Nice as Windows 7 client is, I’ve found myself feeling a more excited about Windows Server 2008 R2. Having banged on and on about how easy it is to set-up a cluster with Hyper-V on the original Server 2008, it turns out to be even easier. I’m trying to finish my Hyper-V library for PowerShell and the first few tests I’ve done show that everything coded for the original release works with R2. It’s one extra line in the PowerShell script to make a machine highly available (or two if you have to set up the cluster shared volume). And live migration just works. Actually I’ve got half a mind to suggest a change to the product team which is when the migration completes the management tool should play a fanfare. There should be more drama, more sense of achievement, but getting on with it in a low key way is Hyper-V’s style.
Which brings me to Hyper-V server R2 beta. I saw an e-mail saying we’d put out the beta out, but it’s been very low key. There is an overview document which you can download, and here are the major comparison points
Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008
Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2
Number of Sockets licensed
Up to 4
Up to 8
Number of cores supported
24 (with QFE)
Quick and live migration
Manageable by SCVMM
Yes (SCVMM 2008)
Yes (SCVMM 2008 SP1)
Maximum running VM Guests supported
You can see that R2 has feature parity with Enterprise editions of Windows Server, rather than Standard. That means 8 sockets and 1TB of memory, and clustering (with live migration, but no fanfare). In R2 we’re increasing the core count to 32 (either 8 x 4 Core chips or 4 x 8 core chips when they arrive) and the usual rule of maximum virtual processors = 8 x cores allows up to 256 uni-processor VMs on a 32 core machine
This document is the first place I’ve seen us say that there will be a service pack for SCVMM and R2 will need it. If our licensing remains unchanged you’ll be able to run VMs on Hyper-V server without needing a Windows CAL you won’t get any licences for instances of the server OS – but you’ll be able to assign a Windows Server Licence to the box and run something else as the virtualization layer. Yes, licensing creates daft anomalies but often fixing them is worse.
The beta itself is available for download here … I wonder if it supports boot from VHD like Windows Server 2008 R2 – that’s my preferred way to support multi booting and there’s only one way to find out.
Update. The installation seems to use the 6.0 version of Windows PE, which won’t mount a VHD to install it. I’ve got another post open about that.
It seems it wasn’t just our internal network servers which went into melt down – on Friday the rush to be one of the first 2.5 million to download Windows 7 was more than the exceeded capacity could cope with. On top of that, there’s a rumour doing the rounds that the problem with keys was because someone put the wrong number into the system so we had way fewer actually available than planned.
Hopefully those issues are all sorted out, and we’ve made an additional change, the download limit is going to be 2.5 million copies OR two weeks up to January 24th – which ever comes later. I’m going to remain my curmudgeonly self and say that we only need a small number because there is a strong correlation between needing the beta and subscribing to technet.
Wanting the beta is something else entirely , and after a few hours on it getting all the usual bits of software installed I’m feeling less reserved about saying people should run it. The positive reactions I’m seeing round the internet tell me that other people are feeling the same. But Remember there is no technical support available for for pre-release software, (although we’ve created a TechNet online forum where you can ask questions and get answers from other beta testers.) We always talk about people “participating” in a beta and part of my reason for saying we shouldn’t let everyone who wants it into the the beta is that they don’t give feed back - which plays a critical role in the development process. If there’s something you find confusing or annoying—or a feature you absolutely love—please tell us by clicking the "Send Feedback" link at the top of any window.
Remember that you’ll have to re-install Windows, by August 1st. It was nice to get a name check from Ed Bott, who talked about this. Ed’s convinced we’re going to ship in July. And I’ve said before that as far as Microsoft people talking about ship dates is concerned, those who talk don’t know and those who know don’t talk. Past experience has led me to a rule of thumb which says a beta runs for about 3 months, so with nothing else to go on that would suggest updating to next pre-release version around April (conveniently half way to the August 1st expiry date). If that release is designated “Beta 2” it will suggest a ship date of the end of the year. If it’s designated “release candidate” then Ed and the others will be able to say “Told you so”.
I don’t talk much here about occasions when Microsoft’s internal workings get silly, but the last couple of days have been funny. We were fore-warned that Steve B would be announcing Windows 7 beta availability in his CES speech, but to prevent leaks the software was kept on very limited distribution until it went public. Then the folks in Microsoft IT had to put copies on various servers for us to download. Those servers took an absolute pounding. Some people were downloading from Technet and MSDN because too many people where hitting the main European software distribution server – I could visualize network cables glowing red hot. Since nobody told the people who manage the stationery cupboards what was about to happen, blank DVDs were in short supply – I was slow off the mark and had to get mine from another building.
I installed Windows Server 2008-R2 on Thursday evening, I’ve been doing my 3 laptop virtualization demo using a second hard disk to turn my every-day working dell into a second server. I want to be able to show the new virtualization features with R2 but still show what they can do with the software that’s shipping today (and it will be a little while before the SCVMM team have an update to support R2). So I need these to Dual boot; you may have read that R2 adds support for booting from a VHD file, and I decided to make use of that - give or take a minor headache with the initial configuration it works well. This feature is public, but the only document I have with instructions has got confidential on it, so I’m going to wait a bit before posting instructions or a community clips video on how to make it work.
The next question was what to do for a Windows 7 client. My Vista machine’s hard disk needs a major clear out, and I really wanted to use a clean disk, and my only “spare” is dual booting the two server OSes. So I needed another drive and off I went to Scan where a 120GB 7200 RPM disk is £25 plus taxes and delivery: ordered on Thursday, the courier tried to deliver it at lunch time on Friday. The longest part of installing 7 turned out to be going to the courier’s depot and fetching the drive. Installation from Power-up to first logon was 30 minutes including formatting the drive. Incidentally , Viral has coverage of an issue affecting Product keys I got a key from Technet, but I’ve opted not to enter it yet, there’s a 30 day grace period.
I don’t want to turn into a broken record here, but it is a beta and that means for testing not production. The licence is pretty clear on this .
I’ve said before that testing a client OS tends to mean running it as an every day OS, even though you can’t put it into full scale production. Is it up to the job ?
It’s not a major release, but a .1 release building on existing work so it shouldn’t have too many rough edges. And it doesn’t. The first impression is it feels like a finished OS. It also shouldn’t be a radical departure from the .0 release. And it isn’t. I was a little surprised to find that there was no Nvidia driver in the box, but the Vista drivers for that and for my Hauppauge TV stick installed with no problem at all. My generic web cam and Express-Card SD reader were no trouble, I’ll grab some other USB devices and see how they fare over the weekend.
Since I mentioned the TV stick, the beta is ultimate edition so includes Media Center, which has had a minor face lift and looks … crisper is the word which springs to mind. Media player on the other hand carries has a 2006 copyright date on it and is barely changed. (No podcast support). And at least as far as my Pentax PEF files are concerned support for previewing RAW images in explorer still left to the camera makers (Maybe it’s different for Nikon and Canon – I don’t have the files to check). I’m sure a basic photo gallery was there but Movie Maker has gone, but there is a link to download Live Photo Gallery (which disables the built in one instead of having two) and the new “Windows Live Movie Maker”.
Live Movie maker sports the new, Office 2007 style, “fluent” tool bar as do Wordpad and Paint. Actually that’s a sign of something else. When Windows 95 came out 800x600 was considered high resolution. We couldn’t spare the space at the top of the screen for the bigger toolbars, and the task bar was skinny. 7 has a fatter task bar and handles “stacked” items much better than vista does. There are also a bunch of improvements in Window management, previews and so on. Viral was making very positive noises about these innovations on Friday. My take is that in Vista we took advantage of the capabilities of modern graphics cards for the first time, it’s very rare that you exploit a technology to best effect at the first go. “Peeking” - bringing a window to front when you hover over its preview , and putting it back if you move the mouse away - is the kind of thing that comes in a second release. We’ve also got the ability to peek at your desktop without minimizing everything , useful if you use the new sticky notes app. The new sidebar metaphor is not to have a bar on the side – gadgets still start life there but now they can go anywhere on the desktop. Finding something when there are many windows on top of each other is now much easier. And I’m sold on a feature called “jump lists” – basically your recent or common actions show up on the right click menu for a toolbar item – or a fly out menu from the start menu. So for example IE’s history, or “Watch Live TV” for Media Center, so two clicks gets me where I want to be straight away.
Elsewhere, software explorer seems to have gone from defender, (shame), and there progress indicator hasn’t been put back into defrag. Calculator has had an update – including a useful unit conversion tool, which I hope can be customized. PowerShell V2 is installed as standard. The Most annoying change from XP to Vista (to my mind)– the inability to drag files from explorer to a command prompt- has been reversed , you can drag into PowerShell too. And the most annoying change (to everyone else it seems), User Account Control , is more configurable, and a lot less intrusive. I’m guessing its using digital signatures to decide if something can be elevated without prompting.
Next job(s) try installing the usual raft of software (to date I’ve only got Live writer, gallery and movie maker + Community clips) and plugging in every bit of hardware I’ve got and seeing where I get to .
Later today we will make Windows 7 beta available to anyone who wants it . “Anyone” is stretching the point, because there will only be a finite number of downloads/ product IDs available – 2.5 Million. Some of my fellow evangelists saw red over this, one arguing that with an installed base of 700 million PCs providing only 1 copy per 300 PCs out in the world and we’d have 299 angry customers for every happy one. That’s a pretty extreme view and I hold an opposite – and perhaps extreme view.
As far as the number goes the official PR quote from the product group goes
“we’re setting the download cap at 2.5 million - higher than the download limit set for any previous Windows Beta release. 2.5 million downloads should satisfy strong customer demand, while providing the breadth and depth of feedback we need to finish Windows 7.”
I don’t think everyone should run beta software. In fact licenses for the software say it is for testing only and not for production use – although the best test for a client OS way is to copy what you would do in production – and the only to do it reliably is to use it as a production OS. I wouldn’t put my parents on beta software for example. Nor would I put anything business critical on it – in fact given the trouble of getting people to move to a newly released OS gives a pretty good idea of who won’t want a beta.
A Beta is there to prepare for the real product. If you want to get the skills to work with it or test the software you deploy (or develop) works with it or both. It’s not there for people who want to run something new and exciting to get a way to do it sooner – that’s a by-product. My argument is that anyone who is doing a job where they need to do that should have Technet – or if they’re developing software MSDN. If I fly on a plane – that’s a complex system and I expect the people who work on it to have access to all the documentation from Boeing, Airbus or whoever. If I consult a lawyer I expect them to have a shelf full of books about their area of the law (another complex system). If you work, professionally, with Microsoft software you should have technet (or MSDN if you’re a developer). Any organization which doesn’t have technet probably doesn’t have the resource to put into doing a proper beta evaluation.
Back when a few people complained that we closed the office 2007 beta after a huge number of downloads, I said that if you don’t have a subscription to get the software AND you can’t manage to be one of the first couple of million to download a beta then there probably isn’t a very convincing case for you to have it (but if you can make such a case , I’ll make it my business to get the beta for you).
Incidentally if you’re thing that you should get a subscription to TechNet Plus you can get a discount of 20% if you enter the promotion code TNCARE09 at the on-line order site.
Embarrassing personal revelation time. I sing in the car, in silly voices. Anyone who hasn’t heard me doing “Winston Churchill sings Dido’s ‘White Flag’” has had a lucky escape. I mention this because the folks in Microsoft research seem to have been putting something together for people with as little singing ability as me.
Watching the FriendFeed that went on during SteveB’s CES keynote in the small hours of this morning there was a plaintive howl from Long Zheng “He didn’t talk about Songsmith, but it made the press release”. What the heck is Songsmith ? Which press release because I couldn’t find it. Well it’s up there now. I hate it when something comes along and says “You know you haven’t go time for this … and yet you’re not going to be able to resist”. My sister is a part-time evanglist for Korg’s Kaoscilator - I’ve got one thanks to her – and I’m already wondering about the possibilities of combining it with songsmith. Normally parents get wound up by kids making music – in my household it could be the other way round.
There's a nice video at the MSR SongSmith page but I don't seem to be able to embed it here. Go look, but only if you don't have a pressing deadline !
I’m not exactly delighted to be be blogging at 3:13 in the morning, but I’m watching the keynote from CES. In the last 45 minutes we’ve published a press release about Windows 7. Steve Ballmer said that “Technet and MSDN subscribers can download it now”. I was watching site propagate and the downloads are there. now. What do you mean you’re not a technet subscriber ? Well you’ll be able to get it in a few days.
I picked up from Mary Jo’s blog that there was a live friend feed for those watching. Mary Jo picked up that everything says “the beta” not Beta 1 or some such. Someone else who was thinking in the lines I outlined in the my previous post and suggested that shipping 7 or July 7th (7/7) was too good to miss. Touch in Windows 7 is going to get a lot of attention. I can see quite a few “lightweight surface” type apps being built with that.
Bonus info: Halo Wars will be out in February and a new Halo 3 game (Halo 3 ODST) will be out before the end of the year.
We’ve got a projector in the office which gathers various streams of news and shows them on the wall, and today it keeps talking about Windows 7. It seems SteveB is making a speech tonight and everyone expects it to announce the beta of Windows 7. (Mary Jo has some more ideas what he might say)
So in preparation for its arrival here are a handful of thoughts about beta testing , and the next version of Windows.
1. Remember what a beta is for. It’s a two way thing; you discover what might have problems, what’s new and great and what’s new that you just don’t like. You test thoroughly. Try those crappy old apps and old bits of hardware (I’m told that some things which need coaxing to work on Vista are more likely to work on 7 out of the box. If it can’t be made to work on Vista with the app compat toolkit, it probably can’t be made to work on 7 either). It might also be your first tilt at IE 8. But it is a two way process: if you find something which doesn’t work we want you to report it. That was our reason for letting you have it.
2. Products ship when they are ready part 1. I’ve seen all kinds of rumours about when Windows 7 client and Server 2008 R2 will ship. One intriguing one is that PCs shipped after July 1 will get a free upgrade. Free upgrades from RTM onwards used to be the rule. With Vista we had upgrades 24th October 2006, and RTM was in November. If this rumour is turns out to be true that says a release will not be much after July 1. I’ve always reckoned on 3-4 months for a beta and a month for a release candidate as a good rule of thumb. There isn’t time to do usual two betas and two or three release candidates by July, which makes another rumour – of only one beta the only way that will work. I don’t have any inside scoop on this. We said the new client OS be 3 years after Vista. Exactly 3 years means RTM in November and launch parties in 2010 - nice fit for my timescales for 2 betas and 3 RCs . Unless something is said in the Ballmer speech remember my old saying, those who really know don’t talk and those who talk don’t really know. Some great things are already being said about 7, but
3. Products ship when they are ready, part 2. A beta, by definition is not ready. Life will not be free of all disruption I’d be surprised if anything in the a beta OS trashes my data. But staring at a dead file system with nothing to do but mutter “that was a surprise” * isn’t something I’m going to let happen. So I’m going to try to get a fresh hard-disk and copy my data to it and leave the old one alone. And I’m going to be sure to test the backup and restore system :-)
4. A lot will be written about the OS, much will be junk . Jason Perlow at ZDNET gives a great example. “There’s no run menu”. Press the [Window] key instead of [Window] & [R] or click start (rather than click start, click run) and type what you would have typed in the Run box. It works the same, and its quicker. And it finds things before you’ve typed the whole name. The mentality of saying “I must have my run box in floating window named run and it can’t be merged with search” is just… well, Jason’s colleague Ed Bott just stops short of calling him a luddite. There are other good points in Ed’s post too. I’ve long held that he knows what he’s talking about.
* Back in my days in Microsoft consulting services , we would be asked to review designs and tell the customer that they good be guaranteed to work. I’d always explain that such guarantees are impossible but we can say we’ve reviewed it and if competently implemented nothing about it leads us to expect a problem. Of course if a problem arises we will say “COR ! That was unexpected”. That always raised a laugh, but the serious point was we
From time to time people ask me who I write for, and I always say I write for myself in the hope that there are enough people out there like me to make a reasonable size audience. It always surprises me how many people inside Microsoft read this blog, not to mention the number of competitors who come here to read my impeccably researched and completely impartial comments (and in return I read their lies, twisted truths and false malicious implications. Ha. Ha.)
Someone pointed me to a post of Mike DiPetrillo's from just before Christmas with the so charming title of “Microsoft lies to their customers again.”. Mike’s beef is that people who work for Microsoft have said things to customers which contradict what we have posted in public. Unwilling to resist a good title, he’s chosen to make this ineptitude sound like some sort of corporately organized conspiracy… The odd thing is that he is complaining about something you’ll hear people from his company say. During 2008 people from VMware complained that Microsoft was playing dirty with licensing rules for virtualization – that VMware could not use the bundled instances of the operating system included with Enterprise and Datacenter versions of Server 2003 R2 and Server 2008. Allowing customers to do less with your product if they also buy someone else’s product tends to have regulators beating your doors down. If customers get a certain number of bundled instances with a licence that has to apply regardless of the virtualization technology. Indeed, I constantly have to explain to people the reason that you can’t use anything but virtualization on top of Windows Server Enterprise with the full compliment of 4 VMs is that if you did that you’d have 5 working copies of Windows vs 4 with VMware and someone would cry foul. We put out a Licensing FAQ to try to make things clear. (I wish we lived in a world where the licence agreements could be so clear that no FAQs were needed but legal documents and clarity rarely go together). However… Not everyone at Microsoft understands all the nuances of licensing, or government regulation. Every so often I see someone saying “VMware told my customer they could assign a server licence to a box and use that licence for windows VMs running on VMware. Where do I find something to fight that lie” and some kindly person has to point out it is no lie, and steer the poor chap to the FAQ. If anyone out there meets Microsoft people who are still getting this wrong (and don’t have a better channel) mail me and I’ll gently set them straight.
[Update] The rest of this post has been overtaken by events - it is easier to remove it than to explain...
Once upon a time I studied economics. Listening to commentators telling us how bad things are and how much worse they are set to become makes me think about two things. First it is very easy to talk the economy into a downward way of thinking. Second, and more important, the difference between a recession and a run-away boom is about 5% of the turnover of the economy. Jobs are being lost, but 95% of people who had jobs in the best times will still have them in the worst times. More companies will go under (which you can choose to see as a clearing out) but most companies will survive.
Which isn’t to say this is going to be a comfortable year. I think some companies are going to take hard look at where they are spending their money and what generates a return and what doesn’t. And if you work in IT pre-emptively rating your group’s performance in a few basic areas seems smart.
Productivity almost speaks for itself. Failing to invest (in the guise of saving money) can mean slowly bleeding to death. When investment funding is plentiful a business can invest in risky projects – some will fail but the winners compensate for the losers. When funding is scarce project selection has to be more conservative: success needs to be assured, even if the returns are smaller. Projects which improve productivity are smart.
Connecting with customers: I’m convinced that in hard times the mentality of “there are other places I could spend my money” is stronger. Showing customers why they want to do business with you is something that ALWAYS matters: failing to do it when your competitors are hungrier and customers are choosier can be fatal.
Here’s a couple of examples. I talked about my gas bill in my last post. I’ve tried to use the company’s web site. I’m registered, but no power on earth seems able to get site to recognise the account number on my bill. Contrast this with my broadband provider: I phoned them to say they seemed to be offering a better a tariff and they switched me to it there and then and told me I could save more if I switched to on-line billing: which works and can recall old bills for me. Who do I feel happier with ? Who’s at risk of losing my business ? [I did put my details into a price comparison site, which told me I could save £185 … on the same tariff with the same company, with no special offers … sigh ]
Efficiency goes hand in with agility… If your whole time is spent fire-fighting it means that “just doing the basics” is soaking up all the budget and there’s nothing left for the new stuff. You can’t be agile unless you’re efficient, and Agility matters more when times are tough. Maybe your company will get to buy out a competitor : can you merge their IT into your own? Can you help launch new products or initiatives ? Or are you the anchor holding the company back , part of the reason it couldn’t move with the times and will get taken over. Every time I talk about virtualization I talk about the ease of deploying a new server: it’s both agility and efficiency. Every time I talk about PowerShell I’m thinking about efficiency : Jonathan gave me a bunch of examples for how being able to do something for the business quickly in PowerShell was key to being able to do it at all
There are examples of all of these on a new UK focused web site http://www.microsoft.com/uk/leverage/ with a number of all of these on. But there’s more; with the economy in bad shape companies with strong finances – like Microsoft - can help their customers and trading partners. That page has a link to Microsoft Financing , which offers a way to finance IT projects without the need to encroach on the funding for other things.
It’s a constant puzzle to people from the US and Europe that Britain seems to be split brained about weights and measures. We buy our petrol in Litres, but our beer in Pints. My French car gives me a read-out of fuel consumption in Miles per Gallon, but is taxed in Grams of CO2 per Kilometre. Yet our roads are measured in miles. I think of the pressure in my car tyres in pounds per square inch, but the pressure in a diving cylinder in Bar. The two pound Christmas pudding which is currently waiting to be turned into ice cream only says on its label that it is 908 Grams. The list is endless. The BBC reported just before Christmas that the pint was to be allowed to stay. (It’s not the first time that has been reported ). Of course the 20 ounce Imperial pint perplexes Americans where the 16 ounce pint rules (after all with 16 ounces in a pound, why shouldn’t it … ) And giving body weight in Stones … I might was well give my height in Atto-parsecs
Still… in an age when things are supposed to measured metrically its a wonder to me that the Gas meter we had installed a few years ago measures gas in Cubic feet. Or to be strictly correct about it hundreds of cubic feet. I mention this, only because I have spent more of this morning than I care to admit trying to figure out how my estimated gas bill for the next year was worked out. Gas is priced in Kilowatt hours, so there is a conversion from Hundreds of cubic feet,which goes.
This gives a number to the nearest 0.01 kwH, even the reading is only accurate to the nearest +/- 50 CU ft (about 15 kWh)
Once upon a time the Gas company would send a little man round to read the meter every so often, but my last bill was an “estimate” which was more than double the amount of gas I’d used. Based on this estimate they made a guess at how much gas I would use next year. So I tried to work out what that would be, and I was left thinking that a people ready gas company would quote their conversion numbers in kWH per measured cubic foot (0.314 on my bill), then you could get there in one step. What surprised me is having told the gas company I used LESS gas than they estimated, they’ve sent me a recalculated forecast for my usage will be for the next year … and they’re estimating it will be More ! Of course there is no hint for how the estimates are arrived at, but my simple estimate of “average of the last few years” , suggests a far smaller number. It’s well within the capabilities of the systems the company has to put this information on a bill.