Monthly Archives: November 2015

Building my first (but completely useless) Nano Server cluster based on Windows Server 2016 TP4…

Well, after building my first Nano Server I blogged about in this I got some inspiration to play around with it a bit more.

For this post, my goal was to make a Scale Out File Server cluster with two Nano Server nodes.

So my thought is to provision an iSCSI target first. I went into a completely different direction by deploying a Ubuntu 15.10 server and configure it as an iSCSI target. I used the guidelines at and to deliver a 150 GB iSCSI target volume.

After creating two Nano Server .vhd files I noticed that the network cards had no DNS servers specified, they were also not registered in DNS so I wasn’t able to access them remotely using Server Manager. After establishing a remote PowerShell session I used the netsh command to add a DNS server to the network cards using the following command: netsh interface ip set dnsservers name=”Ethernet” static primary

Just to be sure I restarted the machines to make sure the DNS registration takes place. Restarting occurs quickly because the OS is very small and a limited amount of services will be started. The next step was adding the machines to the TrustedHost list for WinRM.

After that I was successfully able to add the machines to Server Manager on my DC. This verifies I can access the machines remotely next to PowerShell remoting.


So let’s try to build a cluster. I used Failover Cluster Manager to build a cluster. So let’s get started.

Let’s do a cluster validation first.


I added the servers, I used the default settings for validating the cluster.


Cluster validation is running, time for something to drink or a small toilet break 😉


It’s good to see that the cluster validation test passed. The warning on networking is purely for the fact that only network card is available which is not a recommended practice. But hey, we’re in a lab…

So let’s build that cluster.


Let’s give the cluster a name and an IP address and proceed…


So all is set to create that cluster. I unchecked the Add all eligible storage to the cluster checkbox since I haven’t connected anything yet. Time to build that cluster.


The cluster is ready.

After building the cluster I configured a network share as a disk witness.


So the next step is adding storage by using iSCSI. And here’s the part where my cluster becomes useless. The current Nano Server packages do not include anything iSCSI Initiator related, so I have no iSCSI Initiator service running nor can I create an iSCSI based disk since the PowerShell cmdlets for the iSCSI Initiator are simply not there. So that’s a dead end here.


Nevertheless, it was quite a satisfying exercise to build this cluster using Nano Server and should provide some inspiration to build a cluster for a different purpose, i.e. Hyper-V. But that’s for a different post…




Posted by on 25/11/2015 in Windows Server


Building my first Nano Server using Windows Server 2016 TP4…

Recently Microsoft released the bits for Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 4. One of the features that caught my attention is Nano Server, a ‘headless’ server that requires to be managed remotely. I saw some interesting demos last week at Expertslive and I had some time to check it out myself. So I downloaded Technical Preview 4 and I got started.

Nevertheless, getting started without a plan doesn’t make sense so first I need to have a plan:

  • I use my laptop to build a lab environment;
  • The lab environment consists of 1 domain controller running Windows Server 2016 TP4 with a GUI (I need to manage those servers somewhere);
  • The domain controller has some administration tools;
  • I plan to build two Nano Server machines which should be configured as a Scale Out File Server (SOFS).

I used the ‘Getting Started with Nano Server’ guide available at

The benefit of building your Nano Server images is something that must be done before. I quickly noticed that it’s easier to throw away your .vhd file rather than trying to troubleshoot and fiddle with it to get something working. This is in line with some tweets I read from a well-known Technical Fellow at Microsoft, Jeffrey Snover. Experiencing this first hand absolutely makes sense to me now.

After studying the guide I noticed that the following details are required before building the .vhd file:

  • Name;
  • Language;
  • IP adress information;
  • Packages;

I decided to gather all required features (except the Packages) in variables to create a small script which allows me to reuse it by changing the variables only. Here’s how it may look like:

Set-Executionpolicy Bypass -Force

Import-Module C:\NanoServer\NanoServerImageGenerator.psm1 -Verbose

#Defining Server Specific Parameters
$TargetPath=’C:\Users\Public\Documents\Hyper-V\Virtual hard disks\NA01.vhd’


#Create the Image
New-NanoServerImage -MediaPath $MediaPath -BasePath .\Base -TargetPath $TargetPath -ComputerName $ComputerName -InterfaceNameOrIndex Ethernet -Ipv4Address $Ipv4Address -Ipv4SubnetMask $Ipv4SubnetMask -Ipv4Gateway $Ipv4Gateway -Language $Language -Clustering -GuestDrivers -Storage -EnableRemoteManagementPort

Building the .vhd didn’t take long at all, the file itself is roughly 560 MB in size. This is easy to rebuild in case a mistake is made. The cmdlet creates a prompt to provide the password for the local Administrator account.

After creating the .vhd I created a new virtual machine and selected the .vhd file built before. After firing it up I had a working Nano Server


So let’s log on to see how the UI looks like.


Yes, pretty basic if you ask me. But hey, it is a ‘headless’ server so we’re not supposed to log on locally.

After that, I followed the instructions to join the server to the domain to the letter and that worked flawlessly as well…

So now I can build my SOFS cluster, but that’s for another post.


This is something definitely worth playing around with, especially now that Nano Server based op TP4 is also available in the Microsoft Azure virtual machine Gallery. But that’s also for another post…



Posted by on 24/11/2015 in Windows Server


Live Maps Unity 7.5 with Operations Manager 2012: making dashboard views easier…

Recently Savision announced Live Maps Unity 7.5. Shortly after the announce I finally had some time left to have a look at it. One of my customers asked me to help the build a pristine OpsMgr 2012 R2 environment and they stated they already purchased Savision Live Maps as well. In this blog post I share my impressions regarding Live Maps Unity 7.5 from a technical perspective and beyond.

A commonly asked question regarding 3rd party dashboard tools is: Why do I need something like that?

To give a clear answer, certain aspects of the IT environment need to be considered:

  • OpsMgr itself is a very IT focused monitoring solution which has quite some distance to the ‘real world’. Although OpsMgr delivers a very high level of detail of the IT environment, it may become quite challenging to provide information non-IT people understand. The business requires information of the availability of IT services. The business would rather like to know if they can still use email instead of knowing which mailbox store is broken.
  • While OpsMgr has some native capabilities to build dashboards, I consider them quite inferior (even using the Visio Add-in). It takes a lot of administrative effort to build and maintain them and it just doesn’t work the right way. For this feature alone I had to give negative recommendations to previous customers to use OpsMgr solely on this challenge.

With these considerations taken in mind, the answer to the question regarding dashboards is yes convincingly.

Savision Live Maps delivers dashboards that the real world can understand and does all the work creating them for you. This significantly lowers the administrative effort to allow administrators to focus their daily task on managing their environment, not managing the tools that manage their environment.

So I decided to have a go and asked for a trial license. I’ve set up an environment in an Azure Resource Group, created a storage account and a virtual network and created the following two machines (both running on Windows Server 2012 R2:

  • 1 Domain Controller;
  • 1 Operations Manager 2012 R2 Management Server running a local SQL instance.

I imported Active Directory and SQL Server Managment Packs, importing these requires Windows Core Monitoring so that one is included as well.

The next step was installing Live Maps Unity 7.5. I used the documentation available at the Savision Training Center which is available at The documentation is very monkey proof is makes installing Live Maps Unity ridiculously easy.

The next step is creating the dashboards you need. After some playing around I was able to produce the following view:

service view

NOTE:I created an additional distributed application named mwesterink.lan which contains both servers only. I intentionally left some alerts to display the color differences.


After playing around a little bit I conclude that Savision Live Maps Unity makes dashboarding significantly easier, especially when Management Packs deliver their own distributed applications.

Something as trivial as Service Level Monitoring is enabled by just a simple check box.

Even for ITPros, the more business oriented view should be sufficient before drilling down to figure out if any new issues are occuring.

I would even consider not using any notifications anymore at all.


However, a major decision maker is if the license costs would meet any Return On Investment (ROI) targets. In general, decision makers are only interested in meeting ROI for projects. Any ROI not met is considered a failure. Knowing how much time it takes to have your dashboards created should allow some financial people to calculate how much time administering these dashboards cost. I am almost certain that the administrative effort will be reduced dramatically to have Live Maps Unity do all the work for you instead of building it all yourself. I didn’t need any support from Savision to build something like that, so a more experienced OpsMgr admins should certainly be able to use this. Savision have their engineers available when needed.

My final verdict: I’d definitely recommend using Live Maps Unity to present the IT infrastructure availability in OpsMgr.


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