Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Architecture Reference

I was lucky enough to pick one of these up in hard copy form at TechEd Australia 2012!! Very useful reference!

Download the full copies from Microsoft here – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=29189&ocid=aff-n-we-loc–ITPRO40886&WT.mc_id=aff-n-we-loc–ITPRO40886

What’s New in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V

I recently attended TechEd 2012 on the Gold Coast, and was pretty spoilt for choice as to what technologies I wanted to learn more about. I have an infrastructure background, and recently completed the MCITP Virtualisation Administrator certification for Windows Server 2008 R2, so Hyper-V was still fresh in my mind and one of those technologies I really enjoy using.

I didn’t expect much from the Hyper-V sessions at TechEd. I thought, hey, Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 really can’t have that much extra, surely… Was I wrong or what!?!?

My first session on Hyper-V, I was flabbergasted by the sheer number of new features and improvements introduced in 2012. As someone who’s always played with VMWare and recently shifted allegiance to the Microsoft side, it comes as no surprise that I continue to be impressed by Microsoft’s hard work in the virtualisation space. Hyper-V continues to innovate and add to it’s enterprise ready feature set, and it truly offers an alternative to other virtualisation platforms. Continue reading “What’s New in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V”

System Centre Orchestrator 2012: why you should be using it

Firstly, what is Orchestrator? Orchestrator is a new member of the Microsoft System Centre suite, previously badged System Centre Opalis or Opalis Integration Services, and commonly referred to as SCO or SCORCH. Orchestrator is quite simply, a workflow engine. You define the workflow, it goes off and executes it.

Workflow? Isn’t that a business thing? It was. In recent years, numerous workflow engines have appeared out of nowhere, most notably in document management and incident management systems. Workflows creation is somewhat complex for some, and it’s interest is generally left to those who rely on the systems that utilise it. Not the IT guys.

Why is workflow important? Workflow is a precursor to automation, and automation is what you should be striving to develop in your IT environment. Automation allows for you to do more important things, like drinking more coffee and focusing on your next big IT project. As a professional, business understanding IT guy, you should be investigating automation for everything in your environment – pro-active management is key.

Workflows are key to this automation. Orchestrator gives you this capability.

So, what can you use it for?

  • Cloud management (Microsoft’s flagship reasoning for Orchestrator)
  • Desktop deployment
  • Service provisioning
  • Proactive and reactive management of servers/desktops or even network devices
  • Incident management
  • much much much much more

Orchestrator workflows are defined as “runbooks”, which can be started manually, scheduled to run every 5 mins, or  triggered from an SNMP trap, file creation/edit, registry entry update, or generic monitoring statistics such as CPU usage. Orchestrator runbooks define the processes, and workflow, of your automation tasks.

At the heart of Orchestrator, you have PowerShell. If you don’t know PowerShell yet, you’re probably going to want to learn the basics before using Orchestrator.

The most important thing about Orchestrator, is you, the admin. Ask yourself:

  • What mind numbing tasks do you today? Ugh, the programmers want me to refresh UAT with the latest production database again, I hate this.
  • Is an investment of a days work, worth not having to complete that task again, every day/week/month? Think of all that extra coffee time
  • Is that task often prone to errors? Automating that task will ensure the task runs the same time, every time, and reduces the risk of error.
  • Most importantly, can you actually automate the task? Perhaps you think you can’t… But think about the end to end process. PowerShell has a lot of neat tricks, and the Orchestrator functionality is pretty extensible.

Digital Travel

I recently had the opportunity to work in Melbourne for 10 months, where I was able to fly back to my home town of Brisbane every week, with a short 2 week stint in London. Keeping track of airline bookings, accommodation, and frequent flyer programs can really become over the top for those new to travel. Simple things like getting from the airport to the hotel at my destination could have been a nightmare. If not for the digital age.

Keeping your travel diary organised is obviously an art in itself. I was lucky, having only two flights per week, a single hotel booking, and a better half to pick me up from my home airport. Frequent travellers quickly realise the need to keep all of their information together, and in this day and age, your smart phone is probably the likely device.

Unfortunately there are some aspects which just can’t be made easier – sometimes there just isn’t a way around booking your flights using your corporate flight booking system!

For the most part, I found TripIt to be an extremely valuable tool in my travels, and I will undoubtedly continue to use it for future travels.

I setup TripIt about 2 years ago for a tiny trip to North Queensland for work. I hadn’t had much need to use it again until my recent travels, and I was delighted to learn about some of it’s features. One of the most beneficial two features for me was the ability to submit my itinerary to TripIt via email. Our corporate booking system would email me a confirmation of my flight details, which was subsequently forwarded via an Outlook mailbox rule, to the plans@tripit.com address. Moments later, my flight was able to be completely tracked via TripIt’s website and iPhone applications.

The next best feature of TripIt, in my opinion, was it’s calendar subscription. I synced this with both Outlook and my iPhone, and was able to view my entire itinerary against other calendar items, which was crucial in being able to work out whether appointments would need to be moved around or postponed accordingly.

As a TripIt Pro user, I also received SMS alerts to my mobile, advising information such as what gate the plane was leaving from, and on the rare occassion, if the flight had been cancelled or delayed.

As well as TripIt, I utilised the Starwood Preferred Guest web portal and iPhone app extensively. Both allowed me to conveniently book or re-book my accommodation using my corporate account number, which made for a pleasant experience. Having utilised a number of different hotel chains, I found Starwood to have, by far, the best functionality in terms of their website, and their rewards program was nothing to complain about!

Packing your bags? I made a list for that using Microsoft’s OneNote iPhone application, complete with tick boxes. No more worrying on the way to the airport if I packed my toothbrush, and no more forgetting to pack socks (this really is the worst thing that could possibly happen when you fly out on a Sunday dressed in casual clothes and wearing thongs, knowing full well you have your suit, shirts, and shoes packed).

All in all, that beeping buzzing technology in your pocket, can make travel a breeze if you use the right tools. It doesn’t part the traffic and give you a clear road, but it may just give you traffic information so you don’t have to put up with that, either.

Thanks technology.

MCSE Private Cloud Certification

Released a few months ago, Microsoft have re-vamped their certification for the 2012 suite of products, introducing, most notably, the MCSE Private Cloud certification.

For all the MCITP’s, this shouldn’t come as bad news, requiring exorbitant amounts of further study and certification. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

MCITP SA and EA’s automatically receive the MCSA 2008 qualification, which only requires 70-246 and 70-247 to upgrade to the MCSE Private Cloud certification.

As an MCSA 2008, you can simply study for and complete exam 70-246 – “Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012”, and, until January 31st 2013, complete the 2008 equivelant of 70-247, being 70-659 – “Windows Server 2008 R2, Server Virtualisation”.

For more information about the MCSE Private Cloud certification, check out http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/certification/cert-private-cloud.aspx

Building a Hyper-V Lab – cheaply!

I’ve been trying to build a lab at home for a while, but have continued to put the thought aside, over and over. Not because I lack motivation, no, because it’s so damned expensive to purchase so much kit if I’m going to use it for a few months, and then not use it again.

My latest certification path is to complete the MCITP: Server Virtualisation cert, and so the time came for me to start thinking seriously, how am I going to do this? Continue reading “Building a Hyper-V Lab – cheaply!”

Windows 8 – to be or not to be?

Microsoft has a track record for releasing horrible operating systems every now and then, as witnessed by the IT world more recently with Windows Vista. It begs the question, after a very successful Windows 7, what is in store for Windows 8? Will it be king, or will it flop?

My motivation for this article, comes from Mick Huxley’s blog post this morning, “Why Windows 8 will be a flop”. My views here are based on very little experience using the Windows 8 development release installed on a non-touch device and briefly playing with a co-worker’s Windows 8 Slate device, and I will relate my experiences  and views to Apple’s iOS/OSX family and successes. Continue reading “Windows 8 – to be or not to be?”

Lion-style Inverse Scrolling – On Windows XP

My home computer is a Mac, now running OSX Lion. I’ve become quite accustomed to the backwards/reversed scrolling which seems to be the default in Lion – and matches the “natural” swipe up/down gestures you would use on an iPhone or other touch screen device.

Today I was looking around on my work Windows XP machine, and was disappointed to find there is no “invert mouse” option.

So I found this – http://www.howtogeek.com/57542/how-to-get-the-worst-os-x-lion-feature-in-windows-reverse-scrolling/

Setting Up Reverse Scrolling in Windows

To make this work, you’re going to need to make sure that you’ve got AutoHotkey installed, or else the script won’t work. Don’t worry, it’s really lightweight.

Once you’ve got that installed, you can either paste this into a new AutoHotkey script (a *.ahk file), or put it into your existing script. Or you could just download the script we’ve got linked below.

WheelUp::
Send {WheelDown}
Return

WheelDown::
Send {WheelUp}
Return

Save it, double-click the file to run it, and you’ve now got reverse scrolling. Or, you know, just download it.