Posts tagged System Center

Wish List For Next Version of Windows Azure Pack

Microsoft Azure Pack 2013 can be considered a version 2 of Microsoft’s on premise cloud services. Its predecessor, Windows Azure Services for Windows Server, was offered for free with System Center 2012 SP1 and required Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V as a platform. WAS4WS can be considered as a typical V1 and offered a first look on how Windows Azure like services can also be offered as a hosted or private cloud. Windows Azure Pack 2013 has been available now for only 6 months, but we can’t imagine it not being available to us. The Windows Azure Pack has had a huge impact on the world of Microsoft cloud services and WAP is here to stay. It not only offers first class IaaS services like the VM Role but also PaaS services with Web Sites and Databases. WAP also offers the platform for new Automation capabilities called SMA or Service Management Automation, which will soon fully replace Orchestrator. Learning PowerShell Workflows has never been more important since the release of SMA.

Windows Azure Pack so far has proven to be a fairly solid product and this can be explained because the Service Management API and the portal software is identical to the public Windows Azure. If you compare the Windows Azure Pack portal to the Windows Azure portal, you can clearly see the advancements that public Windows Azure has made and some of the new functionality that it has acquired.

WAP currently offers Web Site Clouds, VM Clouds, Service Bus Clouds, SQL Servers, MySQL Servers, Automation, Plans and User Accounts.

Windows Azure offers many other services such as Mobile Services, Storage, HDInsight, Media Services, Visual Studio Online, Cache, Biztalk Services, Recovery Services, Traffic Manager, Management Services, Active Directory, Add-Ons and Settings.

For a list of recently added features visit Scott Guthrie’s blog.

In general we could say that both platforms share a common Service Management API and some of the services are identical such as Web Sites and Service Bus. Others rely specifically on features in Virtual Machine Manager and some are only possible because of possibilities/limitations in the operating system. Windows Azure is currenlty still built on Windows Server 2012 and does not support VHDX disks and Console Connect functionality which are both possible in Windows Azure Pack. On the other hand Windows Azure VMs allows adding new disks online, whereas Windows Azure Pack requires the VM to be turned off for adding or expanding a VHDX. This is not a limitation of Windows Server 2012 R2.

Unlike Windows Azure, Windows Azure Pack heavily relies on System Center 2012 R2 and specifically Virtual Machine Manager and Service Provider Foundation. If Usage is added, also Operations Manager is also a required component.


System Center VMM 2012 R2 Bare Metal Deployment with Converged Fabric and Network Virtualization – Part 2 Components

This blog series is divided in the following parts.

In this part we will prepare the individual components in System Center VMM 2012 R2 that form the building blocks for the logical switch. There are a lot of screenshots in this series but I’m trying to explain this as detailed as possible. A lot of system admins are having difficulties to get configured, so bear with me.

Host Groups

In this example I use a dedicated management cluster. The management cluster has all the virtual machines for managing the environment (including System Center 2012 VMM R2 in a HA installation). New host added by the bare metal deployment process will be separated from the management hosts by defining two hosts group in VMM. In this example there is a host group called System Management and a host group called Tenants. To create a host group open the VMs and Services tab in VMM and select Create Host Group.

01 Host Groups

When you have configured the host groups move the management cluster to the System Management host group.

Logical networks and IP Pools

The logical network allows us to document the physical networking infrastructure in System Center VMM 2012 R2. The IP schema and the physical network design in this blog series form the basis of this documentation. In this example we will create three Logical Networks.

  • Management
  • Cloud network
  • Tenants VLANs

The Logical network Management will be used for Management Hosts, Management VMs, Live Migration and Csv. The logical network Cloud Network is used by tenant workloads for Network Virtualization. The logical network Tenants VLANs is used by tenant workloads with traditional VLANs.

To create a logical network open the Fabric tab and select Create Logical Network. For the logical network Management select VLAN-based independent networks

02 Logical Network Management 1

The next piece is important. Most hosts (blade or rack) will issue their PXE on the physical switch infrastructure untagged. In this example we use VLAN 50 for management.


System Center VMM 2012 R2 Bare Metal Deployment with Converged Fabric and Network Virtualization – Part 1 Intro

Windows Server 2012 introduced a whole new spectrum of networking configurations with NIC Teaming and QoS. In previous versions the possibilities were limited but this also meant you had a limited amount of choices to make. These new features provide a huge amount of possible configurations, but it also requires you to make more decisions. Most of the configuration of NIC Teaming, Virtual Switches and QoS must be done with PowerShell. Which is great since a single PowerShell script can be reused on multiple hosts. This has proven to be a good solution for configuring converged networks in Private and Hosted Clouds.

Network Virtualization

With Windows Server 2012 Microsoft introduced another feature called Network Virtualization. This feature enables abstraction of the virtual machine network from the physical network and is interesting for isolating tenants or departments, especially when the amount of tenants or departments grow. The downside of network virtualization in Windows Server 2012 is that no inbox gateway is provided to get traffic out or in to these virtual networks.

System Center VMM 2012 SP1 Networking

System Center Virtual Machine Manager is playing a central role on implementing and managing all the component that builds the fabric and the services on top of that fabric. Networking is an important part of the fabric which is reflected in the networking functionalities in System Center VMM 2012 SP1. A lot of system administrators have a hard time to see through the networking objects in VMM and how these objects relate to each other. I can’t blame them. It is complex since there are so many pieces in the puzzle. But once you get to see the big picture it is very logical.

Logical Switch

In System Center VMM 2012 SP1 the logical switch was introduced. In essence this is a central location where you can define capabilities and settings for a network configuration that could be used to enable these capabilities on multiple host. On top of a central location for configuring the settings, deploying a logical switch also gives you the possibility of host compliance. System Center VMM allows you to compare the settings on an individual host to the logical switch and if they are not compliant perform remediation on the host.

High Level Overview

In theory we no longer need to use the scripts we built. We can replace it with the logical switch. Unfortunately in practice this has proven to be quite a challenge.

A lot of issues not only prevented us from using the logical switch it even created some reluctance towards it. I know you have at least tested one bare metal deployment, trying to create a team with a vSwitch, which contained a vNIC for Management, a vNIC for Live Migration and a vNIC for Csv. The System Center VMM job failed at the end and your network configuration on the host ended up in some funky state. You probably deleted the whole network configuration and pulled out the trustworthy PowerShell script again. Another downside of the logical switch in VMM is that it can only create a NIC Team with a vSwitch on top of that. There is no possibility to create a native NIC Team with tNICs.

Common Design

The most common design we see at customers is two NIC Teams for a single Hyper-V host that is part of a cluster.


Windows Server and Hyper-V: What’s Next?

We already know that we wouldn’t have to wait four years to get significant new features in Windows Server & Hyper-V. Looking at the list of builds since the first version of Hyper-V, we can observe there were considerable intervals between the releases of Windows Server 2008 (R2) and Windows Server 2012.

We’ve seen three major releases of Hyper-V since June 2008. If development progresses well, we might even see an updated version of Hyper-V within only about 1 year from GA of Windows Server 2012. The Windows Server 2012 operating system was already packed with spectacular new functionality and scalability with major focus on the Hyper-V and Cloud OS feature set.

Builds of Windows Server including Hyper-V

  • 2008 (February 4) – RTM Windows Server 2008 SP1 – February 2008 (with beta version of Hyper-V)
  • 2008 (June 26) – Release of Hyper-V 1.0 which shipped as a free download
  • 2008 (October 24) – Release of first Service Pack SP2
  • 2009 (July 22) – RTM of Windows Server 2008 R2 including Hyper-V 2008 R2
  • 2009 (August 19) – General Availability of Windows Server 2008 R2 including Hyper-V 2008 R2
  • 2009 (October 22) – Release of Windows Server 2008 R2 including Hyper-V 2.0
  • 2011 (February 9) – RTM of SP1 for Windows Server 2008 R2
  • 2011 (February 22) – General Availability of SP1 for Windows Server 2008 R2
  • 2011 (September 9) – Developer Build of Windows Server 8
  • 2012 (March 1) – Beta of Windows Server 8
  • 2012 (August 1) – RTM of Windows Server 2012 including Hyper-V 3.0
  • 2012 (September 4) – General Availability of Windows Server 2012 including Hyper-V 3.0
  • 2013 (June ?) – On May 14 Microsoft’s Tami Reller, head of marketing and finance for Windows announced that Windows Blue would be officially called Windows 8.1. A public preview of the software would be available on June 26th. There was no mention of the official name for Windows Server Blue and whether a public preview would be available on the same day as Windows 8.1

When Windows Server 2012 became generally available, the System Center Suite was not able to support the new OS until its SP1 release (RTM – December 16, 2012, GA – January 2, 2013). The new OS was even so feature rich that System Center 2012 SP1 was unable to include all of the treasures in Windows Server 2012. For example features like Hyper-V Replica and Virtual Fibre Channel can still not be managed from within Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1.

Questions, Questions, Questions

If there is a new Server OS version just around the corner …. What will this mean for Hyper-V?  How will it impact Windows Azure Services for Windows Server (WASfWS)? And what will this mean for the successor of System Center 2012 SP1?  Will the management suite be able to manage all of features of the new operating system?  To what extent will Private, Hosted and Public Cloud be more aligned in the CloudOS? What’s with SMB3? What’s with Software Defined Networking (SDN) and how about the storage integration direction Microsoft is taking? Will Microsoft be able to set itself apart from the competition even more than it did with Windows Server 2012?

In other words, there are plenty of questions that remain to be answered. There’s a very good chance that some or maybe all of these questions will be answered during the live streamed TechEd North America 2013 keynote in New Orleans by Brad Anderson.


Keep an eye on this blog because we will soon announce a joint event by the System Center User Group ( and which will focus on the expected new exciting releases.


My Hyper-V Wishlist of 2011

While cleaning up my mailbox, I found a note to myself dating June 2011 about a few feature requests for the next version of Hyper-V and VMM. While talking to customers throughout the year, I often hear about and collect suggestions and product improvements which I can then pass on to the Hyper-V and System Center Product team. In retrospect most items on my list have become a reality in Windows Server 2012 and much, much more!

Online VHD growth and shrink has not yet been realized (although a 64TB dynamic disk supporting unmap pretty much covers all you can desire).

Perhaps the last item on the list is only partly covered by Hyper-V Replica but needs some additional automation or services to make this a complete Recovery solution that could make it even better than RSM. As we know Microsoft is on the right path and a flood of companies are getting really interested in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V and System Center 2012 SP1.

Thanks Hyper-V and System Center product teams for listening.






Removing a non-existent VMM Library Server

I admit, you don’t have to remove a non-existent VMM Library Server everyday, but today happened to be such a day. Let me explain what happened. In addition to a SQL Server 2012 AllwaysOn cluster for the VMM database and a VMM 2012 SP1 Failover Cluster, I wanted to also make the VMM Library Server highly available because the management foundation for a production Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V hosted cloud would soon become too big too fail.

Let me concentrate on the VMM Library cluster. I created an ordinary guest based 2-node Windows Server 2012 cluster using the new synthetic virtual Fibre Channel adapters, connected to an EMC VNX5300 storage system. After documenting the WWN’s and WWPNs for both adapters and requesting the SAN admin to create a few disks and to correctly zone the FC devices, creating the failover cluster was really a very quick deal. For some reason after installing EMC PowerPath 5.5 SP1, only one node of the cluster detected the correct Multi-Path Disk Device while the other thought it was dealing with a VRAID SCSI Disk Device.


Because uninstalling the devices or removing and reinstalling EMC PowerPath didn’t do the trick, I just went on to create a standard clustered file server role and add a share to be used for the VMM Library.



The Great Big Hyper-V Survey of 2012 Has Launched

You can participate in the survey HERE


Just over a year ago, we asked people to answer 80 questions about their intentions and implementations of Hyper-V and System Center in The Great Big Hyper-V Survey of 2011. We learned a lot about how people were using Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V and System Center 2007-2010.  Back then, we knew just 2 things about Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V and System Center 2012 was still pre-release.  But now, both are generally available, and we want to learn about:

  • Have you learned about these new technologies?
  • Do you already use them?
  • Are you planning on using them?
  • How do you plan to use them?

Once again, this is a completely independent survey, run by 3 MVPs (me, Aidan Finn, and Damian Flynn), and Microsoft has had no input or involvement. They might help us promote it – because we do know that our findings were read by them and some of the information was a surprise for them.

The goal of the survey is to learn. We’re all bloggers and speakers and we want to deal with what’s relevant. You’re interested in seeing what other people are doing. We all want to learn from each other and we learned a lot last year.

This is a perfect time to speak – if Windows vNext development is like that of Windows Server 2012, then they’ll be spending the next 10-12 months talking, learning, etc. And the same might happen post-SP1 for System Center 2012.

So we ask you to:

  • Respond to the survey and answer all the questions.  There are 72 questions.  I know, it’s a lot but there’s a lot of stuff to ask about.  We’ll only be using complete responses.
  • Share the survey with colleagues, customers, on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, LinkedIn, MySpace, or whatever work-related social network you are on.  We got an amazing response last year and we want to beat that.  The more responses we can use, the more reliable the data will be.

Thank you in advance for taking the 10-15 minutes to respond to the survey.

BTW, we don’t ask for or want any personal data or email addresses. No individual response will be shared.  We will only be sharing aggregate information, e.g. X people responded with Y answer.

The survey will close on December 1st 2012

System Center 2012 SP1 beta Documentation

Here is a list of updated documentation for the recently announced System Center 2012 SP1 beta

System Center TechCenter:

TechNet Library:

  • Added the Technical Scenarios node
  • Added What’s New topics for all components
  • Updated deployment guides for all components
  • Delivered over 200 new or updated “How-to” topics for the SP1 Beta improvements
  • Delivered new SP1 cmdlet reference and updateable PowerShell help for VMM and CM
  • Updated the MP Guides for Windows Server 2012 and IIS

MSDN Library:

TechNet Wiki: In addition to the technical scenario content called out above, we also

Download Center: Updated all the off-line guides, and applied standard formatting to reinforce the single product message.

Big day for System Center and Microsoft Private Cloud

Don’t miss the big public webcast about System Center 2012 & Microsoft Private Cloud with Satya Nadella (President of Server and Tools) and Brad Anderson (CVP of System Center and Management).

The new System Center 2012 vision will be laid out in full detail!

Register for it here:

Date: January 17th 2012
Time: 17:30h CET


Hyper-V interview video’s in cooperation with NGN

A couple of weeks ago the team visited the Netwerk Gebruikersgroep Nederland (NGN) to record some interviews about Hyper-V. The NGN record and edit the video’s. Jaap Wesselius interviewed Hans Vredevoort, Maarten Wijsman and me. The first of the three video’s is just published online at the site of NGN.

You can watch the video here

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