If you are looking to have a book on hand whilst getting to grips with SQL Server 2012 then you’ll be interested in the free E-book currently being offered by MS Press and written by Ross Mistry (@RossMistry) and Stacia Misner (@StaciaMisner). You can download the PDF version of this title here (288 pages; 10.8 MB).
PART I DATABASE ADMINISTRATION
1. SQL Server 2012 Editions and Engine Enhancements 2. High-Availability and Disaster-Recovery Enhancements 3. Performance and Scalability 4. Security Enhancements 5. Programmability and Beyond-Relational Enhancements
1. SQL Server 2012 Editions and Engine Enhancements
2. High-Availability and Disaster-Recovery Enhancements
3. Performance and Scalability
4. Security Enhancements
5. Programmability and Beyond-Relational Enhancements
PART II BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE DEVELOPMENT (by Stacia Misner)
6. Integration Services 7. Data Quality Services 8. Master Data Services 9. Analysis Services and PowerPivot 10. Reporting Services
6. Integration Services
7. Data Quality Services
8. Master Data Services
9. Analysis Services and PowerPivot
10. Reporting Services
We are releasing this title to help you learn about the new features and capabilities in SQL Server 2012, which Microsoft released to manufacturing (RTM) on March 6, 2012. You can expect general availability of the product to begin on April 1, 2012.
If you prefer a hard copy of the book, you can order it here for $14.99.
The Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Release Candidate (formerly Microsoft Office Communications Server) is newly available on TechNet for you to download. Here’s the lowdown, along with some guidance around the name change.
Lync Server 2010 ushers in a new connected experience transforming communication into an interaction that is more collaborative, engaging and accessible from any location with internet connectivity. A single interface unites voice, IM, audio-, video-, and web-conferencing into a richer, more contextual offering and a single identity makes it easier and more efficient for users to find contacts, check their availability and connect with them. Lync Server 2010 works consistently with Microsoft Office, enriching the experience of familiar applications like Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word, Microsoft SharePoint, and more.
Visit the Lync Server 2010 Release Candidate Evaluation Resources page for a great overview and a summary of what’s new
go straight to the download
With the release of the Microsoft Lync and the change in name, here's how the new naming convention compares with the existing product names:
Microsoft Office Communications
Microsoft Lync Server 2010
Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2
Microsoft Lync 2010
Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2
MS Online Service
Microsoft Lync Online
Microsoft Office Communications Online
Microsoft Lync Web App
Microsoft Office Communicator Web Access
Gary Pretty is the Deputy Head of Programming at Mando Group, a leading digital agency specialising in creating enterprise web sites and RIAs. Gary works with technologies across the Microsoft stack, including Windows Azure, Sharepoint, ASP.NET and Windows Phone. Gary can be found on twitter @GaryPretty
Using Windows Azure to create MicroFinance
We recently embarked on a proof of concept project to create a line of business web application using some of the latest technologies such as Windows Azure and HTML5 and see if we could combine these technologies with great design to produce an awesome experience for the end user. You can see the application itself, MicroFinance, at our web site at http://labs.mandogroup.com.
On the road to creating our MicroFinance application, there were some key technical requirements that we were aiming to achieve;
We wanted to see if Windows Azure could help us achieve the above objectives and how easy it would be to work with the Azure platform.
With this in mind we then set about splitting the planned application into several discreet components;
Now that we had the above separation we needed to decide how each of them could be implemented using the Azure platform.
For the data behind the application and how it is stored / accessed, we had a couple of options.
We decided to use Azure Table Storage as in the initial version of the application we are not storing hugely complex or massive amounts of data, meaning we could easily implement Table Storage for our data, perform joins on our data using LINQ once we have retrieved it from storage. We felt that SQL Azure was overkill for our requirements, but that’s not to say that it isn’t a good solution for many scenarios.
MSDN Magazine featured an article by Joseph Fultz which provides a detailed comparison of SQL Azure and Table Storage and I would highly recommend you read it if you are facing a similar decision.
The Web Application
The main web application which would be the primary method of accessing and managing the data for the end user needed to be responsive, reliable and scalable. As well as the core requirements, I wanted to be able to work with the technologies and tools I have always worked with (ASP.NET, C#, Visual Studio etc.). Happily for me, there is a great Windows Azure SDK Toolkit available with tools for Visual Studio, which makes creating applications and services that run in Azure an absolute snap.
Using the built in project templates that come with the Azure SDK and tools I was quickly able to create an Azure Web Role, used for hosting front end applications behind IIS, within which we could create the web application itself. From this point, where you have your Azure project created, it becomes business as usual from a development perspective, with the same old familiar ASP.NET pages and techniques you would always use, which meant that it was very easy for us to start writing the application even though it was to be hosted on a different platform than we would normally use.
The big advantage to hosting our application in Azure is the ability to scale at short notice. Should demand increase, you can simply log into your Management Portal and increase the number of instances of your application that are available to cope with the increased load. Should the demand drop back again, you can simply reduce the number of instances running back to a more suitable level. The notion of this rapid and responsive ‘spinning up’ and ‘spinning down’ within Azure is probably my favourite feature and the reason that Azure first grabbed my attention.
From a testing perspective, I only have more good things to say about the SDK and the tools. There is a set of very capable emulators that work with zero config within Visual Studio. This allowed us to run the application in a ‘cloud-like’ environment and ensure that the components were working together correctly. This was especially true with the storage emulator, which allowed testing of our code to create and access Azure Tables.
Deployment was my only real niggle with Azure development. There were a couple of routes available to me to get the solution into Azure. The first was to package the solution within Visual Studio, which produced two package files, and then to log into the Azure Management Portal and manually setup and upload these packages in order to deploy them. The second, more favourable option, is an automated deployment from within Visual Studio, however this option is only available to those with top-end Visual Studio editions (Ultimate I believe) and still require some manual configuration within your Management Portal. Therefore for many people I believe that the deployment procedure could be streamlined considerably. I also encountered an issue with the configuration of my application which was still configured to use local development storage whilst I was attempting to deploy and therefore causing the operation to fail. Unfortunately, the error message was incredibly vague and unhelpful, which could be improved.
Summary and What’s Next?
When all is said and done, the experience of developing an application to be hosted within Azure was on the whole a straight-forward and positive experience. I think that the small issues I encountered when deploying would not be enough to prevent me from recommending Azure to others.
At this point we now had a working core application running in the cloud, with the ability to serve data to a variety of platforms and scale when necessary. Next we needed to make it useable, look good and just more exciting for the end user in general and this will be discussed in a dedicated series of blog posts on MSDN starting with MicroFinance App, Creating the Front End.
Andrew and I often get asked questions about some of the more basic elements of the job and a question that comes up time and time again is what are the best tools to use for doing X. For me I often get asked how you start to plan a migration, to understand what’s out there in your environment and then to move into deploying Windows. We also get asked all manner of questions around managing AD, around System Center, around security and around clever ways to do something. I thought I’d compile a short list of some of our favourites, hopefully you’ll find some nuggets but share your thoughts in the comments.
MAP The Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit is an agentless inventory, assessment, and reporting tool that can securely assess IT environments for various platform migrations—including Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Hyper-V, Windows Azure, and Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track. I find this toolkit to be a fabulous planning resource which is why it’s top of this list, because it came to mind first. It simply looks at your environment and provides you with reports that with some tweaking you can use to support things like a request for funding or just to work out how far through a migration you are. For example it can look at your desktop estate and tell you how many PCs you have that don’t have hardware capable of running Windows 7. Andrew is also a big fan of the MAP.
OEAT Office Environment Assessment Toolkit is a free downloadable executable (.exe) file that scans client computers for add-ins and applications that interact with Microsoft Office 97, Microsoft Office 2000, Microsoft Office XP, Microsoft Office 2003, the 2007 Microsoft Office system, and Microsoft Office 2010. You use OEAT during the assessment phase of your application compatibility and remediation project, which is described in detail in Office 2010 application compatibility guide. The following figure shows how OEAT fits into the overall process of assessing application compatibility
MDT The Microsoft Deployment Toolkit is THE tool to use to get any version of Windows deployed within your organisation. It simplifies the process of creating dynamic deployments that can adapt to the hardware or environment into which they are being delivered. If you already use System Center then it integrates very well and the new Beta integrates with System Center 2012 too. MDT also has a task sequence that lets you automatically P2V an XP machine to migrate it to Windows 7 allowing full access to the original XP machine, all it’s apps and data.
USMT User State Migration Tool (USMT) 4.0 is a scriptable command-line tool that provides a highly-customizable user-profile migration experience for IT professionals. USMT includes two components, ScanState and LoadState, and a set of modifiable .xml files: MigApp.xml, MigUser.xml, and MigDocs.xml. In addition, you can create custom .xml files to support your migration needs. You can also create a Config.xml file to specify files or settings to exclude from the migration.
IEAK The Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK) simplifies the creation, deployment and management of customized Internet Explorer packages. The IEAK can be used to configure the out-of-box Internet Explorer experience or to manage user settings after Internet Explorer deployment. WHAT I LOVE about this tool is that it allows so much control over the browsing environment giving you complete manageability where some other browsers give you about 87 settings that don’t do a whole lot, IE gives you 1500+ to ensure it fits your organisation perfectly.
Security Essentials IF your org has less than 10 PCs then this is the FREE antivirus for you, like wise use it at home. Security Essentials uses the same signatures as ForeFront and has won a slew of awards for being very user friendly. You shouldn’t really need to pay to keep safe.
Sysinternals Books have been written about this set of tools, so powerful they help identify and solve serious security and malware issues. Mark Russinovich and friends have created and docuemented an ultra powerful set of tools, some of my favourites are PSExec (which has saved my life and career on many an occasion) BGinfo which tells me all the details I need to identify a server at a glance from the desktop, and Zoom It, which if you’ve ever seen me demo live you’ll have seen.
RDC Man RDCMan manages multiple remote desktop connections. It is useful for managing server labs where you need regular access to each machine such as automated checkin systems and data centers. It is similar to the built-in MMC Remote Desktops snap-in, but more flexible.
Mouse without borders has been an internal tool at Microsoft for along time. It’s an immensely useful tool if you use multiple PCs, it basically allows you to share a single mouse and keyboard across multiple PCs – sort of like a revers RDP. The great thing is that it works perfectly when you have a few laptops to work on at one time as you can use the monitor from each to provide multiple displays.
Some learning tools
Deployment learning portal is the place to learn how to deploy Windows.
MVA is the place to learn how to use the cloud, and virtualisation and tons and tons of other stuff.
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:
Try Windows Server 2012 now
Find out more about Windows Server 2012
Valentine’s Day photo caption competition – fill our comments box with your hilarious efforts.
We just couldn’t let Valentine’s Day pass without spreading a little love on the UK TechNet blog. To show our affection we’ve got a bundle of TechNet goodies to give away in return for the winning caption for this ‘adorable’ photo. Post your caption in the comments box along with your email address or Twitter ID. We’ll announce the winner’s name here next week.
Need some help to get ‘in the mood’? Just have a look at what’s in store for our lucky winner (that’s Sam under the bag – you’re not having her). Among other delights you’ll find a heartwarming copy of Office Professional 2010, a gorgeous Windows 7 mug and some beautiful techy books. Put simply, it’s the best Valentine’s gift you’ll ever have.
Before you clear your diary to make way for some serious comedy genius, have a read through the terms and conditions.
Terms & Conditions:
1. ELIGIBILITY: This competition is open to UK residents who are 18 years of age or older at the time of entry. Employees of Microsoft or its affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising or promotion agencies are not eligible, nor are members of these employees’ families (defined as parents, children, siblings, spouse and life partners).
2. TO ENTER: To enter post your photo caption for the featured photo in the UK TechNet Blog comments box. The person submitting the funniest caption, as selected by three judges, will win a bumper pack of things we love here at TechNet – including our mugs, pen and pads. Only one entry per person will be accepted. Incomplete, damaged, defaced or illegible entries may be deemed invalid at the sole discretion of Microsoft. Entry constitutes full and unconditional acceptance of these Terms and Conditions. Microsoft reserves the right to disqualify anyone in breach of these Terms and Conditions.
3. TIMING: This competition runs from 8am GMT 14 February The closing date of this competition is 5.30pm GMT 18 February 2011. Completed entries must reach Microsoft no later than the closing date.
4. USE OF DATA: Personal data which you provide when you enter this competition will not be used for future Microsoft UK marketing activity.
5. SELECTION OF WINNER: Three judges will select their favourite single caption from all the entries and the winner will be notified by email on 21 February 2011 by 6pm GMT. The winners may be required to become involved in further publicity or advertising.
6. PRIZE: The prize is one TechNet bumper pack including a mug, pen and pad. Prize as stated and non-transferable. No cash or other alternatives available. Microsoft reserves the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value. The prize will be dispatched within two months of the competition’s closing date. Prize may be considered a taxable benefit and the winner will be directly responsible for accounting for any tax liability arising on their prize.
7. WINNERS LIST: The winner consents to their surname being made publicly available. The winner’s surname will be available for a period of 3 weeks after the closing date by emailing email@example.com.
8. OTHER: No correspondence will be entered into regarding either this competition or these Terms and Conditions. In the unlikely event of a dispute, Microsoft’s decision shall be final. Microsoft reserves the right to amend, modify, cancel or withdraw this competition at any time without notice.
9. Microsoft cannot guarantee the performance of any third party and shall not be liable for any act or default by a third party. Participants in this promotion agree that Microsoft will have no liability whatsoever for any injuries, losses, costs, damage or disappointment of any kind resulting in whole or in part, directly or indirectly from acceptance, misuse or use of a prize, or from participation in this promotion. Nothing in this clause shall limit Microsoft’s liability in respect of death or personal injury arising out of its own negligence or arising out of fraud.
Fancy getting yourself 25% off a TechNet Professional subscription? Well, until the end of October, you can.
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We aren’t all the same, we learn differently, we work in a wide range of business that have very different needs, and we learn at different speeds. So spending a day being lectured to on technical stuff, isn’t going to be the right answer for everyone and no matter how good the speaker is he has to tread a middle line to keep the experts in a topic interested while ensuring those new to it aren’t left behind. Talks on overall positioning or to show off some new cool stuff work well, but if you want to know how to get stuff done and get inside the technology, then a different approach is needed.
So Simon May and I have cooked up a different style of event, an IT Camp, where the content is driven by the audience, but within a general topic areas. We wanted to test this out by running a limited public beta, so we invited a select group of IT professional "guinea pigs" to a day in London to test the idea. We thought a basic day of clustering and server virtualisation would have the broadest appeal as Hyper-V is being more and more widely adopted.
One of the problems with this kind of unstructured event is that we didn’t have the usual pile of PowerPoint decks as hand-outs, Simon manned the whiteboard and I manned the keyboard. One thing I thought would be useful would be to give out a list of what we used and referred to and as this could have general appeal I have included it here as well.
My rough guide for installing Hyper-V server and adding it to a cluster with iscsi storage is:
Microsoft Virtual Academy
Installation and setup guides..
Hyper-V Survival Guide on TechNet , this has sections on dynamic memory networking, clustering with iscsi and just about anything else you’ll need
Community Shared Links at the Event
And some final words on camping: The way to prepare for your team for putting a tent up in a storm.... Practice putting the tent up in light winds with all your team blindfolded and your leader's arm tied to a tree. The leader then gives the team instructions to build the tent.
Thomas Lee is a UK IT Pro, with over 40 year’s experience in the IT field. He’s presently a PowerShell MCP and is very busy doing writing, consulting and training around some of the key Microsoft technologies including PowerShell, Lync and Windows Server/client. In his spare time, he lives in a small cottage with wife, daughter, a nice wine cellar and a large collection of Grateful Dead live recordings.
Hyper-V is Microsoft’s virtualization solution. It was first released with Server 2008 and improved with Server 2008 R2. The latest version comes with both Server 2012 and Windows 8. The inclusion of Hyper-V in both the client and server version is a great step forward and for me, at least, it means the end of 3rd party virtualization products I needed to use in the past.
PowerShell is Microsoft’s strategic task automation platform which has been significantly upgraded to Version 3. PowerShell Version 3 is included in all versions of Windows Server 2012, and Windows 8. A downloadable version will also be made available at some point for Windows 7, Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2. Beta versions of PowerShell v3 are available in the mean time for down-level operating systems, but you’ll want the full V3 once that’s available.
The cool thing, or should I say one of the many cool things, about Hyper-V and Server 2012 is that you can manage Hyper-V using PowerShell. There is a new Hyper-V module that ships, in the box!, for both Windows 8 and Server 2012. However, the module and the Hyper-V features are neither installed by default. On Windows 8, you need to bring up Control Panel, click Programs, then click Turn Windows feature on or off and then select Hyper-V. For Windows Server 2012, you can use Server Manager GUI, or the Server Manager PowerShell Module and use the Add-Windows Feature cmdlet. Personally, I find the latter quicker in most cases.
On a Windows 8 and Server 2012 systems, you can install the Hyper-V software itself and the management tools (i.e. the PowerShell module) separately. This enables you to manage a set of VMs remotely.
The Hyper-V module contains a huge number of cmdlets, 164 in total. That’s a lot of cmdlets – but there’s a lot to manage in Hyper-V! The first thing to remember about this module – you need to be in an elevated prompt in order for the cmdlets to work. I got a bit of a fright when I ran the Get-VM cmdlet on my windows 8 box (which had a number of VMs) and had it return nothing (not even an error).
The Hyper-V module allows you to manage all aspects of the virtualization package. You can manage VMs, VHDs, network witches, network adapters and other fundamental objects. You can also manage all aspects of running Hyper-V in a clustered environment with SANs, ,etc.
To create a VM, using the Hyper-V module, you just use the New-VM cmdlet, as shown here:
As you can see from this screen shot, there are just three cmdlets to run in order to create a simple VM: New-VM (to create a new VM and VHD virtual disk drive), Set-VmDvdDrive to add a DVD into the VM (in this case the Server 2012 installation DVD), then Start-VM to start up the virtual machine. If you then run the Virtual Machine Connection applet, you see the following
Now if I’d been clever, I could have done a whole lot more, including injecting a floppy disk into the VM containing the unattend.xml file that would automagically configure the installation, in this case, of Windows Server 2012.
Once the server has been started, I can go back to PowerShell and view the VM using the Get-VM cmdlet, as follows:
This screen shot shows the Get-VM and some of the properties of the newly created VM (there are a total of 54 separate properties you can make use of!
I’ve been using the Hyper-V module throughout the Server 2012 beta period to create and manage VMs. Most of the VMs I’ve created are server VMs, but I’ve also created several Windows 8 Beta VMs. I can’t be bothered to create an unattend.xml file, so I’ve been just creating a basic VM as you see it, using the VMC applet to just ‘next-next-next’ through the installation. Once I have a basic VM created, I can run a Configure-VM.ps1 script that configures the system (changes hostname, updates the IP configuration etc). I have further scripts that do further configuration. I can now setup a 5vm ‘farm’ including a DC/DNS/CA system, a SQL server system, an Exchange server plus a couple of additional basic servers all in around half an hour.
I’ve found the Hyper-V module great for most things, but there are a few omissions. For example, I cannot create a virtual floppy disk on a host machine and write directly to it (then remove it from the host and add it to the vm. This makes unattended setups harder than I’d like.
There are a lot of cmdlets in the module and they operate at a fairly basic level. I found it took a few hours of playing around to find all the things I needed. But having said that, it isn’t that difficult – I found myself writing scripts as I went along and by the end of a few days playing, I had a wealth of provisioning scripts that will keep me in good stead.
For many of you, PowerShell is still a bit of an unknown quantity. If so, consider coming on the Windows PowerShell PowerCamp weekend training course I’m running over the weekend of October 27/28. For fuller details, see my blog at http://tfl09.blogspot.com. The PowerCamp, which will be held in Microsoft’s Cardinal Place offices, is intended to take you through the basics of PowerShell V3 and I plan to spend some time looking at the Hyper-V module.
While not perfect, the module is a lot faster, for me, than using the GUI, especially given the number of VMs I regularly create. For some users, the Hyper-V module might be a good alternative to using a VM management tool such as System Center Virtual Machine Manager. You could write all the scripts to create/manage VMs, do VM Checkout, etc!
All in all, the combination of Hyper-V, Windows 8/Server2012 is a great set of virtualization and virtualization management software.