Thursday the 15th of May, marked the conclusion of Microsoft’s Annual TechEd conference this year in Houston. While attending the conference, there is one thing that has become quite clear in Microsoft’s message, in my opinion. The future of Microsoft is Azure and all things cloud.
During the keynote, Brad Anderson laid out the company’s future vision and what that means for IT Pros and developers alike. He stated that Microsoft is adopting a “Mobile first, Cloud first” approach that will allow massive amounts of information to be delivered to consumers and enterprises anywhere, and at anytime.
No, you didn’t read that incorrectly. “Mobile first, Cloud first” is the correct saying. Microsoft feels that both items are equally important for the future of the company and for that of the IT industry. Anderson went on to state that “The reality is, they’re one and the same. You know, you really cannot have a cloud without connected devices and vice versa.”
The rest of the conference followed with much of the same message.
Though. while most of the focus of the conference was given specifically to Azure, there were some indirect implications for Hyper-V and the Microsoft virtualization stack. Namely, enhancements to Hyper-V Replica with ties into Azure, and a huge emphasis on the use of the Desired State Configuration capabilities of Windows PowerShell. Both of these items have a positive bearing on Hyper-V and both items should be reviewed and implemented in turn to provide additional functionality for your Hyper-V infrastructure, assuming you meet the requirements. Lets start by looking at Azure Site Recovery.
Azure Site Recovery
Azure Site Recovery was born from a great feature known as Hyper-V Replica. Hyper-V Replica allows IT Pros to replicate Hyper-V VMs from host to host. This is most often performed between two different physical locations, for disaster recovery purposes.
Next, enhancements for Hyper-V Replica were announced in Server 2012 R2. Namely, the ability to specify an additional target location for the replication job. This I’ve found to be most useful for certain industries with a need to follow strict compliancy guidelines by having disaster recovery capabilities at multiple locations.
Now, Microsoft has announced the next round of enhancements for this feature set and has branded it Azure Site Recovery.
Azure Site Recovery provides the ability to utilize Azure as the DR target. If your main site goes dark for whatever reason, VMs and workloads you were hosting on-premise can be spun up in Azure with little downtime.
Historically, the issue with disaster recovery for small to medium sized businesses has been the cost of maintaining and operating a secondary data location. Utilizing Azure as the DR target removes this burden, and now brings the benefits of site-wide DR to the masses.
Additionally, Azure Site Recovery has the ability to define “Recovery Plans”. Recovery Plans allows an IT Pro to define a startup order for the replicated VMs and workloads should they need to startup inside of Azure. This includes defining manual steps requiring a human if needed before continuing on.
Finally, Azure Site Recovery also provides encryption for the data once it has reached Azure so that industry compliance, in regards to data, can be maintained.
*One thing to note regarding this feature: On-Premise System Center Virtual Machine Manager is still required for the functionality, which may still exclude some organizations from participation due to cost constraints. Let’s face it. System Center isn’t cheap.
Desired State Configuration
Again, While not an entirely new, or Hyper-V specific feature, Desired State Configuration was heavily recommended for Hyper-V workloads throughout TechEd, especially if you attended the Windows PowerShell related sessions.
For those that are not aware, DSC (Desired Stated Configuration) Allows an administrator to create a configuration file that contains the exact settings a Windows Server should use. The admin can then take that file and force a server to adhere to it utilizing Windows PowerShell.
If a junior admin decides to install the Active Directory role on a DSC protected Hyper-V host, the Desired State Configuration file will be looked at periodically (via a scheduled task you define) to make sure that the target server configuration remains consistent, and if the current setup does not match the DSC config file, the current settings and software on the target server will be modified so that it does.
Don Jones of PowerShell.org said it perfectly in a session specifically about DSC. Normally you have to teach your children how to put on a shirt. One limb at a time, but if you could use DSC you’d just say, “wear a red shirt, until I say otherwise” and they would just do it.
Regardless, DSC is a feature that is going to become a core part of server management, and needs to be evaluated by all IT Pros for use in their own environments. Trust me, it’s going to make your lives easier once you have it in place.
Stay tuned for more!
While that wraps it up for what’s new in Microsoft virtualization outside of Azure, be sure to stay tuned for more! In the coming weeks, we will be reviewing some of these features in more detail, including specific instructions and howtos for use inside your own environments!
Until then, thanks for reading!