storage management. Current supported capabilities include the following.

  • Provision, format and present drives to windows server
  • Provision new cluster disks and add them to the cluster automatically
  • Provision shared CIFS storage and mount it to windows server
  • Provision SharePoint storage, sites and databases in a single wizard.

 

At the moment this tool is currently in beta testing so isn’t widely available just yet.  When it does become generally available it will support all EMC storage (VNX, VNXe, VMAX, CX and NS) it will also be FREE in exactly the same way as the EMC VSI tool.

Check out the demo put together by the EMC team responsible, ahhh integration goodness!

EMC Storage Integrator (ESI) Windows and SharePoint Demonstration

EMC, Microsoft , ,

Microsoft VDI licensing –VDA and Microsoft WinTPC

April 18th, 2011

Some time ago I wrote a blog post about Microsoft Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) licensing that was introduced back in July 2010. For those that don’t want to read the whole article the summary of VDA was as follows.

  • You need to licence the endpoint accessing a windows VDI Desktop.
  • It’s £100 per year per endpoint.
  • Multiple endpoints each need a licence, i.e. home PC, office thin client, iPad
  • VDA included if endpoint is Windows and is Software Assured

I remember at the time thinking that this was going to hinder VDI deployment projects.  The additional on-going cost of licensing every potential endpoint a user may use was going to push TCO up, increase the time for ROI to be realised and generally make VDI a very unappealing prospect. Don’t even get me started on how difficult this makes it for service providers to create a Windows Desktop as a Service offering.

Recently one of my esteemed colleagues at EMC (another vSpecialist by the name of Itzich Reich who’s blog you can find here) sent out an email about Microsoft releasing a customer technology preview (CTP) of a product called Windows Thin PC (WinTPC). In summary this is a slimmed down version of Windows 7 and is designed for the re-purposing of old PC equipment as thin client devices.

Windows_Thin_PC

It has a couple of features worth mentioning for those technically minded people out there.

  • RemoteFX support for a richer, higher fidelity hosted desktop experience.
  • Support for System Center Configuration Manager, to help deploy and manage.
  • Write filter support helps prevent writes to disk, improving end point security.


WinTPC and / or VDA

So how does this new product fit in with the rather expensive VDA licensing? Well the good news is that WinTPC can be used to access a VDI desktop without the need for a VDA licence. On the downside WinTPC will only be available as a benefit of Software assurance for volume licensees. Now seeing as the VDA licence doesn’t apply to an endpoint that is windows based and covered by software assurance it makes no real difference from a licensing point of view which option you go for.  So if you have software assurance the choice is yours,  if you don’t, well coughing up for VDA licences each year is your only option I’m afraid.

What WinTPC does allow companies to do is maximise existing PC hardware investments.  This should allow companies to offset some of that initial upfront cost often associated with VDI projects. Microsoft’s idea is that companies can try out VDI using WinTPC and existing PC assets, when these PC’s become end of life they can swap over to using windows embedded devices without needing to change the management tools. Now VDI is not cheap, capital costs can be high,  savings are usually made in operational and management costs later down the VDI journey.  As I mentioned at the start of this post,  the VDA licence has not helped VDI adoption as it increases both capital and operational costs due to it’s annual subscription cost model.  Will this new release from Microsoft help reduce costs?

Just Saying!

My opinion, I personally think Microsoft are in a tricky position, they’re somewhat behind the curve on the VDI front and I always felt the VDA licence was designed to slow VDI adoption while they gained some ground on the competition.  If anyone chose to forge ahead, regardless, well Microsoft would generate some nice consistent revenue through the VDA licence. So the prospect of a WinTPC release is a nice touch by Microsoft during these hard economic times but not everyone can benefit.  What I would like to see is Microsoft offer this outwith Software Assurance,  sell it as a single one off licence cost as an alternative to the annual subscription model used with the VDA.  Give your customers the choice and let them get on with their VDI journey, be part of it as opposed to being the road block!

Links

If you are interested in learning more,  check out the links below.  To download the CTP version of WinTPC then go to Microsoft Connect and sign up to download it, would love to hear what you think.

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/enterprise/solutions/virtualization/products/thinpc.aspx

https://connect.microsoft.com/

Gestalt-IT, Microsoft, New Products ,

Windows Virtual Desktop Access Licensing – What is it?

June 24th, 2010

I try and avoid licensing at all costs, it’s a horrible subject and one that strikes fear in to many.  When you add virtualisation in to the mix it tends to get a little more complicated and you often find that the rules change on a reasonably regular basis. I was involved in a discussion today about Citrix XenDesktop and an interesting point came up when discussing licensing Virtual PCs.  Someone mentioned something called the Microsoft VDA,  I hadn’t a clue what they were talking about so I did a little digging around to find out more.

In summary this is what I found, it’s not pretty reading. As of the 1st of July 2010 Microsoft is changing the way it licences the Windows OS in VDI environments.  The following changes will take place

Windows® Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktop (Windows VECD) and Windows VECD for Software Assurance (SA) will no longer appear on the price list.

Virtual desktop access rights will become a Windows Client Software Assurance benefit. Customers who intend on using PCs covered under SA will now be able to access their Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) desktops at no additional charge.

Customers who want to use devices such as thin clients that do not qualify for Windows Client SA would need to license those devices with a new license called Windows Virtual Desktop Access (Windows VDA) to be able to access a Windows VDI desktop.Windows VDA is also applicable to third party devices, such as contractor or employee-owned PCs.

What does it all mean?

In it’s simplest terms you don’t licence the windows virtual machine itself, you instead licence the end point its being accessed from. To further break this down there are two distinct endpoint categories to consider.

1. The end point is a Windows OS covered by Software Assurance (SA)

2. The end point is a non windows device or is a windows device without SA

In the first category you are covered to access a windows virtual machine as Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) is included as a Software Assurance benefit.  In the second category however you need to purchase a VDA subscriptions for each end point device.  Unfortunately this is not a one off purchase either, this is a $100 per year per device subscription cost.

As an example, say you have  a sales person who uses a company laptop and a company smart phone to access their VDI virtual machine.  You would need to have the laptop installed with a software assured copy of windows and buy a VDA subscription for the smart phone.  Alternatively if you have a non SA copy of windows on the laptop you need 2 VDA subscription licences to cover both devices.  This latter example would obviously be the same if the laptop was MAC OS or Linux based.

There is some good news though in that Microsoft have something called extended roaming rights with the windows VDA licence.  In short the primary user of a VDA licensed device can access their VDI desktop from any device that is not owned by the users company.  Examples would be a users home PC, airport kiosk or hotel business centre

There is a lot to take in with licensing, especially in the VDI space. I suggest everyone running or planning to deploy VDI takes a look at the recent changes and considers how they effect existing or planned deployments.  Some people will see this as Microsoft stifling the growth of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, others will argue that it may actually acts as an enabler.  In truth I’m just not sure. I’m still digesting what it all means and playing through the various scenarios and combinations of VDI access.  On the surface I can see it hindering as opposed to helping this growing virtualisation sector.

For additional information I’d recommend checking out the following Microsoft FAQ article and for those of you who are Gartner customers the linked article below breaks it down quite nicely into simple terms.

Microsoft VDI suites & Windows VDA Frequently Asked Questions PDF

Gartner – Q&A for understanding Microsoft Licensing Requirements before deploying HVDs

General, Gestalt-IT, Microsoft , , , ,

Windows 2008 VM’s losing default gateway

June 17th, 2010

I am currently in the process of deploying a number of new Windows 2008 virtual machines and came across an interesting little issue.  Every time I reboot the server the default gateway blanks itself, meaning I cannot connect to it via RDP as it is in a remote data centre.  Thank goodness for vCenter console access, if this was a physical server it would be a real pain in the you know what.

So how do you fix it? well simply open a command prompt and type the following

netsh int ip reset c:\resetlog.txt

This is basically a reset of the TCP/IP components and as a result all IP information for your network connections will be wiped back to the default dynamic DHCP setting. So now you need to re-enter the static IP information for the server and restart it. It’s worthwhile doing a couple of reboots just so you can be sure that the problem has actually disappeared.

Further information can be found in Microsoft KB article 299357

General, Microsoft

Virtualisation Visio Stencils – Microsoft, VMware, Citrix

May 13th, 2010

Every tech geek loves making Visio diagrams, admit it you do! I for one love nothing more than scribbling a design down on paper, tweaking and fine tuning it and then bringing it to life in a nice Visio diagram.  My original virtualisation Visio post back in 2008 is one of my most popular so I thought I would revisit it and update it for 2010. I’ve taken the opportunity to expand it to include Hyper-V and Citrix virtualisation products as well as a few other useful stencils.

VMware

 

VMware Official icons and Images – This is PowerPoint format but really quite good.

UPDATEDVMware Official Icons and Images 1 – PowerPoint update since VMworld 2010

UPDATEDVMware Official Icons and Images 2 – PowerPoint update since VMworld 2010

VMware Visio Stencil – This was on VIOPS but was removed, this is an alternative link.

vEcoShell VMware Visio Template

VMware VI3 Server Configuration Template

Veeam Visio Stencils for Visio 2003 and 2007

VMGuru Virtualisation template

 

Microsoft

 

Jonathan Cusson’s Hyper-V template

Microsoft Office Visio 2007 Professional Add-In for Rack Server Virtualization (Virtual Rack)

Microsoft App-V Visio Stencil

Citrix

 

Citrix Dynamic Delivery Center Visio Stencil – XenApp, XenDesktop, XenServer, WANScaler,etc

 

Non Virtualisation Products

 

Cisco Data Centre Visio stencils

Exchange 2007 Visio stencil

Office Communications Server 2007 and 2007 R2 Visio Stencils

Brocade Visio Stencil

VisioCafe – Good Selection of hardware vendor Visio stencils, HP, EMC NetApp, etc

Citrix, Microsoft, VMware , , , , , , ,

Virsto One, Hyper-V and the I/O Blender effect

February 24th, 2010

One of the things I’ve come to love about blogging is the fact that I occasionally get contacted by the odd tech start-up. Keen to demonstrate their latest market leading idea that is going to revolutionise the industry as we know it.  Earlier this month I was contacted by Mindy Anderson who is the Product director at tech start-up Virsto (short for Virtual Storage). Virsto had a new product for Microsoft Hyper-V that they wanted to demonstrate to me in advance of their big product launch. Having looked at Mindy’s background in the storage industry I was very keen to hear more about their new product.

The product is called Virsto One and is aimed solely at Windows 2008 R2 Hyper-V. The product introduces some new features like thin provisioned clones & snapshots, that expand the functionality of the standard Hyper-V product. The most interesting feature in my opinion though is the attempt to tackle the virtualisation / storage problem commonly known as the I/O blender effect.

So what does Virsto One look like?

The software itself installs in the parent partition of each Hyper-V host and consists of the filter driver, a system service and a VSS provider.  The filter driver sits above the raw storage (any block storage) and presents a VHD object to the parent partition.  This setup allows users to configure physical storage once and then use Virsto One to carry out all future provisioning tasks. This includes full support for creating  thin provisioned, high performing, cluster aware snapshots and clones from either the Virsto One Hyper-V MMC snap-in or Powershell.

Virsto_1

So what about the I/O blender effect?

Most storage technologies are not designed for the virtual data centre, most are still designed around the one to one physical server to storage model. Think of a number of virtual machines all with predictable I/O behaviour (if you think of them as physical).  What tends to come out of the physical hypervisor host is a large amount of completely random I/O.  Random I/O has an obvious performance impact when compared with sequential I/O so as you increase the number of VM’s you increase the random I/O from your Hyper-V host.  So as VM density increases performance drops, as we all know low VM density is not your objective when you embark on a virtualisation project.

So Virsto One has an interesting way of dealing with this. Although the “secret sauce” has never been divulged in-depth in its basic form they journal the random I/O that comes down from the Hyper-V host to staging disk.  A staging area is required per physical Hyper-V host and about 20GB / 30GB of disk should support multi-terabyte write downs through use of de-dupe technology. Periodically the data in the staging disks will be flushed / written down to the primary storage location, at this point the Random I/O is laid down sequentially on primary storage to improve read performance. Virsto indicated that in time they would look to support multiple de-stages so that data could be de-staged to another array for business continuity purposes or to the cloud for disaster recovery purposes.

Virsto_2
Are there any performance figures to back this up?

Performance figures from the Virsto test lab show the I/O Blender effect in full effect as VM density increases in the standard Microsoft setup.  With the Virsto software sitting in the middle, staging the data and de-staging it sequentially, there is an obvious improvement in performance.  These test results were from Virsto’s own lab and I stressed the importance of having these independently benchmarked by customers or an external consultancy.  Wendy indicated to me that this was something they were looking into,  I look forward to reading and sharing the whitepaper when it is eventually produced.

Virsto_Graph

So who would be interested in a product like this?

Well ideally the product would benefit Hyper-V customers who require high density, high performing virtual environments.  Hosting companies making use of Hyper-V for selling virtual server instances may well see Virsto as a good way of increasing performance and reducing costs through the use of golden images, snapshots, etc.  Who knows though,  individual companies with an investment in Hyper-V may well see the benefit in this kind of product.  In a way I see it’s not to dissimilar to a company buying PowerPath/VE to increase I/O performance in a vSphere environment.

It is important to note that although this product has been initially built for Microsoft Hyper-V the principals behind it are hypervisor agnostic.  I asked the question “why Hyper-V?” at the start of my chat with Virsto,  the answer was that Hyper-V had functionality gaps and was easier to integrate into.  VMware on the other hand is a more mature product where VMFS has gone some way to deal with the traditional virtualisation storage problems.  Citrix virtualisation customers will be happy to hear that testing has already begun in the lab with a version of Virsto one for XenServer, ETA unknown at this stage.

So how much does all this cost?

At the time of the interview,  which was a good few weeks back the per socket price being talked about was $1,000 – $2,000 USD per socket, again not to dissimilar to the pricing for EMC PowerPath/VE.

Conclusion?

My impression at the time of the demo and interview was that this was an interesting product and very clever idea. The main selling point for me was the increase in performance, if it can be independently verified you would think the product will simply sell itself.  I look forward to hearing more about Virsto in the future and I am particularly interested to see what they can do for other hypervisors especially VMware vSphere with it’s new storage API’s.

Hyper-V, New Products, Storage , ,

Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Release Candidate

May 6th, 2009

I read today on Microsoft’s virtualisation team blog site that the free version of Hyper-V 2008 R2 has now reached release candidate and can be downloaded by clicking on the link below.

Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Release Candidate

The interesting news is that Live Migration, Clustered Shared Volumes and High Availability will be available as part of this free version when it reaches RTM. What isn’t clear is whether these features are included in this release candidate.

So what strings are attached I hear you ask?  Well according to Microsoft absolutely none,  they genuinley appear to be giving away these features for nothing.  I myself thought that the management for Live migration and HA would require a cost as you’d need an implemetnation of System Centre Operations Manager (SCOM) and System Centre Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM).  However this is not the case,  I actually verified this today with a Microsoft Employee at an event I was at this morning.

The following extract from the Microsoft Virtualisation team blog tells you how you can manage these features.  The first requires a Windows 2008 box so there is a licence cost,  the second requires SCVMM which will obviously cost you money.  The third option however is free,  as long as you have Windows 7.

Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Live Migration and High Availability can be managed in a few different ways:

  1. Failover Cluster/Hyper-V Manager from a Windows Server 2008 R2 Server OR,
  2. System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 OR,
  3. Using the FREELY (there’s that word again) available Failover Cluster Manager/Hyper-V Manager for Windows 7.

 

So, as you can see, there are a few different options depending on your needs and option three gives you Live Migration and High Availability at zero cost.

Will this be serious competition for ESXi?  well I’d say in the home lab and SMB Sector it probably will.  VMware have come in for some criticism following the launch of their new vSphere product and licensing.  A lot of people feel SMB’s are not well covered for some of the more advanced features such as vMotion in the vSphere essentials offering.  Microsoft have probably picked up on this fact, after all they’re not daft.  They probably see this as the perfect oppurtunity to win some of that SMB market and get a stronger foothold in the virtualisation market, from there they can start up-selling SCOM and SCVMM.

Hyper-V, Microsoft, New Products ,

Understanding Microsoft Virtualisation – Free eBook

February 4th, 2009

I came across a posting on Planet V12n in my Google reader this morning on the way to work.  One that I wish had been around when I was doing my MCTS 70-652 Windows Virtualisation exam.

Mitch Tulloch with the help of the Microsoft virtualization team have created a new book entitled Understanding Microsoft Virtualization Solutions.  Best of all, all 450 pages can be downloaded for free from the Microsoft learning site once you register.

The Microsoft learning site description of the eBook can be found below.  I haven’t had a chance to look through it thoroughly yet but it should come in handy for those of you who want some additional information on SCVMM and Hyper-V for the 70-652 exam.  There are also some detail on SCVMM and Vmware management as well as content on lesser known products such as Kidaro which fits in the desktop virtualisation space.

This guide will teach you about the benefits of the latest virtualization technologies and how to plan, implement, and manage virtual infrastructure solutions. The technologies covered include: Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2009, Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5, Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization, and Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.

Microsoft ,

Bare Metal Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Beta

January 14th, 2009

You may have already read in numerous places about the release of the new Windows Server 2008 R2 beta.  Well on a quieter note a week after that release, Microsoft have now released the R2 version of their bare metal Hyper-V server.  Now as you probably already know,  Hyper-V Server 2008 is free and is comparable to VMware’s free hypervisor ESXi (well in that it’s free)

You can grab your copy by clicking the following link Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Beta and there is an accompanying overview document which you can also download.

Now the good news is that Hyper-V server 2008 R2 matches the features of the Enterprise edition of Windows Server 2008.  This means support for 8 CPU sockets (32 core count with quad core) and 1TB of memory, it also supports clustering and both quick and live migration features.  Thanks to the guys at Virtualization.info for the information in the following table which demonstrates perfectly, the feature synergy between the bare metal and the full fat windows offerings.

Capabilities Hyper-V Server 2008 Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V
Number of Sockets Up to 4 Up to 8 Up to 8 (EE) / Up to 64 (DE)
Number of Cores Up to 24 Up to 32 Up to 32
Maximum Memory Up to 32GB Up to 1TB Up to 1TB
VM Migration None Quick and Live Migration Quick and Live Migration
Number of VMs Up to 192 Up to 256 Up to 256
SCVMM supported 2008 2008 SP1 2008 SP1

You will note that SVCMM 2008 SP1 is being mentioned in this table. The overview document details the fact that at present Hyper-V server 2008 cannot be managed using the SCVMM as it is not supported.  Microsoft are however working on update, likely to be called SCVMM 2008 SP1 to allow for management of Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 using the virtual machine manager.

Hyper-V, Microsoft, New Products

Powershell and Vmware Virtual Infrastructure

January 13th, 2009

There has been a lot of chat recently around the virtualisation Twitter community about the benefits of Powershell.  A lot of people have been asking whether or not they should switch scripting languages and dive into learning Powershell. Opinion appears to be varied as a lot of people are successfully using  languages such as Perl for VMware scripting and see no need to change.

I’ve only dabbled with Powershell a little,  primarily when the VI toolkit was released as I was intrigued  as to what it could do, I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve now decided to knuckle down and attempt to learn the Powershell basics by reading the Windows Powershell scripting guide. This book primarily covers Powershell from a Microsoft perspective but the principles should stand firm for VMware Powershell scripting,  I’ll just have to dedicate some time to experimenting with the VI toolkit  a little more.

Once I’ve worked my way through the Microsoft book, I’ll be looking to purchase Hal Rottenberg’s “Managing VMware with Windows Powershell” when it’s eventually released.  Virtu-Al conducted a technical review of the book and has written a blog post detailing his thoughts on this much awaited book. Sounds like just what’s needed to progress on the VMware automation skill set.

So what evidence is there that Powershell is taking over as the scripting language of choice.  Well the following little snippets of news certainly indicate that Microsoft are putting their weight behind it and in essence basing their key platforms upon it.

 

When you throw into the mix the continued development of the VI toolkit, powershell for Citrix and SAN vendors like Compellent getting in on the action, Powershell is rapidly gaining a foothold.

So where do I start?

So Powershell is where you want to be, we’ve established that.  so where should you start? Here are a few links to get you (and me) started with Powershell.

Download the one of the following versions of Windows Powershell

Windows PowerShell V1.0 or Windows Powershell V2.0 CTP3 (this is a pre-release version)

Download the following from Toolkit from VMware

Vmware Infrastructrue Toolkit V1.0 Update 1

Check out some of these sites on how to get started with Powershell

Microsoft Getting started with Powershell guide

Microsoft Powershell V1.0 Documentation pack

MSDN – Getting started with Powershell guide

Check out some of these sites for tips on how to get started with Powershell and VMware

Virtu-Al’s getting started with the VI Toolkit blog post

Managing Vmware with Powershell FAQ document

VMware Communities VI Toolkit site

Some Scripts to give you a taster of what is possible

Eric Seiberts top 10 Powershell scripts for Virtual Infrastructure

VMWorld 2008 VI Toolkit scripting contest winners

Some handy links to help you on your Powershell quest

Hugo Peeters – A one man scripting machine

Hal Rottenberg – Techprosiac blog site

Vmware VI toolkit Blog site

Windows Powershell Blog Site

The PowerShell Twitterers list courtesy of Mind of Root

 

Microsoft, VI Toolkit / Powershell, VMware