Azure Site Recovery is now available as Preview

Azure Site Recovery is now available as Preview. This service formerly known as Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager is able to orchestrate failover between two customer owned sites.

It is also able to replicate Hyper-V virtual machine to Microsoft Azure datacenters saving customers on costs of a secondary datacenter.

Besides replication to Azure the service also allows an orchestrated recovery of virtual machines in case of failover to an Azure datacenter.

Customers must be using System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 R and virtual machines running on Hyper-V. At the moment only Generation 1 VMs are supported. VHD & VHDX virtual disk files are supported.

A getting started with Azure Site Recovery  for on-premises to Azure is available here.

More information on Site Recovery here.

During Preview customers ger a 50% discount on pricing. The costs of protecting on-premises virtual machines to Microsoft Azure are $ 27,- per month per virtual machine *during Preview* . Customers receive 100GB of replication and storage per VM. Charging is based on an average usage per month. Suppose a customer protects 20 virtual machines for the first half of the month and none for the second half, the average daily number of protected virtual machines being charged by Microsoft would be 10.

Costs for using Azure Site Recovery as an orchestration tool for replication to another customer managed site is $ 16,- per month per virtual machine.

I will cover Azure Site Recovery in my new book on Microsoft hybrid cloud.


Automatically download Microsoft sessions published on Channel 9 (TechEd, BUILD etc)

Microsoft publishes recorded sessions and PowerPoint slides of many Microsoft events on Channel 9. Recently TechEd 2014 North America was held in Houston. Over 600 sessions can be watched for free here. 

What if you could download those sessions so you can watch those while offline?

Claus Nilsen wrote a great PowerShell script. It is very easy to use: execute the PowerShell script. You will be presented with a graphical user interface which allows to select the category, author and the event. You can also choose to download the PowerPoint slides, the recorded sessions or both.

Download the script here.



Microsoft adds new virtual machine sizes to Microsoft Azure

Today Microsoft announced it added two new virtual  machine sizes to Microsoft Azure. Those are available both in the Azure IaaS and PaaS offering (web and worker roles).

These two sizes name A8 and A9 provide faster processors, faster interconnect, more virtual cores for higher compute power, larger amounts of memory. These instances include an additional 40Gbit/s InfiniBand network that provides remote direct memory access (RDMA) technology for maximum efficiency of parallel MPI applications. This combination of features make these instances optimal for running compute and network intensive applications such as high performance cluster applications, applications using modeling, simulation and analysis, video encoding etc. Detailed configurations of these instances are available. 

A8 has 8 virtual cores and 56 GB of virtual memory

A9 has 16 virtual cores and 112 GB of virtual memory.

Both are available immediately. However A8 and A9 Vm’s can only be created using PowerShell at the moment. Creation using the Azure Management Portal will be available in the coming weeks.

More info here.


Microsoft announces Microsoft Azure Site Recovery

The number 1 most requested feature for Microsoft Azure is disaster recovery. The keynote speech mentioned some details. Also breakout session DCIM-B322 revealed some details.

At TechEd 2014 in Houston Microsoft announced a new service running on Microsoft Azure. Azure Site Recovery enables failover of Hyper-V virtual machines running on-premise using Microsoft Azure as a target.

Azure Site Recovery will be the new name for the current Azure service named ‘Hyper-V Recovery Manager’. Recovery Manager is able to orchestrate a failover and failback of System Center Virtual Machine Manager managed virtual machines. Required however is having two sites managed by the customer. Azure cannot be used to run virtual machines in a failover scenario. Azure just has meta data and runs the orchestration logic.

Azure Site Recovery will go in preview in June 2014. It will allow data replication set at a schedule of every 30 seconds, 5 or 15 minutes. It has a maximum of 15 recovery points and supports VSS snapshots for application consistency. Customers can select to  encrypt data at rest.

Customers will only be charged for the consumption of storage. During normal replication no virtual machines will be running. Only during failover or failover test compute resources will be charged.

Azure does not provide tailor made virtual machine sizes. This means customers has to select from a number of fixed configured virtual machines (small, large, A6, A8 etc). Azure Site Recovery will automatically adjust the Azure VM to have a best match with the failover VM which run on-premises.

Virtual disk format VHDX is supported but Generation 2 virtual machines are not supported.

Like for Hyper-v Recovery Manager, Virtual Machine Manager is required for Site Recovery

The service allows to map on-premise networks to Azure networks. It also has recovery plans. This enables administrators to control the sequence in which virtual machines are started in case of a failover to Microsoft Azure.

A failover can be tested while the production site running on-premises is operational and not disturbed.

The Azure management console which is used to manage Site Recovery supports any HTML5 compliant browser. This means failover can be performed from any device and from any location.

Site Recovery does not support seeding. Seeding is shipping a complete virtual disk on removeable media or a NAS to a datacenter to prevent tranfering data of an initial replication over the WAN. Which is remarkable because Azure does have such an import feature for virtual machines. I guess the challenge with Site Recovery is that no virtual machine is created. Only at a failover (test) a virtual machine is provisioned using replicated data. ExpressRoute (a private WAN connection between an on-premise datacenter and Microsoft Azure datacenter) can be used for replication traffic.

Site Recovery supports a failback in which virtual machines are replicated back to the on-premise datacenter. This is done by only sending the delta or change data. So only the data which has been changed during the failover is sent back to the original VM.

The session on Site Recovery is available for viewing here. 

Site Recovery will be available in 6 different regions at Preview. Two  in the US, two in the UK (this is what one of Microsoft staff told in an interview)  and two in Asia. The UK is  Dublin and Amsterdam by the way, both not located in the UK.

Microsoft did not publish the pricing of this new service.

Channel 9 did a live interview by Symon Perriman with Vishal Mehrotra and Manoj K Jain titled ‘Enterprise-Scale Disaster Recovery’  It was at May 14 from 11:30AM to 12:15PM and was recorded. It is now shown on but later I will add the direct URL of the recording

Some nice new information was revealed.

Ofcourse this new feature will be described in my to be released book on Microsoft Cloud OS.

Free ebook: Introducing Microsoft System Center 2012 R2

Microsoft published a new free ebook titled:  Introducing Microsoft System Center 2012 R2. The book is currently available in PDF format only. Mobi and ePub format will be available soon. The ebook has 155 pages and provides a high level overview of Microsoft Cloud OS and System Center 2012 R2 is particular. Each chapter has an overview of one of the components of System Center. Content of each chapter includes an introduction, some screenshots, a Microsoft expert writing about new features and links to more information.

This ebook provides a good insight into System Center 2012 R2 and is highly recommended for those who are looking for an easy to consume total overview.

Download here.

Gartner being strict on VMware vCloud Suite 5.1 & Microsoft System Center 2012

At Gartner Catalyst Conference 2013 in San Diego a very interesting presentation was given by Alessandro Perilli. He  currently leads the private cloud computing research in the Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) research division.

The title of the presentation is “Sizing Up Cloud Management Platforms: Microsoft vs. VMware“.  It can be watched online for FREE here. You just need to register. After registration you can watch three sessions for free.

This session provides an in-depth comparison between two cloud management platforms (CMPs): Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1, and VMware vCloud Suite 5.1. The session highlights the key differences between the two CMPs in terms of feature set and technical implementation.


To summarize the content of the session:

Gartner developed a Cloud Management Platform (CMP) assessment tool. This tool evaluates CMP’s using over 200 criteria. Gartner started to assess both Microsoft System Center and VMware vCloud Suite.  This research took about 4 months and included many hours spent in homelabs. VMware vCloud Suite scores slightly better, mainly because of its good implementation of charge back and life cycle management. Gartner hopes to force vendors in a certain direction. The criteria in the Reference Architecture Template  are a way to lead vendors to adjust their products so it has features the customers really want.

Hightlights of the presentation

This posting has a summary of what was presented in this session. I very much recommend to watch the session yourself.

Key questions addressed in the session include:

• Which vendor, among Microsoft and VMware, offers an enterprise-grade CMP for large-scale production cloud environments?
• What are the key differences in terms of features and implementation between Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 and VMware vCloud Suite 5.1?
• What weaknesses in each product constrain an organization’s capability to address different use cases for cloud computing?


Alessandro starts with a slide showing the results of the assessment. VMware vCloud Suite (light blue bar) has a higher score than Microsoft System Center. But you need to know the context of how the score was determined before jumping to conclusions.


Gartner compared the most comprehensive edition available  of both products . These are  Microsoft System Center 2012 SP1 Datacenter Edition and VMware vCloud Suite 5.1 Enterprise edition.

Both Cloud Management Platforms offer a lot of features which are delivered by various components. However not all components are a must in a CMP according to Gartner.   In SC 2012 Gartner did not consider Data Protection Manager and Endpoint Protection in the assessment.  In vCloud Suite Gartner did not consider Site Recovery Manager and some parts of vCloud Networking and Security in the assessment (because those are part of the virtualization layer).

Gartner reviewed the portions of the suites which are marked in yellow in the slide shown below.

In the picture below you see VS which stands for virtual services. This are virtual machines. The components shown on top of  the virtualization layer are the components Gartner believe are needed to construct a private cloud. The level of integration of the components tells a lot about the maturity of the cloud management platform. The other aspect showing maturity is feature overlap. The more overlap, the less maturity. Gartner sees feature overlap more as a marketing bundle than a cloud management solution.


Gartner described 202 criteria to compare any cloud management platform on the market. The features are divided into three groups: required, preferred and optional

If a product scores 100% in the required features section it is seen as  an enterprise product ready for mission critical deployment on a large scale. Large scale means 10.000 managed objects or more. Gartner states the market of CMP  is highly immature. There are about a hundred cloud management platform vendors. The framework is meant to push vendors in a direction which Gartner believes is important for its clients.

A  feature gets a yes/checkmark  in the scoreboard if the feature is documented and if the feature is ready to be used out of the box. If a vendor professional services is needed to implement a feature , costing the customer money , it will be documented by Gartner as a no for that feature. So some slides show a NO for some features while the product does have the feature. Only the vendor did not have a written statement to prove it actually works.

The slide below shows the components in vCloud Suite and System Center and how they map. In quite a few categories there is an overlap of features delivered by vCloud Director and vCloud Automation Center (vCAC pronounced as vCAKE)

The foundation of vCAC is based on DynamicOps Cloud Automation Center 4.5 software. DynamicOPS  was acquired by VMware in July 2012. The current version of vCAC is 5.1.

DynamicOps and vCloud Director used to be competitors. Now they are part of the same suite. Hence the overlap in features.

vCAC enables automated provisioning of both virtual machines and physical servers (including the guest operating system). Provisioning of both on-premises and cloud infrastructures is supported. vCAC enables authorized end-users to quickly have access to servers without IT having to perform the provisioning. Provisioning is so reduced from days to minutes. More on vCAC in my post here.


In the remaining part of the presentation Alessandro discusses some of the categories and how they scored.

VMware has a clear lead in chargeback, life cycle management  and service catalog category when compared to System Center.

Mind however VMware Chargeback Manager only supports vCloud Director! It does not support VMware  vCloud Automation Center.


The integration of SC Configuration Manager with other components of SC is not exceptional and there is a lot room for improvement.

Lifecycle Management is an extremely important category. The way Lifecycle Management is implemented in vCAC is very wel done compared to Microsoft SC. Gartner is less positive about life cycle management of vCloud Director. Implementation is done in a totally different way than vCAC. So it is important to understand that difference if you are going to upgrade from vCloud Director to vCAC. You will need to learn again how to manage Life Cycle management.

The Platform category has the worst score  for VMware because they have no checkmarks in the required features. They do offer most of the features listed in this category. However they get a NO for all features. This is because Gartner only gives a Yes when features applies to all components of the platfrom.  Support for mainstream operating systems is not uniform across all components of the vCloud Suite (and in lesser extent in SC as well). Also  components of the vCloud Suite use different database technologies. So  one component supports Oracle and  Progress databases while the other only supports only SQL Server. This means the customer has to manage several database soltions.  So because the lack of uniformity VMware vCloud does not get a single Yes in this category.

Gartner confirms what former VMware CTO Steve Herrod has told an Italian VMUG meeting in 2012 that the  VMware’s cloud infrastructure suite is still only loosely integrated and that the company has plans to do better.
See this post at the Register titled VMware CTO reveals future directions in VMUG Speech in Italy says acquired techs ‘don’t work well enough together yet’
Also VMware did not provide written support statement for some of the features in this category. Another requirement to get a checkmark.


One of the last slides of the presentation is Recommendations.


One of the recommendations is:  to take your time. Building a prive cloud is not an easy task to perform. Zero to cloud in 20 minutes as some vendor says is a dream. Organizations will start to implement one or max two components of the suite and add more later on. Give priority to implementation of the features you require.

Gartner already has a paper describing SC 2012 . It is titled Microsoft System Center 2012 SP1: In-depth Assessment for Cloud Management. Written by Alessandro Perilli (G00235076). More information on this 69 pages paper here. For VMware vCloud Suite the paper will be released by Gartner around mid august 2013.

Gartner sees a growing interest in SC2012 especially by customers of which VMware Enterprise License Agreement (ELA) is about to expire. Those customers are starting to look around for alternatives. Gartner also sees a good penetration of the market of the DynamicOps  (now VMware vCAC) product in enterprises.
Customers using VMware vCloud Director ran into limitations of the product over time and start looking for alternatives.
The long term stratey of cloud management platform vendors is to replace individual components customers already use by their own solutions. Contrary to what vendors tell, the integration with other vendor solutions is not so good. Think about integration of CMP with Servicedesk tooling or Self Service portals.

New cloudservice SkySight enables the power of AND

Enabling hybrid cloud is one of Microsoft’s main strategies. The company strongly focusses on combining the strengths of public cloud with those of private cloud. Microsoft calls this the ‘Power of AND’.  The vision is delivered by Microsoft Cloud OS. Cloud OS is the combination of Windows Server, System Center and Windows Azure.

Capgemini, a large IT company with the  HQ in France, recently launched a new cloud orchestration service named SkySight which kind of glues together enterprise’s own datacenters, Capgemini operated datacenters and Microsoft Windows Azure datacenters to a single pool of resources.  I believe this is the first solution offered by Capgemini focused on Infrastructure as a Service.

SkySight will implement hybrid cloud environments using core Microsoft cloud technologies including Windows Server 2012, System Center 2012 and Windows Azure. It will include a portfolio of cloud-based application and infrastructure services through the SkySight Enterprise Applications Store.

The orchestration service is developed by Capgemini.

This portfolio will include Microsoft SharePoint, messaging, collaboration, Microsoft Lync, testing platforms, high performance computing platforms, compute capacity, and storage capacity.

The first release of SkySight will support for running testing platform in hybrid cloud infrastructures.

I have only seen press releases and not much info revealing what is happening ‘under the hood’ . I understand Capgemini offers a self service portal named the Enterprise Application Store. End users can deploy applications and virtual machines using this portal. The Capgemini developed Orchestration Service will then kick in. Based on policies set by the customer the orchestration service will deploy the application either on-premise, in a Capgemini datacenter or in Windows Azure. Examples of such policies could be: must run in private cloud because of legislation, must have a SLA of 99,99%, must have a RTO of 1 minute, deploy to the cheapest cloud, etc

SkySight is expected to be generally available in the UK, Netherlands and France by the end of September 2013, offering public, private and hybrid cloud services. It will be launched in the US at the same time, however only public cloud services will be available initially.



%d bloggers like this: