On Tuesday Microsoft released Windows Server 2012, the latest version of their server based operating system which is also being called the "Cloud OS" by Microsoft. Why the Cloud OS? Because the scalability, performance and flexibility enhancements found in Windows 2012 are core components for cloud computing. Well that and the significant improvements to Hyper-V probably have something to do with it as well.
But I think they just as easily could have called it the Storage OS. As Microsoft themselves state on their Server and Cloud Platform website "Storage plays a critical role in cloud and datacenter services." It goes on to state "Whether you have cost-effective industry standard hardware or high-end Storage Area Network for the most demanding workloads, Windows Server 2012 provides you with a rich set of features that will help you maximize the returns from your storage investments."
So what are these features that are important the use of storage in a Windows Server 2012 environment?
For starters, Microsoft has introduced Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX). When using storage arrays, ODX offloads tasks that would usually be handled locally on the server or over the network and uses the power of the storage array to perform these tasks. For instance, migrating a virtual machine between servers or copying large files between files, these operations are offloaded to the array and can be completed in much faster times. At Microsoft TechEd 2012, Microsoft demonstrated in their keynote how they could transfer a 10GB file in 10 seconds using ODX on an EMC VNX array. To do this, Microsoft uses a token that is copied between the source and destination which represents the data at that point in time. This eliminates the need for copying data between the servers and speeds up the process considerably! How do you configure this? You don't need to, if you are using Windows Server 2012 and an array that supports Windows Server 2012 such as EMC's VNX array (using versions supported with Windows Server 2012) then you will be able to take advantage of ODX.
The SMB protocol is another area where Microsoft has made major enhancements in Windows Server 2012. There are many new features and enhancements such as:
Hyper-V and SQL Server support over SMB. In my opinion this is pretty big and it hasn't received the amount of attention that I would have expected. Previously you had to use block access storage such as iSCSI, Fibre Channel or direct access storage to run these workloads which came with some limitations. Given the fact that VMware has always supported VM access of NFS, the requirement for block access with Hyper-V was seen as a reason for being inferior to Vmware. Allowing these workloads to operate over SMB will make sense for certain workloads, for certain scenarios (small business or remote office) and will just be an easier option for some.
Transparent Failover or the ability to fail over SMB file shares between cluster nodes without disruption to the running workloads. Another way to put this is it is high availability for your file shares. Transparent Failover does require Microsoft clustering and the server nodes will need to be running Windows Server 2012 for the updated SMB client.
VSS for Remote File Shares provides data protection for SQL Server, Hyper-V and other workloads that are running over SMB. Simply put, VSS for Remote File Shares is application consistent backup and restore of these data types on SMB file shares. Very cool.
- Scale Out File Server uses Cluster Shared Volumes (CSVs) to allow multiple clients to access the same data. With CSVs and Scale Out File Servers, a client can access a share across any server in the cluster providing load balancing and making it easier for a client to access information.
And finally the changes found in Hyper-V are pretty astounding. Microsoft made significant improvements to just about every feature in Hyper-V including:
- Increasing the logical processors from 64 to 320!
- Increasing physical memory from 1TB to 4TB.
- Doubling the number of virtual processors per host form 512 to 1,024.
- Increasing the number of virtual processors per VM from 4 to 64, an increase of 16x!
- Allowing for up to 1024 active VMs (from 384 previously).
- Increasing the virtual disk size from 2TB to 64TB!
And supporting 64 nodes in a cluster (up from 16) with up to 4000 VMs in a cluster (up from 1000)!
Clearly Microsoft is focused on the Enterprise and high-end Enterprise with these improvements. Add in the ability to run Hyper-V over SMB, Hyper-V replica (asynchronous replication of VMs over IP networks), virtual fibre channel ports within Hyper-V, new VHDX disk format, Remote VSS for remote VSS based backups of VMs, and ODX to offload Hyper-V operations such as rapid deployment of new VMs – this is more like a new product than just a simple upgrade.
And that is just a few of the new features that I had time to focus on today! In upcoming articles we'll focus on more of the features of Windows Server 2012, dive deeper into some of the features I touched on today and discuss scenarios for using these features along with EMC's continued support and integration with Windows Server 2012, Microsoft's Cloud Storage OS!