The Virtual Hard Disk Getting Started Guide is 61 pages of great info outlining all the relevant scenarios, configurations, and options for using VHD files. This was release about 3 weeks ago but I missed it at the time due to training and TechReady9. The guide outlines basic scenarios like booting Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2 from VHD as well as more advanced scenarios like migrating at VHD between physical and virtual environments, etc. If nothing else this is worth a quick read of the table of contents because you will likely see things in there that you didn’t realize you could do with VHDs.
Here is the official description of the doc:
“Windows Server® 2008 R2 and Windows® 7 is the first version of Windows to provide native support for virtual hard disks (VHDs). This guide describes the scenarios that guided the development of this feature, detailed steps about how to employ the functionality (including image creation, deployment, and maintenance), and the associated tools, scripts, and APIs.”
In a blog posting earlier this week, the Azure team announced that they would be moving all Azure applications out of our “USA – Northwest” datacenter. I was fascinated by this given that the stated reason for this move is a change in local tax law which presumably make it less financially attractive to offer the services from that area. Mike Manos published a great blog post on the topic this morning called “The Cloud Politic – How Regulation, Taxes, and National Borders are shaping the infrastructure of the cloud”. Definitely worth reading and considering the implications.
So where will cloud infrastructure form? Consider the real thing in nature and substitute taxes for atmospheric pressure. Below is a paraphrased description from NOAA:
Wind is simply the air in motion … Pressure gradient is the difference in pressure between high and low pressure areas … What happens to the converging winds near a low? … It has to go somewhere so it is forced to rise. As it rises it cools. When air cools it can hold less water vapor so some of the invisible vapor condenses, forming clouds and precipitation … What about the diverging air near a high? … As air warms it can hold more water vapor, which means that clouds will tend to evaporate.
Bottom line, cloud infrastructure will tend to emerge in low tax, low energy cost, high connectivity areas. This much is obvious and has been a key part of data center site selection methodologies as Manos alluded to. To date these have mostly dealt with “where do we plant these multi-hundred million dollar facilities to exist for at least 10 years”. As the move by the Azure team demonstrates however, what runs in these datacenters can be moved around at will. Is it running internal applications and thus maybe not taxable activity? Or is it running a revenue generating activity that may be taxed? If so, does the datacenter in the next state provide a lower tax environment? If yes, move the workload there, and so on.
With an ever growing percentage of computing likely to migrate toward the large cloud providers, small percent differences in the tax rate, cost of power, etc. can have a large impact on the profitability of providing cloud services. You see this today with certain localities actively shaping public policy around attracting datacenter construction.
Over time I think this will lead to several architectural trends. The first is that an ever increasing number of input parameters (tax rate, power cost, bandwidth, etc) will be utilized by cloud infrastructure software to determine where best to run customer workloads. Where today this occurs mostly during site selection, this will rapidly evolve to the point where it is near real-time and workloads will transparently migrate to follow low cost off-peak power, regions with lower taxes, etc. While workloads are easier to move than entire datacenters, even that is very likely to change given the numbers at stake. Most people have heard of Microsoft’s Chicago datacenter where the first floor is comprised of shipping containers and totals hundreds of thousands of servers. This capacity is obviously mobile but requires supporting facility infrastructure which to date is in fixed locations only. If you look at Microsoft’s Gen4 datacenter vision, you’ll see that eventually even most of the supporting infrastructure will be modular and mobile as well.
These trends will make for some very interesting infrastructure architecture challenges. The clouds will form near low pressure areas…
Day 4 and 5 of TechReady were action packed, I didn’t even have time to post yesterday. I skipped the first session timeslot on Thurs to prepare for the double session I was presenting with Citrix. The double session format basically allocates two sessions (3 hours) to one topic letting you get into a lot more detail. The session went very well and the feedback surveys so far have been very positive. We spent the first half of the session describing the Microsoft+Citrix VDI solution and its components. The second half was filled with demos of the solution with different types of clients accessing VDI sessions and walkthroughs of the administrator consoles.
After my session and some internal meetings, I attended a session on Microsoft’s Dynamic Datacenter Toolkit. I haven’t had much time to explore this yet but will be focusing on that a lot in the next couple months. For an example of a hosting partner using this solution, check out MaximumASP.com and their MaxV solution.
Finally on Day 4 I attended a session on the Remote Desktop Services (RDS) improvements in Windows Server 2008 R2, particularly the built-in VDI solution. I’ve been so focused on the Microsoft+Citrix solution that I haven’t had time to dig into the Microsoft in-box solution. This is being positioned toward branch and or lower complexity environments while the Microsoft+Citrix solution is targeted toward large or higher complexity implementations. The improvements to RDP and Hyper-V are the real enablers for the VDI scenarios in R2.
Day 5 opened with multiple demos of Office 2010 and Office Web Applications which are really going to open up completely new scenarios for rich collaboration. Next was a keynote from my favorite Microsoft executive, Bob Muglia, head of the Server and Tools Business. Bob covered improvements in Windows, Hyper-V, SharePoint, SQL. The thing TechReady is best for is stepping back and seeing the scope of this release of software we are going to have this year and the solid advancement in capability and features on almost all fronts simultaneously.
After taking care of some logistical items, I attended a session on Hyper-V security. Not much new info in that one, basically there is good security guidance for Hyper-V in the Windows Server 2008 Security Guide as well as the Hyper-V Resource kit. Finally, I attended a session on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 branch office infrastructure. This covered the new Branch Cache feature which can substantially reduce bandwidth utilization in branches by caching content as well as other new features and improvements to SMB, DFS, etc.
All in all, TechReady9 was a great time. I’ve still got a list of sessions that I want to see that is longer than the list of sessions that I actually saw! I’m glad they were all recorded…
Tomorrow and Sunday I’ll be teaching a 2-day VDI class along with some MCS and Citrix colleagues. Should be a good class, the students will learn about and set up the entire Microsoft+Citrix VDI solution over the course of the two days. Then finally on Monday I will head home after almost two and half weeks on the mothership!
Day 3 kicked off with a keynote by Ray Ozzie and several very cool demos on UI futures, what’s coming across some of the Bing features, and some stuff MSR is working on. There was also a good discussion of how concepts move from MSR, to Labs, then into the product groups.
Next up was a very entertaining session with Jeff Woolsey, the Hyper-V program manager and president of the “virtualization nation”. This session dealt point by point with the FUD put out there by the competition. Aside from the entertainment, it was actually quite valuable because we get hit with some of these outlandish claims by customers all the time who’ve drank the cool-aid of the other guys.
Next up was a session on Terminal Services, which is being re-branded as Remote Desktop Services (RDS). Most of the new features in R2 were discussed (RDP 7, multi-monitor support, VDI) with some cool demos. One showed a six monitor setup over RDP with full multi-monitor support (I use three at home…)
After lunch was a session on the next version of OCS. Voice and PBX replacement are the key themes of this release, beyond that I can’t say much about the content.
In the afternoon I attended a session on VDI using the Microsoft and Citrix solution. This was an intro session to the deep dive that I’m doing today with the RDS PM and some Citrix colleagues. Good session, some good demos of the combined functionality that the two companies provide and how the solution is more fully featured and less expensive than the competition.
The day wrapped up in the evening with “Ask the Experts” which is an event where all the presenters and product group folks are stationed at tables in main dining area and the Techready attendees can come in and ask questions, network, etc. It’s a great opportunity to meet folks from the product groups as well as others you may not have seen in a while. Every year I bump into people I haven’t seen in years or who have recently joined Microsoft that I worked with before. This year was no different.
Day 4 should be action packed, I present during the 10:15 timeslot on VDI.
Day 2 at TechReady was packed with technical sessions, no keynotes. In the morning I attended a session on model driven development. Not yet an infrastructure architecture related technology but as I mentioned yesterday regarding System Center, Microsoft is investing in a big way in modeling. The “Oslo” set of technologies is the foundation for developers and architects.
My next session was a special, invite only, session with a very senior Microsoft executive. It was an NDA session so I can’t discuss the content but in general the session was a very frank Q&A where the senior folks invited to the session were able to ask any question on any topic. I think people would be surprised how down to earth and still very technical some of the Microsoft senior execs are. Additionally, I don’t think most people realize the scope, scale, and challenge of managing the huge engineering teams for the big products.
Next up was a session with my Server Virtualization with Advanced Management (SVAM) colleagues. SVAM is a service offering from Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) and partners focusing on several virtualization scenarios such as server consolidation, dynamic management, VDI, etc. This session provided an overview of the next version of the offering which adds several new content modules including the VDI module I worked on earlier this year around the Microsoft+Citrix VDI solution.
The final two sessions I attended were with the Microsoft Online group (Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, etc). The first was with the operations team of MS Online and the second was with the engineering team. Lots of info about their current offerings and even more about where they were going. The general theme is leveraging the new versions of the underlying products and bringing to the cloud a greater percentage of the features of the on-premise versions.
That’s it for Day 2. Day 3 will bring a keynote from Ray Ozzie, more technical sessions through the day, then Ask the Experts tonight.