Microsoft is selling an appliance named StorSimple, that can be used for archiving files, a network backup target, or even as a file server. Microsoft bought the company named Xyratex, a former subsidiary of Seagate, to acquire this solution. This appliance was originally not very useful, because:
- It shared storage via iSCSI only so it didn’t fit well into a virtualization stack, especially Hyper-V which has moved more to SMB 3.0.
- The file storage engine that decided which files stayed local vs. were moved to the Azure cloud was almost useless.
- The physical appliance required space in your server rack, when virtualization is the focus for most solutions.
- While the box was free, it did require a purchase of an enterprise agreement and paying for moving files out of Azure as some files were accessed.
Microsoft has improved StorSimple over the years and now the product is much more useful.
Continue reading “Understanding StorSimple”
A few months ag0 Microsoft announced that Windows 10 would receive major updates just twice a year, scheduled for September and March. Based on feedback from enterprise customers wanting a more tolerable schedule, Microsoft moved to make their release schedule more predictable.
What some people missed is that they also announced an identical schedule for corporate subscribers to Office 365. They aligned the update schedule with Windows 10. Microsoft says they plan to deliver and support Office 365 ProPlus updates, starting in September.
Microsoft also extended support 50% from 12 months per update to 18 months. The additional six months means your IT team can choose to push updates just once or twice a year.
The twice-a-year feature updates will be named Semi-annual Channel (Pilot) and Semi-annual Channel (Broad), each describing how Microsoft envisions them being deployed in the enterprise. Most people will probably just refer to them as simply “Pilot” and “Broad”.
You can get more information here.
For most companies, maintaining a large IT presence implies large capital expenditures and a non-trivial amount of accounting and record-keeping to track depreciation, tax considerations, and so forth. When you purchase the hardware and the software, they become yours (in every sense of the word) and your long-term responsibility. The traditional model of enterprise computing is a capital-intensive function that requires expensive data centers (electricity, air conditioning, servers, networks, storage, etc.) and operations staff (hardware swaps, networks, backups, OS updates, upgrades, etc.) to keep it all running effectively. With an on-premises data center, you must plan and provision for maximum utilization, which is financially inefficient.
The appeal of cloud computing includes the ability of enterprises to pay for only what they use. If demand decreases and you no longer need the assigned capacity, you can turn off systems and you are no longer charged for those systems. Since the cloud is a subscription-based model, it is an “operating expense” model. Computing becomes a service for which businesses are billed a monthly charge that is metered by actual usage. The more (compute, network, and storage resources) that you use the more expensive your monthly bill. The less you use, the less you will be charged.
Another way to save money is cloud operations frees your enterprises of the costly tasks of system backups, routine network maintenance, software patches, etc. because you cloud provider can handle these tasks.
Most IT organizations find wide variations in system utilization. Some applications are seasonal and other applications run for a short period of time before being shut down. You might have other applications that are simply unpredictable and you can’t apply a cost saving model.
Building your server infrastructure in a cloud environment can save your business money and allow for greater innovations for less money.
Just some quick tips for building a SQL Server instance on Azure virtual servers.
||DS3 or higher for SQL Enterprise edition.
DS2 or higher for SQL Standard and Web editions.
||Use Premium Storage. Standard storage is only recommended for dev/test.
Keep the storage account and SQL Server VM in the same region.
Disable Azure geo-redundant storage (geo-replication) on the storage account.
||Use a minimum of 2 P30 disks (1 for log files; 1 for data files and TempDB).
Avoid using operating system or temporary disks for database storage or logging.
Enable read caching on the disk(s) hosting the data files and TempDB.
Do not enable caching on disk(s) hosting the log file.
Important: Stop the SQL Server service when changing the cache settings for an Azure VM disk.
Stripe multiple Azure data disks to get increased IO throughput.
Format with documented allocation sizes.
||Enable database page compression.
Enable instant file initialization for data files.
Limit or disable autogrow on the database.
Disable autoshrink on the database.
Move all databases to data disks, including system databases.
Move SQL Server error log and trace file directories to data disks.
Setup default backup and database file locations.
Enable locked pages.
Apply SQL Server performance fixes.
||Back up directly to blob storage.
You can get more information about performing Azure database backups here.
The annual Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) conference was held recently, and Microsoft has disclosed some of the important announcements from that event.
- Public Preview of Azure Analysis Services – Azure Analysis Services enables developers and BI professionals to create BI Semantic Models.
- SQL Server 2016 DW Fast Track Reference Architecture, 145TB – The Data Warehouse Fast Track (DWFT) reference architectures that certify that a SQL Server 2016 SMP unit can support active data sets of up to 145TB and maximum user size of 1.2 Petabytes of SQL Data in an all flash system.
- Data Migration Assistant and Database Experimentation Assistant – Microsoft released the Data Migration Assistant (DMA) v2.0 that helps you upgrade to the latest version of SQL Server 2016 from legacy SQL Servers.
- Azure SQL Data Warehouse Expanded Free Trial – The exclusive Azure SQL Data Warehouse free trial. Customers can request a one-month free trial for Azure SQL Data Warehouse.
- Cognitive Toolkit (formerly known as CNTK) – The availability of a beta for Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit (formerly CNTK), which is a free open-source commercial-grade toolkit that uses deep learning algorithms to learn like the human brain.
You can read more here.
Security is probably one of the first things people ask about when looking at a cloud provider. How do you know the cloud provider is performing their required security functions correctly to keep your systems and data secure? Microsoft is continuously adding and improving security to it’s Azure offerings, and now they have achieved ISO certification. ISO is an international organization that establishes standards in a variety of areas, and has over 21,000 different standards. Customers look to a ISO standard to help them measure and compare competitors.
This certification provides guidance on 37 controls in ISO/IEC 27002 and features seven new controls not addressed in ISO/IEC 27002. Both cloud service providers and cloud service customers can leverage this guidance to effectively design and implement cloud computing information security controls. Customers can download the ISO/IEC 27017 certificate which demonstrates Microsoft’s continuous commitment to providing a secure and compliant cloud environment for our customers.