I am presenting at VeeamON 2017

I’m travelling to New Orleans for VeeamON2. If you don’t know what that is, please check it out here. I can recommend this conference. Both the attendees and presenters are all very active users of Veeam products and the workloads Veeam protects in real live. That makes for excellent sharing of experiences, insights and knowledge with your peers.

SM banner-Presenters

I have the distinct honor of presenting a joint session with Luca Dell’Oca (@dellock6 / http://www.virtualtothecore.com/en/) and Carsten Reachfahl (@hypervserver / https://www.rachfahl.de/). The presentation is called: Throw your backups into ANY window and is on Wednesday, May 17 | 13:30-14:30.

Choosing a storage solution for your backups can be a daunting task: Windows or Linux servers, SMB shares, SAN, NAS, deduplication appliances … But block cloning, a new feature in Windows 2016 and leveraged by Veeam Backup & Replication™, is promising to change this. Available for ReFS 3.1 file systems, this technology allows for insanely reduced transform times and spaceless GFS backups. Or at least, this is what marketing has told us so far, but how good is it in reality? Is an expensive and complex Storage Spaces Direct the only way to consume all the amazing new features? How can I design my new backup repository with these new options in mind? What about encryption and Veeam Scale-out Backup Repository™? Didier Van Hoye, Carsten Rachfahl (both Microsoft MVPs and Veeam Vanguards) and Luca Dell’Oca (Veeam cloud architect) have joined forces to bring you from-the-field information, tips, tricks and ideas to build your next Veeam backup repository with real-life tests and feedback gained from deploying this new powerful combination into multiple environments.

This session is complimentary to the other ones given at VeeamON 2017, both the breakout sessions as well as some of the session the Microsoft MVPs are presenting at the boot. Those sessions combined will send you home with ideas and options on how to leverage Veeam in creative ways to achieve the best possible solution for your needs. Personally I’ll be discussing some of the options you have to get get high available backup targets leveraging ReFSv3.1 in brown field scenarios when  a brand new Storage Spaces Direct deployment is not option or when you don’t run Windows Server Windows Server 2016 yet.

Next to that and between attending interesting sessions I’ll be available at the Veeam and Microsoft boots if you want to have questions or want to discuss the technologies. At the Microsoft boot I’ll be presenting a demo focused walk through on how to on Discrete Device Assignment in Windows Server 2016.

DELL EMC World 2017 Concludes

Today DELL EMC World 2017 ends with a dinner with DELL EMC management and engineers to discus our impressions on the information we took away from DELL EMC World 2017. I would like to thank the ever hard working Sarah Vela for making this possible. It’s much appreciated.

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Professionally I’m blessed with multiple opportunities to attend conferences and summits. That’s where I get to talk to the skilled and passionate people who work on the technologies we work with intensively. This is very much a two way street where we learn from each other. And on many conferences I might also be a speaker or participate in advisory boards to provide feedback. Some of those latter discussions are under NDA. This is normal and I have NDA’s with other companies as well. That’s the legal side of the trust we place in each other in order to discuss evolving and future technologies.

I attend multiple events from different players. Some of these disagree with me and that is fine. We learn from being challenged. It helps us define more clearly what we design and build as well as why and how. More and more solutions become a more diverse, multi pronged combination of components with their specific capabilities at our disposal. These change fast and so do our solutions. An element not to be ignored in designing those solutions. That’s one take away from DELL EMC world that seems to have hit home. The other is that some companies are in a rather dire IT condition due to years of stand still.

I’m happy to see that today and tomorrow DELL EMC has the technologies needed for us to deliver modern IT solutions. The way in which we choose to do so is our choice and DELL EMC states it is committed to supporting that. As a testimonial to that we got to see the the DELL EMC Storage Spaces Direct Ready nodes based on the soon to be available generation 14 PowerEdge servers.

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That is how we worked for many years with DELL and we have been assured we can continue to work with DELL EMC. That what Michael Dell committed to and I have seen them deliver on that promise for many years. For me that’s enough to be confident in that until proven different. Even if that message was sometimes brought in a way that made me think Las Vegas had gotten the better of some conference managers. But let’s not get the form in the way of the content.

On a final note, Dell EMC is not anti public cloud or pro on-premises. That’s how it should be and that how we deliver IT. We use the tools at our disposal to build the best possible solutions we can. What we use depends on the needs and changes as technology evolves. That’s OK. Saying you need hardware doesn’t make you a cloud hater or vice versa. The world is not that simple.

Dell EMC Digital Transformation Goals at Dell EMC World

 Dell EMC Digital Transformation Goals at Del EMC World

Introduction

As many of my blog readers will know, I am attending Dell EMC World this week in Las Vegas. Today we got our introduction into how they aim to help customers realize the digital transformation goals they have and, quite frankly that their customers need. It is no secret that I have leveraged DELL hardware very effectively over the years to build highly performant solutions at a great price value. Sometimes to the envy of my peers who saw those results. I’m here because I intend to continue doing so.

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It is clear that DELL EMC is still very proud to be privately owned and they mentioned this once again. This gives them the freedom and flexibility they need to outperform the competition. DELL EMC files SEC records, so there is nothing to hide. I do note they have a couple of public owned companies in the business now. That model has gone hybrid as well it seems.

Given the vast amount of attention digital transformation gets nowadays it will be no surprise that DELL EMC is focusing its efforts to facilitate this transition for its customers. After all, an unrelenting focus on real customer needs is one of the cornerstones of digital transformation. As such, DELL EMC is drinking its own champagne.

The digital transformation challenge

While things are changing fast, this also has the consequence they last less long. That means that the need to move and deliver fast is certainly clear and present. This is because the time spam in which to deliver the ROI gets shorter as well. Together with that comes perhaps a more urgent need and that is to change course fast when needed. However, to ensure digital transformation becomes more than buzz or hype we need more than just agility and speed.

We need a modern service focused “serverless” IT architecture where the cloud model reigns due to its agility and elasticity. When we use cloud as delivery model and not a location we get the ability to leverage our architectures in both public, hybrid and private environments without making any solution or technology the goal instead of the services we deliver to the customer. I call that “Service Resilience Engineering” as this encompasses the need to focus the services we deliver and not infrastructure, architectures or technologies. This avoids being stuck in a location, a technology or vendor. To the extent that is possible, as (public) cloud per definition is perhaps the biggest attempt at vendor lock in at scale we have ever seen. This despite valiant and sometimes successful efforts of many to avoid it. They also mention cost efficiency as a public cloud issue for customers. Cost however is a limited metric; value is a much better one.

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Dell EMC has its eye set on helping customers do exactly that. This without making the mistake of leaving existing needs behind or failing to cater to more recent and emerging technologies and trends.

Budgets are limited. This means the old and the new IT architecture have to merge and transform where needed. We often do not have the ability and budget to go one hundred % green field in all or most situations.

One of the ways Dell EMC hopes to facilitate this is via a cloud-like pricing model. That means that even in cases where on-premises infrastructure remains needed customers can scale up and scale down. This leverages a pay for use model for components of their datacenter instead of the entire datacenter (Dell Technologies Rolls Out Flexible Consumption Models for IT from the Desktop to the Data Center). Even when, personally, I rather see smaller capex efforts more frequently when possible, this option is often not available. If that is not possible in an OPEX loving world that is very CAPEX shy, this initiative can only help.

Customers must do more than window dressing and avoid mere lip service to digital transformation. No matter what you call it, this will require a deep and broad understanding of user needs combined with an expert level understanding of information technologies, architectures and designs. That means that business will need to accept the technology experts into the C level positions, board roams and at the helm. The need for speed in delivery is too high and specialized to waste time on old school and very flawed models that see technology as a facility. Organizations trying to achieve digital transformation in that way will fail. Technology will lead the effort to deliver what customers require and demand. As DELL EMC puts it: “Every company is an IT company. Technology and your IT capabilities are at the center of driving digital transformation”. Having spoken with some customers here and having seen how farmers back home are digitizing their business despite lack of support from government and traditional IT providers, I agree.

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There is no one size fits all. Before you getting too excited and think that modernizing the data center will free up vast amounts of money for app development you might be in for a surprise. If you already have a decent datacenter environment. For many well run companies there is not much more money to be saved there. The cost of services and wages in regards to business operations and app development are already a magnitude of their infrastructure costs. Optimizing that further might not deliver that much. The big savings are not for the more up to date companies, those need to leverage their advantage now, not shave of more of ever less. So be ready for some major investments.

Some of the announcements

At Dell EMC World today, we saw announcements on the new generation 14 Power Edge server models that are adding all the tech updates that are available from Intel mid this year (Dell EMC Drives IT Transformation With the New 14th Generation of PowerEdge Servers). Especially when it comes to VDI scalability and local NVMe storage, we will see major improvements. The other areas of improvement are security, ease of automation and manageability in a software-defined world. One excellent improvement is that it is shipping with native 25GbE support! Awesome, 10Gbps becomes the new 1Gbps fast so to speak. 40Gbps is on the way out as 50/100Gbps take over. These improvements should keep us fully powered up until we see PCIe 4 arrive in the next server generation.

Storage wise we see lots of movement in the hyper-converged segment where cloud consumption models become more outspoken (see New Dell EMC Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Advancements and Cloud-Like Consumption Model Ease Adoption). I do note that the do not mention Storage Spaces Direct in their HCI offering while they do in their SDS efforts. The line blur but while S2D is not limited to HCI, it does deliver that as well.

They continue their efforts towards more software defined storage capabilities (see Dell EMC Software-Defined Storage Paves Way for Data Center Modernization). Note that this includes Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct on generation 14 servers available in the second half of this year. That is great news for people not willing to carry the engineering and support effort of building it themselves.

It will be no surprise that there is an ever-stronger move towards all flash solutions which seems to be moving faster and more widely across the industry and customers (Dell EMC Introduces New All-Flash Storage Systems to Help Customers Modernize Their Data Centers and Transform IT).

I am happy to see that they also introduced the SC5020 to the great Compellent series of mid-range storage that punches far above its perceived weight when configured properly. To me the SC series have always been and remains a gem in the traditional SAN offerings. I do still wish a native full featured SMB3 offering was be available in them, but for now we will do what we have been doing, build our own scale out file servers against it where needed.

On the network side, it is clear DELL EMC keeps focusing its efforts on open networking (Dell EMC Powers IT Transformation with New Open Networking Products). Another noticeable fact is that the push towards 25/50 and a 100Gbps truly picks up speed.

Dell EMC intends to remain a player in the data protection arena (Dell EMC Launches Integrated Data Protection Appliance and Expands Cloud Data Protection Portfolio). As this is an area I also focus on by leveraging commodity hardware, cloud and native in box capabilities I’m interested to see if the dedicated appliance vendors can keep up with other players in that field of endeavor when pitched against creative customers.

Conclusion

On top of the above, DELL EMC is highlighting the potential of artificial intelligence and virtual reality in the future.  Then there is security. In a world where work is a thing that you do not a place you go, mobility and security is and remains of paramount importance. Technology has to evolve to make this happen and leave bolted on security solutions behind.

I hope to dive deeper in to some of this as the conference continuous and I get the chance to speak with industry experts, both DELL EMC employees and my peers while here. Next to that, I am attending to provide feedback to DELL EMC on our needs and wants to achieve our goals, which means customers will gladly pay for our services.

Whether Michael Dell is more right than wrong will be determined by the market as they say. I do notice that if his vision does not materialize it will not be due to his lack of managerial and sales man skills. He can sell a vision and drive a company.

In case you think, DELL EMC tells me what or when to write, that is not the case. As my former account manager stated “I will gladly let Didier provide feedback to management at DELL EMC, but they will have to accept that it will be direct and not always 100% positive. It is honest and that is when they will learn where they can improve”. I always operate on that principle.

PowerShell Script to Load Balance DNS Server Search Order

Load Balance DNS Server Search Order

DNS servers need to be configured correctly, operate perfectly and respond as fast as possible to their clients. For some applications this is critical, but many have a more relaxed attitude. Hence a DNS Server has a full second to respond to a query. That means that even when you have 2 DNS servers configured on the clients the second will only be used when the first is not available or doesn’t respond quickly enough. This has a side effect which is that moving traffic away from an overloaded DNS servers isn’t that easy or optimal. We’ll look at when to use a PowerShell script to Load balance DNS server search order.

DHCP now and then

The trick here is to balance the possible DNS servers search order amongst the clients. We used to do this via split scopes and use different DNS servers search orders in each scope. When we got Windows server 2012(R2) we not only gained policies to take care of this but also DHCP failover with replica. That’s awesome as it relieves us of much of the tedious work of keeping track of maintaining split scopes and different options on all DCHP servers involved. For more information in using the MAC addresses and DCHP policies to load balance the use of your DNS servers read this TechNet article Load balancing DNS servers using DHCP Server Policies.

Fixed IP configurations

But what about servers with fixed IP addresses? Indeed, the dream world where we’ll see dynamically assigned IP configuration everywhere is a good one but perfection is not of this world. Fixed IP configurations are still very common and often for good reasons. Some turn to DCHP reservations to achieve this but many go for static IP configuration on the servers.

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When that’s the case, our sys admins are told the DNS servers to use. Most of the time they’ll enter those in the same order over and over again, whether they do this manual or automated. So that means that the first and second DNS server in the search order are the same everywhere. No load balancing to be found. So potentially one DNS server is doing all the work and getting slower at it while the second or third DNS servers in the search order only help out when the first one is down or doesn’t respond quickly enough anymore. Not good. When you consider many (most?) used AD integrated DNS for their MSFT environments that’s even less good.

PowerShell Script to Load Balance DNS Server Search Order

That’s why when replacing DNS Servers or seeing response time issues on AD/DNS servers I balance the DNS server search order list. I do this based on their IP address its last octet. If that’s even, DNS Server A is the first in the search order and if not it’s DNS Server B that goes in first. That mixes them up pseudo random enough.

I use a PowerShell script for that nowadays instead of my age-old VBScript one. But recently I wanted to update it to no longer use WMI calls to get the job done. That’s the script I’m sharing here, or at least the core cons pet part of it, you’ll need to turn it into a module and parameterize if further to suit your needs. The main idea is here offering an alternative to WMI calls. Do note you’ll need PowerShell remoting enabled and configured and have the more recent Windows OS versions (Windows Server 2012 and up).

cls
#The transcipt provides a log to check what was found and what changed.
Start-Transcript -Path C:\SysAdmin\MyDNSUpdateLog.txt #
$VMsOnHost = (Get-VM -ComputerName MyHyperVHostorClusterName).Name

foreach ($VM in $VMsOnHost)
{
    Invoke-Command -ComputerName $VM -ScriptBlock {

    #This function checks if the last octet of an IP address is even or not
    Function IsLastOctetEven ($IPAddress)
        {
             #$FirstIP
             $Octets = $IPAddress.Split(".")
             #$Octets[3] #0 based array, grab 4th octet

             #See if 4th octect is even
             $Boolean = [bool]!($Octets[3]%2)
             if ($Boolean)
             {
                 Return $Boolean
                 #write-host "even"
             }
             else
             {
                 Return $Boolean
                 #write-host "odd"
             }
        }

        $OldDns1 = "10.15.200.10"
        $OldDns2 = "10.15.200.11"
        $NewDns1 = "10.18.50.110"
        $NewDns2 = "10.18.50.120"

        $NicInterfaces = Get-DnsClientServerAddress

        foreach ($NICinterface in $NicInterfaces)
        {
                #Here we filter out all interfaces that are not used for client/server connectivity.
                #Cluster Interfaces, HeartBeats, Loop back adapters, ...
                #We also filter out IPv6 here as this is for a IVp4 environment.
             if($NicInterface.InterfaceAlias -notmatch "isatap" -and $NicInterface.InterfaceAlias -notmatch "Pseudo" `
                -and $NicInterface.InterfaceAlias.Contains("Local Area Connection*") -ne $True `
                -and $NicInterface.InterfaceAlias.Contains("KEMP-DSR-LOOPBACK") -ne $True `
                -and $NicInterface.InterfaceAlias.ToLower().Contains("Heartbeat".Tolower()) -ne $True `
                -and $NicInterface.InterfaceAlias.Contains("NLB-PRIVATE") -ne $True-and $NicInterface.AddressFamily -ne "23")
             {

                $Output = "Hello from  $env:computername" + $NICinterface.InterfaceAlias
                write-Output $Output            
           
                $Output = $NicInterface.InterfaceAlias +": DNS1=" + $NicInterface.ServerAddresses.GetValue(0) + " & DNS2=" +  $NicInterface.ServerAddresses.GetValue(1)
                write-Output $Output

                If (($NicInterface.ServerAddresses.GetValue(0) -like $OldDns1 -or $NicInterface.ServerAddresses.getvalue(0) -like $OldDns2) -and ($NicInterface.ServerAddresses.getvalue(1) -like $oldDns1 -or $NicInterface.ServerAddresses.getvalue(1) -like $OldDns2))
                {
                    #If the IP address is DHCP assignd, leave it alone,
                    #that's handled via DHCP policies on the MAC address
                    $GetNetIPInfo = Get-NetIpAddress -InterfaceIndex  $NicInterface.InterfaceIndex
                     if ($GetNetIPInfo.PrefixOrigin -like "DHCP")
                     {
                        $VM                   
                        write-output "DHCP address - leave it alone"
                     }
                     Else
                     {
                         $IPAddresses = $GetNetIPInfo.IPv4Address
                         $FirstIP = $IPAddresses[1] #1 based array
                 
                         if (IsLastOctetEven($FirstIP)){
                            $VM
                            write-output "EVEN 4th IP octet => so DNS search order becomes $NewDns1 , $NewDns2"
                            Set-DnsClientServerAddress -InterfaceIndex $NicInterface.InterfaceIndex -ServerAddresses ($NewDns1,$NewDns2)
                         }
                         else
                         {   
                            $VM
                            write-Output "ODD 4th IP octet => so DNS search order becomes $NewDns2 , $NewDns1"
                            Set-DnsClientServerAddress -InterfaceIndex $NicInterface.InterfaceIndex -ServerAddresses ($NewDns2, $NewDns1)
                         } 
                         $NicInterface |  Select-Object -ExpandProperty ServerAddresses    
                     }
                }
                else
                {
                    $VM
                    write-Output "Existing DNS values not like expected old values. They are propably already changed"
                }        
            }
        }
    }
}
Stop-Transcript