Windows Server

Impact of Windows Server 2012 Licensing

Thanks to Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet/CNet, we have finally heard about Microsoft's licensing plans for the new version of Windows Server 2012 (codenamed "Windows Server 8") to be released this fall. In her article here, she covers the crux of the licensing announcement made by Microsoft but I want to look in depth at it a bit.

When you review the article by Mary Jo Foley, you can start to see some of Microsoft's next plays and whom they are going after with their pricing model and their offerings. As she says in her article:

The four SKUs are Foundation (available to OEMs only); Essentials; Standard and Datacenter. The Essentials SKU is for small/mid-size businesses and is limited to 25 users. The Standard and Datacenter SKUs round out the line-up. The former Windows Server Enterprise SKU is gone from the set of offered options.

Microsoft is removing a few of the SKU's. This includes the Enterprise SKU which was a step between Standard and Enterprise in the 2008/2008 R2 licensing model, the HPC (High Power Cluster) SKU meant for folks doing large scale computing and modeling like scientists or researchers, and the Small Business Server SKU meant for small companies as a bundle. Out of all of these SKU's, I think the biggest loss for most consumers is the Small Business Server one.

Small businesses do not have large capital to drop in large IT systems. As such, they find what they can to fit into their budget but tend to fall back on lower cost or free software to fill in the gaps. When I have worked with small business owners in the past, many had their teenager kids "build them a server" and install a Linux variant on it. The child goes off to school leaving the business to suffer with a server that cannot be updated for either features or security. In my history, about 30-40% of my consulting calls were this exact scenario.

To remedy, I would help them find a server that did cost more but gave them more bang for their buck. In many cases, it would be a commodity server of some sort running Microsoft Small Business Server. It gave the business owner something familiar for them in Windows, but also some more advanced offerings like Exchange and SQL Server. This gave them the ability to run their own messaging and calendaring server in Exchange and higher-end database server in SQL Server. They could buy software that needed one or the other to work to give them a competitive advantage against others that did not have these options. All in all, the Small Business Server was one of the better ideas that Microsoft came up with.

With the V2 release of Windows Home Server, Microsoft also released a Small Business Server related to the Home Server. This was a continuation of the Small Business Server with the Windows Home Server GUI placed on it. It offered easy AD creation, integration with Office 365, and a Premium add-in that gave the business Exchange and SQL on-premise versus only in the cloud. When I saw this offering, I was thrilled for small business owners. This could have been the "Small Business Server Appliance" operating system that could steamroll the market. After its release, all I did hear was crickets chirping and the deafening silence; the product never got off the ground.

Fast forward to Windows Server 2012 and no more Small Business Server SKU announcements today. For a business to replicate this offering,they will need to licensed either Essentials or Standard edition based on if they have more than 25 users. Then, the business will either have to license Exchange 2010/2013 (when released) or get their Exchange offering through Office 365. For the SQL services, the business could use the Express version of SQL for free but be limited by its connections/licensing model or purchase a larger copy of SQL. (For more information on 2012 SQL Licensing, check out the "Features Supported by the Editions of SQL Server 2012" page in MSDN.)

This is much more expensive than the Small Business Server model offered and will cause many small business to go back and rethink their IT strategy. In this one stroke, Microsoft may re-open the door for free packages like Linux and MySQL or have businesses using desktop operating systems as servers. Someone in Redmond needs to really look at this and remember that the small business is a large market for them. Don't just hand it over to the competition.

Moving My VM's from 2008 R2 to 2012 RC

If you read my prior post about my new Hyper-V rig, I wanted to get some of my current systems over there running so I can see the performance differences. I also wanted to get those VMs off my 2008 R2 Hyper-V host to possibly upgrade it to 2012 RC as well so I can do some clustering between them. While there are many ways to do this, I did my moves the complete manual way. Kids, do not try this at home …

With my brand spanking new rig, I wanted to get some VM's running on there other than a couple I spun up to test the disk I/O and the memory allocation. I wanted to get some real load on the box. To do that, I needed to move some of my other machines from my 2008 R2 Hyper-V host and convert them to run on 2012. There are many ways to accomplish this with many tools but I chose the worst of all routes to ensure that the systems converted just fine.

As all of the servers needed their monthly patches, first thing I did was patch the servers. Yeah, much like many IT folks, my servers needed their patches installed. Similar to the statements around the shoes of kids of cobblers and the homes of carpenters, IT people do not always practice what we preach. One thing I hope to setup with the additional hardware and space is a patching system to do it for me. Also, since I was patching the VM's on my 2008 R2 host with bad disk I/O, this process was very long as I had to patch each machine individually.

As each server finished its patching, instead of rebooting the box fully, I just shut down each box. I then copied the VHD file from the 2008 R2 host over to the 2012 host and performed a hard drive conversion to VHDX. For my web servers that connect to a file server for configurations and website content, I turned on the VM on the 2008 R2 host while this conversion was completed.

As I have 2 web servers, the copy took about 5 minutes and the conversion about 20 minutes for each web server. By turning on the web servers back on the 2008 R2 host, I could work on the conversions and setup on the 2012 server while my sites still operated. Once all was set on the new VM's hosted by 2012, I had the NIC settings to change the IP of the server's NIC ready to hit "OK" and shut down the 2008 R2 host's VM. Downtime was about 10 seconds on one server and about a minute on the other. The only reason why the downtime was longer on the second server was my fat finger on the gateway address for the server. With that the web servers are moved to my 2012 server.

HyperVHostsThe next of my servers I chose to move was my Exchange 2010 server. In my lab, I was running a single-server installation (waiting now for all my friends to give me hell for this installation) and wanted to move it over to my new 2012 system as well. As the only mail going through the server was my own addresses, taking it offline was not an issue. After it completed its updates, I moved the VHD over to the new 2012 host and started its conversion but did not restart its old VM back on the 2008 R2 host. Once the conversion was done, I created the new 2012 VM attaching the freshly converted VHDX and brought it online.

With installation of the new Hyper-V Integration tools and drivers, all of the VM's were brought up to 2012 hosting standards. Currently, I am running only 2 VM's on my 2008 R2 hosting system. The two left are my SQL 2008 and my Windows Home Server 2011 systems. In reviewing my process for moving my systems, I could easily do the same steps to the WHS 2011 image except that the backend iSCSI connection is provided by my DroboPro. I need to refigure that out but I am not happy with my current WHS configuration. I do not feel it offers me anymore advantages as a single device as I don't use its remote access capability nor its media streaming. It has ended up a file server and I would prefer to run a real file server with Windows 2012 instead. As far as the SQL 2008 server, I plan to build a new one on the 2012 host and mirror the databases across, then use the 2012 hosted VM as my primary.

Many might say I am taking a big risk in that there is no knowledge of an upgrade path from 2012 RC to 2012 RTM. I have also done something most might say was dumb in moving the VHD's manually. I feel the risk/reward of building new VM's with the VHD from the 2008 R2 host versus installation of tooling that either would take a long time versus doing what I did. If Microsoft allowed 2012 Hyper-V tools to work with 2008 R2 servers, I might have used some of the other tools but that will not happen by the looks of things. I have 3 of my main servers over on the new host and looking pretty damn good.

Next, I will be working on both the SQL and WHS/File server. I will post more about that work when I get to it.