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System Center 2012

Over the past few months I have written extensively on Windows Server 2012.  I am a big fan of Microsoft’s newest server OS and the benefits that it offers.  However I feel that I have only been offering part of the story.

Starting tomorrow and for the next few months I will be posting several articles on installing, configuring, and using System Center 2012 for your Private Cloud environment.  During this series I will cover all seven components of the System Center 2012 SP1 bundle: Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr), Operations Manager (OpsMgr), Virtual Machine Manager (VMM), Service Manager (ServMgr), Data Protection Manager (DPM), Orchestrator (Orch), and App Controller.

The articles will be written based on the environment that I am building that will be my demo environment for at least the next fiscal year (FY14 in Microsoft-speak), which means that at any given point you will know what you are looking at based on the articles that have been written to date.  In addition to writing these articles, I will also use the same environment for my lectures and presentations, so if you see me in person or on a webinar this is what you will see.

DL380Gen8 Let’s start with the physical environment.  The vast majority of the Microsoft-based workloads will be hosted on two HP ProLiant DL380 Gen 8 servers with 128GB of RAM each.  For the time being my storage is all based on 10K RPM SAS disks in these servers, along with Windows Storage Pools and Software iSCSI Target in Windows Server 2012 (although that may change).  The switches are also HP. 

From time to time I will mention and leverage technologies such as iLO (HP’s Integrated Lights Out backplane software).  I will try to include an article at some point that will also cover DRAC (Dell’s equivalent backplane HPtechnology); however these articles are being done primarily on HP hardware for several reasons:

  1. HP is my server vendor of choice; in addition to these two servers I currently have four other HP ProLiant servers in my environment;
  2. HP is cooperating with me on these articles by providing assistance and guidance when needed;
  3. HP has supplied some hardware for this project, although certainly not all of it.
  4. I happen to have a great relationship with several people at HP, having worked with them in the past on community tours as well as on international projects as a consultant.  As such I am glad to work with them.

During the course of this series I will start to bring in other platforms, including VMware and Citrix and Dell and who knows what else.  However let’s face it: if you know me, you know that I am Microsoft focused; I am a Virtual Technology Evangelist with Microsoft Canada, and in addition to being a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) I hold dozens of Microsoft certifications, including the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Private Cloud.  I have worked with Microsoft on scores of projects over the past decade, and that is where my primary focus is.

With that being said, I am not a one trick pony.  I am a VMware Certified Professional (VCP 4/5) as well as a Certified Virtualization Expert (CVE 4/5).  I have worked with Citrix virtualization as well, and intend to include all of these technologies in my lab – and as such in these articles.  However I do not pretend to know everything, and for some of the components that I will be writing about I will be learning as I go.  It should be a fun project for me, as well as an educational one.

As for you, if there are any components that you would like to see I would love to hear from you.  While I have a general roadmap in my head (and on paper) it is not written in stone.  I always say that I write this blog for you, so although I make no promises, if there is something you would like to hear about just let me know… I’ll be glad to try to include it… IF it makes sense to me!

An Introduction to Windows 8: Mitch on Halton Tech TV

I am surprised that with all the hype and talk I have been doing about Windows 8, I have not blogged about this yet.  Halton Tech TV is a show on our regional cable network in the Oakville/Burlington/Milton area that focuses on different technologies.  Hosted by Robert Duvall of RDC Networks, it brings the newest and most interesting technologies to life.

In mid-August I was invited onto the show to discuss Windows 8 which, at the time, was still in the late preview stages.  Robert and I had a great discussion of the value of Windows 8, and I did a bunch of demos from my HP EliteBook laptop which, although it is still a Windows 7 device, runs Windows 8 beautifully.  HP Canada invited us to film on location in their Canadian Centre of Excellence, where they had a great 40” touch screen for us to use.

It was a great experience, and for IT Pros who are not able to come out and see our sessions live, this TV show is a great way to see what’s new and exciting in Windows 8.

You can watch the show in three parts here:

As always I welcome your comments, and hope that you enjoy the show! –MDG

Installing Windows Server 2012 on an HP ProLiant!

The day has finally arrived.  This morning (September 4th) all us geeks will be eagerly waiting for Windows Server 2012 to be available for download.  It really is quite exciting!

I have been running the Release Candidate (RC) bits on my HP ProLiant ML350s for several months, but this week-end I was going to spend a couple of hours getting the ProLiant DL380 Gen8s up and running on the RTM bits.  It is really very exciting!

I ran into a stumbling block early on… fortunately there is documentation for getting around them… as long as you know where to look.  In short:

  • Before you get started with Windows Server 2012, make sure you download the latest BIOS and iLO firmware.  These are hugely important – Windows Server 2012 will not install without it.  You can download it from HP by clicking here, then selecting the appropriate Firmware – Lights-Out Management Flash Component (I used the Online ROM Flash Component for Windows – HP Integrated Lights-Out 4).  I then navigated to the iLO console and under Administration I selected iLO Firmware
  • When upgrading your firmware (as well as when installing a new OS) it is always a good idea to make sure your BIOS is at the latest release.  HP is making this easier than ever – you simply download the tool that creates the bootable USB key for you, then boot the server with it.
  • Download the WIndows Server 2012 Supplement for Service Pack for ProLiant here.  As of this week-end it was all for the RC release, but I expect that today or tomorrow there will be new drivers for Windows Server 2012.

    Once you have done all of this you are ready to rock… Windows Server 2012 is rocking on the ProLiant DL380 Gen8s… as it was meant to Smile  Go forth, patch, and be a true IT hero by virtualizing on Windows Server 2012!

    Coffee Coaching

    English: HP ProLiant DL360 G7, left part of th...

    I have a great relationship with HP dating back years.  They have great products and great people working there.  As such when I was asked at Microsoft’s WPC recently if I would record a session for their ‘Coffee Coaching’ series, it was my pleased to do so.

    Coffee Coaching snippets are 3-5 minute videos talking about technology, trying to help IT Pros (focused on SMBs) learn about their profession.

    Please check out the video – I talk about Windows Server 2012 (and focus on Hyper-V… no shock there) on my new HP ProLiant DL380 Gen8 servers.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    You can watch (and comment on) the video here.

    A Dead HP Laptop?

    A friend came to visit from Montreal today, and asked if I would mind taking a look at the laptop I sold him (used) nearly five years ago.  It is an old HP OmniBook with a Pentium III processor, which has served Rick faithfully for the last few years, and before that belonged to a client who traded it in.  Before I turned it over to Rick I popped in a shiny new 30GB Hard Drive – a Hitachi Travelstar.

    CLICK CLICK CLICK went the hard drive.  I knew right then, but decided to give it a full try.  There was unfortunately no resuscitating this hard drive… I declare the disk dead and gone.  (Rick, being paranoid, will still have it demagnetized and shredded… he works in security and knows what we can do!)

    With Rick’s requirements being what they are that a P3 has sufficed him all these years, I pulled a used laptop off the shelf for him, and he will be happy with it once I can put a new install of Windows 7 on it.

    Now, as you can imagine I do not have a whole lot of use for anything that has a Pentium III in it… it just doesn’t have the computing power I need for anything useful.  With that being said, HP makes some of the best and sturdiest laptops in the world, and because I have the parts to do it at no cost I will, just to be able to say I did, pop in a new (used) 100GB Seagate drive that I had lying around… and when I say lying around, it is blank for a reason Winking smile

    I don’t know what I will do with the OmniBook… it’s a great computer that is just a few years beyond it’s prime.  Were it a horse it would have been put out to pasture long since, but I’ll bet that if I can dig up the right operating system I can think of one or two uses for the old girl…

    …or should I see if Windows 7 will run on something this old?  Stay tuned and we’ll see!

    Thanks Rick… for inspiring a blog article and a pet project!

    HP Insight with System Center Essentials

    I have been working on this tour for HP Insight with System Center Essentials 2010 for a few months, and I am glad to have overcome a lot of pitfalls that I discovered along the way with regard to the installation process for the product.  As one of the people involved quipped (after a relatively long troubleshooting session): “At least with this you will be a real expert at installing the product!”

    Over the week-end I reinstalled my own System Center Essentials 2010 instance at home (there will be another article on doing that shortly) for two reasons: Firstly because I wanted to write an article documenting all of the installation issues I have encountered (see System Center Essentials- Installation Gotchas), but also because the install I had was the Microsoft version, and while I am on tour for it (and run primarily HP servers!) I thought it would be nice to run the HP Insight with System Center Essentials edition that they sent me… for precisely that purpose.

    imageAfter I published the troubleshooting article yesterday, Doug asked me if I might want to write a follow-up about any installation issues I might have found with the HP Insight Extensions. I told him sure… but there’s a flaw to that: I haven’t encountered any.  With all of the issues I have encountered installing System Center Essentials, the HP Insight Extensions have gone off without a hitch every time.

    That is not to say that there aren’t issues that I have noticed… for one thing, you have to install the System Center Virtual Machine Manager update rollup for System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 (KB2308590) in order for System Center Essentials to properly manage Hyper-V R2 SP1 hosts (whether on full server, Server Core, or Hyper-V Server).  For reasons which only Microsoft knows, even with this rollup Essentials will not manage Dynamic Memory, which you will still have to set at the Hyper-V Manager level.  This, it should be noted, has nothing to do with Hewlett Packard, and is entirely a functionality limitation of the original Microsoft product.

    One issue that I have found – and a very minor one at that – is that the Extensions components (there are five) can either be installed all together (Express) or individually (one at a time).  In other words you cannot select two or three of them to install at a shot.  This, however, is a VERY minor quirk that does not even rise to the level of irritant.  If you only want to install certain components then you can do them individually, and it does not take more than a few seconds for each one.

    It is important to remember that even though this product is OEM and can only be purchased with a new HP server, it will still manage other servers in your environment, whether they are HP or not.  That is not to say that I do not prefer HP servers (I really do!) but if you have other server brands in your environment (I have a couple of older PowerEdge servers that I haven’t retired yet) they can still be managed by HP Insight with System Center Essentials 2010.  You simply have to acquire the appropriate license (non-HP Server ML) for it, and the proper OpsMgr Management Packs (if you are going to monitor the hardware).

    If you are running a small- to mid-sized IT department, or you cater to them, then you have to know about System Center Essentials, and you should definitely look into the Reseller Option Kit (http://h18004.www1.hp.com/products/servers/software/microsoft/rok/index.html).  It will help you to grow your business and let you get more done in less time.  Check it out, and check back here for more articles on HP Insight with SCE.

    A Brief Comparison of Features Between VMware and Hyper-V (Guest Blogger)

    A few months ago Chris Childerhose, a consultant and MCITP with a local Microsoft Partner, impressed me when the afternoon of Day 5 of my class on Windows Server Virtualization (10215A) he sat the exam 70-659 and scored a perfect 1000.  He has since gone on to pass the remaining exams to earn the certification Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Virtualization Administrator 2008 R2.  As an advocate of Microsoft virtualization he was asked to put together a comparison to vSphere 4.1.  This is what he came up with.

    Microsoft Hyper-V – Bundled Virtualization Software

    clip_image002With Microsoft’s Hyper-V you can consolidate many servers down to fewer physical servers without compromising on services.  Hyper-V allows for the consolidation of multiple server instances as separate virtual machines running on a single physical machine (the Virtualization Host).

    So how does Hyper-V compare to VMware, the de facto standard for virtualization? Microsoft has made great improvements to Hyper-V and with the latest release (2008 R2 SP1 has added many features that can be found in VMware.  This list outlines many of them:


    vSphere 4.1

    Hyper-V 2008 R2

    Bare-metal Hypervisor imageESX/ESXi imageHyper-V
    Centralized Hypervisor Management imageVirtual Center Server imageSystem Center Virtual Machine Manager
    cross-platform hypervisor management imageNone imageSystem Center Virtual Machine Manager
    virtual machine backup imageVCB  or 3rd party products imageWindows Server Backup, System Center Data Protection Manager, or 3rd party products
    High Availability / Failover image(Via Virtual Center Server) imageFailover Cluster Manager
    VM Migration imagevMotion (Via Virtual Center Server, Enterprise Plus) imageLive Migration
    Storage Live Migration image(Via Virtual Center Server, Enterprise Plus) imageNo
    Guest OS patching/management image(Via Virtual Center Server – not in next version) imageWindows Server Update Services (WSUS)
    End-to-end OS monitoring imageNone image(via System Center Operations Manager)
    Host/VM level optimization imageDRS (Via Virtual Center Server, Enterprise Plus) imagePRO (via System Center Operations Manager)
    Application/service monitoring imageNone imagePRO (via System Center Operations Manager)
    Integrated physical and virtual management imageNone imageSystem Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, System Center Configuration Manager


    There are differences in the products with VMware having some features that Hyper-V does not have, and vice versa. With Microsoft’s Server Management Suite Enterprise (SMSE) products like SCVMM (Service Center Virtual Machine Manager), OpsMgr (Service Center Operations Manager), and ConfigMgr (System Center Configuration Manager) you can monitor and administer not only the virtualization environment, but also the virtual machine operating systems, host operating systems, and the physical hardware much more richly and robustly than the VMware products can.

    The Hyper-V role is available in all versions of Windows 2008 R2, as well as with the free Hyper-V Server 2008 R2. Guest OS licensing for the operating system does not favour either platform, because the Virtual Licensing Model that Microsoft released with Server 2003 R2 applies to both platforms.  The licensing is “1 + N” which means that based on the version of Windows 2008 you purchase you can run “N” virtual machines.

    · Windows 2008 Standard – 1 + 1 virtual machine

    · Windows 2008 Enterprise – 1 + 4 virtual machines

    · Windows 2008 Datacenter – 1 + Unlimited virtual machines

    While there is no difference on licensing, there is a huge difference with regard to the cost of the platform.  VMware does offer a free hypervisor (ESXi) but in order to use any of the advanced features (vMotion, DRS, etc…) you have to purchase licenses for it.  As well VMware is sold on a per-CPU basis, and with a ‘core tax’ for CPUs with more than six cores per CPU.

    Microsoft also has the Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 which is a dedicated standalone product and contains only the Hyper-V role, Windows Server driver model and virtualization components. No additional license is required to use any of the advanced features, which can be implemented using tools such as Failover Cluster Manager.

    One last major difference is to the certification program for each.  In order to become a VMware Certified Professional (VCP) you must take a one week class (which the instructor can decide to pass or fail you) and then take the exam.  In order to achieve any of the Microsoft certifications you can take a class, or you can choose to learn the technology on your own, and then sit the exam.

    For further information on Windows 2008 R2 with Hyper-V please visit – http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/hyperv-main.aspx

    For further information on Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 please visit – http://www.microsoft.com/hyper-v-server/en/us/default.aspx

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