WindowsNetworking.com - Monthly Newsletter - March 2013

Welcome to the WindowsNetworking.com newsletter by Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MVP. Each month we will bring you interesting and helpful information on the world of Windows Networking. We want to know what all *you* are interested in hearing about. Please send your suggestions for future newsletter content to: dshinder@windowsnetworking.com

Big, Bad Data

My dad was a fan of country singer Jimmy Dean long before the man stopped making records and started making sausage. My childhood memories include the words, embedded forever in my brain, to his biggest hit song, “Big Bad John.” It tells the story of a gentle giant who scared everyone around him, but who ended up saving the day and sacrificing his own life.

Big Data reminds me a little bit of that oversized coal miner. To those who don’t understand the concept, it’s a little scary. What is “big data” anyway – besides yet another buzzword designed to sell "solutions"? There is no strictly defined number of terabytes, petabytes, exabytes, etc. that constitutes a line which, when crossed, puts you in big data territory. But the term has evolved to refer to data sets that contain so much information that our traditional database tools have trouble processing them.

Everything is relative, so an amount of data that would qualify as “big data” in one organization might not be considered big enough in another. It depends on the tools that you use to process data and whether they’re capable of handling a specific amount. A July 2012 survey of CIOs indicated that 36% - more than a third – of them consider 1 to 9 TB of data to be “big data.”

We are living in a world where data collection has become ubiquitous. Once upon a time, to get information into a database, a human being had to sit and enter it by hand (remember all those “data entry clerk” jobs in the 80s?). Today, data flows into databases automatically, over the Internet, from all over the world. Digital data is collected from computers, mobile devices, cameras, microphones, RFI readers, barcode scanners, and all kinds of sensors. Data comes in many forms: email messages, social networking information, web form input, log files, word processing documents, text files, PDFs, photographs, drawings, videos, audio files and much more. Companies collect information about customers, employees, vendors, the industry, legal issues, accounting data, and more.

We’re drowning in data – but what good is it if we don’t have a way to make sense of it all? The value in having a great deal of information is the ability to use it to spot trends, detect patterns, spot anomalies, and ultimately to be able to use it as the basis for business decisions. And that brings us to the need for information management software or services that can organize, sort and filter the data and also perform analytics on it.

Unstructured data, in particular, is a challenge for traditional database tools because it doesn’t fit well into relational data tables. That includes text documents, audio, video, email messages, web pages, and much more. The problem is that a large percentage of the data that businesses collect is unstructured. The percentage estimated varies but even by the most conservative estimates, comprises a very significant proportion of all data.

Information management goes hand-in-hand with the idea of business intelligence. There are a number of different types of technologies that can be used to process big data and finding the right one can be a challenge, since what’s right for your purposes depends on the end purpose of your analysis as well as your expectations regarding performance and reliability of predictive analysis. The same CIO survey referenced above showed that 81% of the CIOs need the results of analytical queries to be returned in less than a minute.

Big data processing solutions can be on-premises or cloud-based. There are solutions designed to run on whatever server operating systems you might have in place, from open source frameworks such as Apache Hadoop to expensive commercial solutions. Windows admins will probably be happy to know that Microsoft is in the big data game (after all, learning to use new technologies is difficult enough without having to learn to use them on a new platform). Their Data Explorer for Excel 2013 is one recently-released tool designed to make it easier to discover, combine and refine data from different sources for analysis in Excel. The foundation of Microsoft’s big data effort, though, is HDInsight, which interestingly enough is a Hadoop distribution that can run on Windows Server or as a Windows Azure service. Microsoft has also announced a massively parallel processing data warehousing appliance, SQL Server 2012 PDW, which integrates with Hadoop and many popular BI solutions. It offers a multi-petabyte capacity.

Not all businesses need a big data solution, but if the amount of information you need to process is exceeding the capabilities of the systems you use to process it, you might need to start thinking about how to whip that “big bad data” into shape. Is your org implementing or investigating big data solutions? Let us know what you’d like to see in the way of big data solutions.

Til next time, Deb

By Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MVP

dshinder@windowsnetworking.com


Quote of the Month: We’ve got 21st century technology and speed colliding head-on with 20th and 19th century institutions, rules and cultures. – Amory Lovins


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3. WindowsNetworking.com Articles of Interest

4. Administrator KB Tip of the Month

Troubleshooting: Eliminating the Has Stopped Working dialog

Problem:

You need to run Windows on a kiosk computer, and if an application like Internet Explorer hangs or crashes, you don't want the "Internet Explorer has stopped working" dialog to be displayed because it might confuse the individual using the kiosk. How can you do this?

Resolution:

Enable the policy setting Prevent Display Of The User Interface For Critical Errors found under:

  • Computer Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Error Reporting
  • User Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Error Reporting

For more great admin tips, check out http://www.windowsnetworking.com/kbase/

5. Windows Networking Tip of the Month

Is your Hyper-V virtualization environment getting a bit long in the tooth? Did you set it up 6 years ago with the hardware that was available then? Things have changed quite a bit in the hardware space since you first implemented that Hyper-V lab; today’s hardware can do a lot more, a lot faster. The problem is that it costs a lot of money to get all new servers. Maybe renting virtual machines in the cloud is a better solution? That’s where the Azure Infrastructure as a Service offering comes in. Called “Windows Virtual Machines” you can stand up both Windows and Linux servers in the IaaS system and you can connect your corporate network to the Azure network over a site to site VPN. Learn more about Azure Virtual Machines over at http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/manage/windows/

6. Windows Networking Links of the Month

7. Ask Sgt. Deb

QUESTION:

Hey Deb,

I see that you’ve been talking about the Azure Virtual Machines IaaS cloud service in various venues. I’m interested in using it as a disaster recovery site. Can you help me with this? Do you think it’s possible?

Thanks! – Marty.

ANSWER:

Yes, you definitely could use the Azure Virtual Machines offering to host your disaster recovery site. When you configure your virtual machines, you will set up a Virtual Network and place your virtual machines within that virtual network. Then you configure an IKEv1 site to site VPN connection between your network and the Azure Virtual Network. While you can use TMG and RRAS to create the site to site VPN, Azure support will not help you with these. You will need to use an approved VPN gateway. Right now, only certain Cisco and Juniper devices are supported, but there are plans to increase the numbers of gateways supported in the future. Once you connect your networks, you can start implementing your disaster recovery plan. You might want to use Hyper-V Replica and replicate your virtual machines. However, it’s not clear at this time whether this is supported. You can create cold or warm standbys for your services in the cloud, too. Microsoft should be coming out with some documentation soon, on how you can use Azure IaaS for disaster recovery, so keep your eyes out for that. Once it’s available, I’ll post information about it in a future newsletter.

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