New Podcast – MVPITPro by Andy Syewicze & Rob Corradini

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This is the start of an awesome podcast series called MVPITPro.  I am excited to be working with MVP Andy Syewicze from Altaro Software to produce this series of podcasts for all the IT Pros out there. Episode one is with my fellow MVP and friend Symon Perriman of FanWide, and 5nine Software before that. 🙂 So sit back and enjoy the ride!!!  And maybe you learn a little bit about being an MVP!!

MVPITPro

Enjoy, until next time, Rob Corradini, MVP, Cloud & Datacenter

Joining 5nine Software as Director of Product Management

Today, I am excited to announce I will be joining the awesome team at 5nine Software as Director of Product Management. My primary job responsibilities will be for the product strategy and direction of 5nine’s security and management solutions.
5nineSo, you ask, why Product Management? It’s been a lifelong dream to be part of shaping the direction of a technology solution.  By joining 5nine, I hope to simplify IT, Cloud and beyond, because there’s always a better way 🙂

“What prepared me for this was very surprising looking back.”

Life at Nutanix

Over the past 2 1/2 years at Nutanix, I managed 84 partners over 146 solutions.  The partner solutions that my team managed and validated were from all aspects of technology. i.e. Monitoring, backup, DR, Big Data, DevOps, security, networking, databases and the list goes on.

5nine Software was one of my first partners I validated. I was familiar with them.  5nine Manager was a tool I had used in the field during my consulting days. But I had not seen security solution yet. During Nutanix Ready process, this is when I first got introduced to 5nine Security.  I remember at the time, I was super impressed with how they integrated with Hyper-V.

Shortly, after 5nine’s Nutanix Ready validation, my colleague and Alliance Manager Tommy Gustaveson and I interviewed past 5nine’s VP of Alliances Symon Perriman.  We enjoyed understanding 5nine’s vision and also getting to know a little more about Symon Perriman’s journey.  Yes, I admit, I had a little hero worship for him. But, who can blame me, Symon is a one of kind person and proud to this day to call him a friend 🙂

So, on with the story, part of my job at Nutanix was front-ending the Product Managers (PM’s). The PM’s were always pulled in 10 different directions and they came to trust us with some of these activities with partners.  This would include understanding the partner technology, how we can go to market together and how the partner would integrate with Nutanix.  We worked with Alliance Managers and PM’s to determine if this would be a good partnership.

Once the business side of alliances onboard s a partner, that’s where the handoff to the Nutanix Ready team happens. The team spends a lot of time understanding each partner solution(‘s). The team does a deep investigation of any issues around the partner solution(‘s) and Nutanix. This is vetted by Nutanix’s support and solutions teams. This, in turn, gives the customer a certain degree of comfort that the partner solutions were tested, validated and it will work on Nutanix 🙂

Over the course of my time at Nutanix and my career to that extent, I have to see many, many UI\UX’s and engines (code) behind it.  I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. The common theme of what doesn’t work is over complicating your user experience.
We are at the age of managing multiple multi-geographic data centers and clouds, backups, DR, networking, SDN’s and we need to secure it all. If your UI even vaguely resembles an airplane cockpit, you’re doing it wrong.  It is an inefficient use of an IT Pro’s time and energy.  They just want to simply manage their production applications and have an easy management experience.

I will never trade the time I had at Nutanix, but times are a changing 🙂  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post “Building Nutnaix Ready”, “it was the best of times and the worst of times”.  I have not finished that series yet, but needless to say, it prepared me for the next step in my journey.

So, keep an eye on my blog, twitter feed, etc, because things are about to get into high gear.

Until next time and happy holidays,
Robert Corradini, MVP – Cloud & Datacenter

Windows User Profiles…The Mysteries Untold – Part 1

Happy New Year Everyone…This is my first blog post of 2017. Woo Hoo!!  As always, I love to blog about questions from the field.  This one came from a customer testing their new Virtual Desktop Infrustrure (VDI) on Nutanix and had 1 out of 50 users profiles be corrupt. He asked why did this happen and how can I avoid this in the future. Now, I would say that 1 corrupt profile out of 50 is fine during a test, but let understand why it happens. This topic is especially important to understand because directly relates to VDI and your end-user experience in VDI.
Windows User Profiles

What is a Windows User Profile? It not just your desktop 🙂

Let’s do a quick primer…

Windows creates a user profile the first time that a user logs onto a physical computer or VDI session. At subsequent logons, the system loads the user’s profile, and then other system components configure the user’s environment according to the information in the profile.

A user profile consists of the following elements:

  • A registry hive. The registry hive is the file NTuser.dat. The hive is loaded by the system at user logon, and it is mapped to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER registry key. The user’s registry hive maintains the user’s registry-based preferences and configuration.
  • A set of profile folders stored in the file system. User-profile files are stored in the Profiles directory, on a folder per-user basis. The user-profile folder is a container for applications and other system components to populate with sub-folders and per-user data such as documents and configuration files. Windows Explorer uses the user-profile folders extensively for such items as the user’s Desktop, Start menu and Documents folder.

Type of User Profiles

  • Mandatory profiles:
    • Typically one pre-configured profile for many users.
    • Although during a session changes can be made, they are discarded. When the user logs on the next time, the locally cached copy of the mandatory profile is reset (replaced with the network copy).
    • The path to the mandatory profile needs to be assigned to users
    • Useful mainly for kiosk systems.
  • Local profiles:
    • One profile per user per machine.
    • No dependency on the network.
    • Since the profile is available locally, logons are very fast.
    • No configuration is necessary, local profiles are assigned to users automatically.
    • Backing up local profiles is often a challenge because the profiles are distributed across many machines with potentially slow and/or only intermittent network connectivity.
    • Another difficulty is how to transfer local profiles between computers, which becomes necessary when machines are replaced.
    • Useful for users who do not switch computers often or for computers without permanent network connectivity, like laptops. In VDI environments local profiles should not be used since users are directed to an arbitrary (the least loaded) server when they launch a new session.
  • Roaming profiles:
    • One profile per user.
    • The master copy of the profile is stored on a file server. During logon, it is copied to the local machine, which may slow down logons considerably depending on profile size and network speed.
    • During log off, changed files are copied back to the master copy on the file server. Since a user’s registry hive is stored in a single file, this approach creates the “last writer wins” problem.
    • The path to the roaming profile needs to be assigned to users.
    • Useful for most setups where local profiles cannot be used.
  • Temporary User Profiles:
    • A temporary profile is issued each time that an error condition prevents the user’s profile from loading. Temporary profiles are deleted at the end of each session, and changes made by the user to desktop settings and files are lost when the user logs off.

Windows User Profiles

Windows User Profiles – The Reality

Ok, now let me paint a picture….A user calls the help desk to report a strange issue on an application running on their VDI Desktop. What does the help desk technician do? Analyze the root cause of the problem? Probably not. Most likely, the user’s profile will be deleted and the problem will have gone away. Happy ending? Not at all!

Deleting entire user profiles because of malfunctions caused by small data inconsistencies reveals a great deal of helplessness. While the user can work with the faulting application again, the user has lost thousands of personal settings configured both implicitly and explicitly. The help desk technician, on the other hand, has learned nothing from the case, except a brute force way of closing a call. The next time a user rings with a weird problem the technician will be all the more eager to repeat the procedure.

Deleting is cheap. Who is to blame?  Nobody, really. Given the prehistoric user profile design Windows still uses in its latest incarnations, the help desk technician has no other choice but to delete the profile. Trying to get to the root cause is way too difficult and time-consuming a task to perform routinely several times a day. It is so much cheaper to just delete everything and have the user start from scratch.
Why is it like this? Finding a “Needle in a Haystack” is expensive. User profiles are a mess, a chaotic agglomeration of data. Applications can write what they want, where they want, in what way they want into the profile. Among the piles of data junk each Windows user profile stores, there are, however, quite a few hidden gems: the settings a user actually has configured. That is the stuff users care about.

Take your favorite web browser, for example. It comes with hundreds or thousands of factory presets, most of which you could not care about less. But I bet there are a few tweaks in your configuration you would not like to live without. Unfortunately, those settings dear to your heart are buried among all the other default stuff.

Configuration Craziness with some Applications

And it gets worse. Not only are the valuable settings from individual applications intermingled with worthless data, some applications store their configuration all over the place, effectively creating a mix of settings from multiple programs. This makes it virtually impossible to easily identify and extract a single program’s settings. By the way, Microsoft is especially good at this mixing business. Try to identify all storage locations for (Internet) Explorer settings on your own. LOL 😉

Untangling the Knot – How?

The inadequacies of Windows user profiles have led to the development of quite a few profile management products and technologies.  My next post will dive into Best Practices and some of the solutions that help solve this problem.
Finally, at the beginning of the post I mentioned that this series was inspired by a customer in the field. Well, in the end, the problem was a bad registry setting loaded by the NTUSER.DAT, by a third-party application. ;(

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 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…