The Windows Server Notebook


June 15, 2012  2:05 PM

New third-party tools target Hyper-V, Windows Server 2012, mobile device management

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Windows Server administrators looking to make their lives easier have a variety of tools at their disposal. This week, that array grew even larger, as several third-party vendors launched new offerings during TechEd North America in Orlando.

Here are a few products targeted to server admins that were announced:

Software company 5nine releases near-final version of Security Manager

If you’re on the prowl for Hyper-V tools, it’s near impossible to avoid hearing about 5nine software. This week, the company delivered Hyper-V Security Manager in a release candidate form.

Security Manager is a hybrid anti-malware, web-app protection, log inspection and virtual firewall tool. The product uses a new interface in Windows Server 2012 (formerly Windows Server 8 ) and Windows 8 called Windows Filtering Platform, as well as taking advantage of Hyper-V 3.0’s virtual switch.

StealthBits aims to ease Server 2012 migration with Active Directory product

When beginning to plan a migration to Windows Server 2012, it’s good to be ready to address Active Directory issues. StealthBits is readying and demoing its new Active Directory update that takes advantage of Windows Server 2012’s Dynamic Access Control feature.

The company claims its product can help clean stale files, consolidate AD domains and develop Identity and Access Management protocols.

Net Optics pre-releases Hyper-V support for Phantom Virtualization Tap

Last month, Net Optics’ Ran Nahmias posted on his blog that “no hypervisor gets left behind” in reference to Phantom Virtualization Taps missing Hyper-V support.

This week, Hyper-V is the latest plugin for Phantom Virtualization Tap.  Built on Hyper-V’s Extensible Virtual Switch, the plugin monitors Hyper-V and virtual traffic and allows security and compliance policy management.

Quest Software updates Quest Management Xtensions

Mobile device management is something to watch these days, as more devices get used on the network. Some admins might not think Microsoft’s first-party mobile device management offering is adequate enough.

Quest upgraded its Quest Management Xtensions (QMX), including support for iPhone and Android management, plus a vWorkspace connector for virtualized infrastructure.

Were you at TechEd? Are you planning to use any of these products? Let us know in the comments, or leave us a note on Twitter @WindowsTT.

June 14, 2012  4:51 PM

SolarWinds releases free WSUS diagnostic tool

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Admins routinely facing WSUS issues might have a tool to check out.

SolarWinds, an Austin, Texas-based network management company, released a free diagnostic tool for WSUS this week.

The tool promises to validate Windows Update configuration values, test for and diagnose issues with connection to WSUS, and step-by-step repair instructions for any errors the agent throws back at the admin.

Last week, Microsoft patched the Windows Update and WSUS agents as a result of the Flame malware threat.

SolarWinds also offers Patch Manager, a $3,000 tool that can diagnose and repair problems with WSUS  and gives top-level management of patches that can be scheduled.

Have you tried SolarWinds’ WSUS diagnostic tool? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @WindowsTT.


June 13, 2012  7:44 PM

A photo tour of TechEd 2012

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein

There’s a lot to take in at Microsoft’s annual technical learning event, and you can’t describe it all in words. Here are some of the memorable visual stimuli that we saw during our visit to Orlando. See something else? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter (@WindowsTT).

A hotel key featuring an ad for Office 365 at Microsoft TechEd 2012

If you stay at a conference hotel, you've got to be ready for conference ads everywhere - including on the room key.

Continued »


June 12, 2012  1:29 PM

Lessons learned from TechEd 2012 Day 1

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein

Microsoft’s TechEd event is all about learning…but not always the kind you think. Our first day in Orlando came complete with a lot of new knowledge, and not just about the availability of the new Windows Intune, CTP2 of System Center 2012 SP1 and Hyper-V Server 2012 (the Release Candidate).

If you missed out on the fun, consider this your review session:

1) Speed thrills. Microsoft Virtualization Program manager Jeff Woolsey got the biggest cheer of the Day 1 keynote (unless you count the one guy excited about PowerShell cmdlets) with his move of a 10 GB file in just 10 seconds using Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V.  Attendees were sufficiently impressed; Woolsey also spent the better part of an hour answering Hyper-V questions after his two marathon sessions later in the day.

2) Mark Russinovich is (relatively) hilarious. The Windows Azure Technical Fellow’s part of the opening keynote was full of laughs. Sample joke: “No, we haven’t been hacked; Azure really does support Linux as a guest OS.” (You had to be there.)

3) Live crowdsourcing is dangerous. The Azure web app that Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie created during the keynote (try it out here: http://www.messagescott.com) opened up a message box to the crowd, which led to some “special” notes displayed on the main screen, from a tongue-in-cheek SQL injection to a possibly sincere question: “Who farted?”

4) Apple is ok. Microsoft folks have made a point of showing multiple demos on iPhones so far, putting their money where their mouth is in terms of supporting all manner of devices (though attendees did hear about “user-centric” management via System Center a number of times — and the new management suite was a popular topic among attendees).  The move made some sense, given all the Macbooks and iPads in the crowd.

5) PowerShell is getting real. Ok, it’s not exactly new knowledge that PowerShell is becoming a more significant part of Microsoft systems. But the fact that TechEd had to add a second session of Don Jones and Jeffrey Snover’s “PowerShell Crash Course” (and still saw it packed to the brim) shows that IT pros are really starting to understand that not learning it could be detrimental to their careers.

6) People are getting testy about tests. Not everyone understands how (or why) Microsoft has changed its certification program, but the consensus is that the soon-to-be-retired MCITP will not be missed. In the meantime, plenty of folks were cramming for and taking all manner of tests during Day 1, more to boost the resume than anything else.

7) Twitter is complicated. The Birds of a Feather session on “Social Media for Business” included some spirited discussions about the pros and cons of supporting social media activity from an IT perspective — with security and governance (particularly in healthcare and government) the biggest drawbacks, and improved feedback and research the biggest advantages. The most unique insight: The expansion of social media is akin to the move from single-core processors (individual thinking) to multi-core processors (where it’s all about the group).

8 ) There’s no such thing as “trying too hard” at a vendor booth. Raffles, card tricks, a guy on a unicycle wrapped in a straitjacket (seriously) – there were few lengths to which vendors wouldn’t go to attract a few more attendees to their booths. At least there were no “booth babes” that we could see.

Don’t you feel a whole lot smarter? Now, if we could just learn about the official release dates for Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8…


June 7, 2012  6:52 PM

Microsoft’s June 2012 advance security notification lists seven bulletins

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Microsoft is ringing in the summer season with seven bulletins in its latest Patch Tuesday announcement. IT pros should be on the lookout for three critical bulletins, patching Internet Explorer, .NET framework and Microsoft operating systems, to be released next week.

The bulletins will address 25 vulnerabilities, according to a post on a Microsoft security blog. Three of the bulletins will respond to issues with elevation of privilege, while the other four will deal with remote code execution.

The patches come at a time of heightened attention to security, given the Flame malware that exploited Windows Update systems in the Middle East. However, experts say that Flame shouldn’t pose too big of a threat to enterprises.

Though the June notification includes about as many fixes as previous months in 2012, it does appear to be heavy on server updates (with three critical bulletins applied to Windows Server 2003 and 2008) as compared to last month. Check back for a full report and analysis next week.


June 6, 2012  6:03 PM

What to expect at TechEd North America 2012

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein

As anyone who’s been to TechEd will attest, the event is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. With hundreds of technical sessions, workshops, labs and vendors, the annual Microsoft event doesn’t lack quantity. But what’s actually worth paying attention to?

Thanks to the timing of the event, the published agenda and the tarot cards found lying around the TechTarget office, we have a few informed guesses regarding what attendees can expect to hear a lot about, and where Microsoft wants the industry conversation to go. Here are the top topics we’ll be watching:

Windows Server 2012

With the recent name change from Windows Server 8, there’s a renewed anticipation for Microsoft’s upcoming server OS – and heightened expectations for all the things the company claims it can do. Server and Tools Business president Satya Nadella will be one of the featured keynote speakers at the show, and he’ll likely hammer on all of the many documented improvements within Server 2012, from enhancements to Hyper-V and PowerShell to the new Resilient File System. There are also 72 technical sessions in the Windows Server track, which should sate folks eager to play with the Release Candidate, available now.

Windows 8

It’s no secret that Microsoft is betting big on Windows 8, its “reimagined,” “fast and fluid” new client operating system. With the next iteration – dubbed the Release Preview – now available, you can bet it’ll be a major point of emphasis for many speakers, if not for the IT pros who remain skeptical of how the touch-centric interface will translate to the enterprise. The agenda includes technical sessions on Windows 8 deployment, Metro-style app delivery, Windows To Go and more. Developers will have plenty to chew on as well: Visual Studio corporate vice president Jason Zander will be speaking during Monday’s keynote session, and Antoine LeBlond, corporate vice president for Windows Web Services (with a focus on the Windows Store) takes the stage on Tuesday.

Certifications

Sure, IT pros have been able to take certification exams at TechEd every year. But this year adds some intrigue, given the recent changes to Microsoft’s program, including the return of the MCSE and a focus on the cloud. Many are wondering what the changes mean for them, whether they should get recertified and what the value of these things are, anyway. If there is any place to get answers, it’s here.

Device (or user) management

It’s pretty difficult to avoid the topic of consumerization and BYOD programs at any conference these days, and for good reason: Any organization that isn’t dealing with it now will soon need to or risk being beaten over the head by iPad-wielding employees. One of the main ways that Microsoft is addressing the new reality is through improved device management. The revamped Windows Intune, which will purportedly give IT the ability to manage and deliver applications to iOS and Android devices in addition to Windows devices, will be featured in demos and discussions throughout the week (as will System Center Configuration Manager 2012). Expect to hear about Microsoft’s “user-centric” management model a lot, and get explanations as to why Windows RT tablets don’t need to join Active Directory domains.

Cloud

The word “cloud” at a Microsoft conference usually means Azure. The public cloud platform will definitely be a major coverage area at TechEd, given both the timing – there was a recent branding brouhaha, and the company is scheduled to make a significant Azure announcement on June 7 – and the speaker slate (which includes sessions from Azure executives Scott Guthrie and Mark Russinovich, and purportedly something on the new Windows Azure Active Directory). But don’t discount Microsoft’s private cloud push, which includes System Center 2012 and Hyper-V.

System Center 2012

Though Microsoft’s updated systems management suite got plenty of time in the spotlight during the Management Summit in April, IT pros are looking to learn more about how to better monitor and respond to increasingly complex environments. Many of the suite’s most significant products, including Virtual Machine Manager, Operations Manager and Orchestrator, will get dedicated technical sessions, and should be touted as ways to tie together many of the topics mentioned above.

Office

We’ve heard very little about how things are going with Office 365, Microsoft’s answer to Google Apps, and maybe that’s for a reason. But the roadmap should become a little clearer during TechEd, as there are several sessions scheduled that cover the cloud-based productivity suite in depth, including its tie-ins to the Sharepoint collaboration platform (and we may get more details on the new government-specific version).  Though there’s nothing listed, we might also hear something about Office 15, which will reportedly be delivered to Windows devices before anything else.

Will you be at TechEd North America 2012? If so, what are you looking to learn? If not, what would you like us to cover? The SearchWindowsServer.com team will be on the ground in Orlando, delivering news and reactions from the event. Follow us on Twitter (@WindowsTT) for live updates.


May 31, 2012  6:29 PM

Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate now available for download

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein

IT pros eager to get their hands on the latest build of Windows Server 2012 won’t have to wait until June. Today, Microsoft made the Release Candidate of its new server operating system available for download on its TechNet website today in both 64-bit ISO and VHD versions. The new version comes at least a few days earlier than expected based on comments the company made in April.

It’s unclear just what has changed since the beta version of the software was released at the end of February. As we dig into the latest release, check out what we know so far about Windows Server 2012 (aka Windows Server 8).

Also available today is the Windows 8 Release Preview, whose availability was leaked via a (subsequently deleted) Microsoft blog post yesterday. The new version of Windows 8 will reportedly include Flash in the new Metro-based Internet Explorer 10.

Will you download the Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate or the Windows 8 Release Preview? What do you hope has changed?


May 30, 2012  2:28 PM

Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 SP1 update fixes memory leak, other issue

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Three weeks after it released its first System Center 2012 Rollup update, Microsoft patched issues with Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 Service Pack 1.

It’s a light second Rollup update for the product, patching just two issues. One only affects a managed Hyper-V cluster that has HP Cluster Extension Software installed.

The second and last fix patches the Self-Service Portal, which in some cases would not display all virtual machines if the user had 50 or more machines assigned.

The VMM 2008 R2 SP1 was last patched in July of last year, and this Rollup includes those previous fixes.

Full release notes and download links can be found on Microsoft’s support site.


May 22, 2012  3:26 PM

Microsoft continues campaign of openness, adds FreeBSD support to Hyper-V

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Microsoft and the word “open” have a long history of being mutually exclusive, but that’s no longer the case.

Earlier this month, the company said it would support open-source operating system FreeBSD in its Windows Server Hyper-V products. According to a post on its Openness blog, Microsoft partnered with NetApp and Citrix to develop high-performance drivers for Hyper-V. It also enlisted the help of Insight Global, Inc., a technical staffing organization, to develop VMBUS drivers for the project.

Of course, this news came as a big plus for FreeBSD users, but the sole comment on the Microsoft Openness blog clamored for other platform support.

“Now, I’m waiting [for Microsoft to give] support to [D]ebian,” the commenter wrote.

The drivers will be released later this year in the vague “summer” window.

Earlier this year, Microsoft appeared for the first time on the top 20 list of Linux contributors, and OpenNebula, an open source project, gained final Hyper-V drivers.


May 17, 2012  2:37 PM

Microsoft releases updated MAP toolkit beta, security tool

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

When it comes to migration planning, Microsoft moves fast. Just six months after the release the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit 6.5, the company has now put out a beta for MAP 7.0.

According to the Microsoft Connect website the toolkit will help users determine readiness for the Windows Server 2012 beta, virtualize Linux servers, size server hardware for desktop virtualization and help with VMware-to-Hyper-V virtual machine migration.

If you want to get your hands on the MAP toolkit 7.0 beta, sign up at this link.

Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit gets “supported” status, receives update

Redmond also recently released version 3.0 of its Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit.

The EMET is intended to protect against hackers overtaking a system – even if a patch for a legacy piece of software does not exist – by blocking against known vulnerabilities.

Microsoft’s download page touts the EMET’s ability to be deployed, configured and monitored from System Center Configuration Manager or via Group Policy.


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