The Windows Server Notebook

April 17, 2012  3:08 PM

Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012 released – and new Windows Intune is on the way

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein

Ready, set…deploy.

Microsoft today released the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012, its product for automating deployment of Windows 7, Office 2010, Office 365 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

According to the company, the latest version of the toolkit has several updates, including self-service, user-customizable installation through System Center Configuration Manager 2012, one of the key products in the revamped management suite that is the focus of this week’s Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) in Las Vegas. Administrators can also expect integration with the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolkit, and support for testing the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. MDT 2012 is available for both x86 and x64 platforms; download it here, along with supporting documentation.

The release was one of several announcements Microsoft has made over the past couple of days.

On Monday, the company made note of an upcoming new version of Windows Intune, its cloud-based desktop management service, which will reportedly support mobile devices including Windows Phone 7, iPads, iPhones, and Android-based phones and mobile devices (via Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync). This matches with the recent updates to System Center Configuration Manager 2012, and like that product, Windows Intune 3.0 (not the official name just yet) will also feature a self-service portal for end users. Download the “Pre-Release Getting Started Guide” here, and stay tuned for more information on the official release during MMS.

Also on Monday, Microsoft detailed its plans for Windows 8 SKUs. In contrast to previous releases, there will be only three versions of the upcoming operating system: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT (previously Windows on ARM). Though the stripped-down structure is likely intended to reduce consumer confusion, some think the Windows RT name, which may refer to the Windows runtime library that supports the new Metro-style design, thwarts those efforts.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments, or via Twitter (@WindowsTT).

April 13, 2012  6:20 PM

What to expect at MMS 2012

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein

This year’s Microsoft Management Summit will kick off in a few short days in Las Vegas, and we’ll be watching closely to find the new technologies and products that will impact IT pros in the coming months. Along with our Senior Executive Editor Ed Scannell, Jack Madden (from will be at the show, and he’s put together a list of topics he’ll be looking for from a desktop virtualization and consumerization perspective.

We’re expecting a lot of discussion about System Center 2012, which should officially launch next week. We’ll be paying particular attention to the updates to Configuration Manager and Virtual Machine Manager, any licensing information, and looking at how the revamped management suite ties into Microsoft’s overall cloud strategy. Of course, Windows Server 8, Hyper-V 3.0 and PowerShell v3 will be topics to keep an eye on, though there likely won’t be much news coming on these products during the show.

Are you attending MMS 2012? What are your plans – sessions you plan to attend, people to meet, parties to crash? What would you like us to cover? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter (@WindowsTT).

If you can’t make it to Vegas, you can still watch the live-streamed keynotes from Microsoft Management and Security Division vice president Brad Anderson on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and breakout sessions will be archived. Follow the #MMS2012 hashtag for updates all week long, and look out for our news coverage here and on

April 5, 2012  8:46 PM

Six bulletins, four critical, expected for April 2012 Patch Tuesday

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein

This Easter, admins will be on the hunt for more than just painted eggs.

In its advance notification bulletin for April, Microsoft previewed six security bulletins — four addressing “critical” remote code execution flaws — to be released next week.

Among the bulletins, two will be of particular importance for Windows Server admins; both address a remote code execution flaw and affect Windows Server 2003, 2008 and 2008 R2. A third bulletin, which affects Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8, is seen as a moderate risk for those products, but critical for Windows desktop software (Windows 7, Vista and XP).

A fourth critical bulletin affects all versions of Microsoft Office from 2003 on, as well as all versions of SQL Server and some versions of BizTalk Server, Commerce Server, VisualFox Pro and Visual Basic 6.0 Runtime.

There are also two “important” bulletins, including an information disclosure issue in Forefront Unified Access Gateway and a remote code execution patch for Office 2007 SP2 and Microsoft Works 9.

Stay tuned for more information on the patches next week; also, see SearchWindowsServer for details on last month’s bulletin.

April 4, 2012  5:02 PM

Why is Microsoft now on the top 20 list of Linux contributors?

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

This week, the Linux Foundation distributed its annual development report highlighting contributors and changes to the Linux kernel. So why is Microsoft, a company known for its deployment of proprietary code, in that report?

The foundation says Microsoft appears on its list of the top 20 contributors to the kernel for the first time. The back story is, as Jeff Blagdon of The Verge notes, pretty fascinating and dates back to 2009.

Then, Microsoft was found to have used some open source code in its Hyper-V drivers, which were designed to assist with Linux virtualization on Windows Server. The GNU Public License does not permit mixing open and closed source code, so Microsoft decided to open source the Hyper-V drivers.

After two years of waiting for the code to be cleaned up, the Hyper-V drivers found their way into the current Linux kernel.

The release notes that Microsoft once called Linux a “cancer” and the foundation says Microsoft’s presence on the list signals a change.

“Because Linux has reached a state of ubiquity, in which both the enterprise and mobile computing markets are relying on the operating system, Microsoft is clearly working to adapt,” the foundation said.

Last month, the open source project OpenNebula enabled support for Hyper-V drivers.

Should Microsoft make more strides in assisting open source development? Let us know what you think in the comments or on Twitter @WindowsTT.

April 3, 2012  7:59 PM

RevealCloud 3 improves server monitoring

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

CopperEgg released RevealCloud version 3 last week, bringing with it some enhancements and refinements, including cloud-based, real-time server monitoring.

For the uninitiated, RevealCloud 3 supports any server (including Windows Server and Hyper-V), physical or virtual, on-premises or cloud and allows monitoring of server processes. CopperEgg’s website boasts that installation is simply a matter of copying-and-pasting into the command-line.

Real-time monitoring promises views of CPU and network usage, as well as memory and disk usage. RevealCloud also displays a health rating for an at-a-glance check of server performance.

Plus, admins don’t need to constantly have a dashboard running to monitor servers if they set up custom alerts. They can receive text message or email notifications if a certain threshold has been crossed.

CopperEgg’s pricing scheme for RevealCloud is best described as tiered. Users can install RevealCloud on two servers for free with no monthly cost. After that, it’s $11 a month per server up to 25.

Server Density also has a number of server monitoring tools similar to RevealCloud and also supports a similar pricing scheme. It, however, only supports one server for evaluation.

SolarWinds, which recently released a Hyper-V monitoring tool, has a (pricier up-front cost) alternative to this product, called Server Manager.

System Center Operations Manager also delivers on some cloud management options.

Have you tried out RevealCloud 3? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment on this post or on Twitter @WindowsTT.

April 2, 2012  8:13 PM

System Center 2012 now available…sort of

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein

It looks like System Center 2012 is finally on its way to general availability, though Microsoft is still tight-lipped about the exact release date.

What we do know is that the systems management suite was quietly made available to volume-license customers on April 1 (no joke), as reported by ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley. There has been no confirmation about when all users will be able to download the final version of the product, but Microsoft has said to expect more information to be revealed at the Microsoft Management Summit, April 16-20 in Las Vegas.

System Center 2012 features several updated products that build on Microsoft’s private and public cloud strategy – including a revamped Virtual Machine Manager and device management with Configuration Manager. It will be licensed only as a single bundle.

Microsoft announced the Release Candidate version of System Center 2012 in January, and the Community Technology Preview for Windows Server 8 in early March.

Have you downloaded the latest version of System Center 2012? We want to hear from you. Let us know your thoughts in the comments, or find us on Twitter @WindowsTT.

March 30, 2012  5:57 PM

Microsoft details Windows Server 8 cloud backup, releases beta

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

Microsoft sees that a growing number of shops aren’t placing their bets on a singular server deployment style; shops aren’t going just on-premise and they’re not going solely to the cloud. The company detailed a product that would deliver on that hybrid dream so many shops are already opting to go to.

The Microsoft Online Backup Service, now in invite-only beta, backs up server data to Microsoft’s secure cloud (via Microsoft Azure).

Gaurav Gupta, a senior program manager on the cloud backup team at Microsoft, detailed the backup service on the Windows Server blog.

Key features Gupta highlighted included data throttling and encryption — so contents uploaded don’t use up network resources. There’s also the assurance that the data stored in the cloud is verified for its integrity.

It also features block-level incremental backups, which can track changes, so files aren’t being duplicated and using up the precious space.

Admins can also set up backup schedules and set how long Microsoft’s servers can store the data before deleting it.

There are no details about pricing available, but testers can get a beta account with 10 GB of storage available from Microsoft’s website. From there, users can download a backup agent and try out the backups.

Are you trying the backup service? Let us know what you think of it by leaving a comment or find us on Twitter @WindowsTT

March 28, 2012  3:31 PM

Microsoft offers two new Windows Server 8 beta guides

Ben Rubenstein Ben Rubenstein Profile: Ben Rubenstein

Thinking about testing out the new functionality of the Windows Server 8 beta? Microsoft has released two guides to help make those first steps a little easier.

The BranchCache Early Adopters Guide includes step-by-step instructions on deploying the automated local caching feature in either hosted or distributed mode, while the Core Network Guide features the basics on setting up a network and a new Active Directory domain in a new forest.

Check out for more on the new features of the Windows Server 8 beta.

March 28, 2012  12:28 PM

Microsoft’s updated Server Core promises better private clouds, fewer reboots

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

One of the most limiting aspects of Server Core on Windows Server 2008 R2 was that there was no way to get from a minimal server option to a full install of the server software. Windows Server 8 intends to answer that problem and hopefully drive down private cloud storage costs.

Microsoft Windows Server partner program manager David Cross outlined some of the benefits of the Server Core installation over the full GUI in a blog post on the Windows Server Blog.

It’s a shift in position for Microsoft: not only is the company rapidly improving the minimal server interface, it recommends admins deploy that option, instead of the GUI-based installation in which the company has long invested.

By using Server Core, “we not only accomplish considerable space savings, reducing storage costs, but we also minimize the attack surface area, thereby also increasing security and reliability,” Cross said.

In the past, it would have been difficult to make a case to adopt it, because there just weren’t enough features. Cross says there are four additional roles over its predecessor, plus the new and improved PowerShell v3 that boasts over 2,300 cmdlets. More importantly, users can easily switch between the two installations.

Cross also highlighted how patching will be different in Windows Server 8. Users can select only to install critical updates, which Cross noted could mean a stretch of 26 months without a reboot. Considering users on GUI systems might be rebooting every month, this is a big difference.

Will you be rushing to use Server Core and the minimal user interface? Let us know what you think in the comments, or on Twitter @WindowsTT.

March 22, 2012  5:07 PM

SolarWinds releases Microsoft Hyper-V monitoring tool

Jeremy Stanley Jeremy Stanley Profile: Jeremy Stanley

There are plenty of Hyper-V tools out there to consider, but there’s always room for one more (especially when it’s cheap). IT management software maker SolarWinds released a free Hyper-V Monitor this week.

While it’s not the end-all be-all Hyper-V management tool you may need – SolarWinds also sells a manager billed as a System Center 2012 alternative for almost $3,000 – the Hyper-V Monitor does offer a few typical monitoring features. It can monitor CPU usage, memory and virtual machine stats.

The tool also features an alerting mechanism that can tell you when a server’s performance has dipped.

The Hyper-V monitoring tool – in addition to a VMware monitoring tool that’s been offered for a few years – is available for free (with registration) at SolarWinds’ website.

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