WindowsNetworking.com - Monthly Newsletter - September 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

The Incredible Shrinking Network

According to one scientific theory, in which the universe is shaped like a closed sphere, it expands and contracts. In the world of technology, expansion and contraction have been the order of things over the years.

Take the cell phone: I remember the first one I ever used. It consisted of a huge handset that fit on top of an even larger battery pack. The whole thing weighed several pounds and you carried it around in a bag with a shoulder strap. Over the years, cell phones got steadily smaller and lighter. In the early 2000s, I had a tiny flip phone that was only about an inch and a half wide and weighed practically nothing. But then something happened. Phones got smart, and started growing again. The first iPhone had a 3.5 inch screen. Today's "phablet" phones have reached 6 inches.

Our networks, too, have gone through the "expansion and contraction" cycle over the last few years. Most business networks started small. In the mainframe era, an organization had only one or two computers, with terminals in various places that could access them. Then PCs came along, but only workers doing certain specialized tasks had one on their desks. In the beginning, most were standalone systems, with data transferred between them via "sneakernet" (copying it to a removable disk and physically carrying it to another system).

Early networks of PCs were often peer-to-peer setups, but soon the advantages of centralized storage and management led to the proliferation of servers, and before you knew it, the "server room" had morphed into "the datacenter," with rack upon rack of servers, each doing its own special thing (email, web, database, file storage and other specialized duties).

With the IT department growing like some horror movie monster to take over more and more of the physical space in company facilities, something had to give. Enter the era of virtualization. Led by big players such as VMware, Microsoft and Citrix, the virtualization trend allowed companies to consolidate multiple servers onto fewer physical machines and reduce the physical footprints (along with hardware costs, utility bills and the ecological impact) of their datacenters.

Another way for companies to reduce the size of their networks is to "outsource" some of their IT services to off-premises facilities. From grid computing to ASP (application service provision) to SaaS (software as a service), the idea of workers using programs that were running on some faraway server and delivered over the Internet seemed like a good idea, but it took a while to catch on. Out of that, however, the cloud was born. Cloud computing goes a lot further, offering not just software but also platform and infrastructure as services (PaaS and IaaS).

Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud was probably the turning point. EC2 made it possible for companies to rent computer processing time "in the cloud" for running their applications, while remaining in control of those applications (coming full circle back to the days of the 1960s when computer timesharing  was a commonplace computing model because most companies couldn't afford to own and house the huge institutional mainframe systems of that era.

When Google got into online services and Microsoft went "all in" with the cloud, there was much speculation and consternation among IT pros that the corporate datacenter would shrink to the point of disappearing altogether, and that the jobs of IT professionals would disappear with them. That doesn't seem to be happening. Although there have been some indications that employment in the tech sector is slowing down, in some areas (according to the Federal Reserve), demand for skilled tech professionals is much greater than the supply, with employers competing vigorously for high-end IT workers. The problem for some of those in the job market is that the nature of those jobs has evolved so that the skills learned a decade (or more) ago are now in many ways obsolete.

But there are still plenty of opportunities out there. Most companies are hanging onto their on-premises datacenters and combining them with cloud resources in a hybrid IT model. Far from getting smaller, the corporate network has actually expanded to flow over and into the cloud, opening up new possibilities for those who love to learn new things.

By Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MVP

dshinder@windowsnetworking.com

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Quote of the Month - In times of rapid change, experience could be your worst enemy. – J. Paul Getty
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3. WindowsNetworking.com Articles of Interest

4. Administrator KB Tip of the Month

Turn on BitLocker from the Command Line

Bit-Locker provides more security for the Operating Systems. You can quickly enable Bit-Locker using command line. There are two ways to enable and manage Bit-Locker feature; using "Manage-BDE" or using PowerShell "Enable-BitLocker" cmdlet.

Before enabling the Bit-Locker for a volume, you can get the status of the volumes by running the following command:

Manage-BDE –Status

There are two PowerShell examples mentioned in this tip. Open a PowerShell window to run below PowerShell commands:

  • To enable Bit-Locker for all volumes:

Get-BitLockerVolume | Enable-BitLocker –EncryptionMethod Aes128 -RecoveryKeyPath "E:\MyRecovery\" –RecoveryKeyProtector

  • Enabling Bit-Locker with a specified user account:

Enable-BitLocker -MountPoint "C:" -EncryptionMethod Aes128 -AdAccountOrGroup "MyDomain.COM\John" -AdAccountOrGroupProtector

The first command enables Bit-Locker on all the volumes with recovery key stored in the E:\MyRecovery folder. The second command enables Bit-Locker on C: volume (specified by –MountPoint switch) and for volume protection it uses user account (John) credentials before Bit-Locker allows access to any other user accessing this volume.

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

5. Windows Networking Tip of the Month

For a long time Windows Azure was all about platform as a service (PaaS). While that might be nice for the developers who create the applications, it doesn't have a lot to offer the IT pro who is expected to perform that magic in the datacenter that makes those applications work. Many experts in the field believe that Azure's early focus on PaaS was a strategic mistake, since it's the IT pro who really drives adoption of Microsoft technologies. The good news is that Microsoft realized that and they have now put together a new infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering called Azure Infrastructure Services.

I've had a chance to work with Azure Infrastructure Services and I have to say it really is what so many of us been waiting for. However, before you get too enthusiastic about it and plunge in, you need to first think about how you will adopt Azure Infrastructure Services and integrate it with your current network. You don't want to just click the "create VM" button and end up with the same mess you have on-premises!

What would be useful is a roadmap that could help you make smart decisions for a hybrid cloud computing or hybrid IT project. The other good news is that Microsoft understands that you need to do it smart in order to do it well – and that's the reason they put together the Hybrid IT Infrastructure Solution for Enterprise IT. The solution is a document set that will help you plan, design and implement a hybrid IT infrastructure that actually works. I found the doc set very interesting and I hope you do too!

6. Windows Networking Links of the Month

7. Ask Sgt. Deb

QUESTION:

Hey Deb,

I've been reading a lot of Microsoft data center architecture information in the last few months, as we're thinking about upgrading our on-premises data center. One thing that I notice is that there is a lot of focus on decoupling the storage "stamp" from the compute stamp by using file server based storage instead of SANs. We've always used SANs in the past, so I found this new approach very interesting. It seems like the new SMB 3 protocol is responsible for this big change. From what I understand, SMB 3 was introduced with Windows Server 2012 and there are some big improvements with Windows Server 2012 R2. Can you tell me what R2 adds to what we already get with the SMB 3 protocol?

Thanks! – Gary.

ANSWER:

Hi Gary,

You bet! Microsoft's approach to file based storage for virtual machines that run on a dedicated compute cluster is a big change for them. SMB 3 makes this possible because of its enhanced performance and reliability improvements. With SMB 3, you can get wire speed data access over 10 Gbps networks with minimal processor impact because of support for SMB Direct, which offloads the processing overhead to the NIC itself.

New features you'll see with the version of SMB 3 included with Windows Server 2012 R2 include:

  • VHDX files as shared storage for guest clustering
  • Hyper-V Live Migration over SMB
  • Improved SMB bandwidth management
  • Support for multiple SMB instances on a Scale-Out file server (improves CSV performance)

For more information on all the new and improved features for SMB 3 in Windows Server 2012 R2, check out http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh831474.aspx