Microsoft Tech.Days 2012: Windows Server 2012 – Virtualising Servers IT Camp

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Today we are at Microsoft UK offices in London Victoria for technical readiness / education event as part of the long running Microsoft UK Tech.Days aimed at IT Pros, which we’ve been attending and blogging about since they started in 2010.

The event is an introduction / update of Windows Server 2012 (virtualisation) which went General Availability (GA) earlier in the week on Tuesday, and was Released To Manufacturing (RTM) on August 1st.
Whilst just released, traction for Windows Server 2012 has been building up since early 2012 through the Technology Adoption Program (TAP) which we were accepted for..

The format of the day (an IT Camp) has a twist as it’s a heavily hands-on learning event where you Bring Your Own Device / BYOD capable of running Hyper-V (or capable of dual booting from a USB key into WS2012) to participate in a hands-on lab session.

Bringing your own machine (ideally a laptop as opposed to a rack server Winking smile) meant a heavy bag for me with two laptops, one freshly built with the released/RTM code just this week – a ThinkPad T61p with Windows Server 2012 Standard see Windows Server 2012 laptop installation.. (on ThinkPad) – Part 1

The brief on the day given by Microsoft was:

Synopsis (from the Tech.Days site)

"These hands-on sessions will give you an introduction to Windows Server 2012 and ample opportunity to discuss any specific issues and concerns you may have with Microsoft experts Simon May and Andrew Fryer as well as professional peers working near you.

The agenda will be set by you, but here are some topics that are likely to be covered:

  • What’s new in Windows Server 2012
  • How to create Virtual Machines
  • High availability with clustering

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Simon May and Andrew Fryer delivering the session (& BYOD laptops..)

 

Cool stuff – Lots of it!

Indeed too much for a post, and too much for a single day session so the UK IT Camp team kindly has put a deck on SkyDrive @ http://sdrv.ms/ORM1WO

Here are a few items we picked up, and hopefully some ‘gold’ Smile

  • Server Manager – improved single pane of glass for managing servers local and remote, create groups of servers and perform some tasks simultaneously on multiple servers
  • Multi-server remote management enabled by default (great for 10’s or 100’s but maybe not 1000’s)
  • Red lighting within server manager for situation bad, but hopefully not FUBAR!
  • Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) already on Win8, with Windows 7 (& Vista?) coming soon..
  • Lots of new Virtualisation features and capabilities:
    • New VHD format .vhdx lifts size limit from 2TB to 64TB (but some Gotcha’s – read-on!)
    • New type of NIC – Virtual Fibre channel SAN allows connecting directly to FC storage from a guest
    • VM Live migration without a cluster / shared storage!
    • Can start a VM with more starting RAM than the minimum set in Dynamic memory settings and the VM will release the difference after start up has completed, saving memory usage.
    • 64 Cores now supported
    • 64 Nodes now supported in a cluster (up from 16) – scalability has gone through the roof!
      (1000 VM’s per cluster)
    • You can set the number of Live Migrations allowed at a time up to 64 at a time
      (but you better have a very fast SAN to support several simultaneous live migrations)
    • Virtual GPU by using CPU – no GPU needed. Useful for VDI scenarios, and helps the challenge of how do I fit this expensive, large, hot & hungry high-end gaming graphics card in my 1u server..
    • SR-IOV – talking directly to the switch, all major vendors are signed up to supporting it
    • DHCP Guard stops rogue DHCP, Router guard protects against rogue routers – we’ve accidently deployed a DHCP server into a network in the past and then enjoyed the middle of the night support call… NOT!
    • NIC teaming supported by guests (needs to be enabled)
    • Storage Migration – move VHD’s over to other storage on another server
    • Remote management is enabled by default, building a VM in PowerShell can configure the VM too from the same script
    • Domain Controllers are VM snapshot aware (do folks really go around snapshotting DC’s in production? Confused smile), anyway Snapshotting DC’s is now supported and changes in Server 2012 will replicate AD changes when it comes back up..
    • Cluster Aware Updates (CAU) – moving VM’s around nodes during cluster patching.. talks to WSUS, it moves VM’s over to another node and will save LOTS of time!!
    • Hyper-V Replication across the WAN – Set on a machine by machine basis, several options for getting the VHD over the wire. Replicated VM’s can have alternative IP address settings to its source VM.
    • Cluster broker role – manages where to put the replicated VM’s
    • Injecting PowerShell into a guest VM from the host, e.g. when building out new servers to then install roles & features
    • Add Windows features directly into a VHD while it’s turned off (and scripted!)
  • Storage Pools for creating and presenting unified storage from a collection of disparate disks with parity or mirror, also allows Thin Provisioning of storage – save storage costs and never run out of disk again!
  • You can then create volumes and provision shares, all from within Server Manager and can be VHD’s or host Hyper-V
  • Data Deduplication – block level (4K) deduplication of files (a sub-feature of the File and Storage Services, File and iSCSI Services, Data Deduplication feature – FS-Data-Deduplication)
    • Data Deduplication on Storage Pools
    • Backup vendors are working on Backup agents that are de-dupe aware.
    • De-duplicate data more than x number of days old
    • Can backup while de-dupe is running. It will back off or pause if system resources are low
      Caveats – files have to be closed, can’t be in use. Inside VM’s fine, not on where the VM VHD is sitting are sitting
    • Runs as a job on schedule, controlled through PowerShell
  • PowerShell 3.0 – new version of Windows PowerShell, lots of new cmdlets for managing almost every role, feature or capability of the platform, plus other enhancements that makes it easier to write scripts
  • File Shares – different performance and usage profiles available to different usage types
  • SMB v3 greatly improved, 250,000 concurrent connections to a share (up from 75,000)
  • You can put VHD’s on a file share now, no SAN needed
  • A cluster will come up if the domain controllers that are on the cluster are down by caching data from the domain at last successful start-up (mitigates chicken & egg virtualised DC scenario)
  • HA Shared Storage with SMB 3.0 – Making a highly available File Store for a third the cost of a SAN
  • Create a Failover Cluster with just 3 lines of code as opposed to 15 mins (I’d suggest a good half hour and we are very practised!) with Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) can now be used for other services, not just Hyper-V e.g. File Services
  • CSV Caching for huge improvements to iSCSI SAN storage
  • No Quorum configuration needed when creating an even-node cluster
  • DHCP Failover – when the DHCP server goes down another trusted server will respond – DHCP failover capability allows two DHCP servers to lease out addresses from the same scope, to the same subnet. Clustering still another options for DHCP high availability. Hot standby and load balancing also available.
  • Server Core or GUI – you can choose – can add and remove the GUI at will, thus it will flip between a core install and full-fat install.  Start with GUI first then go to core otherwise you’ll have to mount the media to install the GUI components..

Licensing

A big change in that Enterprise is no longer offered leaving just Standard and Datacenter editions, however all features are in both products with the main difference being virtualisation rights..

  • Datacenter licensed based on 2 sockets = 1 licence, unlimited VM’s on that host
  • Standard – about quarter the price, between 4 and 6 servers, also based on 2 sockets = 1 licence

Everything is available on Standard and Datacenter, no RAM caps or CPU caps any more, all OS max

Hyper-V Server 2012 expires some time in 2050

Tips, Tricks & Gotcha’s

  • Differencing Disks and the new VHD format, be aware the target disk can only be spawned from the same format parent (you can convert from .vhd to .vhdx using Edit Disk)
  • Migration – no ‘Rolling Thunder’ approach to cluster upgrades, you need to build a new cluster then migrate your VM’s, however as we know Hyper-V v2 VM’s will import by simply copying in and importing (no need for export process)
  • In-place upgrades supported for non-clustered servers
  • Can’t live migrate between AMD and Intel CPU’s since there are different instruction sets, but can use reduced instruction set / CPU compatibility for migrating from very old processor support (e.g. an NT4 HAL) and this needs restart to change the settings, used for maintaining compatibility when you’re moving VM’s between CPU architectures, i.e. Xeon II to Xeon III
  • Shared nothing migration does not work with differencing disks
  • Systems Centre 2012 needs SP1 before it will support and run on Windows Server 2012

Windows Server 2012 Certification

It’s definitely time to update that MSCE with the new release of Windows Server.  There are 3 core Windows Server exams covering Installing & Configuring, Administering, and Configuring Advanced Windows Server Services, followed by Designing & Implementing plus Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure

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From MCSA to MSCE in 3 steps..image

It’s as easy as 1..2..3 (okay, it’s definitely going to be harder than that), but as Andrew pointed out, how many folks are hiring at the moment (no one in the room) so it’s still a tough market out there and along with the new love for PowerShell an updated MSCE won’t do any harm to your job prospects..

more at Microsoft.com > Microsoft Learning > Certification > MCSE: Server Infrastructure and Microsoft Virtual Academy Windows Server 2012 training

And we won some SWAG!

As usual at these events, audience participation is encouraged and correct answers equal prizes along with a thank you for event survey’s, etc.  Today was a good day for swag! – a tech.days branded Mini Mag-Lite, a tool kit, a branded notepad (pen & paper still works! ;-), and a Microsoft Virtual Academy 2GB flash memory plastic card… err with nothing on it!?!  anyway, its SWAG and SWAG is good! Smile

There were many questions during the day, but the ones we got swag for were:

Q. How many simultaneous live migrations can you do with Hyper-V v2 (Windows Server 2008 R2)
A. 1 (obviously you can do many in v3 / Windows Server 2012)

Q. How do you understand how many VM’s you have to migrate to Windows Server 2012?
A. Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (MAP)
(Audit & Review is a big part of our consulting practise and MAP is a core tool used in various audits)

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Today SWAG is brought to you by Torches, Notepads, and Toolkits 

Overall & thank you..

A cracking day and an excellent break from the usual auditorium delivery method, or in previous years in a cinema in Hammersmith (for us at least), so a lot less people than a cinema full so registration went fast – if it is coming to a venue near you (see UK Tech Days Upcoming Events) get in quick!

Special thanks must go to Andrew, Simon, Marcel, and Sarah for putting on an excellent day which really worked to deliver and retain a LOT of great information – if I could go again I would, it was that good!!
Also thanks to Patrick Lownds from HP and also an MVP for Windows Server (Virtual Machine) whom we bump into at various events over the years (since a SMSE train-the-trainer bootcamp in 2008) – Patrick was on hand to help answer questions and contribute on the day.

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