I’m Back!

As many of you know I left Microsoft to pursue other adventures when I did my first gig with Rakuten in the fall of 2013.  The plan was, according to the managers I spoke with, for me to return to Microsoft when I got back from Japan.

That obviously did not happen.

I will not go into any detail about what or why or when… but the last three years have been interesting… while I retained my MCT credentials and continued working with Microsoft technologies, my affiliation with the organization became strained.  I was pretty sure that my days of working with them were behind me.

There is a quote from a novel from one of my favourite authors: The present is like the past and the past is the present, heya?  The last word might give away that the book was Noble House by the late, great James Clavell.  And so it is that after several months of discussions and background checks and much more, this morning I walked back into the offices of Microsoft Canada to pick up my new badge.  I am a vendor this time around, as opposed to a business guest which is what I was previously.  What does that mean?  I guess it doesn’t matter.  I’m back.

While my role will not be community focused as it once was, I will nevertheless be blogging about technologies that I use and work with.

Thanks to all of you who were concerned and interested… and no, I assure you I will not be drinking or serving any Kool-Aid this time around!

My parting words as a Microsoft MVP

I want to thank all of you who commented – both publicly and privately – on my losing my status as a Microsoft MVP.  Let me sum it all up, and hopefully answer all of your questions.

1) I was informed on Monday that I was not being renewed.  However this was several weeks after I sat down with my MVP Lead and told him that I suspected I was not going to get renewed.  My suspicions, by the way, were not at all based on my community contributions throughout the last year – which were substantial.  I believed that there are people at Microsoft actively working against my advancement.  This has actually been proven to me in the past few months, and I suspected that it would manifest itself again on October 1.  I will not elaborate any further.

2) Whether it is ‘fair’ or not is irrelevant.  Microsoft can (and does) decide to award who it chooses to award, and no, I do not plan to appeal the decision.

3) The Microsoft MVP Award is not for people proficient in their technology; it is for people who share their proficiency with community work, such as blog articles, speaking events & presentations, tweets, forums, and such.  For the record I submitted (when asked) more than 15 articles on Hyper-V that I have written over the past year, as well as in excess of six public and unpaid presentations I have given on the technology.  I also wrote a course on Virtual Desktop Infrastructure using only Microsoft technologies, something that nobody (including Microsoft) had ever done before.  However this was determined to be inadequate to be reawarded.

4) What’s next: I continue to do my thing.  I did not get into IT communities to be awarded for it, and my blog (which has been acclaimed both critically and popularly every year for the past five) will continue on its path.  However it might be noticed by some regular readers that over the past several months my pro-Microsoft bias has been curbed, and I am a lot more willing to be critical of them publicly than I was in the past… and yes, I am using VMware in my professional work, but I am using Hyper-V as well.

5) I am not (as some of you have) badmouthing Microsoft.  I am not calling them names.  I am just realizing that they are not the company they once were, and to deny that would be unworthy of an industry commentator that I am considered to be.

6) It is not a sad day for me.  I do not feel sad.  I feel sleighted, I feel insulted, but I do not feel sad.  I am not angry with anyone in particular, least of all my MVP Lead – Simran Chaudhry has been a good lead, and a good friend over the years.  For the record I think he took the news harder than I did.

7) For those who say they are pruning the tree from the bottom, I appreciate the sentiment.  I have done my best over the years to foster community growth, and to help develop new community leaders.  There are several Microsoft MVPs who are that because of my guidance, and I hope they will continue to do their good work.  If anyone is doing their community work because of me, and decides to stop doing it because of this, well then maybe they shouldn’t have been MVPs in the first place.

8) No, I have not joined Microsoft.

9) I am still coming to MVP Summit in November.  This was my greatest worry, not because of the parties (which I would miss) and frankly not even because of the airfare (which is already spent) but because of the people.  I have made a lot of friends in the MVP community, and I am looking forward to seeing them all next month.

10) The truth is I did NOT receive a proper explanation… nor do I expect to.  If my suspicions are correct then any truthful explanation would embarrass the company.  They do not owe me an explanation, and on a similar subject, as the MVP Award is not an employment, the severance package looks like this: ‘Buh-bye!’

Now: I am not trying to burn any bridges, and I am not trying to offend anyone.  Might I be re-awarded in the future? Who knows?  I am not going to seek it out, but anyone who wishes to nominate me is free to do so.  If it happens, that is fine… and if it doesn’t, well that is fine too.  I am proud to have been an MVP for 8 years – in several different categories (I think I hold the record) – but if it is time to move on then that is what I will do.

If you are looking for a speaker for your event, whether it be on Server, Client, Virtualization, Private Cloud, Office 365, or any of the other myriad technologies that I have been a subject matter expert on, please feel free to contact me.  If you have a technical question on any of these (or other) subjects then please feel free to ask, and if I can get it into a blog article I will.  If you feel that I have been wronged, then feel free to say so to whoever it is you would say it to… but it might be more productive for you to go to http://mvp.microsoft.com/en-us/nominate-an-mvp.aspx and nominate me again.

Thank you all for your support, and I look forward to helping you all in the future!


Cloud-Based VDI!!! No.

I was having a conversation this week with a colleague about his plans to create a hybrid-cloud environment by moving many of his datacenter workloads onto Windows Azure. After all, it makes plenty of sense – eliminating new capital expenses and reducing ongoing operational expenses just makes sense.

“And once we have tested it, we plan to roll out a thousand pooled VDI clients running on Windows Azure. It is great!”

No, I’m afraid it is not. Unfortunately, while there is no technological reason why you couldn’t do this, there is a legal reason.  There is no license for the Windows Client (not even Enterprise Edition) that you can deploy in someone else’s datacenter.  In order to legally deploy VDI you must own the physical hardware on which it is installed.

By the way, let me be clear, that is not only an Azure thing, and it is not only a Remote Desktop Services issue. The same licensing limitation is true on Citrix’s Xen Desktop and VMware’ Horizons.  It is true of Azure, Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, and Joe’s Datacenter Rental.  If you do not own the hardware you can install Windows Server… but not Windows 8.1 (or 8, or 7, or XP for that matter).

I had this conversation with the VP of Sales for a major Microsoft partner in Ontario recently, and I was so flabbergasted that I went back and looked it up. Sure enough he was right.  So when I spoke with my colleague the other day I was able to save him a lot of time, effort, money, and frustration.  Unfortunately I forgot to turn on the meter, so he got the advice for free.  Oh well, I’m sure he’ll remember around the holidays J

Consultants, I want you to remember this lesson: Your customers may not always like the news you have to tell them… but you do have to tell them.  Of course, this is one of those places where good communication skills will help you out – don’t just say ‘Wow, you are scroo-ooed!’ Tell them what they need to say and offer alternative solutions for them to accomplish what they are trying to do.

Microsoft Store Grand Opening Weekend

ImageThis week-end’s grand opening of the Microsoft Store in Square One (Mississauga, Ontario) has been a truly amazing time.  Saturday was busy all day – people lined up to buy Microsoft Surface devices, Xbox One, games, software, accessories, and some simply came to get concert tickets.  Whatever the reason, there were hundreds of people here from morning until night.

I arrived at 8:15 – well over two hours before the scheduled opening.  I was surprised to see there were hundreds of people lined up in three different lines – people who specifically wanted concert tickets (they were giving away tickets to see Weezer Sunday at the Powerade Centre in Brampton), people who wanted to buy the Surface Pro (the door crasher special was a Surface Pro 128 for $399), and people who just wanted to come in to see the store.  Additionally there was a fourth ‘V.I.P. Area’ for partners, MVPs, and guests from the four charities that were invited to take part in the opening festivities.

Although there was music, a Twitter Wall, and a couple of Xbox One stations set up, there was not a lot to see before 11:00.  The staff came out a few times to give out prizes ranging from portable speakers to Xbox prizes and even a couple of Weezer-autographed guitars.  However aside from that the only thing we were able to look at was the Microsoft curtain – the entire store was blocked off by a white curtain… and from time to time we would hear some pretty exciting stuff from behind that…

At 11:00am the staff came out.  Steven Grebenc is the store manager, and he was the first to speak.  After that Claudia Ferris, the vice president of Marketing & Operations of Microsoft Canada, spoke for a few minutes.  She and Steven gave away over a million dollars in software donations to four charities, including Community Living Mississauga and Girl Guides of Canada.

Although the local Member of Parliament made an appearance, the real Belle of the Ball was Hazel McCallion, the 94 year old mayor of Mississauga.  She was as energetic and engaging as any speaker I’ve heard, welcoming the Microsoft Store into her city and congratulating Microsoft on being such a long-standing corporate citizen of her city.  She was invited to cut the ribbon officially opening the store, and when she did the curtain was dropped, and dozens of Microsoft Store employees were waiting behind it cheering, dancing, and welcome everyone in.  They welcomed and high-fived everyone who came in, and really made everyone feel welcome.

Over a thousand people were lined up to buy the Surface Pro, and that line did not abate right into the evening.  At closing time there were still dozens of people in the store, looking around, asking questions, and buying products of every shape and size.

Although the tablets and laptops were the big sellers, there was a lot of curiosity around the 3D printer, a desktop device selling for $2,199.  It was busy making tchotchkes of all sorts over the week-end, including models of airplanes and rocket ships, hearts, key-chains, and more.

Although Alec usually works out of the Yorkdale Mall store he was on hand all week-end drawing caricatures on his Surface Pro.  He does great work, and if you find yourself in one of the stores see if he is around to draw yours!

Of course every Microsoft Store has a theatre, and that space in Square One is managed by Justine.  At noon she handed me the mic, and I was the announcer/emcee for the day announcing several Microsoft MVPs speaking on all sorts of topics, as well as community events such as the gaming session with We Got Game.

A great time was had by all, and if you have never been to a Microsoft Store opening week-end you really should try to get to one (there is one coming up in Calgary in the next few months).  However even if you are not able to get to an opening, you should drop into one of the stores because they really are great places to see and experience new technologies, try out devices, and learn from experts – whether as one-on-one or in the theatre as a member of the audience.

The tech is great, the deals are amazing, and the staff are just incredible.  Come on down and see what I mean!

Microsoft Store #84 (Square One!)

What a day… I arrived at Square One reasonably early this morning expecting to be one of the first people in line to get into the new Microsoft Store.  I wasn’t even in the first 200!  Fortunately I had registered as an MVP and was ushered into the VIP section.

This is not my first Microsoft Store opening.  I was at the opening of the Yorkdale store in 2012, and it was amazing.  I suspect that today’s opening however shattered any records.  There were well over 1,500 people waiting when Mayor Hazel McCallion cut the ribbon shortly after 11:00am.

The ongoing flow of traffic lasted all day – at 4:30 there were still hundreds of people lined up to buy a Surface Pro 128 for $399.  While I do not know how many they sold, I am sure it was well over a thousand.

As was the case at Yorkdale the CSM handed me the microphone to emcee the events at the theatre, and I got to announce a few fellow MVPs, a gaming convention brought in by We Got Game, and even a world renowned Call of Duty player who goes by a name that I can only remember as Goom Jar (I will confirm that later).

As I have been busy all day I have not had time to blog, but I promise to sit down tomorrow or Monday and post the pictures I took… if you follow me on Titter (@MGarvis) you would have seen some of them already.

Congratulations to the crew here for a great event, and I invite you down to the store to see what they have… a lot of great stuff, and a lot of great people!

Skype Collaboration Project, and quick tips to detect Phishing scams

skypeA few days ago I posted a quick post called Free Skype Premium for a year! and I got a few interesting questions about the voracity of the offer.  Some of you were worried that it was a scam, and believe me I am the first person to say you should be skeptical.  However before I posted about it I checked it out.

As one reader noted, the first thing I look at is the domain name.  Behind all of the mess of incomprehensible much, every URL you browse to on the Internet will begin http:// or https:// and will be followed by child domains, sub-domains, and eventually the parent domain – for example I might, if we were larger, have a page with the URL http://we.all.love.mitch.garvis.ca/And?Wish/himAndHisFamily/?Well.  The actual domain is directly to the left of the first (really the third, but I don’t count the two in http://) slash.  So while a phishing scam might use the first slash is after the numbers, which means that it is a scam.

Unless my domain name itself has been compromised – if someone has actually hijacked the DNS (Domain Naming Service) of garvis.ca they cannot create a child domain to it… so they could no easier use http://scam.garvis.ca than I could http://garvis.skype.com.

The link to the Skype offer was https://collaboration.skype.com/promotion/?cm_mmc=AFCJ%7C1250_B1-_-11129583-1225267.  To the left of the first slash is collaboration.skype.com.  This means it came from Skype.

imageNow let’s look at the next objection I got.  ‘This page does not have a Skype logo on it, it doesn’t have Skype’s (or Microsoft’s) branding or look and feel.  That is a big red flag.’

That is something that you would definitely take pause at… the only thing on this page that looks remotely like Skype is the colour they used for the top line.  While this is a good observation, it is something that I throw away when determining the legitimacy of the page.  I have examined hundreds or more phishing schemes and hijacked sites, ranging from banks to credit cards to e-commerce sites to the White House and United States Department of Justice.  No matter how good the look and feel might be, they cannot get beyond the technical – if the domain name is right, then either the domain itself has been compromised… or it’s legitimate.  In truth, most phishing scammers spend more time on look and feel because they understand that most of us would look for that first… if they wanted to hijack your Skype password, they would spend the time to make the site look legitimate, including the colour scheme and logo.

The next concern was that we entered our e-mail address, ticked the appropriate box, and clicked on SEND… and nothing happened.  We didn’t get an e-mail right away (or even ten minutes later) as we were promised.  Actually we were not promised that… we were told to ‘Look out for the voucher codes coming to your inbox in the next 48 hours…’  Well most of us are not that patient, and we assume that while some sites do claim it will take that long, we should really be getting something in the next fifteen minutes.

We shouldn’t be so impatient… especially when out of the blue someone offers us something for free.  In fact, I posted the article just after 1:00am on December 18th (EDT) and received the e-mail at 10:27am on December 20th (EDT)… so in fact it was closer to 58 hours than 48.  Okay, no problem… It was later than they promised, but it came.  Thank you Skype for giving me a free service that I will absolutely use, and I forgive your slight tardiness Smile.


imageAs I had been promised in the original invite, I saw this screen – my vouched was successfully redeemed.  However it did say that it would take no more than 15 minutes, so it could still be a scam, right?  Well a few seconds later the bottom-right corner of my screen popped up with this Notification… and I knew I had gotten what I asked for.  Thank you Skype, I will use the Premium services well!

Free ebook: Introducing Microsoft System Center 2012 R2

Folks you will not want to miss this!  Microsoft Press is giving away the ebook Introducing Microsoft System Center 2012 R2: Technical Overview.  It is written by Mitch Tulloch, Symon Perriman, and the System Center team… and is a great way to get up to speed on Microsoft’s private cloud!

Check it out at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/microsoft_press/archive/2013/12/16/free-ebook-introducing-microsoft-system-center-2012-r2.aspx.

Become a Virtualization Expert!

For those who missed the virtualization jump start, the entire course is now available on demand, as is the link to grab a free voucher for exam 409. This is a single exam virt specialist cert. I would encourage you to take the exam soon before all the free spots are booked.   Full info at http://borntolearn.mslearn.net/btl/b/weblog/archive/2013/12/17/earn-your-microsoft-certified-specialist-server-virtualization-title-with-a-free-exam.aspx

Thanks for your support!

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

Over the past few days I have received an incredible number of you asking what happened, if I am okay, and if I will be alright.  I can assure you I am.  Let me explain.

A great many of you have known me as a Microsoft contractor.  I have been for quite some time, first as a Virtual Partner Technology Advisor, then as a Virtual Technical Evangelist, and most recently as a member of the Server and Tools Business.  So when e-mails to my @microsoft.com account started to bounce (Tuesday this week) a lot of people expressed their concern.  I am quite touched by the outpouring of support!

I have always contracted to Microsoft through its Canadian subsidiary, Microsoft Canada.  In September of this year I accepted a contract with Rakuten, Inc – a Japanese company – that would see me spending most of my time in Tokyo.  Although we tried, there was no good way for Microsoft Canada to keep me on.  It was not done maliciously – in fact, my skip-level (my manager’s manager) did everything he could to a) keep me on, b) communicate the issues with me, and then c) accommodate my request for a timeline extension.

So let me answer some of the ‘Best Of’ questions… the ones that seem to be coing up most often.

1. Did your decision to leave Microsoft have to do with being turned down for a particular position?

No. Although over the past year I have indeed been turned down for a position, it has worked out very well for me in almost every way imaginable.  While taking that role would have been good for me, I have been able to grow in the direction I have wanted to grow.  Because of my independence I have been able to accept the consulting project I am currently working on, which is one of the mot exciting projects I have worked on in years.

2. Did you leave Microsoft because of a disagreement?

No… and yes.  I suppose in the end we disagreed on geography – my consulting role needed me to be in Japan, and Microsoft Canada would have needed me to be in Canada.  Other than that there was no disagreement whatsoever.

3. Did you leave because you did not like the direction in which the company was heading?

Not at all.  In the army I topped out at Staff Sergeant, and as such I learned quickly that some things were above my pay grade.  At Microsoft that was the case as well – I know that a lot of things are out of my control, but I also knew that whatever direction the company would take, my position (should I have elected to keep it) was safe.  Whatever decisions the company made, as a VMware Compete expert I was reasonably safe 🙂

4. Do you feel any disdain toward Microsoft, Microsoft Canada, or anyone you worked for or with?

ABSOLUTELY NOT.  I loved working there, and while I may have had the occasional issue with someone they were always resolved.

5. Did you leave Microsoft to work with competing technologies?

NO.  Although over the past couple of weeks I have made a habit to wear my non-Microsoft branded shirts more than usual, I have not ‘gone over’ to any other competing technology.  With that being said, I am carrying an iPhone now not because I left Microsoft… because Windows Phone 8 is not available in Japan, and this is what the company I am working for gave me.

6. Will you be going back to Microsoft?

That is a very good question. What I once thought of as my dream job no longer holds the same appeal to me.  With that being said, there are a lot of jobs at Microsoft, and should the right opportunity present itself I would be glad to go back, either for the right contract or for the right full time position.  However one thing is for certain: I no longer view Microsoft as the Holy Grail of companies.  I think they are a great company to work for, but there are a lot of other great companies out there.

7. What will you miss most about it?

I had to give this question a little thought.  My first knee-jerk reaction was the people, but then I realized that the people I got to know are still there, and are still available to me.  I am still a Microsoft MVP, a Microsoft Certified Trainer, and an influencer.  My friends are still my friends.  When it comes down to it, I suppose what I will miss most is having Lync… having the ability to call my family from Japan was a great tool!

8. Any regrets?

None at all… for the remainder of my time in Japan I will continue to work closely with Microsoft, but not with the Canadian team.  It is a really exciting project, and I would not trade it for anything.

I want to thank you all again for your concern and support, and hope to be able to continue working with you in the future!


Wednesday morning I was sitting at my desk when a pop-up appeared on my screen.  It was actually an Internet Explorer window, and although it was written entirely in Japanese, I suspected immediately that it was a scam, a fraud, malware, or something.  Why?  It had a very old Microsoft logo on it (from the Microsoft Certified Partner days).  I asked my boss to confirm, and he started laughing at me that the sites I was visiting were not secure.  Since I was planning to re-image my system when I was back in Canada, I didn’t really worry about it.

As I sit in the airport lounge in Vancouver, I got a different albeit similar pop-up, this time in English (it is always nice when malware knows where you are…)

imageHere is a simple way to know if the warnings you are getting might be legitimate, or if they are completely bunk:

1) Legitimate programs do not display their warnings in Internet Explorer.  They would have their own windows appear.

2) I do not use a product called Advanced System Protector.  That being the case, if it were legitimate (it is not) it would still have no business scanning my system.

My recommendations? firstly do not click in the window.  The only place you should click is in the upper-right hand corner… the X.  Note that they are sneaky buggers… under the real X there is their own X, which would have you clicking in the window.  Do not be fooled.

Once you close the window, make sure you run your legitimate anti-malware system – do a complete system scan.  It is not necessary in my case because I simply shut down the machine, and the next time I turn it on I will re-image it (format it and re-install Windows).  However most of you will not want to do that… and yes, you do have malware in your system.

Windows To Go: Disk Behaviour

BitLocker Drive Encryption

BitLocker Drive Encryption (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I was explaining Windows To Go at a client site.  We had a few interesting discussions about the power as well as the limitations of the security features.

One attendee asked a couple of good questions:

1) Is there any way to block the ‘on-lining’ of your Windows To Go key in other installations of Windows?

2) Is there a way to block users from bringing local disks on-line from within Windows To Go?

While I did not have the answers off the top of my head, after some consideration they are actually quite simple.

1) Windows To Go is the equivalent of any hard drive.  Because the machines that you are meant to use them on will be unmanaged, it is impossible to prevent this.  However Microsoft does provide several different levels of protection:

  • The WTG drive is off-line by default;
  • When building the WTG key you can enable BitLocker
  • Although BitLocker on the WTG key cannot be tied to a TPM chip, it will have a password associated.

In other words, in order to compromise the key from another installation of Windows, you would have to bring the WTG key on-line, unlock it, and provide a password.  In other words, if you trust the person to whom you gave the key.  If you don’t, he probably should not be on your systems in the first place.

The second answer is probably a happier one.  Because Windows to Go is (or can be) a managed environment (including domain membership, Group Policy, and even System Center management) the key can be locked down as you see fit.  How you would do it depends on which of the tools you have at your disposal… but yes, this can be done.

I hope this helps you to make your environment more secure using Windows To Go!

What’s New in Windows Server 2012 R2 Lessons Learned Week 1

Dan Stoltz asked me to republish this article, and it is well worth it!  Check out all of the links – a lot of great material! -MDG

It has been an incredible start to the Windows Server 2012 R2 Launch Series.  Here is brief summary of what we covered so far…

  1. Windows Server 2012 R2 Launch Blog Series Index #WhyWin2012R2 the series, opening and index page we learned that from Oct 18th and every day until Thanksgiving we should visit http://aka.ms/2012r2-01 to learn all about Windows Server 2012 R2. You can also follow the excitement on twitter at #WhyWin2012R2. Download the calendar .ICS to populate your calendar here.  This post started the new launch series where Microsoft platform experts would cover  why Windows Server 2012 R2 is important, how to deploy, manage, configure any number of components in Windows Server 2012 R2, how the new OS capabilities stack up against competitors, how R2 integrates with and leverages cloud services like Windows Azure and many, many more categories. This series is deep technical content with lots of How To’s and Step-By-Step instructions. You will learn about storage, cloud integration, RDS, VDI, Hyper-V, virtualization, deduplication, replica, DNS, AD, DHCP, high availability, SMB, backup, PowerShell and much, much more!
  2. Why Windows Server 2012 R2 Rocks! #WhyWin2012R2 – You are probably like most people and realize that Windows Server 2012 was a very substantial upgrade over Windows Server 2008 R2. What would you say to Microsoft doing it again, and even better? WOW! That is exactly what Windows Server 2012 R2 has done. In this post we will look at some of the coolest additions and improvements to Windows Server 2012 R2. Regardless of which of the four pillars of focus (Enterprise-Class, Simple and Cost-Effective, Application Focused, User Centric) you are most interested in, you will find plenty in this post to appreciate! @ITProGuru will show you as he counts the top 10 biggest, most relevant and/or most differentiated new features in Windows Server 2012 R2.
  3. Where Are All The Resources For Windows Server 2012 R2? – We learned where to do go get free resources for Windows Server 2012 R2 including downloading a Free Trial of Windows Server 2012 R2, Free online cloud serversFree EBook on Windows Server 2012 R2, Free Posters, Free Online Training from Microsoft Virtual Academy, and much more.
  4. Implementing Windows Server 2012 R2 Active Directory Certificate Services Part 1 &
  5. Implementing Windows Server 2012 R2 Active Directory Certificate Services Part 2PKI is heavily employed in cloud computing for encrypting data and securing transactions. While Windows Server 2012 R2 is developed as a building block for cloud solutions, there is an increasing demand for IT professionals to acquire proficiency on implementing PKI with Windows Server 2012 R2. This two-part blog post series is to help those who, like me, perhaps do not work on Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS) everyday while every so often do need to implement a simple PKI for assessing or piloting solutions better understand and become familiar with the process.
  6. Step-by-Step: Automated Tiered Storage with Storage Spaces in R2 – Windows Server 2012 R2 includes a number of exciting storage virtualization enhancements, including automated storage tiering, scale-out file server re-balancing and performance tuning for high-speed 10Gbps, 40Gbps and 56Gbps storage connectivity.  IT Pros with which I’ve spoken are leveraging these new enhancements to build cost-effective SAN-like storage solutions using commodity hardware.In this article, we’ll begin part 1 of a two-part mini-series on storage.  I’ll provide a technical comparison of Windows Server 2012 R2 storage architecture to traditional SAN architecture, and then deep-dive into the new Storage Spaces enhancements for storage virtualization.  At the end of this article, I’ll also include Step-by-Step resources that you can use to build your own Storage Spaces lab.  In part 2 of this mini-series, we’ll finish our storage conversation with the new improvements around Scale-Out File Servers in Windows Server 2012.
  7. iSCSI Target Server – Super Fast Mass Server Deployment! – #WhyWin2012R2 – There have been some significant updates to Windows Server 2012 with the R2 release. One of these updates helps IT Pros deal with a growing problem – How do I deploy a large number of servers quickly, at scale without adding massive amounts of storage?The updates to the iSCSI target server technologies allow admins to share a single operating system image stored in a centralized location and use it to boot large numbers of servers from a single image. This improves efficiency, manageability, availability, and security. iSCSI Target Server can boot hundreds of computers by using a single operating system image!
  8. Why Windows Server 2012 R2: Reducing the Storage Cost for your VDI Deployments with VHD De-duplication for VDI – Windows Server 2012 introduced a data deduplication for your storage workloads customers saw phenomenal storage reduction.  Windows Server 2012 R2 deduplucation now supports live VHDs for VDI, which means that data de-duplication can now be performed on open VHD/VHDX files on remote VDI storage with CSV volume support. Remote VHD/VHDX storage de-duplication allows for increased VDI storage density significantly reducing
    VDI storage costs, and enabling faster read/write of optimized files and advanced caching of duplicated data.
  9. Importing & Exporting Hyper-V VMs in Windows Server 2012 R2 One of the biggest benefits of server virtualization is the ability to backup or restore entire systems easily and quickly.  Though they are infrequently used features, Hyper-V import and export are very fast, versatile, and easy to use.  In Windows Server 2012 R2 these features get even better.  I will take a look at how this functionality works and why it is useful.  I’ll also discuss how they are very different from the commonly used checkpoints in Hyper-V, and how you can automate this process.

Keep plugged in to the series to continue learning about Windows Server 2012 R2

– See more at: http://itproguru.com/expert/2013/10/whats-new-in-windows-server-2012-r2-lessons-learned-week-1/#sthash.JWWX9vKZ.dpuf

A response to a VMware article… written by someone I respect.

English: VMware vSphere in the Enterprise

While he may not be very well know to the Microsoft community, Mike Laverick is a legend in VMware circles.  Mike owns a blog called RTFM Education, a source of white papers for VMware technology, although he did start out as a Microsoft Certified Trainer.  He now works for VMware as a Senior Cloud Infrastructure Evangelist.  I was very happy to read on his blog that he has decided to try learning Hyper-V and Microsoft’s Private Cloud.  Unfortunately from what I can tell he was still trying to think way too VMware, rather that trying to learn the Microsoft way of doing things.

(To read the article follow this link:


This is a problem that I see all the time, and going both ways.  When I was teaching vSphere Infrastructure classes my Microsoft-focused students had a hard time getting out of the Microsoft mindset.  When I teach Microsoft courses, my VMware students have the same problem going the other direction.  It would be much easier if people would open their minds and just let the technology flow… but then I have been a Star Wars fan for too long so I believe in that sort of thing.

I found several points of the article quite amusing.  Mike opens the article with a picture and quote from the book Windows NT Microsoft Cluster Server.  The first words that he actually types are ‘Mmm, so much has changed since then or has it?’  I am sorry Mike, but to even insinuate that Microsoft Clustering in Windows Server 2012 R2 is anywhere near the disaster that was clustering in Windows NT (or Server 2000, or Server 2003) is a joke.  Yes, you have to have the proper pieces in place, and yes, you have to configure it properly.  You even have to spend a little time learning Microsoft Clustering and how it works.  If you were to spend thirty minutes with someone like me I’d say you’d be good.

Also, I know you don’t like that you have to install the Failover Clustering Feature to all of the servers before you can create your cluster.  However please remember that unlike a pure hypervisor, Windows Server is an operating system that does many things for many people.  To install all of the possible features out of the box is a ridiculous notion – for one thing, it would triple the footprint and multiply exponentially the attack surface of Windows Server… to say nothing of having code running that you don’t need which takes resources.

To save time, I recommend the following PowerShell cmdlets:

Install-WindowsFeature –Name Failover-Clustering –IncludeManangementTools –ComputerName MyServer1
Install-WindowsFeature –Name Failover-Clustering –IncludeManangementTools –ComputerName MyServer2
Install-WindowsFeature –Name Failover-Clustering –IncludeManangementTools –ComputerName MyServer3
New-Cluster –Name MyCluster –Node MyServer1, MyServer2, MyServer3 –StaticAddress

(There are probably ways to wildcard that – -ComputerName * or something, but that is not the point of the article).

The point of this article is not to Mike’s article apart – for one thing, he is probably doing better on Microsoft technology than I would have when I was new to VMware, for another I have great respect for him, both as a person and as an IT Pro.  I just find it amusing that a VMware evangelist is struggling to learn Hyper-V and System Center, just as so many of the Microsoft evangelists have been struggling to learn VMware.  There is a huge learning curve to be sure… no matter which way you go.

While I am reasonably fluent and certified in both technologies, there is no question that I favour Microsoft… just as Mike favours VMware.  I am glad to see that he is trying to learn Microsoft though… even though some of the ways he is going about it may be questionable.

The one thing that I will point out though is that Mike is right… there are two ways of building a Microsoft Cluster – you can use the Failover Cluster Manager, or you can use System Center VMM.  Michael points out that these technologies would do well to communicate better.  I agree, and recommend that users pick one or the other.  I would also like to point out that in vCenter Server you can create a cluster, but if you are only using ESXi (Vmware’s hypervisor) without vCenter Server there is no way to create a cluster… the technology is simply not supported unless you pay for it.  Score one for Microsoft.

Mike, on a personal note, I would love to sit with you and show you the vastness of System Center and Microsoft’s Private Cloud one day.  Geography seems to work against us, as you are (I believe) in Scotland, and I am in Japan.  There is a catch though… I will gladly teach you Microsoft’s virtualization stack from top to bottom… but I want you to do the same for me with the vSphere stack.  I know the technology and am certified, but I would cherish the opportunity to relearn it from you, as I have followed your articles with reverence for many years.

If you ever do care to take me up on the offer Mike, my email address is mitch@garvis.ca.  Drop me a line, we’ll figure it out.  I suspect that we would both be able to write some great articles following those sessions, and we would both have newfound respect for the other’s technology of choice.

Neither a Snob Nor an Elitist…

Briggs In response to a series of articles I wrote recently about my laptop bags (What IS your laptop bag) and about my luggage (The Price of Quality) I was recently called an elitist snob.  “Mitch, it is fine that you want to spend hundreds of dollars on your laptop bags, but in all fairness you are given most of your bags, and most of your readers have to buy their own, and investing hundreds of dollars for Briggs and Riley, Ogio, and Brenthaven is just not worth the money to most of us.’

I obviously understand how this reader feels.  I am not ignorant to the costs, and do realize that even $100 is a lot to spend on a laptop bag.  With that being said, shortly after writing those articles I decided to buy two new laptop bags – both Briggs and Riley – for my trip to Japan.  For one thing I knew that I wouldn’t be able to simply switch out my bags as desired here – I didn’t want to bring more that I had to – and also I wanted to come into my client’s office without blatantly advertising for Microsoft – or for anyone else for that matter.

I was not going to respond to comment.  After all, it was said to me by someone in passing, and mostly tongue in cheek.  However this afternoon, as I walked from my hotel the my office, I was reminded why I would rather spend money on a good bag then buy a cheap one.  As I walked through the bus terminal in front of my hotel a gentleman was walking the other way, laptop bag over his shoulder.  When we were about fifteen feet apart when I saw the strap of his shoulder strap snap – more accurately, the clip that connected the bag to the strap did.  The gentleman was walking at a bit of a clip, and try as he might to catch it, we both watched on helplessly as his bag smashed to the pavement and bounced a couple of times.

He picked it up, and just as I would have he opened it up to see what damage was done to his laptop.  As I expected the screen was shattered, and that was even before he could check to see if the hard drive or motherboard were damaged.  I felt bad for the guy, and hoped that a) it was a corporate laptop, and b) that there would not be any severe repercussions to damaging it.  I do know that losing a corporate laptop is a severe offense, but that is primarily because of corporate data.

The deja vu was immediate, strong, in my face.  I was transported back to the day that my customer’s daughter asked me for a favour.

Nearly ten years ago I was still an SMB consultant in Montreal, and I had a client that manufactured suits.  At the time they were one of the most respected names in men’s suits in Canada – although I was glad to have them as a client, I could never have afforded one of their suits.  Michael, one of the two brothers who owned the company had hired me to review their infrastructure.  However on this particular day his daughter was in with her brand new laptop that she had spent the last week infecting with malware.  She was livid that her $3000 laptop was running so slowly.  I couldn’t blame her… except I knew what the problem was. After consulting with her father she asked if I would mind taking it with me to clean up from my office.  No problem.

She packed the laptop away in her carrying case and handed it to me.  I headed to my car because I had another appointment – a meeting with a colleague.  We were going to meet at the Place Vertu Shopping Centre for coffee.  I arrived at the mall early, and decided that I would take the laptop with me, both because I hated leaving anything of value in the car, but also because since I was early I could start working on it while waiting for Adam.  I locked the car and slung the very inexpensive carrying case over my shoulder.  As I was walking through the mall towards the cafe it happened… without warning my shoulder became much lighter as the strap broke and the laptop bag crashed to the floor.

I was mortified.  I knew not only how proud she was of her laptop, but also how much she (read: her father) had spent on it.  They had both made a point of calling attention to the fact when I was in the office, either to show off (more likely) or possibly to remind me to be careful with it (less likely).  I immediately snatched it up and ran to the cafe.  When I opened it up my worst fears were realized… the screen was smashed and shattered.Broken Screen

While they have come down in price since, at the time the replacement cost of a 17” laptop screen was well over $1000.  I know this because after my meeting with Adam I went back to my office and called the manufacturer, who quoted me the price.  It would take me several days to earn back that money, and I was living on a shoestring budget as it was (this was when I was still supporting myself AND my ex-wife).

That afternoon was quite unproductive.  I spent most of the time in my office lamenting the predicament I was in.  But then I realized the dichotomy: Why would someone spend $3000 on a laptop, only to carry it around in a $15 case?  This was a very delicate (and relative to modern laptops heavy) piece of expensive equipment.  Why wouldn’t the owner (who needed all of that horsepower like a fish needs a bicycle) not spend the extra $75-$100 to get a proper case that was meant to support it.

Two phone calls that day saved my bacon.  The first was to the company that imported the bag.  They were a local company, and somehow I got in touch with someone there who had the authority to realize that they might be liable.  They agreed to work with me to cover at least some of the costs.  The second call, once that was done, was to the manufacturer.  I told them what happened, and when I read off the serial number they told me not to worry, the owners had bought the complete care warranty.  In the technician’s words, ‘If someone throws their laptop off their balcony into the swimming pool and then shoots it through with a 12-gauge shotgun, it would still be fixed or replaced at no cost.’  He scheduled a technician to meet me at the client’s offices the next morning.

I was relieved.  I was thrilled.  I was elated!  I also decided, right then and there, that forevermore I would never again skimp on carrying cases for laptops.  I wouldn’t throw them in a gym bag, I wouldn’t buy cheap crap.  I would always make sure that I bought high quality bags, and recommend to others that they do the same.

So to my friend, colleague, and reader I say this: I am not an elitist, nor am I a snob.  I am a pragmatist who knows that spending a little more can save you a lot more in the long run.  For me it has never been about style, fashion, or bragging rights – anyone mildly familiar with my wardrobe would laugh at those options anyways – but rather about practicality – how comfortable and utilitarian the bag is, as well as how well protected, and most importantly how well made.

With that my friends, it is Friday and I want to wish you all a great day, and a wonderful week-end.

Managing Hyper-V Virtual Machines with Windows PowerShell

Warning: The following post was written by a scripting luddite.  The author readily admits that he would have difficulty coding his way out of a paper bag, and if the fate of the world depended on his ability to either write code or develop software then you had better start hoarding bottled water and cans of tuna.  Fortunately for everyone, there are heroes to help him!

I love the Graphical User Interface (GUI).  I use it every day in both the Windows client and Windows Server operating systems.  It makes my life easier on a day to day basis.

With that being said, there are several tasks that administrators must do on a regular basis.  There is no simple and reliable way to create repetitive task macros in the GUI.  Hence we can either work harder, or we can learn to use scripting tools like Windows PowerShell.

Along the way I have gotten some help from some friends.  Ed Wilson’s books have provided a wealth of information for me, and Sean Kearney has been my go-to guy when I need help.  There was a time when I was teaching a class and was asked ‘Can PowerShell do that?’  I replied by saying that if I asked Sean Kearney to write a PowerShell script to tie my shoes, I was reasonably sure he could do it because PowerShell can do ANYTHING.  Well one of my students posted that comment on Twitter, and got the following reply from Sean (@EnergizedTech):

Get-Shoe | Invoke-Tie

It makes sense too…because PowerShell works with a very simple Verb-Noun structure, and if you speak English it is easy to learn.

I may be a scripting luddite, but I do know a thing or two about virtualization, and especially Hyper-V.  So it only stands to reason that if I was going to start learning (and even scarier, teaching) PowerShell, I would start with the Hyper-V module.  As a good little Microsoft MVP and Community Leader, it only makes sense that I would take you along for the ride 🙂

Most of what can be done in PowerShell can also be done in the GUI.  If I want to see a list of the virtual machines on my system, I simply open the Hyper-V Manager and there it is.


PowerShell is almost as simple… Type Get-VM.


By the way you can filter it… if you only want virtual machines that start with the letter S, try:

Get-VM S*

One of the advantages of PowerShell is that it allows you to manage remote servers, rather than having to log into them you can simply run scripts against them.  If you have a server called SWMI-Host1, you can simply type:

Get-VM –Server SWMI-Host1

Starting and stopping virtual machines is simple…

Start-VM Admin


Again, your wildcards will work here:

Start-VM O*

This command will start all VMs that start with the letter O.

If you want to check how much memory you have assigned to all of your virtual machines (very useful when planning as well as reporting) simply run the command:

Get-VMMemory *


I did mention that you could use this command for reporting… to make it into an HTML report run the following:

Get-VMMemory * | ConvertTo-HTML | Out-File c:\VMs\MemReport.htm

To make it into a comma separated values (CSV) file that can easily be read in Microsoft Office Excel, just change the command slightly:

Get-VMMemory * | ConvertTo-CSV | Out-File c:\VMs\MemReport.csv

The report created is much more detailed than the original screen output, but not so much so as to be unusable.  See:

Making Changes

So far we have looked at VMs, we have started and stopped them… but we haven’t actually made any changes to them. Let’s create a new virtual machine, then make the changes we would make in a real world scenario.

New-VM –Name PSblog –MemoryStartupBytes 1024MB –NewVHDPath c:\VHDs\PSblog.vhdx –NewVHDSizeBytes 40GB –SwitchName CorpNet

With this simple script I created a virtual machine named PSblog with 1024MB of RAM, a new virtual hard disk called PSblog.vhdx that is 40GB in size, and connected it to CorpNet.

Now that will work, but you are stuck with static memory.  Seeing as one of the great features of Hyper-V is Dynamic Memory, let’s use it with the following script:

Set-VMMemory –VMName PSblog –DynamicMemoryEnabled $true –MinimumBytes 512MB –StartupBytes 1024MB MaximumBytes 2048MB

Now we’ve enabled dynamic memory for this VM, setting the minimum to 512MB, the maximum to 2048MB, and of course the startup RAM to 1024MB.

For the virtual machine we are creating we might need multiple CPUs, and because some of our hosts may be newer and other ones older we should set the compatibility mode on the virtual CPU to make sure we can Live Migrate between all of our Intel-based hosts:

Set-VMProcessor –VMName PSblog –Count 4 –CompatibilityForMigrationEnabled $true

At this point we have created a new virtual machine, configured processor, memory, networking, and storage (the four food groups of virtualization), and are ready to go.

I will be delving deeper into Hyper-V management with PowerShell over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

NOTE: While nothing in this article is plagiarized, I do want to thank a number of sources, on whose expertise I have leaned rather heavily.  Brien Posey has a great series of articles on Managing Hyper-V From the Command Line on www.VirtualizationAdmin.com which is definitely worth reading.  He focuses on an add-on set of tools called the Hyper-V Management Library (available from www.Codeplex.com) so many of the scripts he discusses are not available out of the box, but the articles are definitely worth a read.  Rob McShinsky has an article on SearchServerVirtualization (a www.TechTarget.com property) called Making sense of new Hyper-V 2012 PowerShell cmdlets which is great, and links to several scripts for both Server 2008 R2 and Server 2012.  Thanks to both of them for lending me a crutch… you are both worthy of your MVP Awards!