If I said there was a tool that could accelerate fixed-sized VHD copies by 10 times, would you be interested? If I said you could instantly provision and boot a new VM from a currently copying VHD file, would you be interested? Well, if the answer is yes, to either of those questions, then I have a couple of tools that you may find useful.
Hat-tip to Dilip, one of our MVPs for File Systems/Storage and author of ‘Inside Windows Storage, for providing the link to VMUtil.
When you think about it, a fixed-sized VHD, typically, contains a lot of nothing. What I mean by that is, think about it, if you have a 100GB fixed-size VHD, and inside that VHD, you’re only using say, 30GB, why should you have to transfer (for whatever reason) the full 100GB, when only 30GB is actually useful stuff? You could apply the same example to a backup drive – if I had a new backup drive of 1TB, and I’d only backed up 50GB so far, and I needed to move the files somewhere else, what would be quicker to transfer, 50GB or 1TB?
This is just one of many inefficiencies that exist within a file copy of a VM, that VHDCopy solves, by refraining from copying the meaningless portions that exist within a VHD.
There’s a datasheet here for more information, and you can always head over to the VHDCopy page for more stuff, including download links.
Building on VHDCopy, but providing more functionality, particularly around network transfers, as you can see from the table below:
Although it’s not quite clear from the website, depending on the page you’re looking at, both VHDCopy and VHDCopEE do run on the latest Windows OS’s, both Server and Desktop, yet VHDCopy will only accelerate local transfers, rather than network transfers, for which you’ll need VHDCopEE.
More on the ‘bolded’ ones later…
Again, there’s a datasheet here, and you can head over to the VHDCopEE page for more info. You can grab the download here.
This one’s pretty darn clever too. Think about it, you want to create a VM from say, a VHD that already exists. So, you copy, and past the VHD, and it takes x-minutes to copy. Using the above technologies, it’ll be quicker, but we’re still going to have to wait until the copy has finished to start the VM, right? Wrong.
VMProv allows a VM to be provisioned and available for use within seconds, well before the accelerated file copy has finished. Once the file copy finishes, the provisioned VM is no different than if it had been utilized after the file copy operation had finished. While the file copy is happening, the VM is fully available, and you may install any updates or new software. All changes made to the VM while the file copy is happening are preserved.
On top of that, and going back to the bolded points under VHDCopEE, VMprov is designed to be used with Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager R2 and its Rapid Provisioning feature.
Think about using SCVMM – whenever you’re sending out a VHD from the library, it’s typically going to be a file copy process, and the bigger the file, the longer it will take. Using VHDCopEE will speed up the transfer, and combining that with VMProv will mean you can start the VM up without waiting for the VHD to finish copying. Combine that with a Rapid Provisioning PowerShell script, found here, and you’re going to accelerate stuff considerably.
You can read the VMProv datasheet here, and check out the VMProv page for further info. If you want to download it, you can, here.
That’s all from me – make sure you check out the tools if you get chance!
Thinking of running SQL 2008? Thinking of virtualising it? Well, it’s good news that SQL 2008 is supported by Microsoft, running on Hyper-V, or any other SVVP certified virtualisation solution. The question remains however, should you virtualise SQL?
Well, I guess the answer to that is, it depends. Hyper-V on Windows Server 2008 supports up to 64GB RAM per VM, and 4 vCPUs per VM, so, you can, in effect, create some incredibly powerful virtual workloads, but the question still remains, would you virtualise it? Well, there are some benchmarks being produced right now for SQL 2008 on Hyper-V, and the stats are impressive.
“Pass-Through Disks I/O Overhead – SQLIO - I/O overhead used to be a challenge in virtualized environments. It could be a showstopper for I/O intensive applications like SQL Server. With Hyper-V, the technology is different. To understand the best-case scenario, our first test scenario looked at I/O overhead using the most optimized I/O configuration – dedicated pass-through disks. We chose pass-through disk configuration because it has the shortest code path from host to I/O subsystem. In the tests, the same number of physical spindles was allocated to the root partition and the guest virtual machine. Through repeated tests of various random and sequential I/O, we found the I/O overhead of Hyper-V using pass-through disks is from none to minimal”
I’ve taken the exert above from the whitepaper, found below. There are benchmarks, graphs and allsorts of useful info in there – definitely worth a read. So, if you do choose to virtualise SQL, here is that whitepaper – even if you aren’t virtualising SQL, it still contains a useful set of hints and tips around Hyper-V in general…
Do you build systems? Once you have shipped the machine out of the door, do you have any contact with that customer again? Do they have any knowledge of how you may be able to help them in the future? Are they aware of any of the other services you offer? If not, you could be losing potential business - I have a way to help you :-)
What is the first thing that users are presented with when they start Windows Vista for the first time (or every time if this is not switched off)? The Welcome Center.
So, this is the default Welcome Center that users are presented with, but what if I told you that you could easily, in around about 10 minutes, customise this to include icons and links to your services that you, as a business, could offer on top of just building and then shipping that PC.
Here is one I made earlier which includes....
Which, when clicked, gives...
So, as you can see, the user is presented with a small icon and a bit of info in the list, under WOW Resources (which I defined), and clicking on it, changes the main view at the top to contain a few high level bullet points, and a main link to 'Launch my blog' in this scenario. This is quite a trivial example, but think about it - why couldn't you link back to your services? 'Need Support - Click here' or, 'Company X Contact Details' and so on. Really useful yet really really simple!
If you do want to start playing around with this customisation, a great place to start is the Windows Vista TechCenter over on TechNet. It will show you the process, from start to finish, of how to find, edit and configure your oobe.xml file (the key file for the Welcome Center!).
If you want some sample content to start playing around with, you can download the Windows Automated Installation Kit, from here. There are some Fabrikam samples in there which are very easy to start using and testing your customisation skills.
That rhyme/rap was not intentional. Even in this day and age, I doubt a song about virtualisation technologies could get in the charts, although you never know…
Anyway, back to the real world…
Following up from yesterday’s post on the SP1 announcements, the interest in RemoteFX is already growing, with people wanting to get their hands on it, try it out, see how it behaves, how it scales, how it integrates, and more. Before any of that though, isn’t it a good idea to know how it all works? Well, there are lots of blog posts out there from both Microsoft, and Partners like Dell, Nvidia, and AMD to name but a few, but in terms of depth, you’d do well to find a more comprehensive, honest overview of the technology. I’ll warn you though, it’s quite deep!
Read it here…
So, on to the specs. I’ve already downloaded SP1, and installed it on my whitebox Shuttle PC, which has an Nvidia 8500 GT GPU (I’m not sure on the Video RAM – I haven’t checked, it was 1am!). I’ve enabled the Remote FX bits (under Add Roles –> Remote Desktop Services) and Hyper-V, and I’m good to go, right? No. Not on my box :-(
According to this TechNet library page, the minimum specs for RemoteFX are as follows:
There are several hardware requirements that must be met when deploying a RemoteFX server:
In my case, I’m let down by 2 factors here. Firstly, I don’t have a CPU which has EPT or NPT, although it is a Core 2 Quad Extreme, but not quite extreme enough obviously. Secondly, I don’t think my GPU has a huge amount of video RAM, but I think it has DirectX 10 support – time will tell on that one, when I get round to testing it! I don’t need the RemoteFX Encoder in my test environment, so we can ignore that hardware-based addition for now. Hyper-V runs fine on my box, so no issues there, and the final point is relevant to Session Hosts specifically, which isn’t on my agenda right now. So, SLAT and GPU – not sure how I’m going to get round the SLAT one, but buying a new GPU with plenty of GPU Video RAM shouldn’t cost the earth.
How do you know how much video RAM is required? Well, it depends:
As you can see from the table, as the resolution increases, the amount of video RAM required (per VM) increases. As you increase the number of monitors, the same thing occurs. It’s important to note that this solution is inevitably going to affect density, quite considerably, as you simply can’t get that many GPU’s into servers today but this will change, with GPUs of different shapes, sizes, and chassis creeping out over the coming months and years. Watch this space I’d say…
Anyone who’s seen my present Microsoft’s Virtualisation & Management story, will know I spend quite a bit of time focussing on System Center Operations Manager. For me, I think it’s the mission control of the System Center Suite, where, typically, IT Admins’ would spend the majority of their time. Whether it’s proactive monitoring and alerting, or reporting through Service Level Dashboards, Operations Manager gives us excellent insight into the environment, whether it’s physical, or virtual.
How does Operations Manager get it’s knowledge about Technology-X?
Simple. Management Packs. Important to note, MP’s are not written by the Operations Manager team. They are written and developed by the team (Microsoft or 3rd Party) that makes that respective technology. Exchange MP is written by the Exchange team, SharePoint MP by the SharePoint team, and so on.
Where do you get these Management Packs?
Well, with Operations Manager 2007 R2, you can search and import MP’s right into the Operations Manager interface, however, those who’ve used Operations Manager for some time, will know you have to visit the MP Catalogue. If you’ve not used the MP Catalogue for a while, the first thing you’ll notice is that the site has been moved into the PinPoint set of sites, and in my view, isn’t quite as easy to find the MPs as before, but I’m sure it’ll get better with time. Don’t shoot the messenger on that one!
New Management Packs?
Well, a few highlights for me include:
Operations Manager Management Pack for Forefront Threat Management Gateway (TMG) 2010 (Download)
This MP monitors Forefront TMG and includes monitors and rules to track the deployed topology & features, performance, availability, and reliability of Forefront TMG components. With detailed alert information, you can quickly identify and troubleshoot Forefront TMG issues, minimizing time-to-resolution when problems occur. You can collect and analyze performance trends and metrics, and obtain performance information that allows you to manage bottlenecks, identify capacity requirements, and proactively manage your Forefront TMG deployment to resolve issues before problems occur.
Operations Manager Management Pack for Windows 2008 R2 Direct Access Server (Download)
Through Operations Manager, the Direct Access Server Management Pack supports the following features:
Automatic discovery of the Direct Access Server and its components, including:
Monitors that identify:
Operations Manager Management Pack Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 (Download)
The Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 management pack is designed to be used for monitoring Exchange 2010 events, collecting Exchange component-specific performance counters in one central location, and for raising alerts for operator intervention as necessary. By detecting, sending alerts, and automatically correlating critical events, this management pack helps indicate, correct, and prevent possible service outages or configuration problems, allowing you to proactively manage Exchange servers and identify issues before they become critical. The management pack monitors and provides alerts for automatic notification of events indicating service outages, performance degradation, and health monitoring.
The Exchange Server 2010 Management Pack includes rules and scripts to monitor and report on performance, availability, and reliability of all Exchange 2010 server roles including.
Operations Manager Management Pack for Forefront Protection 2010 for Exchange Server (Download)
The Management Pack for Forefront Protection 2010 for Exchange Server (FPE) allows you to discover FPE installations and components and to monitor them within System Center Operations Manager 2007. When there is an issue that may impact the availability, configuration, or security of your FPE deployment, Operations Manager uses the management pack to detect the issue, alert you to its existence, and facilitate diagnosis and corrective actions.
Operations Manager Management Pack for SharePoint 2010 Beta (Download)
This System Center Management Pack is for Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Products Beta, which includes monitoring for:
Operations Manager Management Pack for Windows Power Management (Download)
The Power Management Pack for Operations Manager 2007 R2 enables you to monitor and manage the power consumption of computers running Windows Server 2008 R2.
This management pack provides:
These are just a few of the MP’s available, however, don’t just import them all and expect everything to be perfect. Importing of MP’s should be phased, otherwise, as expected, you’ll get a lot of alerts, as the thresholds won’t be ideal for your environment in every case. So, import, tweak and tailor, a few at a time, and what you’ll end up with is a more tailored, more relevant, monitoring environment.
These, and all other MPs, can be found on the Management Pack website (or downloaded with Operations Manager 2007 R2).
If you haven't heard of Microsoft Forefront, it's a comprehensive set of security technologies, that can help to protect your infrastructure, whether it be with Forefront Client Security for unified malware protection on PC desktops and notebooks, Forefront Security for Exchange Server and Forefront Security for SharePoint for protecting key information worker server products and don't forget the Forefront Server Security Management Console for tying it all together. Whilst these products are comprehensive, what they don't really offer is deep integration. That's about to change, with Stirling.
"Forefront codename “Stirling” is an integrated security system that delivers comprehensive, coordinated protection across endpoints, messaging, and collaboration applications, and the network edge that is easier to manage and control"
"Dynamic response, an innovative feature of the Stirling integrated security system, saves IT staff considerable time by automatically responding to incoming threats.
By sharing and using security information across the IT environment, “Stirling” and dynamic response help to save time while proactively securing the environment"
To put more of a real life scenario around the technology, I've found a useful example on the Stirling website:
In this scenario, a Trojan lodges itself on an employee’s PC, creating hundreds of open connections to the Internet. The network administrator notices the Trojan after receiving an alert or looking at logs on the firewall. At that point, he calls the desktop administrator or Help Desk, which in turn looks for the infected computer and resolves the issue by disconnecting the computer from the network. More often than not, this search-and-fix process takes several hours and exposes the organization to unnecessary risk.
In the same scenario with "Stirling" deployed, Forefront Threat Management Gateway detects the open connections to the Internet and relays that information to the other Forefront security products. The information automatically triggers a response by Forefront Client Security to start a thorough malware scan on the infected computer. Depending on the results, a subsequent response is triggered by the Network Access Protection technology to quarantine the machine and block e-mail exchanges. The entire process takes a few minutes and requires no manual intervention.
There's loads of information on Stirling here: http://www.microsoft.com/forefront/stirling/en/us/default.aspx and you can also pull down the beta of the software, and you can also read a great review of the technologies here: http://windowsitpro.com/article/articleid/98813/microsofts-next-security-suite-nothing-short-of-stirling.html
Final piece of info - check out the online flash demo: Microsoft Forefront Codename Stirling Demo
You’re probably thinking, why, on a Microsoft blog, is he banging on about running ESX? Well, if you didn’t know, System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 doesn’t just manage Virtual Server 2005 and Hyper-V – it also manages your VI3 (&3.5) infrastructure too, and will perform 90%+ of the day to day stuff that you’d normally do through Virtual Center, but through VMM.
Why would you do this, I hear you ask? Well, what you have to remember is that VMM is very nicely linked into some of the other System Center components, such as SC Operations Manager 2007, for monitoring and alerting, and SC Configuration Manager 2007 for centralised patching and deployment, and the key thing about these technologies? They are applicable for your physical, and your virtual environment, which is something different to what Virtual Center on it’s own. If you’re looking for a quick idea of the integration between some of the System Center technologies, check out this Dell Video, integrating SCVMM and SCOM 2007.
So, back to the title of the post – Running ESX 3.5 in a VM on VMware Workstation. It can be done. I’ve done it, and the guys at Xtravirt have updated their guide to cover the new and updated ESX / ESXi. This effectively allows you to build ‘VI in a box’, which I can then manage from SCVMM 2008! It’s a great testing environment for me, and, as hardware is scarce, doesn’t stop me learning!
As an FYI - Virtual Machine Manager 2008 is due for release in September. SC ConfigMgr and SC OpsMgr are already released, and have reached the SP1 milestone.
Now, for those of you who've met Mike Pallot, or maybe read his blog, you'll know one thing; he is quite a small bloke. Only kidding Mike - he is incredibly passionate about the world of Enterprise Search. From reading Mike's blog, I've noticed that he's been biting his lip a little around talking about the big G. I mean Google, for those of you who's minds were wandering.
Well, he's spoken up, and I'd advise you to have a read - pretty interesting I'd say. What Mike is trying to get at, with a post entitled "Time to stop the hype about Google?" is around the help and support that we come to expect from companies that we purchase items, or services from, just doesn't seem to be there with Google. Now, I don't know enough about the area to give a strong opinion, but from my point of view, Google lack a strong business model, they lack a clear direction - I hear about so many applications coming out of Google, that I just lose track; Google Earth, Google AdSense, Google Desktop and so on, many of which, as James points out, are in beta, and have seemingly been that way for some time.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Google don't produce some good stuff - when I first used Picasa a couple of years back, I thought it was great, and I have a Gmail account, although it is rarely used now, but they did provide me with what I needed at the time. However, as Mike goes on to say, if I needed help and support, would I be able to depend on Google to provide me with it? I'm not so sure, and it looks as if Zdnet agrees - thanks James for the link.
Maybe Mike isn't the only one that is starting to notice that Google isn't always the best option. Reading the Wall Street Journal, I noticed this headline "Comcast Signals Unhappiness With Google" - what have you done Mike! I'll let you read the article, but if Microsoft's Search Technologies can get in the door there, it would be a great feather in the cap.
Nope, Adcomsubordcomphibspac is the longest English one (apparently, and it's a Navy term, standing for Administrative Command, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet Subordinate Command) but SCVMM comes pretty close. Needless to say, it's a mouthful.
System Center Virtual Machine Manager is one of the latest products within the System Center family of products to be released in a public beta, which you can download here. So, what is it, and why is now the time to start using it, testing it, and loving it?
Well, we know virtualisation is hotter than the surface of the sun at the moment, as there is no sign of it cooling down just yet. So, you create and start running all these different virtual machines, hopefully on Virtual Server, but then what? How do you control and manage them all? How do you deploy them quickly? Do you want to convert physical machines to virtual machines and vice versa?
SCVMM is your answer to all those questions. Sure, Microsoft accept that Virtual Server has it's short falls, but, when you combine it with SCVMM, you can really start to reap the benefits of a virtual infrastructure. One thing I will say is, don't just think about now. Think about a little bit further down the line, when Windows Server Virtualisation hits the fore. Not only will you be able to migrate your virtual machines from Virtual Server straight over to WSV, thanks for the VHD file format, but SCVMM will allow you to seamlessly manage those virtual machines too, in an environment that you can start using. Today.
So, what are some of the other benefits of SCVMM? Well, here's a top 10...
You can read details on each of the top 10 here.
There are a whole host of resources on the Microsoft.com pages:
As if they were not reasons enough to download SCVMM and try it out, you can win an Xbox 360, just for downloading!
Well, it's your lucky day - you can now download it, and you don't even have to be on MSDN, CPP, TAP or any of the other programs! It's yours! Take it!
Before you go zooming off to download this little beauty, it's important that you read the following:
"This build (5728) has a number of improvements and updates from RC1, but has not been put through the same internal testing process as RC1 and therefore may be unstable in certain installations. We are making this release available for a limited time only (and only by download) in order to get broad distribution and testing in a variety of PC configurations. Please note: This build may not have the same level of support or servicing via Windows Update, and you may not be able to upgrade to the final version of Windows Vista".
To be honest though, I have been using an even newer build, 5732, for a few days now, and it's sweet as a nut. No problems so far, and my machine is so packed with Beta software it's unreal, and it still manages fine. Everything runs smoothly, quickly, all the drivers are in there - I don't think you will have any problems.
"Installation notice: Users of Toshiba models M400, M4, and M5 should choose to do a clean install (not upgrade) of this build. Before upgrading from Beta 2, please install any Critical Updates from Windows Update for Beta 2. Go to Start, All Programs, Windows Update, and click the “Check for Updates” button"
A couple of new things you do get with the 5728 are some funky new wallpapers, and a new boot animation! If you are interested in how this release is on a different path to the RC1 release, head on over to Long Zheng's blog. Long writes some great stuff about Vista, so take a look. The image below is taken from Long's post, where he got the chance to chat with Paul Donnelly, the Microsoft Windows Vista beta program manager, to ask about the development process for Windows Vista and branching.
You can also go along to Long's blog and try to win a Vista Mousemat! Cool!
Get along to the download site to start downloading straight away! you can download it in two ways:
Bear in mind, that you can only download the 32-bit version for now, and it comes in ISO format, so your DVD-Burning skills will need to be up to scratch to take advantage of your huge download!
For those of you who would prefer to go with the supported 5600 RC1 build, you can still get your hands on it, here. Enjoy! :-)