Insufficient data from Andrew Fryer

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

March, 2012

  • Notes from IT Camp, Leeds 28th Feb


    Simon and I did our first IT camp in Leeds on Tuesday, and I would like to say thank you to those that cam along as you were the beta testers for this new kind of event.  As you can see we had a much more informal setup of groups of 8 or 9 around tables with a lot more collaboration and interaction around an agenda set by the audience.  

    While most of the day went well we hit a problem with our iscsi target gizmo, which didn’t seem to want to talk to more than 3 machines, so we couldn’t hook up those brave enough to donate their laptops to our mashup cluster.  Other than that we were able to get through what we were asked to talk about within the broad topic of server virtualisation with Hyper-V, plus some stuff you didn’t know you needed to hear about like setting up proper time synchronisation.

    We mentioned quite a few useful utilities and guidance that are essential to a good Hyper-V experience such as  :

    I used the built in command line utility DISM (Disk Image Service Management) to add features to the hyper-v server installation

    Control panel utilities can be got at from the command line e.g. iscsicpl will bring up the dialog for setting up the iscsi initiator.

    Simon called out the Virtual Machine Servicing Tool (VMST) that allows you to patch offline virtual machine (details here). Note that this won’t work with Virtual Machine Manager 2012 just yet.

    I showed you the Core Configurator which can be used to perform basic task on a server core installation of Windows Server or Hyper-V Server

    Simon explained how to manage time synchronisation issues with virtualisation and the definitive TechNet post on this is here

    Rik Hepworth from Black Marble called out John Howard’s HVRemote to enable remote management of Hyper-V server, however I was able to set this up just using the sconfig utility included in Hyper-V Server

    We mentioned that if you didn’t have dedicated iscsi hardware, there is a free Microsoft iscsi target that presents virtual hard disks as iscsi drives.  You might want to watch my friend Adam Carter set this up if you haven’t used it before.

    The SQL server Customer Advisory Team (SQLCAT) has a load of white papers on running SQL Server on Hyper; essentially don’t over commit CPU resources and use either pass through or fixed size disks.

    The Enterprise Server Group has done some performance testing of Hyper-V running various Microsoft workloads, like Exchange Sharepoint and SQL Server, and their finding are here

    My rough guide to setting up Hyper-V server and working with iscsi is in this deck..

    Most of the current round of IT camps are now full so I have a huge favour to ask; if you can’t make it please let us know, not so much for our benefit but so those on waiting lists can attend. If you can’t get on to a camp just now please be patient, we are adding more dates and of course more content like how hyper-V looks in Windows Server 8, which we weren’t able to cover on Tuesday.

    Finally camps currently come in four flavours and for some odd reason we don’t seem to be getting take up on camp three, Simon’s favourite topic, Consumerisation.  I find this odd as we are always being asked how to get non Microsoft smart phones and slates to be good  citizens on your business infrastructure and that’s exactly what he’ll be showing you.  Not only that he’s also planning to show VDI (Virtual desktop Infrastructure), which if you believe some people is something we don’t do properly. So if you have an open mind and and want a more open policy to allowing users to bring their own devices to work come along and find out more.

  • System Center Advisor– now live

    I remember hearing about a Project Houston about a year ago, a cunning plan to allow Microsoft to check the heath of your SQL Server databases and the operating system it sits on. It is now live and it’s called System Center Advisor. It works by using an internet gateway server you setup which in turn gathers information about your SQL Servers and submits this to the System Center Advisor cloud service every day.  The service has all the latest best practice gathered from Microsoft’s premier filed engineers and support teams, and process the supplied telemetry against this database to provide a list of warnings and alerts.

    Here you can see what it made of my demo rig, not too healthy!


    and here you can see the details of those alerts..


    System Center Advisor makes use of the System Center Operations Manager agent to gather the data on each server but this service does not replace Operations Manager as it won’t provide real time alerting and only monitors SQL Server, and Windows Server (including the hyper-V and active directory roles). However the service is now live and it’s a free service for those with Software Assurance, and there’s a free 60 trial if you want to take a closer look.

    The other reason I thought it was worth mentioning is that shows how what can be achieved by a cloud service with an Azure front end coupled with a SQL Azure database be scaled up as demand takes off and it’s output is available to anyone running a browser that supports Silverlight

  • Private Cloud IT Camps

    I have covered some of what we do at IT camps in a couple of previous posts, but what we did in Birmingham and London this week was to launch a new kind of camp, on Private Cloud.  This builds on knowledge gained at a Hyper-V IT camp and on Microsoft Virtual Academy and explain the how and why of managing virtualisation at scale in your data centre..

    Virtualisation at scale obviously means that you are working in a larger organisation, and the concepts of a private cloud such as charge back, scalability and self service are really only appropriate to those business with lots of physical servers, a departmental structure and a group of dedicated IT professionals (although these might be outsourced). 

    System Center 2012 is designed to make the private cloud work and that’s what we show in this camp.  However the individual components in the suite can also be used to proactively manage servers and applications in organisations that only have tens of virtual machines rather than hundreds.  So some of what we talk about at a private camp is relevant to the IT Professional in a smaller business but the main thrust of the camp is Private Cloud. Please bear this in mind when registering to come along.

    I also realise that the the term private cloud is not popular with IT Professionals because it is either seen as marketing spin or its all about reducing costs and IT jobs.  I disagree this stuff is important because

    1. a.  The standardisation and automation that the private cloud brings to a data centre frees you up from fire fighting and lets you concentrate on the projects the business want to implement as the business changes.
    2. Tools like System Center track what is being done to your data centre be that in response to fixes or requests for change, so you don’t have to.  For example if a new virtual machine is deployed it will show up as an asset you will know what operating system and applications are on it who owns it and how long it is needed for

    3. Both of which go to make  the IT department look more like a service and less like and overhead.  On an individual level you will have more respect from the business and that can be more important than a pay rise in my opinion.

    Back to the camps we are running just one more thing; if you are coming to our camps on Hyper-V and you are already running Hyper-V in production then we may well be covering the basics you are already aware of. However because Hyper-V has its place in the smallest of businesses, then this camp is a great introduction for an IT Professional in any organisation, and we know this because we have had some really good feedback from running these camps.