Kevin Remde's IT Pro Weblog

  • How to Cheaply Backup Virtual Machines (So many questions. So little time. Part 14.)

    At our Kansas City TechNet Event several weeks ago, Chris H. asked:

    “How do I backup VMs without using Data Protection Manager or Virtual Machine Manager?”

    You don’t,  It can’t be done.  You must buy our products.  Resistance is futile.

    “Oh c’mon.. get serious, Kevin.”

    Sorry.  Okay, I’m sure there are several ways that this can be accomplished.  Virtual machines running under Hyper-V are typically really just a few configuration, hard disk, and differencing-disk files.  So making a backup, at least at the heart of it all, is really just making a copy of those files.  I’ll throw out a few suggested methods here, and if you folks reading this have other ideas or solutions, we’d love to have you share them in the comments.  (You should also read the “Planning for Backup” article on TechNet.)

    How do you backup a private cloud?Make a copy of the hard disk files.  Really, if you’re not using snapshots (which create additional files in a differencing disk relationship), the easiest way to make a quick, worst-case but simple backup, is to copy the .VHD files from a stopped virtual machine. Restoring would require you to re-create the machine and configure it to use the hard disk files.

    Export the virtual machine.  This is something that I do regularly.  It takes some time, but you can make an importable copy of many virtual machines at once by using the Hyper-V Manager.  What you end up with is a set of files that can be copied to a new location and easily imported.

    And if you want to read a great description of how Export and Import of virtual machines works, read Ben Armstrong’s Part 1 and Part 2.

    Script it. Even if you don’t have SCVMM, you can use PowerShell and it’s support of WMI to administer Hyper-V.  So, a script could automate:

    1. Shut down the virtual machine
    2. Export the Virtual Machine and/or Copy the .VHD files
    3. Start the virtual machine

    A most-excellent starting point for learning how to use scripting of PowerShell and WMI for Hyper-V is found on Ben Pearce’s blog, in THIS POST HERE.
    NOTE: This is going to become a whole lot (and I mean a WHOLE LOT) easier to do with the included PowerShell cmdlets in the next version of Windows Server coming later this year, and in beta very soon.

    Use Windows Server Backup.  You can register the Microsoft Hyper-V VSS writer with Windows Server Backup, and then use this to backup running virtual machines.  And to, of course, restore them if needed.  Read “How to back up Hyper-V virtual machines from the parent partition on a Windows Server 2008-based computer by using Windows Server Backup” for learning all about to back-up Hyper-V virtual machines from the parent partition on a… you get the idea.

    Treat it like any other machine.  If you treat it with the same love and respect as you to any other server, one option is to treat it as if it were a physical server – complete with backup agents installed into it, and using some enterprise class backup and archiving solution.  It all depends upon the purpose of the server, the business applications and/or data housed therein, the ease with which you want to be able to recreate the server, etc.

    “But what about ‘snapshots’?  Aren’t those a good way to keep a backup?”

    (READ THIS if you’d like to know more about Hyper-V Snapshots.)

    No, they’re not a backup. Oh sure, they’re a way to maintain a point-in-time in cases where you may need to jump back (or ahead).  I regularly use them as a kind of mile-marker during complex installations and configurations while I’m learning a new product or technology, so that I can go back to where A) I have a clean install of Windows with all current updates, or B) this is where I have SQL installed, or C) here is where the product was freshly installed, but not yet configured.. etc.   For complex demonstrations I’ll use snapshots to jump ahead to a point in time after an ordinarily long process that I’m showing has completed.  (The cooking show demo, where you immediately and magically pull the completely baked cake out of the oven.)

    But for backup?  No.  Every snapshot you take adds additional disk space being consumed, plus additional overhead as the running OS has to refer to more and more files that represent the running hard disks. 

    One additional note about virtual machine backups: Remember that there is more to the machine running on a new server than just the VM files.  The networking configuration needs to be taken into account.  It’s not something that can’t be overcome without a little extra work, but it’s just annoying to import or restore a virtual machine to a new VM host only to find that you don’t recall how the networking was configured that made it work properly.  That “Planning for Backup” article I referred to earlier goes into this in greater detail.

    ---

    How are you doing VM backups and restores?  Got any tips or tools or ideas to share?  Any horror stories that we can all learn from?  We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

  • More Hyper-V and SCVMM Questions (So Many Questions. So Little Time. Part 9.)

    John asked the following questions at our TechNet event in Saint Louis a few weeks ago:

    Hyper-V virtualization is included in Windows Server!  No virtualization tax!“Can you show us a demo of how to integrate SCVMM with Citrix and/or VMware?””

    The answer to that is no.  At least not me.  I can’t personally afford, nor does my team have the budget for a VMware purchase.  Same with Citrix.  Yes, I could download the evaluations and try those out.  Someday… 

    For right now, however, I suggest that you watch this excellent recording from TechEd North America 2011 last May: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/NorthAmerica/2011/SIM361.  In it, Carmen Summers goes into great detail about how we support VMware in SCVMM 2012.  

    “What is the Hyper-V rule of thumb for: VCPUs to PCPUs?”

    I’m assuming that you are asking for general guidance on how many virtual processors you should define based on the number of actual physical cores available on your Hyper-V host.  The current recommendations for using Hyper-V virtualization on Windows Server 2008 R2 w/SP1 are:

    • Up to 64 Logical Processors
      • 64 Cores without hyper-threading (=64LPs) or 32 cores with hyper-threading (=64 LPs)
    • Up to 4 Virtual Processors per VM (Vista, W7, WS2008 and WS2008 R2)
    • Up to 8 VPs per 1 LP support for server virtualization
    • Up to 12 VPs per 1 LP support for VDI (W7 virtualization)
      • Recommended or supported ratio depends on the workload (Biztalk, Exchange, SQL, LYNC, VDI…)

    (Note: These numbers will change significantly for Windows Server “8” later this year.  Watch this blog.)

    Also, here’s an excellent discussion that MVP BrianEh turned into a Wiki entry that explains the concepts and a deeper understanding of the mechanics of it all: Hyper-V Concepts: vCPU

    “Can you dedicate a physical NIC down to a virtual machine?” 

    Absolutely.  The way you do it is to define a virtual network switch for the physical NIC.  You also make sure that the “Allow management operating system to share this network adapter” is unchecked.

    Virtuan Network Switch Properties

    Then in the settings of the VM you associate the VM’s NIC with that switch. You can now consider it dedicated if you resist the urge to associate other VMs with that switch.

    John Howard wrote an excellent blog post on how networking works in Hyper-V. 

    Can you provision a VHD from a Hyper-V Server down to a virtual PC Client?”

    Yes.. as long as your OS installed in that virtual machine is 32-bit, and can handle the sudden “whoa, this is different hardware!” shock (Windows Vista and Server 2008 or newer should be fine.  XP, not so much), you should be able to do this.  It’s a definite benefit to maintaining a standard virtual hard disk file format in .VHD files. 

  • How many agents are in System Center 2012? (So many questions. So little time. Part 12.)

    Tighe asked this question at our TechNet Event in Saint Louis several weeks ago:

    “System Center 2012 - one agent for all products?”

    Download the Release Candidate

    That’s a great question, Tighe.  Naturally one might assume that if we’ve changed-up how we sell System Center 2012 now as one product rather than a suite of separate products, that we might consider using only one management agent on the servers and desktops that are under management.  I don’t know if that has been considered, personally, but I suspect that it wasn’t considered for very long. And here’s why:

    Even though we’re going to be selling SC2012 as one product (in two varieties: Regular and Extra-Strength), you will still have the choice to implement one or two or 5 of the 8 components you own.  If I just want to do desktop and server (and service and network and…) monitoring using System Center 2012 Operations Manager, but don’t care about doing deployment or updates using System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, then I certainly don’t care to have the additional functionality (and potential overhead) installed on the desktops I’m monitoring. 

    It’s because of this that I doubt Microsoft would create just one agent.  But I could be wrong.  I’m not on the product team.  Perhaps they could do something to somehow simplify and unify agent deployments, but that’s pure speculation (wishful thinking) on my part.

    “Okay smart guy… So, how many agents are in System Center 2012 then, if you were to install all of the components?”

    Here are the components that utilize an agent (sometimes optional) for working with other machines:

    Here are the ones that, unless I’m mistaken, don’t have any use for any deployed agents:

    “Um.. wait.. ‘Regular and Extra-Strength’ System Center 2012?!”

    Okay.. not really.  By “Regular” I mean “Standard”, and by “Extra-Strength” I mean “Datacenter”.  Read my blog post on the new System Center 2012 licensing model.

    ---

    Do you have any questions for me?  Ask them in the comments. 
    Would you like to ask them in person?  Then come to one of our
    TechNet Events coming up March-May, 2012!

  • Where CAN’T You Use Hyper-V? (So Many Questions. So Little Time. Part 11.)

    A question I’ve actually heard several times before came up again at our TechNet Event in Kansas City several weeks ago:

    “Can I use Hyper-V as a VM (within Windows 7)?”

    No.

    “Can you elaborate?”

    It's a very good OS!Absolutely.

    First of all, Hyper-V is a role added to Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2Hyper-V can’t be run inside of a virtual machine – even one that supports Windows Server 2008 R2 – because in order to work Hyper-V requires at a minimum:

    • An x64-based processor,
    • A processor that supports Intel VT or AMD-V technology, and
    • Hardware-enforced Data Execution Prevention (DEP) - available and enabled.

    (Check out THIS PAGE for the full list of Hyper-V requirements.)

    The problem with a virtual machine, whether it’s running on Hyper-V, Windows Virtual PC (the one that runs on Windows 7), or VMware, is that the virtualized processor that the running operating system sees is not a processor capable of running Hyper-V.  So, while it would be cool to virtualize the actual virtualization platform, that’s not something that you can currently do.  (UPDATE: "Sebastian" informs us in the comments that VMware Workstation 8 and ESXi 5 can actually simulate Intel VT, so it is indeed possible to get Hyper-V running from within a VM.  http://www.veeam.com/blog/nesting-hyper-v-with-vmware-workstation-8-and-esxi-5.html)

    An additional note regarding your question about Windows 7 specifically is that Windows Virtual PC running on Windows 7 doesn’t support 64-bit guest operating systems.  So you can’t run the current Windows Server 2008 R2 as a virtual machine under Windows Virtual PC anyway.  The good news is that Microsoft announced that we will include Hyper-V within the successor to Windows 7, currently codename “Windows 8”

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    Remember: Our new event schedule is live.  You can come and ask your questions, too!  “We may be comin’ to your town.”  -The Monkees

  • And now for a little shameless bragging…

    Good morning, all.  I interrupt the normal cadence of this blog to bring to you just a little bit of bragging.  And a challenge.

    “Oh great.. what did you do now, Kevin?”

    imageThis week I’m in Seattle, Washington, attending Microsoft’s bi-annual internal technical training event, “TechReady” (TechReady 14 to be specific.)  One of the benefits of being a Microsoft employee is that we can take certification exams for no cost.  And at these events, Microsoft brings in Prometric to facilitate a testing center for people attending the conference.  So this year as in years past, my teammates and I have been taking (and mostly passing) certification exams. 

    Going into the year, and into TechReady, I had two goals: Pass 70-659, and pass 70-669.

    “What does that do for you?”

    I’m glad you asked.  70-659 is the “TS: Windows Server 2008 R2, Server Virtualization” exam.  It’s a tough one, but it proves that I know the ins-and-outs of Hyper-V virtualization, SCVMM, remote desktop, and VDI virtualization.  It’s a test that I’ve failed two times before.  But not this week. 

    And the 70-669 is the “TS: Windows Server 2008 R2, Desktop Virtualization”, which tests your knowledge of Microsoft’s desktop virtualization technologies (MED-V, App-V, etc.)  Those two, along with the 70-693 (“Pro: Windows Server 2008 R2, Virtualization Administrator”) finally complete my “MCITP: Virtualization Administrator on Windows Server 2008 R2certification. 

    “You must be very proud of yourself.”

    I am.

    “So.. what’s the challenge?”

    If you haven’t yet considered the benefits of certification, you should check out the Microsoft Learning (http://www.microsoft.com/learning) site. 

    If you’re interested in gearing up for virtualization and laying the foundation for a cloud-computing-based datacenter, you should take 70-659.  (And when you are going take it, let me know!)

    And if you’ve already taken the tests and are heavily certified, and just want to tell somebody, feel free to brag on yourself in the comments. 

    …but don’t overdo it.  Nobody likes bragging.  Smile

    (PS – I also passed 70-400.  Nah-na-Nah-na boo booooo.)

  • Top 10 Reasons You Should Consider Windows Intune

    (Re-posted with John Weston’s permission.)

    Overview

    Many times over the last year I have been asked the question, “What is Windows Intune?”  I like to describe Windows Intune as the cloud service that helps you centrally manage and secure your PCs through a simple, web-based console.  Released back in March 2011, Windows Intune has already had a major Update on October 17th, 2011.

    Why should any IT Pro consider using Windows Intune? Well, I came up with these top 10 reasons (there are many more, but let’s start with 10).

    Top 10 Reasons to Use Windows Intune:

    1. Windows IntuneWindows Intune is a web based subscription service with an easy-to-use web-based console that gives you insight into your PCs. You can view updates, Forefront status, security policies, alerts, and much more. You do need an Internet connection; install the Intune client on each machine, and off you go managing your PCs.
    2. Windows Intune is in “The Cloud”. With Windows Intune there is no need to build and maintain a server infrastructure. All you need is a browser. No need to buy server hardware, license server OS, install, configure, and keep each server backed up and current.
    3. Windows Intune has “Endpoint Protection”. Endpoint Protection provides real-time protection against potential threats of managed PC’s. This ensures keeping malicious software, what is known as malware, from infecting your PC’s, with up-to-date definitions, and automatically running scans. To make your life easier with centralized computer management, Windows Intune includes a policy template with Endpoint Protection Agent settings so that you can create a policy and deploy it to many computers. This can be done across PCs from any location, worldwide, in just a few seconds.
    4. Support your users with Microsoft Easy Assist. Windows Intune comes up with free Remote Assistance software, which will enable you to resolve PC issues regardless of where you or your users are located. You won’t have to spend money for any 3rd part remote assistance software or worry about a secure VPN connection any longer.
    5. Manage updates centrally. Manage the deployment of updates from Microsoft and most third-party software publishers, keeping the applications that your workers need current.
    6. Distribute software and deploy software, like Microsoft Office 2010, or many third-party applications, to PC’s located nearly anywhere via the cloud.
    7. Proactively monitor PCs so that you can receive alerts on updates and threats, allowing you to proactively identify and resolved problems with your PCs, anywhere.
    8. You can track hardware and software inventory with Windows Intune. Track these assets used in your business to efficiently manage your assets, licenses, and compliance.
    9. The setting of security policies is centralized. You can now manage update, firewall and endpoint protection policies, even on remote machines outside of your corporate network.
    10. Manage your Licenses. With Windows Intune you can manage your Windows Volume License Agreements and other license agreements, including retail, OEM licenses and third-party software licenses, to track how many licenses you’ve purchased against what you've installed.

    Conclusion

    Are you ready to try Windows Intune for up to 30 days on 25 PC’s for free? http://aka.ms/freeintune

    And if you’re still not sure what this is about, check out this fun video on YouTube.

    Also, we have free trials of System Center 2012 available at http://aka.ms/PvtCld

  • Breaking News: Your chance to get a $20 Microsoft Store coupon, and maybe win a laptop!

    This is cool.  Microsoft is willing to PAY you to try some software and learn some stuff.  And you could also win a very slick laptop in the process.

    Explore Microsoft's Private Cloud

    “Huh?  Seriously?”

    Explore Microsoft's Private Cloud

    Well.. in a sense. We’re announcing today an opportunity for a limited (roughly 5,000) number of people to get a $20 coupon for the Microsoft Store, simply by doing two things:

    1. Download the Private Cloud evaluation software. (System Center 2012 Release Candidate, and Windows Server 2008 R2 w/SP1 evaluation).  If prompted for a Promo Code, enter “CLOUD”.
    2. Sign-up for and go through a Virtual Lab entitled “Explore Microsoft’s Private Cloud”.

    And once those two items are completed, Microsoft will e-mail you (and the other first 4,999 people that complete it) a code redeemable for $20 off at the Microsoft Store.

    NOTE: It is VERY important that you provide valid information with your Live ID sign in, because that’s how we will be able to reward you, and it’s to that e-mail address that we will send the code to retrieve your $20 coupon for use at the Online Store.

    “Hey Kevin, what about that ‘slick laptop’ you mentioned?”

    How slick is this?…

    That's one slick laptop!

    A Lenovo W520 15.6”

    Check out these specs:

    • 2nd generation Intel® Core™ i7-2760QM Processor ( 2.40GHz 1333MHz 6MB )
    • 15.6" HD AntiGlare 1920x1080
    • NVIDIA Quadro 2000M 2GB
    • 32 GB PC3-10600 DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz
    • 160GB SSD SATA
    • DVD R/W
    • Bluetooth
    • Intel 6300
    • Webcam
    • Smart Card
    • TPM
    • Fingerprint Reader
    • 9cell battery
    • Windows 7

    Important: Remember - There are a limited number of $20 coupons available (about 5,000) and are given out on a first come first serve basis; and only one per person.  This promotional offer is only valid in the United States.  Whether you get a $20 coupon or not, you will still be entered into the drawing for the W520. You can enter multiple times for the raffle – you just have to complete the two steps each time. Please read the full Rules on the Microsoft Private Cloud Offer Site, as my disclaimer only has a portion of the full rules.

    So.. what are you waiting for? 

    1. Download the software (Promo code: CLOUD, if asked)
    2. Do the Virtual Lab,
    3. Get your $20 coupon (while supplies last), and
    4. Maybe win a laptop!

    For the full scoop, check out the main site.

  • Screencast: System Center 2012 Unified Installer (Part 1 of 3)

    Like many of you, I’ve been playing with the Release Candidate of System Center 2012.  And also like many of you, I have heard that there is something called the “Unified Installer”, that supposedly will allow a person to install many – or even all – of the components of System Center 2012 on to multiple servers. 

    “Really?  That’s cool.”

    Hey!  You!  Get onto my Private Cloud!Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.  But after looking at it for a bit, I came to realize quickly that it wasn’t really as straightforward as just launching a Setup.exe and clicking Next –> Next –> Next –> Install –> Finish.  In fact, it requires no small amount of thought and pre-work to get things downloaded, extracted, and configured properly prior to ever launching the Unified Installer.

    In other words: It was a set of screencasts just screaming to be created.  Smile

    So that’s what I’ve done.  Here is Part 1, where I describe how to download and extract the components, plus download and prepare the prerequisites that are, um.. pre-required. 

    NOTE: It is viewed best in full-screen, and 1280x768 if you can.

    As promised, here are the links mentioned in the screencast:

    ---

    Did you find this useful?  Are you going to do this install along with me?  Let us know in the comments.  And I’ll see you back here tomorrow for Part 2.

  • Hyper-V Snapshots and “Now” (So many questions. So little time. Part 19.)

    This person at our Saint Louis, MO TechNet Event didn’t share their name, but it’s still a good question:

    “In snapshots, why is ‘now’ misleading on where you really are w/snapshots?”

    What Jerry (Let’s just call him or her Jerry) is referring to here is something that I think most of us experienced when we first started working with Hyper-V snapshots within the Hyper-V Manager

    In this screenshot here, it’s easy to see that the snapshot we’re currently running is the one called “Update Test”.

    image

    We can see that because “Now” is immediately following that in the snapshot hierarchy. 

    But here’s an example where it gets a little confusing.  In the following screenshot, what snapshot it the machine currently based on?:

    image

    If you said “Configured 2”, [*buzzer sound*] ..you were wrong!  It’s actually the snapshot labeled “Installed” that is currently applied.  Yes, it can definitely be confusing.

    The way I remember it is this: Look at “Now”, and remember that no matter what is actually “now” is more recent than “then”; the time in history when the snapsnot was taken.  So, the snapshot is going to be one level to the left of the “then” that our “now” is based on.  Just look at the line that connects “now” to the most recent snapshot, and you’ve found your “then”, then. 

    “Umm…”

    Got it?  Clear as mud?  Yeah.. I thought so. 

    ---

    Do you have any opinions on this?  Are you also, like me, wishing we’d have just called them “Checkpoints”, to avoid confusion when we started using Virtual Machine Manager?  Give us your feedback in the comments!

  • Breaking News: Free IT Camps – “Being What’s Next In IT” - Open for Registration!

    Our next set of IT Pro events (“IT Camps”) in the US Central Region have been scheduled and are now officially open for registration!  The events are free, go from 9:00am to 3:00pm, and include some light breakfast and lunch.  But most importantly, they are full of new and useful information that all IT Pros will benefit from.  (And it never hurts that we might give out a few prizes at the end of the day, too.)

    Here is our theme and information, followed by the event dates and registration links:

    imageBeing What’s Next in IT
    2012 is an exciting year for I.T. because it’s an exciting year for Microsoft. Not only are there exciting new products and solutions on the near horizon such as System Center 2012 and Windows Server “8”, but also in the ways we can help you manage your infrastructure today.

    Gearing up for the Future (Camp Part 1)
    You may have heard Microsoft’s recent slogan: “Be What’s Next”. But sometimes in IT, for whatever the reason, it’s hard enough even just to be “what’s now” or “what’s current”. You’re running older versions of server operating systems and technologies you would like to replace, but maybe don’t know exactly how to make the move without causing one of the main things that keeps us up at night: service disruption.

    In this camp session we are going to introduce you to, and give you a chance to play with, the migration technologies that will help you transition to the most current versions of our solutions, and help you to take full advantage of Windows Server 2008 R2. Making the transition to the most current products isn’t always easy, but we have ways to help you get there and to get you ready for the future of I.T. and business productivity.

    The Future is Sooner Than You Think (Camp Part 2)
    Now that you are ready for what’s next, don’t you want to know a little more about what that is?  There is a new wave of transition happening among IT organizations and IT workers to embrace more and more the concept of Cloud Computing.  Yet many of us are still wondering how it will really fit into our own environment, or how it will benefit our businesses.        

    In this camp session we are going to introduce to you to the future of the cloud.  Together we’re going to walk through what our next System Center version - System Center 2012 - will bring to your IT organizations; both in overall manageability and in supporting private, public, and hybrid clouds.  And we’ll introduce to you (and demonstrate for you) what is coming in the next version of Windows Server - currently known as codename Windows Server “8”.

    Preparation:
    This is not just a presentation!  We will try not to kill you with PowerPoint!  Our IT Camp format requires interaction, participation, and fun!  And in order for you to get the most out of our day, we ask that you do a few optional-but-highly-encouraged things before coming to camp:

    1. We ask that you download the evaluation software - Windows Server 2008 R2 w/SP1 and System Center 2012 Release Candidate.
    2. Bring a laptop.  In venues where we can support it, we will provide networking and power so that you can follow along and perhaps even participate in labs and examples.
    3. And for the truly ambitious among you - Bring a Windows Server 2008 R2-capable machine.  If you already have Server 2008 R2 installed, that’s great.  But as long as you have a capable machine, we will provide you a .VHD file and instructions for how configure your computer to “dual-boot” into an already installed copy of Windows Server 2008 R2 – all without requiring you to remove your existing Windows installation. Here is the recommended minimum configuration:

      • 4GB or more RAM
      • 20 GB or more free disk space
      • x64 compatible processor with Intel VT or AMD-V technology

    Registration
    (The Camps I’m leading are highlighted, and the others are being facilitated by my buddies Brian Lewis and John Weston)

    “Hey Kevin.. Why are some cities done twice?”

    We filled up so many venues so quickly last semester that we thought that rather than trying to get (and afford) larger venues, we’d opt for the smaller venues and just do the same event two times in the same city. Plus, the format of the IT Camp lends itself better to a smaller group, anyway.  And we can save on some travel expense by doing these over two consecutive days. 

    But don’t worry if your city is only listed once.  That just means that we have found a sufficiently large venue that is less likely to be filled and have registration closed.

    Clicking on the city for the date that you want to attend will bring you to the registration page. Do it now!  Due to the excitement surrounding System Center 2012 and Windows Server “8” news, we expect these events to fill up fast!

    City, State

    Date

    Des Moines, IA

    March 21, 2012

    Des Moines, IA

    March 22, 2012

    Madison, WI

    March 28, 2012

    Milwaukee, WI

    April 4, 2012

    Milwaukee, WI

    April 5, 2012

    Detroit, MI

    April 12, 2012

    Downers Grove, IL

    April 17, 2012

    Omaha, NE

    April 19, 2012

    Minneapolis, MN

    April 23, 2012

    Columbus, OH

    April 24, 2012

    Minneapolis, MN

    April 30, 2012

    Houston, TX

    May 3, 2012

    Houston, TX

    May 4, 2012

    Dallas, TX

    May 7, 2012

    Dallas, TX

    May 8, 2012

    Kansas City, MO

    May 8, 2012

    Kansas City, MO

    May 9, 2012

    Austin, TX

    May 10, 2012

    Austin, TX

    May 11, 2012

    Saint Louis, MO

    May 10, 2012

    Saint Louis, MO

    May 11, 2012

    Indianapolis, IN

    May 10, 2012

    Cincinnati, OH

    May 17, 2012

    Chicago, IL

    May 18, 2012

    Will we see you there?  Do you have any questions about what we’re covering?  Is there anything you’d specifically like to see in our events?  Let us know in the comments. 

  • System Center 2012 OpsManager and Windows of Maintenance (So many questions. So little time. Part 15)

    At our TechNet Event in Saint Louis several weeks ago, Aubrey M. asked:

    “Will there be an option in System Center 2012 Operations Manager to schedule maintenance windows, such as for patch Tuesday?”

    Try out System Center 2012

    So.. you’re asking if you’ll have a way to tell Operations Manager, “Hey.. tonight while I’m home watching TV with my husband, we’re going to be doing some maintenance on these objects, so please don’t send up any alerts during that time.”, right?  You want to perform some maintenance (duh) such as updates.. because it’s the 2nd Tuesday of the month, and Microsoft might just come out with an update or two.

    “Could happen.”

    Exactly.

    In SCOM 2007 and earlier you had the option to set this, but it wasn’t much of an automated thing.  R2 made it easier.  With the current version you can use a newer Admin Resource Kit to do it more simply, and event to schedule it in advance (which is what you were looking for).

    In System Center 2012 Operations Manager you do still have the ability to automate and script it, which means that as before you could use a scheduled task or some other trigger to enter and exist maintenance mode.  And I would bet that you could fully automate the process using a powerful automation tool such as System Center Orchestrator.  But I don’t think there is anything new built-in to the OpsMangager GUI to support anything much more than what was already there.  There are improvements in how Management Servers are handled with maintenance mode (un-doing some unintended troubles such as your RMS entering but never leaving MM).

    A quick “Google-it on BING” search for “SCOM 2012 Maintenance Mode” finds other useful blogs and hints around the new improvements.

    If one of you MVPs or otherwise knowledgeable people have additional ideas on getting this done, please feel free to share them in the comments.  And if they’re really good, I’ll also add them to this post.  Thanks!

  • TechNet Radio: Cloud Innovators - MigrationWiz and Office 365

    Yes!  My first in our new “Cloud Innovators” series of interviews is now live!

    About This Video

    We’re kicking off a new series today with Sr. IT Pro Evangelist Kevin Remde as he examines some of the top innovative companies who are using Microsoft Cloud solutions to help others improve their IT and business operations. For this first installment we welcome CEO of BiTitan, Geeman Yip as he explains how his company’s service MigrationWiz, helps users easily migrate their existing IT environment to Office 365.

    Click here for more information on MigrationWiz

    If you're interested in learning more about the products or solutions discussed in this episode, click on any of the below links for free, in-depth information:

    Resources:

    Downloads
    Video: WMV | MP4 | WMV (ZIP) | PSP
    Audio: WMA | MP3

  • The best way to virtualize SQL Server (So many questions. So little time. Part 17.)

    Several weeks ago at our TechNet Event in Saint Louis, Joe F asked me:

    “When virtualizing SQL Server I need to know how to best configure SQL and the VM to ensure it will run well.  Where can I find configuration and setup information?”

    A quick Bing of “virtualize SQL Server using Hyper-V Best Practices” will net you several good articles and options for finding some answers here.  A few that stand out as being fairly authoritative are:

    These resources will give you a good overview of the areas to consider, such as having sufficient processor-power, memory configuration, network configuration (for the VM as well as for storage), and so on.

    I hope this helps!

    ===

    Do you have any recommendations for Joe?  Got any other go-to resources that someone planning the virtualization of SQL Server on Hyper-V should know about?  Please share them in the comments.  If they’re good, I’ll even add them to this blog post.

  • Hyper-V Networking in Windows Server “8”: The Extensible Switch (So Many Questions. So Little Time. Part 10.)

    Brett B. asked the following question at our TechNet event in Saint Louis a few weeks ago:

    “Does Microsoft plan to implement a distributed virtual switch like VMware?”

    Time to switch to Hyper-V.  (Get it?  Switch?!  I kill me...)And the answer is yes.  And no.  Not LIKE VMware.  Better.

    For this answer I am going to defer to this excellent post on the Microsoft Server and Cloud Platform Blog introducing the Hyper-V Extensible Switch.

    If you read through this, you’ll see that not only are we working with Cisco, but we’ve designed it as an open platform that others have the ability to plug-into as well.

    Here is Cisco’s announcement and plans for their support.  And here is the recorded session from the //BUILD conference entitled “Extending the Hyper-V Switch”

    (A search on Bing for Hyper-V + Extensible + Switch will also bring you some good results.)

  • Which SCOM Should We Install? (So many questions. So little time. Part 18.)

    In Saint Louis a few weeks ago at our TechNet Event, John B asked us:

    Download the release candidate of System Center 2012 here!“We are only running System Center Configuration Manager 2008 and now want to run SCOM.  Should we install 2008 or 2012?”

    Well, first off, John.. that’s a pretty cool trick that you have SCCM 2008 while the rest of the world is on SCCM 2007 R3 or older.  (Is that SCCM for Mac?)  Maybe you have some connections that the rest of us only wish we had.  (Same for SCOM, which is currently 2007 R2.)

    But enough abusing you.  Let’s address your question.  I guess at this point, if it were me, I would wait.  You have to put a price on how much it’s worth it to you to get the current version installed and configured, plus then doing the migration later, when the time for the release of the next version is drawing closer and closer.

    “How close?”

    I don’t know exact details on release date.  But the fact that you’ve got the Release Candidate in your hands; plus the new licensing and pricing have been announced.. so it should only be a matter of a few months at most.  So, sure, you could install SCOM 2007 R2 now, and if you have it under Software Assurance you’ll be able to upgrade to System Center 2012; but you’ll still have to perform the upgrade

    So… Do you install the Operations Manager release candidate now? 

    Yes.

    Do you use it in production?

    NO.  Oh sure, you can; but it’s not supported until after it becomes generally available.  And you’d have to go through the process of upgrading your RC installations to the RTM versions.  Install it – but do it in a virtualized test lab (or an actual physical test lab, if you’re made of money**) and work with it there first.

    **in which case, I’ve got a resume’ I’d like to send you.

    ---

    Have any of you been using the 2012 Operations Manager in production?  Am I crazy telling John that he should wait?  We’d love to hear  your experiences, opinions, or cheap pot-shots.  Put them in the comments!

  • Can (or will) Configuration Manager and Windows Intune work together? (So many questions. So little time. Part 13.)

    For lucky 13, I reproduce a question here from Scott L, who asked it at our Saint Louis TechNet Event several weeks ago:

    “Any plans for a hybrid option with both SCCM and InTune in an organization?”

    Are your instruments Intune?No.  At least none that I’m aware of.  I will expand on my blunt answer in a moment, but first - for those of you not familiar with these,

    This guy is thinking These products have some similarities and cross-over of functionality.  Configuration Manager is an enterprise-class tool for software and update distribution as well as asset inventory and reporting on those collected assets.  Windows Intune is a cloud-based PC management tool that can do some inventory, software, and update distribution.  But there certainly are some differences with regard to scale and capabilities; and understanding those would help you to determine which one is best for your needs.

    Before I talk about your specific question around any potential integration between the two, let’s assume that you’re just now trying to decide which one to purchase.  To do that, I’m going to ask you a few questions:

    1. Are the PCs you want to manage members of a domain?  If not, then they would be more easily served by using Windows Intune.  It’s possible to manage non-domain PCs with Configuration Manager, but not simply.
    2. How much of the System Center product do you want to use?  And do you have the infrastructure and local expertise to support it?  System Center requires some pretty good expertise and datacenter investment, while Windows Intune requires nothing but a good Internet connection.
    3. How much do you rely upon Group Policy?  This really isn’t as important except in the area of consistency.  You can use policies that Windows Intune can set, but those are overridden any existing conflicts if you are also using Group Policy.

    So now, back to your original question:

    According to the most-excellent FAQ for Windows Intune:

    Q: If I have System Center Configuration Manager already, can I use Windows Intune as well?
    A: At present we do not support the System Center Configuration Manager client and the Windows Intune client on the same machine.

    And while I think that no, there are no announced plans for a solution that allows both of these to work side-by-side in a coordinated way within the same organization, there still perhaps may be situations that would call for owning and using both in the same organization.  There may be cases where you didn’t want to buy additional Configuration Manager CALs for some PCs that you’re managing, but you want the power of Windows Intune.  Maybe some PCs are not members of the domain.  (Windows Intune allows you to manage those.)   Or perhaps you use your purchase of Windows Intune as a good way to get Software Assurance (and therefore the right to upgrade to and run Windows 7 Enterprise edition and all of the benefits therein) on your Windows Intune managed PCs.  

    ---

    Which of these are you using?  Are you considering one or the other (or both)?  Let us know in the comments.

  • Managing Hyper-V Server (So many questions. So little time. Part 16.)

    David U. asked this of us at our Saint Louis TechNet Event

    “Free Hyper-V Server can be installed on bare metal.  Do I need Windows Server 2008 R2 plus Hyper-V running elsewhere to manage the Hyper-V Server, or is there another way I can manage that?”

    Great question David.  Thanks!

    Free Microsoft Hyper-V Server DownloadFor those of you not familiar with it, there is a FREE (yes, FREE) version of Hyper-V that you can download and install onto bare metal called Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2.  This installs basically just as a small, efficient platform for Hyper-V virtualization.  To manage it, it’s best to do it from another computer using tools such as Hyper-V Manager and Server Manager.  So, part of the answer to your question is: No, it doesn’t require Hyper-V to be installed elsewhere.  Nor does it require you to manage it from a Windows Server 2008 R2 server.  You can just install the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) and use those to manage the Hyper-V Server either from a Server or from a Windows desktop.  See these TechNet articles for details on how to install the Hyper-V tools for remote administration, and how to remotely manage Hyper-V Server 2008 R2.

    Another item you may not be aware of is that you can do much of the initial configuration right from the Hyper-V Server console.  Your user interface for Hyper-V server is basically two windows.  One is the basic commandline interface (very much like Windows Server 2008 R2 core installation).  The other is the updated Server Configuration Tool:

    The Server Configuration tool is designed to simplify the most common configuration tasks. It helps you configure the initial settings without having to type command-line strings. In Hyper-V Server 2008, this utility is called Hyper-V Configuration Utility (HVConfig). In Hyper-V Server 2008 R2, this tool is called the Server Configuration tool (SConfig.cmd). It is included in Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 and in the Server Core installation option of Windows Server 2008 R2. Two configuration options are available only when you run the Server Configuration tool on a server running Hyper-V Server 2008 R2:

    • An option to have the Server Configuration tool start automatically every time you log on to a computer running Hyper-V Server with the Administrator account
    • An option to configure failover clustering

    On a related note – did you know that not only is Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 FREE, but it also includes support running as a node in a Hyper-V failover cluster, and as such can participate in the Live Migration of running virtual machines?

    “Wait.. What?  A free virtualization platform that does that?  Do you have any idea how much that would cost us to do with VMware?”

    Exactly…

    ---

    I hope that answers your question.  But if you have others, please feel free to put them in the comments.

  • And the worst kept secret today is…

    Windows 8 Consumer Preview

    Y’all heard that we released a new preview for consumers of Windows 8, right?

    Windows 8 Consumer Preview