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October, 2010

UK  TechNet Flash Newsletter
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  • TechNet Flash gets spooked for Halloween

    This fortnight’s TechNet Flash newsletter, while not exactly terrifying, sports an unmistakably spooky new fancy dress, courtesy of someone in the art department with not enough to do. It’s a bit of a bumper edition this time, the last two weeks have had us all panting for breath and desperate for a gin and tonic (actually that’s probably just me).

    Ready for your perusal we have:

    Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 RC

    Windows Phone 7

    Office 365 beta

    SQL Server 2008 R2 migration resources

    not to mention a darn fine Halloween competition with your name all over it. I’m looking forward to seeing your remarkable pumpkin carving efforts.

    Find the newsletter here – you can also sign up to get your own copy straight to your inbox.

    Have a great weekend!


  • PDC10 for the IT Professional – the view from #ukpdc10

    Thanks to Simon May for writing this post and being as bouncy as ever the morning after UKPDC10, when the rest of us are just about managing to operate at all. You can also read this post on Simon’s blog.


    I love it when we put on a good show, geeks, streams, quizzes, phones and most importantly TECH!  Last night we played host to a whole bunch of people at the Microsoft Campus in Reading who all left happy (twitter says so #ukpdc10) and who all learnt some new stuff about Azure, Windows Phone 7, and IE9.  There were some stonking announcements on the HD feed from Redmond given by a Steve Ballmer, and Bob Muglia and special guest stars like Pixar studios and Buzz Light-year.  This was a developer conference so what’s important to the IT Pro in what was announced?

    Windows Azure

    TIP: If you don’t know what Azure is yet jump to my blog and subscribe where I’ll be explaining it next week but…

    Windows Azure is true PaaS self scale-able (elastic) computing that grows and shrinks as the application needs to.  At PDC10 we announced new Virtual Machine(VM) role which is a rock star move because with the VM role you can move an existing application to the cloud.  How is such a feat achieved?  Simple, take your application, install it on Windows 2008 R2 and take an image to a VHD file (super easy if you’re using Hyper-V ‘cos you already have the file) then copy-and-paste to file to the cloud server.  With this new VM role you can do pretty much what you want, run the services you want and run scheduled tasks if you want to.  Because it’s your server in the cloud you get to be the race car driver, make the decisions and be involved in the engineering process.  I can’t stress how excited this role makes me as an IT Professional…but it gets even better.

    Next your the VM role will be able to take your Windows 2003 Servers (but do yourself a favour and go to 2008 R2, you might as well) and you’ll be able to build the VMs in the cloud rather than just on premise.

    The Web Role gets the enhancement of full features IIS, meaning that one role can run multiple sites and you can install IIS modules…oh yeah and management becomes familiar with Remote Desktop (RDP) and by elevating privileges you can do more complex deployments.  So it’s now possible to install MSI files on a web role for example.  By the way the PDC site and even Channel 9 are running on Azure.

    The announcement of Windows Azure Connect means you can plumb Windows Azure into your internal network.  That’s right you can domain join your Azure server roles so it’s just like it’s on premise, in your private data centre.  Just by way of an example that means you could deploy your Intranet site to a Web Role or your expenses application to a VM Role and bosh it’s just there…you can probably use the VM Role to poke a DC up there too!  It’s all done using familiar IP networking and VPN like connections.  That sounds like a job for the IT Professional to me.  Next year will bring SSL/TLS encryption for the pipes and Dynamic content caching so less stuff goes over the pipes (a bit like branch cache for the cloud) and a build out of the networking infrastructure.

    Azure Licensing can be seen as too costly for some people so we’ve downsized!  There’s a new Extra Small instance that costs just $0.05 per hour for a 1Ghz CPU, 768MB RAM and 20GB of storage…that sounds like the perfect kit to base my first instance on of an elastic application.  All the Windows Azure Roles are Compute Instances and so are charged the same.  There’s no CAL requirement to connect to an Azure VM role (awesome) and the Azure role license is covered through the compute costs…making it as cheap as (silicone) chips!

    It’s all about to go Beta and we at UK TechNet will let you know when we drop the beta bomb.

    So IT Pro’s need to skill up on:

    • Server 2008 R2
    • Hyper-V
    • IP
    • IIS7

    You’ll be wanting to Azure to get your head around it…trials are included as part of your MSDN subscription too.

    SQL Azure

    Community Technology Previews were announced for a bunch of new features including Reporting so reports can be authored using SQL Services Reporting tools and embedded in the database.  Data Sync CTP 2 can sync databases across datacentres and with the data on your premises in your own SQL Server.  That means you can have multiple geo-redundant SQL database or even just keep the data closest to the people who need it.  So say you have your business has 10 people in Japan, 10 people in Europe and 100 people data mining in India the guys in Japan and Europe can access the DB from SQL Azure from their fastest local DC and the guys in India receive a “caching” effect of having the data sync to their local SQL Server saving on the cost of the main Internet pipe to the office.

    The lightweight Database Manager formerly known as “Houston” (stunning Siverlight based app if you have  a look) has entered CTP too and will become part of the developer portal.

    DBAs and IT Pros doing SQL stuff need to skill up on:

    • not a whole lot…but if you aren’t on SQL 2008 you need to nail that.

    You’ll be wanting to Try SQL Azure to get your head around it…trials are included as part of your MSDN subscription too.


    Platform Preview 6 of Internet Explorer 9 was introduced at PDC10 and whilst the Beta is out and has rocked 10 million downloads already PP6 is important.  It’s what you need to run to assess your stuff against IE9 whilst still using IE8 – which is exactly what you need to do right now, you’d don’t want to be deploying Beta code (even if it’s awesome) to your user base.  There’s not a huge amount of IT Professional stuff in IE9 just yet, but this video (which is HTML5 by the way if your browser is capable) shows off the new platform preview and IE Test Drive Site.

    Windows Phone 7

    Oh boy was there a lot of love in the room for this last night.  We gave a couple away, more devs came with their own phones…everyone loved them!

    You might not know who Scott Guthrie is but he’s a demo-god, dev-god and he’s famed for his red shirts.  He live built a Windows Phone 7 app that dynamically searches eBay using odata to help you buy red shirts…it took about 5 minutes.  Do that on another mobile device.

    We’ve only just released the phone so there were no new announcements other than the inclusion of oData.  I’ll be releasing some info on how WP7 can be used by business and by IT Pros next week so stay tuned to my blog.


    I’m excited by the VM Role, it adds a whole new dimension to Azure, Windows Phone 7 is amazing and the developer experience, just like the user experience is 2nd to none , IE9 is beautifying the web for 10 million people already.  Oh yeah, we also had a Kinect at the event and this is what people had to say about it (#nowhereneardeadyet!):

    @pauliom: Trying to decide what to concentrate on after #ukpdc10. Better wp7 storage/tombstoning, tfs in azure, rx, or getting an xbox kinect? about 5 hours ago via TweetStation

    @pauliom: RT @mtaulty: I only played with kinect at #ukpdc10 tonight for 5 minutes and it won me over - seems just as natural as it looks on the demos. about 5 hours ago via MetroTwit

    @JonAlb: Thanks to all organisers of #ukpdc10 a fantastic evening :) just two requests... can I have a phone and can I have an xbox kinect? about 14 hours ago via MetroTwit

    @ajnt: Xbox Kinect is amazing! Great idea having it at #UKPDC10. 3d person tracking including face recognition. 10th November UK launch. about 14 hours ago via web

    @JonAlb: playing on the xbox kinect was very cool, the ping pong game (wiff waff) was ace! you REALLY get into it, realistic tennis elbow! #Ukpdc10 about 14 hours ago via MetroTwit

    @GrahamWilmott: #ukpdc10 just played with #kinect about 15 hours ago via HTC Peep

    s@tack72: RT @simonster: can I just ask, who at #ukpdc10 thinks Kinect is AWESOME? about 16 hours ago via MetroTwit

    @gthevenot: OK Microsoft, no free #WP7 at #ukpdc10, what about free #kinect then ? about 16 hours ago via web

    @brandondjmurphy: Remember when wii was first released. Triple that and double that and you will come close to the kinect experience #ukpdc10 about 17 hours ago via Mobile Web

    @Paul_Dunscombe: Playing with kinect. Looks like a wii killer. #ukpdc10 about 17 hours ago via Tweets60

    @westleyl: Noooooo, our beer .. RT @petemill: Finally made it to #ukpdc10 - helping myself to beer. Played with the kinect. Recognition is incredbile! about 17 hours ago via Seesmic for Android

    @CLaueR: RT @petemill: Finally made it to #ukpdc10 - helping myself to beer. Played with the kinect. Recognition is incredbile! Bowling arm hurts about 17 hours ago via Twitter for Windows Phone

    @petemill: Finally made it to #ukpdc10 - helping myself to beer. Played with the kinect. Recognition is incredbile! Bowling arm hurts about 17 hours ago via Twitter for Windows Phonef

    @blakepender: SB: Kinect is remarkable! Talking about it being great :D #ukpdc10 about 19 hours ago via txt

    @pauliom: At #ukpdc10 as a backing dancer to lady gaga apparently #kinect making a t1t of myself about 20 hours ago via TweetStation

    @brandondjmurphy: At #ukpdc10, impressed with the kinect. about 20 hours ago via Mobile Web

    @johanbarnard: #UKPDC10. Dance Central on #Kinect

  • Microsoft Office for Mac 2011

    This week we announced the availability of Office for Mac 2011 in TechNet Subscription. Have a read through the release announcement here.

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  • SQL Server 2008 R2 upgrades with Hyper-V

    Hello Andrew Fryer here, I have hacked into the UK TechNet blog and I notice that this week’s TechNet On is focused on SQL Server upgrade and migration.  I think this is a very comprehensive list of resources but I wondered how virtualisation changes things? 

    The answer depends on where you are starting from and which part of the upgrade process you are working on:

    SQL Server is running on a physical server with directly attached storage (DAS) – so the databases are on disks in the physical machine.  If it’s only running one database you can simply backup the database and restore to it to a virtual machine to begin testing.  If it’s  a lot of databases back up the disk(s) using windows backup (the SQL Server needs to be stopped during that process) and you will end up with a .VHD file for each disk which can be attached to a Hyper-V virtual machine (VM) as a second disk.  You can than start up the latest version of SQL Server and attach each of those databases one at a time. 

    Once you have tested everything you can use the same technique to move the database for the last time if you are going to virtualise it.  However if you want to stay physical and your base OS is Windows Server 2008 R2 then you can boot to the VHD as though it were a real volume.  If not throw away the VM and use the environment for your next bit of dev/test and copy/backup the database to your new server as discussed in the TechNet On resources.

    SQL Server is already running on a VM. For testing you simply take a backup of the VHDs (I am assuming here you back up your VM’s with something like System Center Data Protection Manager or an equivalent third party tool), on to a test server and then you can do an in place upgrade on that virtual machine to test, and repeat when you are ready to go into production.  If you are using pass through disks ( essentially a point to a LUN on a SAN) then use your SAN to create additional copies of the relevant LUNs which can then be attached to a new VM.

    SQL Server Clusters.  A SQL Server 2005 cluster can be upgraded to SQL Server 2008 without taking it down by upgrading each node in turn (as described on TechNet here)  however you will want to test that and so you can use virtual machines to point to a copy of the shared storage used in the production cluster. 

    I should also add that one of the key advantages of using virtualisation as part of your upgrade is that you can ensure your new SQL Server has the same server name as the old machine, removing the need for any client configuration works or DNS fixes to see the new server from existing applications.

    Which reminds that one problem with SQL Server is that it hasn’t worked with sysprep, the business of making Windows Server anonymous which is used to create copies of servers in virtualisation scenarios.  This has been addressed in SQL Server 2008 R2 with the image prepare installation option so you can make a copy of a prepared Windows Server/SQL Server VM and then fire this up repeatedly to make copies of SQL Server installations. The TechNet On guys have used my video of how to do this here.

    So as well as checking out all the TechNet On resources for SQL Server upgrades my top tip would be to skill up on what virtualisation can do for SQL Server and how to use it particularly if you are working with or for smaller businesses.

    Finally I have quite a few posts on migration and upgrade on my own blog

  • Free ebook: Understanding Microsoft Virtualization Solutions

    Ok, deep breath – long sentence coming up…

    This free, yes, free 400+ page ebook Understanding Microsoft Virtualization Solutions: From the Desktop to the Datacenter, 2nd Edition is the book for IT professionals who want to learn more about the latest Microsoft virtualization technologies, including Hyper-V and Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5, Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization, Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP Mode, System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, and Microsoft’s private and public cloud computing platforms including Windows Azure.


  • Catch the Kinect Tour this half term holiday

    The new Kinect for Xbox 360 logo.

    Stuck for something to do with your little ones this week? Why not pay a visit to Chessington World of Adventures and try out controller-free gaming with the Kinect folks. Until 31st October you’ll find them situated next to the Black Buccaneer, opposite Canopy Capers.

    The Kinect Tour continues this week and into November in Scotland, Leeds and Newcastle – find Kinect on Facebook for exact locations and dates.

    Get the lowdown on Kinect here

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  • Download Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 RC

    Hot off the TechNet press, so to speak, you can now download the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 Release Candidate. Here’s the blurb:

    Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 RC helps keep your PCs and servers on the latest support level, provides ongoing improvements to the Windows Operating System (OS), includes previous updates delivered over Windows Update as well as continuing incremental updates to the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 platforms based on customer and partner feedback, and is easy for organizations to deploy a single set of updates.

    Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 RC will help you:

    • Keep your PCs supported and up-to-date
    • Get ongoing updates to the Windows 7 platform
    • Easily deploy cumulative updates at a single time
    • Meet your users' demands for greater business mobility
    • Provide a comprehensive set of virtualization innovations
    • Provide an easier Service Pack deployment model for better IT efficiency


  • Say hello to the UK TechNet team!

    You might decide you were better off not knowing what we look like, but we thought it was about time we showed our collective UK TechNet face. Here we are hanging out on the balcony in our office…what a line up.

    UK TechNet team

    From left to right: Sam Taylor, Simon May, me, Andrew Fryer and Georgina Lewis.

    And here’s the alternative view…

    UK TechNet team

  • Download the Windows Phone 7 Enterprise Mobility Kit



    Following last week’s Windows Phone 7 launch I stumbled across this little gem in the Microsoft Download Centre.

    The new Windows Phone 7 Enterprise Mobility Kit helps you to find out how Windows Phone 7 can enhance mobile productivity in your business while working with your existing set up. Take a look here.

    If you’re more interested in exploring the development side of Windows Phone 7, check out the App Hub for all the tools and guidelines you need to get involved. You can also get a more general ‘we all love a new gadget’ view just here.

  • The week that was – 18-22 October

    This week we have mostly been rambling about…well, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag, actually. Take a look for yourself in this week’s wrap up. See you next week.