Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008


 

What is Virtual Machine Manager?:

The clue is in the name, but Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) is a management system for virtual machines (VM’s)..however, and this is the ace up Microsoft’s sleeve…it also manages physical servers-this is in contrast to VMWare’s VirtualCenter as that can only manage VM’s. That means IT Administrators only need to learn to use one console to manage ALL their servers and anything that makes an Admin’s job easier is a good thing yes? :-)

Microsoft Virtual Machine Manager delivers end to end support for consolidating physical servers onto virtual, fast Physical to Virtual (P2V) conversion “Intelligent Placement” of server workloads to balance performance and of course, the centralized console.

It also contains V2V conversion, making it easy to convert any existing VMWare VMDX/VMX files to Microsoft’s VHD format.

Further info on VMM’s features can be found here.

What’s new in VMM 2008?:

Good question! VMM 2008 is packed full of great new features including:

·         Allows for fault tolerant and cluster aware VM’s to be created

·         Integration with VMWare’s Virtual Center

·         Windows PowerShell scripts for automation etc supported across multiple platforms

·         Performance and Resource Optimization (PRO) is a feature of VMM that can dynamically respond to failure scenarios or poorly configured components identified in hardware, operating systems, or applications

·         Working through PRO-enabled Management Packs together  with System Center Operations Manager 2007’s, PRO can either alert an administrator of an unhealthy system or application state and its proposed recommended corrective action or it can respond by automatically creating a system that is responsive and self-healing. PRO features are available to ESX VM’s as well.

·         VMM 2008 is now fully cluster-aware, meaning that it can detect and manage Hyper-V host clusters as a single unit

·         New in this version of VMM is automatic detection of virtual hosts that are added or removed from the cluster—thus easing the burden on the administrator to manage this function

·         Creating a High Availability (HA) VM is a simple as selecting a tick box

·         VMM 2008 also supports VMware host clusters in which the nodes of the cluster are VMware ESX Servers

A great White Paper on VMM 2008 can be found here

Microsoft Windows 7-Parallel Processing


Windows 7 is Microsoft’s next hotly anticipated release and there is now information that changes will be made to help it support Parallel Processing.

Microsoft have already stated that deep-level changes between Vista & Windows 7 will be get to a minimum as a way to ensure driver and application compatibiity; and if they pull it off,  Windows 7 will have a much better start to life than poor old Vista :-)

The downside to this is that they can’t play around with Win32 (Windows Core) too much, and that is going to limit what can be down with regards to Parallel Processing. However, at this year’s PDC (Professional Developers Conference), there is a session entitled “Parallel Symposium: Addressing the Hard Problems with Concurrency” and the session decription contains the phrase “Hear about the key architectural changes Microsoft is making to Windows to enable the efficient execution of parallel software.”, which shows the Redmond giant has clearly got something up it’s sleeve.

Many thanks to Mary Jo Foley over at ZDNet for this info. She’s also got some words from Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer as to what’s on the drawing board.

Again, anyone attending the PDC please feel free to leave some comments if you hear anything blog worthy!

Microsoft Essential Business Server (EBS) 2008


Microsoft Essential Business Server (EBS) 2008 is set to be released on 12//11/08 (12th November), along with Small Business Server (SBS) 2008.

What is it?

Windows Essential Business Server 2008 provides a unified Administration Console to manage an integrated IT infrastructure with the latest versions of management, messaging, and security server technologies.

EBS 2008 is aimed at medium sized businesses and the aim is that it will make your infrastructure more efficeint, cost effective and easier to manage. There are 2 version of EBS 2008..

Standard Edition includes:

  • 3 x Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition
  • 1 x Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Standard Edition
  • 1 x Microsoft System Center Essentials 2007
  • 1Yr subscription to Microsoft Forefront Security for Exchange
  • 1Yr subscription to Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway, Medium Business Edition

The Premium Edition includes all the above as well as:

  • 1 x Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition (making a total of 4)
  • 1 x SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition

From a licensing point of view, EBS allows up to 300 users and there is a single Client Access Licence (CAL) that gives access to all the included programmes.

Licensing:

There are two types of CAL for EBS 2008. Standard CALs for all users/devices connecting to any part of the EBS network and Premium CALS for any users/devices connecting to the PREMIUM features of EBS (so SQL Server).

Another change is that CALs will be available individually as well as in 5, 20 & 50 packs. The ability to purchase CALs on their own makes it more cost effective when adding new members of staff.

One thing to note is that you are NOT able to downgrade the components of EBS 2008 to previous versions. To this end, Microsoft have made SQL 2005 available as an EBS 20008 component to prevent any possible issues with customized Line-Of-Business (LOB) applications. This will last for approx. 1 year.

EBS 2008 aims to make medium sized businesses more efficient and cost effective, and helps to reduce the workload for system administrators. The inclusion of System Center Essentials means that admins will be able to track assets, install patches and updates, deploy software packages and more all from the EBS Central Admin Console.

Crystal Reports 2008


Crystal Reports is, in my opinion, the best reporting software in the market today. It’s been a real success story for us hear at Bechtle…2008 has seen a 600% increase in sales! I’d like to think this was all down to me and the sales guys and while we’ve certainly been instrumental, there has definitely been increased interest from customers in reporting software.

We all have SO much data these days and many of us (me included) have the feeling that if we could just get a handle on it, find it, organise it, process it and filter it-it would make a dramatic impact on how we do business. Say you’re a sales company and your systems contain information on who bought what, when they bought it, what else they bought, where they’re based and what industry they’re in for all 25,000 customers. If you could compile all that data, filter it, de-dupe it and match it you could make some really great targeted campaigns…but doing all that, quickly and easily can be nigh on impossible.

Yes, most systems these days have some kind of reporting tools but more often than not these feel tacked on in post production, almost an afterthought and they never quite let you run the reports you need. This is where Crystal Reports comes in..it can connect to almost any data source:

Native, ODBC, OLE DB, and JDBC connectivity to relational, OLAP, web services, XML, legacy, and enterprise data sources, and new salesforce.com driver.

The Parameter Panel means parameter values can be set without refreshing data. Parameters used are displayed on the panel so that report consumers can easily see them, make changes, and have the new values applied directly to the saved data.

On-Report sorting, filtering & re-formatting allow users to change and explore the information without having to re-query the database.

Built in Barcode Supportmeans you can easily convert fields to Code39 barcodes without coding or extra steps.

Also, from a licensing point of view there is just one version of Crystal Reports 2008 making it easier to maange your licensing.

Free fully functional 30 day trials can be download from:

http://www.businessobjects.com/product/freetrials.asp

and of course, visit www.bechtle.co.uk or contact software@bechtle.co.uk for more info ;-)

Symantec Backup Exec 12.5


Symantec Backup Exec 12.5 is nearly upon us (06/10/08 – 6th October) and it has got some great new features. A lot of people felt that V12 wasn’t a huge leap forward and so kept their infrastructure on 11d, but I really think Backup Exec 12.5 is worth it…particularly it’s advances in relation to Virtualisation.

New Features:

Perhaps the biggest change is that you no longer require an agent per virtual machine-now it’s an agent per Hypervisor-with an agent for VMware and a separate agent for Hyper-V. This will definitely help keep downs the costs of backup in this modern age!

A blog post by Pat Hanavan, the VP of Product Management in Symantec’s Data Protection Group (the new name for Backup Exec & NetBackup) says:

“Backup Exec understands the structure of the Hyper-V environment and presents the same logical structure in the backup administrator GUI, so backup administrators can manage backup and recovery functions for their physical and virtual systems via the console.”

The full transcript can be found over at http://blogs.technet.com/virtualization

Symantec’s Patent-Pending Granular Recovery Technology gives you individual file level recovery from a single backup-this applies to both Exchange & Sharepoint. This greatly reduces the time and cost associated with these backups.

If your virtualisation plans have been on hold/slow to take off due to worries about cost and/or complexity around backup of VM’s, I think Backup Exec 12.5 will allow you to take that first step into the virtual world.

More info on the new agents for Virtual Server can be found here.

Price & Availability:

The release date for this and Backup Exec System Recovery 8.5 is 06/10/08 (6th of October 2008) and esitmated RRP (in dollars) is:

Backup Exec 12.5 has a suggested price of $995 USD for a media server license. Each additional agent or option can vary in price from $395 USD to $3,195 USD MSRP; Backup Exec System Recovery 8.5 has a suggested price of $1,095 USD per server and $69 USD per workstation.

Backup Exec Infrastructure Manager 12.5:

Another new product due out from Symantec is Backup Exec Infrastructure Manager 12.5. This is powered by Altiris software (following Symantec acquisition in early 2006) and aims to make simplify upgrades & patch management as well as reduce TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) through licence discovery tools. Another cool feature is it’s ability to give you a graphical map of your Backup Exec deployment :-)

Backup Exec Infrastructure Manager 12.5 is due out “late Fall 2008″, so I’d say November is likely to be when it becomes available. It has a suggested RRP of $1995.

Exciting times!

Microsoft Hyper-V: Virtualization


Virtualization is a hot topic (as Partridge would say) and Hyper-V is the new kid on the block. He’s not quite as big as the other lads nor quite as mature-but he’s handy where it counts and is constantly working out until he can take them all!

Their entry into the Virtual world wasn’t the smoothest (delays on release dates, missing features etc) but ever since Codename “Viridian” was announced-people have been talking and wondering how much of a difference it would make. Yes it was a little late coming out and it wasn’t quite what we were expecting feature wise, but it’s still a damn good product that has already, in just a few short months, shaken up the industry in a way that only the Redmond Giant can.

Here @ Bechtle, we’d gone down the VMWare route and trained up our guys (sales & technical) to push VMWare to those people looking at virtualising their infrastructure. We were doing well, generating interest and making sales..but how that Hyper-V is here, I’m hearing a lot more excitement when I talk to customers.

The big attraction with Microsoft Hyper-V is that it is built in to Windows Server 2008, reducing your outlay substantially straight away. It’s a Microsoft product so it’s familiar to the vast majority of IT techs out there today, it’s easy to use and it’s full of great features.

The biggest criticism Hyper-V receives is that it doesn’t do “Live Migration”, that is moving a Virtual Machine (VM) from one server to another without any downtime at all..and it’s true, it doesn’t. However Hyper-V’s “Quick Migration” gives only a few seconds downtime until everything is back as it was before. I understand that for some organisations (namely Fortune 500’s, large finance etc) even a few seconds downtime is too long and for now, until Hyper-V R2(?) is released, VMWare should be their product of choice.

However, for all those customers who don’t require 100% uptime I’d seriously suggest looking at Hyper-V when you implement Virtualisation. I’ve put together a number of Hyper-V proposals, some on their own and some to compete with VMWare, and people are very happy with what is on offer.

Microsoft have a ton of great info available online and a good starting point is:

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/hyperv-overview.aspx

If you want to take a look at Hyper-V in a trial environment, then head over to:

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/trial-software.aspx

You can get Windows Server 2008 trials and the Hyper-V add-in. There are a couple of extra requirements on top of those for running Win Svr 2008, these are:

  • A 64-bit system with hardware-assisted virtualization enabled and data execution prevention (DEP) is required.
  • It is also recommended to ensure that you have a clean install of x64 edition of Windows Server 2008 to be able to use the Hyper-V technology.

Microsoft’s other key weapon is their System Center Management family, particularly Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) which I think is worthy of a separate post-so keep your eyes open!

Cheers

Rich