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.

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Sad Times for an Industry

I used to say to my audiences that while the number of jobs in IT will go down, the best will always be in demand.  I then spent several months essentially unemployed.

The IT field has changed dramatically over the course of the last few years.  I suppose it is natural for an industry as young as ours to evolve drastically and violently… but I didn’t expect it would happen to me.  When I did find a job I was relieved to say the least.

During the time when I was looking I noticed that a lot of people turned their backs on me.  I thought for a while it was personal, but I have realized that people in our field are becoming a lot less secure than they were even a year or two ago… yes, some of the people who disappointed me did it out of malice or jealousy, but I have realized that there are also a lot of people who have realized that if they are not protective of what they have, someone else might get it.

I am not naming names… but one of the people who didn’t turn his back on me – someone who commiserated, and did everything that he could to help me – pinged me this morning telling me that he had been let go.  I know that a few months ago I had counselled him on a position at Microsoft, but realized before I even replied (because of time zones it was the first message I saw this morning) I realized that while I remembered him telling me that he found something, I had no idea where it was.  I suppose now it doesn’t matter… he’s not there anymore, and through no fault of his own.

There are a lot of reasons for someone to leave their company… often they will leave because of a better job offer elsewhere (I e-mailed a friend at VMware Canada last week and the message bounced… he turned up at Microsoft Canada this Monday).  Sometimes we are just fed up, and we leave of our own accord.  Of course there is also the termination for cause, and we all hope to avoid that.

All of those are reasons we could have done something about… but when the company simply cannot afford to pay us anymore – they don’t need five IT guys and are downsizing to three, or the project we were hired for was cancelled – it can come as a shock… we did nothing wrong, and there was nothing we could have done to prevent it.  We’re just… gone.  This is a lousy situation.

A few years ago when I went to the US border to apply for my TN visa so that I could work in that country.  Please remember that US border agents are quite loyal, and very protective of their country.  I was trying to explain to the agent what I did as an IT Pro helping companies to virtualize did.  After a few minutes he said to me ‘Let me get this straight: you want me to let you come into my country to teach companies how they can become more efficient and need fewer American workers.’  I could feel his eyes boring into me like lasers.  But the truth is I always felt that the students who learned from me would always be safe, because I was helping to prepare them for the inevitable shift in the industry.  And yet there I was, looking for work… for a long time.

The friend who pinged me this morning was one of those students… I taught him virtualization and System Center, and those are two very important skills to know.  But how do you prepare yourself for the company canceling the project?  It’s not easy.

I have said for years that one of the worst advancements in IT with regard to the IT Pro field was the advent of Microsoft Windows.  In the days of DOS, Novell, and AccPac computers were a mystery to most people, and it was only the real IT Pros who could make sense of everything for the masses.  With Windows `Press Here, Dummy!’ interface myriad people figured it out, and started calling themselves IT Pros.  Some of those people would eventually learn what was really under the hood, get certified, and thrive… but a lot of them did a lot of our customers a disservice and made those people and companies distrust the entire profession.  I see that coming back to haunt us even worse, in a time when automation and virtualization are making thing easier for the fewer IT Pros needed, we are living through the worst of times for the profession.

What is the solution?  I don’t know… but I do know that we can’t put the genie back into the bottle, and it is going to get worse before it gets better.  I hope we are all able to weather the storm.

Another tough exam…

As a subject matter expert (SME) on virtualization, I was neither excited nor intimidated when Microsoft announced their new exam, 74-409: Server Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center.  Unlike many previous exams I did not rush out to be the first to take it, nor was I going to wait forever.  I actually thought about sitting the exam in Japan in December, but since I had trouble registering there and then got busy, I simply decided to use my visit to Canada to schedule the exam.

This is not the first exam that I have gone into without so much as a glance at the Overview or the Skills Measured section of the exam page on the Internet.  I did not do any preparation whatsoever for the exam… as you may know I have spent much of the last five years living and breathing virtualization.  This attitude very nearly came back to bite me in the exam room at the Learning Academy in Hamilton, Ontario Wednesday morning.

Having taught every Microsoft server virtualization course ever produced (and having written or tech-reviewed many of them) I should have known better.  Virtualization is more than installing Hyper-V.  it’s more than just System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) and Operations Manager (OpsMgr).  It is the entire Private Cloud strategy… and if you plan to sit this exam you had better have more than a passing understanding of System Center Service Manager (ServMgr), Data Protection Manager (DPM), and Orchestrator.  Oh, and your knowledge should extend beyond more than one simple Hyper-V host.

I have long professed to my students that while DPM is Microsoft’s disaster recovery solution, when it comes down to it just make sure that your backup solution does everything that they need, and make sure to test it.  While I stand behind that statement for production environments, it does not hold water when it comes to Microsoft certification exams.  When two of the first few questions were on DPM I did a little silent gulp to myself… maybe I should have prepared a little better for this.

I do not use Service Manager… It’s not that I wouldn’t – I have a lot of good things to say about it.  Heck, I even installed it as recent as yesterday – but I have not used it beyond a passing glance.  The same used to be true of System Center Orchestrator, but over the last year that has changed a lot… I have integrated it into my courseware, and I have spent some time learning it and using it in production environments for repetitive tasks.  While I am certainly not an expert in it, I am at least more than just familiar with it.  That familiarity may have helped me on one exam question.  Had I taken the time to review the exam page on the Microsoft Learning Experience website I would have known that the word Orchestrator does not appear anywhere on the page.

Here’s the problem with Microsoft exams… especially the newer ones that do not simply cover a product, but an entire solution across multiple suites.  Very few of us will use and know every aspect covered on the exam.  That is why I have always professed that no matter how familiar you may be with the primary technology covered, you should always review the exam page and fill in your knowledge gaps with the proper studying.  You should even spend a few hours reviewing the material that you are pretty sure you do know.  As I told my teenaged son when discussing his exams, rarely will you have easy exams… if you feel it was easy it just means you were sufficiently prepared.  Five questions into today’s exam I regretted my blasé attitude towards it – I may be a virtualization expert, but I was not adequately prepared.

As I went through the exam I started to get into a groove… while there are some aspects of Hyper-V that I have not implemented, those are few and far between.  the questions about VHDX files, Failover Clustering, Shared VHDX, Generation 2 VMs, and so many more came around and seemed almost too easy, but like I told my son it just means I am familiar with the material.  There were one or two questions which I considered to be very poorly worded, but I reread the questions and the answers and gave my best answer based on my understanding of them.

I have often described the time between pressing ‘End Exam’ and the appearance of the Results screen to be an extended period of excruciating forced lessons in patience.  That was not the case today – I was surprised that the screen came up pretty quickly.  While I certainly did not ace the exam, I did pass, and not with the bare minimum score.   It was certainly a phew moment for a guy who considers himself pretty smart in virtualization.

Now here’s the question… is the exam a really tough one, or was I simply not prepared and thus considered it tough?  And frankly, how tough could it have been if I didn’t prepare, and passed anyways?  I suppose that makes two questions.  The answer to both is that while I did not prepare for the exam, I am considered by many (including Microsoft) a SME on Hyper-V and System Center.  I can say with authority that it was a difficult exam.  That then leads to the next question, is it too tough?  While I did give that some thought as I left the exam (my first words to the proctor was ‘Wow that was a tough exam!) I do not think it is unreasonably so.  It will require a lot of preparation – not simply watching the MVA Jump Start videos (which are by the way excellent resources, and should be considered required watching for anyone planning to sit the exam).  You will need to build your own environment, do a lot of reading and research, and possibly more.

If you do plan to sit this exam, make sure you visit the exam page first by clicking here.  Make sure you expand and review the Overview and Skills Measured sections.  If you review the Preparation Materials section it will refer you to a five day course that is releasing next week from Microsoft Learning Experience – 20409A- Server Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center (5 Days).  I am proud to say that I was involved with the creation of that course, and that it will help you immensely, not only with the exam but with your real-world experience.

Incidentally, passing the exam gives you the following cert: Microsoft Certified Specialist: Server Virtualization with Hyper-V and System Center.

Good luck, and go get em!

If He Can Do It YOU Can Too!

I have been saying for the past couple of years that Microsoft’s Hyper-V is much simpler than vSphere, but I never imagined that I would see this:  Caleb, a 5th grader, shows us how to create a virtual machine, install an OS, and even create a virtual switch.  Not only was I impressed with how well he does it, but his communication skills far exceed those of many adult IT Pros that I have met!  (Not you of course… I mean the other guys…)

http://blogs.technet.com/b/yungchou/archive/2013/03/18/are-you-smarter-than-a-5th-grader-in-creating-hyper-v-virtual-machine-and-installing-windows-server-2012.aspx?wa=wsignin1.0

So the question is if he can do it, why can’t you?  Of course you can, it is that simple!

Virtual Networking in Hyper-V 2012

Microsoft has released a poster diagramming virtual networking in Hyper-V 2012.  Much of it revolves around Virtual Machine Manager, and is actually branded System Center 2012 SP1.  If you are building or managing datacenters – even smaller ones – you should download this document and review it.  We all have something to learn from it!

The VMM networking poster is available for download here.

Now: If you are going to be at MMS, I am told that the Windows Server team will be giving out printed copies – I had one of the original Hyper-V environment and wore it out – it was my most referenced document for months!

If you are interested in evaluating Windows Server or System Center 2012 you can can do so by clicking here:

Windows 8: Client Hyper-V and Why It Matters

In December I sat down with Kevin Remde, Technical Evangelist with Microsoft USA, to discuss how Windows 8 now includes Microsoft Hyper-V.  It is a great conversation about why you might want to use the power of Hyper-V virtualization on the desktop, what is required, and how to get started.  I invite you to watch and listen in, and comment! -M

http://channel9.msdn.com/Series/Reimagining-Windows-An-In-Depth-Look-at-Windows-8-for-the-Enterprise/Episode-6-Windows-8-Client-Hyper-V-and-Why-It-Matters

Join us for the Windows Server 2012 online launch!

Celebrate the arrival of Windows Server 2012 with Microsoft experts and a community of users from around the world!

Watch the keynote address at 8:00 am PDT on Tuesday, September 4. Then, dive in deeper. Learn more about amazing new capabilities in the areas of Virtualization, Storage, Networking, Management, Application Development, VDI, and more! Get your questions answered by jumping into our live Ask the Experts sessions. You’ll have technical sessions, resources, demonstrations and more – on demand and at your fingertips.

Along the way, you can earn points in your quest to learn more about Windows Server 2012. Plus you’ll have the chance to win amazing prizes! The more you participate, the more you can win!

Event Details:

Windows Server 2012 Online Launch

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

8:00am Pacific Time

www.windows-server-launch.com

Windows Server 2012 arrives on September 4. Be here with us when it does.

Save the date!