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May, 2013

UK  TechNet Flash Newsletter
  • Server 4024 part 1 – Virtualisation

    A database is only as good as the operating system it resides on. SQL Server only runs on Windows and given that Windows Server 2012 (WS2012) is a huge change from what there was in Server 2008 R2 what does this new OS mean for the DBA.  The reference to Server 4012 is because that would be WS2012 + SQL 2012 which is what you want be running to get the most out of your modern hardware and push that through to your database engine.

    In this particular post I wanted to look at what Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012  does for SQL Server.

    It used to be that SQL Server was limited by what the operating system could surface but in a virtual world this becomes what the hypervisor provides to the virtual machine (VM). In WS 2012 all of the limits for VM’s have gone up by at least 4X..



    In many cases these limits are higher than the specifications of many physical servers that you are running SQL Server on today.  There’s also lots of use made of the latest developments in hardware that you may not have on your servers yet, for example:

    • NUMA support , so you can pass through NUMA nodes to a VM for optimal VM performance or allow your VMs to span NUMA nodes..
    • SR-IOV is away of making a PCI card look like multiple PCI devices each of which can be presented to a particular virtual machine.  In WS2012 there is SR-IOV support for network cards (NICs) so that the virtualisation is handled by the card not the hypervisor.  The clever bit that’s currently unique to WS 2012 is that you can live migrate a VM using SR-IOV to server that doesn’t have it , i.e. you don’t have to stop the VM.
    • IPsec can also be offloaded to NICs that support it
    • Support for 4 x Fibre Channel HBAs in a VM.  Note this doesn’t prevent live migrations either but the setup of the Virtual SAN must be the same on the source and target hosts.

    While I am on about hardware, Hyper-V also introduces a new hard disk format, VHDX which can be up to 64TB (Note the VHD format is still supported) which also allows you to efficiently use the 4KB sector size on the newer larger hard disks by having a logical sector size of 4KB as well.

    On a physical server running lots of VMs you’ll want to ensure that SQL Server gets a predictable set of resources, such as CPU, RAM.  Hyper-V has always allowed you to set and prioritise all these, and in WS2012 you can also set Network bandwidth maximum and minimum for each Virtual NIC.

    In the past SQL Server hasn’t been virtualised because of concerns about performance. As I have shown that doesn’t really apply to WS2012, but you will need to follow best practice for setting it up and confirm that you are getting the performance you are expecting.  The best practice is on the SQL CAT (Customer Advisory Team) blog, and your testing should show that you are getting about 93% of the performance you had on your equivalent physical hardware.

    So please  ensure your SQL Server is given a good home and try it on Windows Server 2012


    note: I’ll be discussing this during my sessions at SQL Relay (in Glasgow, Leeds, Birmingham & Norwich)

  • Read it and keep

    I have to confess to having quite a few real books in my house. Some of these books are reproductions of originals or have really big hi definition pictures in so they don’t work well as e-books.  I also find that on occasion technical books work better in print than they do on a small ebook reader.  Having said that I only have finite shelf space so I only keep the good (for me) stuff.

    When I got  my review copy of Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Installation and Configuration Guide written three of my MVP friends ( Aidan Fynn, Damian Flynn and Patrick Lownds), I honestly thought I'll do a quick post on it then give it away as a prize as I thought I was reasonably competent with this new OS.  It turns out I was wrong!

    Firstly the book goes deep in to corners that I have only briefly looked at like how virtual (aka software defined) networks work in Hyper-V.  This is hard because it is only surfaced in Windows Server 2012 through PowerShell cmdlets.  If you want a UI then you’ll need to use System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 sp1.Actually the PowerShell in this book is another reason I like it, as it shows the art of the possible and that may help some of you get over the hurdle of learning it because you can see all the good stuff you can do once you have mastered the basics.

    Other examples of good deep technical content are the numerous grey boxes in the text e.g. Linux considerations on NUMA, what’s the right number for simultaneous live migrations, and Backup and Virtual Machine Mobility.

    Secondly there’s a lot of good discussion on when to use what, for example

    • Anti-Virus software for the physical hosts,
    • typical uses of file shares and SMB3 to host VM’s and what this means for high availability
    • How to use the new Fibre channel support in Hyper-V

    Finally it’s well written. By that I mean it’s been written from the ground up not a bad rehash of an earlier version. Like any good book it takes you on a journey in each section from simple to complex, so initially you’ll what something is like NIC team and learn to do something via the UI and then you’ll get all the nuances and best practices and real world stuff.

    So if you want a copy to help you get the most out Windows Server 2012  get your own, your not having mine!

  • Where's Wally? He will be with WMUG - 21st of June in London

    The Windows Management User Group will be hosting Wally Mead as he passes through the UK on his way to TechED Europe.

    In their words:

    The Windows Management User Group welcomes Wally Mead, Senior Program Manager for the System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Product Group back to the UK for a day of System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Service Pack 1 and Mobile Device (inTune) presentations.

    Wally Mead has been with Microsoft for 19 years, starting in the Microsoft training group where he got his first exposure to systems management with SMS 1.0. He's been in the Configuration Manager product group for the past 13 years, working on all versions of the SMS/Configuration Manager product. Currently he works with TAP customers beta testing Configuration Manager 2012, as well as developing hands-on lab materials for conferences and TechNet Virtual Hands-on labs.

    If you are going to TechEd Europe you will see some of this content presented, but Wally intends to mix things up a little so both those that will attend TechEd Europe and those that are unable to make it will both benefit from attending this all day event.

    If you want to find our more about the event, including the current agenda, click here: <link>

    I have worked with Wally on a number of events and he is a great presenter who really knows his stuff.


    Dan @danpi


  • May the Force be with you Spock! Free Rental of Star Trek (2009)

     Do you like Sci Fi? 

    Do you own a Windows 8 device?

    If the answers are both yes then read on.......

    My colleagues in the Home & Entertainment Division have just made me aware of a free rental:

    Xbox Video are giving away a free rental of Star Trek (2009) for all UK & Ireland Windows 8 users

    From today until Monday 3rd June, to get your free movie, visit Xbox Video from a Windows 8 device and select Star Trek (2009) from the spotlight section or follow the link here: StarTrek (2009) Free Movie (select yes on the pop-up)

    You've got just under a week to enjoy the film,

    Live long and prosper! 

    Dan @danpi


  • Announcement: Surface Pro has Landed in the UK

    Today we are delighted to see the much anticipated arrival of Surface Pro into the UK market.

    This device extends the Surface range from Surface RT, and represents Microsoft’s entry into the full primary device market.  The UK market interest in the device has been huge since it arrived in the US market in February, which makes the arrival in the UK market all the more welcome.



    How to find out more: please go to

  • Introduction For SQL Bits

    Earlier this month saw SQL Bits, one of the largest SQL Server Technical User Group conferences in Europe. The event served as a great opportunity to hero six of the dozen or so professionals who have achieved the highest level of SQL certifications in the past year. To achieve Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) status requires many months of hard work yet many professionals globally recognise the value it and the other SQL Server Technical certifications bring them to enhance their career and the companies they work for. We caught up with Paul Egan and James Skipworth – two of the latest to gain the certification to explain what motivated them to embark on this endeavour.

    Paul Egan is CEO of SQL Database Solutions Ltd. “Early on in my IT career I remember reading an article in a magazine which asked the question, why IT professionals are not required to take exams when they are for many other skilled professions. I think it is important to take exams for two reasons, firstly to keep skills up to date, IT is continually evolving and we have to keep up with changes. Secondly to demonstrate skill and commitment to learning and professional development to a future employer.

    I started my journey to MCSM certification status by watching these readiness videos I decided that I would watch them in the evenings to improve my SQL Server skills - they are excellent free training and I have recommended them to many people since. Once I was on the programme I was working all the time. I was commuting to and from work on the train and either watching training videos or working my way through the long reading list at

    It has meant a great deal to me passing the exam, knowing I have achieved one of the highest technical certifications available to SQL Professionals. I have also learnt a great deal on my journey, knowledge which I use every day. Being a freelance SQL Professional I am very hopeful that my certification will help me with new opportunities of work in the future. It is quite an interesting time for SQL Server professionals with the new features of availability groups and the cloud offering using Windows Azure SQL Database or SQL 2012 in a Windows Azure virtual machine. I am looking forward to learning more about them.”

    James Skipwith, Principal at Exorior adds:

    “As a consultant, the MCSM means a lot to me and hopefully to my clients. It shows that I am at the top-level in my chosen profession, that I have worked hard to achieve such a certification, and that they can be assured that any architecture I propose or work I do will be of the highest level. It validates my extensive experience with SQL Server and instils confidence in those who work with me. It shows that I care about what I do, that I am very serious about it, and that I do know what I'm talking about (most of the time anyway!)

    I took my first Microsoft exam back in December 2000. With each new release of SQL Server I upgraded my exams to MCITP, both DBA and Developer, and then I found out the MCSM could be done outside of an onsite course at Redmond. It was a big decision to go for this though. I had a full work schedule, three children under the age of four, and also had to fund it myself due to being a self-employed consultant. The challenge was too great to pass up: I booked on the QuickStart course and worked, hard, for just over a year. It was all worth it in the end. In January this year I found out that I had passed and the sense of achievement was fantastic. Yes, passing the MCSM requires a lot of work and experience but it also requires motivation, a thirst for knowledge, and a stubborn refusal to be beaten!”

    Microsoft, provides Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) across five disciplines: Data Platform, SharePoint, Communication, Messaging and Directory Services. To find out more click here

    For those interested in becoming a Microsoft Certified Solutions Master but are just starting their IT career, MCSA or MCSE level certification provides a valuable stepping stone in that direction.

  • Microsoft Free Software – a personal top ten

    You might think this will would make for a really short article post but actually  there’s a  huge amount of free tools and resource out there and I have had to restrict myself to a top ten across the server and client,  based on what Simon and I have used.  So please feel free to comment with your own and I’ll see what we can do about maintaining a list somewhere and rewarding good suggestions.


    Hyper-V Server

    Yes Microsoft does have a free operating system, although it’s just restricted to the ability to run highly available virtual machines.  With Hyper-V Server you are limited to running 8,000 virtual machines on a 64 node cluster and you can only put 64 logical processors in a virtual machine. Also note that there is no graphical interface as this OS is very like Server core and is designed to be remotely managed.  (I have a separate post just on Hyper-V Server here).


    Microsoft Security Essentials

    If your organisation has less than ten PCs then this is the FREE antivirus for you, and it’s also free to use at home.  Security Essentials uses the same signatures as System Center Endpoint Protection and has won a slew of awards for being very user friendly.  You can install this on XP and Windows 7, but for Windows 8  and Windows RT Windows Defender does the same thing and  included and


    System Center Advisor

    This is a lightweight best practice analyser for Windows Server and SQL Server environment.  It uses the same agent System Center Operations Manager agent to collect telemetry about your servers and then sends this every day to Advisor Service.  The Advisor Service then provides reports on error and warnings you need be aware of.  It uses your own certificates so it’s secure.  Like Operations Manager you can configure a gateway to collect the information from other internal servers and then send this daily to the Advisor service.  (I have posts on  how to set it up and how to use it).

    SQL Server Express

    If you only need a small database server the there’s quite a lot you can do with SQL Server Express.  The tools are essentially the same as its bigger brother and you get reporting services if you need it to deliver rich reporting of your local database. If you don’t need all the tooling and just want a slimmed down engine behind your application then there’s an option LocalDB



    The Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit seems to be universally ignored, despite being really useful in planning any kind of upgrade or migration, or jut to make sense of what you have got already – given that you might be new into post. What it does is to crawl your datacentre with various credential you supply and tells you what you have.  This might be nothing more than how many servers do you have and what OS are they running, and even that in a world of virtual machine sprawl can be useful.  However if you were then to use it plan a Windows Server 2012 migration project it would allow you get reports and plans on how to do that and what you’ll need.  It’s constantly updated so always be sure to get the latest version.

    One other thing to note while it will allows you to assess your licensing estate the data is NOT reported back to Microsoft, so you won’t be getting loads of phone calls once you’ve run it, but you will at least know where you are.


    Data Classification Toolkit

    Knowing about your infrastructure is one thing, what matters more is the data that’s in it and to make sense of that there’s the Data Classification Toolkit. Like other solution accelerators it’s continually updated and in this case is now aware of the latest tools in Windows Server 2012 like Dynamic Access Control (My post on getting started is here).

    Please note the small print : Use of the Microsoft Data Classification Toolkit for Windows Server 2012 does not constitute advice from an auditor, accountant, attorney or other compliance professional, and does not guarantee fulfilment of your organization’s legal or compliance obligations. Conformance with these obligations requires input and interpretation by your organization’s compliance professionals.


    Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK)

    Simon and I still see a lot of weird and wonderful ways to deploy operating systems at scale, which is odd when Microsoft have two free of tools the first being Windows ADK.  Actually the ADK should count as several free things itself as it contains a number of useful utilities such as:

    Microsoft Deployment Toolkit

    This is another tool that’s kept up to date, in this case it too support scale deployment of Windows 8 and Server 2012.  It may seem like an overlap with the Windows ADK but that toolset requires knowledge of a lot of command line utilities like DISM, where the MDT is a UI driven process.  The


    The Office Environment Assessment Toolkit (OEAT) scans client computers for add-ins and applications that interact with all versions of Office back to Office 97. It’s designed for detecting compatibility issues but I have seen it used to track down large spreadsheets which means someone in your organisation is using Excel instead of a proper database, which at best might mean there could be data quality issues in some of your reporting and at worst might mean you are storing customer and confidential information where it is not being properly controlled 


    Windows Live

    I still use three utilities from Windows Live to get key tasks done

    Note none of these run on Windows RT

    I also wanted to share my also rans that didn’t make my top ten..

    Windows Sysinternals:

    ZoomIT A Windows Sysinternals tool to make areas of your screen bigger

    BGInfo Also part of the Windows sysinternals tools which shows key informatio0n about  your servers on their desktops.

    RDCMan to manage remote desktops' great for managing Windows 8 / Server 2012 as it’s not based on RDP8 and so the charms etc. don’t work

    and finally for a bit of fun Ordnance Survey Maps - I occasionally need to get out of the office and off-road.  Street View is fine but what if there are no streets and you need to get from A to B for fun on foot or by cycle.  In this instance Ordnance Survey maps are your friend and they are free on Bing Maps if you are in the UK (just select Ordnance Survey from the left hand drop down list of map types)e.g.


    You can print them as well if you don’t want to take your slate, tablet, phone with you

  • Tech.Days Online Competition Winners!!!

    IT Pros! As I’m sure many of you may have heard we ran a series of competitions across the 2013 series of Tech.Days Online. Up for grabs was a fantastic array of prizes to giveaway to the lucky winners including:

                ·         A HTC Windows Phone 8

                ·         A Sony VAIO Laptop

                ·         A HP ElitePad 900


    We are delighted to announce that the winners are:  


    Eddie Vermeer - Winner of the Windows Phone 8


    Allan Chambers – Winner of the Sony Vaio Laptop

    Mark Jeffries - Winner of the HP ElitePad 900


    Congratulations to the winners! Remember there are still some fantastic prizes up for grabs when you enter the TechEd challenge including a fully funded trip to sunny Madrid!


  • UK TechDays Online 2013 On Demand Content now available

    If you missed our UK TechDays Online event a couple of weeks ago then don’t be sad, the content is now online, on demand. You’ll need to register to view the content, but if you already registered for the event the registration engine should recognise who you are and let you.… The post UK TechDays Online 2013 On Demand Content now available by Simon May first appeared on Devices, Services, Life: Simon May's Blog ....(read more)
  • Licensing Logic: What's the difference between OEM, Retail and Volume Licenses?

    By Vicky Lea

    When it comes to purchasing licences there are a number of different channels that you can purchase through. These are FPP (Full Packaged Product), OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and Volume Licensing. So what are the key differences between the channels, and what impact do they have on your licensing rights? Because it is the usage rights you receive with the software that mainly distinguish between the channels.

    Let us start off by looking at FPP licences.

    FPP licences are purchased from retail and provide a quick and convenient way for customers requiring less than five licences to purchase their software. Licences sold through FPP are either full licences or upgrade licences. A full licence does not require any pre-existing versions of the software to be on the machine it is installed on, whereas an upgrade licence allow you to cost effectively upgrade to a newer version of software that you are already licensed for.

    When you purchase FPP software you are entering into an agreement with Microsoft stating that you will adhere to the usage rights associated with the software. These rights include detail such as downgrade rights, which you generally do not get with FPP software, how many devices you are allowed to install the software on, whether you have the right to move the software to another computer (transfer rights) or not and nowadays whether you are allowed to use the software for commercial use or not.

    The usage rights for FPP software are laid out in the Microsoft Software Licence Terms document, which can be downloaded from this site:

    Microsoft does also provide limited support services for software that has been licensed via the FPP channel, details of which can be found here:

    OEM software is software that comes pre-installed when you purchase a new computer. So for instance when you purchase a new PC it might come with an OEM licensed copy of Windows 8.1 Pro pre-installed on it. One of the key benefits of this is that you then know that the software has been installed correctly and is working properly and if there are any issues it is the responsibility of the computer manufacturer or installer to provide support rather than Microsoft.

    Again, OEM software usage is ruled by the Microsoft Software Licence Terms document. So for instance it will detail that with Windows 8.1 Pro licensed via OEM you do get limited downgrade rights in that you can downgrade as far back as two earlier versions if you so desire, either to Windows 7 Professional or Windows Vista Business. But that there are no transfer rights, so the software may not be removed from the PC it was originally installed on and installed on another, however, you are allowed to transfer the PC complete with the OEM licensed software to a new user if required.

    The third channel you may purchase software through is Volume Licensing. There are a number of volume licensing agreements you can purchase through and these agreements have been tailored to suit the differing requirements of all sizes and types of organisation. There are agreements aimed at the small to medium sized business in the form of Open and Open Value, and agreements aimed at medium to large organisations in the form of the Select Plus and Enterprise Agreements.

    Usage of software purchased through these agreements is controlled by a number of factors; the agreement itself may contain some usage rights specific to purchasing through that agreement, but the usage rights per product can be found in the Product List document and the Product Use Rights (PUR) document. You can download the Product List and PUR from here:

    For example, with an Enterprise Agreement the transfer rights for software are detailed in the Enterprise Agreement document itself, stating that licences may only be transferred once they have been fully paid for and that they can only be transferred to affiliates or a third party as part of a divestiture or merger. So it is always important to check the agreement documents as they will detail rights that are specific to the agreement itself, but what about the more general terms?

    Well this is where documents such as the Product List and PUR come into play. The Product List provides monthly information about Microsoft Software and Online Services licensed through the volume licensing agreements, and details software availability through the different agreements, as well as Software Assurance migration paths, step-up licences and available promotions. The PUR goes into detail on the general volume licensing terms for each licensing model plus any product-specific use rights. All these documents together can be used to determine the licence terms for products purchased through specific agreements.

    For example, when you purchase Windows 8.1 Pro through Volume Licensing the licence is an upgrade licence only. Meaning that the device must already be licensed for a qualifying operating system before installation of the Windows Upgrade. The Product List contains all the detail behind this including a list of the qualifying operating systems per agreement. Whereas the PUR goes into more detail on where Windows 8.1 Pro may be installed and who can access the software either locally or remotely.

    Other important product rights you receive when purchasing your licences through volume licensing are re-imaging and full downgrade rights. Downgrade rights again are detailed in the PUR, and you may find detail on re-imaging rights in the specific agreement documents. However, there is a very useful re-imaging brief that goes into all the detail you may need and you can download that from here:

    So to wrap up, we have seen that there are a number of different ways for you to purchase your licences, and the availability of software does vary through those channels, but the main impact on the licences of buying through FPP, OEM or Volume Licensing is the usage rights you gain with the software.

    This is one scenario and licensing situation. Each customer scenario can vary by deployment, usage, product version, and product use rights.  Always check your contract, and the current Products Use Rights document to confirm how your environment should be fully licensed.  The blogging team does not warrant that this scenario will be the right licensing solution for other similar cases.