For Whom The Bell Tolls At Microsoft Ignite 2015

Microsoft sure knows how to keep the pressure on the storage industry. Both the traditional and the hyper converged crowd now have heard the gloomy tolling of that big doomsday bell once again. The offerings for 3rd party storage in the Wintel ecosystem will have to become better value for money once again in order to keep up or stay ahead.

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I already wrote that here in TechEd 2013 Revelations for Storage Vendors as the Future of Storage lies With Windows 2012 R2 and poked some fun that the days of the easy big money in storage were over. Today storage vendors that do not adapt are going to feel that more than ever. One thing is for sure, there is no one size fits all and one trick ponies are not going to thrive.  Microsoft now covers hyper converged, converged and centralized storage solutions. SMB Direct is the backbone for high throughput, low latency transport. If you haven’t done so you might just take a peek at SMB Direct now and study up on DCB (PFC/ETS). No worries … I have done a lot of “pioneer” work in the field on this. But unfortunately I could not present an end-to-end configuration of SMB Direct over RoCE session here at Ignite. But there are other opportunities.Storage replication completes the story while Storage QoS is giving is long needed control. So let the FUD fly, sit back and enjoy the show. Remember, when you’re catching lots of FLAK, you’re over your target Winking smile

REFS Is Going Places At Microsoft Ignite 2015

I just loved the strengths of ReFS when I started looking into them when it was first announced. However it has been a bit quiet around ReFS due to some limitations or support issues.

But we’re seeing progress again and it seems that ReFS will be taken on a bigger role, even as the preferred file system for certain use cases. This is awesome. We’ll get the benefits REFS brings for less expensive types of disks in combination with storage spaces which are quite good already:

  • Integrity: ReFS stores data so that it is protected from many of the common errors that can cause data loss. File system metadata is always protected. Optionally, user data can be protected on a per-volume, per-directory, or per-file basis. If corruption occurs, ReFS can detect and, when configured with Storage Spaces, automatically correct the corruption. In the event of a system error, ReFS is designed to recover from that error rapidly, with no loss of user data.
  • Availability: ReFS is designed to prioritize the availability of data. With ReFS, if corruption occurs, and it cannot be repaired automatically, the online salvage process is localized to the area of corruption, requiring no volume down-time. In short, if corruption occurs, ReFS will stay online.
  • Scalability: ReFS is designed for the data set sizes of today and the data set sizes of tomorrow; it’s optimized for high scalability.
  • App Compatibility: To maximize AppCompat, ReFS supports a subset of NTFS features plus Win32 APIs that are widely adopted.
  • Proactive Error Identification: The integrity capabilities of ReFS are leveraged by a data integrity scanner (a “scrubber”) that periodically scans the volume, attempts to identify latent corruption, and then proactively triggers a repair of that corrupt data.

But, there’s more as ReFS has been improved and those improvements qualify it as the best default choice for a file system on Storage Spaces Direct (SSDi or D2S). What they have done to make it fast for certain data operations (VM creation, resizing, merges, snapshots) can only be described as “ODX” like. We’re getting speed, scalability, auto repair, high availability and data protection in a budget friendly storage. What’s not to like. There are many uses cases now where the need and benefits are clear but the economics worked against us. Well that’s about to be solved with the new and improved storage offerings in Windows Server 2016. I’m looking forward to more information on the evolution of ReFS as it matures as a file systems and take its place in on the front stage over the years. If you haven’t yet, I suggest you start looking at ReFS (again). I’ll be watching to see how far they take this.

Veeam FastSCP for Microsoft Azure IAAS went in to Beta

VEEAM is also keeping us on our toes here at Ignite in Chicago. They just publicly announced the beta of a new free tool that looks extremely handy, VEEAM FastSCP. It’s a tool that enables you to copy files in and out of Azure virtual machines without the need for a VPN. People who have been working with IAAS in Azure for labs or production known that sometimes even benign tasks on premises can be a bit convoluted in the cloud without a VPN or Express Route to Azure.

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Until today our options without a VPN (to leverage file shares / SMB) are to use either RDP which gives us 2 options:

  1. Direct copy/paste (limited to 2GB)
  2. Mapped local drives in your VM

or leverage the portability of a VHD.

So why is VEEAM FastSCP a big deal? Well the virtual hard disk method is painstakingly tedious. Putting data into a VHD and moving that around to get data in and out of a virtual machine is a nice workaround but hardly a great solution. It works and can be automated with PowerShell but you only do it because you have no other choice.

The first RDP method (copy/paste) is fast and easy but it lacks ease of automation and it’s a bit silly to launch an RDP session to copy files. It also has a file size limit of 2GB. Anything bigger will just throw you an error.

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Another option is to leverage your mapped local disks in the VM but that’s not a great option for automation either.

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Sure you could start running FTPS or SFTP servers in all your VMs but that’s borderline silly as well.

VEEAM FastSCP for Microsoft Azure

VEEAM is offering this tools as a quick, secure and easy tool to copy files in and out of Azure virtual machines without the need for a VPN or turning your virtual machine into a free target to bad people in the world. Do note this is not meant for blob storage or anything else but an Azure virtual machine. Plenty of tools to go around for blob storage already.

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The tool connects to the PowerShell endpoint port of your public IP address. No VPN, 3rd party tool or encryption required, it’s all self-contained. Inside the VM it’s based on winrm.

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This will not interfere with your normal RDP or PowerShell sessions at all, so no worries there. When using this tool there is also no file size limit to worry about like with copy/paste over RDP.

Via the GUI you connect to the Virtual Machine with your credentials. After that you can browse the file system of that VM and copy data in and out. All of this is secured over SSL.

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A nice thing is that you don’t need to keep the GUI open after you’ve started the copy just close it and things will get done. No babysitting required.

It’s all wizard driven so it’s very easy and to top it all off you can schedule jobs making it a perfect little automation tool bypassing the limitations we’re facing right now.

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Some use cases

Any one who has an IAAS lab in Azure will appreciate this tool I think. It’s quick and easy to get files in and out of your VMs and you can schedule this.

Backups. I create a backup of my WordPress blog and the MySQL database regularly to file. While these are protected in the cloud themselves I love backup in depth and have extra option incase plan A fails. Using the build in scheduler I can now easily download a copy of those files just in case Azure goes south longer than I care to suffer. Having an off-cloud copy is just another option to have when Murphy comes knocking.

This is another valuable tool in my toolkit courtesy of VEEAM and all I can say is: thank you! To get it you can register here and download the Beta bits.

Microsoft Ignite Here I Come

Ignite is coming closer and I’m to Chicago soon to attend. I’ll be focusing on a couple of things. One of them is vNext, that means Hyper-V and everything that’s related the network and the storage stack.  The other is Azure and anything related to the above mentioned stack as well as identity/security.

That should be sufficient to keep me busy as next to that I’ll be having meetings with the Microsoft product groups and various vendors/partner on their offerings and plans.

The remaining time will be allocated to networking and talking shop with the international community. I’m looking forward to meet up with so many buddies from across the globe and dive into our beloved subjects. I you read my blog, follow me on twitter and you’re there, let me know. We can meet and greet!

Ignite

So let’s ignite the future of technology and prepare for our future as well. Remember, it’s you who needs to invest in yourself and your career. Employee, independent consultant or civil servant, it doesn’t matter, while helping others succeed, keep working on your own life long education and future.

But before I’m in Chicago I need to travel there, so we’ll hop onto one of those nice Boeings for a long haul flight across the big pond.  See you there!

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