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Plan for Expansion

Virtualization deployments along with any technology typically need to grow with the business. Previously, this was accomplished by racking more servers or overbuying initially.  Because workloads are now consolidated onto fewer servers in clusters there are a few additional options.  All of them are below:

  • Overbuy initially.
  • Scale up by adding hardware to existing hosts including RAM, CPU, and hard-disk space.
  • Scale out by adding hosts to spread the workload.

Clusters typically have a maximum amount of nodes that can be included.  Newer versions up the ante:

  • Windows Server 2012 – 64 nodes
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 – 16 nodes
  • Windows Server 2008 – 8 nodes

Sikander

My friend, Mohamed, told me about the name Sikander once he found out that my middle name is Alexander.

The meaning of Sikander is “defender of mankind”.

Sikander, is generally used as a boy’s name. It consists of 8 letters and 3 syllables and is pronounced Si-kan-der.

Sikander is a form of the name Alexander and is of Hindi origin.

The old and original VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) format was first introduced by Connectix which was later bought by Microsoft and turned into Microsoft Virtual PC.  It contains everything a physical HDD (Hard-Disk Drive) would contain including disk partition and a file system (NTFS, FAT32, etc.)  It is the storage foundation for VMs (virtual machines).

VHDX is the new file format bringing several improvements to match Hyper-V 3.0 in Windows Server 2012’s increased processing and memory capacity.

Bigger, Better & Faster

  • Size – Format supports up to 64 TB which is 32 times more than the 2 TB limit found in VHDs
  • Protection Against Disk Corruption – provides corruption protection during power failures for VHDX files by a logging mechanism for the updates of the VHDX metadata structures.
  • Support to run on large sector disks without a performance hit.
  • Larger block sizes up to 256 MB for dynamic and differencing disks resulting in better performance with workloads that allocate in larger chunks such as RAW images and videos.
  • Stores custom metadata in the VHDX file including OS version, patches applied or whatever you can think of up to 1024 entries of 1 MB.
  • Takes advantage of Offline Data Transfer (ODX).

ODX

  • Speed improvements of creating VHDX files with the ability to offload to a SAN if the storage vendor supports ODX.
  • Merge and mirror operations are also offloaded to hardware which is specifically for merging snapshots or live storage migration.

TRIM/UNMAP Support

According to documentation we get “efficiency in representing data (also known as “trim”), which results in smaller file size and allows the underlying physical storage device to reclaim unused space. TRIM requires physical disks directly attached to a virtual machine or SCSI disks in the VM, and TRIM-compatible hardware as well as Windows Server 2012 on hosts & guests.

Check out the Server & Cloud Blog on TechNet where it shows impressive performance and scalability with the latest version of Hyper-V where there is support for up to 64 vCPUs, 1 TB of memory for VMs, and a new VHDX format supporting disk capacity up to 64 TB.

The key findings from ESG Labs were:

  • With Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V’s new support for up to 64 vCPUs, ESG Lab took an existing SQL Server 2012 OLTP workload that was previously vCPU limited and increased the performance by six times, while the average transaction response times improved by five times. 
  • Manageably-low Hyper-V overhead of 6.3% was recorded when comparing SQL Server 2012 OLTP workload performance of a physical server to a virtual machine configured with the same number of virtual CPU cores and the same amount of RAM.

3301.SQL 2012 on WS 2012 Hyper-V Graph 1.PNG-550x0 6012.SQL 2012 on WS 2012 Hyper-V Graph 2.PNG-550x0

http://blogs.technet.com/b/server-cloud/archive/2012/11/08/windows-server-2012-hyper-v-delivers-on-scalability-and-performance-for-virtualized-enterprise-applications.aspx

  • Two editions, Standard and Datacenter.
  • Each license covers up to two physical processors.
  • Editions differentiated by virtualization rights only (two for Standard; unlimited for Datacenter).
  • Standard licenses can be stacked on one server.
  • The most notable feature that is now available in Standard edition is: Windows Server Failover Clustering
  • A license is assigned to the physical server and not a virtual machine.
  • A license cannot be split across multiple servers.

Downgrade Rights

  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter edition will have the right to downgrade your bits to any prior version or lower version.
  • Windows Server 2012 Standard will have the right to downgrade your bits to any prior version of Standard, Enterprise or Essentials editions.

Enterprise edition is retired as part of the Windows Server 2012 release and as a result the product lineup has been simplified down to two editions.

Software Assurance Step-Up benefit allows upgrades from lower editions to higher.

There are two different versions of Exchange Server 2010 that are available for purchase: Standard and Enterprise.

Exchange Server 2010 Standard Edition

Exchange Server 2010 Enterprise Edition

  • Hosts up to 100 databases

Simply put use Standard Edition for all Client Access, Hub Transport, Edge Transport, and Unified Messaging servers.

Mailbox servers that are members of a Database Availability Group need to count each passive copy of a database counts as a database on the server.  For example, if a Mailbox server has 3 active mailbox databases and another 3 passive copies, it will need to run Enterprise because the total is 6 over the 5 limit of Standard.

Exchange Server Enterprise Edition is not required for DAG members that host a total of 5 or fewer active and passive databases.  However, DAG members must run Windows Server editions with Failover Cluster feature (i.e. Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise or Windows Server 2012 Standard).  Note: Windows Server 2012 has been simplified into 2 editions, Standard and Datacenter.  Both editions include all features and roles of one another, the only difference is virtualization licensing rights.  Standard includes licenses for 2 VMs and Datacenter includes unlimited licenses for VMs.

The edition of Exchange Server 2010 is determined solely by the product key that is entered after the server is installed.  A server can be upgraded to Enterprise Edition conveniently by entering the new product key.

References:

 

Windows Server Core installations provide low maintenance, more secure and smaller footprint deployments.  Consequently, there is no default graphical user interface (GUI) installed.

The Minimal Server interface gives a GUI without a start menu, desktop, or Windows Explorer (explorer.exe).  However, they give you the essential Microsoft Management Console (MMC).

Install Server Graphical Management Tools & Infrastructure on Server Core:

  1. Open PowerShell, then run the following command: Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra
  2. Restart the server when prompted (or run Restart-Computer in PowerShell)

Remove Server Graphical Shell on Server with a GUI

  1. Open PowerShell, then run the following command: Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell -WhatIf
  2. You should see Collecting data
  3. Restart the server when prompted (or run Restart-Computer in PowerShell)

From here you can launch any of the number of Windows MMC Snap-ins (.MSC) including:

  • dsa.msc
  • cluadmin.exe
  • compmgmt.msc
  • devmgmt.msc
  • dhcpmgmt.msc
  • dfrg.msc
  • dnsmgmt.msc
  • eventvwr.msc
  • gpedit.msc
  • ipaddrmgmt.msc
  • nlbmgr.msc
  • perfmon.msc
  • tsmmc.msc
  • virtmgmt.msc
  • wmimgmt.msc

Windows Server Core is a very lightweight installation that minimizes updates and attack surface area.  It takes less space than the full GUI install and has limited access to MMC, Control Panel, command line and PowerShell.  It is the most efficient and perfect for Hyper-V Hosts.

  1. Open a command prompt: Type cmd.exe
  2. Type: sconfig
  3. Select option 7: Remote Desktop and enable it by typing “E” for enable; it is disabled by default.
  4. Change the hostname, adjust the date and time and configure network settings if needed.
  5. Type: dism /online /enable-feature /FeatureName:Microsoft-Hyper-V
  6. Restart once installation is complete.

I am working on deploying the latest and greatest in virtualization in the form of Hyper-V 3 in Windows Server 2012.  This post is to show the most notable features of the new version in no particular order.

  1. Virtual Workload Platform Improvements – hosts have support for 320 logical processors and up to 4 TB of memory per hosts.  Virtual machines can be configured with up to 64 vCPUs and 1 TB of memory, a HUGE increase from the previous version’s 4 vCPUs and 8 GB of memory.
  2. New Virtual Hard Disk File Format – VDX file format supports up to a 16 TB virtual hard drive.
  3. Hyper-V Replica – Built-in feature to asynchronously replicate virtual machines from one Hyper-V host to another over an IP network.  It is configured at the VM level so can specific ones can be chosen.  It is similar to VMware vSphere Fault Tolerance.  This technology tracks write operations on the source machine and replicates them to the the “replica” VM keeping them synchronized.  However, I would still recommend using Veeam as they are still the number one choice with regards to virtualization backup.
  4. NIC Teaming – Windows Server 2012 provides options to configure: switch independent, static teaming and Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP).  Previously, the only option would be to use a driver specific form of teaming making it less integrated and more difficult to configure and maintain.
  5. Failover Clustering – Cluster has increased support for 64 nodes and 4,000 VMs versus 16 nodes and 1,000 VMs previously.
  6. Concurrent Live Migrations – Previously only one live migration was supported at a time.  Now it is up to the administrator to define the maximum amount and should be configured to the available bandwidth between the different hosts.
  7. Dynamic Memory – This is not a new feature (released in Hyper-V 2 found in Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1), but the essential feature has been improved and now has the option to enable it during the “New Virtual Machine Wizard”.  It is memory management at its finest allowing to configure a startup RAM value as well as minimum and maximum amount of memory settings.
  8. Storage Live Migration – This is now built-in to the Hyper-V Manager versus requiring System Center Virtual Machine Manager for Quick Storage Migration.  This functionality enables moving or migrating a VM without any downtime from one storage system to another.  Previously in technologies from Microsoft and VMware a shared storage repository was required (i.e. an expensive SAN or cheaper iSCSI based NAS device) to work proporly.  This is not the case in Hyper-V 3 and is one of those shining differentiating the offerings against vSphere 5.  You are now able to migrate a live storage VM from local disk to another local disk with zero downtime.

“I write to find out what I think.” -Stephen King

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” -Joan Didion

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