Microsoft Ignite 2017 Summary and Announcements

Ignite 2017 Key takeaways

This was the first year I have not attended Microsoft Ignite, due to unforeseen circumstances. But this didn’t stop me from covering Ignite 2017. So here we go…

Ignite 2017 this year has about 25k attendees. During the same time as Ignite, they are also running Microsoft Envision. This is more focused to business leaders across industries.  Its main focus is to have Business Leaders understand and manage their organizations in the Digital Age.

Ignite 2017 Attendee Breakout

  • 47 % ITI/IT Pros
  • 34% Developers
  • 19% ITDM.

Top Industries Attended

  • 34% IT and Software (flat YoY)
  • 20% Education
  • 9% Healthcare
  • 9% Manufacturing
  • 9% Professional & Business Services

Ignite Keynotes Summary and Links

ignite2017

Modern Workplace

Key Takeaways – Modern Workplace

Expanding Microsoft 365

  • Microsoft 365 Firstline offering and Microsoft 365 Education
  • New Windows 10 S devices from HP, Lenovo, Acer and Fujitsu starting at $275 USD

Intelligent personalized search power by Microsoft Graph

  • Bing for business
  • LinkedIn data integrated with Office 365 profile card
  • Office 365 search & discovery improvements
  • Windows 10 taskbar search

Intelligent Communications vision

  • Bring voice and video + new cognitive and data services into Micro Teams

Advances in Intelligent Security

  • Integrated Adminced threat Protection using Intelligent Security Graph
  • Better data protection and access control across Microsoft 365
  • New Compliance Manager, a single GDPR dashboard

Modernizing Business Process with Cloud and AI

Key Takeaways – Business Applications

New Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI Solutions

  • First solutions for customer care includes a virtual agent for customers, an intelligent assistant for support staff and conversational AI management tools, power by Microsoft AI
  • HP, Macy’s, and Microsoft already using this technology to improve customer satisfaction and handle more requests, more quickly

Modular apps for Dynamics 365

  • New modular apps are lightweight SaS services designed to transform one business process at a time
  • Work with Dynamics 3 business apps or can be used independently
  • Extend existing systems of record, integrate with Office 365 and augment with LinkedIn insights.
  • First to allow talent leaders and hiring managers to address a company’s most important asset, people
  • Attract: focused on recruiting | Onboard: helps you make new employees successful – Available later this year.

Deeper integration for PowerApps and Microsoft Flow + Office 365 and Dynamics 365

  • Rapidly build apps, automate tasks, simplify workflows and solve unique business problems.
  • Allow any business user familiar with InfoPath forms, Access databases or SharePoint list. This allows customers to build apps that help them achieve more, on a single no-code/low code platform.

Apps and Infra/Data and AI

  • Every customer is an AI customer

The Enterprise Cloud

Key Takeaways – Hybrid

Delivering true hybrid consistency

  • Azure Stack shipping through OEM partners including Dell EMC, HPE, and Lenovo
  • Database Migration Service (DMS)

Empowering customer to optimize costs

  • Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL server
  • Azure Cost Management by CFloudyn – free to all Azure subscriptions

Key Takeaways – Intelligence

Any data, any place

  • SQL Server on Linux Windows and Docker availability with SQL Server 2017 GA’

One convenient workbench for data scientists and AI developers

  • Azure Machine Learning Updates

Build intelligent apps at global scale

  • Azure Cosmos DB and Azure Functions integration

Performance and Scale for mission-critical analytic apps

  • Azure SQL Data Warehouse preview release of new “optimized for compute” performance tier

Cloud for Good – Key takeaways

To empower nonprofits, Microsoft Philanthropies will:

  • Microsoft has announced they met their 2016 commitment to donate $1 billion in cloud computing resources to nonprofits
  • Continue the cloud donations program, and triple the number of nonprofits Microsoft serves over the next three years
  • Launch a new Tech for Social Impact group, and the first offers, announced this week include:
    • Microsoft 365 for Nonprofits
    • Nonprofit Surface discounts for the first time ever

To get more detailed information about these announcements, please see links below or check out the Ignite2017 Site.

Official Microsoft Blog
Office Blogs
EMS Blog
Dynamics Blog
Azure Blog
Hybrid Cloud Blog
Data Platform Blogs


Until next time, Rob.

Storage Spaces Direct Explained – Management & Operations

Management & Operations
Good day everyone. It been a few weeks, like busy with work and such. Anyways, this post will go into how Management & Operations are done in S2D.  Now, my biggest pet peeve is complex GUI management and yet again, Microsoft doesn’t disappoint.  It still a number of steps in different interfaces to bring up S2D, Check out Aidan Finns blog post on disaggregated management from last year.  It still rings true to this day with the release of 2016. It shouldn’t be this complex IMO 🙁 That being said, let move to the details.

Management & OperationsManagement & Operations

Microsoft is pushing everyone to use PowerShell as the primary management tool for Storage Spaces, but you can also manage it with a combination of Windows Failover Cluster Manager, SCVMM, and SCOM as mentioned above. So if you are good at Powershell, management is fairly simple. If not, then you have the classic switching between different tools management experience :(. This is why everyone really needs to start their PowerShell training now, to survive as an architect in Microsoft land going forward ;).

There is a Health Service built into Windows Server 2016 that provides some decent system health and status information for Storage Spaces. I just saw a few demos at ignite16 and have not played with it yet, so I’ll have to dig into this further and see how they stack up in a future post.
Management & OperationsManagement & Operations
S2D supports cluster aware updating that integrates with the Windows Update Service. Like VSAN, because they run in kernel, they need to live migrate VMs off the host server, perform the update, reboot, and then migrate everything back. I’ll note that this is only the case for the hyper-converged deployment model. In a converged model where the VMs are on a separate compute tier, you can update the storage controllers one at a time fairly seamlessly without impacting VMs on the separate compute tier.

While I am not a big fan of the management,  this could give rise to tools like 5nine if they decide to support S2D management. Next up. Application and Performance, Until next time, Rob.

Storage Spaces Direct Explained – Storage QOS & Networking

Storage QOS & NetworkingYo everyone…This is going to be a short blog post in this series. I am just covering Networking and Storage QoS as it pertains to S2D. There are the technologies the bind S2D together.
Storage QoS

S2D is using the Storage (QoS) Quality of Service that ships with Windows Server 2016 which provides standard min/max IOPS and bandwidth control. QoS policy can be applied at the VHD, VM, Groups of VMs, or Tenant Level. Benefits include:

  • Mitigate noisy neighbor issues. By default, Storage QoS ensures that a single virtual machine cannot consume all storage resources and starve other virtual machines of storage bandwidth.
  • Monitor end to end storage performance. As soon as virtual machines stored on a Scale-Out File Server are started, their performance is monitored. Performance details of all running virtual machines and the configuration of the Scale-Out File Server cluster can be viewed from a single location
  • Manage Storage I/O per workload business needs Storage QoS policies define performance minimums and maximums for virtual machines and ensures that they are met. This provides consistent performance to virtual machines, even in dense and overprovisioned environments. If policies cannot be met, alerts are available to track when VMs are out of policy or have invalid policies assigned.

Storage QOS & NetworkingWhat’s New in Networking with S2D?
In Windows Server 2016, they added Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) support to the Hyper-V virtual switch.
For those that don’t know what RMDA is it technology that allows direct memory access from one computer to another, bypassing TCP layer, CPU , OS layer and driver layer. Allowing for low latency and high-throughput connections. This is done with hardware transport offloads on network adapters that support RDMA.
Back to Hyper-V virtual switch support for RDMA.  This allows you to configure regular or RDMA enabled vNICs on top of a pair of RDMA capable physical NICs. They also added embedded NIC teaming or Switch Embedded Teaming (SET).
SET is where NIC teaming and the Hyper-V switch is a single entity and can now be used in conjunction with RDMA NICs, wherein Windows 2012 Server you needed to have separate NIC teams for RDMA and Hyper-V Switch.
The images below illustrates the architecture changes between Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016.
Storage QOS & Networking
Storage QOS & NetworkingNext up…Management and Operations…

Until next time, Rob

Storage Spaces Direct Explained – Fault Tolerance and Multisite Replication

funniest-construction-mistakes-25Fault Tolerance…What does it mean?  Let me break it down simply. Pictured above is just a bad design, not fault tolerance. This is not really what fault tolerance means. Having two or more of something is one factor, but how it’s implanted is just as important.  Fault Tolerance incorporates two very important principles, High availability and Redundancy.
Now if we had a few toilets side by side and kept only 1 open and the other 2 on standby. Also, if it could move the user automatically to another toilet during a failure, then it technically it would be fault tolerant. Anyways, let’s move on from toilets to the real world. 🙂
stalls-3Simply, Fault Tolerance is the ability to continue non-stop when a hardware failure occurs. A fault-tolerant system is designed from the ground up for reliability by building multiples of all critical components, such as CPUs, memories, disks and power supplies into the same computer. In the event one component fails, another takes over without skipping a beat.
Many systems are designed to recover from a failure by detecting the failed component and switching to another computer system. These systems, although sometimes called fault tolerant, are more widely known as “high availability” systems, requiring that the software re-submits the job when the second system is available.
True fault tolerant systems with redundant hardware are the most costly because the additional components add to the overall system cost. However, fault tolerant systems provide the same processing capacity after a failure as before, whereas high availability systems often provide reduced capacity. Ok, let move on to fault tolerance in S2D.
Fault Tolerance in S2D

Storage Space Direct (S2D) uses 3-way mirroring and will spread those mirrors across 3 different servers in the cluster. S2D supports full chassis and rack awareness and gives you the option to distribute data copies across these fault domains.
For disk failures, S2D also uses a self-healing approach… in basic terms, S2D offlines the disk and rebuilds the data copy on another node in the cluster. Replacing a drive adds capacity back into the system.  This is important note as not all HCI vendors support self-healing, For example, on VSAN and some other vendors, disk failures take out entire vDisks.
Fault Tolerance Fault Tolerance Fault Tolerance Fault Tolerance
Multisite Replication

S2D uses Storage Replica (that ships with Windows Server 2016) for synchronous or async replication. They support both stretched clusters and cluster to cluster DR. Storage Replica is part of Windows Server  can be used for other data replication needs outside of S2D.
Fault ToleranceFault ToleranceOk…Next up, Storage QOS and Networking..

Until next time, Rob….

Storage Spaces Direct Explained – ReFS, Multi-Tier Volumes and Erasure Coding

Here’s where we dive in and get dirty…but I promise by the end of my series, you will smiling like my friend here. I am planning a surprise with special guest bloggers. Stayed Tuned. Now one to the show…..
Storage Spaces Direct Explained ReFS

The NEW ReFS File System, Multi-Tier Volumes and Erasure Coding

Storage Spaces Direct Explained ReFSLike S2D, the ReFS file system actually isn’t new either, they have been working on it for several releases now also.  In Windows Server 2016, it finally drops the tech preview label and is now ready for production.  And there is a lot of benefits… like volume creation doesn’t have to zero out the volume for 10 minutes like NTFS. It’s just a metadata operation that is effectively instantaneous now, I’m just going to focus on the couple of benefits that ReFS has for S2D.
For those not familiar Erasure coding (EC) and to prepare you for the next part, EC is a method of data protection in which data is broken into fragments, expanded and encoded with redundant data pieces and stored across a set of different locations.
The original goal of EC was to enable data that becomes corrupted at some point in the storage process to be reconstructed by using information about the data that’s stored elsewhere.  Erasure codes are great, because of their ability to reduce the time and overhead required to reconstruct data. The drawback of erasure coding is that it can be more CPU-intensive, and that can translate into increased latency.
Now all that being said, classic erasure codes were designed and optimized more for communication, not for storage. Naively applying classic erasure codes in storage is okay, but is missing enormous efficiencies. Microsoft has developed their own erasure codes optimized for storage called Local Reconstruction Codes (LRC). I will cover this brieifly further down in the post.
Now back on to S2D…For data protection, S2D uses either 3-way mirroring or distributed parity with EC.  Mirroring gives you great write performance, but only 33% data efficiency.  EC gives you good data efficiency, but random write performance isn’t great for hot data.  ReFS supports the ability to combine different disk tiers using different parity schemes in the same vDisk. This allows S2D to do real-time data tiering by writing new data to the mirror tier and then automatically rotating cold data out to the parity tier and applying the erasure code on data rotation.
It is important to note that ReFS does not currently support Deduplication.  There was a question on this in every session and MSFT says that this is all the ReFS is currently focused on. So we’ll expect to see it land in ReFSv3. For now, customers can get dedupe with S2D by using NTFS. 🙁
Storage Spaces Direct Explained ReFS Storage Spaces Direct Explained ReFSNote if you only have two types of storage then the highest performing is used for the cache while the other type will be divided between performance and capacity with the different resiliency option (mirror vs parity) providing the performance/capacity difference between the tiers. If you only have one type of storage then the cache is disabled and the disks divided between performance and capacity like the previously mentioned case.
For non-Storage Spaces Direct only two tiers, of storage are supported like Windows Server 2012 R2, i.e. SSD and HDD, there is no cache. If you had NVMe storage that could be the “hot” tier while the rest of storage (SSD, HDD) could be the “cold” tier (you name the tiers whatever you want) but you cannot use three tiers.
Storage Spaces Direct Explained ReFS Storage Spaces Direct Explained ReFSStorage Spaces Direct Explained ReFSDuring Ignite 2016, Microsoft took many shots at VMware. Microsoft said that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do erasure coding.  “When you do it the wrong way, performance sucks and you have to limit it to all-flash configurations.”
Microsoft research is using a new technique called “Local Reconstruction Codes”. It uses smaller groups within the vDisk that allows them to recover from failures much faster by not having to reconstruct data from across the entire pool. This combined with multi-tier volumes gives S2D good performance, even on hybrid systems. Sounds like a technology that I seen before. Hmmm..I wonder where…….  😉
Storage Spaces Direct Explained ReFSOk, that’s all for now. next up, Fault Tolerance and Multisite Replication with S2D….

Until Next time, Rob….

Storage Spaces Direct Basics – Explained

'Steno Keypads 50% OFF' 'So, would you like the model that only types verbs, or the one that only types nouns?'Storage Spaces Direct BasicsStorage Spaces Direct BasicsLike anything else, I’m going to start with the basics of the stack and then dive into details of each component over the next few blog posts. There’s a lot to digest…So let’s get rolling…
As mentioned in my previous post, S2D can be deployed in either a more traditional disaggregated compute model or as a Hyperconverged model as shown below:
Storage Spaces Direct Basics

Here are the basic components of the stack…

Failover Clustering The built-in clustering feature of Windows Server is used to connect the servers.

Software Storage Bus – The Software Storage Bus is new in S2D. The bus spans the cluster and establishes a software-defined storage fabric where all the servers can see all of each other’s local drives.

Storage Bus Layer Cache – The Software Storage Bus dynamically binds the fastest drives present (typically  SSDs) to slower HDDs to provide server-side read/write caching. The cache is independent of pools and vDisks, always-on, and requires no configuration.

Storage Pool – When an IT Admin enables storage spaces, all of the eligible drives (excludes boot drives, etc.) discovered by the storage bus. Disks are grouped together to form a pool.  It’s created automatically on setup, and by default, there is only one pool per cluster.  IT Admin’s can configure additional pools, but Microsoft recommends against it.

Storage Spaces – From the pool, Microsoft’s carves out ‘storage spaces’ or essentially virtual disks. The vDisks can be defined as a simple space (no protection), mirrored space (distributed 2-way or 3-way mirroring), or a parity space (distributed erasure coding). You can think of it as distributed, software-defined RAID using the drives in the pool.  IT Admin’s can choose to use the new ReFS file system (more on this later) or traditional NTFS.

Resilient File System (ReFS)  ReFS is the purpose-built filesystem for virtualization. This includes dramatic accelerations for .vhdx file operations such as creation, expansion, and checkpoint merging. It also has built-in checksums to detect and correct bit errors. ReFS also introduces real-time tiers. This allows the rotation data between so-called “hot” and “cold” storage tiers in real-time based on usage.

Cluster Shared Volumes – Each vDisk is a cluster shared volume that exists within a single namespace so that every volume appears to each host server as being mounted locally.

Scale-Out File Server – The scale-out file server only exists in converged deployments and provides remote file access via SMB3.

Networking Hardware  Storage Spaces Direct uses SMB3, including SMB Direct and SMB Multichannel, over Ethernet to communicate between servers. Microsoft strongly recommends 10+ GbE with remote-direct memory access (RDMA). IT Admin’s can either use iWARP or RoCE (RDMA over Converged Ethernet).

In Windows Server 2016, Microsoft has also incorporated Storage Replica, Storage QoS, and a new Health Service. I’ll cover each of these areas in a little more detail in a later post with regards to S2D.
Storage Spaces Direct Basics Storage Spaces Direct BasicsStorage Hardware

Microsoft supports hybrid or all-flash configurations.  Each server must have at least 2 SSDs and 4 additional drives. Microsoft has support for NVMe in the product today.  IT Admin’s can use a mixture of NVME, SSD, or HDDs in a variety of tiering models. The SATA and SAS devices should be behind a host-bus adapter (HBA) and SAS expander.
Storage Spaces Direct Basics Storage Spaces Direct Basics
Now that we have covered the basics, next I will dive into how each of the components work.  Next up, ReFS, Multi-Tier Volumes, Erasure Coding and tigers oh my… 🙂

Until next time, Rob…