I’ve just got back from sitting the 70-659 TS exam, on WS 2008 R2, Server Virtualization, and thankfully, I passed! To anyone thinking of sitting the exam, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s really difficult, but it’s the little aspects of the technology, like the features and functionality you don’t necessarily use very often, that may catch you out.
If we take a look at the skills being measured, from here: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?ID=70-659#tab2
Skills Being Measured
Installing and Configuring Host and Parent Settings
Configuring Child Settings
Managing and Monitoring Virtual Environments
Ensuring High Availability and Recoverability
Configuring Remote Desktop (RD) Role Services Infrastructure
The majority of the pieces of information above, are focused on the core features and functionality around the products, Hyper-V, SCVMM and RDS, however, in my particular exam, there were a number of questions around lesser features, which may, if you’re like me, be less frequently used, and these are the ones that will catch you out if you’re not au fait with them. If there’s any on the list above that you think “hmm, I don’t know that 100%!”, I would advise you to read up on it, or it will catch you out!
So, specifically for me, I wouldn’t say I'm a frequent user of CMD tools, like scconfig, icsicli etc, but I would recommend you brushing up on the relevant information around these commands, and having a good old play with a test box if you can get your hands on one. You could do this virtually between 2 VMs if need be.
It’s important to understand the subtleties between the different types of networks that Hyper-V provides, and how these can be configured around isolation. Understanding the 2 different types of VM NIC, along with IDE/SCSI controllers inside VMs is also important. You also need to know your storage, and by that, I don’t just mean iSCSI/Fiber, but more specifically around VHDs, Pass Through Disks and so on.
A relatively high proportion of my exam was focused on VMM, which included looking at delegated administration, through to the usage and configuration of the self-service portal, again, features that I personally don’t use all the time, hence you become rusty around those areas over time, so sharpen up! Also, I don’t tend to use VMM to manage VMware infrastructures, yet, as it lists above, it’s a core piece of SCVMM, so even if you can’t try it out, I would definitely recommend brushing up your reading around that!
Sticking with the management theme, because I use SCVMM the majority of the time, and that provides me with pretty much all I need from a control and administration perspective, I’ve never actually used Authorization Manager, or AzMan, which is more specific to Hyper-V. If you’re in the same boat, I’d strongly consider reading up on it. Again, I’ll reiterate what I said earlier – it’s the little things that will catch you out!
Obviously snapshots are an important consideration in a Hyper-V environment (and one that can sometimes bite you in the backside if you’re not careful!), so I would say ensure you understand the subtleties around snapshots, and also backup. You may never use things like SAN Migration, but again, it’s important to know the details around it.
In my role, it’s rare that I need to perform any kind of P2V, and in fact, I’m yet to perform one with SCVMM 2008 R2, but I wish I had before I sat the exam! Again, it’s the little details, like Service Pack levels, FAT disks, Minimum RAM etc that can catch you out, but also, and more specifically for Offline P2V, troubleshooting drivers etc, which I would recommend brushing up on. If you’ve never done a P2V, you don’t technically need a Physical machine to test it on – you can use a current VM, and do it from that if you like. P2V aside, it’s also important to have a play with the Export/Import side of things.
Final part, and something that came as a bit of a surprise to me, was the RDS bits. If you’ve watched any of my RDS videos, you’ll have a good idea about what the different components with RDS look like, and have a reasonable idea of how they work together, and are installed/configured, but I’d recommend having a deeper look at the bits above, especially things like the RD Gateway, with it’s RAP/CAP options There’s some good information on TechNet about the RDS side of things.
If you’re thinking about sitting the exam, best of luck!
If you’ve had chance to watch the Quest vWorkspace 7.0 videos that myself and Matt Evans recorded a couple of months back, showcasing the installation and configuration of Quest vWorkspace with a Microsoft infrastructure, you’ll know that it’s a pretty compelling combination of technologies, that’s easy to configure, with powerful results. For those who haven’t seen them, Part 1 focused on enhancing the RDS Session Host environment, whilst Part 2, focused more specifically on Virtual Desktops. It was within the virtual desktop video, that you may have heard Matt mention improvements in future releases of vWorkspace that may help streamline the backend image provisioning on Hyper-V R2, by better utilising things like differencing disks. If you’re not familiar with differencing disks, more on this later…
To cut a long story short, Quest vWorkspace 7.1 not only delivers a superb addition around image provisioning, integration with Remote Desktop Services (RDS) but also enhances the end user experience capabilities. Let’s look at the user experience bits and the RDS integration first, before focusing on, for me, the killer feature of the release.
From the vWorkspace website, “With the patent-pending EOP Xtream, vWorkspace delivers faster screen updates and smoother interaction across WAN and Internet/VPN connections by dramatically reducing the effects of network latency. These improvements drive user acceptance and will accelerate adoption of desktop virtualization in enterprises and Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) from the cloud.”
What does this mean?
Well, anyone who’s used RDP, even with it’s most recent iteration, will know that whilst its effective and rich over a LAN, when used over the WAN performance can start to suffer as latency is increased and thus, gives the user a less than optimal experience. With the introduction of EOP Xtream, Quest has enhanced the user experience considerably, for WAN based environments. If you watch the video here, you’ll see that compared with RDP, with 100ms latency, the experience is significantly improved. Now, for this particular demo, I wouldn’t class the user experience as ‘local’, as there’s still some element of jerkiness here and there, but it’s clear to see there is a considerable improvement. Skip to 2 minutes 30 seconds, and you’ll see Windows 7 come into play, this time, with 200ms latency. Again, there is a clear difference between RDP, and EOP Xtream, so all good from that perspective. Skip to around 3 minutes 50 seconds, and you’ll see a 2008 Terminal Server, with 300ms latency, and again, you’ll see the experience is altogether smoother, and snappier, with EOP Xtream enabled.
That’s the user experience covered, but what about the integration with RDS? Well, again from the vWorkspace website, “vWorkspace eases setup and accelerates use of the services provided in the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system, including the Remote Desktop Connection Broker (RDCB). vWorkspace uses the integration with RDCB to publish applications and desktops from different host platforms, including Hyper-V and Remote Desktop Session Host, through RemoteApp and Remote Desktop Web Access services.”
If you’ve used RDS, to it’s full capacity, you’ll know there are a couple of places you need to go to configure the different bits. If you want to manage applications, you head on over to the RD Session Host, into RemoteApp Manager, and off you go. If you want to manage the Connection Broker, you have to go over to the RDCB, and off you go. vWorkspace 7.1 introduces Advanced Integration with RDS, giving you a unified management console for RDS. If you check out this video, you’ll see exactly what I mean. In the video, the administrator chooses to provide a number of applications out to users, yet the speed of which the apps are verified, added, firstly to AppPortal, then behind the scenes, added to RDWeb, and RemoteApp and Desktop Connections is very quick indeed, and yet all this was configured from one place.
That’s 2 key areas down, however I mentioned above, the killer feature for me, was the image provisioning, utilising differencing disks. For those of you not familiar, from here, “A differencing virtual hard disk stores the differences from the virtual hard disk on the management operating system. This allows you to isolate changes to a virtual machine and keep a virtual hard disk in an unchanged state. The differencing disk on the management operating system can be shared with virtual machines and, as a best practice, must remain read-only. If it is not read-only, the virtual machine’s virtual hard disk will be invalidated”
If you think about this in the vDesktop world, I could create a sparkly new VM, make it as perfect as I want it to be, then I could (more than likely), Sysprep it, shut it down, and use this as my read-only master disk, from which I would hang the ‘differences’ from. This, conceptually, sounds all fine and dandy. We spin up 100 vDesktops, create differencing VHD’s off the parent, boot them, and away we go. This would continue, fine for a while, until you need to update the OS. Bearing in mind here, the reason for using the differencing disks is to be more dynamic, and to save storage, if I push out 100 x Update-X, it’s getting stored in each of the vDesktop’s differencing disks. The easiest thing to do, again conceptually, would be to update the master disk, and thus all the differencing OS’s would have the patch, without it taking 100 x the storage required. The reason I use the word conceptually is, because in reality, if I change or modify the master, the differencing disks would be invalidated. Thus, I’d need to recreate 100 new differencing disks, and attach them to the already existing vDesktops, and then sort out AD, DNS records, Computer objects in AD, the OOBE process when you start Windows after sysprepping, and more! Sure, I could do some of this with PowerShell, or alternatively, vWorkspace 7.1 does it for me.
If you check out this video, you’ll see, from about 1 minute in, you’ll see the new rapid provisioning process, using a golden image, yet at the same time, incorporating sysprep customisation information into the image. Nice! Once completed, you’ll see how bulk updates, like those discussed briefly above, can be managed through vWorkspace. This is very cool stuff, and on the surface, rivals Provisioning Server as a dynamic platform for deploying vDesktop images. Both will have their pro’s and con’s I’m sure, but to my knowledge, Quest are the first to develop a solution like this that integrates with differencing disks, and manages them in a rich, simple and streamlined way. Definitely worth a look if you’re evaluating VDI options!
Brian Madden, or more specifically, Gabe Knuth, has also picked up on the release, showing a short video, live from MMS 2010, in which he discusses the new capabilities with Quest’s Rob Mallicoat. Again, useful viewing, particularly if you want a bit more depth about EOP Xtream.
It’s back, and it’s been a long time in coming! I’ve been flat out for ages, so producing any videos for virtualboy tv has been a little difficult, but I’ve finally finished the short series on Quest vWorkspace, integrating with a Microsoft infrastructure. Recorded a few months back, with Matt Evans from Quest, we walk you through installation of vWorkspace on an RDS infrastructure, and how it enhances the story around management, user experience etc and then, in the second video, we walk through expanding this environment to integrate with Hyper-V and SCVMM, for a more VDI-focused deployment. I appreciate they are quite long, so you might not want to consume them all in the browser, but feel free to follow the links over to virtualboy tv to download the files in your preferred format, to watch them offline as you see fit.
Microsoft and Quest vWorkspace 7.0 - Part 1 (Extending RDS Session Hosts)
In this video, I'm joined by Matt Evans of the Desktop Virtualisation Group at Quest, in the UK. Together, we walk through the different elements of vWorkspace 7.0, specifically focused on the session-based computing side of RDS and how vWorkspace is installed, configured, and how it is used from a user's perspective.
Duration: 71m 54s
Watch it, or Download it, from the virtualboy tv site!
Microsoft and Quest vWorkspace 7.0 - Part 2 (VDI)
In this video, I'm joined by Matt Evans of the Desktop Virtualisation Group at Quest, in the UK. Together, we walk through the different elements of vWorkspace 7.0, specifically focused on VDI components, and how they are installed, configured, and integrated with Hyper-V R2 and SCVMM 2008 R2. We'll walk through all of these steps, and show the end user experience too.
Duration: 56m 16s
Don’t forget, you can grab all the info, and an eval of vWorkspace, over on the vWorkspace website.
For those of you looking at integrating technologies like XenDesktop, with platforms like Hyper-V, there’s an excellent resource recently popped up on t’internet, dedicated to providing information on those very topics. The XenDesktop with Microsoft Technologies microsite is written by Paul Wilson, who, apart from owning a very cool hat, has worked at Citrix for over 10 years, and specialises in the XenDesktop and Password Manager product lines. Paul’s currently a XenDesktop Architect, so if anyone should know his stuff, it’s him. There are a number of useful posts on the microsite, so definitely one to add to your favourites or RSS reader.
So, now you know about the microsite, what else is new? Well, I thought you’d find the XenDesktop Design Guide for Microsoft pretty darn useful…
The guide goes through a number of different areas, from hardware considerations through to networking, an from DR configurations to sizing guidance. Very useful information indeed. You can grab that document, here.
Final one – there’s a very interesting post around which is the best hypervisor for VDI, and with many people looking at Windows 7 going forward, it’s good to know that Windows 7, on Hyper-V R2 is a fantastic platform, and actually outperforms the others…I’ll let you check out the results for yourself! Don’t know what was going on with the XP results though! One we need to look into, as it seems a bit strange! One thing you’ll notice in some of the comments, is that a number of VMware fans are asking why TPS (Transparent Page Sharing) wasn’t used, which in effect, can increase density, apparently at no cost to performance, however, the effects of TPS can be considerably reduced as memory page size increases (as with newer OS’s), and you can read all about Jeff’s TPS overview here. I’d thoroughly recommend it as an educational read. One thing Jeff doesn’t go into is Address Space Load Randomization (ASLR), which can also have a an effect on the effect of TPS, and you can read a bit more about that, here.
The moral of the story? There’s a lot to consider when virtualising your desktops, on any platform! Good luck!
A couple of weeks back, I blogged about a number of dashboards that have been released, or were due for release soon. These dashboards focused on providing a more visual reporting experience for products such as System Center Operations Manager, App-V, and System Center Configuration Manager. The OpsMgr dashboard (Service Level Dashboard, to be precise) has been around for a while now, and the App-V dashboard is still in beta, however the dashboard for System Center Configuration Manager has now been released.
The Dashboard, a free Solution Accelerator, lets customers keep track of application and operating system deployments, security updates, the health status of computers, and IT compliance with key regulations - with an easy to use, customizable dashboard.
What about the benefits?
So there you have it – another dashboard hits the streets. You can download it here.
As most people will be aware, Microsoft supports a number of Windows OS’s virtualised on Hyper-V. ‘Tell us something we don’t know’ I hear you shout! Well, Microsoft have also worked with Novell, and Red Hat to ensure that distributions of Linux are supported, and optimised to run virtualised on Hyper-V. Microsoft also worked with the Linux community to release the Linux Integration Components, LinuxIC, so they can be included within the Linux kernel.
Up to now however, things have been going pretty well, yet there is one request that keeps coming back, time and time again, and that’s for SMP support, or, to you and me, the ability to have Linux guests with multiple virtual processors. It’s not to say that you couldn’t do this prior to this point in time, but, it wasn’t supported.
A few days back, that changed. Well, kind of. I say kind of, because Microsoft have again worked with Partners to produce the Linux Integration Components, or Services, v2.1, but right now, they’re in beta, so technically, you’re still unsupported until they finally release, but new features and functionality are included to start your testing!
To some of you, SMP aside, the updates may seem trivial or unimportant, yet these are just small examples of incremental improvements over time, and responses to genuine Customer and Partner requests for improvements, and all help to ensure that Linux is becoming a welcome first class citizen on Hyper-V, and Hyper-V is establishing itself as a heterogeneous platform for the datacenter.
Currently, these Integration Services support Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP3, 11, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.2, 5.3, and 5.4
If you’re interested in testing these out, you can grab the download from here.
Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while, will have noticed an increasing shift towards management technologies, and from a Microsoft perspective, management, is System Center. The System Center brand however, doesn’t make it particularly easy to choose which technologies apply where, and how to differentiate between each of them! Do you know your System Center Configuration Manager, from your System Center Operations Manager? How do these compare with System Center Essentials? Are they aimed at different customer sizes? If so, what are they? How do I license these technologies? Does System Center Essentials include Backup? If not, do I need Data Protection Manager too?
Well, something that can start to help you down that journey is a blog post by Willemjan van Laarhoven, which compares SCE 2010 (which I blogged about a while back) with some of the larger, more fully fledged technologies like SCOM and SCCM. It’s not too long a post, but gives you enough info to get started, highlighting some key capabilities that you get in the full SCOM/SCCM/SCVMM, that you wouldn’t get in Essentials, but, at the end of the day, you may not need those capabilities, and SCE 2010 may be an ideal fit.
If you’re interested, take a look at the blog post, and while you’re at it, you may want to take a look at the revamped System Center site, for all the info on the different technologies.
Patrick, from the MVUG blog, sent across this beauty. If you’re working with HP hardware, or thinking about it, then Virtual Connect should already mean something to you! If you’ve never worked with the hardware before, this this book could be for you! In a nutshell, Virtual Connect is a way of simplifying the connectivity between servers, and the LAN/SAN infrastructure. Connections are, get this, virtualised (Not in the same league as ‘user state virtualisation!’ ;-)) thus reducing cable count, simplifying management, and with the latest addition, namely, Flex-10, you can increase the number of NICs presented to blades by 4 times, without actually adding any NIC cards, or switches. Very useful where virtualisation is concerned, where the recommended network configurations suggest in excess of 4 NICs per host to segregate the different types of traffic, yet most blades only allow 2 NICs per blade. There’s some great info on Flex-10 here, but if you’re interested in this, and more, check out the free eBook.
Download it here!
Earlier today, I had the pleasure of sitting down and having a chat, via webcam, live from the man-cave, with Mike Laverick, who, among other things, has a successful blog, is a VMware vExpert, and has written a number of books, including the VMware vSphere 4 Implementation. If you’ve not seen Mike’s chinwag series before, to quote Mike, a chinwag is a “light informal conversation for social occasions”, but focused on virtualisation. It just shows it’s a very small world when the first waggee of the series was Chris Dearden, who I actually sat next to on the VMware VI3 Fast Track training course a year or so ago!
Naturally when I was asked to participate in the chinwag, I obliged, and if you’re interested, you can head on over to Mike’s blog, to have a watch, or a listen. There are plenty of versions available, ranging from video, through to MP3, through to iTunes podcast. In the chinwag, we covered all sorts of topics, ranging from Microsoft’s strategy around virtualisation and management, to a bit of a deeper look at Hyper-V, the hypervisor, and the parent partition. We also chatted about some of the features coming in SP1 of R2, but before you get your hopes up, I just explained what has been announced, rather than giving away anything more than what’s already been publicly shown or discussed in various sources online.
You can watch, or listen to the chinwag over on Mike’s blog. Enjoy!
My to-blog folder is positively brimming with stuff that I want to talk about, but finding the time at the moment is proving mightily difficult! What with MMS last week (including the awesome demo of SCVMM vNext, long-distance Live Migration, Opalis, Service Manager, Config Manager R3 beta and more!) along with Quest releasing a superb update to vWorkspace, namely version 7.1, and countless products reaching their RTM milestones, I’ve got a lot of blogging to do! This one however, comes first!
A couple of weeks back, in London, we ran a Virtualisation Summit, at Shepherds Bush cinema. If you attended the day, I’m sure you’d agree that the content, for the most part, was useful. Whether you were interested in Microsoft’s all up strategy going forward, desktop optimisation, VDI, virtualisation management, or, toolkits to assist with constructing your own private cloud, it’s clear that there was a lot of information on offer, and it’s always difficult to please everyone. I would have personally liked to have seen a few more demos, and wow-stuff, kind of like the stuff shown in the MMS keynotes, but hey ho, maybe next time!
If you did attend, you’ll have hopefully seen me present a session, along with Patrick Irwin from Citrix, on “Implementing a Comprehensive VDI Solution”, in which we discussed RDS for VDI, and some of the elements of XenDesktop. I also discussed some of the value add that Quest offer, with vWorkspace. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about the 7.1 release, otherwise I would have squeezed in some other useful titbits of information! For those that attended, I hope you found my session useful. I do try and put everything into my sessions, to make them engaging and informative, but I’m always open to feedback to improve!
For those that didn’t attend, or maybe you did, and want a recap, you can now view the session on demand, over at the Virtualisation Summit page. If you head on over there (or click the image below), click the play button next to my name, and a Silverlight video will start to play. Unfortunately, there’s no separate download of the underlying WMV file, so it’s in-browser only for now I’m afraid. Still, the resolution is pretty good, so if you want to go full screen, feel free. Also, if you want the deck from the day, let me know and I’ll ping you a link.
I hope you enjoy it, and as always, feedback welcome!
There are also other sessions available on demand, from the whole week of TechDays, which you can access, here.