Yep, that's right, I'm off to Belgium in the morning, on the Eurostar, to present the closing keynote session at the Belgium 'Heroes Happen Here' Launch event! It's a real privilege being invited by Arlindo, who's been helping to coordinate the event.
Those of you in the UK who've seen me present as part of the TechNet group, will know that one of the events that people typically enjoyed was the Vista: After Hours, in which James and I took a 2 hour look at a digital, connected world of Microsoft technologies, with Vista at the centre of them all. Back in November however, I had the chance, along with one of the Evangelists here in the UK, Viral Tarpara, to deliver a 1 hour session, entitled 'The Microsoft Digital Lifestyle' at IT Forum in Barcelona. Now, anyone who's been to IT Forum or TechEd will know that it's typically full of detailed technical sessions, looking at aspects such as deployment of Windows Server, management and security in a virtual infrastructure etc. Whilst these sessions are great, there's always room to relax, and look at some of the technologies that these IT Pro's can use outside of the office. That is the whole point of the Microsoft Digital Lifestyle. Opening your eyes to a digital world, based on some very cool technologies that are perfect to compliment your technical enthusiasm at home.
You can find out about the Microsoft Digital Lifestyle, and what it's all about, here: http://www.microsoft.com/uk/windows/digitallife/default.aspx
There's even quite a cool video circulating on the web that brings it all together too...
Video: Your Digital Lifestyle
If you're a Microsoft Partner, and you're talking about Microsoft technologies to your customers, Demo Showcase is a fantastic tool to have in your kitbag. Demo Showcase enables you, as a Partner, to carry round a number of ready built demo's, to show some really cool technologies, either using virtual machines, or click-through demo simulations. Having these in your kitbag really can help to create sales opportunities and increase revenues by showing your customers how these technologies work together to solve real business problems. This scenario-based demonstration environment provides an effective way to help you show customers the real-world benefits of end-to-end, integrated solutions.
You can see a flash-based overview of what the Demo Showcase is all about here: http://www.microsoft.com/partner/media/demoshowcaseflash/index.html
You can also read about Partners who've used Demo Showcase to help drive their sales: https://partner.microsoft.com/UK/salesmarketingsection/smsalesdemos/40048165
If you want to get your hands on Demo Showcase 2007, you can pick it up from here: https://partner.microsoft.com/UK/salesmarketingsection/smsalesdemos/40029577
So, what about Demo Showcase in 2008? What's coming? What new scenarios and technologies should you expect to be present?
Well, this special edition of Demo Showcase is designed to complement the current 2007 version and to coincide with the launch of the Windows Server 2008 operating system. This preview release includes six new scenarios that are built on the Windows Server 2008 foundation. In addition, 13 technologies not found in the 2007 release are featured throughout the scenarios.#
You can download them here: https://partner.microsoft.com/UK/salesmarketingsection/smsalesdemos/40029576
As Mark details on his blog, "The new scenarios include 17 products and 8 of which are new in the Demo Showcase environment. All scenarios were built on the new Windows Server 2008 platform and 3 of the scenarios feature WS2008 prominently. Also included are Groove 2007, System Center Essentials 2007, Performance Point Server 2007, Silverlight, Visual Studio 2008 and more.
There are some new features in the Preview simulations. There is now a Forward and a Backward button, a new Chapter feature that let's you jump ahead or behind to specific sections in the demo and an enhanced Show Me feature that will show the user exactly where to click next along with an explanation. These new features should make the simulations even easier to run and be a great readiness tool. All the simulations are built using Microsoft Expression Blend.
One important thing to know about the new simulations - you MUST have the .NET 3.5 Framework installed on the host computer. The Demo Showcase 2007 simulations require the .NET 3.0 Framework but some addional features in the Preview require the upgrade to .NET 3.5 which can be downloaded at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=333325fd-ae52-4e35-b531-508d977d32a6&DisplayLang=en."
The final versions of these will be available in July 2008. The current simulations are built using Microsoft Expression Blend.
So, what does it look like, briefly?
It looks and feels like a real server, but it's a simulation, that comes with a guide so you can click-through and walk-through a scenario to meet a specific need. Great stuff!
Just highlighting a word, and then using the floating conditional Activities toolbar (kind of like the one in Office 2007) presents me with a number of options based on my selection. Choosing 'Map with Live Maps' brings up a snapshot of the location in Virtual Earth! Pretty cool I'd say!
Similarly, again using the floating toolbar button, I can translate a piece of text, instantly, with a Live Translation activity! Very handy!
Read more about IE8 here: http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/ and download the Beta 1 here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/ie/ie8/default.mspx
Video: NAP Video Blog: NAP Forefront Client Security
Jeff Sigman, Senior Program Manager for Network Access Protection in Corp, US, has recorded a really cool video of integrating NAP with Vista & Forefront Client Security. Now you could say, well, surely the integration is the same for Forefront Client Security as it is for any Anti-Virus vendor? If it works with the Security Center in Vista, it can report it's health to NAP, and it'll be seen as compliant or non-compliant, so how's that any different with Forefront?
The answer is that the Forefront guys have built a specific Forefront Security Health Agent / Validator for NAP, which has specific granular checks for the different elements of Forefront Client Security, rather than just the standard 'is it on, or is it off?'. You could, as an administrator on the client machine, turn off a certain option actually within the Forefront Client application, yet this still shows that the AV engine is 'switched on' and 'compliant' within the Security Center, yet this little service is no longer running. This Forefront SHV handles this, by checking for not only whether the AV engine is running, but what sub services and settings are running too.
If you're new to NAP, or experienced with it, this video is likely to be for you, so enjoy.
You can read all about this, and more on Jeff's NAP blog.
Are you interested in reading about some of the organisations out there who've bitten the bullet and gone ahead and deployed Windows Server 2008 in production?
Well, there's a list of them right here: https://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/case-studies.aspx
There are quite a few case studies that mention NAP, or Network Access Protection, with one highlighting "After an initial deployment, help-desk call volume decreased by 75 percent, for a projected annual savings of more than U.S.$150,000 in maintenance costs"
There are even more case studies here: http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/search.aspx?ProTaxID=3243
OK, so this is the sequel (not SQL) to my previous post, Windows Essential Server Solutions: Part I, and this time, were taking a look at the bigger, more powerful, slightly older brother of Small Business Server 2008; Windows Essential Business Server 2008.
So, what is Windows Essential Business Server, or, (W) EBS for short? Well, let's start with the rationale. In the past, should a small business have grown beyond the supportable number of Small Business Server 2003, which was around 50 users, realistically, the next level up was Windows Server Standard, which, for a large number of smaller businesses, was quite an expensive jump up in costs, bearing in mind you'd then need to obtain the relevant licenses for your other functions and applications you wanted to run on top, such as Exchange, or SQL. Taking this into account, Microsoft have decided to fill the gap between where SBS finishes (i.e. 50 users) and Server Standard typically starts (i.e. 250 users) with a new server offering; EBS, which follows in the footsteps of SBS by incorporating multiple OS's and applications into one single package, making it a great solution for up to 250 users.
So, what does EBS have in it that's worth shouting about?
"Windows Essential Business Server 2008 is an all-in-one integrated multi-server solution designed and priced specifically for midsize businesses. Windows Essential Business Server provides the essential technology needed for a highly secure and reliable infrastructure.
Powered by Windows Server 2008 technology, it combines software for management, messaging, and security features into one integrated server solution that is designed to dramatically reduce IT complexity and improve efficiency across the business, putting IT in control.
Windows Essential Business Server is an integrated and predictable platform designed to transform businesses by helping save time and money and significantly increase productivity"
But what actually made it into the 'suite' that is EBS?
As you can see, in the Standard Edition, it's a 3 server setup. One of these is your dedicated management server. I like this, a lot. This is one of the areas that was a little lacking in the SBS 2008 piece I touched on a few days back. Don't get me wrong, I'm not referring to the actual management of the SBS/EBS suite, I mean the actual management of other servers and clients within the infrastructure. SBS 2008 doesn't really have a solution for this. Sure, SBS 2008 provides AD, and also a patch deployment solution, in the form of WSUS 3.0 SP1, but in System Center Essentials, you're getting a lot more for your money. If you haven't seen SCE in action before, I'd strongly suggest you take a look. It can be purchased standalone, outside of EBS, and is aimed at managing up to 500 clients and 30 servers. When I say manage, I mean, patch, deploy, update, configure and so on. Basically, Essentials 2007 takes the best bits of Operations Manager and Configuration Manager, and wraps them up in a package of SMB loveliness.
You can read all about SCE 2007 on its own, here: http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/essentials/evaluation/features.mspx
So, that's your management server. You also have your messaging server, which will need to be x64, running another Domain Controller, for redundancy - makes sense, and Exchange 2007 will also be on this box, along with Forefront for Exchange, to ensure that box is locked down. You then have your security server, again, x64, and again, another instance of Exchange, which, I'm presuming, will be clustered with the first, to ensure high availability. You'll also have protection at the edge, with the next version of ISA.
Your final server, and this is only available with the Premium edition, is your database server. Pretty self explanatory really! You'd probably run your LOB app's on here too.
Again, as I mentioned in the post on SBS 2008, I'm not 100% sure where Virtualisation will fit into all of this, so I guess it's a 'watch this space' on that one too. Just to wrap up, the key pillars of EBS 2008 are:
Read more on that, and have a look at some screenshots, here: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver/essential/ebs/overview.mspx and you can get all the current information on EBS 2008 here: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver/essential/ebs/default.mspx
Well, there's a poll that's been carried out by Netuitive that suggests a high proportion of IT Pro's out there are.
Now, I'm not going to jump on the 'VMware-bashing' bandwagon here - it's just interesting reading to see, that in general, management is seen as one of, if not the most important feature of a strong virtual infrastructure....
""There has been a lot of talk around the value of virtualization and we can't argue that this area of technology opens up a whole new realm in terms of flexibility, cost savings and agility," said Daniel Heimlich, vice president at Netuitive. "The problem is that organizations started implementing VMs without first thinking about how they'll be able to manage them. Now we're starting to see a lot of questions being asked about how to do just that.""
I think Daniel has hit the nail on the head there. Organisations implement 'virtualisation' very quickly, as by many, it's seen as a quick and fairly painless silver bullet. They see the opportunity to quickly consolidate workloads onto fewer machines, providing near-instant savings in energy bills as one positive, and then many start rapidly exploring how they can do even more with virtualisation, with more virtual machines, migrating all over the place. Virtual server sprawl has even more of a chance of going out of control than physical server sprawl!
"As virtualization deployments grow, substandard performance management prevents organizations from realizing their full potential. Without good performance management, there is no certainty into how applications will behave, or whether SLAs can be met. All of this stops organizations from expanding their virtual deployments, maximizing resource utilization, and achieving virtualization goals," said Mann. "A new approach is needed - one that uses sophisticated, real time analytics to reduce the massive manual effort of managing VM complexity and ultimately creates confidence and restores performance predictability to managing VMs.""
I couldn't leave without explaining how Microsoft differentiates itself in this respect.
Microsoft has a number of virtualisation offerings, be it around Server, Presentation, Desktop or Application Virtualisation. What brings them all together, acting almost like the glue between the parts? System Center, our management platform. If you need to deploy applications, patches, updates, AV definitions and more, SC Configuration Manager 2007 handles it. If you need to monitor your servers, your clients, your specific applications and server apps, SC Operations Manager 2007 handles it. If you need to back up, intelligently, SharePoint farms, SQL Databases, File Servers, Exchange Mailboxes and configurations, and Virtual Servers, Data Protection Manager 2007 handles it, regardless of whether you want to back up to disk, or to tape. The great thing about these 3 platforms are, its the same set of tools to manage your physical, as your virtual environment. The final tool in the arsenal of System Center products, is SC Virtual Machine Manager 2007, which integrates straight it will the other tools, and at the same time allows you to manage your physical estate, and the virtual machines running on top. It also provides functionality around snapshots, P2V conversions, V2V and also integrates strongly with Group Policy. You can read a great review here: http://reviews.zdnet.co.uk/software/enterpriseapplications/0,1000001814,39352978,00.htm?r=3
You can also take a look at the complete System Center offering, here: http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/products/default.mspx
Nice review of SCVMM over at ZDNet.co.uk - http://reviews.zdnet.co.uk/software/enterpriseapplications/0,1000001814,39352978,00.htm?r=3
"We had very few problems putting Virtual Machine Manager 2007 through its paces and were impressed with Microsoft's first offering in this area. The next release, with its ability to manage Hyper-V and non-Microsoft platforms, should be even better and is likely to be a must-have for anyone concerned about VM sprawl."