Insufficient data from Andrew Fryer

The place where I page to when my brain is full up of stuff about the Microsoft platform

November, 2010

  • SCE Sunday part 6 – Managing Updates

    Possibly the best thing about System Center Essentials 2010 (SCE) is the way it takes the pain out of managing updates.  My video on how it does this is here..

    While the free Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) does some of this, I particularly like the way SCE quickly shows what’s going on, handles superseding updates and quickly allows you to get the full story on each update by referencing the KB articles.

    Next week I’ll look at deploying software in SCE. In the meantime, If you want to try SCE yourself it’s included in  the TechNet Subscriptions  here or you can get a time bombed trial version here.

  • SQL Server performance in a virtual world

    Despite doing quite a few posts and talks on Virtualising SQL Server, I am still getting the odd comment on earlier posts, so please forgive this if you have heard it all before.

    Firstly these are my musings on the topic to date:

    The post I want to revisit is performance, and Microsoft have put a lot of work into exposing its testing of SQL Server on Hyper-V :

    • the SQLCAT (Customer Advisory Team) whitepaper on virtualising SQL Server (there’s also one for Reporting Services here)
    • This TechNet whitepaper on running High Performance SQL Server workloads on Hyper-V  2 (the version in Windows Server 2008 R2)
    • Microsoft has 5,000 plus virtualised instances of SQL Server as per this TechNet White Paper on Green IT

    There has also been some work done by Vmware in this space, and a quick search should find that for you.

    However if you don’t completely trust all of these resources and you want to determine if SQL Server virtualisation works for you:

    Establish a control or baseline.  Typically this will be a an analysis of an instance of SQL Server running on a physical server.  How you do this will depend on which version of SQL Server you are running; if you have SQL Server 2008 turn on data collection in management studio, if it’s an older version then I can only suggest timing your longest/most important running queries.

    Compare like with like.  Match the characteristics of your physical server in the virtual machine, for example the same number of cores/virtual processors, the same RAM, the same network bandwidth.  Given that IO is often a bottleneck for SQL Server matching this in a virtual machine is an interesting exercise and will depend on your infrastructure:

    • If you have your databases on a SAN, all you should do in the VM is have a pass through disk(s) to reference that same SAN.
    • If you have directly attached storage, then is the physical disk on the server running your SQL Server VM as fast as on the control machine.?You also need to be mindful of what other VM’s are contending for that disk while you’re testing SQL Server.

    Rerun your tests on the virtual machine and compare the results. One thing to note here is that there should be no DB tuning or anything done in the VM to optimise performance as that could also be done on the physical machine and void your evaluation. Having said that things like compression in SQL Server will possible have more of a benefit on a VM than on a physical server as you sacrifice some CPU for less IO.

    Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the answer comes out that you have 80% of the performance you had on the physical server (the reality should be more like 95%). What are you getting for this 20% loss in performance? Basically manageability and control by removing your dependence on a particular server. Is that worth paying for? Only you can answer that.  For many organisations this is a price worth paying and often have a virtual first policy requiring stakeholders to justify using physical servers.

    But virtualisation is more than that, it’s also about consolidation. Your new server running those VM’s is designed for virtualisation whether you use it for that or not. It’s going to use less power for a given workload than the one you bought four years ago and its probably going to have more cores than before.  So in addition to running your test VM at our arbitrary rate of 80% of physical performance it will also run maybe four or five other VMs. 

    If you take virtualisation as simply a way of saving money through better use of hardware and power, the savings are verifiable from Microsoft, from Citrix, from Vmware.  If this was all smoke and mirrors I wouldn’t be blogging about it and Vmware who have relied on this as their main revenue stream would be out of business. 

    Does it work for SQL Server? I think so for all but the largest implementations. Microsoft thinks so too, and so do most of the Vmware community I know, so if you disagree show me the evidence and we’ll discuss it over a pint, over coffee,  or over the internet.

  • Discovering Autism with Microsoft Surface

    I met Freena Eijffinger again at this year’s at TechEd Berlin after doing some cartons for her film crew last years and she casually mentioned she has been given a Microsoft Surface .  Her company (FreenaNL Multiouch) is developing an application to diagnose autism in children and the robust nature of Surface (it uses cameras rather than a touch screen) and its simple and logical interface make it ideal for this. Moreover a consistent test gives consistent results and removes the drudgery of testing from the specialists working with these children enabling them to make additional qualitative observations. 

    Freena has also carefully thought about what to do with the test results and provides personal private data to the child’s carers and parents to monitor progress as well as anonymous data for trend analysis by various research bodies via Azure. 

    Freena is obviously much better at explaining this so I fired up my camera and posted a short interview to YouTube

    (apologies about the noise in the background)

    The actual application is still being developed and tested, but Freena hopes to publish what it looks like early next year, and I'll keep you posted as I am fascinated by the use of Surface , it’s integration to Azure and the potential use of BI to try and understand more about this terrible disease.

  • SCE Sunday part 5 – Monitoring

    In part 5 of my tour of System Center Essentials 2010 , I have done a tour of monitoring:

    One thing I did notice since I made the last part of this series was the alarming rate at which my SCE machine was growing.  This happened because I hadn’t turned on the maintenance in SCE..


    where you can schedule housekeeping to keep SCE running fast and reduce unnecessary updates..

    sce maintenance 2_thumb[1]

    Next week I’ll look at how updates are controlled and in the meantime, If you want to try SCE your self it’s included in  the TechNet Subscriptions  here or you can get a time bombed trial version here.

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Active Directory–ADAC

    TIn the last in my “What’s new in active directory in Windows Server 2008 R2” mini series I wanted to introduce the Active Directory Administrative Center (ADAC). This is a simple deployable client to enable users who have limited experience of active directory to carry out routine tasks like adding users and resetting passwords.  It’s particularly useful if privileges to do these simple tasks have been delegated to users perhaps in a regional or branch office. I have short screencast on how this works..

    You get ADAC on the domain controller, but what you really need is for users to run it on their desktops and to do that you need to deploy the Remote Server Administration Tools  (RSAT) which you get from here.  This is a windows update which changes the optional windows features you can use, and so if you go into windows features after installing RSAT you will now get this big list..


    ..from which you can select ADAC and the AD DS Snap-in and command line tools it depends on.

    I have to confess I often use this tool as it’s quicker for me but then I don’t claim to be a deep Active Directory expert,  so if you are a part time domain administrator like me then you might want to fire it up.

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Active Directory–Recycle Bin

    With  Recycle Bin now available I may now be able to get a job in Active Directory, as it provides recovery form the sort of finger trouble I occasionally suffer from.  To use it you need to turn on the feature and this ironically cannot be undone, as it changes the way deletes are handled from this


    to this..


    My screencast on the subject is here..

    Note your forest functional level of Active Directory needs to be at the Windows Server 2008 R2 level for this to work

    For more detail on the active directory recycle bin and a simple step by step guide please go to TechNet here

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Active Directory – PowerShell

    Following on from yesterday’s post I realised that I had made a couple of other active directory screencasts, which might be useful.  Probably the most important  feature for me would be the new recycle bin, but before I get to that you need to understand that like the newer versions of Exchange, some nobs and switches in Active Directory can only be turned on in PowerShell.  So here’s my video to introduce you to PowerShell in Active Directory as well as the new IDE to make PowerShell a little easier to use:

    So next up the active directory recycle bin.

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Active Directory - Offline Domain Join

    I was in Leeds yesterday at the Virtual machine User Group..


    Alan and I were handing out a few Windows Server 2008 R2 architecture posters, when Tom Howarth  a well known virtual machine expert, spotted the Offline Domain Join feature.  He thought this would be really useful in provisioning client virtual machines for VDI.

    In case you aren’t aware of this new feature in active directory, Offline Domain Join just does what it says and fortunately I was able to dust off an old screencast I made showing how this works back when Windows Server 2008 R2 was in beta..

    This process can be applied as part of an unattend install script to create a client and simply allows it to be in the domain when it’s spun up for first use. 

    Please also be aware of  a couple of extra things I didn’t call out in he screencast.

    • The file you create and apply to the offline client is NOT a text file, it’s obfuscated/encrypted so you can’t derive any useful information by opening it NotePad, or fiddle with it to use it on other clients.
    • While the DJOIN/ provision process will create a new entry in active directory it could then fail to create the file you specify if the path doesn’t exist.
    • I also noticed a /DOWNLEVEL switch for the DJOIN command so Tom could use this to offline his VMs to a Windows Server 2003 DC.

    If you want to try this yourself there is also a good step by step guide on TechNet here

  • SCE Sunday part 4 – Computer Administration

    If you are following this series especially on RSS, I must apologise as I got the order of the videos and posts out of synch and hopefully this is now sorted.

    In part 4 of my tour of System Center Essentials 2010 (SCE 2010)  , I have done a tour of the computers tab in SCE:

    Enter video caption here

    Next week I’ll look at how updates are controlled and in the meantime, If you want to try SCE your self it’s included in  the TechNet Subscriptions  here or you can get a time bombed trial version here.

  • TechEd Berlin Day 1

    Simon and i are at TechEd Berlin all week,

    TechEd Berlin 049

    his post on the keynote is here.  I didn’t get to that as I was setting up BI demos al day on the SQL Server stand. I got asked a couple of interesting SQL Server questions I thought I would share:

    I have SQL Server 2008 but not R2 what BI features do I get in SharePoint 2010 compared withe SQL Server 2005 / SharePoint 2007? You can still integrate reporting services into SharePoint 2010 and this is much easier to do now. The reports will run more quickly in integrated mode and you get some really nice charts  and gauges (although no maps or sparklines).

    Why did you kill Performance Point? Most of what was in Performance Point is simply included in SharePoint 2010 enterprise edition. The exception to this is the planning capabilities which were deprecated.  If you need a Microsoft centric planning tool then there a re a couple of partners who have solutions for this.  On the plus side the decomposition tress and other visualisations have all been improved and there is only a small amount of configuration required in SharePoint to turn Performance Point on.

    I am now in the process of installing Denali ctp1 so if all is well I can share an early look at this tomorrow

  • Phone 7

    IMG_5485I wanted to wait until I had my own production windows phone 7 device before posting about it partly because the demo machines I had didn’t seem to like my sinister (left handed) way of using it, and had a hard life before I got one to play with.  I have just been given the HTC Mozart on Orange so I thought now would be the time to give you my top5 favourite things.




    1. You can actually make phone calls with it. I think it’s a good place to start as I am of an old school where my preferred human interaction with my fellow man runs in order of:

    • Can we have a chat in person
    • Can we talk on the phone
    • Can we discuss this in Live Messenger/ Lync (the new Office Communicator)
    • e-mail

    So the fact that you can quickly call someone wherever you see a phone number: in Outlook, in the People hub, from a website is my own personal top feature as it is what I am used to with Lync on my laptop.

    2. The marketing stuff on Phone 7 makes a lot of mention of the social media capabilities, possibly at the expense of its use as a business phone.  But it has pretty well everything I need for business with its integration with Office and Outlook, and I think this emphasis is simply to offset the traditional view that smartphones are for business but aren’t any fun.   For me it’s the blend of work and play on the phone that stands out as it increasingly hard in our daily lives to split when we are working and when we aren’t. For example I can’t be in two places at once so I need to have an integrated view of my diary rather than look at two phones, a phone and real diary etc.  I also need the same integration with messaging so all my e-mails and voicemails in one place.

    3.  My other love on this device is the use of location intelligence in search, the built in Bing Maps, and the find my phone.  Of course none of this is new in itself, but it all just fits together here so you don’t have to consciously do anything. I do realise that location awareness can be a good and bad thing, but this is simply a question of who you choose to share your location with, and this is simple to switch on and off and to configure in each application.

    4. Applications have been around as long as smartphones have fro example I have CoPilot on my faithful Samsung i600 (on the left above), but what I like about the Phone 7 apps is the way they behave like the rest of the user experience on the phone e.g ITN, Twitter, and the weather.

    5. The carrier experience.  Orange have put in a bunch of their own applications which don’t dominate the phone as I have seen on other smartphones and they and the other carriers have decided to compete on providing useful stuff that I can choose to use rather than being forced to, and actually I am more like to do so because of this.

    I have missed off loads of stuff here including:

    • Yes it has a lovely camera and picture hub, but I have a Canon 60D which can’t make phone calls, and I only share a fraction of my photos
    • I do love the Zune functionality but I already have a 32gb Zune HD, so this will get limited use on my 8Gb phone.
    • I do play the odd game on the phone but I can live without it

    So for me the point of phone 7 is that it’s my phone and I can use it for what’s important for me whether I am at work or not.

  • SCE Sunday part 3 – Post setup Administration

    In part 3 of my tour of System Center Essentials 2010 (SCE 2010)  , I have simply left SCE to bed in after installing and configuring it:

    During this time SCE will have  done the following:

    • Implemented the group policy changes needed,
    • Installed the agents on each of the computers I wanted to manage,
    • Started to apply updates via Windows Server Update Services (WSUS)

    Next week I’ll start to look at actually monitoring and managing the computers in my demo environment.  In the meantime, If you want to try SCE your self it’s included in  the TechNet Subscriptions  here or you can get a time bombed trial version here.

  • Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job

    I have spent the day dug in at the Cabinet War Rooms in London for Inframon’s annual War on Cost event with the top experts in systems management .  The venue was chosen to reflect the them of the event and much like world war 2 the Americans in the form  of 9 Microsoft experts from the System Center product team were on hand to help.  Other allies also contributed in the form of partners who have built on the System Center framework to enhance its capabilities for interop with and more sophisticated reporting:

    • Silect have MP studio for management pack lifecycle management, plus tools
    • ComTrade have management packs and pro tips for Citrix and Siebel to make these first class citizens in System Center
    • Flexera for sequencing and packaging windows 7 deployments (more on this from Simon)
    • SaVision LiveMaps on top of Ops Manager to give a map with your data centre plus a new product Vital signs which is real time performance management form Ops Manager. This stuff is also Azure aware.
    • Bridgeways works with SCOM to manage Vmware and the all major database vendors,
    • Odyssey Software provides extensions for mobile management in Config Manager for all the smartphones out there

    If you weren’t there then it was all filmed for TechNet (I’ll edit this post when it’s live) and you’ll need to catch that if you want to see what v-next of System Center looks like including  Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) and you also can’t make to TechEd in Berlin next week.

    What really caught my eye was an early look at SCVMM 2012 which changes the focus form managing servers to managing services so can deploy a Dynamics service, or a SharePoint services etc. It’s looks really well formed already with a shiny office ribbon and slick graphics to  model the service dependencies (databases IIS etc.)  and how elastic this should be. This new SCVMM can then create clouds for different business units into which services into and delegate administration to nominated staff using familiar role based security, they can then use a locked down version of SCVMM to manage just their own cloud.  The vision for System Center is to simply not worry about what infrastructure this is all run on such as the hypervisor or public cloud provider.

    A couple of specific things caught my eye are the recent acquisitions around System Center:

    • Avicode looks at .Net apps and whether this is code or infrastructure related, either at the line of code that failed or the fact the system ran out of disk or was io bound.  So no more arguments between developers and IT Professionals about applications not running properly. Moreover Avicode just disappears into Ops Manager so you get the same graphs metrics and us it in the same way as any other management pack. 
    • Opalis  is an IT process automation engine and the key to running a private cloud. However this is not an out of the box solution for private cloud  (I am pretty sure no one has this today) rather it is the tool to automate scale and high availability in the style of a public cloud.

    So that’s a quick run through the key weapons that System Center will be bringing to the war on cost in your data centre, and may be ending some of the infighting inside a business by providing clarity about performance and running costs by service.

  • Pimp your website for IE9

    Back in the day of windows X (where X tends to 3) I used to do loads of icon design as part of the project I was working on. What goes around comes around and now I find there are other uses for icons namely favicons in IE9.  Now that you can tear off tabs and pin them to the taskbar they can be a good way to promote your brand even if that is an internal brand for your in house application, like mine was.

    Someone in the IE team has noticed this possibility and has decided to bring out a free utility, X-Icon to make this as easy as possible.  However rather than creating an application it’s simply one of the html5 test applications for  IE9 so it runs in the browser

    To try it out I went to the SQLBits website and saved the log to my desktop. I then navigated to the X-icon page


    and selected import.  I then cropped to the bit of the logo I wanted and checked OK..


    closing this dialog shows you a preview of the icon, and you can see each size you selected by highlighting them..


    I just need to use the rubber to get rid of the orange bit on the right on each of the icon sizes by clicking on each one in turn. Once I have finished I can then preview the result in a new tab to see what it will look like for each of the possible uses, as a popular site, on the taskbar and in IE9 itself:


    Finally when I hit the export button I get instructions on how to embed it in my site..


    ..before saving it as an .ico file.

    So three things to note here:

    1. favicons are a nice way to show off your site in IE9 

    2. X-icon is a simple tool to do this.

    3. X-icon is written in html5 with <canvas> and shows how far you can go with an application using this new standard. However it does have its limits (e.g. no right click) and that is why extra functionality from frameworks like Silverlight