Posts Tagged ‘cloud’

Microsoft Core OS Virtualization Advancements Improve the Life of the SQL and CRM Server Engineers

Let’s say you are a Microsoft shop, but using VMWare still to host things like MS SQL Server images, CRM Servers and SharePoint Servers.  Are you losing anything by trying to use the VMWare hypervisor stack instead of the MS Hyper-V solution? It looks like the answer is increasingly yes. One example that impacts engineers every day is running test copies of VM’s in local environments, and trying to work out the kinks before deployment into local private cloud.

I saw a neat blog on just this topic, focused on Windows 8.1, which now supports Hyper-V in the desktop mode directly. Check out Jonathan Hassell’s piece here.

He hits on five key points, here is a quick summary of them. I particularly like the first one, which given a pure Microsoft stack world, finally moves us from the “emulation” of physical servers in a VM world to the purity of operating systems engineered for virtualization. The end of the era of trapped BIOS IRQ calls could not come soon enough for me. Long live Hyper-V and Generation 2 virtual machines. This will make life better for the SQL and CRM server engineers, from the desktop up to the private and public cloud spaces, and only works in the Hyper-V world.

1. Generation 2 virtual machines

Windows 8.1 is designed to work within what Microsoft calls a “generation 2 virtual machine,” a new type of VM available exclusively under Hyper-V. This VM essentially strips away all pretense of virtualizing legacy PC deployments. Generation 2 VMs are UEFI-based, rather than relying on a BIOS, and there are no emulated devices. These VMs boot directly off a virtual SCSI and network adapters and also support secure boot — the preferred way to ensure only signed kernels are permitted to boot within the VM.

2. Deduplication for VDI deployments

If you want to run Windows 8.1 in a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment, with scores of hosts running Windows 8.1 guests in VMs that users log into as their daily drivers, then the Windows Server 2012 R2 deduplication feature can save an enormous amount of space while increasing performance.

3. Storage Quality of Service

Network Quality of Service (QoS) allows administrators to define caps for certain types of network traffic to ensure enough bandwidth exists for other activities and no one type of traffic sucks up the entire network pipe. Similarly, Hyper-V in Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 supports storage QoS. This feature lets you restrict disk throughput for overactive and disruptive VMs, which is great if you have a long-running process in one VM and you don’t want the overall I/O performance of your host machine dragged down. Since this feature is dynamically configurable, you can even adjust the QoS settings while the VM is running so you don’t interrupt the workload of a given VM.

4. Online VHDX resize

Have you ever had a VM that runs out of disk space? If you set up the VM with a fixed-size virtual disk rather than a dynamically expanding disk, this could pose a problem. However, the new Hyper-V in Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 allows you to increase and decrease the size of virtual hard disks of a VM while the VM is running — a hot resize, if you will. The VM in question can be running any guest OS, so there are no limitations to running Windows XP or even Linux with this feature. But the virtual hard disk file must be in the newer format (VHDX) as opposed to the older (more popular) VHD format.

5. Enhanced VM connect

Hyper-V in Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 offers what Microsoft calls “enhanced virtual machine connect,” which is the ability to use the remote desktop protocol to connect to a VM — even if the network within the VM is down. Hyper-V uses VMBus, the internal communications channel for connecting VMs to the hypervisor. It then transmits RDP over the VMBus independent of the network connection. As part of this enhanced mode, you can drag and drop files between the host and the VM, which makes use of the clipboard sharing capabilities, and you can redirect local resources like smart cards, printers and USB devices right over that VMBus connection. This makes it easier to perform troubleshooting tasks and simple administration. This enhanced mode is enabled by default if you’re running Hyper-V on Windows 8.1, but disabled by default if you are running it on Windows Server 2012 R2.

Remember, quite a bit of this is Hyper-V specific. Read Jonathan Hassell’s full piece by clicking here.

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Tons of file-based data to share in the cloud? No problem, with SharePoint Online!

Recently, Microsoft announced that SharePoint Online’s site collection limit has been increased to a full terabyte, up from 100 gigabytes previously, giving the cloud storage quite a boost.Cloud storage with the rain of the social symbols; Eps10

Along with the new site collection limit, Microsoft announced that businesses can better scale their storage on SharePoint Online. They have seen an impressive 485 percent growth in user access and a 500 percent [year-over-year] growth in customer content storage.

In an FAQ, the company revealed that 1TB site collections and unlimited tenant storage affect select Office 365 plans, including Enterprise E1, E3 and E4 and Education A2, A3 and A4, and does not apply to Home Premium users.

Finally, while site collection total storage limits are growing larger, it is still a good practice to keep individual SharePoint Online single libraries from growing beyond 2000-3000 files per library, to keep performance at its peak. Instead, add extra libraries if extra file count is needed. And avoid exceeding 5000 files per SharePoint Online library or list, this has been known to create real headaches.

To view the original article, click here.

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Top 10 Hottest Enterprise Apps of 2013

Many people have associated apps created for mobile devices and tablets with solving the entertainment needs of consumers ie- gaming, social media usage etc. But as the app marketplace grows, organizations around the world have begun to create business oriented platforms that have proven to significantly increase business efficiency. With this in mind, Salesforce compiled a list of their top 10 hottest enterprise mobile apps for 2013. Here is that list with a brief description of their functionality and links to their websites if you would like to learn more.

Apttus – Quoting solution that allows users to quickly configure price and quotes for any product or service.

DocuSign – Allows users to quickly sign and send any document type straight from a mobile device or tablet.

Concur – Tracks travel and expense costs associated with business trips in an easy to use application.   

ServiceMax – A mobile and collaborative field service management software

Bracket Labs – Distributed, through the Salesforce App Exchange, this organization developed apps that share items such as marketing campaign calendars and shared to-do lists.  

Sylpheo – Enables sales people to make more phone calls and organize contact information easier.

Taptera – Allows for more seamless IT integration and security with syncing personal tablets with internal systems

Xactly –  A program designed to build, manage and audit sales compensation programs.

Geopointe – An integration of Force.com with Google maps, MapQuest and other geo-technologies. It is the top map app provider on Force.com

FinancialForce.com – Builds cloud applications for Salesforce CRM such as cloud accounting software, billing, online accounting, professional services and more.

 

Courtesy of: http://blogs.salesforce.com/company/2013/09/salesforce-enterprise-apps.html?d=70130000000tP4L

 

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Windows Server 2012 R2 and Storage Management

Microsoft-logo-2012-290x230Microsoft recently provided a glimpse into its next generation Windows Server at this month’s TechEd Conference. The previous release, WS 2012, was full of new features and Microsoft seems to be continuing this trend of innovation with WS 2012 R2 that promises further enhancements to storage management. Here are some of the new features:

Native tiered storage – The idea behind this feature is that if an administrator adds both solid-state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs) to a storage space, the storage space will automatically differentiate between the two types greatly boosting read performance on Windows servers.

Write-back caching – Write operations can be cached to an SSD and then later written to HDD storage which will help overall storage performance.

Fault tolerance – New fault tolerance options are available as well as a dual parity option and an option in the New Virtual Disk Wizard to create a three-way mirror.

Data deduplication – Support of running virtual machines (VMs) on deduplicated storage. In a demo shown during the opening keynote at TechEd, five VMs were booted from non-deduplicated storage while an identical set of VMs were booted from deduplicated storage. The VMs booting from deduplicated storage booted in less than half the amount of time than their counterparts.

 

To read the original article visit: http://bit.ly/13aCHIE

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Microsoft SkyDrive reaches 250 million users

skydriveMicrosoft announced this week that they have reached 250 million users on their SkyDrive file sharing platform.  This growth can be attributed to recent product releases and enhancements. For instance, since the release of Windows 8 in October of 2012, SkyDrive has gained 50 million users and continues to see rapid growth. They also recently updated the SkyDrive iOS app, made improvements to the file uploading process and recently announced that Outlook has integrated a new feature that allows users to insert any file directly from your SkyDrive in to your email message. By March of this year, over a billion files had been uploaded to SkyDrive.

Currently with over 700 million Microsoft accounts created by people around the world, services like SkyDrive are leading the way towards the organizations push towards one billion users.

To read the full blog message from Microsoft please visit their website here: http://bit.ly/193ua7k

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One in three mission critical apps currently in the cloud

SailPoint, conducted its Market Pulse Survey for 2012 and provided some interesting insight to cloud based technologies and opinions amongst IT executives. Here are some of the highlights:

Respondents to the survey believe 1 in 3 mission critical apps (focused on storage, file-sharing and communications) is currently hosted in the cloud. They also indicated they expect this number to rise to 1 in 2 mission critical apps being cloud based in the next three years.

Researchers asked the respondents to indicate the troubles they perceive with moving to the cloud. Security was the top concern coming in at 73%, with compliance (56%) and uptime and performance (48%) following second and third. With security top of mind for IT executives, it is understandable that they ranked this need a number one priority when selecting both cloud and non-cloud providers.

A third of those polled indicated that they access their company’s cloud system on a mobile device (35%). This research indicates that business users are utilizing their mobile devices for a broader range of activities than ever before. Societal trends lead researchers to conclude that we should expect to see a continued convergence of cloud and mobile over the next few years.

To read the article and research documents in their entirety, please click on the link below:

http://www.cloudcomputing-news.net/news/2012/dec/12/one-three-mission-critical-apps-currently-cloud-says-survey/

 

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The Last NASA Mainframe Gets Its Plug Pulled

 

From NASA’s CIO Linda Cureton:

“This month marks the end of an era in NASA computing. Marshall Space Flight Center powered down NASA’s last mainframe, the IBM Z9 Mainframe. For my millennial readers, I suppose that I should define what a mainframe is. Well, that’s easier said than done, but here goes — It’s a big computer that is known for being reliable, highly available, secure, and powerful. They are best suited for applications that are more transaction oriented and require a lot of input/output – that is, writing or reading from data storage devices.

They’re really not so bad honestly, and they have their place. Things like virtual machines, hypervisors, thin clients, and swapping are all old hat to the mainframe generation though they are new to the current generation of cyber youths…But all things must change.”

Insert her sigh here..

Read more at: http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/NASA-CIO-Blog/posts/post_1329017818806.html

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Cloud Jobs 2012 – Winners and Losers

There’s a lot of talk in the media lately about Cloud Computing as a driver of employment in the US.  [See this pieces by fox business below.]  A word of warning about this analysis.  While the writer here claims “11 cloud computing companies added 80,000 jobs in the U.S. in 2010, and the employment growth rate at these organizations was almost five times that of the high-tech sector overall,” the writer does not appear to allow for analysis of what jobs may be lost in the process.  A major driver of cloud is the unburdening of infrastructure duties from local teams working behind the firewall.  Those are jobs that may not be preserved as we go through this huge transition to shared public infrastructure for more and more important applications.  They call it creative destruction of a reason.  So watch where you step.

 

Cloud computing has the potential to become a greater generator of jobs in the U.S. than the Internet was in its early years, a new study says. In addition to creating very large business opportunities and hundreds of thousands of new jobs, cloud services could also save U.S. businesses billions of dollars. The driving forces are the proliferation of mobile devices, swelling social media usage and the emergence of “Big Data,” the study found.

The study, sponsored by enterprise software giant SAP, looked at the trends and indicators supporting the growth of cloud services and the ways cloud computing may create jobs. It found that 11 cloud computing companies added 80,000 jobs in the U.S. in 2010, and the employment growth rate at these organizations was almost five times that of the high-tech sector overall.

Companies selling those cloud services are projected to grow revenues by an average of $20 billion per year for the next five years, which has the potential to generate as many as 472,000 jobs in the U.S. and abroad in the next five years.

 

 

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Some really poor password choices…

For better or worse, passwords are the basis of much of the security we use in the cloud.

SplashData put out there “worst password of 2011” report, based on a blind review of their database of common passwords.  If you use any of these on any accounts you wish to protect, clearly a good idea to think about changing them soon.

  • password
  • 123456
  • 12345678
  • qwerty
  • abc123
  • monkey
  • 1234567
  • letmein
  • trustno1
  • dragon
  • baseball
  • 111111
  • iloveyou
  • master
  • sunshine
  • ashley
  • bailey
  • passw0rd
  • shadow
  • 123123
  • 654321
  • superman
  • qazwsx
  • michael
  • football

A few simple guidelines for good passwords, from around the web:

  • Use at least eight characters
  • Use a random mixture of characters, upper and lower case, numbers, punctuation, spaces and symbols.
  • Don’t use a word found in any dictionary, English or foreign.

 

Stuff that just doesn’t work well, at least not anymore, because common hacker tools know them well:

  • Don’t merely add a single digit or symbol before or after a word. e.g. “password1″
  • Don’t double a single word. e.g. “kittykitty”
  • Don’t just reverse a word. e.g. “drowssap”, or just remove the vowels. e.g. “psswrd”
  • Avoid Keyboard sequences that can easily be repeated. e.g. “qwerty”,”zxcvf” etc.
  • Don’t garble letters into numbers as the only thing between you and the dictionary, e.g. converting e to 3, L or i to 1, o to 0. as in “z3r0-10v3″

Read more about the Splashdata report in full here: http://splashdata.com/splashid/worst-passwords/index.htm

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Cyber Security Gets the DOD Cloud Treatment

eWeek.com did a nice piece, quoting extensively from recent NSA public statements, on how both cloud and data security strategies in general are starting to move into extended pilot modes.  Here is a link to the General’s presentation - below is an except from the eWeek summary.

 

U.S. Counts on the Cloud to Boost Cyber–Security

 By: Fahmida Y. Rashid, eWeek.com

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the National Security Agency (NSA), discussed the cloud and how to defend against increasingly sophisticated cyber-threats at a recent Information Systems Security Association conference in Baltimore and in a follow-up interview with eWEEK. As commander of U.S. Cyber Command, he also discussed rules of engagement for the military in cyberspace.

The cloud is a key part of the intelligence community’s IT strategy, Alexander said, because cloud computing gives defense and intelligence agencies more visibility over hackers who are trying to breach government networks.

Within the NSA and Department of Defense (DoD), there are more than 7 million pieces of IT infrastructure and systems and 15,000 different network enclaves, according to numbers provided by the general. With each enclave protected by its own firewall, network administrators have little to no insight into what is happening in isolated and segmented networks, he said.

“Collapsing the enclaves” would provide administrators with a better end-to-end view of their networks and situational awareness, said Alexander. He added that it’s not a perfect solution, but “it is more defensible.”

In a pilot program, the NSA has reduced the number of applications it is running from 5,000 to 250 cloud applications and slashed the number of help desks from 900 to 450, according to Alexander. The agency plans to keep shrinking the infrastructure to just two help desks and 20 data centers, as well as adopt more open-source software, he said, noting that the military is already using Apache Hadoop and OpenStack.

Read the full piece here.

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