Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Re-associate orphaned virtual machine with its VM role in System Center 2012 R2 with Update Rollup 7

If you have been using Azure Pack and the VM Cloud Provider, you have most likely been tempted to use the concept of VM Roles too.

VM Roles is a powerful technology that makes it possible for you to provide a lot more than just a sysprep’d operating system to your tenants. Through a resource extension, a VM Role can be deployed with any application you’d like, ready to go for the tenants.

However, there has been some challenges since the release of Azure Pack and VM Roles.
Some of the challenges has been related to Azure Pack directly, and some of the challenges has been related to Virtual Machine Manager.
I won’t cover everything here, but the following picture should summarize some of the challenges of a VM Role and a stand-alone VM, where some parts such as “static disk” wasn’t enabled for VM Roles before UR5. With UR6, we also got support for Gen2 VMs as part of the VM Roles.



Also note that “backup” and “DR” on VM Role is categorized as a “no go”.

Luckily and as usual, David and his great team at Microsoft has listened to our feedback – and with Update Rollup 7 for Virtual Machine Manager 2012 R2, we are now able to re-associate a VM Role!

Background:

A couple of months ago, I reached out to the VMM team through David Armour and explained a rather bad situation for him that one of my customer suddenly was in the middle of.
It turned out that several of my MVP friends also had experienced similar issues and this was becoming a critical issue for those customers. Here’s some details around the problem we saw:

In the case of some underlying storage issues in the cloud environment, many of the virtual machines that was running in VMM, SPF and Azure Pack ended up in a pretty bad state, and the only way to solve it was to generate new IDs for those VMs.

Now, this sounds very tempting and applicable in certain scenarios. But given the fact that the VMs actually were part of a VM Role in Azure Pack, turned out to be a bad experience.
Once a VM is no longer associated with the VM Role in WAP, it will appear as a stand-alone VM with no way for you to perform advanced operations through the tenant portal. The VM Role itself will appear as an orphaned object.

Our biggest challenge in this satiation was:

1)      There was no way to re-associate a VM instance with a VM role once this relationship was broken (so Remove-SCVirtualMachine with –Force parameter was not an option)
2)      If we could re-associate with a VM role (once the VM appeared in VMM again with new ID), the usage would be broken for that VM. Yes the customer was actually using the usage API in WAP to charge their tenants.

For this customer the issue was most likely caused by some underlying storage problems. However, you could easily end up in a similar situation by using native Microsoft technologies such as backup/restore and DR through Hyper-V Replica/ASR. Or simplier, by removing and adding a host/cluster to a VMM Cloud

With Update Rollup 7, we have finally support for re-associate both an orpahned VM from a VM Role and a Service Template deployment.

Example of a PowerShell cmdlet that will join an orphaned virtual machine to a VM Role:

$myvm = Get-SCVirtualMachine –Name “KN01”
$myVMRole = Get-CloudResource –Name “mywebservice”
Join-SCVirtualMachine –VM $myvm –VMRole $myVMRole

For more information, please read the following KB:




Thursday, July 2, 2015

Cloud Consistency with Azure Resource Manager - Finally available!

I am very glad to announce the following:

1)      I am renewed as a Cloud & Datacenter MVP – for the fifth time!
2)      As a courtesy, we are releasing our newest whitepaper “Cloud Consistency with Azure Resource Manager

I have been doing a lot of engineering the last year, and Azure Resource Manager is one of the technologies I consider as a game changer and let us finally be able to achieve what we have always wanted, without knowing it was this we really wanted.
An idempodent and declarative way to describe our cloud resources, regardless of location and resource type.
Together with Desired-State Configuration, this is one of my big bets as we move forward.

I really hope that you will enjoy this whitepaper while we are all waiting for Microsoft Azure Stack, that will bring the ARM capabilities on-prem.

If you want to see more of Azure Resource Manager and how to model your cloud resources and applications, I would like to invite you to System Center Universe in Basel in August, where I will be giving several deep dive sessions on the topic:


You can download the whitepaper from TechNet Gallery by following this URL:


BTW: Here's the look on my daughters face when witnessing the capabilities of Azure Resource Manager



Thank you!


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Announcing a new whitepaper!

Hi everyone!

It has been quite quiet here on this blog since last month, but there’s of course some reasons for that.
I would like to use this opportunity to give you a heads-up on an upcoming whitepaper that I have been working on together with a few other subject matter experts.

This blog post is not about the specific whitepaper itself, but the goal is rather to give you an explanation of why we are having this approach – putting a lot of effort into a whitepaper instead of publishing books.

I have personally been authoring books myself, and also together with other authors. The experience was interesting to say the least, and also required a lot of my time. Not just to do the research, testing and writing, but also to meet the deadlines, engage with reviewers and much more.
In short, the flexibility you have to modify – or even change the subject, is very very limited when working with books.

The limited flexibility is a showstopper in a business where drastic changes (as in new features and releases) happens at a much faster cadence than ever before.
In order to be able to adopt, learn and apply all what’s happening, – writing whitepapers seems like a better idea than doing books.

At least this is what we think. When discussing this with some of our peers, we often get questions around royalties etc. to be honest, you will never ever get rich by writing a book, unless you are writing some fiction about some magic wizard with glasses, or a girl describing her fantasies of a rich man.

So jokes aside, we do this because of the following reasons:

·         We enjoy doing it

This is not a secret at all. Of course we will spend some massive amount of time on these projects, and probably our significant others would have a grin every now and then. But we enjoy so much, that it is worth the risk and potential penalty we might get.

·         For our own learning and knowledge

Let us be honest. We dive deep into this to learn it by heart. There’s no secret that the technology we will cover will be our bread and butter, so we better know what we are doing.

·         To share it with the community

Do it once –and do it right. We spend a lot of our time in forums, conferences, etc and engage with the community. Being able to point towards a rather comprehensive guide that many can benefit from, instead of supporting 1:1 is beneficial for all of us

·         Recognition

If you do something good and useful, I can ensure you that many people – regardless whether they know you or not, will appreciate it and give you credits. We’ve heard several times from our previous whitepaper (Hybrid Cloud with NVGRE (Cloud OS) ) that it helped peers, IT-pro’s, engineers, students and CxO’s to make a real difference. This is probably worth the effort all alone.

So let me introduce you to the upcoming whitepaper that will hit the internet very shortly:

“Cloud Consistency with Azure Resource Manager”

This whitepaper will focus on cloud consistency using Azure Resource Manager in both the public cloud with Azure, as well as the private and hosted clouds with Azure Stack.

I won’t disclose more about the content, structure or the initial thoughts right now, but I encourage you to stay tuned and download it once it is available on the TechNet Gallery.

Thanks for reading!


Friday, May 8, 2015

Microsoft Azure Stack with a strong ARM

How did God manage to create the world in only 6 days?
-          He had no legacy!

With that, I would like to explain what the new Microsoft Azure Stack is all about.

As many of you already know, we have all been part of a journey over the last couple of years where Microsoft is aiming for consistency across their clouds, covering private, service provider and public.
Microsoft Azure has been the leading star and it is quite clear with a “mobile first, cloud first” strategy that they are putting all their effort into the cloud, and later, make bits and bytes available for on-prem where it make sense.
Regarding consistency, I would like to point out that we have had “Windows Azure Services for Windows Server” (v1) and “Windows Azure Pack” (v2) – that brought the tenant experience on-prem with portals and common API’s.

Let us stop there for a bit.
The API’s we got on-prem as part of the service management APIs was common to the ones we had in Azure, but they weren’t consistent nor identical.
If you’ve ever played around with the Azure Powershell module, you have probably noticed that we had different cmdlets when targeting an Azure Pack endpoint compared to Microsoft Azure.

For the portal experience, we got 2 portals. One portal for the Service Provider – where the admin could configure the underlying resource providers, create hosting plans and define settings and quotas through the admin API. These hosting plans were made available to the tenants in the tenant portal with subscriptions, where that portal – was accessing the resources through the tenant API.

The underlying resource providers were different REST APIs that could contain several different resource types. Take the VM Cloud resource provider for example, that is a combination of System Center Virtual Machine Manager and System Center Service Provider Foundation.

Let us stop here as well, and reflect of what we have just read.

1)      So far, we have had a common set of APIs between Azure Pack and Azure
2)      On-prem, we are relying on System Center in order to bring IaaS into Azure Pack

With cloud consistency in mind, it is about time to point out that to move forward, we have to get the exact same APIs on-prem as we have in Microsoft Azure.
Second, we all know that there’s no System Center components that are managing the Hyper-Scale cloud in Azure

Let us take a closer look at the architecture of Microsoft Azure Stack



Starting at the top, we can see that we have the same – consistent browser experience.
The user facing services consists of hubs, a portal shell site and  RP extensions for both admins (service provider) and tenant. This shows that we won’t have two different portals as we have in Azure Pack today, but things are differentiated through the extensions.

These components are all living on top of something called “Azure Resource Manager”, which is where all the fun and consistency for real is born.
Previously in Azure, we were accessing the Service Management API when interacting with our cloud services.
Now, this has changed and Azure Resource Manager is the new, consistent and powerful API that will be managing all the underlying resource providers, regardless of clouds.

Azure Resource Manager introduces an entirely new way of thinking about your cloud resources.
A challenge with both Azure Pack and the former Azure portal was that once we had several components that made up an application, it was really hard to manage the life-cycle of it. This has drastically changed with ARM, where we can now imagining a complex service, such as a SharePoint farm – containing many different tiers, instances, scripts, applications. With ARM, we can use a template that will create a resource group (a logical group that will let you control RBAC, life-cycle, billing etc on the entire group of resources, but you can also specify this at a lower level on the resources itself) with the resources you need to support the service.
Also, the ARM itself is idempotent, which means it has a declarative approach. You can already start to imagine how powerful this will be.

In the context of the architecture of Azure Stack as we are looking at right now, this means we can:

1)      Create an Azure Gallery Template (.json)
a.       Deploy the template to Microsoft Azure
or/and
b.      Deploy the template to Microsoft Azure Stack

It is time to take a break and put a smile on your face.

Now, let us explain the architecture a bit further.

Under the Azure Resource Manager, we will have several Core Management Resource Providers as well as Service Resource Providers.

The Core Management Resource Providers consists of Authorization – which is where all the RBAC settings and policies are living. All the services will also share the same Gallery now, instead of having separate galleries for Web, VMs etc as we have in Azure Pack today. Also, all the events, monitoring and usage related settings are living in these core management resource providers. One of the benefits here is that third parties can now plug in their resource providers and harness the existing architecture of these core RPs.

Further, we have currently Compute, Network and Storage as Service Resource Providers.

If we compare this with what we already have in Azure Pack today through our VM Cloud Resource Provider, we have all of this through a single resource provider (SCVMM/SCSPF) that basically provides us with everything we need to deliver IaaS.
I assume that you have read the entire blog post till now, and as I wrote in the beginning, there’s no System Center components that are managing Microsoft Azure today.

So why do we have 3 different resource providers in Azure Stack for compute, network and storage, when we could potentially have everything from the same RP?

In order to leverage the beauty of a cloud, we need the opportunity to have a loosely coupled infrastructure – where the resources and different units can scale separately and independent of each other.

Here’s an example of how you can take advantage of this:

1)      You want to deploy an advanced application to an Azure/Azure Stack cloud, so you create a base template containing the common artifacts, such as image, OS settings etc
2)      Further, you create a separate template for the NIC settings and the storage settings
3)      As part of the deployment, you create references and eventually some “depends-on” between these templates so that everything will be deployed within the same Azure Resource Group (that shares the same common life-cycle, billing, RBAC etc)
4)      Next, you might want to change – or eventually replace some of the components in this resource group. As an example, let us say that you put some effort into the NIC configuration. You can then delete the VM (from the Compute RP) itself, but keep the NIC (in the Network RP).

This gives us much more flexibility compared to what we are used to.

Summary

So, Microsoft is for real bringing Azure services to your datacenters now, as part of the 2016 wave that will be shipped next year. The solution is called “Microsoft Azure Stack” and won’t “require” System Center – but you can use System Center if you want for managing purposes etc., which is probably a very good idea.

It is an entirely new product for you datacenter – which is a cloud-optimized application platform, using Azure-based compute, network and storage services

In the next couple of weeks, I will write more about the underlying resource providers and also how to leverage the ARM capabilities. 

Stay tuned for more info around Azure Stack and Azure Resource Manager.



Monday, May 4, 2015

Azure Site Recovery: Generation 2 VM support

For almost a year ago, Microsoft announced the preview of a cloud service that has turned out to be the leading star when it comes to Hybrid Cloud scenarios, out of the box from Microsoft.

Microsoft Azure Site Recovery let customers extend their datacenter solutions to the cloud to ensure business continuity and availability on-demand.
The solution itself is state of the art and covers many different scenarios – and can rather be seen as their “umbrella” when it comes to availability and recovery in the cloud, as it has several different offerings in different flavors under its wings. 

Besides supporting DR protection of VMware and Physical computers (newly announced), Azure Site Recovery is considered as mandatory for organizations that need DR for their Hyper-V environments, regardless whether the cloud or a secondary location on-prem is the actual DR target.

Just recently, Microsoft announced support for protecting Generation 2 Virtual Machines to Azure.
This is fantastic good news and shows that the journey towards cloud consistency is established for sure.

Let me add some context before we look into the details.

I’ve been working with the brilliant Azure Site Recovery Product Group at Microsoft for a long time now, and I have to admit that these guys are outstanding. Not only do they ship extremely good quality of code, but they also listen to feedback. And when I say listen, they actually engage with you and really tries to understand your concern. In the end of the day, we are all on the same team, working towards the best experience and solution possible.

During TechEd in Barcelona, I was co-presenting “Microsoft Azure Site Recovery: Leveraging Azure as your Disaster Recovery Site” (http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Europe/2014/CDP-B314 ) together with Manoj, and this is when our real discussion started.
Using Azure as the secondary site for DR scenarios makes perfect sense and many customers would like to take benefit from this as soon as possible. However, we often saw that these customers had deployed their virtual machines as Generation 2 VMs – which wasn’t suited for the Azure platform. This was a blocker and the amount of Gen2 VMs were increasing every day.

Earlier in January this year, I made a community survey around the topic and the result was very clear:

Yes – people would love to use Azure as their secondary site, if there was support of Generation 2 VMs in the Cloud.

I am glad to say that the Product Group listened and now we can start to protect workloads on Gen2 VMs too.
But, how does this work?

When you enable a VM for protection, the data is sent to an endpoint in Azure, and nothing special has happened so far.

However, the ASR service will perform a conversion in the service at the time of failover to Gen1.

What?

Let me explain further.

In case of a disaster where you need to perform a failover to Azure, the VM(s) is converted and started as Gen1, running in Azure.
The ASR backend services used during failover has the conversion logic. At failover time, backend service reads Gen2 OS disk and convert the disk to Gen1 OS disk (hence the requirements of the OS disk in Azure).
If you need/want/have to failback to your on-prem Hyper-V environment, the VM will of course be converted back to Gen2.

For more details – check out the official blog post by one of the PM’s, Anoob Backer


Thursday, April 30, 2015

VM Checkpoints in Windows Azure Pack

Fresh from the factory, Update Rollup 6 has been released and shipped by Microsoft.

This isn’t a blog post that will point out all the bug fixes and the amazing work all of the teams has been doing, but rather point you towards a highly requested feature, that finally made its way to the tenant portal in Windows Azure Pack.

With Update Rollup 6, we now supports creation and restore of Hyper-V checkpoints on virtual machines, provided by the VM Cloud Resource Provider.

Tenants that have deployed virtual machines may now create checkpoints and restore them on their own, without any interaction from the cloud provider.

Let us have a closer look at how this actually works, how to configure it and what additional steps you might want to take as part of this implementation.

Enabling create, view and restore of virtual machine checkpoints at the Hosting Plan level

Once the UR6 is installed for WAP and the underlying resource provider, you will notice some changes in the admin portal.

First, navigate to a Hosting Plan of yours – that contains the VM Cloud Resource Provider.
When you scroll down, you can see that we have some settings related to checkpoints.



Create, view and restore virtual machine checkpoints – will let the tenants that has subscriptions based on this hosting plan, be able to perform these actions on their virtual machines.

View and restore virtual machine checkpoints – let the tenants view and restore virtual machine checkpoints, but not create them. This can for example be performed by the cloud provider on an agreed schedule.

When you enable either of these options, an update job is taking place at the plan level and communicates the changes back to VMM, ensuring that the tenants will have permissions to take these actions in the tenant portal once it has completed.



If we switch over to the tenant portal, we can see that when we drill into one of the existing VMs (click on the VMàDashboard) we have some new actions available.



If you would manage checkpoints for your VM Roles, you can of course do that too, but you then have to drill into each specific instance, as the VM role potentially can have multiple instances when supporting scale-out.



To create a new checkpoint, simply click on Checkpoint and type the name of the checkpoint and eventually a description.



If we switch back to the fabric and VMM, we can see that a VMM job has completed with details about the checkpoint process for this specific tenant, with the name and description we typed.



If we would like to perform the same operation again, creating an additional checkpoint on the same virtual machine, we get a message telling us that the existing checkpoint will be deleted.



This is because that the current checkpoint integration in WAP will only keep one checkpoint, and avoid the scenario where you could potentially have a long chain of differential disks.

When we create the second checkpoint, we can switch back to VMM to see what’s actually happening:

First, a new checkpoint is created.
Second, the previous checkpoint is deleted.



When we explore the checkpoints settings on the VM itself afterwards, we see that we only have the latest checkpoint listed.



Regarding the restore process, we can also perform this from the same view in the tenant portal.
Once you click on the restore button, the tenant portal will show you the metadata of the available checkpoint, such as name, description and when it was created. Once you click the confirm button, the restore process will start in VMM.





Now what?

If you are familiar with how checkpoints in Hyper-V works, then you know that each static disk will  be either .vhd or .vhdx – depending on the format you are using (.vhdx was introduced with Windows Server 2012 and should be the preferred format, but Azure is still using .vhd).
Once you create a checkpoint, a new disk (.avhd or .avhdx) will be created– a differential disk, containing all the new write operations, while read operations will occur on both the parent disk (vhdx) and the newly created differential disk. 



To summarize, this might not be an ideal situation when it comes to performance, life-cycle management and storage optimization.

Since we don’t have any action in the tenant portal to perform a delete operation, this can be scary in some scenarios.
The fact that the VM will always run on a checkpoint once a checkpoint is created, means you will always be able to restore to your latest checkpoint from the portal.

In order to solve this challenge, we can leverage the integration of Service Management Automation in Azure Pack.
One of the best things with Azure Pack and the VM Cloud resource provider, is that we can extend it and create valued added solutions and services by linking certain actions happening in the tenant portal, to automated tasks that are executed by a SMA runbook in the backend.

The following screenshot shows that there’s an event related to creation of VMM Checkpoints performed by the tenant, which can easily be linked to a runbook.



Here’s an example of a runbook that will check for checkpoints created on VMs belonging to a specific VMM Cloud that is used in a Hosting Plan in WAP. If there’s any checkpoints that exists, they will be deleted and the VMs will have their disks merged back to a static disk (.vhd/.vhdx).
<#
   
.SYNOPSIS
Wokflow to check for - and eventually delete old VM checkpoints
  #> 

 workflow delete-scvmcheckpoint  
    # Connection to access VMM server. 
  
    $VmmConnection = Get-AutomationConnection -Name 'SCVMM'  
    $VmmServerName = $VmmConnection.ComputerName  
    
    inlinescript
{  

 # Import VMM module. 
Import-Module virtualmachinemanager  
         
# Connect to VMM server. 
Get-SCVMMServer -ComputerName $Using:VmmServerName  

$vms = Get-SCVirtualMachine | Where-Object {$_.Cloud -like "*Copenhagen IaaS*" -and  $_.VMCheckpoints }
      
       foreach ($vm in $vms)
    {
      
Get-SCVMCheckpoint -VM $vm | Remove-SCVMCheckpoint -RunAsynchronously
            
    }   

}-PSComputerName $VmmServerName -PSCredential $VmmCredential 

This simple code can so be added to a schedule that will execute this runbook on a daily basis – as an example, ensuring that no VMs in the cloud will run on a checkpoint on a long term.

Thanks for reading!




Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Why I am investing in DSC

In order to get a good grasp on something new, like a technology, it is always important to find a use case.

Once you have a use case, I can ensure you that the learning process is much more interesting, fun – and perhaps easier too.

That is what I did when I went deep into Desired State Configuration. I found a use case.
My use case was to leverage DSC as part of VM Roles in Azure Pack in a way that would be valid for the future too.

Here comes some reasons for my decision. 


Powershell has been around for some time now, and one of the best benefits by learning and using the shell is the amount of work you are able to do, combining modules, components, technologies and much more through the same API. Considering that everything that MS builds and do – regardless of cloud, will be accessible and manageable through Powershell in addition to other options, ensures that this is a real no-brainer.

With Windows Management Framework 4.0, we also got Powershell Desired State Configuration added to our table.
Powershell Desired State Configuration is Microsoft’s way to implement an idempotent configuration that ensures that the “desired state” will be reached by applying the entire configuration, regardless of the current state.

-          But, what does this really mean? Aren’t we able to do everything using native Powershell scripts already?

That is correct. There’s no “limits” by using Powershell natively today.
However, with native Powershell scripts you are responsible for building all the error handling and logic into your scripts. And as you probably know, that can be both very time consuming and challenging.

Desired State Configuration handles this automatically for you, letting you make and deploy any incremental changes to your configuration over time without risking the system to be put in a bad state.
If you have any configuration drift? Depending on how the Local Configuration Manager is configured – the engine that’s responsible for applying the configuration and follow the instructions, the system can heal itself by enforcing the desired state.

Think of Powershell Desired State Configuration as a contract between you and your nodes (manageable objects).

In order to create and deliver this “contract”, Desired State Configuration is based on CIM – and use WinRM for communicating. CIM uses a language called Manaed Object Format – often referred to as “MOF”. Powershell Desired State Configuration is a way to create and distribute MOF files that can be applied to systems supporting this standard.

The way it’s applied to the node(s) is either through “Push” or “Pull”.

(The difference between Push and Pull is out of scope right now and deserves a dedicated blog post later on. I promise).

To put it short, the Pull mechanism requires some infrastructure in order to work, where the node(s) are talking to the Pull server – either through SMB, Http or Https.

The Push method is pretty straight forward and what you can start using right out of the box. DSC requires that WinRM listeners are configured so that the CIM can push the configuration to the remote systems.

Here’s an example of how a Powershell DSC Configuration looks like:


configuration DNS
{
    node kndsc006
    {
        WindowsFeature DNS
        {
            Name = "DNS"
            Ensure = "Present"
            IncludeAllSubFeature = $true
        }
    }
}

DNS

Start-DscConfiguration -wait -force -Verbose .\DNS

As you can see, the format here is quite easy to read.
We can easily see that we will install (Ensure = "Present") DNS (Name = "DNS") on the target node (kndsc006). 

Actually, it is so easy to read that Powershell newbies like me are able to manage J

Hopefully this gave you some more context about the “why”, but we are not done yet.

In Azure today, we are able to leverage DSC as part of the VM extension, meaning we can create – upload – and apply our DSC configuration to Azure IaaS virtual machines. The method of applying the config for these VMs are “Push”.

As you probably know, we don’t have the exact same capabilities on-prem in order to leverage DSC as part of Azure Pack. However, we are able to simulate the same experience at some extent, by using the combination of DSC, SMA and VM Roles (http://kristiannese.blogspot.no/2015/03/application-modeling-with-vm-roles-dsc.html )

Moving forward, we know that the consistency across clouds will be as near as 1:1 with the introduction of Azure Resource Manager that will introduce us for a complete new way to interact with our cloud services – regardless of location. Also worth to note, the Azure Resource Manager itself will be idempotent.

What about your existing DSC scripts?
Exactly, that is the main point here. These configurations will be valid using Azure Resource Manager too J

So in essence, you invest in DSC now and use it both for Azure Pack (VM Roles + SMA) and Azure (VM Extension), and later on you can reuse the investment you’ve made into the era of Azure Resource Manager.


Hopefully this gave you some inspiration to start learning Desired State Configuration, available in Windows Management Framework 4.0 – but also available in 5.0 (which is in Preview).
Please note that everything you do in Azure when using the DSC VM Extension there is based on the 5.0 version.