Early reports of SLAT-enabled processors significantly increasing RDS session concurrency

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Let me caveat my next statement by saying that I think Hyper-V is a great virtualisation platform that meets the needs of many customer environments… but… Hyper-V does lack some features that would allow it to stand tall alongside the market leading product (VMware ESX) and I was disappointed when the dynamic memory feature was pulled from the second release of Hyper-V.

As I wrote when discussing new features in the Windows Server 2008 R2 release candidate:

“I asked Microsoft’s Jeff Woolsey, Principle Group Program Manager for Hyper-V, what the problem was and he responded that memory overcommitment results in a significant performance hit if the memory is fully utilised and that even VMware (whose ESX hypervisor does have this functionality) advises against it’s use in production environments. I can see that it’s not a huge factor in server consolidation exercises, but for VDI scenarios (using the new RDS functionality), it could have made a significant difference in consolidation ratios.”

Well, it seems that there may be a silver lining to this cloud (or at least, a shiny metallic grey one) as Clive Watson highlighted the results from some testing with Remote Desktop Services (Microsoft’s VDI broker) running on Hyper-V and reported that:

“We conducted our testing using both non-SLAT and SLAT hardware and found that SLAT enabled processors increased the number of sessions by a factor of 1.6x to 2.5x compared to non-SLAT processors.”

Basically using an SLAT-enabled processor (Intel Nested Page Tables and AMD Enhanced Page Tables) in a server should make a big difference to the consolidation ratios achieved in a VDI scenario.

Of course, if SLAT allows improved performance, then other platforms will also benefit from it (although not necessarily to the same degree) but, if VDI really is a feasible technology solution (I have my doubts and consider it a “significant niche” solution), I’m sure Microsoft will come up with something for the third incarnation of Hyper-V.

Microsoft System Center licensing gets a complex simplication treatment

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Some time ago, I wrote that the most cost-effective way to license multiple System Center products is generally through the purchase of a System Center server management suite license, which includes licenses for System Center Operations Manager (SCOM), System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM).

It’s worth noting that Microsoft made some changes this week which complicate things somewhat as, according to a communication that I received from a large account reseller (LAR):

“Effective on 1 July, 2009, with the release of Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2, System Center Server Management Suite Enterprise (SMSE) will be switched from an unlimited operating system environment to a four operating system environment. A new suite offering, Microsoft System Center Server Management Suite Datacenter (SMSD) will be introduced and will include the same products as System Center Server Management Suite Enterprise, but, it will be licensed per processor and will provide for the management of an unlimited number of operating system environments.”

Whilst this kind of makes sense because it falls in line with the Windows Server virtualisation licensing it also has the potential to affect the cost of licensing management products in a virtualised environment as, where high levels of server consolidation may have previously been achieved and managed with an SMSE, now multiple SMSDs will be required.

Further information may be found on Microsoft’s How to Buy the System Center Server Management Suites page but there is also a Server Management Suite Editions FAQ for those who want to know the details.

The SVVP Wizard clears up a support question around virtualising Microsoft products on other platforms

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Earlier this week, I picked up an e-mail from one of my colleagues where he asked

“Do Microsoft officially support Exchange 2007 on VMware ESX virtual machines?”

That seems a fair enough question – and not an uncommon one either in a world where many organisations operate a virtualise-first policy and so are reluctant to deploy infrastructure applications such as Exchange on physical hardware.

One of our colleagues who specialises in messaging technologies referred us to a post on the Exchange Team blog (should you virtualise your Exchange Server 2007 SP1 environment – of course “should you” and “can you” are very different issues and it may be that the best way to consolidate mailbox servers is fewer, larger servers rather than lots of little virtualised ones) as well as to the excessively wordy Microsoft Support Policies and Recommendations for Exchange Servers in Hardware Virtualization Environments on TechNet.

After reading Microsoft knowledge base article 957006 (which Clive Watson referred me to a few months ago) I was pretty confident that Exchange running virtualised was supported as long as the virtualisation platform was either Hyper-V or another technology covered by the Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP) but we wanted better than “pretty confident” – if the supportability of an environment that we design is called into question later it could be very costly and I wanted a 100% cast iron guarantee.

Then I read Matt McSpirit’s blog post about the SVVP Wizard. This three-step process not only confirmed that the environment was covered but it also gave me the low down on exactly which features were and were not supported.

So, if you’re still not sure if a Microsoft product is supported in a virtualised environment, I recommend checking out the SVVP Wizard.

Thought for the day: coping with information overload

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

As I return from a well-earned family holiday, after what has been a pretty crappy few months, it seems like a pretty good time to remind myself of the key points from a magazine cutting that is permanently above my desk at home. Entitled “Your Route to the Top: Coping with Overload”, this appeared in the December 2005 edition of Management Today magazine and looks like good advice with which to reacquaint myself (indeed, an updated version of this list appeared in the May 2009 issue of the magazine):

Focus. Successful people are rarely frantic, and frantic people are rarely successful. Take a close look at your schedule and clear out the clutter.

Make you time your own. Is your diary driving you? Take control and be as careful with commitments as you are considerate of other people’s time.

Let go. Trying to achieve everything is admirable, but impossible. Realise that an active imagination will generate more proposals than there is time to get done.

Have a single point of reference. A master to-do list will triumpth over an abundance of sticky notes, text reminders and diary scribbles.

Prioritise. What’s critical in the next hours, days or weeks? Choose your priorities and fix a later time for less urgent things.

Ditch your dependants. Are there people in your team who rely on your time? Support them in solving their problems alone. They will feel more confident; you’ll find more time to breathe.

Lighten the load. Are there ideas where others can help? Match interests to tasks – could someone else write the first draft or attend a new client meeting?

Break down big tasks. Split a job into its components and tackle each part as needed, rather than struggle to do it all now.

Bring clarity through sharing. Engaging others at the start can reassure you that you’re on the right track. It also ensures their support and cuts the risk of having to invest time later.

Use others to estimate your time. Research has shown that other people give more accurate estimates of how long something takes than the person doing the task.

Get on with it. Once you have worked out where your focus is, stop organising and start doing.”

Also on my reading list whilst I was away were a couple of MindGym books that my wife bought for me some time ago and David Allen’s Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity. Paradoxically, getting around to reading books like Getting Things Done, is something I’ve been consistently failing to get done for the last couple of years! Let’s see if any of this reading helps me to be more effective when I return to work next week!

[Postscript: I wrote this post and set it to publish whilst I was away… I never did get around to reading the Getting Things Done or MindGym books. Nor did I finish the one about understanding my strong-willed child, or even the Harry Potter that I’m mid-way through. I did manage to read a few photography magazines though and catch up on my backlog of Sunday Times motoring supplements! Never mind… maybe applying some of the actions above will help me to make the time to catch up on my reading!]

A quick introduction to HP ProLiant servers

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Every now and again, I seem to find myself looking at HP’s ProLiant range of industry standard servers. The technology moves ahead but it’s pretty easy to understand where the various models sit in the range because of HP’s product naming system.

The basic principles have been the same for years – the “BMW” numbering scheme: 1 series, 3 series, 5 series and 7 series:

  • 1-series servers are entry level servers, targetted at the SMB and High Performance Computing markets, typically with fewer enterprise features (e.g. hot plug components) on board.
  • 3-series servers include HP’s 1U DL360 “pizza box” server and the ever-popular DL380 with 2 sockets and a range of storage and connectivity options.
  • 5-series servers are the 4-way machines for high-end appllication workloads, with plenty of internal storage and connectivity capacity.
  • The 7-series was discontinued for a while (as HP didn’t have an 8-way server) but, with increasing demands for powerful servers for consolidation/virtualisation, it was re-introduced with a DL785 that competes with other manufacturers’ servers such as the SunFire X4600.

The final digit is either a 0 (for an Intel server) or a 5 (for an AMD server). DL servers are rack-mountable (D for density), with ML for tower/freestanding servers, although some of these can also be converted to rack-mount. Each ML server is numbered 10 lower than its DL equivalent – so an ML370 is equivalent to a DL380.

A couple of years ago, HP launched its c-class blades and each blade server (prefixed with BL) was numbered as for the corresponding DL or ML server, but with 100 added to the model number – so a DL380 equivalent blade is a BL480c (c for c-class).

Finally, there’s a generation identifier (e.g. G5, G6). Each generation represents a step forward architecturally (e.g. a move from Ultra 320 to serial-attached SCSI disks, or the adoption of Intel’s latest “Nehalem” processors).

Once you know the system, it’s all pretty straightforward – and, as HP controls half the market for industry standard x64 servers, hopefully this blog post will be useful to someone who’s trying to get their head around it.