Server management and automation with Windows Server 2012 R2

Datacenter infrastructure has become complex: Multiple industry standards are confusing hardware vendors, and customers are looking for guidance on how to best automate their datacenter while adopting a standards-based management approach supporting their multi-vendor investments. Windows Server 2012 R2 enables IT professionals to meet this need by offering an integrated platform to automate and manage the increasing datacenter ecosystem. Windows Server 2012 R2 delivers capabilities to manage many servers and the devices connecting them, whether they are physical or virtual, on-premises or in the cloud.

Standards-based management

Windows Server 2012 R2 enhances the manageability of datacenters through significant improvements in the standards-based infrastructure. It does this by delivering application programming interfaces (APIs) that are easier for developers and IT Pros to use. These APIs provide support for recent standards and add new kinds of Windows PowerShell commands (cmdlets) that make it simpler and more cost-effective to connect to and manage multiple servers and devices in the datacenter.

WMI is a standard Common Information Model Object Manager (CIMOM) that hosts many standard class providers; however, early on, there was not an interoperable management protocol, so WMI used the Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM). This made it an “island of management” for Windows managing Windows.

This situation changed with the DMTF’s definition and approval of WS-Man, a SOAP-based, firewall-friendly protocol that allows a client on any operating system to invoke operations on a standards-compliant CIMOM running on any platform. Microsoft shipped the first partial implementation of WS-Man in Windows Server 2003 and named it Windows Remote Management (WinRM).

Since Windows Server 2012, WinRM has become the default protocol for management. This provides interoperability with a number of CIMOM and WS-Man stacks available on other platforms, including Openwsman (Perl, Python, Java, and Ruby Bindings), Wiseman, and OpenPegasus.

Simplified multi-server management

Since Windows Server 2012, the capabilities of Server Manager have expanded considerably to facilitate multi-server tasks, such as remote role and feature deployment to both physical and virtual servers, remote role and feature management, and custom server group creation.

By using Server Manager in Windows Server 2012 R2, you can provision servers and offline virtual hard disks from your desktop without requiring either physical access to the system or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connections to each server. Server Manager also helps administrators manage groups of servers collectively from a single, integrated console, allowing them respond to business-critical problems with greater speed and agility.

Robust automation

Windows PowerShell offers comprehensive, resilient, and simple automation of your Windows Servers to help you manage most server roles and aspects of the datacenter. PowerShell sessions to remote servers are resilient and can withstand various types of interruptions. In addition, learning Windows PowerShell has become much easier than ever through improved cmdlet discovery, simplified, consistent syntax across all cmdlets and an integrated scripting environment. In Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows PowerShell 4.0 delivers over 3,000 cmdlets to enable you to manage server roles and automate management tasks quickly.

You can also execute and monitor scripts more efficiently through more robust session connectivity, workflow capabilities, enhanced job scheduling, and Windows PowerShell Web Access. Last not least, you can write Windows PowerShell scripts more quickly and intuitively through the built-in Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE) that enables script sharing, which connects IT Professionals to a larger Windows PowerShell user community.

In addition to the enhanced functionality of Windows PowerShell, you can also rely on new management capabilities in Windows Server 2012 R2 for deploying resources in a repeatable, reliable and standardized manner.

For example, Desired State Configuration provides the ability to help standardize deployments by enabling you to ensure that the components of your datacenter have the correct configuration. To that effect, Windows Server 2012 R2 has PowerShell language extensions and providers which enable declarative, autonomous and repeatable deployment, configuration and conformance of standards-based managed elements. This provides the ability to define the exact configuration of target nodes (computers or devices) and prevent “configuration drift”, thereby providing stable, reliable, standardized deployments.

 

Cheers,


Marcos Nogueira
http://blog.marcosnogueira.org
Twitter: @mdnoga

System Center 2012 R2 Infrastructure overview

The notion of infrastructure provisioning is about enabling enterprises and service providers to provision physical, virtual, and cloud infrastructure that meets key requirements such as workload scale and performance, multi-tenancy, and chargeback.

Enterprise-class performance

When virtualizing top-tier applications, you need a virtualization platform and virtualization management solution that can provide the necessary scale and performance to meet your business requirements. Many virtualization efforts do not realize their full potential; in many instances, it is due to the lack of adequate datacenter management which can lead to uncontrolled VM sprawl. Simultaneously, the datacenter management solution has to be flexible enough so it builds on your existing infrastructure investments. For example, applications might be deployed on physical servers and consuming SAN-based storage. Also, most customers have to support a diverse datacenter infrastructure environment to deliver on the requirements of their application counterparts.

System Center 2012 R2 delivers best-in-class management for Windows Server environments by supporting the scale and performance delivered by Windows Server 2012 R2. In this context, customers should note that Microsoft is slated to deliver System Center 2012 R2 simultaneously with Windows Server 2012 R2 so that you can plan your infrastructure deployments with the confidence and knowledge that System Center will enable them to take maximum advantage of native platform capabilities. The Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) component of System Center 2012 R2 plays a critical role in enabling virtualization-management scale – for instance, a single VMM server can support up to 1,000 hosts and up to 25,000 virtual machines. As another example, VMM enables Dynamic Memory changes as well as snapshots of running VMs without downtime.

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To enable maximum flexibility and operational efficiency for customers, VMM enables storage management across a variety of storage approaches across file and block storage. For who have invested in block-based storage like SAN, VMM supports VM connectivity to SANs through virtual fibre channel switches. This enables IT staff to virtualize the most demanding workloads and connect them directly to the highest tier storage platforms.

Microsoft developed System Center to provide robust support for heterogeneous datacenter management – Dynamic Memory support for Linux VMs being an example. In fact, approximately 25% of System Center instances deployed today also manage Linux operating environments.

Simplified provisioning and migration

As a next step, organizations should consider industry-standard server technologies as an alternative to specialty hardware technologies for big budget infrastructure spending like storage and disaster recovery. These technologies have advanced to the point where they offer many of the capabilities and the performance of specialty hardware, for a fraction of the price. To ensure that scarce IT staff can focus on strategic IT projects versus keeping the train running, they should continue to invest in automation technologies to ensure predictable deployments while mitigating chances of human error.

With Windows Server 2012, Microsoft delivered File and Storage Services (which included Storage Spaces), which is predicated on the use of industry-standard storage that’s completely managed by server software. These storage technologies are designed to provide availability, resiliency, and performance that would normally be expected from high-end hardware. With System Center 2012 R2, VMM supports at-scale management of these storage technologies – for instance, bare-metal provisioning of scale-out Windows File Server clusters, discovery of physical disks, and creation of virtualized storage pools.

To reduce time, effort and downtime required to upgrade from Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2 is slated to offer the ability to automatically upgrade Hyper-V clusters (based on Windows Server 2012) to Windows Server 2012 R2 using System Center. The VMM component has a cross-version migration capability that enables Hyper-V Live Migration of workloads from Windows Server 2012 hosts to Windows Server 2012 R2 hosts. Microsoft is also enabling faster deployments of System Center by providing service templates and runbooks for multiple components such as Service Manager, Data Protection Manager, and Operations Manager.

SCVMM also simplifies cross-datacenter disaster recovery of VM-based infrastructure services by providing the private cloud abstraction layer in the source and destination datacenters. This is enabled by System Center working in conjunction with Hyper-V Replica (for VM replication) and Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager (for automated recovery orchestration). Without this capability, we would be looking at alternatives like expensive SAN-based replication.

Finally, the Orchestrator component of System Center 2012 R2 continues to enable general purpose datacenter automation thereby driving consistency and predictability in provisioning processes like server deployment, patching, and upgrades.

Multitenant cloud infrastructure

As cloud computing adoption increases, large enterprises and hosters are looking to take their datacenter infrastructure to the next level of scale and efficiency and scale, with requirements such as multi-tenancy, bring-your-own-IP flexibility, chargeback, and infrastructure standardization. Many enterprises are also exploring showback and chargeback solutions to incentivize the right infrastructure consumption behaviours by their internal customers.

With System Center 2012, Microsoft enabled multi-hypervisor private clouds for enterprise IT to deliver infrastructure as a pool of automated resources and carve out datacenter capacity for use by their LOB counterparts. Building on that, System Center 2012 SP1 delivered support for multitenant environments (for service providers and large enterprises) through support for virtual networks and the ability to aggregate multiple instances of System Center infrastructure with the Service Provider Foundation (SPF) API.

Building on this strong foundation, System Center 2012 R2 strengthens Microsoft’s software-defined networking solution by enabling provisioning of multitenant edge gateways to bridge physical and virtual datacenters – this will enable flexible workload mobility in hybrid cloud computing models. System Center 2012 R2 enables chargeback for multitenant environments with granular infrastructure metering combined with the ability to do analytics on business and operational metrics. Customers can also take advantage of Cloud Cruiser (ISV, who is part of the Microsoft partner alliance) cost analytics for a more fully featured chargeback solution.

Extend System Center to provision Windows Azure infrastructure

System Center 2012 R2 provides a unified tool to provision and manage virtual machines into on-premises and Windows Azure environments, including easy workload portability without a need for format conversion. The App Controller component of System Center 2012 R2 enables migration of on-premises Hyper-V VMs into Windows Azure Virtual Machines. Once in Windows Azure, the Virtual Machine can be managed (including operations like start, stop) through the App Controller user interface.

The Orchestrator component of System Center 2012 R2 provides a Windows Azure Integration Pack for at-scale provisioning and management of Windows Azure Virtual Machines and Windows Azure Storage in an automated manner.

Cheers,


Marcos Nogueira
http://blog.marcosnogueira.org
Twitter: @mdnoga

Generation 2 Virtual Machine Overview

Virtual machine generation determines the virtual hardware and functionality presented to the virtual machine. In Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012 R2 there are two supported virtual machine generations, generation 1 and generation 2 virtual machines. Generation 2 virtual machines will be presented with a simplified virtual hardware model and supports Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) firmware instead of BIOS based firmware. Additionally the majority of emulated (legacy) devices have been removed from generation 2 virtual machines.

In previous versions of Hyper-V there is only one type of virtual machine type. Starting with Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview there are two types of virtual machines generations that can be selected when a new virtual machine is created.

  • Generation 1 – This virtual machine generation provides the same virtual hardware to the virtual machine as in previous versions of Hyper-V.
  • Generation 2 – This Virtual machine generation provides the following new functionality to a virtual machine:
      • Secure Boot (enabled by default)
      • Boot from a SCSI virtual hard drive
      • Boot from a SCSI virtual DVD drive
      • PXE boot using a standard network adapter
      • UEFI firmware support
      • IDE drives and legacy network adapter support has been removed

Requirements

The following guest operating systems are supported as generation 2 virtual machines.

  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview
  • 64 bit versions of Windows 8
  • 64 bit versions of Windows 8.1 Preview

NOTE: Once a virtual machine has been created, you cannot change its generation.

Generation 2 Virtual Machine Features

PXE boot using a standard network adapter – In previous versions of Hyper-V if you wanted to perform a remote installation of the guest operating system via PXE boot, you were required to install a legacy network adapter for PXE boot in addition to the standard network adapter that you would use after the operating system was installed.

Generation 2 virtual machines support PXE boot using a standard network adapter, so there is no need to install a legacy network adapter. The legacy network adapter has been removed from generation 2 virtual machines.

Boot from SCSI controller – In previous versions of Hyper-V you could not boot a virtual machine from a SCSI attached virtual hard disk or DVD drive.

Generation 2 virtual machines can boot from a virtual hard disk or DVD drive that is attached to the SCSI controller. The virtual IDE controller has been removed from generation 2 virtual machines.

Secure Boot – Secure Boot is a feature that helps prevent unauthorized firmware, operating systems, or UEFI drivers (also known as Option ROMs) from running at boot time. Generation 2 virtual machines can take advantage of Secure Boot.

Note: Secure Boot is enabled by default for generation 2 virtual machines. This can be modified after the virtual machine has been created.

With this new generation 2 virtual machine there some caveats. You can run generation 1 and generation 2 side by side, but generation 2 does not support all of the Hyper-V supported guest operating systems. For operating systems that are not supported by generation 2 virtual machines, they will need to be installed in a generation 1 virtual machine.

Regarding performance, in the day to day running of a virtual machine there is no performance difference between a generation 1 and generation 2 virtual machines. However in the following two scenarios there is a performance improvement when using generation 2 virtual machines.

  1. Virtual machine operating system boot time can be up to 20% faster with generation 2 virtual machines.
  2. Installing the guest operating system can be up to 50% faster with generation 2 virtual machines.

The major benefits of using generation 2 virtual machine are virtual machine can boot off a SCSI device or a standard network adapter and helps prevent unauthorized firmware, operating systems, or UEFI drivers (also known as Option ROMs) from running at boot time when Secure Boot is enabled.

Cheers,


Marcos Nogueira
http://blog.marcosnogueira.org
Twitter: @mdnoga

Free E-Books of different Microsoft Technologies.

Today I found, completely by accident I might add, a collection of free E-Book of different Microsoft Technologies.

They cover from IT PRO to Developer subjects. These E-Books are available in multiple formats (EPUB, MOBI and PDF) and in some cases in different languages. You can find the all collection here. And I did understand that they will update the list in regular basis. So bookmark the page to receive always the news E-Books.

Here are the E-Books that I definitely recommend:

System Center

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Windows Server

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Career

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Cheers,


Marcos Nogueira
http://blog.marcosnogueira.org
Twitter: @mdnoga

What’s new in System Center 2012 R2 – Virtual Machine Manager?

During the last TechEd North America, Microsoft wraps off what will be the new System Center 2012 R2. The upgrade follows the impressive number of new features on Windows Server 2012 R2 as well as improvements to existing capabilities in Windows Server 2012.

Here are some of the new and improved features related to System Center 2012 R2 – Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM):

Infrastructure improvements

  • Guest and host support for Windows 2012 R2
  • Auto-task resume after VMM server failover
  • Expanded scope for update management
  • Updated management packs:
    • Better integration with chargeback and reporting
    • Additional dashboards

Networking improvements

  • Site-to-site networking
  • IP Address Management (IPAM) integration
  • Simplified guest IP management
  • Top of rack switch integration
  • Making forwarding extensions for Hyper-V extensible switch work with Hyper-V network virtualization (Cisco 1KV and NVGRE)

Storage improvements

  • Synthetic fibre channel support
  • Management of zones
  • Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX) support
  • Shared VHDX support
  • Provision scale-out file server cluster from bare metal
  • Integration with differencing disks

Services improvements

  • Run scripts on first machine on a tier
  • Shared VHDx across members of a tier
  • Service Setting for Service Topology
  • Service deployments work for VMs on Xen

VM and cloud improvements

  • Differencing disks
  • Live cloning
  • Online VHDX resize
  • Grant permissions to users for each cloud
  • Ability to inject files into VM prior to the first boot

In my opinion one of the biggest news is the recommendation and best practices to have SCVMM on a VM on same virtualization platform that SCVMM is managing. This change a lot in your System Center design and infrastructure if you want to implement a High-Available and resilience System Center environment.

Cheers,


Marcos Nogueira
http://blog.marcosnogueira.org
Twitter: @mdnoga