Windows Server 2012 Bits Available for Download for Volume Licensing Customers

A long awaited day has arrived. The bits of Windows Server 2012 RTM are available to us. Ever since the BUILD conference in September 2011 a lot of us have been diving into this version with enthusiasm and amazement for what’s in the product. As a matter of fact I’ve “sold” projects based on Windows Server 2012 internally since October 2011 because we were that impressed with what we saw.

  • Grab the bits on the Microsoft Volume Licensing site (from August 16th onwards). I whish I could tell you it’s also on TechNet or MSDN but no joy there so far.

So we’ve been pouring over the product and the information available, gradually gaining a better understanding of what it can do for us and our businesses. That meant building labs, testing scenarios, presenting on the subject at various occasions.  There was also a lot of thinking, dreaming and discussing ideas and options about what we can do this version of Windows. It has been very busy for the past 11 months but I’m also very happy to have had the opportunity to attend several summits and conferences where I met up with colleague, fellow MVPs, MSFT employees who all shared the enthusiasm for this release and what it means for Hyper-V and the Private/Hybrid Cloud.

 

So to all of them, ladies & gentlemen, my on line community buddies form all over this planet, it’s been a blast Smile. They have been very helpful in all this as have been al the Microsoft employees who’ve answered and discussed all the questions/ideas we threw at them. I would like to thank all of them for their time, their patience and the opportunities given to us. I can offer those guys & galls just one reward: the fact that from day one we are taking this in production and gradually will do so for all our infrastructure systems and so on. It’s a no brainer when you’ve worked with the RC and seen what Windows Server 2012 can do. And no, I’m not forgetting Windows 8. SMB 3.0 & Direct Access and Windows to go alone make that a sweet proposition, but I got those bits already.

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Well, the downloads are running and the installation of our first production Hyper-V Cluster and infrastructure servers can start as soon as that’s finished (we’ll lead Brad, we’ll lead Winking smile). After some initial tests these will be taken into service and that last feedback will provide us with the go or no go for the rest of our infrastructure. The speed & completeness of our move depends partially on how fast System Center 2012 SP1 brings support for Windows Server 2012.

So future blog posts and my next presentations will spiced with some real life production experience with the RTM bits. May all your roll outs be smooth ones!

Experience Days by TechNet BeLux

As a Microsoft MEET member and MVP, I’d like to invite you all to attend the Microsoft “Experience Days”.

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There are several tracks at the Experience Days from which you can choose. The complete track information can be found at here.

There are two tracks that are especially of interest to IP Pros: The Best of Microsoft Management Summit (MMS 2012) and Experience Windows Server 2012.

The Best of Microsoft Management Summit (MMS 2012)

During The Best of Microsoft Management Summit (MMS 2012), we will provide you with the best possible opportunity to learn about what’s new in System Center 2012. Led by experts who attended MMS 2012 in Las Vegas, you can expect in-depth sessions on infrastructure management, service delivery & automation, application management, desktop & device management.
Discover the full program

Experience Windows Server 2012

At Experience Windows Server 2012 day you will discover how Windows Server is going beyond virtualization by scaling and securing workload, how it will enable the modern work style by giving people access to information and data regardless of the infrastructure, network, device or application they use to access it. And you will discover the power of many servers with the simplicity of one by efficiently managing infrastructure while maximizing uptime and minimizing failures and downtime.

Join us and learn more about:

  • New Hyper-V Virtualization Platform
  • What’s new in Active Directory
  • Storage and Management Improvements
  • Clustering Improvements
  • Plus much more…   

    Discover the full program

    Hyper-V

    I’ll be talking on June 7th at 15:00 – 16:00 about Windows Server 2012 Storage Evolved For Hyper-V in the Experience Windows Server 2012 track:

    Windows Server 2012 is a very storage centric version. We’ll cover the changes, improvements and additions to Windows Server 2012 storage capabilities and their impact on Hyper-V. We talk about the enhancements with the new virtual disk format (VHDX), offloaded data transfer (ODX), TRIM/UNMAP, large sector disks and the new storage options for Hyper-V including Storage Spaces, ReFS, Bitlocker, CSV 2.0, NTFS online scan/repair and SMB 3.0 file storage and what the latter means for Live Migration & Storage Options for Hyper-V

    Virtualization with Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V is simply the best, bar none. If you watched Brad Anderson’s MMS 2012 Keynotes you know what’s coming and that he encouraged you to take the lead in all this. Well here’s you chance. If you agree that there is war on for talent, you also know and understand that knowledge will give you opportunities and choices. Invest in your future and as such in addressing and solving the business needs of your both clients and businesses. We all know it takes a serious effort in combination with a sustained commitment to become and stay competent in ICT. The TechNet BeLux team & the community is there to help you cultivate your talent and gain the knowledge you need.

     
  • The Private Cloud A Profitable Future Proofing Tactic?

    The Current Situation

    I’m reading up on the private cloud concept as Microsoft envisions we’ll be able to build ‘m with the suite of System Center 2012 products. The definition of private cloud is something that’s very flexible. But whether we’re talking about the private, hybrid or public cloud there is a point of disagreement between some on the fact that there are people that don’t see self-service (via a portal, with or without an approval process) as a required element to define a *cloud. I have to agree with Aidan Finn on this one. It’s a requirement. I know you could stretch the concept and that you could build  a private cloud to help IT serve it customers but the idea is that customers can and will do it themselves.

    The more I look into system center 2012 and it’s advertised ability to provide private clouds the more I like it. Whilst the current generation has some really nice features I have found it lacking in many areas, especially when you start to cross security boundaries and still integrate the various members of the System Center suite. So the advancements there are very welcome. But there is a danger lurking in the shadows of it all. Complexity combined with the amount of products needed. In this business things need to go fast without sacrificing or compromising on any other thing. If you can’t do that, there is an issue. The answer to these issues is not always to go to the public cloud a hundred percent.

    While the entire concept might seem very clear us techies (i.e. still lots of confusion to be found) and the entire business crowd is talking about cloud as if it’s a magic potion that will cure all IT related issues (i.e. they are beyond confused, they are lost) there are still a lot of questions. Even when you have the business grasping the concept (which is great) and have an IT team that’s all eager and wiling to implement it (which is fabulous) things are still not that clear on how to start building and/or using one.

    In reality some businesses haven’t even stepped into the virtual era yet or only partially at best. Some people are a bit stuck in the past and still want to buy servers and applications with THEIR money that THEY own and is ONLY for them.  Don’t fight that to much The economics of virtualization are so good (not just financially but also in both flexibility & capabilities) that you can sell it to top management rather easily, no matter what. After that approval just sell the business units servers (that are virtual machines), deliver whatever SLA they want to pay for and be done with it. So that problem is easily solved.

    But that’s not a cloud yet. Now that I’m thinking of it, perhaps getting businesses to adopt the concept will be the  hardest. You might not think so by reading about private clouds in the media but I have encountered a lot of skepticism and downright hostility towards the concept. No, it’s not just by some weary IT Pros who are afraid to lose their jobs. Sometimes the show stoppers are the business and users that won’t have any of it. They don’t want to order apps or servers on line, they want then delivered for them. I even see this with the younger workforce when the corporate culture is not very helpful. What ‘s up here? Responsibility. People are avoiding it and it shows in their behavior. As long as they want to take responsibility things go well. If not, technical fear masked as “complexity” or issues like “that’s not our job” suddenly appear.

    There is more, a lot of people seems at their limit of what they can handle in information overload at every extra effort is too much.  Sometimes it’s because of laziness or perhaps even stupidity? Perhaps it’s a side effect of what Nicolas Carr writes about the: the internet is making us dumber and dumber as a species. But then again, we only have to look at history to learn that, perhaps, we’ve never been that smart. Sure we have achieved amazing things but that doesn’t mean we don’t act incredibly stupid as individuals or as a group. So perhaps things haven’t changed that much. It’s a bit like the “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” sort of thing. But on the other hand things are often too complex. When things are easy and become an aid in their work people adopt technology fast and happily.

    Sometimes the scale of the business is not of that nature that it’s worthwhile top deploy a cloud. The effort and cost versus the use and benefits are totally out of sync.

    That’s all nice and well you tell me, but what’s are technologists to advice to their customers?

    Fire & Maneuver

    The answer is in the sub title. You can’t stand still and do nothing. It will get you killed (business is warfare with gloves on and some other niceties). Now that’s all good to know but how do we keep moving forward and scoring? There will always be obstacles, risks, fears etc. but we can’t get immobilized by them or we come to a standstill, which means falling behind. The answer is quite simple. Keep moving forward.  But how? Do what you need to do. Here’s my approach. Build a private cloud. Use it to optimize IT and to be ready to make use of * clouds at every opportunity. And to put your mind at ease you can do this without spending vast amounts of money that gets wasted. Just provide some scale up and scale out capacity & capability. The capability is free if you do it right. The capacity will cost you some money. But that’s your buffer to keep things moving smoothly. Done right your CAPEX will be less than not doing this. How can this be?

    Private Clouds enable Hybrid Clouds

    The thing that I like most about the private cloud is that it enables the use of hybrid cloud computing. On the whole and in the long run hybrid clouds might be a transition to public cloud but as I’ve written before, there are scenarios where the hybrid approach will remain. This might not be the case for the majority of businesses but still I foresee a more permanent role for hybrid clouds for a longer time that most trendy publications seem to indicate. I have no crystal ball but if hybrid cloud computing does remain a long term approach to server computing needs we night well see more and better tools to manage this in the years to come. Cloud vendors who enable and facilitate this approach will have a competitive advantage. The only thing you need to keep I mind that private or cloud computing should not bee seen as replacements or alternatives for the public cloud. They don’t have the elasticity, scale and economics of a public cloud. They are however complementary. As such they enable and facilitate the management and consumption of IT services that have to remain on premises for whatever reason.

    Selling The Public Cloud

    Where private cloud might help businesses who are cloud shy warm up to the concept, I think the hybrid cloud in combination with integrated and easy management will help them make the jump to using public cloud services faster. That’s the reason this concept will get the care and attention of cloud vendors. It’s a stepping stone for the consumption of their core business (cloud computing) that they are selling to businesses.

    What’s in it for the business that builds one?

    But why would a business I advise buy into this? Well a private cloud (even if used without the self-service component) is Dynamic Systems Initiative (SDI) / Dynamic Data Center on steroids. And as such it delivers efficiency gains and savings right now even if you never go hybrid or public. I’m an avid supported of this concept but it was not easy to achieve for several reasons, one of them being that the technologies used missed some capabilities we need. And guess what, the tools being delivered for the private could can/could fill those voids. By the way, I was in the room at IT Forum 2004 when Bill Gates came to explain the concept and launch that initiative. The demo back then was deploying hundreds of physical PCs. Times have changed indeed! But back to selling the private cloud. Building a private cloud means you’ll be running a topnotch infrastructure ready for anything. Future proofing your designs at no extra cost and with immediate benefits is to good to ignore for any manager/CTO/CIO. The economics are just too good. If you do it for the right reason that is, meaning you can’t serve all your needs in the public cloud as of yet. So go build that private cloud and don’t get discouraged by the fact that it won’t be a definition example of the concept, as long as it delivers real value to the business you’ll be just fine. It doesn’t guarantee your business survival but it will not be for your lack of trying. The inertia some businesses in a very competitive world are displaying makes them look like rabbits trapped in the beams of the car lights. Not to mention government administrations. We no longer seem to have the stability or rather slowness of change needed to function effectively. Perhaps this has always been the case. I don’t know. We’ve never before in history had such a long period of peace & prosperity for such a broad section of the population. So how to maintain this long term is new challenge by itself.

    Danger Ahead!

    As mentioned above, if there is one thing that can ruin this party it’s is complexity. I’m more convinced of this than ever before. I’ve been talking to some really smart people in the industry over the weekend and everyone seems to agree on that one. So if I can offer some advice to any provider of tools to build a private cloud.  Minimize complexity and the amount of tools needed to get it set up and working. Make sure that if you need multiple building blocks and tools the integration of them is top notch and second to none. Provide clear guidance and make sure it is really as easy to set up, maintain and adapt as it should be. If not businesses are going to get a bloody nose and IT Pros will choose other solutions to get things done.

    Hyper-V Is Right Up There In Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for x86 Server Virtualization Infrastructure

    So how do you like THEM apples? 

    Well take a look at this people, Gartner published the following on June 30th Magic Quadrant for x86 Server Virtualization Infrastructure

    A-Hyper-V-GartnerQuadrant

    Figure 1: Magic Quadrant for x86 Server Virtualization Infrastructure (Source: Gartner 2011)

    That’s not a bad spot if you ask me. And before the “they paid there way up there” remarks flow in, Gartner works how Gartner works and it works like that for everyone (read” the other vendors” on there) so that remark could fly right back into your face if you’re not careful. To get there in 3 years time is not a bad track record. And if you believe some of the people out there this can’t be true. Now knowing that they only had Virtual Server to offer before Hyper-V was available and I was not using that anywhere. No, not even for non critical production an testing as the lack of X64 bit VM support made it a “no go” product for me. So the success if Hyper-V is quite an achievement. But back in 2008, I did go with Hyper-V as a high available virtualization solution, after having tested and evaluated it during the Beta & Release Candidate time frame. Some people thought I was making a mistake.

    But the features in Hyper-V were  “good enough” for most needs I needed to deal with and yes I knew VMware had a richer offering and was proven technology, something people never forget to mention that to me for some reason. I guess they wanted to make sure I hadn’t been living under a rock the last couple of years. They never mentioned the cost and some trends however or looked at the customers real needs. Hyper-V was a lot better than what most environments I had to serve had running at the time. In 2008 those people I needed to help were using VMware Server or Virtual Server. Both were/are free but for anything more than lightweight applications on the “not that important” list they are not suitable. If you’re going to do virtualization structurally you need high availability to avoid the risks associated with putting all your eggs in one basket. However as you might have guessed these people did not use ESX. Why? In all honesty, the cost associated.

    In the 2005-2007 time frame servers where not yet at the cost/performance ratio spent they reached in 2008 and far cry from where they are now. Those organizations didn’t do server virtualization because from the cost perspective in both licensing fees for functionality and hardware procurement. It just didn’t fit in yet.  The hardware cost barrier had come down and now with Hyper-V 1.0 we got a hyper visor that we knew could deliver something that was good enough to get the job done at a cost they could cover. We also knew that Live Migration and Dynamic Memory were in the pipe lines and the product would only become better. Having tested Hyper-V I knew I had a technology to work with at a very reasonable price (or even for free) and that included high availability.  Combine this with the notion at the time that hyper visors are becoming commodities and that people are announcing the era of the cloud. Where do you think the money needs to go? Management & Applications. Where did Microsoft help with that? The System Center suite. System Center Virtual Machine Manager and Operations Manager. Are those perfect at their current incarnations? Nope. But have you looked at SCVMM 2012 Beta? Do you follow the buzz around Hyper-V 3.0 or vNext? Take a peak and you know where this is going. Think private & hybrid cloud. The beef with the MS stack lies in the hyper visor & management combination. Management tools and integration capability  to help with application delivery and hence with the delivery of services to the business. Even if you have no desire or need for the public cloud, do take a look. Having a private cloud capability enhances your internal service delivery. Think of it as “Dynamic IT on Steroids”. Having a private cloud is a prerequisite for having a Hybrid cloud, which aids in the use of the public cloud when that time comes for your organization. And if never, no problem, you have gotten the best internal environment possible, no money or time lost. See  my blog for more Private Clouds, Hybrid Clouds & Public Clouds musings on this.

    Is Hyper-V and System Center the perfect solution for everyone in every case? No sir.  No single product or product stack can be everything to everyone. The entire VMware versus Hyper-V mud slinging contests are at best amusing when you have the time and are in the mood for it. Most of the time I’m not playing that game. The consultants answer is correct: “It depends”. And very few people know all virtualization products very well and have equal experience with them. But when you’re looking to use virtualization to carry your business into the future you should have a look at the Microsoft stack and see if can help you. True objectivity is very hard. We all have our preferences and monetary incentives and there are always those who’ll take it to extreme levels. There are still people out there claiming you need to reboot a Windows server daily and have BSODs all over the place. If that is really the case they should not be blaming technology. If the technology was that bad they would not need to try and convince people not to use it, they would run away from it by themselves and I would be asking you if you want fries with your burger. Things go “boink” sometimes with any technology, really, you’d think it was created by humans, go figure. At BriForum 2011 in London this year it was confirmed that more and more we’re seeing multi hyper visors in use with large to medium organizations. That means there is a need for different solutions in different areas and that Hyper-V was doing particular well in green field scenarios.

    Am I happy with the choices I made? Yes. We’re getting ready  to do some more Hyper-V projects and those plans even include SCVMM 2012 & SCOM 2012 together with and upgrade path to Hyper-V vNext. I mailed the Gartner link to my manager, pointing out my obstinate choice back then turned out rather well Winking smile.