I’m liking this MS Press monthly free ebook program. Especially with my new Kindle DX! Last month it was the Terminal Services Resource Kit, this month it is two for OCS:
Be sure to download these now, the offer only lasts for a short time (as in I waited too long to download last months and missed it!)
Here’s an interesting and slightly amusing mock debate between Brandon Shell and Jason Conger on Citrix’s Workflow Studio vs PowerShell for automation. If you aren’t familiar with it, here is the description of what Workflow Studio is:
“Citrix Workflow Studio™ is an infrastructure process automation platform that enables you to transform your datacenter into a dynamic delivery center.”
“Built on top of Windows PowerShell™ and Windows Workflow Foundation, Workflow Studio provides an easy-to-use, graphical interface for workflow composition that virtually eliminates scripting. Workflow Studio acts as the glue across the IT infrastructure allowing administrators to easily tie technology components together via workflows.”
The debate is amusing because in reality both guys understand that each has its place, one is a foundational component of the other, and the combination of the two can be extremely powerful. The core of the “debate” is one’s definition of automation: execution of atomic tasks with as little effort/code as possible (basic PowerShell) or event/workflow driven execution of multiple tasks with associated logic (advanced PowerShell and/or Workflow Studio). The first is an enabler for the latter.
It’s been my opinion since Exchange 2007 and Virtual Machine Manager 2007 committed entirely to PowerShell and with the PowerShell team’s continued focus on simplicity and consistency, that this was the tipping point that was going to enable real automation and orchestration of IT infrastructures. Now with partners (Citrix) and competitors (VMware) alike building on and/or leveraging PowerShell, we’re going to see significant advancements in the state of the art this year.
There’s a good technical post over on Chris Adam’s blog about how to dynamically provision customized virtual machines by using System Center Virtual Machine Manager and unattend.xml. The unattend.xml file is used in combination with a sysprep’d image and applies customization (things like computer name, installed roles, etc) that are specified in the XML file. Chris’s post explains how this can be done very easily in VMM.
This post was timely as I have been working on some unattended installations and other automation for a customer I am working with. With all the focus on the back and forth with competitors at the virtualization layer, it almost seems like the workload and configuration inside the VM is “getting no respect”.
In any event, the unattended installation realm can be intimidating at first. There are multiple ways of accomplishing most tasks, there is an enormous amount of things in Windows that can be customized, etc. Microsoft makes a large number of resources available such as the Windows Automated Installation Kit, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, etc. There are beta updates to these for Win7, R2, etc. that can be found on Bing.com.
For a very detailed treatment on all of these topics, check out the Deploying Vista series over on WindowsNetworking.com Most of the content is the same for Windows 2008 servers as well. This article on Technet is quick and direct step-by-step guide for a basic automated installation. Between the info Chris provided and some of these resources, you’ll be well on your way to dynamic VM provisioning.
The Hypervisor Functional Specification v2.0 for Windows Server 2008 R2 has been posted to the web and can be found here. The original v1.0 version for Windows Server 2008 RTM was described in this post.
Here is the overview of the v2.0 version:
This document is the top-level functional specification (TLFS) of the second-generation Microsoft hypervisor. It specifies the externally visible behavior of the Microsoft hypervisor, a component of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Windows Server virtualization. The document assumes familiarity with the goals of the project and the high-level hypervisor architecture. This specification is provided under the Microsoft Open Specification Promise. For further details on the Microsoft Open Specification Promise, please refer to: http://www.microsoft.com/interop/osp/default.mspx. The Hypervisor Functional Specifications document specifies the externally visible behavior of the Microsoft hypervisor, a component of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Windows Server virtualization. The specifications can be used to understand the functions of the hypervisor and implement a compatible solution.
Over on the MOF and Service Management blog, two new guides have been released detailing how the Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) complements the ITIL and ISO/IEC 20000 standards and how MOF can be used in concert with them. While oversimplified, I’ve always described MOF as specific Microsoft process guidance for implementing the vendor-agnostic frameworks like ITIL. Where ITIL describes a standard configuration management process, MOF describes how to implement such a process using Microsoft technologies. This simplification makes it approachable to new folks who mistakenly think that MOF directly competes with ITIL.
Late last year I earned the ITIL Service Manager certification and previously had earned the MOF Essentials certification as well. I’m looking forward to digging into the MOF v4 and ITIL v3 the second half of this year. Maybe throw in TOGAF 9 as well. I really like the direction these are going in taking a lifecycle approach not a “one true framework to rule them all” approach. The hard part is getting an organization to really adopt frameworks like these, or even just the parts that work for them. It takes sustained senior leadership buy-in as well as a core team who really understand them for something like this to become ingrained in an organization’s culture. Usually that is due to a lack of focus on metrics and reporting to document the value delivered in terms of lower costs, increase customer satisfaction, etc.