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Category Archives: Opinion

Looking back at 2016…

2016 is at its end so it’s time to look at it before 2017 kicks in.

Due to personal reasons, I’ve been blogging far less than before but I expect to pick it up once more and be more actively blogging.

This year I experienced quite a dramatic change in the way I do my job. System Center related projects have become somewhat nonexisting and my focus has changed to Microsoft Azure completely. I must admit that I like it quite a lot. Gone are the days that I do a project of a couple of months designing and deploying a product from the System Center Suite, except a single Operations Manager deployment. The most visited posts are related to Configuration Manager but I don’t work with it anymore. So don’t expect any new posts about Configuration Manager.

Technical deployments have also become a thing of the past. I’ve been working with customers adopting Microsoft Azure and I’ve become more and more an advisor helping to adopt Microsoft Azure as smoothly as possible. However, adopting Microsoft Azure has become more a financial discussion instead of a technical one. Customers (at least in NL) are more interested in managing costs and are looking for ways to keep costs as low as possible.

The second half of 2016 introduced a change at the company I work at: SCCT BV. When Sander Berkouwer (https://dirteam.com/), an MVP and a true authority on Identity Management, joined SCCT BV it changed the dynamics of my work as well. I received a lot more Identity Management related questions from customers, as if SCCT BV became the go-to company for Identity Management. This was pretty funny since I don’t have that in-depth knowledge regarding Identity Management. Fortunately I have co-workers that do so I was actually delegating quite some work to them.

I was also able to speak on a WMUG_NL event about managing Azure costs. I hope that I will be able to speak on more events on 2017.

Oh, and I was also able to pass two Amazon Web Services (AWS) exams as well. I guess I’m one of the few in NL that has passed both Azure and AWS architecture exams. Hopefully I will work a bit more with AWS as well since they have a great set of services as well and provide new challenges…

While on a personal level 2016 was very challenging, it was quite a year professionally…

See you in 2017!!!

 
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Posted by on 31/12/2016 in Opinion

 

Looking forward to 2016…

So, after leaving 2015 behind us and getting started in 2016 it’s time to have a look what 2016 is going to bring us.

2015 was the year that got the adoption of cloud technology really going and I expect more and more organizations to do so or start adopting more features cloud technology offers us. A very nice feature is that organizations start to understand better how convenient it is when the ‘gate’ for end users has shifted from Active Directory to Azure Active Directory.

Three big releases will most likely take place this year:

  • AzureStack;
  • Windows Server 2016;
  • System Center 2016.

I strongly believe the release of Windows Server 2016 will dramatically change the way we’re used to work and I really believe the following two features will enable it:

  • Nano Server;
  • Containers.

Since the release of Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 3, and even more with Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 4 we’re able to research and experiment with these two features. Fortunately, I don’t expect Windows Server 2016 RTM to be released in the first half of 2016. This allows me to play around with it and understand how it works so that I am prepared when it becomes available.

So, Windows Server 2016 is quite a big tip of the iceberg. With the rest all coming as well I expect 2016 to be a very busy year. But I expect to have a lot of fun with it as well…

So let’s see what’s going to happen this year, I look forward to it.

 

Looking back at 2015…

So, the year 2015 is almost at its end. While I write this, I am already in my second week of my two week time off. And boy,I really needed this two week break.

2015 was an extremely busy year for me, and I can actually cut the year in half.

At the first half, I was still busy participating in a project where I designed and deployed System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager. I also built a stand-alone Image Building environment running MDT 2013. Unfortunately, the project took way longer than expected due the customer being unable to take ownership and start administering it by themselves. Eventually I decided to walk away after the contractual end date of my involvement despite the fact the project isn’t finished yet. The longer it took, the more frustrating the project became for me so the decision to walk away was eventually the right one.

This takes me to the second half. In the second half, I saw a dramatic shift in my job since I did only one Configuration Manager design and deployment in the second half of 2015. I started to extend my skillset on Enterprise Client Management a bit more with Microsoft Intune and Microsoft’s Public Cloud platform: Azure.

I also started to deliver more workshops, master classes and training sessions. This is something I really like to do and I want to thank those who made it possible for me. It allowed to me renew my Microsoft Certified Trainer certification.

Fortunately, the frustrations of the first half provided some learning moments which required me to become a more complete consultant. So my coworker arranged a two day training session for me called “Professional Recommending” (this may be a poor translation of Professioneel Adviseren in Dutch) provided by Yearth. This is by far the most important training I received in my career and it really started to pay off pretty quickly by receiving more positive feedback from customers. I became a more complete consultant with this training.

I was also happy to do the presentation workshop with Monique Kerssens and Jinxiu Hu from Niqué Consultancy BV at ExpertsLive 2015. I was happy to receive the feedback that my presentation skills have developed greatly. To quote them: “you’re standing like a house”.

The icing on the cake came at the end of this year when I was asked to review the DataON CiB-9224 platform. You can read the review in my previous post.

So, I experienced some highs and lows this year. Fortunately, the highs came at the second half.

I look forward to 2016, but that’s for another post…

 

 

Reviewing the DataON Cluster-in-a-box 9224 (CiB-9224 V12) platform

Recently the company I work for became a partner in deploying DataON platform solutions together with the Dutch distributor of DataON. The distributor has the knowledge and experience with distributing hardware, but was looking for a partner to have them deployed to meet the needs of customers. I had the honor of reviewing one of DataON’s solutions provided by the distributor: the CiB-9224 V12

DNS-9220 Front View

Before I got started I checked the relevant information on DataON’s website which is available at http://dataonstorage.com/cluster-in-a-box/cib-9224-v12-2u-24-bay-12g-sas-cluster-in-a-box.html

Here are a few features that I consider relevant:

  • You have a two-node cluster in a single 2U enclosure;
  • A two-tier storage storage deployment is available, only JBOD is available (no hardware RAID) to both nodes;
  • The solution can be ‘stacked’ with either another CiB and/or DNS JBOD solution;
  • The components used result in a very simple and easy to use setup, no extensive hardware knowledge is required;
  • DataON delivers OOBE guides to get you started.

Overall DataON delivers a no-nonsense solution. Since I am an advocate of a no-nonsense approach it is something I really like.

After checking it all I conclude that this platform can be used in two ways:

  • Scale Out File Server (SOFS) cluster providing one or more SMB 3.0 shares;
  • A two-node Hyper-V cluster.

Specific scenarios are available at DataON’s website mentioned earlier.

For my review I decided to build a two-node Hyper-V cluster. After preparing a small infrastructure (DC, DNS, DHCP and networking) I was able to get going. I decided to follow the OOBE guide as much as possible. In less than an hour, I had a fully operational two-node Hyper-V cluster. I noticed a few things during deployment:

  • Some steps in the guide are not completely in line with deploying the solution. I was able to create a Storage Space with Data Deduplication enabled while the guide doesn’t mention Data Deduplication. However, I greatly welcome to have Data Deduplication enabled since it will generate significant savings when Virtual Machines are stored on the volume being deduplicated;
  • The Storage Space is very fast, deploying Virtual Machines doesn’t take much time at all;
  • I like the built-in Mellanox ConnectX®-3 Pro EN Single 10GbE port used for Cluster Heartbeat and Live Migration. After configuring the cluster to use this NIC only for Live Migration I was very happy with its Live Migration performance. It worked like a charm;
  • I managed the cluster using System Center 2016 Virtual Machine Manager Technical Preview and System Center 2016 Operations Manager Technical Preview. After deploying the required agents I was able to manage the cluster completely by Virtual Machine Manager. Dynamic Optimization and PRO Tips became available. After setting Dynamic Optimization to very aggressive settings I could see Virtual Machines dancing around on both nodes without negatively affecting the Virtual Machines themselves.

The next step was trying to stress test the platform. I decided to deploy 150 Virtual Machines using a tempate. I found a nice PowerShell script that would do the work for me at http://blogs.technet.com/b/virtual-mite/archive/2014/03/04/deploying-multiple-vm-39-s-from-template-in-vmm.aspx. During this deployment I noticed the limited network resources (had a 1 Gbit/sec switch available, no fiberglass) significantly slowed down the deployment and I was also overcommitting the cluster (memory resources prevented me from running all these Virtual Machines). I had no intention of running all these machines after deploying them but it gave me some good insights of the platform’s capabilities. To me, the test scenario used is not optimal and I expect better performance when using 10 Gbit/sec SFP connections are used. Nevertheless, the platform succesfully deployed the 150 Virtual Machines.

After deploying the Virtual Machines I was able to monitor Data Deduplication (I used the default settings). Deduplication savings made me discover that basically all Virtual Machines were stored on the fast tier alone. This impressed me the most. This would make this solution extremely powerful for a VDI deployment, especially when stacked with one or more of these babies.

After fininishing my testing I can definitely recommend this platform. After finding out the price for this platform I strongly believe that the DataON solution is a serious bang for your buck. It makes the Return Of Investment (ROI) very short and easy to manage. And all that in just a 2U enclosure…

All the requirements for the future are also there when Windows Server 2016 is released. I discussed my findings with DataON as well and additional test scenarios are there to investigate

Hopefully I can test it with either Nano Server and/or Hyper-V containers but this is something for 2016…

 

 

 

Why Google software can be murder for your Release Management Process…

Recently in one my projects I was involved with deploying some Google applications such as Google Chrome and Google Drive on Windows 8.1 clients. Company policy states that all applications (including the Google stuff) must be deployed automatically without any user intervention. Since System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager was used, the Application Model needs to be used.

From a technical perspective, this means that each application is configured with the following properties:

  • All applications are configured to be silently installed
  • A required deployment is configured to a User Collection
  • Supersedence is used when an application is replaced by either a new version or a completely different application

While this approach works fine for most applications, it doesn’t work for the Google software such as Google Chrome or Google Drive.

Here’s why:

The first Google application, let’s say Google Chrome, automatically installs Google Update. Google Update frequently calls home to check if a new version is available. If so, it will automatically download and install this updated version and uninstalls the old one. But then, the Configuration Manager client will run its required cycles. It will notice that deployed version is not detected anymore so it will start installing it again to meet the policy defined by the required deployment (you can clearly see that in the AppEnfore.log file). So the older version is installed again and I’ve seen it break applications completely. Extremely annoying for service desk crew and admins…

While you can manage Google Update using GPO, not all applications can be managed to suppress using Google Update.

From a management perspective, Google Update completely takes away control to have a functioning Release Management Process. While Google Update is great in consumer scenarios, it certainly isn’t in the corporate world.

When System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager is used, I only have the following technical workarounds available:

  • Deploy it as an available deployment; this requires user intervention and kills some automation
  • Deploy it as part of a Task Sequence; this gives the application to everyone and kills the ability to determine who is allowed to use it (you can create requirements etc. but it kills simplicity)
  • Deploy it as a Package instead of an Application; this takes away all the nice features the Application Model can give and takes me back to System Center Configuration Manager 2007. Not to mention, Packages should be used for some ‘stateless’ action such as scripts or registry keys
  • Publish it as an update using SCUP 2011; let’s not go there, the problem remains…

Since Google updates their software quite frequently, I don’t see organizations frequently adding and superseding these applications. Imagine how much one admin needs to commit to managing Google applications.

In other words: Google needs to take out Google Update and provide something more manageable for the corporate world…

 

 

Looking forward to 2015…

Well, the year 2015 is just a few days old, but it has just started it is time to look forward to what I expect to happen in 2015.

I see many people writing about what I should do or else I would ‘miss’ the ride to the future. Well, I’d put that a little bit more into perspective and see for myself as well.

At this time I see quite a gap between what technology is available and what the corporate is able or willing to use. In 2014 and even now, quite some organizations are busy saying goodbye to Windows XP. I expect the same thing to happen in 2015 and 2016 with Windows Server 2003. It’s hard to say goodbye to the old stuff and move on to newer technology especially when fear to cloud technology is involved. In other words, these organizations are simply not ready emotionally or politically to liberate themselves from this fear and allow cloud technology to be introduced…

I also hear many people saying what I need to do in the future as well. At this moment I don’t believe that System Center is just going to vanish in just a day and being completely replaced with something else. What is confusing though is where to focus on right now. Fortunately, I had a conversation with a Technical Evangelist from Microsoft and he gave me a crystal clear explanation on what I need to focus on. It’s actually limited to just two things:

  • Identity
  • PowerShell

It took me a while to let it sink in but I start to understand. These two things are the main pillars for what we’re doing. All technologies involved depend on these two.

After that I started to ignore all these other statements…

As for me, I expect to be involved with my current specialty which is System Center Configuration Manager. I do hope to work more with the Azure platform, especially EMS. Nevertheless, whatever comes on my path, it’ll still take me to the two pillars…

 

 

 

Ending in style and looking back to 2014…

Today is the last day of the year 2014, I ended this year in style by passing exam 70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions. I have to admit, this one is hard but I got it and nobody will take that one away from me J

Sitting at my laptop looking back at 2014, it was quite a tremendous year for me. I changed employer and I started to notice that I needed to expand my knowledge. I also receive my MCT certification making me eligible to provide training courses. 2014 is what I consider a breakthrough year for cloud computing. Since I’m a Microsoft minded consultant I’m talking about Azure of course…

But I see quite a split in what technology is available for organizations and what organizations are able or willing to use. 2014 marked the end for Windows XP and many organizations who still use(d) Windows XP are still in the process of migrating to a new Windows Client. At some of my customers I notice some reluctance to directly jump to Windows 8.1 which excludes some cloud related functionality completely. So I spent most my time working on projects which required my skills on Configuration Manager…

Hopefully this will change in 2015…

 

 

 
 
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