Windows Server 2008 R2 & Windows 7 Service Pack 1


Windows Server 2008 R2 introduced many new features over and above Server 2008, and now we hear that Service Pack 1 (SP1) will extend that even further.

Memory Over Commit:

This feature, or rather the lack of it, caused quite a few comments from the VMWare side of the virtualization world as they had it and Hyper-V didn’t.

Basically it allows you to assign more RAM to your Virtual Machines than you physically have available for example:

A physical host with 4GB RAM

4 VM’s each allocated 2 GB RAM

So a total of 8GB assigned with only 4GB available…what the what?! How can this work?!

Although machines will crash if the physical memory isn’t available, it reality it’s very rare for machines to use anywhere near the amount of RAM they have. It does still carry risks though so it isn’t for everyone!

Remote FX

Do you remember when Microsoft bought Calista around the start of 2008? They were a startup who:

“set out to create technology that allows remote workers to enjoy the same rich user experience over a network as with a locally executing desktop”

This includes:

  • Full Fidelity Video
  • Silverlight Support
  • 3D Graphics
  • Windows Aero

Based on this technology, Microsoft are introducing “RemoteFX” with Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, although there are keen to point out that this is:

“not a new standalone product from Microsoft. Rather, it describes a set of RDP technologies – most prominently graphics virtualization and the use of advanced codes – that are being added”

This will allow remote users/VDI users to have an experience much closer to that of a full desktop PC.

One thing to note is that:

If you want to use RemoteFX with a Windows 7 VM, it must be running on Hyper-V…so no VMWare!

Microsoft have always very closely with Citrix and now it’s been announced that Citrix will be integrating RemoteFX into their XenDesktop and HDX products.

Microsoft & Virtual Licensing


Microsoft and virtual licensing is definitely a hot topic at the minute. In particular an article written by Paul DeGroot from Direction on Microsoft keeps being re-tweeted on Twitter by all manner of people. Personally, I think people are being a little short-sighted and thus not being quite fair to Microsoft-or the people they’re advising.

Reading this article by Bridget Botelho over at www.searchservervirtualization.com, the crux of it seems to be that Microsoft licensing

 “defeats the purpose of building a dynamic data center”

due to the rules around re-assigning Windows server licences. True, if you’re using Windows Server Std or even Enterprise licences, licence re-assignment has the potential to cause a few issues. However, the example used is of a datacenter…and MS have a product called “Windows Server DataCenter”-which is aimed at customer running a “proper” datacenter. The example DeGroot uses is:

"You might want to run an automated data center with rules like ‘Move a VM when the CPU hits 90%,’ but that move may violate the 90-day rule…”

What’s the problem?

Example A:

Say you are licensed for 3 VM’s on server A and 2 VM’s on server B. The above rule could potentially leave you with 2 VM’s on server A and 4 VM’s on server B. If you’re licensed with Windows Server Std-that would leave you incorrectly licensed.

Example B:

Say you are licensed for 3 VM’s on server A and 4 VM’s on server B. The above rule could potentially leave you with 2 VM’s on server A and 5 VM’s on server B. If you’re licensed with Windows Server Enterprise-that would leave you incorrectly licensed.

However, Windows Server Datacenter gives you unlimited virtual licensing rights-rendering the above examples moot.

Check out this great video explanation:

Other analysts join in:

Chris Wolf from Burton Group said at this year’s VMWorld that “one of the most important changes Microsoft needs to make is to remove the mobility restrictions associated with Standard Edition Windows Server OS licenses”. He goes on to say

“Most enterprises wind up purchasing Datacenter edition licenses as part of a virtualization project…”

and he says this as though it is a bad thing! He only seems to be looking at the upfront costs and basing it on the assumption that there are no benefits associated with Datacenter licensing other than being able to move VM’s around; in my experience that isn’t true.

If a customer were to use Standard licences to cover every VM in their datacenter, It would also slow down expansion as each time you need to deploy a new VM-what do you need to do…that’s right, go and order a new licence.

You urgently need to provision a new server to cope with extra load etc but you haven’t got a spare licence-the proper thing to do is wait until a licence has been ordered from your reseller and then deploy the VM. What will actually happen is that the VM will get deployed anyway and the licence will get ordered after the fact…leaving the company non-compliant but “hey-it’s only for 24 hours” will be the mentality.

Then, once people become familiar with that “process” they may well not bother reporting the new deployment as, let’s be fair, most techies aren’t up on the licensing rules and so might not even realise there’s anything to report. On top of that maybe people will simply forget to mention it or the Asset management guy is on holiday so they’ll tell him when he’s back…but a fortnight’s a long time and it never gets done.

Even with Software Asset Management monitoring is place, it will be a job to keep track of it and may well still lead to non-compliance.

Alternatively, you can purchase Datacenter edition and use as many VM’s as your servers can handle. These days ease of management, and thus a reduction in management costs, is a huge focus for most companies so while Datacenter is more expensive that Std (or Enterprise) it gives cost savings in many other areas.

Wolf also said:

“The leap to licensing per VM instead of per physical machines is going to take a lot of pressure on the company," Wolf said. "But keep holding them to the fire, because it is working."

To me it would seem that licensing per VM would be more expensive, more complicated and more fraught with potential pitfalls. I’d be interested to see what you think on this subject…

Technical Differences:

Also, on a slight side note, Windows Server Datacenter is much more technically suited to that environment with features such as:

  • Hot Add Processors
  • Hot Replace Memory
  • 64 X64 sockets (against 8 for Ent)

when compared to Enterprise and:

Failover cluster nodes

  • Cross File Replication
  • 2TB X64 RAM (against 32GB)
  • 64 X64 sockets (against 4)

when compared to Std.

See more comparisons here.

Impressions of VMWorld


As you may know, this week is VMWorld 2009, VMWare’s virtualization event for partners and customers. I’m not attending but I am following a great number of people on Twitter who are there and I have to say, it’s not doing VMWare much good in my eyes.

The first mark against them was the furore over the restrictions placed on Microsoft & Citrix. Yes-they’re competitors but:

  • Banning them from sponsoring the event
  • Restricting them to 10×10 booths
  • Stopping them from doing demo’s of their product
  • Stopping local hotels from renting conference rooms to them

just strikes me as childish and only serves to make VMWare look worse.

Now I’ll admit that I’m a big Microsoft fan and not much of a VMWare fan but I think even VMWare supporters must be having second thoughts 🙂

In one of the sessions today VMWare displayed a slide to demonstrate Microsoft driver crashes but the slide was 3 years old, and the data was 4 years old!

This attitude of “don’t show competing products", don’t use these rooms, don’t do this, don’t do that” is the same attitude that Microsoft were guilty of displaying a few years back. Microsoft saw a lot of people turn against them, both partners and customers, and it set them back in many areas. Microsoft had to make a real effort to change their corporate attitude from the top down and thanks to that, and the large number of loyal partners/customers, they were able to turn it around…these days MS are recognised by (nearly) everyone as much more open and accommodating to competitors and their products.

I’m not sure that VMWare will be able to make a similar change and, if they do, I don’t think it will be in time to save their market position…

New features and Improvements in Microsoft Hyper-V R2


As I’m sure you’ve heard on the old internet, Microsoft’s Hyper-V R2 is done and dusted. The main new feature is Live Migration, meaning MS can now match the “VMotion” feature offered by VMWare, but there is a whole host of new features and improvements in the latest version. Let’s take a look:

 

Hyper-V Compare

Hyper-V R2 also includes:

(a) High availability and live migration for managing a dynamic IT infrastructure

(b) Support for 64 logical processors future proofing our customers to scale up with the hardware

(c) Support for running up to 384 virtual machines with up to 512 virtual processors

(d) Processor compatibility mode for live migration across different processor SKU’s from the same vendor

(e) Hot add/remove virtual storage

(f) Networking enhancements (VMQ, Chimney, support for Jumbo Frames)

(g) Simplified management using sconfig

(h) Boot from flash

See the original post here.

Free Microsoft Virtualization e-book


Microsoft books are usually pretty excellent with great content covering great products in great details…but they can often be pretty expensive too. However Microsoft have made available, for free-yep completely gratis-a wonderful e-book on their Virtualization technologies. Called “Understanding Microsoft Virtualization Solutions”, it covers:

  • Hyper-V
  • App-V
  • MED-V
  • Virtual Machine Manager (VMM)

and more…and is fantastic! It’s full of great information, how-to’s & descriptions aswell as diagrams such as:

image

Go and download right now here.

Microsoft Virtualization Questions


Hi!

Through the awesomeness that is Twitter, I’ve managed to connect with some of the Virtualization experts who work at Microsoft HQ in Redmond. They’ve very kindly offered to answer any and all questions that you guys can think of…as long as it related to Microsoft virtualization 😉

The main thing people think of with this is Hyper-V and, while that will be a big part of this, there are other elements too. Things such as:

  • Application Virtualization (App-V)
  • Presentation Virtualization (TS/RDS)
  • Desktop Virtualization (VDI)
  • XP Mode
  • MED-V
  • Virtual PC

However, as well as product/feature specific questions, if you’re wondering about Microsoft’s long term strategy etc-please ask too.

This is a great chance to get your feedback directly to MS HQ and to get those burning questions answered straight from the horses’ mouth 🙂 We’re hoping to get this Q & A done by the end of this month (August) so please, add your questions in the comments below and we’ll get started!!!

Cheers

Rich