Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 - A Year in Review

As is the norm with the end of the year I thought I would add my 2 pennies and present my 2013 summary post.

Significant software releases:

Microsoft are in the process of adopting a new development cycle or "Rapid Release Cadence" that we started to hear more about as people talked about the "Windows Blue" project code name.

The first fruits of this saw the following releases this year:
  • January 15th
    General Availability (GA) release of System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1)
  • August 27th
    Release to Manufacturing (RTM) of Windows 8.1 & Windows Server 2012 R2
  • September 9th
    RTM versions of Windows 8.1 & Windows Server 2012 R2 released to TechNet and MSDN
  • October 18th
    General Availability (GA) of Windows 8.1 & Windows Server 2012 R2 & System Center 2012 R2
    Windows Intune "Wave E"
    Visual Studio 2013 
  • October 22nd
    Just a few Windows Azure Releases...
    General Availability (GA) of Windows Azure Backup Services
    Public preview of Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager
    Virtual Machines Imporvements (Delete Attached Disks, Availability Set Warnings, SQL AlwaysOn Configuration)
    Windows Azure Active Directory 
    Windows Azure SDK 2.2
  • October 28th
    General Availability (GA) of Windows Azure HDInsight

That's not bad going if you ask me, 7 months between 2 major System Center and Windows releases and a raft of Azure releases.
Not only that but the R2 releases packed in more than a few new features that we have been used to in the past.

However, this new rapid release cycle not been without its problems.
This year has been plagued with problematic software updates, some (KB2887595) with quite disastrous effects (BSOD your Hyper-V cluster anyone?).

There were also numerous problems with the SP1 update for ConfigMgr.

Aidan Finn has a good summary post of Microsoft's new rapid release cadence here:

Addons, Tools and Utils

Over the year there's been some excellent community and partner releases for System Center.  Here's a round-up of some of my personal favourites.

Third Party/Partner Releases
  • Ensight Dashboards and Project Connector from expit
  • Orchestrator End User Portal from ITQ
  • Various Service Manager Utils from SCUtils
  • The ever excellent App Store from Cireson
  • An excellent replacement Service Manager Portal from Syliance
  • Operations Manager Dashboards from Coretech
  • It goes without saying, LiveMaps from Savision
Community Releases


There was a flurry of good books released:

And there's nothing better than some free books!!
The following titles can be found via the summary link below the list.
  • Designing Orchestrator Runbooks
  • Configuration Manager Field Experience
  • Troubleshooting Configuration Manager
  • Cloud Management with App Controller
  • Optimizing Service Manager
  • Network Virtualization and Cloud Computing (Coming Soon)
  • Building a Virtualized Network Solution (Coming Soon)
  • Integrated Cloud Platform (Coming Soon)
  • Introducing Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Technical Overview


Biggest thing in Private/Hybrid Cloud this year?

Well, I think it has to go jointly to the Windows Azure Pack (WAP) and one of the new components of Orchestrator - Service Management Automation (SMA) that works in conjunction with WAP.

These new additions to System Center 2012 with the R2 release aren't going to jump into place in every datacentre overnight, but they're well worth taking the time to take a look into and start getting your hands dirty with them.

WAP brings the familiar interface of the Public Azure Cloud management portal into your own datacentres bring the ease of management and familiarity to your Private Cloud.

SMA brings the power of PowerShell workflows to enhance your automation in conjunction with WAP to really help drive your Private/Hybrid cloud offerings.

There's an excellent blog series for WAP here along with a "Getting Started" guide for SMA here

If you prefer a more visual/auditory approach, come join us at CloudOS Community for a webinar by Damian Flynn (MVP) who is presenting on WAP on the 8th January 2014.
Tickets are available here from Eventbrite.

So what's happened personally to me in 2013?

Well at the end of August I left my then employer and decided to be brave and setup my own company (PowerONPlatforms) to provide Private/Hybrid Cloud consultancy and also bring a new product to the market, a Cloud Management Appliance based on System Center 2012 R2.  It's almost ready and 2014 should be a great year /fingers crossed.

I got a nice surprise in October when I received the e-mail announcing that I had been awarded the MVP award in System Center Cloud and Datacentre Management!

I became involved in the www.CloudOSCommunity.com community site as a director and we're slowly building up to what should be an amazing community to be a part of.

I was invited to come and do some sessions at the UK Tech Days Online in November, you can watch the on demand stream here and see me floundering about as what should have been a good session on building up networking in VMM went to pot thanks to the demo gods and my Surface struggling to get a network connection /facepalm

As part of the Cloud OS community I jumped on the road, along with a bunch of talented people that we corralled into joining us, where we presented at sessions around the UK as part of our CloudOS Relay event which was a huge success.

In-between the Cloud OS Relay events I managed to skip across the pond to Seattle to join some of the cleverest and most down to earth nice people that I've ever had the pleasure of meeting at my first MVP Summit.

So all in all, I've not really stopped since September (not to say that I wasn't busy before that!)

I'm hoping that I can start hitting the blog posts a bit more in the New Year and that I'll also be out and about doing some more presenting so watch this space...

Happy New Year to you!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Network speed issues in Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V with Broadcom NICs

It’s been well documented that there are various problems with Broadcom network drivers in implementations of Hyper-V.
Some of these examples are:
Microsoft KB2902166 – Recommendation to disable VMQ with Broadcom NICs - http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2902166
Guest Clustering Issues - http://www.hyper-v.nu/archives/pnoorderijk/2013/06/virtual-guest-cluster-and-nic-teaming-in-the-host-results-in-an-evicted-cluster-node-broadcom-emulex/
Guest Clustering Issues - http://systemscentre.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/problems-clustering-virtual-machines-on.html
Updated Dell Driver for Broadcom NICs - http://datacenter-flo.de/?tag=broadcom
Various other posts that a simple Bing search will find you - http://www.bing.com/search?q=broadcom+hyper-v&qs=n&form=QBLH&filt=all&pq=broadcom+hyper-v&sc=3-16&sp=-1&sk=

I was hoping that with the release of Windows Server 2012 R2 that these might be a thing of the past and the fixes introduced in the latest 2012 RTM drivers carried across.
How wrong could I be…

After deploying a 2 node 2012 R2 Hyper-V cluster I started to immediately notice slow network performance both deploying new VM’s and copying files between guest virtual machines.
To further confuse me, the problems were heavily present when copying to the host, or VM’s running on the host, that wasn’t the CSV owner.  This originally started me looking down the wrong path.

So, after trying multiple things, I came full circle back round to retesting VMQ & Broadcom settings.

At the moment it looks like the problem that I (and others) had experienced in the past with having VMQ enabled on Broadcom adapters is present with the inbox driver in R2 (version

As well as enabling/disabling VMQ I also stepped the driver down to the previous 2012 RTM version driver ( and it works fine with VMQ enabled.
I can now even swap between drivers without a reboot and show speed impact.

With VMQ Enabled, poor transfer speed between VM’s:

With VMQ Disabled, consistent (and better) transfer speeds regardless of VM/Node placement (Live Migration while copying):

In my environment that I was testing, I have Broadcom NetXtreme  B5720 Quad Port NICs in my blades and all firmware is up to date

Obviously I don’t really want to miss out on the VMQ features so for a while I ran the down level driver, hoping that a fix would appear.

Well, Broadcom have recently released an updated driver directly to their site.

This driver is dated 5th November 2013 and version

I’ve flattened my environment and let VMM install the updated driver during bare metal deployment and, touch wood, so far all VMQ related speed issues are fixed.

Looks like it’s something to bear in mind that the in-box Broadcom driver in R2 is broken while the current direct from Broadcom works.