Microsoft Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktops (VECD)


Microsoft Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktops (VECD) is a unique way to licence Windows OS on virtual machines (VM’s) as part of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

The desktop OS (Operating System) images are held on a server and users access them via PC or Thin Clients*. You can have an unlimited number of OS instances on the server, these can be Vista or downgraded to XP, it is licensed by Device and you can have 4 virtual instances per access device at a time.

VECD is priced on a per device per month basis (so 100 users = 1200 units x price) for a minimum of 1 year.

A link to the Microsoft page which includes various datasheets can be found here.

Running Virtual Instances on the desktop is becoming more and more common and, of course, poses it’s own problems when it comes to licensing. You must have a separate OS licence for each VM as well as the OS licence for the physical machine.

If VECD isn’t an option for whatever reason, you can run OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer)/FPP (Full Packaged Product) inside the VM to give you the OS licences. However if your corporate standard is still XP (as it is with many companies) it gets a bit trickier! You won’t find an OEM or FPP copy of XP now so you will have to start with Vista and downgrade to XP:

1) Buy a volume licence for Vista= NO. The Desktop OS volume licence is UPGRADE ONLY and as a VM is a clean machine, yo’re not eligible to install an upgrade.

2) Buy an OEM Vista licence= NO. Although OEM licences of Vista Business/Ultimate give downgrade rights, you’re not eligible for OEM licensing as they’re not being installed on a “new” physical machine.

3) Buy an FPP copy of Vista and enrol it in to Software Assurance (SA)= YES. Enrolling an FPP licence into SA** grants you Downgrade Rights, so you can take Vista down to XP and it’s a full copy so you can install it in a new clean VM.

* PC’s MUST be covered with Software Assurance (SA) to be eligible for VECD.

**You have a time limit to enrol the FPP copies into SA. 90 days for Open Licensing, 30 days for Open Value/Select/Enterprise Agreements.

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

Symantec and Citrix working together


Veritas Virtual Infrastructure (VxVI) is the new product forged from the combined fires of Symantec & Citrix as their entry into the world of virtual server management. This combination of Veritas Storage Foundation & Citrix XenServer is able to manage 1000’s of VM’s and all their associated storage from a single interface.

It will offer “direct control of block storage from a guest virtual server, block storage functionality, including mirroring across heterogeneous arrays, and SAN-based multi-pathing for data availability.” XenServer enables the sharing of common boot image across multiple virtual servers to help streamline the provisioning process.

“We worked with Citrix at the engineering level to make VxVI more than just a collection of bundled stand-alone products,” says Sean Derrington, Symantec’s director of storage management and high availability.

VxVI will allow users to manage servers and storage from one screen and perform advanced management tasks, including mirroring and striping LUNs, dynamic reconfiguration of layouts, or copying and moving volumes around from subsystem to subsystem.

Veritas Virtual Infrastructure should be available in Q4 2008 and is expected to cost $4595 for a dual processor server.

More info on this, and related subjects can be found at InfoStor

Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 released


Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 has been released.

“What are you talking about? It’s been out for months!” you say…nearly but not quite.

This is the standalone Hyper-V server, so while it includes the core parts of the kernel as related to Hyper-V, there are no other roles available for installation. This is a pure Hypervisor that site on bare metal, and allows you to run up to 192 VM’s on a single machine!!

It doesn’t have much of a GUI (Graphical User Interface)-bit of an old school vibe but hey, that’s cool! Also, you can manage it from a Windows Server 2008 installation or indeed a Vista SP1 machine with the Remote Server Admin Tools Pack installed.

Microsoft expect the main uses for this product to be:

  • Test and Development
  • Basic Server Consolidation
  • Branch Office Consolidation
  • Hosted Desktop Virtualization (VDI)
  • You can download HYper-V Server 2008 here

    and

    More info can be found over at Matt “VirtualBoy” McSpirit’s blog here

    Microsoft Unified Communications


    Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 is now available in a free, online virtual environment via Microsoft TechNet Labs. These allow you to test out the software without any installation and set up being required. You can find the OCS 2007 lab at:

    http://www.microsoft.com/events/series/unifiedcommunications.aspx?tab=virtuallabs

    For those of you looking into OCS 2007, there are a number of Technet’s that will be useful when it comes to setting up and configuring the software. Check out these links for more info:

    As always, I want to thank Johann over at

     http://blogs.technet.com/jkruse/default.aspx 

    for the info!

    Have fun and let me know how you get on with OCS 2007!

    Microsoft Server Software VHD’s


    Microsoft have released a slew of Virtual Hard Disks (VHD’s) making it quick and easy to evaluate Microsoft software for free, in your environment.

    Their “Run IT on a Virtual Hard Disk” initiative can be found here:

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/bb738372.aspx

    and includes product such as:

    • Exchange 2007
    • Sharepoint 2007
    • Windows Vista
    • System Center
    • and many more

    By installing these on a virtual machine, you can have the application up and running very quickly, reducing the amount of time that Test & Dev takes..which can only be a good thing right? :-)

    Microsoft Exchange in Virtual Environments


    Microsoft Exchange on a Virtual Server: The official line was always “No-it’s not supported”, but the release of Hyper-V has brought some changes.

    Hyper-V now lets you run the Exchange 2007 SP1 64 bit versions of Mailbox, Hub Transport and Client Access Server Roles  without losing support, however Unified Messaging is still only supported on physical hardware.

    Here’s a link to the support policy and recommendations paper for Exchange 2007 on Microsoft Virtualization technology:

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc794548(EXCHG.80).aspx

    “What about us non Hyper-V users?” I hear you cry..

    http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=897615

    is a link to the “support policy for Microsoft software running in non-Microsoft hardware virtualization software”. As you can see, your Hypervisor needs to have been validated to be supported and so far the only on is VMWare ESX 3.5u2.

    Also, here’s a link that shows all the MS Server software that is supported when running on a validated Hypervisor:

    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/957006

    To see what Microsoft have got to say about the world of Unified Communications, head over to the Microsoft UK UC Blog at:

    http://blogs.technet.com/msukucc/

    Cheers

    Rich