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Microsoft and Dell’s Continued Collaboration on VDI Solutions on Display at Dell World

In October, we announced Windows Server 2012 R2 which delivers several exciting improvements for VDI solutions. Among the benefits, Windows Server 2012 R2 reduces the cost per seat for VDI as well as enhances your end user’s experience. The following are just some of the features and benefits of Windows Server 2012 R2 for VDI:

  • Online data deduplication on actively running VMs reduces storage capacity requirements by up to 90% on persistent desktops.
  • Tiered storage spaces manage your tiers of storage (fast SSDs vs. slower HDDs) intelligently so that the most frequently accessed data blocks are automatically moved onto faster-tier drives. Likewise, older or seldom-accessed files are moved onto the cheaper and slower SAS drives.
  • The Microsoft Remote Desktop App provides easy access to a variety devices and platforms including Windows, Windows RT, iOS, Mac OS X and Android. This is good news for your end users and your mobility/BYOD strategy!
  • Your user experience is also enhanced due to improvements on several fronts including RemoteFX, DirectX 11.1 support, RemoteApp, quick reconnect, session shadowing, dynamic monitor and resolution changes.

If your VDI solutions run on Dell servers or if you are looking at deploying new VDI infrastructure, we are excited to let you know about the work we have been doing in partnership with Dell around VDI. Dell recently updated their Desktop Virtualization Solution (DVS) for Windows Server to support Windows Server 2012 R2, and DVS now delivers all of the benefits mentioned above. Dell is also delivering additional enhancements into Dell DVS for Windows Server so it will also support:

  • Windows 8.1 with touch screen devices and new Intel Haswell processors
  • Unified Communication with Lync 2013, via an endpoint plug-in that enables P2P audio and video. (Dell Wyse has certified selected Windows thin clients to this effect, such as the D90 and Z90.)
  • Virtualized shared graphics on NVidia GRID K1/K2 and AMD FirePro cards using Microsoft RemoteFX technology
  • Affordable persistent desktops
  • Highly-secure and dual/quad core Dell Wyse thin clients, for a true end-to-end capability, even when using high-end server graphics cards or running UC on Lync 2013
  • Optional Dell vWorkspace software, also supporting Windows Server 2012 R2, that brings scalability to tens of thousands of seats, advanced VM provisioning, IOPS efficiency to reduce storage requirement and improve performance, diagnostics and monitoring, flexible resource assignments, support for multi-tenancy and more.
  • Availability in more than 30 countries

Depending on where you stand in the VDI deployment cycle in your organization, Dell DVS for Windows Server is already supported today on multiple Dell PowerEdge server platforms:

  • The T110 for a pilot/POC up to 10 seats
  • The VRTX for implementation in a remote or branch office of up to about 500 users
  • The R720 for a traditional enterprise-like, flexible and scalable implementation to several thousand seats. It supports flexible deployments such as application virtualization, RDSH, pooled and persistent VMs.

This week, Microsoft and Dell will present a technology showcase at Dell World in Austin (TX), USA. If you happen to be at the show, you will be able to see for yourself how well Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1 integrate into Dell DVS. We will show:

  • The single management console of Windows Server 2012 installed on a Dell PowerEdge VRTX, demonstrating how easy it can be for an IT administrator to manage VDI workloads based on Hyper-V in a remote or branch office environment
  • How users can chat, talk, share, meet, transfer files and conduct video conferencing within virtualized desktops set up for unified communication
  • That you can watch HD multimedia and 3D graphics files on multiple virtual desktops sharing a graphic card installed remotely in a server
  • How affordable it is to run persistent desktops with DVS and Windows Server 2012 R2

We are excited about the work that we are doing with Dell around VDI and hope you have a chance to come visit our joint VDI showcase in Austin. We will be located in the middle of the Dell booth in show expo hall. Also, we will show a VDI demo as part of the Microsoft Cloud OS breakout session at noon on Thursday (December 12th ) in room 9AB. Finally, we will show a longer VDI demo in the show expo theater (next to the Microsoft booth) at 10am on Friday (December 13th ) morning. We are looking forward to seeing you there.

Announcing the General Availability of Windows Server 2012 R2: The Heart of Cloud OS

For years now, Microsoft has been building and operating some of the largest cloud applications in the world. The expertise culled from these experiences along with our established history of delivering market-leading enterprise operating systems, platforms, and applications has led us to develop a new approach for the modern era: the Microsoft Cloud OS.

The Cloud OS vision combines Microsoft knowledge and experiences with today’s trends and technology innovations to deliver a modern platform of products and services that helps organizations transform their current server environment into a highly elastic, scalable, and reliable cloud infrastructure. Utilizing the software that powers the Cloud OS vision, organizations can quickly and flexibly build and manage modern applications across platforms, locations, and devices, unlock insights from volumes of existing and new data, and support end-user productivity wherever and on whatever device they choose.

At the heart of Cloud OS is Windows Server 2012 R2. Delivering on the promise of a modern datacenter, modern applications, and people-centric IT, Windows Server 2012 R2 provides a best-in-class server experience that cost-effectively cloud-optimizes your business. When you optimize your business for the cloud with Windows Server 2012 R2, you take advantage of your existing skillsets and technology investments. You also gain all the Microsoft experience behind building and operating private and public clouds – right in the box. Delivered as an enterprise-class, the simple and cost-effective server and cloud platform Windows Server 2012 R2 delivers significant value around seven key capabilities:

Windows Server 2012 R2 Capabilities

Server virtualization. Windows Server Hyper-V offers a scalable and feature-rich virtualization platform that helps organizations of all sizes realize considerable cost savings and operational efficiencies. With Windows Server 2012 R2, server virtualization with Hyper-V pulls ahead of the competition by offering industry-leading size and scale that makes it the platform of choice for running your mission critical workloads. Using Windows Server 2012 R2, you can take advantage of new hardware technology, while still utilizing the servers you already have. This functionality enables you to virtualize today and be ready for the future tomorrow.

Whether you are looking to expand virtual machine mobility, increase virtual machine availability, handle multi-tenant environments, gain bigger scale, or gain more flexibility, Windows Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V gives you the platform and tools you need to increase business agility with confidence. Plus, you can also benefit from workload portability as you extend your on-premises datacenter into a service provider cloud or Windows Azure.

Storage. With the increase in new applications, the explosion of data, and growing end-user expectations for continuous services, there has come a significant increase in storage demands. Windows Server 2012 R2 offers a wide variety of storage features and capabilities to address the storage challenges faced by organizations. Whether you intend to use cost-effective, industry-standard hardware for the bulk of your workloads or Storage Area Networks for the most demanding ones, Windows Server 2012 R2 provides you with a rich set of features that can help you maximize the returns from all of your storage investments.

Microsoft designed Windows Server 2012 R2 with a strong focus on storage capabilities, including improvements in the provisioning, accessing, and managing of storage and the transfer of data across the network that resides on that storage. The end result is a storage solution that delivers the efficiency, performance, resiliency, availability, and versatility you need at every level.

Networking. New technologies, such as private- and public-cloud computing, mobile workforces, and widely dispersed assets have transformed the business landscape and altered how we manage networking and network assets. Still, the main goal remains the same: keep all networking components connected to ensure smooth data transmission and reliable access by users and customers to the services they need when they need them.

Windows Server 2012 R2 makes it as straightforward to manage an entire network as a single server, giving you the reliability and scalability of multiple servers at a lower cost. Automatic rerouting around storage, server, and network failures enables file services to remain online with minimal noticeable downtime. In addition, Windows Server 2012 R2 provides the foundation for software-defined networking, out-of-the box, enabling seamless connectivity across public, private, and hybrid cloud implementations.

Whatever your organization’s needs, from administering network assets to managing an extensive private and public cloud network infrastructure, Windows Server 2012 R2 offers you solutions to today’s changing business landscape. These capabilities help reduce networking complexity while lowering costs, simplifying management tasks, and delivering services reliably and efficiently. With Windows Server 2012 R2 you can automate and consolidate networking processes and resources, more easily connect private clouds with public cloud services, and more easily connect users to IT resources and services across physical boundaries.

Server management and automation. Datacenter infrastructure has become more and more complex. Multiple industry standards are confusing hardware vendors. Customers are looking for guidance on how to best automate their datacenter while adopting a standards-based management approach supporting their multi-vendor investments. Windows Server 2012 R2 enables IT professionals to offer an integrated platform to automate and manage the increasing datacenter ecosystem. Features within Windows Server 2012 R2 enable you to manage many servers and the devices connecting them, whether they are physical or virtual, on-premises or in the cloud.

Web and application platform. Chances are your organization already uses or is planning to use a combination of on-premises and off-premises IT resources and tools for building a hybrid environment. To protect your existing investment in on-premises applications as you begin to migrate to the cloud, you need a scalable application and web platform that enables you to manage your applications and websites in a unified way.

Windows Server 2012 R2 builds on the tradition of the Windows Server family as a proven application platform, with thousands of applications already built and deployed and a community of millions of knowledgeable and skilled developers already in place. The capabilities included in Windows Server 2012 R2 offer your organization even greater application flexibility, helping you build and deploy applications either on-premises, in the cloud, or both at once, with hybrid solutions that can work in both environments.

As your organization plans for and moves to a hybrid or cloud-based environment, Windows Server 2012 R2 provides the tools you need to build, provision, and manage multi-tenant environments while still supporting your large enterprise or the many customers hosted within your service provider infrastructure.

Access and information protection. Information exists almost everywhere in your organization: on servers, laptops, desktops, removable devices, and in emails. Users need to be able to access this information from anywhere, share it where appropriate, and achieve maximum productivity with the assets they have. To further complicate matters, the move to cloud computing necessitates being able to secure enterprise applications that no longer live in your datacenter.

Microsoft assists you in supporting consumerization of IT and in retaining effective management, security, and compliance capabilities. The enterprise tools and technologies that Microsoft provides can help with key enterprise tasks such as identifying non-corporate devices, delivering applications and data to those devices with the best possible user experience, and establishing and enforcing policies on devices based on the end user’s role within the organization. Microsoft enterprise tools and technologies can help IT staff to maintain a high level of security across all device types, whether the devices are corporate or personal assets, and establish security measures that protect their organization’s systems, data, and network.

To address these information needs and challenges, organizations have to make fundamental shifts in how they approach identity and security. Windows Server 2012 R2 helps you accommodate these changes through exciting new remote access options, significant improvements to Active Directory and Active Directory Federation Services, and the introduction of policy-based information access and audits with Dynamic Access Control, and new scenarios to help customers provide access to corporate resources for users from their own devices. With these new capabilities, you can better manage and protect data access, simplify deployment and management of your identity infrastructure, and provide more secure access to data from virtually anywhere across both on-premises well managed devices and new consumer orientated form factors.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. Most IT departments currently face the challenge of enabling worker productivity on a growing number of mobile devices in the workplace. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) helps you accommodate these new devices by enabling them to access a centralized instance of the Windows desktop in the datacenter. By virtualizing these desktop resources, you can alleviate device compatibility and security issues while still delivering a consistent, familiar experience that enhances end-user productivity. With Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft makes it easier and more cost-effective to deploy and deliver virtual desktop resources across workers’ devices.

VDI technologies in Windows Server 2012 R2 offer easy access to a rich, full-fidelity Windows environment running in the datacenter, from virtually any device. Through Hyper-V and Remote Desktop Services (RDS), Microsoft offers three flexible VDI deployment options in a single solution: Pooled Desktops, Personal Desktops, and Remote Desktop Sessions (formerly Terminal Services). With Windows Server 2012 R2, you get a complete VDI toolset for delivering flexible access to data and applications from virtually anywhere on popular devices, while also helping to maintain security and compliance.

To compete in the global economy and keep up with the pace of innovation, IT organizations must improve their agility, their efficiency, and their ability to better manage costs while enabling their business and end users to stay continuously productive.

Microsoft has gained expertise from years of building and operating some of the largest cloud applications in the world. We’ve combined this expertise with our experiences in delivering market-leading enterprise operating systems, platforms, and applications to develop a platform for infrastructure, applications, and data: the Cloud OS.

The Microsoft Cloud OS delivers a modern platform of products and services that helps enterprise IT teams transform their current environment to a highly elastic, scalable, and reliable infrastructure. With Cloud OS, organizations can quickly and flexibly build and manage modern applications across platforms, locations, and devices, unlock insights from volumes of existing and new data, and support user productivity wherever and on whatever device they choose. Microsoft uniquely delivers the Cloud OS as a consistent and comprehensive set of capabilities that span on-premises, service provider, and Windows Azure datacenters, enabling enterprises to improve scale, elasticity, and availability of IT services.

At the heart of Cloud OS is Windows Server 2012 R2, which delivers upon the promises of a modern datacenter, modern applications, and people-centric IT. Whether you are an enterprise building out your own private cloud environment or a service provider offering large-scale cloud services, Windows Server 2012 R2 offers an enterprise-class, simple and cost-effective solution that’s application-focused and user centric. With Windows Server 2012 R2, you can utilize the capacity of your datacenter, deliver best-in-class performance for your Microsoft workloads, and receive affordable, multi-node business continuity scenarios with high service uptime and at-scale disaster recovery.

We hope that you are as excited as we are to get started today!

 

Attention TechNet and MSDN Subscribers: Windows Server 2012 R2 available for download today

September 9th, 2013 No comments

Hi, all,

 

If you’re a TechNet or MSDN subscriber, I have good news for you: in response to your requests, Windows Server 2012 R2 (and Windows 8.1) will be available from TechNet and MSDN today. Because we will continue to evaluate the bits with our partners and MVPs, there may be additional changes between today’s release and GA. The previously announced GA date of October 18 has not changed. 

http://blogs.technet.com/b/in_the_cloud/archive/2013/09/09/ready-now-for-tns-amp-msdn-download-windows-server-2012-r2.aspx

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/hh670538.aspx

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/dn205302.aspx 

Can’t wait to hear from you with additional feedback about the release!

Best,

Christa

Windows Server 2012 RTM Now Available for MSDN and TechNet Subscribers

You asked, we delivered.  As announced on Steve Guggenheimer’s blog, and Microsoft VP Brad Anderson’s blog post, “Ready Now for TNS & MSDN:  Download Windows Server 2012 R2”, the Released to Manufacturing (RTM) bits for Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 are now available for download to current MSDN and TechNet subscribers. 

For those of you who are developers, be sure to also grab a copy of Visual Studio 2013.  The release candidate is still currently available. Keep in mind general availability is still October 18, 2013 for the wave we announced last month.

And for those of you interested in downloading some of the other products and trying them, here are some resources to help you:

  • System Center 2012 R2 Preview download
  • SQL Server 2014 Community Technology Preview 1 (CTP1) download

As always, follow us on Twitter via @MSCloud!  And if you would like to follow Brad Anderson, do that via @InTheCloudMSFT !

Happy Birthday Windows Server 2012 – What Superhero Is it?

Birthdays are always special and we wanted to take this moment to celebrate the birthday of a special product. This week we are celebrating the birthday of Windows Server 2012. The product has done really well in the market and has super human strength. So here’s a question for you, “If Windows Server 2012 were a superhero, who would it be?

Happy birthday Windows Server 2012 

Join the celebration and tell us what you think! Like us on Facebook and add your birthday wishes to our page. 

And for those of you interested in downloading some of the other products and trying them, here are some resources to help you:

Better Together – The New Windows Server 2012 R2 Innovations – Download Now

There are quite a few products that make up the Microsoft Cloud OS vision. Windows Server 2012 R2 is in preview right now and ready for your evaluation.  We also have a strong management platform that make up the System Center family of products. They are designed to have tight integration with the core being Windows Server.

If you are looking for information on Windows Server 2012 R2, we have been rolling out detailed information though Brad Anderson’s What’s New in 2012 R2 blog series.  That will continue but we thought you would like a short consolidated list for consideration.  Here are some of the new innovations in Windows Server 2012 R2.

New Innovations in Windows Server 2012 R2Storage transformation – Delivers breakthrough performance at a fraction of the cost

  • The storage tiering feature of Storage Spaces in Windows Server 2012 R2 automatically tiers data across hard disks and solid state drives based on usage to dramatically increase storage performance and cost efficiency.

Software defined networking – Provides new levels of agility and flexibility

  • Network virtualization in Windows Server 2012 R2, along with the management capabilities in System Center 2012 R2 provides the flexibility to place any virtual machine on any node regardless of IP address with isolation. 
  • New in-box gateway in Windows Server 2012 R2 extends virtual networks to provide full connectivity to physical networks as well as access to virtual networks over the internet.

Virtualization and live migration – Provides an integrated and high-performance virtualization platform

  • Cross-version live migration enables virtual machines running on Windows Server 2012 to be migrated to Windows Server 2012 R2 hosts with no downtime.
  • Live migration compression provides dramatic time savings (approximately 50% or greater) by using spare CPU cycles to compress live migration traffic with no special hardware.
  • Live migration with RDMA enables offloading of the process to the NICs (if they support RDMA) for even faster live migrations.

Access & Information Protection – Empowering your users to be productive while maintaining control and security of corporate information with Windows Server 2012 R2

  • Enable users to work on the device of their choice (through BYOD programs or on personal devices) by providing a simple registration process to make the devices known to IT and be taken into account as part of your conditional access policies
  • Deliver policy-based access control to corporate applications and data with consistent experiences across devices
  • Protect corporate information and mitigate risk by managing a single identity for each user across both on-premises and cloud-based applications and enabling multi-factor authentication for additional user validation

Java application monitoring – Enables deep application insight into Java applications.

  • Provides performance and exception events as well as level alerting within Operations Manager for Java applications.
  • Supports Tomcat, Java JDK, and other Java web services frameworks.
  • Line-of-code level traceability with performance and exception metrics for .NET and Java application monitoring for more actionable, tool-driven dev-ops collaboration

This is by no means a comprehensive lists of new features and benefits, but we just wanted to give you some information on the key focus areas.  For those of you interested in downloading some of the products and trying them, here are some resources to help you:

System Center 2012 R2 Available October 18th

In important news today, we are extremely excited that on October 18th, eligible customers will able to download Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, and use the latest update to Windows Intune. This is the same day that Windows 8.1 will be available to consumers and businesses worldwide. Microsoft Vice President Brad Anderson details this exciting news in his latest blog, Mark Your Calendars for October 18th, the R2 Wave is Coming.

Read the news and give these new products a try today! You can download the preview bits here, and learn more about all the new innovations in the R2 products by following Microsoft Vice President, Brad Anderson’s special blog series, “What’s New in 2012 R2”  now underway.

 Get more news on the R2 wave of products by following @System_Center and Brad Anderson @InTheCloudMSFT on Twitter!

Windows Server 2012 R2 Available October 18th

Today we are pleased to make several important announcements. We are extremely excited that on October 18th, eligible customers will able to download Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, and use the latest update to Windows Intune.  Also on October 18th, Windows 8.1 will be available to consumers and businesses worldwide. To find out more about this announcement, see Microsoft Vice President, Brad Anderson’s blog, Mark Your Calendars for October 18th, the R2 Wave is Coming.  While you’re there, be sure to also check out his special series on “What’s New in 2012 R2” for a deep dive on all the new innovations to expect in the R2 wave of products.

You can also get started early and download the preview bits now: 

Also, be sure to follow @WindowsServer and Brad Anderson @InTheCloudMSFT for all the latest news on these upcoming releases!

New Windows Server 2012 R2 Innovations – Download Now

Windows Server 2012 R2 is in preview right now and ready for your evaluation.  We have been rolling out detailed information on our Cloud OS vision though Brad Anderson’s What’s New in 2012 R2 blog series.  That will continue but we thought you would like a short consolidated list for consideration.  Here are some key innovations in Windows Server 2012 R2.

Storage transformation – Delivers breakthrough performance at a fraction of the cost

  • The storage tiering feature of Storage Spaces in Windows Server 2012 R2 automatically tiers data across hard disks and solid state drives based on usage to dramatically increase storage performance and cost efficiency.

Software defined networking – Provides new levels of agility and flexibility

  • Network virtualization in Windows Server 2012 R2, along with the management capabilities in System Center 2012 R2 provides the flexibility to place any virtual machine on any node regardless of IP address with isolation. 
  • New in-box gateway in Windows Server 2012 R2 extends virtual networks to provide full connectivity to physical networks as well as access to virtual networks over the internet.

Virtualization and live migration – Provides an integrated and high-performance virtualization platform

  • Cross-version live migration enables virtual machines running on Windows Server 2012 to be migrated to Windows Server 2012 R2 hosts with no downtime.
  • Live migration compression provides dramatic time savings (approximately 50% or greater) by using spare CPU cycles to compress live migration traffic with no special hardware.
  • Live migration with RDMA enables offloading of the process to the NICs (if they support RDMA) for even faster live migrations.

Access & Information Protection – Empowering your users to be productive while maintaining control and security of corporate information with Windows Server 2012 R2

  • Enable users to work on the device of their choice (through BYOD programs or on personal devices) by providing a simple registration process to make the devices known to IT and be taken into account as part of your conditional access policies
  • Deliver policy-based access control to corporate applications and data with consistent experiences across devices
  • Protect corporate information and mitigate risk by managing a single identity for each user across both on-premises and cloud-based applications and enabling multi-factor authentication for additional user validation

Java application monitoring – Enables deep application insight into Java applications.

  • Provides performance and exception events as well as level alerting within Operations Manager for Java applications.
  • Supports Tomcat, Java JDK, and other Java web services frameworks.
  • Line-of-code level traceability with performance and exception metrics for .NET and Java application monitoring for more actionable, tool-driven dev-ops collaboration

This is by no means a comprehensive lists of new features and benefits, but we just wanted to give you some information on the key focus areas.  For those of you interested in downloading some of the products and trying them, here are some resources to help you:

How to Integrate Your Billing System with the Usage Metering System

This post is a part of the nine-part “What’s New in Windows Server & System Center 2012 R2” series that is featured on Brad Anderson’s In the Cloud blog.  Today’s blog post covers Service Provider experiences in enabling the billing and chargeback of Tenant Resource Utilization and how it applies to Brad’s larger topic of “Transform the Datacenter.”  To read that post and see the other technologies discussed, read today’s post:   What’s New in 2012 R2: Service Provider & Tenant IaaS Experience.

As described in that blog post, enabling billing scenarios for the service providers is a key investment area for this release. Service providers cannot successfully monetize their services in the absence of a system that tracks and reports on tenant resource utilization. These services are offered on a subscription basis and therefore it is critical that the resource utilization is reported at the subscription granularity to assist in billing scenarios. 

Overview of the Usage Metering System

The usage system is located alongside the Service Management API in the Windows Azure Pack (WAP) stack, enabling it to access tenant utilization data for all the services provided in the WAP stack and provide an REST API which is leveraged to integrate with the billing system of the provider, as illustrated in the figure below.

 

Usage Metering System Overview

Service providers have invested a lot in their own billing system and it was critical that the 2012 R2 release be able to integrate with the existing systems in place. Therefore, we targeted our investments to ensure that 2012 R2 integrates easily with various billing providers and ITFM (IT Financial Management) products that are in the market.

It is important to note that there is no billing system being shipped in 2012 R2 release. Service providers have to create the billing integration module (also referred as “billing adaptor”) to provide data to the billing system they are using.

Now, lets go a little deeper to look at the building blocks of the usage metering system and how its architected.

The Usage Metering System has four main components. Three of these components, the Data Generator, The Data Collector and the Usage Database are internal to the system and the fourth component the Usage API is an external facing API that the billing adapter will interface with to extract the tenant resource utilization data.

Data Generator

The Data Generator tier represents the services (resource providers) registered as part of the system. They collect information specific to a subscription and expose it to the Usage Collector. The Usage Collector expects information to be made available following a specific data contract. This contract is the same across all the providers. All providers in the system adhere to this contract to provide information. IaaS metrics in Windows Azure Pack are provided by VM Clouds resource provider.

Data Collector

The Data Collector is an internal component that periodically collects usage information from all the registered Data Generators and stores it in the Usage Database.

Usage Database

The Usage Database is a transient store, which stores all the data from the various Data Generators for a period of 30-40 days. The expectation is that during this time, the billing system would have extracted the data from this database for billing purposes.

Usage API

This is a RESTful API and is the only way to extract the data from the Usage Database. Since Service Providers typically have a billing system which allows them to generate monthly bills to their subscribers. Customers can easily create an integration to their billing system by extracting data from the Usage Database through the Usage API. The component that customers develop to integrate with their billing system is called a “Billing Adapter”, which serves as a bridge between the Usage Metering system and the customer billing system.

 

In the figure below, in the red circles, you can see the VM Clouds resource provider, alongside other resource providers such as Service Bus, generating the IaaS resource utilization data, which is collected and stored in the Usage Database and made available through the Usage API.

image

 

The Usage API can be leveraged to create the billing adaptor and interface with the billing system within the provider data center. In the figure below, you can see that the role of the “billing adaptor” serving to integrate the Usage Metering System and the billing provider within the provider datacenter.

image

 

The “Service Reporting” component and the analytics it provides is discussed in the blog post titled “Creating Usage Analytics Reports using Excel and Performance Point” while this blog post details on how to create a “Billing Adaptor”.

Interacting with the Usage System

This section explains the ways an external system can interact with the Usage Metering System. Two different types of information are available through the Usage API:

  1. Tenant resource utilization for all subscriptions
  2. Plan, add-on, subscription, and account information

The information is presented via two channels:

  1. Usage API that queries all the historical data
  2. Real time CRUD events via the Event Notification System.

The billing adaptor uses both these channels to be able to effectively create a billing reports while being able to respond in real time as plans, subscriptions and accounts get created and managed in the environment.

Usage API (Exposed on the Usage Endpoint)

Usage Data

The Usage endpoint exposes an API to return tenant resource utilization data pertaining to every subscription across services. The caller (“Billing Adapter”) needs to provide the “startid”. This parameter informs the Usage Metering System to return usage data, starting from that ID. The Billing Adapter advances the “startid” based on the number of records returned for the subsequent call.

 

Method Name

API

Response

GET

/usage?startId={startId}&batchSize={batchSize}

UsageRecordList<UsageRecord>

Plans\Addon\Subscription Data

The Usage endpoint also exposes APIs to return data on existing plans, addons, subscriptions, etc

Method Name

API

Response

GET

billing/plans?startId={startId}&batchSize={batchSize}

UsageEventList<Plan>

GET

billing/addons?startId={startId}&batchSize={batchSize}

UsageEventList<AddOn>

GET

billing/subscriptions?startId={startId}&batchSize={batchSize}

UsageEventList<Subscription>

GET

billing/planServices?startId={startId}&batchSize={batchSize}

UsageEventList<ResourceProviderReference>

GET

billing/planAddons?startId={startId}&batchSize={batchSize}

UsageEventList<AddOnReference>

GET

billing/subscriptionAddons?startId={startId}&batchSize={batchSize}

UsageEventList<AddOnReference>

Notes:

STARTID is the record id of the first record you want to fetch in a particular cycle.

BATCHSIZE is the maximum number of records you want to fetch.

USAGE-RESTAPI-ENDPOINT can be found at https://<Admin-API-Machine-Name>:30022

Configuration

The administrator needs to ensure that the Usage Metering Service is configured correctly to authenticate the Billing Adaptor. That can be done by ensuring that the service is capable of accepting the correct credentials that will be used to authenticate. The steps below describe how to ensure that the credentials are set properly. Note: During the installation process, the password used is a random sequence and hence this step is necessary to establish connectivity.

On the WAP deployment launch the Management Service PowerShell Module on the Admin API server.

Then, run the commands below:

· Set-MgmtSvcSetting -Namespace UsageService -Name Username -Value ‘<EnterUserName>’

· Set-MgmtSvcSetting -Namespace UsageService -Name Password -Value ‘<EnterPassword>’ –Encode

Once the username and password are set to known values, these values can be used by the Billing Adaptor to authenticate.

Consuming the Usage REST API

The following steps are required to consume the Usage REST API:

  • Define an httpClient
    • Define the base address (https://<Admin-API-Machine-Name>:30022 )
    • Define the request header
      • Set the media type (application/json or application/xml)
      • Authorization Type (basic)
      • Username and Password
  • Construct a URI to query the Usage Metering Service
  • StartID is the record id of the first record you want to fetch and BatchSize is the maximum number of records you want to fetch.
  • Execute the API call and read Usage Data
  • Data Contracts can be used to de-serialize the response returned (as in Sample below)

Usage Data Model

The Usage Data Model is shown in the figure below and can be used to associate the data returned by the Usage API.

image

Event Notification System

The Service Management API keeps track of events within the Usage Metering System and sends notifications to any registered subscriber (e.g. a Billing Adaptor). Examples of the events are plan, addon, subscription creation\updates and account creation.

Notifications are sent as a Post call to an endpoint registered with the Usage Metering System. The Management Service PowerShell Module should be used to define the required notification end point. Note that the notificationEndPoint must end with a trailing slash.

Description:

Subscribing for plan, add-on and account changes.

Verb

Command Parameters

Set

MgmtSvcNotificationSubscriber

-NotificationSubscriber

-Name

-Enabled

-SubscriberType

-Endpoint

-AuthenticationMode

-AuthenticationUsername

-AuthenticationPassword

-EncryptionKey

-EncryptionAlgorithm

-ConnectionString

-Server

-Database

-UserName

-Password

SubscriberType:

  • BillingService
  • MandatoryService
  • OptionalService

Example:

Set-MgmtSvcNotificationSubscriber -Name Billing –SubscriberType BillingService -Enabled $false -Endpoint https://localhost/ -AuthenticationMode Basic

The Billing Adaptor can be set up to handle the event in a blocking or a non-blocking manner. The SubscriberType BillingService & MandatoryService are both blocking. The only nonblocking option is OptionalService. If the Billing Adaptor is set up to be blocking, a plan creation event in the service management API should trigger a corresponding plan to be created in the billing system. If this operation is not successful, the plan creation at the service management API will fail. This enables consistency between the platform and the billing system.

Notification Data Contracts

Notifications sent to the billing adapter adhere to type – NotificationEvent<T> type. T could be replaced by the below objects.

  • Plan
  • PlanAddOn
  • AdminSubscription
  • ResourceProviderReference
  • PlanAddOnReference
  • PlanAddOnReference

When you download the WAP (Windows Azure Pack) the data contracts can be found under:

· \SampleBillingAdapter\DataContracts\*

Following are the two important properties of NotificationEvent

1. NotificationEvent Method could have following values:

1. Post to create a new account/subscription/addon/plan

2. Delete to delete an account/subscription/addon/plan

3. Post an update to a plan

2. NotificationEvent Entity sends an event when any of the above objects are created\updated\deleted.

Pricing APIs

The Pricing API is designed for billing system in the Service Provider data center to specify prices for Plans and Add-ons to flow into the 2012 R2 system. The billing adaptor can choose provide prices for each Plan, or Plan add-on in real-time. As part of implementing the notification subscriber, we have specifications for the below APIs that the billing service can implement to enable pricing data to flow back into the system. The implementation of these APIs is optional. If the below APIs are enabled the price values for the plans and add-ons will be visible in the WAP Tenant site at the time of addition of the Plan\Add-On.

Method Name

API

RESPONSE

GET

/planPrice?id={id}&region={region}&username={username}

String

GET

/addonPrice?id={id}&region={region}&username={username}&subscriptionId={subscriptionId}

String

 

Notes:

  • This API is expected to return a string with pricing information. The 2012 R2 system will display this information alongside plans for the subscriber, but these are textual and not typed.

Detailed Description of the Sample Adapter Project Files

This section explains the content of the sample billing adapter (SampleBillingAdapter.sln). At a high level the billing adapter consists of the below parts:

1. SampleBillingAdapter.cs provides an example of the different calls to the Usage REST API

2. The set of Data Contracts that can be used to deserialize the API responses

SampleBillingAdapter.cs

This is the entry point for the application. The file contains the below:

1. Instantiation of a UserServiceHttpClient with the required configuration data.

2. This UsageServiceHttpClient is then used to query the usage service. There are seven types of calls that can be made for the Billing data. This data is deserialized into instances of the data contracts that are included in the DataContracts directory

3. The data is then printed to the console.

Example:

using Microsoft.WindowsAzurePack.Usage.DataContracts;
using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Globalization;
using System.Linq;
using System.Net.Http;
using System.Net.Http.Headers;
using System.Text;
using System.Threading.Tasks;

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    // create a WAP usage service http client (this data can be read from a config file)
    string mediaType = “application/json”; // application/json or application/xml
    string authenticationType = “basic”;
    string Username = “UsageClient”;
    string Password = “specify the correct pwd”;
    string Machine = “specify the machine where the usage service is running”;
    string Port = “30022”;
    string BaseAddress = String.Format(“
https://{0}:{1}/”, Machine, Port);
    var usageService = new WAPUsageServiceHttpClient(Username, Password, authenticationType, BaseAddress, mediaType);

    // gather usage and billing data asynchronously using the Usage API
    var usage = usageService.GetDataAsync<UsageRecordList>(“usage”, 0, 50);
    var plans = usageService.GetDataAsync<UsageEventList<Plan>>(“billing/plans”, 0, 50);
    var subscriptions = usageService.GetDataAsync<UsageEventList<Subscription>>(“billing/subscriptions”, 0, 50);
    var addOns = usageService.GetDataAsync<UsageEventList<AddOn>>(“billing/addons”, 0, 50);
    var planAddOns = usageService.GetDataAsync<UsageEventList<AddOnReference>>(“billing/planAddons”, 0, 50);
    var subscriptionAddOns = usageService.GetDataAsync<UsageEventList<AddOnReference>>(“billing/subscriptionAddons”, 0, 50);
    var planServices = usageService.GetDataAsync<UsageEventList<ResourceProviderReference>>(“billing/planServices”, 0, 50);

    #region Print the usage and billing data to the console …
    Console.WriteLine(“Printing Usage Data – Press Enter to Proceed…”);
    Console.ReadLine();
    usageService.PrintUsageData(usage.Result);
    usageService.PrintPlanData(plans.Result);
    usageService.PrintSubscriptionData(subscriptions.Result);
    usageService.PrintAddOnsData(addOns.Result);
    usageService.PrintPlanAddOnsData(planAddOns.Result);
    usageService.PrintSubscriptionAddOnsData(subscriptionAddOns.Result);
    usageService.PrintPlanServicesData(planServices.Result);
    #endregion
}

Data Contracts

The DataContracts directory contains all the required Data Contracts to interact effectively with the Usage API.

VM Data Gathered from the Usage API

VM Provider

Measure

Unit

Description

 

MemoryAllocated-Min

MB

Lowest allocated memory size for a VM within an hour timespan

 

MemoryAllocated-Max

MB

Highest allocated memory size for a VM within an hour timespan

 

MemoryConsumed-Min

MB

Lowest consumed memory size for a VM within an hour timespan

 

MemoryConsumed-Max

MB

Highest consumed memory size for a VM within an hour timespan

 

MemoryConsumed-Median

MB

Median average consumed memory size for a VM within an hour timespan

 

CPUAllocationCount-Min

Each

Lowest number of CPU core allocated for a VM within an hour timespan

 

CPUAllocationCount-Max

Each

Highest number of CPU core allocated for a VM within an hour timespan

 

CPUPercentUtilization-Median

%

Median average in percentage of CPU consumption for a VM within an hour timespan

 

CrossDiskIOPerSecond-Min

MB

Lowest input/output per second (IOPS) across all attached disk for a VM within an hour timespan

 

CrossDiskIOPerSecond-Max

MB

Highest input/output per second (IOPS) across all attached disk for a VM within an hour timespan

 

CrossDiskIOPerSecond-Median

MB

Median average input/output per second (IOPS) across all attached disk for a VM within an hour timespan

 

CrossDiskSizeAllocated-Min

MB

Lowest allocated disk size across all attached disk for a VM within an hour timespan

 

CrossDiskSizeAllocated-Max

MB

Highest allocated disk size across all attached disk for a VM within an hour timespan

 

PerNICKBSentPerSecond-Min

MB

Lowest bytes sent per second on a network adapter attached to a VM within an hour timespan

 

PerNICKBSentPerSecond-Max

MB

Highest bytes sent per second on a network adapter attached to a VM within an hour timespan

 

PerNICKBSentPerSecond-Median

MB

Median average bytes sent per second on a network adapter attached to a VM within an hour timespan

 

PerNICKBSentPerSecond-Average

MB

Straight average bytes sent per second on a network adapter attached to a VM within an hour timespan

 

PerNICKBReceivedPerSecond-Min

MB

Lowest bytes received per second on a network adapter attached to a VM within an hour timespan

 

PerNICKBReceivedPerSecond-Max

MB

Highest bytes received per second on a network adapter attached to a VM within an hour timespan

 

PerNICKBReceivedPerSecond-Median

MB

Median average bytes received per second on a network adapter attached to a VM within an hour timespan

 

PerNICKBReceivedPerSecond-Average

MB

Straight average bytes received per second on a network adapter attached to a VM within an hour timespan

       

As you can see, this is a powerful API that allows bi-directional data flow. The usage data from the 2012 R2 stack to the billing adaptor and the pricing data (business logic decides the prices) and that data flows from the billing system into the 2012 R2 stack.

In subsequent blogs, we will provide more details as we hear more from our customers.

To see all of the posts in this series, check out the What’s New in Windows Server & System Center 2012 R2 archive.

Software Defined Networking (SDN): Double-Clicking into our Point of View

A couple of weeks ago we spoke about our approach to Software Defined Networking (SDN) – an approach that is open and extensible, driven by experience and most importantly, one that lets you leverage your existing investments.

Over the last few months, we have also spoken in detail about this with thousands of customers at MMS, Interop, TechEd North America and TechEd Europe . Over the course of these conversations, we realized a few common themes emerging:

  • Confusion around means of realizing SDN that overshadow the benefits offered
  • Questions around opportunities for server and networking admins to enhance their careers
  • Non-traditional players like Microsoft will have significant roles to play

We felt this blog would be a good platform to discuss these in more detail since we are sure a lot of you have the same questions. Let’s double-click in.

Means of realizing Software Defined Networking:

SDN does not mean that you rip and replace your existing network devices and replace them with new “SDN aware devices”. In most cases, the cheapest and most flexible network infrastructure is the one you already own. If your network scales-up to meet your needs with a manageable OPEX, networking as you know it will continue to exist and you shouldn’t worry about jumping on the bandwagon just because everyone is talking about SDN.

With that said, networking is widely acknowledged to be the final piece of the puzzle requiring simplification in order to meet the agility and flexibility demands of modern datacenters. Centralized provisioning, management and monitoring of compute and storage is very common today.  Sadly, networking often remains stuck in the past – inflexible, ‘hard wired’ and complex.  This is the source of many of today’s most troublesome and difficult problems responsible for service downtimes and application slowdowns.  These are problems experienced by many large customers not just those operating at cloud scale running tens of thousands of hosts.  The complexity of the problems arising is beyond what can be manually fixed and/or monitored.

These real-world problems drove the need for a software defined solution to manage networking. The two approaches taken in large datacenters to do this are:

  • Isolated virtual networks/network overlays.  These sit on top of the physical network and are abstracted from the underlying networking hardware. Since the virtual networks are software defined, it allows admins to create and manage them from a centralized location depending on the needs of the application, templatize it and replicate it across their datacenters. As a result, management overhead is greatly reduced and a lot of mundane, error prone tasks are automated as a part of virtual network definition. A couple of important points to note here are that customers leverage existing hardware investments and this approach does not require any change to the way applications are written. Microsoft’s Hyper-V Network Virtualization and VMware’s Nicira are solutions that fall within this category.
  • Centralized controllers.  These control the physical network infrastructure directly from a centralized location.  This is often paired with an API for programming the network and gives the ability for software to program the network on the fly. This lets software, potentially even applications, dynamically configure the networks depending on current needs. This requires switches and routers to expose these functionalities (Southbound APIs) and a standardized interface for applications to consume them (Northbound APIs).  OpenFlow and Cisco One Platform kit are examples of this approach.   Since software directly configures the network, it needs to be rewritten to make use of this functionality. Custom applications that run within large datacenters, network diagnostic tools, apps that requires high fidelity connections, etc. are some examples where having such fine grained control will be helpful.

There are other variations of SDN solutions that exist today. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s focus on just these two.

As you see in both above mentioned cases, the end goal is the same – simplifying networking using the power of software. In one solution the application is aware of the underlying network and controls it using different protocols. In the other solution, the network is abstracted depending on application needs and the complexity is hidden.  Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 SP1 support and work with both these approaches. As highlighted in previous blog posts, Network Virtualization is built into Windows Server 2012 and customers can use System Center 2012 SP1 to create and manage virtual networks. With the Hyper-V Virtual Switch extensibility, partners like NEC have added functionality to the virtual switch to make it behave like an OpenFlow controller. Additionally applications like Lync are looking at ways to configure the network on the fly to ensure consistent call and video quality.  

Opportunities for Server and Networking admins

A common discussion that comes up in this new world of Software Define Networking is the opportunity it creates for Server and Network Admins to enhance their careers.  Traditionally both these groups have had well defined boundaries that have worked well for the most part – after all, network admins are the backbones of the modern internet that we all take for granted today.

Having said that, there is definitely room for improvement. When applications encounter performance issues, the blame is usually passed around before the actual issue is identified.  Identifying and fixing issues are often considered an ‘art’ with hundreds of manual steps. 

We don’t have a crystal ball to show us if these pain points will go away with SDN. But all signs are positive and bear good news for the careers of datacenter infrastructure folks and IT organizations in general:

  • Network Admins grow into network architects – SDN helps remove the ‘work’ from the job of network admins. They spend more time designing/architecting the network to meet the needs of the application as opposed to working on fixing low-value issues. This could include helping their organizations decide the right approach to SDN from the choices that we covered earlier. Additionally, since automation is core to SDN, this helps network admins build a new muscle which spans beyond areas that they have traditionally worked on. In the new SDN world, network admins can expect to frequently use tools such as Windows PowerShell, System Center Orchestrator, System Center Virtual Machine Manager, etc. which were once considered exclusive to Server Admins.
  • Server Admins will have a better understanding of how the underlying networking fabric is designed. Newer tools will be available that will not only help better diagnose and isolate network issues, but also be able to automatically fix them in many cases. Finally, they will have the flexibility to define abstractions that meets their business needs irrespective of how the underlying physical infrastructure is designed.

Why is Microsoft talking about SDN?

The last topic we wanted to talk about here is the role of companies like Microsoft in the transformation the networking industry is going through. In fact, in the keynote panel at Interop a back in May we had an unlikely combination of executives from Microsoft, VMware (both software companies) and Broadcom (chipset manufacturer) talk about SDN. These aren’t traditional networking players, so why are they talking about SDN?

In addition to the obvious term “software” in SDN, and Microsoft being a software company, there is another important trend that should be noticed. As more workloads are virtualized, the virtual switch is becoming the policy edge in networking as opposed to the physical switch. Networking teams work as much with the virtual switch in a heavily virtualized datacenter as they would do with the physical switch. With customers and partners building rich extensions and adding more functionality to the virtual switch, this trend is only going to improve. These non-traditional players will continue playing a significant role in years to come.

Additionally, Microsoft operates some of the largest datacenters in the world where we have faced a considerable number of challenges that many of you see in your datacenters. We onboard over 1000 new customers in Azure datacenters and make tens of thousands of networking changes every single day. Given the paranoia that exists around having every process automated, we have a unique opportunity to bring some of our learnings back into the product that runs both in our datacenters and our customer’s datacenters.

SDN is a paradigm that is evolving. This is not a change that will happen overnight. This is also not an ‘all-in’ choice that IT organizations has to take today that locks them in with a specific vendor or a protocol. In fact if we were to write a post about what SDN is not, this will be among the first few points that we will list.  There are incumbent players like Cisco and Juniper who are investing heavily in SDN. There are non-traditional players like Microsoft who are taking a fresh look at networking, along with a lot of startups innovating in this space as well.  Finally, there are industry consortiums like Open Daylight where some of the players we mentioned above are actively working on defining the direction of SDN.

Just as we discussed in the previous post, with Windows Server 2012, System Center 2012 SP1 and with the additional work we have delivered, side by side with our partners, you have the opportunity to explore the key benefits of SDN for yourselves. Try it out and let us know what you think:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview download
  • System Center 2012 R2 Preview download

Microsoft Presents “Enabling Consumerization without Compromising Compliance” at BriForum this Week

BriForum kicks off today in Chicago. BriForum 2013 is the only technical virtualization conference that is 100% dedicated to desktop virtualization, VDI, application virtualization, Remote Desktop Services, and the consumerization of IT.

Later this week Microsoft Product Director Jason Leznek will present, “Enabling Consumerization Without Compromising Compliance”.  Jason’s session is on Thursday morning and will cover Microsoft’s approach to delivering people-centric IT is helping customers enable users to work on devices of their choosing with consistent experiences, and providing IT a unified infrastructure for managing and delivering applications and other resources, all while helping organizations protect what is important to them.  See how innovations in System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager, Windows Intune, and Windows Server 2012 R2 helps organizations enable Consumerization without compromising compliance, with a special focus on the technologies which help reduce VDI storage costs and improve the end user and administrator experience to both session and VM based VDI.

If you can’t wait until Thursday to be there live or wait for a recorded replay, be sure and checkout “What’s New in Remote Desktop Services for Windows Server 2012 R2” on the Remote Desktop Services Blog, or “What’s New in 2012 R2: Making Device Users Productive and Protecting Corporate Information” on Brad Andersons blog.  Both blog posts are lengthy but have a ton of good information we think you’ll find interesting.  You might want to view the six minute video below, “Empowering People-centric IT in the age of Consumerization” to learn more about the topic and where we are headed with personal device management.

And for those of you interested in downloading some of the products and trying them, here are some resources to help you:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview download
  • System Center 2012 R2 Preview download
  • SQL Server 2014 Community Technology Preview 1 (CTP1) download

As always, follow us on Twitter via @WindowsServer

Written by Keith Combs, Microsoft Server and Tools

What’s New in Windows Server 2012 R2 – End-to-End Scenarios Across Products

Although People-centric IT capabilities are great on Windows devices, these capabilities are not limited to Windows devices. We also put a lot of work into enabling first class support for heterogeneous devices in our People Centric IT capabilities. Putting users at the center of what we do includes enabling a broad set of devices. Active Directory is a core service enabling this and other scenarios.

This week, Microsoft VP Brad Anderson examines a few examples of holistic end-to-end customer scenarios that are a result of our cross-company collaboration in blog post “What’s New in 2012 R2: People Centric IT In Action – End-to-End Scenarios Across Products”.  Specifically, he looks at:

  1. Providing users with secure access to their files on their personal devices. 
  2. Enabling users to provision their iOS devices for work while allowing IT Pros to restrict access to corporate resources.
  3. Enabling IT Pros to deliver VPN functionality to corporate and personal devices.  This includes both Microsoft and 3rd party VPNs, clients, and gateways – and it also covers upcoming support for this on Windows RT.

Each of these three examples combine and maximize capabilities from across Windows, Windows Server, System Center and Windows Intune. 

This is a relatively long and technical blog post with a lot of example screen shots.  Stick with it, there is a lot of information in the article.  For those of you that haven’t downloaded the R2 Preview wave of products, this will be a good way to get somewhat acclimated to the new techniques and new device support.

And for those of you interested in downloading some of the products and trying them, here are some resources to help you:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview download
  • System Center 2012 R2 Preview download
  • SQL Server 2014 Community Technology Preview 1 (CTP1) download

As always, follow us on Twitter via @WindowsServer!  

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – New Windows Server 2012 R2 Device Access and Information Protection

As you will have seen at Microsoft TechEd North America and Europe, we have just delivered the Preview Release of Windows Server 2012 R2 with a stunning amount of new capability that is Cloud First.

My name is Adam Hall and I look after one of the solution areas within People-centric IT that we call “Access & Information Protection”. In this post I will provide more information about what this actually is and the focus areas we have around Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the Consumerization of IT.

People-centric IT is about helping organizations empower their users to work on the devices they choose without compromising their information integrity or compliance. The challenge this presents to customers is that as soon as their user works on a device that they do not manage or even have any knowledge of, it becomes very difficult to retain control of sensitive corporate information, and to be able to respond to situations such as the device being sold, lost or stolen.

With our Access & Information Protection solutions, we deliver capabilities that help our customers solve this very challenging problem in the following ways:

Simple registration and enrollment for users adopting Bring Your Own Device programs (BYOD).

Users can register their device using Workplace Join which creates a new device object in Active Directory and installs a certificate on the device, allowing IT to take into account the users device authentication as part of conditional access policies. Users can also opt-in to the Windows Intune management service for consistent access to applications (including internal LOB apps and links to public app stores), management of their own devices and to gain access to their data.

Users can work from the device of their choice to access corporate resources regardless of location.

New in Windows Server 2012 R2 are the Web Application Proxy and Work Folders. The Web Application Proxy provides the ability to publish access to internal resources and perform Multi-Factor Authentication at the edge. Work Folders is a new file sync solution that allows users to sync their files from a corporate file server to all their devices both internally and externally.

 

IT can better protect corporate information and mitigate risk by being able to manage a single identity for each user across both on-premises and cloud-based applications.

As users blend their work and personal lives, and organizations adopt a mixture of traditional on-premises and cloud based solutions, IT needs a way to consistently manage the user’s identity and provide users with a single sign-on to all their resources.  Microsoft helps our customers by providing users with a common identity across on-premises or cloud-based services leveraging existing Windows Server Active Directory investments and then connecting to Windows Azure Active Directory.  In Windows Server 2012 R2, we have significantly enhanced Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) to be easier to deploy and configure, tightly integrated with the Web Application Proxy for simple publishing and federating between Active Directory and Azure AD. 

 

IT can access managed mobile devices to remove corporate data and applications in the event that the device is lost, stolen, or retired from use.

Whether a device is lost, stolen or simply being repurposed, there will be times when IT needs to ensure that the corporate information stored on the device is no longer accessible. With Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center configuration Manager 2012 R2 and Windows Intune, companies have the ability to selectively wipe corporate information while leaving personal data intact.

IT can set policy-based access control for compliance and data protection.

With users working on their own devices, the accessing of corporate resources and storage of information on these devices presents some challenges for ensuring compliance needs are met and information remaining secure.  Windows Server 2012 R2, through the Web Application Proxy, ADFS and Work Folders provides compelling and powerful solutions to make it easy for our customers to make resources available but also remain in control of information.  As we showed in the TechEd Europe keynote in Madrid this week, Work Folders is integrated with Dynamic Access Control, providing the ability to automatically classify information based on content, and perform tasks such as protecting with Rights Management Services, even for data that is created and stored on clients!

 

To see People-centric IT, including System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager, Windows Intune, and Windows Server 2012 R2 in action, you can watch a complete presentation and end-to-end demonstration from the TechEd North America Foundational Session. You can also learn more about People-centric IT by downloading the People-centric IT Preview Guide.

Be sure to download System Center 2012 R2 Preview Configuration Manager and Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview today!

People-Centric IT with the System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview

Hello from the System Center team and all of you participating in TechEd Europe 2013.  We wanted to take this opportunity to provide more technical details on System Center 2012 R2, Intune and Windows Server 2012 R2 so you’ll see some new blog posts today and later this week.  Let’s start first with Windows Server 2012 R2.

Windows Server is the foundation OS for many of our products and it is important to know what we are delivering with the next release. The file system and storage capabilities have been an important role for any server operating system, and that continues today with virtualization and cloud services.  See the Windows Server teams blog post, “Storage Transformation for Your Datacenter” for information on SMB Direct, SMB Multichannel and other storage improvements.

Storage is an integral part of many applications or services and System Center obviously needs to store information about devices it manages in your environment.  This device landscape is vast and includes operating systems other than Windows. Jason Leznek wrote, “Preview New People-centric IT Products Now!” to expand on these capabilities. In that post you will get information on the device operating systems we support, what you can test today, and what is coming in the next release of Windows Intune (not yet available for testing).

Content and Downloads

If the information in the blog posts seems foreign and you want to learn more, be sure to check out all of the sessions in the TechEd Europe 2013 course catalog.  You can watch the sessions live or on-demand.  The sessions are organized by tracks and you can filter in a variety of ways to find a particular topic.

Ready to try the previews for yourself?  Go get the Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 or SQL Server 2014 R2 previews at the download center.  Enjoy!

 

 

Storage Transformation for your Datacenter

A few weeks ago, we addressed storage transformation in this blog – and how onsite storage, cloud storage, and recovery options are evolving.  Below is a brief video overview of some of our key storage solutions.  In this post, we will explore how storage is changing inside your datacenter, and how we transform industry standard disks into reliable, high-performance onsite storage for you datacenter.

A common model today is for new deployments of important workloads like virtualization and line of business applications to utilize a storage-area network (SAN) to achieve the performance and reliability the workload needs.

 

In this model, the virtual machines running on the physical hosts access virtualized volumes of storage over the network.  These volumes are provided by the SAN, which contains a set of physical disks, some hardware, and software that work together to provide performance, reliability, and a level of storage virtualization.

If you have a significant investment in a SAN infrastructure, you can rest assured Microsoft is continuing to integrate key technologies into products like Windows Server to keep it the best operating system to use with SANs.  We’ve introduced Offload Data Transfers (ODX) and virtual fibre channel adapter support to help increase the performance of physical and virtual workloads.  We also have TRIM/UNMAP support for thin provisioning and flexible and efficient storage utilization.

But there are other options.  Historically Windows Server file-based storage was a great option for user data – workloads like file servers and SharePoint.  But starting with Windows Server 2012, we dramatically improved the performance and reliability of the file server, enabling it to serve as a direct replacement for more traditional storage options.

 

In this model, the Windows Server cluster contains the disks, hardware, and software to provide high-performance, reliable virtualized storage volumes over the network.  Storage Spaces, introduced in Windows Server 2012, aggregates the physical disks into these virtual volumes.

The performance needed for this solution is delivered by a host of features – including improvements in the SMB protocol, such as SMB Direct and SMB Multichannel which make use of multiple network connections and RDMA.  Performance is further enhanced with Windows Server 2012 R2 which adds storage tiering capabilities to Storage Spaces.  SSDs and spinning disks can both be part of the virtualized volumes, and Windows Server automatically stores the more frequently accessed data on the faster physical storage for dramatically higher total performance.  You can read more about the storage performance of Windows Server 2012 in an ESG Lab report.

An additional upcoming report includes additional performance validation, such as the table below, which compares 2, 4, 6, and 8 VM SQL workload transactions per second across various storage architectures.

 

Windows Server 2012 also improved the reliability of File and Storage Services clusters.  Such clusters no longer suffer the brief downtime previously associated with failover scenarios.  Instead, the failure of one node is detected immediately, and service is provided by another cluster node so quickly, the virtualization hosts are not disrupted – they retain access to storage.

The benefits of such a solution are clear. 

  • While it’s always been possible to achieve high levels of performance and reliability, in the past, this required higher costs and proprietary storage management solutions.
  • As both hardware and software technologies have evolved, these capabilities can be delivered with industry-standard hardware, at lower costs.
  • These solutions are easy to scale out as needs grow – as opposed to making bulk investments in proprietary solutions.
  • Your traditional IT administrators can manage familiar file shares with ease

You can explore these storage capabilities in your own environment.  The Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview  is now available for download.  Try it out for yourself.

Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Preview is Now Available for Download

Today at TechEd Europe 2013 we announced availability of the System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012 R2 previews.  You can download these products right now from the evaluation center

Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 provide a wealth of new advancements to help IT organizations build and deliver private and hybrid cloud infrastructure for their businesses.  Some of the highlights include:

  • Download System Center 2012 R2 PreviewEnabling hybrid cloud – Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center enable virtual machine portability across customer, service provider and Windows Azure clouds, while a new System Center Management Pack for Windows Azure enhances cross-cloud management of virtual machine and storage resources.  Windows Azure Backup and Hyper-V Recovery Manager provide offsite backup and disaster recovery options.
  • Windows Azure Pack provides Windows Azure technology that enterprises and services providers can run on their Windows Server infrastructure for multi-tenant web and virtual machine cloud services. 
  • Built-in software-defined networking – Site-to-Site VPN Gateway helps customers seamlessly bridge physical and virtual networks and extend them from their datacenter to service provider datacenters. 
  • High performance, cost effective storage Features such as Storage Spaces Tiering, VHDX resizing and de-duplication for virtual desktop infrastructure provide high performance for critical on-premises workloads (like SQL and Hyper-V) using lower-cost, industry-standard hardware.
  • Empowering employee productivity – Windows Server Work Folders, Web App Proxy, improvements to Active Directory Federation Services and other technologies will help companies give their employees consistent access to company resources on the device of their choice.

This and a number of other announcements are highlighted on the Server and Cloud Blog post, “TechEd Europe Launches with CloudOS Product Previews, Partner Announcements and Customer Case Studies”.  Be sure to take a look at it.  There is a wealth of information on the products, Brad Anderson’s keynote and blog post links, press release links and more!

For those of you interested in the TechEd sessions for System Center, be sure and review the Modern Datacenter track in the catalog. Additional filtering can be applied with the tagging to get right at the System Center sessions you are looking for.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview is Now Available for Download

Today at TechEd Europe 2013 we announced availability of the System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012 R2 previews.  You can download these products right now from the evaluation center.

Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 provide a wealth of new advancements to help IT organizations build and deliver private and hybrid cloud infrastructure for their businesses.  Some of the highlights include:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview Now Available for DownloadEnabling hybrid cloud – Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center enable virtual machine portability across customer, service provider and Windows Azure clouds, while a new System Center Management Pack for Windows Azure enhances cross-cloud management of virtual machine and storage resources.  Windows Azure Backup and Hyper-V Recovery Manager provide offsite backup and disaster recovery options.
  • Windows Azure Pack provides Windows Azure technology that enterprises and services providers can run on their Windows Server infrastructure for multi-tenant web and virtual machine cloud services. 
  • Built-in software-defined networking – Site-to-Site VPN Gateway helps customers seamlessly bridge physical and virtual networks and extend them from their datacenter to service provider datacenters. 
  • High performance, cost effective storage Features such as Storage Spaces Tiering, VHDX resizing and de-duplication for virtual desktop infrastructure provide high performance for critical on-premises workloads (like SQL and Hyper-V) using lower-cost, industry-standard hardware.
  • Empowering employee productivity – Windows Server Work Folders, Web App Proxy, improvements to Active Directory Federation Services and other technologies will help companies give their employees consistent access to company resources on the device of their choice.

This and a number of other announcements are highlighted on the Server and Cloud Blog post, “TechEd Europe Launches with Cloud OS Product Previews, Partner Announcements and Customer Case Studies”.  Be sure to take a look at it.  There is a wealth of information on the products, Brad Anderson’s keynote and blog post links, press release links and more!

For those of you interested in the TechEd sessions for Windows Server, be sure and review the Modern Datacenter track in the catalog. Additional filtering can be applied with the tagging to get right at the Windows Server sessions you might be interested in.  There are sessions on virtualization, storage, manage, security, etc. Enjoy!

Transforming your Datacenter with Software-Defined Networking (SDN): Part I

With server virtualization, you are able to decouple a compute instance from the underlying hardware.  That enables you to pool compute resources for greater flexibility. However, to truly transform your datacenter, you’ve also got to deliver your storage, compute, and networking resources as a shared, elastic resource pool for on-demand delivery of datacenter capacity. Indeed, this datacenter-level abstraction is a critical part of Microsoft’s Cloud OS vision.    

Part of the challenge in holistically abstracting your datacenter resources is that the network hasn’t kept up with the advances in compute innovation. Today’s networks can be rigid due to tight coupling between your workloads and the underlying physical network hardware such as ports, switches, and routers. Network operations are overly complex since the management interfaces to configure and provision network devices tend to be proprietary; in many cases, network configuration needs to happen on a per-device basis, making it difficult to maintain an end-to-end operational view of your network. And if you’ve ever tried to move an application from one datacenter to another, you know how cumbersome it is to reconfigure the underlying IP addresses in the process.     

Defining SDN

Software-defined networking is about enabling software – rather than the hardware – to dynamically manage the network in a way that helps you better meet the requirements of your applications and workloads. This involves:

  • The ability to abstract your apps and workloads from the underlying physical network, which can be accomplished by virtualizing the network. Analogous to server virtualization, you need consistent abstractions that will work with your applications and workloads in a non-disruptive manner. For instance, you would need virtual abstractions for your physical network elements, such as IP addresses, switches, and load balancers. 
  • The ability to centrally define and control policies that govern both physical and virtual networks, including traffic flow between them. 
  • The ability to implement these network policies in a consistent manner at-scale, even as new workloads are deployed or moved around across virtualized or physical networks.

Delivering SDN

Microsoft’s approach to SDN is grounded in our experiences designing, building, and operating global-scale datacenter networks for services like Windows Azure. We’re adding over a thousand customers per day to Windows Azure. Enterprises trust Microsoft to enable them to deliver on-demand capacity to their business while ensuring secure isolation of their infrastructure and data. Multi-tenancy is built into Windows Azure, after all. To enable easy onboarding and workload portability, Windows Azure enables customers to bring their own IP address to our network. Also our global datacenters have to deal with tens of thousands of network changes every day – it would be impossible to manage such scale without software-enabled automation and control. 

Plus, Windows Azure runs on the same Windows Server and Hyper-V platform that we provide to our customers. The exact same. Windows Server and System Center bring our learnings and best practices from operating global scale datacenter networks to you so that you can realize the SDN promise of flexibility, automation and control.  

Let’s now click-down on the key aspects of Microsoft’s SDN solution to help you assess what this means for your organization.  

Built-in and production ready

Windows Server 2012 delivered Hyper-V Network Virtualization that helps you abstract your apps and workloads from the physical network using virtual networks. Virtual networks provide the necessary multitenant isolation while running on a shared physical network fabric, thereby driving up resource utilization. To ensure that you can carry forward your existing investments, virtual networks can be set up on existing networking gear and are compatible with VLANs. It is also worth noting that virtual networks can scale much better than VLANs for your private and hybrid cloud environments. Check out how EmpireCLS is virtualizing network traffic on top of their physical infrastructure using Hyper-V Network Virtualization.

With System Center 2012 SP1 Virtual Machine Manager, you can provision and manage virtual networks at-scale. You can define and control virtual network policies centrally and link them to your apps or workloads. When your workload is deployed or moved, the network configuration adjusts itself automatically. This is important because it removes the need for manual reconfiguration of network hardware, thereby reducing operational complexity while saving your valuable resources for higher-impact work. Virtual Machine Manager also helps you to control traffic flow between virtual networks, including the ability to define guaranteed bandwidth for your critical apps and workloads.

To seamlessly help you move your workloads within and across datacenters and clouds, we’re delivering a software edge gateway in Windows Server 2012 R2 that can be managed by System Center 2012 R2. If you’re in enterprise IT, this gateway will help you easily extend your datacenter boundaries to a service provider or Windows Azure, so that you can deliver hybrid infrastructure on-demand. If you’re a hosting service provider, this means much greater operational efficiency, since this virtual gateway is multitenant-aware and can support multiple customers on a single instance while meeting their throughput and availability needs. 

Open, extensible and standards-based

We want to ensure that customers have the choice of solutions that best support their existing investments and roadmap. We also want to help our partner ecosystem build value-added solutions and extensions on top of Windows Server and System Center. As a testament to our open, extensible and standards-based approach, we have great partner ecosystem momentum for our networking solutions.     

We’re committed to standards-based management to reduce datacenter complexity. This will help us enable datacenter plug-n-play so that devices “just work”. Specifically, we will simplify provisioning and configuration of top-of-rack switches using Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2. As a great example of ecosystem support, Arista Networks announced full support for the Open Management Infrastructure (OMI) technology across all Arista platforms through the Arista EOS (Extensible Operating System) software.

Many customers asked us for the ability to deeply integrate Hyper-V virtual networking into their existing network infrastructure, such as their existing monitoring and security tools. To meet that need,   Windows Server 2012 introduced the Hyper-V Extensible Switch, which enables easy extensions of our hypervisor platform. The Hyper-V Extensible Switch also enables partners to build security and manageability extensions. Cisco announced general availability of their Nexus 1000V extension to the Hyper-V Extensible Switch, including integration with System Center 2012 SP1 Virtual Machine Manager.  Check out this datasheet, whitepaper, and webcast if you’d like to know more about this joint Microsoft/ Cisco solution.  NEC announced System Center 2012 SP1 Virtual Machine Manager based support for their OpenFlow-based Hyper-V switch extension. Additionally, 5NINE and inMon have in-market offerings based on Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V switch extensions. 

To provide additional flexibility and choice for customers, partners are building gateway appliances to bridge physical and virtual networks. F5 announced an appliance-based gateway that will support Hyper-V Network Virtualization environments, including integration with System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager. Huawei announced Hyper-V Network Virtualization gateway support in their core switches for Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2. Finally, Iron Networks announced support for Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 in an update to their in-market network gateway appliance. 

Microsoft is actively participating in industry consortiums like Open Daylight to promote industry standards and customer choice.

Hardware and software innovation

We believe that both hardware and software innovations are required to make these SDN promises real.   This is important for applications that might need direct visibility into the physical network to meet their performance needs, for instance. We continue to work with our network adapter and merchant silicon partners to deliver native hardware performance by ensuring that our platform takes full advantage of their unique hardware capabilities. Mellanox technologies and Emulex announced NVGRE task offload capability in their NICs to optimize network performance. We’re also working with Intel and Broadcom to support Hyper-V Network Virtualization in their chipsets.

Next steps

  • Learn more by viewing our TechEd North America session on SDN
  • Check out Microsoft’s perspective on SDN from the Interop keynote panel last month
  • Register to be notified once the Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 product evaluation bits become available

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be diving much deeper into the Windows Server and System Center networking technologies that can help you eliminate the seams in your network and transform your datacenter. So make sure you’ll check back on this site frequently!  

As always, we’d really like to hear from you, so please feel free to share your thoughts and comments. 

Storage Transformation

Organizations face many challenges when it comes to storage.  Data volumes are exploding, increasing the cost of storage and the headaches of storage management.  The rise of Big Data analytics means more data is being collected and mined than ever before – 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years.  Enterprise data is expanding at 20% per year or more. 

But changes in the technologies and products that compose storage solutions are creating new opportunities.  And the Microsoft strategy embraces these trends so customers can benefit from them today.

First, the level of performance and reliability that storage based on industry-standard hardware and software can achieve in your datacenters is rapidly increasing.  Second, customers are moving data to the cloud to experience the flexibility, elasticity, and cost effectiveness the cloud offers.  And third, recovery needs and the strengths of the cloud are beginning to come together in the form of data backup/recovery and the orchestration of application recovery.

Four years ago, starting with the release of Windows Server 2008 R2 and continued with the release of Windows Server 2012, Microsoft began a journey to fundamentally transform storage and deliver a new range of solutions for customers.  Since then, we’ve taken steps in each of these three areas.

On-premises storage

In the past, many customers purchased proprietary storage solutions for the performance and reliability they provide – but at a high cost.  Changes to hardware, operating systems, and software are now making high performance, reliable storage possible – with industry standard hardware. 

Last year, Windows Server 2012 began delivering on our vision of storage transformation with virtualized file-based storage with Storage Spaces and scale-out file servers.  At TechEd 2012 we presented a session on the improvements to our SMB protocol, and at MMS a few months ago a session on file storage strategies for private clouds.

We’re proud of the performance these offerings deliver.  Windows Server file-based storage configurations can deliver 1,000,000 IOPs, and continue to provide uninterrupted service to workloads like Hyper-V and SQL Server, even through the loss of disks or a server.

Data moving to the cloud

Everyone will move their data at their own pace, and often one workload at a time.  A great candidate for you to consider is data whose usage decreases quickly over time as it ages.  SharePoint deployments frequently illustrate this data pattern, as one example.

Last year, Microsoft acquired StorSimple.  A Microsoft StorSimple device, combined with Windows Azure storage, provides cloud storage as an extended tier, automatically moving less accessed data to the cloud, while maintaining seamless integration for easy access.

Recovery and the cloud

Plus Microsoft has taken important steps in bringing the cloud to recovery services.  Backup data benefits from additional disaster protection when being stored offsite.  Windows Azure Backup is in preview today.  While Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager – available as a limited preview –helps protect important applications by coordinating the replication of Microsoft System Center clouds to a secondary location.  Windows Azure remotely monitors availability, and orchestrates recovery as needed – all under your control.

Customer Impact

Customers are already experiencing the benefits of file-based storage for applications on Windows Server.  By taking advantage of storage efficiencies in Windows Server 2012, Marquette University estimates that its storage costs will be 10 times lower than using SANs.  Studio Moderna saved 50 percent of the costs required to expand its storage area network solution for its developers.

Meanwhile, Microsoft StorSimple has already helped customers achieve savings of 46% to 65% storage costs, while providing a solution which can handle their ongoing data growth efficiently.

Summary

You can learn more about our current storage capabilities here.

Or you can learn more about the future at TechEd 2013 in New Orleans this week, and the coverage made available online, where we’ll be talking about exciting improvements such as storage tiering, which enables Storage Spaces to combine SSDs and traditional spinning disks into a single virtualized volume which automatically tiers data based on usage.  This maximizes storage performance for frequently used data while maximizing the value of that limited SSD space.

Over the course of the next few months, we’ll be diving into these topics further in this blog and others – exploring how Microsoft is helping change storage and helping customers control costs.  Stay tuned for more!