Tag Archives: Microsoft Hyper-V

Windows 8.1 Update 1: What Windows 8 should have been

windows81Windows 8.1 Update 1 was released on April 8, 2014.  This update brings a number of features to update Windows 8, including finally, the ability to pin Metro applications to the Taskbar on the Desktop. Ironically, this is also the same day that Windows XP was officially retired by Microsoft.  Clients have been moving with much haste to Windows 7, preferring to leave Windows 8 for later.  This primarily has to do with the amount of change that Windows has undergone between Windows 7 and 8.  For many customers familiarity and usability will be king in the corporate environment.  In many ways, with Update 1 of Windows 8.1, that familiar usability and  familiarity are coming back.

The next update, will bring a return of the old “Start” button.  The new twist is this will be a mash-up of the new Start Screen, with items such as live tiles, and the old cascaded menu behaviour Windows 7 and XP users have grown to love.

But, for the moment, is it time to look at Windows 8.1 in the corporate environment?  Yes.  Most customers should be considering a plan to get them to Windows 8, if already on Windows 7, for sometime in the next 18 to 24 months.  I recommend this time frame, as Windows 8.1 and future updates will be finally ready for the consistency that enterprise organizations need.  This is not a make work project, since many of the newest devices coming out will need Windows 8 functionality to get the best performance out of them.  Touch on Windows 7 is terrible in comparison.

Many organizations may opt for so-called “long-life” equipment from the big vendors.  “Long-Life” equipment will push back the need for Windows 8 or Windows 9 or Windows X, for 5 to 6 years, however, this may cost them more in the end.  We are at an inflection point in terms of human-machine interaction.  Touch is just the first step to gesture control on the PC.  For desktop users this will not be much of a selling point, however, gesture controlled applications such as mapping and interactive presentation systems will put pressure on IT departments to meet this need.  It can be solved by special one off cases, however, this again increases the cost of supporting a platform such as Windows 7.

The good news is migration from Windows 7 to 8.1+ is much easier than it was with XP to 7.  Applications and Drivers should be mostly compatible, and the real planning should be in helping users with new features as when to use the new Start screen, or implementing features like Bitlocker.  Choosing to stay on Windows 7 for the long-term?  You have until January 14, 2020 to worry about the same status as XP, but keep in mind mainstream support is coming to an end in January 2015 for Windows 7 and you will need to pay Microsoft for support requests.

As Windows 8.1 continues to mature, it will leave behind the “Vista” status that Windows 8 had.  Windows 8.1 with Update 1 really does feel more like Windows 9 than Windows 8.

Do not forget, Windows Server 2012R2 just got the update as well.  This update though not as publicized this update includes Active directory updates to better support Office 365 deployments.

Windows Server 2012, VDI and nVidia GTX 650

So it has been a while since my last post.  Many interesting things have been going on, but, let’s chat about one of the more interesting technology develops I have been upto.

For years now, I have been a fan of VDI solutions.  I believe they offer customers the ability to significantly reduce spending on IT operations and maintenance for PC’s.  Of course, VDI removes the large “fat” PC at the desk, and replaces it with a “thin” client that uses backend server power to render the screen.

When I first got this working in 1997 with X11 and Linux, I thought it was very cool and interesting.  I have played with Citrix Metaframe back in 1999, and Windows NT Terminal Services Edition too.  That dates me doesn’t it?

Well, fast forward to 2012.  I wanted to take a oppourtunity to move my PC at home to a “thin” client infrastructure.  Using Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V and a Windows 7 VM of my desktop I gave it a try.  Things I can confirm,

  • RemoteFX DOES work with a GeForce GTX 650.  As advertised it does work worth with nVidia’s latest drivers (WDDM 1.2 DirectX 11), and Windows Server 2012.  I could not make this work with Windows Server 2008R2.
  • AMD Radeon 4870’s do not work with RemoteFX and Windows Server 2008R2 or Windows Server 2012.  Just too old and AMD calls this a “legacy” card.  Since this card is not DirectX 11, I expected it would not work with 2012, but not working with Windows Server 2008R2 was a bit f a surprise.
  • RemoteFX with a vGPU works for most applications.  I have a modern fully switched, enterprise-class network, and where the system faltered was on video.  Flash videos and Youtube HTML5.  While is works when you have it in a window, it does not work so well in full screen mode.  QuickTime videos, well, they play but there is a lot of tearing at 720p.

So for me, VDI at home is not quite ready for prime time.  Before anyone says “you just need more horsepower”, this was on a Xeon 1620 system with 32GB of RAM.  That should be more than enough to host one desktop with good performance.  Otherwise, performance was ok.

For my testing thin client testing, I borrowed a HP t610 Thin Client.  It works fabulously.  It is quiet, and you do not even notice it is running.  HP has a winner with that little machine.

Here is hoping SP1 for Windows Server 2012 improves the performance so I can try this again.  In the meantime, my desktop will stick on its high-fat diet.

Merry Christmas … 2010

Merry Christmas!

Another year has passed us by.  This year has seen some interesting developments in the IT community.  The rise of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter would top my list.  The next would be the release of updated versions of VMware and Hyper-V.  Canada finally has more than one national GSM mobile phone carrier.  The Great Recession wrecked havoc with IT budgets early in 2009, and recovery appears to be underway leading into 2010.

What is ahead for 2010?  I have crystal ball, but expect more socail networking growth.  Expect more mobile application growth.  Over 2 billion downloads from iTunes shows that market has some legs.  Oh, and one thing we can look forward too is the new Mac Tablet.

If we think back 10 years to the end of 2000, RIAA was trying to kill media “pirate” media companies, the Internet bubble was just bursting, Nortel was still a force as a Canadian company, I found out I really enjoy good Indian, and who could have predicted 9/11 and the changes to travel and communication after that?  Lest we not forget Enron that brought SOX and financial IT requirements upon us. SCO vs IBM and the Linux world.  Eventful.

The next 10 years will be even more eventful.   Here is to a happy 2010.

Virtual Infrastructure Consolidation Ratios…

consolidationAs technical people who plan, build and migrate to customers to virtual infrastructure, the question of what consolidation ratio customers can expect is a interesting one.  Consolidation ratios tend to be a mix of wishful thinking and real-life.  In my old IT days, I heard one large high-tech company was able to achieve 30 to 1 consolidation ratios for their Windows infrastructure.  My CIO at the time asked why can’t we do the same, imagine the savings!

Truth be told there is a lot to consolidation ratios.  Microsoft claims customers in real-life get between 5 to 7 virtual machines per host.   VMware will say “it depends” which is the right answer, though, I’m curious to see what their customers achieve on average.

There are many methods.  I myself like to use the 10-25% rule.  This rule means at any one time, 10-25% of your users are actively using the system.  So, to calculate the “real-life” consolidation ratio, I take the peak of the top 25% of the hosts and then use the average for the remaining 75%.  It’s worked well for me over the years, especially when planning for grid computing workloads. 

How do you plan your consolidation ratio?  Discuss…