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Cluster-Aware Updates: Be Aware!

When I started evangelizing Windows Server 2012 for Microsoft, there was a long list of features that I was always happy to point to.  There are a few of them that I have never really gone into detail on, that I am currently working with.  Hopefully these articles will help you.

Cluster Aware Updates (CAU) is a feature that does exactly what it says – it helps us to update the nodes in a Failover Cluster without having to manually take them down, put them into maintenance mode, or whatever else.  It is a feature that works in conjunction with our patch management servers as well as our Failover Cluster.

I have written extensively about Failover Clusters before, but just to refresh, we need to install the Failover Clustering feature on each server that will be a cluster node:

PS C:\Install-WindowsFeature –Name Failover-Clustering –IncludeManagementTools –ComputerName <ServerName>

We could of course use the Server Manager GUI tool, but if you have several servers it is easier and quicker to use Windows PowerShell.

Once this is done we can create our cluster.  Let’s create a cluster called Toronto with three nodes:

PS C:\New-Cluster –Name Toronto –Node Server1, Server2, Server3

This will create our cluster for us and assign it a dynamic IP address.  If you are still skittish about dynamic IP you can add a static IP address by modifying your command like this:

PS C:\New-Cluster –Name Toronto –Node Server1, Server2, Server3 –StaticAddress 10.10.10.201

Great, you have a three-node cluster.  So now onto the subject at hand: Cluster Aware Updates.

You would think that CAU would be a default behaviour.  After all, why would anyone NOT want to use it? Nonetheless, you have to actually enable the role feature.

PS C:\Add-CauClusterRole –EnableFirewallRules

Notice that we are not using the –ComputerName switch.  That is because we do not install the role service to the servers but to the actual cluster.  You will be asked: Do you want to add the Cluster-Aware Updating clustered role on cluster “Toronto”? The default is YES.

By the way, in case you are curious the Firewall Rules that you need to enable is the ‘Remote Shutdown’ rule.  This enables Cluster-Aware Updating to restart each node during the update process.

Okay, you are ready to go… In the Failover Cluster Manager console right-click on your cluster, and under More Actions click Cluster-Aware Updating.  In the window Failover – Cluster-Aware Updating click Apply updates to this cluster.  Follow the instructions, and your patches will begin to apply to each node in turn.  Of course, if you want to avoid the management console, all you have to do (from PowerShell) is run:

PS C:\Invoke-CauRun

However be careful… you cannot run this cmdlet from a server that is a cluster node.  So from a remote system (I use my management client that has all of my RSAT tools installed) run:

PS C:\Invoke-CauRun –ClusterName Toronto

You can watch the PowerShell progress of the update… or you can go out for ice cream.  Just make sure it doesn’t crash in the first few seconds, and it should take some time to run.

Good luck, and my the cluster force be with you!

Expand your knowledge on Windows Server 2012!

windows-server-2012-logoOkay, we know that you are probably upset that Windows Small Business Server is being retired.  Fortunately Windows Server 2012 R2 will do you well… but do you know everything you will ever need to know about Windows Server 2012 R2 for the SMB space? Probably not… but that’s okay, because we are here to help!  Microsoft Canada is offering a free webinar with a colleague of mine that will really help.

Join Sharon Bennett, Microsoft’s SMB Technology Advisor, to learn about the key benefits of Windows Server 2012.  Topics include:

  • How to upgrade from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012
  • SBS migration path
  • ROK – Reseller Option Kit
  • CALs – Client Access Licenses

Register early as spots are limited. You will also have a chance to receive an exciting giveaway during the webinar!

Date: Feb 24, 2014

Time: 2-3pm EST

Register here: https://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032577602&Culture=en-CA&community=0

Server Core Address Woes

From the files of “What the F@rk?!”

Here’s a little gotcha that I’ve been wrestling with all afternoon.  I hope this post can save some of you the frustration (exacerbated by jetlag) that I have been experiencing.

I am configuring a bunch of virtual machines as domain controllers for the company I am consulting for in Japan.  Things are going really smooth on the project, but we wanted to spin up half a dozen DCs for the new environment, so I figured I’d just spend a few minutes on it.  Then I had to configure the IP Addresses… something I have done thousands of times, both in Server Core and the GUI.  I have never encountered THIS before.

Server 1: Done.

Server 2: Done

Server 3: NO

Server 4: Done

…and so on.  I went back to Server 3 figuring there was a bit of a glitch, and sure enough, it had an APIPA (Automatically Provided IP Address) assigned.

I loaded up the sconfig menu, and set the IP Address by hand.  The weirdest thing happened… it replaced my IPv6 address with the Class A address I assigned, and left the APIPA address.

I went down to the command line… netsh interface ipv4 set address name=”Ethernet” static 10.x.y.z…  and it still gave me an APIPA address.

I was getting frustrated… something was simply not going right.  And then it occurred to me… someone else was playing on my network.  Sure enough, he had already assigned that address.  Instead of giving me a warning, it simply wouldn’t duplicate an address that already existed.

Now if I had already implemented my monitoring solution, this would never have happened!

What Have You Got?

With Windows 8.1 less than three weeks from GA, and Windows XP less than 200 days from end of support (#EndOfDaysXP on Twitter), I thought it would be a good time to write about the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit again, but only in the context of Windows 8 Readiness and maintaining a software and hardware inventory of the machines within your organization.

I used to work for a man who said that if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it.  These are words I have lived by ever since.

The problem is it gets difficult to keep track of what you have in your IT environment, especially in environments where users are allowed to install their own software.  Don’t forget that software extends far beyond the major packages like Microsoft Office, it also includes things like readers and players.  Many driver packages will also install their own software, whether you realize it or not.

So how do you keep track?  The simple solution is to use a tool like the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit.  The MAP Toolkit is a Microsoft Solution Accelerator that will take an inventory of all of your machines.  Of course it does a lot more than that, like planning for virtualization and private/public clouds, but if you simply want to know what software you have installed, run the toolkit.

Downloading and Installing

The MAP Toolkit is a free tool from Microsoft, and can be downloaded from www.microsoft.com/solutionaccelerators.  The current iteration is MAP 8.5, and it is a 74 MB download.

Before you install it, you will need to have the .NET Framework 4.0, plus the 4.0.2 update.  If you are installing on Windows 8.1 it is there, but if you are on Windows 7 then you will need to download them.  The links are on the MAP Toolkit download page under System Requirements.

The installation is a PhD (Press here, Dummy!) installer… just keep pressing next.  Oh, you either opt in or out of the CEIP, and you do have to agree to the license terms.

The installer will install Microsoft SQL Server Express LocalDB if you do not have SQL Server installed (most of us do not have it on our laptops).

Getting Started

Before you begin you have to either create an inventory database, or use an existing one.  Let’s assume you don’t have one already, and name your database.  I usually name it after the company where I am consulting, as you can run the tool for multiple companies on the same machine.

In the MAP Toolkit 8.5 there are eight scenarios you can choose from:

MAP Toolkit 1

For the sake of this article we are going to stick with the second (Desktop) option, although you can experiment with the others as you wish.  In the navigation bar select the third tab (Desktop).

In order to do anything we need to collect the inventory.  In the Desktop screen at the top click Collect inventory data.

Because Microsoft realizes that there are a few non-Windows based computers out there, you can select both Windows computers and Linux/UNIX computers in the Inventory Scenarios window and click next.  (Note: If you are only doing Windows it will use WMI; if you are doing Linux as well it uses SSH.)

In the Discovery Methods window you have to determine which method you will use to discover computers.  The default is to use Active Directory.  You can also use other Windows networking protocols, SCCM, Scan an IP range, Manually enter computer names and credentials, or import computer names from a file.  Select your option then click Next.

On the next screen you have to enter the domain name, plus credentials.  This is the first of two places where you will be asked; for this time it is only to scan the Active Directory for the next step.  If you are not a domain admin then this is where you have to go ask someone who is for their assistance.  Once the information is entered click Next.

On the Active Directory Options screen you can determine whether you want to scan the entire domain (including sub-domains), or only a segment.  In a large organization the second option is probably smarter.  Once done click Next.

On the All Computer Credentials screen you need to create accounts that will actually be able to scan the computers themselves.  You may want to create multiple users (one for Active Directory, one for Linux, for example) for different types of systems.  Also if there are systems in different OUs and Domain Admin does not have access, you can create multiple accounts.

In the Credentials Order screen you can select which credentials to try first.  If you have thousands of AD computers and only a few Linux machines it makes sense that WMI is first; once a credential authenticates the tool will not try to use others.

On the Connection Properties screen you can change the TCP port that SSH uses to authenticate; by default it is Port 22.

On the Summary screen you can review your choices, then click Finish!  Your inventory is ready to run.

MAP Toolkit 2

The Inventory and Assessment window will begin detecting machines on the network.  Depending on the number of machines it can take quite some time, so be patient.  These numbers will continue counting up (Machines Inventoried) and down (Collections Remaining) until they are all counted.

Getting to and using the data

Once the data is all collected you will get a screen with five different scenarios pertaining to the desktop:

  • Windows 8 Readiness
  • Windows 7 Readiness
  • Office 2010 Readiness
  • Office 2013 Readiness
  • Internet Explorer Discovery

These boxes should display what percentage (and how many) of your devices are ready for each.  However you can drill down and get more information, which is where the inventory component comes into play.  Simply click on the Windows 8 Readiness box and the screen will display the Details page.  It will also (in the upper right corner) allow you to Generate Windows 8 Readiness Report & Proposal.  Click on that button and the MAP Toolkit will create two files for you: A Word document that you can customize with your logo and name to give to the client or to your boss, and an Excel spreadsheet with a detailed inventory of all of your hardware and software.  These files will be located in the %username%\My Documents\MAP\CustomerName directory.

If you are going to use these files for upgrade readiness, then you will appreciate that the 3rd tab along the bottom of the spreadsheet has three very helpful columns: Reasons Not Meeting, After Hardware Upgrades, and Reasons Not Upgradeable.  You won’t be left wondering what is wrong with your systems, you will know why they can’t be upgraded (and what must be done to mitigate that).  I found this very helpful when I was deploying Windows 7 to my son’s school several years ago; rather than replacing 25 computers I replaced 25 video cards and memory chips, and the deployment went smoothly after that.

The complete list of information provided by this spreadsheet is as follows:

Summary

  • Windows 8 Readiness
  • Before Hardware Upgrades
  • After Hardware Upgrades
    Assessment Values
  • Settings
  • CPU (GHz)
  • Memory (MB)
  • Free Disk (GB)
  • Flag Not Ready Video

Client Assessment

  • Computer Name
  • Current Windows 8 Category
  • Reasons Not Meeting
  • After Hardware Upgrades
  • Reasons Not Upgradeable
  • Notes
  • WMI Status
  • IP Address
  • Subnet Mask
  • Current Operating System
  • Service Pack Level

After Upgrades

  • Computer Name
  • IP Address
  • CPU
  • Memory
  • Hard Disk Free Space
  • Video Controller

Device Summary

  • Device Model
  • Manufacturer
  • Number of Computer with

Device Details

  • Computer Name
  • Device Model
  • Manufacturer

Discovered Applications

  • Application
  • Software Version
  • Number of Installed Copies
    The Word Document will also be a tremendous help… not because it contains more data than the spreadsheet, but because it explains it in terms than any CxO will understand, with charts and graphs and summaries, without having to review all of the raw data.  The document is written well enough to present proudly, and can be modified with your corporate logo and your name on it easily.

Conclusion

    The MAP Toolkit is a useful tool for collecting inventory data, as well as for analyzing upgrade readiness, without needing any costly management tools (although it works very well in conjunction with System Center 2012 R2).  Aside from saving you tremendous amounts of time in the collection of data, it also provides handy spreadsheets and documents so that you can use the data most efficiently.  I have long said that it is one of the best free products on the market, and I stand by that assessment.
    In this article we covered only a fraction of what the tool can do.  See what you can do with it for Server virtualization and more!

Windows 8.1 Bits (RTM)!

This is cut and pasted directly from the TechNet blog:

Based on the feedback from you and our partners, we’re pleased to announce that we will be making available our current Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Pro RTM builds (as well as Windows Server 2012 R2 RTM builds) to the developer and IT professional communities via MSDN and TechNet subscriptions. The current Windows 8.1 Enterprise RTM build will be available through MSDN and TechNet for businesses later this month. For developers, we are also making available the Visual Studio 2013 Release Candidate, which you can download here. For more on building and testing apps for Windows 8.1, head on over to today’s blog post from Steve Guggenheimer.

The advantages of selling Office 365 and Windows Server

image Many small and midsize businesses today are considering the use of cloud-based software applications for the ease, accessibility, and cost benefits they can offer. At the same time, many still need an on-site platform for a range of needs from hosting applications, to print sharing, to storing sensitive financial data.

As our valued partner of Office 365, we would love to tell you more about how both of these products have enabled many partners to provide valuable and cost-effective solutions to their customers. We will also have Sharon Bennett, a Microsoft Small Business Specialist and Microsoft Certified Trainer join to speak about deploying Windows Server 2012 with Office 365 and how you can help grow your business with these products.

Learn key resources to enable your organization to deliver these solutions and a special offer available to get you selling today!

Join the one hour webinar on September 16th, 2013 from 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM (EST)!

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New solutions for small business customers!

Small-Business-Server-Aurora Many small and midsize businesses today are considering the use of cloud-based software applications for the ease, accessibility, and cost benefits they can offer. At the same time, many still need an on-site platform for a range of needs from hosting applications, to print sharing, to storing sensitive financial data.

As our valued Windows Server Partner, we would love to tell you more about how both of these products have enabled many partners to provide valuable and cost-effective solutions to their customers. We will also have Sharon Bennett, a Microsoft Small Business Specialist and Microsoft Certified Trainer join to speak about deploying Windows Server 2012 with Office 365 and how you can help grow your business with these products.

Learn about key resources to enable your organization to deliver these solutions and a special offer available to get you selling today!

Join Microsoft Canada’s one hour webinar on September 16th, 2013 from 2:00-3:00 PM (EST)!

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