Everything you need to know about What’s New in Microsoft Azure

…or maybe “How the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks do you keep up with What’s New in Azure?” would be better. ;-)

 It’s just about an impossible feat to accomplish – based on the number of teams working on this massive thing called “Microsoft Azure”, all with a cadence of what seems like 1-2 weeks…

Welcome to the world of “The Cloud”. As Mark Russinovich said to me during an interview at TechEd:

“In order to go fast in a cloud world, you actually have to go fast”

He wasn’t joking.

Part of what I do for my Job at Microsoft is talk about technologies in a specific area in context of the bigger picture of the IT Industry. I work with various Engineering / product teams to understand their technologies and how it would apply to solve issues in “the real world”. I used to focus exclusively on the core infrastructure of Windows Server. Over the last couple of years I decided to expand that focus to include Microsoft Azure. But wait, Azure is a big place – lots of innovation in all sorts of areas. How do I narrow it down? I focus my effort on technologies and solutions using Azure that would be beneficial for IT Professionals and SysAdmins to  bring into their organizations to be more successful.

Besides talking and meeting with the Teams here on Campus – one of the best places to find out what is new is via the official Azure Blog.  I find I tend to focus just on Virtual Machines and supporting technologies categories (View all posts in Virtual Machines).  From there, I dug up my “top 3” things from the past year that I thought I’d share with you here:

#3) D Series Machines – with SSD

As we roll out new hardware in our datacenters around the world, we are able to offer up new capabilities to our services. Virtual Machines is no exception to that. As a result – we get a new series of machines that have faster processing power, better memory to core ratio and faster disk options. Introducing The D-Series Machines.

Name vCores Memory (GB) Local SSD (GB)
Standard_D1 1 3.5 50
Standard_D2 2 7 100
Standard_D3 4 14 200
Standard_D4 8 28 400
Standard_D11 2 14 100
Standard_D12 4 28 200
Standard_D13 8 56 400
Standard_D14 16 112 800

Get more information about them, what they can do and how to use them (as well as pricing links) from the Azure Blog. http://azure.microsoft.com/blog/2014/09/22/new-d-series-virtual-machine-sizes

#2) ExpressRoute and other VPN solutions

When I talk about “The Cloud” and Microsoft Azure with anyone, I always make sure to do it as an AND conversation, not an OR conversation.  I see the Public Cloud as an extra tool you can use in your toolbox when designing architecture for new or existing projects.  It’s an AND, mainly because of our connectivity options AND existing skillsets. 

HybridOptions

VPN Connectivity could mean a point-to-site discussion for a specific box that is located on-prem or it could be a Site-to-Site connectivity option to truly act as an extension of your on-premises environment.  We announced in May 2014 the addition of what we’re calling ExpressRoute connectivity to select datacenters. Think of this as your internet provider with whom you already have WAN connectivity or Internet connectivity with now having the option to route traffic directly into an Azure Datacenter instead of going across the public internet. 

ExpressRoute1

Want to know more? Check out these posts from Ganesh:

#1) – Azure Site Recovery in General Availability

Think of this scenario for a minute.  You are working with SystemCenter on-premises to define your “clouds” of VMs managed by System Center Virtual Machine Manager.  You want to enable a level of disaster recovery that you currently can’t have, because you only have one Datacenter.  You can now use Azure as your second site and replicate them (provided they are Generation 1VMs) up to Microsoft Azure – using Azure Site Recovery.

DRtoAzureGA

Not only is this useful for Disaster Recovery – it could also be used to spin off isolated development environments or as a method of migration from on premises to Azure IaaS… I’ll be honest – it’s a bit tricky to setup and has some hefty requirements on the on-premises side (SystemCenter), but it’s a very attractive option for some DR goodness.

My friend Abhishek has a good starting point for you to research how to enable this… http://azure.microsoft.com/blog/2014/10/02/disaster-recovery-to-azure-using-azure-site-recovery-is-now-ga/ It’s something I also plan on documenting in a simpler format here on the blog.

There you have it – my “Top 3” things that I’ve found interesting from the past year. What about you – got anything that you find particularly useful to share in the Azure space? Any cool sources – share theme here in the comments!

How To: Delete Windows.Old from an upgraded Windows 10 / Threshold system

Yup – I was wondering why I had disk space issues – turns out I had the same problem I documented in this post, once I upgraded my system from Windows 8.1 Update to Windows 10 Technical Preview (a.k.a. Windows 10).

I had Space Issues and Permissions Issues!

windows.old1

Let’s revisit that post for the quick steps on getting back your space:

Here’s how you do it.

  • Download Junction.EXE from Sysinternals. I extracted and saved it to c:\source. You will use this tool to generate a list of all the junctions that have to be removed.
  • create a reference file that lists all the junction points and symbolic links in use by opening up a command prompt, changing into C:\source and running

junction.exe –s –q c:\windows.old >junctions.txt

  • open up PowerShell ISE administrator rights and RUN the following script to remove all symbolic links and junction points in c:\windows.old.

foreach ($line in [System.IO.File]::ReadLines(“c:\source\junctions.txt”))
{
if ($line -match “^\\\\”)
{
$file = $line -replace “(: JUNCTION)|(: SYMBOLIC LINK)”,””
& c:\source\junction.exe -d “$file”
}
}

Now it’s some simple taking of ownership, granting rights and deleting windows.old to get your space back.

  • to take ownership use

takeown /F C:\windows.old /R /D Y

  • delete c:\windows.old – you now have permissions and ownership.

How much space you get back will change based on your particular situation.  I got back my 6 ish GB…

Edge Show 122: Azure Automation Runbook Gallery with Beth Cooper

In this episode of The Edge Show – I catch up with some of my Azure RSS feeds and discover this little announcement and blog post by Beth Cooper, Program Manager on the Azure Automation team. After a quick exchange of emails – I managed to get her to come down and give us a tour of this cool option and tell us how anyone in the community can contribute their own Runbooks!

News:

Partner Corner:

  • Silect Software Inc gives you a tool to help design and develop new Management Packs (MPs) for Operations Manager 2012 or customize existing MPs through an easy-to-use wizard-driven interface, without knowledge of the underlying MP structure or XML development.  Check out http://www.mpauthor.com for details.

Facebook

Ping 224 Band Seeking, predicting the future, Creative Sway, Windows Insiders, Forza Horizons 2 and Middle Earth

Hey everybody! Welcome back to Ping!  It’s episode 224, which is 2+2=4!!!.  (Yes, we passed math – or at least Mark did). 224 episode of what MSFTies are pingin’ each other about.

[03:32] Cortana will never let you miss a concert by your favorite bands

[05:18]  Microsoft is trying to predict the future, and so far it’s succeeding

[07:04] Microsoft’s new Sway app is a tool to build elegant websites

[09:12] Join the Windows Insider Program and get the Windows 10 Technical Preview

[10:56] The Top 5 Cars to Pick Up First in Forza Horizon 2

[14:07] Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor Review

 

[16:17] Question of the week! What commands would you like Cortana to respond to with Home Automation OR what NEW Interests would you like to see in there?

 

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Get the Windows Server Technical Preview bits

October 1st, 2014 marks the release of the “IT Pro” Focused version of Windows 10 from the client perspective.  I am sure you have seen all the tweets / social media / blog posts / press releases all over the place. As a “Server Hugger”, I’m more interested in the Windows Server Technical Preview – which released the same day. I thought I’d share my experiences of getting ready to evaluate Windows Server TP and what I did to get setup.

  1. If you haven’t already – GO SIGN UP FOR THE WINDOWS 10 TECHNICAL PREVIEW for the Enterprise Client… once you have done that, you can start the DL and prep your administrative workstation.  Like all Administrators – you should be managing your servers REMOTELY using RSAT tools – which are client and server version specific.
  2. Next Up – you will need the Windows Server TP RSAT tools – which you can grab from here. remember – I mentioned above – they are Client and Server specific…
  3. Now for the Bits – Windows Server Technical Preview. Well – at the time of writing, they are trickling out.  The official announcement blog post for Windows Server TP and System Center TP can be found HERE.  From that post:

Windows Server Technical Preview

System Center Technical Preview

But wait – say you don’t want to wait to download – or you want to DO something while you are waiting for the download to finish? Check out the Microsoft Azure Gallery Image that was released today for Windows Server TP.  It’s all setup and ready to deploy!

How? Get yourself setup on a 30 day trial of Azure and create a new VM from gallery – Windows Server Technical Preview, October 2014 is a selectable option in the Windows Server image gallery.

AzureWindowsServerTechnicalPreview

Reminder: These are not final – even for evaluation. Don’t use them in production. Features and capabilities will be evolving over the course of the TP, so don’t take everything you see in the TP as being final if you are evaluating a technology.

Lastly – Here is where I go for all the top level “Things I should be trying out….”  The TechNet Library.  http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn765472.aspx

  • What’s New in Active Directory Federation Services. Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) in Windows Server Technical Preview includes new features that enable you to configure AD FS to authenticate users stored in Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directories. For more information, see Active Directory Federation Services Overview.
  • What’s new for Hyper-V in the Technical Preview. This topic explains the new and changed functionality of the Hyper-V role in Windows Server Technical Preview, Client Hyper-V running on Windows 10 Technical Preview, and Microsoft Hyper-V Server Technical Preview.
  • Windows Defender Overview. Windows Defender is installed and enabled by default in Windows Server Technical Preview, but the user interface for Windows Defender is not installed. However, Windows Defender will update antimalware definitions and protect the computer without the user interface. If you need the user interface for Windows Defender, you can install it after the operating system installation by using the Add Roles and Features Wizard.
  • What’s New in Remote Desktop Services in the Windows Server Technical Preview. For the Windows Server Technical Preview, the Remote Desktop Services team focused on improvements based on customer requests. We added support for OpenGL and OpenCL applications, and added MultiPoint Services as a new role in Windows Server.
  • What’s New in Storage Services in Windows Server Technical Preview. This topic explains the new and changed functionality of Storage Services. An update in storage quality of service now enables you to create storage QoS policies on a Scale-Out File Server and assign them to one or more virtual disks on Hyper-V virtual machines. Storage Replica is a new feature that enables synchronous replication between servers for disaster recovery, as well as stretching of a failover cluster for high availability..
  • What’s New in Failover Clustering in Windows Server Technical Preview. This topic explains the new and changed functionality of Failover Clustering. A Hyper-V or Scale-out File Server failover cluster can now easily be upgraded without any downtime or need to build a new cluster with nodes that are running Windows Server Technical Preview.
  • What’s New in Web Application Proxy. Web Application Proxy now supports preauthentication for applications using the HTTP Basic protocol, wildcards in external URLS of applications, redirection from HTTP to HTTPS, use of pass-through authentication with HTTP applications, publishing of Remote Desktop Gateway apps, a new debug log, propagation of client IP addresses to backend applications, and improvements to the Administrator console.
  • What’s New in Windows PowerShell 5.0. Windows PowerShell 5.0 includes significant new features—including support for developing with classes, and new security features—that extend its use, improve its usability, and allow you to control and manage Windows-based environments more easily and comprehensively. Multiple new features in Windows PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC) are also described in this topic.
  • What’s New in Networking in Windows Server Technical Preview. With this topic you can discover information about new networking technologies, such as Network Controller and Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) Tunneling, and new features for existing technologies, including IP Address Management (IPAM), DNS, and DHCP.

Go out there, try them out – and PLAY SAFE.

Ping 223: CastleStorm, xBox One Comedy Central app, Inbox Personality Rules, MSFT Hardware and Home Automation

Hey everybody! Welcome back to Ping!  It’s episode 223, which is country code, not an area code.  Travel schedules and studio availability got the best of us this past week – sorry about that!  As a bonus – there were LOTS of comments on 222 – so much so, we took the first 9 minutes of the show talking about them all!  But we digress….

We talk about your suggestions about the coolest cooler and more these stories that we’ve been pinging each other about…

[T9:09] CastleStorm: Definitive Edition available for xBox One

[T10:22] Cancel Your Plans: Comedy Central’s Now on xBox One

[T11:37] Give your inbox a personality with Advanced Rules in Outlook.com

[T14:12] Microsoft Creates a keyboard for iOS and Android tablets

[T15:37] Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter

[T18:15] Insteon integrates with Microsoft Cortana for voice control in the home

 

[T14:32] Question of the week! What commands would you like Cortana to respond to with Home Automation?

 

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How to stay relevant in a changing IT world?

As a self-proclaimed “Server Hugger”, I have had to undergo a transformation of sorts in order to overcome my apprehension of Cloud technologies and level up my IT Skills. My friend Joey Snow and I did two sessions at TechEd North America talking about “Real World Guide to upgrading your IT Skills” a while back, but I thought I’d share a condensed version of three of the things that stuck with me the most and have helped me bring clarity to the role of the IT Professional in a cloud world.

1) The IT Industry is in a constant state of Change. This is the one thing that won’t change!

We have been facing this as IT Professionals for as long as we’ve have been in the industry. Heck – I got started back when there were “green screen terminals” that connected back into one of the Mainframes. I remember ripping those out in place of PCs with emulator cards (for backwards compatibility) and setting them up to login to a Banyan Vines network. Fast forward to Client – Server applications, x.400 addressing for WAN in order to get inter-office mail working, ISDN connections to this “internet” thing, NT 4, Novell NDS, Active Directory – the list goes on and on. It’s always changing and putting NEW TOOLS into my tool belt, provided I took the time to learn those technologies and how I could use them to light up new opportunities for my users and my companies.

How did I deal with it? I embraced it. You need to as well, instead of being a blocker. Set yourself up to be a lifelong learner. You can to.  Go explore things at www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com on a regular basis to learn new things. Check out some of the learning paths to explore new technologies and evaluate some in your lab environments. Follow your curiosity to see where it leads down each path of new technologies. Learn about how to apply them to positively affect your business and your career.

Think of these Technologies as additional tools for your IT toolbox.

2) You have to learn to automate. Period. Full Stop.

I don’t care if it’s PowerShell, Chef, Puppet, Docker – whatever. Being that I am mostly a Windows kind of guy – I lean more towards the PowerShell world. Start with little things that you do on a regular basis via a traditional GUI tool and begin to automate your tasks more often.  Yes – it takes time to learn this, but it is time well invested. Why? In a “cloud” world, automation is the norm, not the exception.  Knowing how to do it now in your on-premises environment will prep you for when you start to create projects in the public cloud space.  If you still have not taken the time to learn PowerShell and need to get started – I HIGHLY recommend Don Jones and Jeffery Hicks book “Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches, Second Edition”.

Start small, keep at it – eventually you will find yourself reaching for the PowerShell prompt more instead of the GUI interface.

3) Treat your servers like Cattle, not Pets.

This was a stretch for me. As IT Professionals, we treat our servers individually, each one is unique like a snowflake and therefore would be far to difficult to replace. We need to stop doing this.  Here’s an example that hit me recently: I had an issue with a lab environment where I moved some domain controller VMs between clusters. It required an export and import due to networking issues.  No matter what I did after the physical move, the VMs would not initialize correctly. To make a long story short – I was hit with a new technology that protects us from having duplicate DCs in a virtual world and it was blocking their initialization (which is by design). I spent hours trying to figure out what was going on, defaulting to my FireFighter troubleshooting mode.

It’s in our nature to sit and bang our heads over troubleshooting an issue in our day to day work.  We do this consciously, thinking it’s the fastest way to get something done when the fire is burning – just get it fixed, right?  Subconsciously, we’re learning what is going on under the covers so that we can prevent it from happening again.  In my above example – if I had only stepped back for a moment and looked at this from a different angle – I would have realized that it would have been faster to “re-create and re-deploy” instead of trying to bash my way through it.  Make the systems more generic and document / automate the specialties and configurations so that they can be recreated as required.

In a Cloud world, working with Azure – when I am building new architectures for customers or working on a lab / demo environment that will be used by a number of people – I need to design it in such a way that it’s easiest to wipe it out and re-create it as required instead of troubleshooting it to death.  Sure – spend some time to figure out what went wrong, but when it’s “fixed”, document and automate it so that you can blow it away and re-create it without the issue – and move on. I’d never have done that in my on-premises world – it would have taken too long.

By taking these three tips and updating your mindset – I think you will come to realize that it’s really just a continuation of what you have already been doing, with a few tweaks. Your skills are not going to become magically obsolete, provided you keep on refining your skills, embracing change and learning new skill that are complementary. Keep an open mind towards these new technologies and figure out how you can integrate them into your environment – where it makes sense.

P.S: Remember those sessions from TechEd I mentioned at the start? I was asked for the links – so here they are – approximately 75 minutes each including technical demos.

The Real-World Guide to Upgrading Your IT Skills AND Your Infrastructure, Part 1

The Real-World Guide to Upgrading Your IT Skills AND Your Infrastructure, Part 2

 

Ping 222: MSN Preview, Siri vs. Cortana, Minecraft hits Xbox One, OneDrive, Apps for Office Workers, E.T cartridges

Hey everybody! Welcome back to Ping!  It’s episode 222, which is a pretty cool palindrome episode number.  We’re so happy to get a ton of correspondence this week – thanks pingers!  We talk about your suggestions about the coolest cooler and more these stories that we’ve been pinging each other about…

[T5:51] MSN Preview

[T7:26] Microsoft’s latest Siri vs. Cortana ad aims to find the fairest voice assistant of them all

[T8:37] ‘Minecraft’ hits Xbox One this Friday and an upgrade only costs $5

[T9:56] It’s official: Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage to support up to 10 GB files

[T11:07] 10 Must-Have Windows Phone Apps for Office Workers

[T13:02] You can buy those excavated ‘E.T.’ cartridges at auction soon

[T14:32] Question of the week! Where would you like us to shoot a remote Ping Episode?

 

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Stop the insanity, regain control of user management and security

Sometime it’s the fundamentals that get missed when you are in FireDrill mode for too long and need to get things done. Or maybe you inherited a fileserver where there are WAY too many admins and you are troubleshooting access issues. Take a moment, step back and revisit the basics of Group strategies and how they should be applied to all sorts of scenarios. You have to understand the history before you can start with the new stuff.

Wait a second. You’re talking about everyday boring groups? Those things you use to group users together so that you can assign access rights to resources? How is this going to help me regain control of users? Let me share a story.

WP_20140506_08_33_02_ProRecently I inherited a Clustered FileServer that had a couple of thousand users who accessed resources from many, many domains across this international Active Directory forest. Upon further examination, the use of groups WAS employed (poorly), but only ONE GROUP was created. This group gave whoever was a member “Full Control” of the file permissions down through the entire folder structure on the server.  On top of that – it was used across a dozen different shares, accessed by different groups of users across the entire organization. This fileserver was running on aging hardware, constantly getting “full” and was due for a swap to a new solution. How do I handle this while continuing to work on my regular day job?

Procuring the new hardware was easy.

CiB-9220_Top_Banner_Demo_2

I ordered up a nice 70 terabyte Cluster-In-A-Box from DataOnStorage and got it setup as a Clustered Fileserver. After establishing a large DrivePool and carving out a new Dual Parity StorageSpace – I set about doing some basic Group planning for future access.

Every SysAdmin has their own philosophy on how to assign access rights to shares and folder permissions. There have been some enhancements with Windows Server 2012 R2, but fundamentally things have not changed all that much (A,G,DL,P):

Assign users into
Global Groups. Nest them inside
Domain Local groups and Assign
Permissions to the share / folder structure.

Why do I bring this up? You would be surprised at the number of times I’ve see ACLs (Access Control Lists) for folders / shares that have individual users added directly added to them. Usually as a result of someone granting Full Control to a non technical person (who has no background in managing servers) and them getting a little too advanced for themselves by  changing file permissions, only to “Apply this to all files and sub folders”.

Do yourself a favor. Please explain this concept to anyone who will be managing a folder structure or share on a server. DON’T MAKE THE ASSUMPTION that they know what you are talking about. But also explain to them about reusing groups where it makes sense and possibly “mail enabling” groups in order to make them multi-purposed.  A well managed AD with an understood and communicated Group Strategy will go a LONG way to keep your sanity, keep the users in line and reign in wayward file servers.

That migration project for the file server?  It’s almost done. I’ve practiced what I’ve preached here and contacted the respective owners of the various shares to re-confirm what their requested level of security is.  I’ve create groups and nested them inside local groups on the new server. I’ve also “trained” the owner of the shares what groups are being used and I’ve delegated them the rights to go an manage the group memberships to ultimately control who has access to the resources. I’ve setup some RoboCopy command scripts to copy over data and synchronize  data.  I’m almost ready to flip the switch – just got to get back from my travels on the road and send out the notification emails.

I think some of the follow up from the final process would make a good couple of posts. Stay tuned for more.

If you can’t wait and need to make sometime to figure out what’s coming around the bend  – check out the new EvalCenter with it’s concept of “Tech Journeys” and explore some Hybrid datacenter concepts or Mobile Device Management. .

Ping 221: Forza Horizon 2 Demo, Alienware Alpha, Coolest Cooler, Windows Store Apps, and Lag-free cloud gaming

Hey everybody! We loved hearing about your dress codes last show – so we go over your responses and jump into all sorts of other things that we’re pinging each other about…

[17:39] Question of the week! What additions would you make to a future cooler?

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