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Windows Server 2012 : Increase scalability and performance (part 7) - SMB and PowerShell

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2/8/2014 1:01:38 AM

7.1 Benefits for Hyper-V

These new capabilities of SMB 3 mean that Hyper-V hosts can store VM files, including the configuration, VHD, and snapshots in file shares on Windows Server 2012 file servers. You can implement this kind of solution for stand-alone Hyper-V servers. You also can implement it for clustered Hyper-V servers where file storage is used as shared storage for the cluster.

The benefits that enterprises can experience from these scenarios include simplified provisioning, management and migration of VM workloads, increased flexibility, and reduced cost.

7.2 SMB and PowerShell

You can view and manage many SMB 3 capabilities by using PowerShell. To see what cmdlets are available for doing this, you can use the Get-Command cmdlet, as shown in Figure 9.

PowerShell cmdlets for managing SMB features and infrastructure.

Figure 9. PowerShell cmdlets for managing SMB features and infrastructure.

For example, Figure 10 shows how to use the Get-SMBServerConfiguration cmdlet to determine whether SMB Multichannel is enabled on a file server running Windows Server 2012.

Viewing the configuration settings of the SMB server.

Figure 10. Viewing the configuration settings of the SMB server.

Windows Server 2012: Enabling the “Storage LAN”

Everyone is familiar with the concept of a SAN. Typically a very expensive disk array, attached to some very expensive fiber channel switches. Then one or more Fibre Channel cables run from the switch to a fairly expensive dual-port HBA.

SANs have long been one of the most expensive and difficult things to manage in the datacenter. Enterprise organizations invest heavily in storage and invest heavily in storage training. Your average Windows administrator is not equipped with the skills required to manipulate and design enterprise storage, yet every server of consequence is typically directly connected to enterprise storage. Configuring HBAs, LUN mapping, and similar tasks is often per-server, manual, and reserved for the select few who have the extra training and experience.

Virtualization improves this, as long as your servers use either iSCSI (which is often regarded as a poor man’s SAN), or are self-contained in a VHD. Mapping SAN storage, directly into VMs, is not trivial, quick, or easy.

Windows Server 2012 with the introduction of the continuously available file server, and SMB 3 change this. It allows Windows administrators to disconnect themselves from the traditional SAN and create a new breed of “Storage LAN.” Consider this example. In the past, when you deployed a new SQL Server instance, you did one of the following:

  • Deploy to a physical host. Install an HBA. Create a SAN LUN. Run the fiber to the server. Map the LUN to the host, and then use the storage for SQL Server.

  • Deploy to a VM. Store the VM in a VHD which was stored on, most often a CSV volume, which was on a LUN previously mapped to the host.

  • Deploy to a VM. Install an HBA. Create a SAN LUN. Run the fiber to the server. Map the LUN to the host, and then pass the LUN to the VM as a pass-through disk.

Windows Server 2012 changes this by allowing you to replace much of your storage infrastructure with traditional Ethernet. LUNs are replaced with file shares. Here’s what this new architecture looks like.

You still have your high-end storage solution; however, instead of running complex storage fabric to every host, you run the storage fabric to a set of high-performance file servers. These file servers present the storage as highly available file shares to be used by any server.

Next, you create an Ethernet segment between your storage file servers and your application servers leveraging technologies such as 10 GB Ethernet (which is standard on most high-end servers), or if you need extremely fast performance (and your storage arrays can even keep up with it), RDMA.

When new servers are brought online, instead of running fiber, provisioning LUNs, and involving your storage administrators, you can simply provision a share or use an existing one. This change allows a Windows administrator to use the skills and tools they already have, and are familiar with, to present highly available, high-performance storage to any application server. You can deploy application workloads such as SQL, and even Hyper-V, which leverage the performance and reliability of enterprise SAN storage without needing to be directly connected to the enterprise SAN fabric.

With technologies such as transparent failover, cluster-aware updating, and storage spaces with thin provisioning, you can now plan for what you need tomorrow, but deploy and manage with what you have today.

8. Improved VM import

The process used for importing VMs onto Hyper-V hosts has been improved in Windows Server 2012. The goal of these improvements is to help prevent configuration problems from happening that can prevent the import process from completing successfully.

In Hyper-V on Windows Server 2008 R2, when you imported a VM onto a host, the VM and all its files were copied to the host, but they weren’t checked for possible configuration problems. However, Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012 now validates the configuration of VM files when they are imported to identify potential problems and, if possible, resolve them.

An additional enhancement to the process of importing VMs in Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012 is that now you can import a VM after manually copying the VM’s files to the host. In other words, you don’t have to export a VM from one host before you can import it into another host—you can simply copy the files from the first host to the second one and then initiate the import process.

Importing of VMs

Windows Server 2012 has improved the VM import process. This new process helps you resolve configuration problems that would otherwise have prevented you from importing the VM. The Windows Server 2012 improvements to importing a VM also have improved the reliability of importing VMs to other Hyper-V host computers.

The new wizard detects and fixes potential problems, such as hardware or file differences, that might exist when a VM is moved to another host. The import wizard detects and fixes more than 40 types of incompatibilities. This new wizard also creates a temporary copy of the VM configuration file as an added safety step.

With Windows Server 2008 R2 to import a VM to a different host, you first needed to export it. To export the VM, you first needed to turn it off. This caused administrators to schedule downtime prior to exporting the VM. Now, with Windows Server 2012, you can simply copy the VM’s files manually to the new host, and then, on the new Windows Server 2012 host, just run through the Import Virtual Machine wizard, point to the newly copied VM, and voila! You have imported it.

In conclusion, the Windows Server 2012 Import wizard is a simpler, better way to import or copy VMs between Hyper-V hosts.

9. VHDX disk format

VHDX is the new default format for VHDs in Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012. This new format is designed to replace the older VHD format and has advanced capabilities that make it the ideal virtual disk format going forward for virtualized workloads. Some of the features of this new format include the following:

  • It supports virtual disks up to 64 TB in size, so you’ll be able to use it to virtualize even the largest database workloads and move them into the cloud.

  • It aligns to megabyte boundaries to support large sector disks (4 KB sector disks), so you can take advantage of new low-cost commodity storage options.

  • It uses large block sizes to provide better performance than the old format could provide.

  • It includes a new log to protect from corruption due to power failure, which means the new format has much greater resiliency than the old format.

  • You can embed custom user-defined metadata into VHDX files; for example, information about the service pack level of the guest operating system on the VM.

 
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- Windows Server 2012 : Increase scalability and performance (part 6) - Virtual Fibre Channel, SMB 3
- Windows Server 2012 : Increase scalability and performance (part 5) - Viewing Dynamic Memory at work
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