September 2011 wrap-up


Lots has happened during September, much of which I have covered in other posts. This post serves as a wrap-up for other bits and pieces that I haven’t managed to get to over the month.

First, a recommendation for rugby fans. Have a look at Brendan Fanning’s WordPress blog where he’s been doing a great job providing background information about the Rugby World Cup (RWC) with a natural focus on Ireland. Brendan is a professional rugby journalist who writes for some fine newspapers and it’s great to have the colour commentary that he provides in the blog to fill out the constraints that match reports often impose for space reasons. It’s also nice to read about the hotels that Brendan has been staying in as he journeys around New Zealand as it’s always good to have recommendations for the future.

Of course, RWC has occupied many hours in September in order to keep up with all the games. It’s been worth it at times to see games such as South Africa v Wales and Ireland v Australia but I fear that there’s been too many mismatches elsewhere. Now we’re moving to the crunch time in the quarter-finals when players, coaches, backup teams, and officials really earn their crusts.

I want to give some credit to Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier, software that rescued a VMware virtual disk for one of my Exchange 2010 test servers this month. For one reason or another, probably a loose power connection that caused the server to go offline, a virtual disk had become inconsistent and naturally enough, the server failed any time it attempted to access the disk. For once, Google and Bing couldn’t find me an answer apart from suggesting that I might copy the problematic file to a host server and run Chkdsk against it. But that plan went bust when I couldn’t copy the file using normal Windows commands. Another Internet search turned up the Unstoppable Copier and it did the job, fixing errors in the .vdmk file as it copied it to another disk. I was then able to move the copied and fixed .vdmk back to its original location and VMware was happy to load it (and hasn’t failed since). I love software that just works and this program is in that category.

Speaking of software, I took the time to install the 64-bit version of the Windows 8 Developer Preview onto my faithful HP Elitebook 8530w to have a look at the new Metro interface (this article provides a good starting point while the Windows 8 Blog contains some excellent background about what the developers are attempting to do to refresh and enhance Windows).

Downloading the code from MSDN posed no problem and after burning the ISO file to a DVD the only other step I had to take before installation was to create a 25GB partition on my hard drive. Windows 8 installed without any trouble and most things seem to work. Some bugs are to be expected in anything with a “preview” label. I haven’t made my mind up about Metro but imagine that it’s a matter of getting used to it, just like it took time to jump from the Windows 3.1 interface to Windows 95 all those years ago. There’s plenty of time for Microsoft to tweak Windows 8 before it appears and I’m sure that they will receive plenty of feedback from this preview.

The Fall technology conference season will soon be upon us and I plan to be in Frankfurt for TEC Europe (Oct 17-19) and then in Las Vegas for Exchange Connections (Oct 31-Nov 3). It’s great to see that Tim McMichael of Microsoft will be giving two sessions at Exchange Connections as he is an undoubted expert in the field of Microsoft clusters and related technology, including Database Availability Groups (DAGs). If you doubt this statement, have a look at his latest blog post on collapsing DAG networks in order to optimize replication. Tim doesn’t work for the Exchange development group and his viewpoint is very practical and hands-on. His sessions should be very productive, along with other sessions on Office 365 which I am looking forward to. I believe that you can still register for these conferences should the urge take you.

Exchange Connections will be a good place to get a view on the way that the market is evolving, especially in terms of how quickly companies are moving to Office 365 (I suspect that the pace is accelerating in the SME segment and is much slower in the enterprise, if only because Office 365 for Enterprise is not yet available). There are some signs that the move to the cloud has started to affect hardware companies. For example, a recent IDC report forecasts lower server sales in the U.K. because companies don’t need to buy as much hardware (or replace existing hardware) if they start to use cloud-based services. Mind you, other reports indicate that server sales remain strong so there’s some doubt in the system or maybe the data reported by the different vendors.

Although the hardware companies will sell servers to cloud providers that revenue will not close the gap and profits will be much lower. Fewer servers will be sold and those that are sold are likely to be stripped down models built to the cloud provider’s standard rather than the full-featured models that are normally bought by IT departments. And because the cloud providers buy so much, higher discounts will be necessary to secure the business against frantic competition from other hardware vendors.

Finally, I’ve written a lot about PowerShell and its importance to Exchange during the month. There’s still more to be said on the topic and one article that caught my attention was an excellent piece by Don Jones that attempts to explain to Windows administrators just what PowerShell is and is not. Amongst his comments Don attempted to explain why PowerShell isn’t a command-line interface (CLI) because it’s really much better than that:

PowerShell isn’t a Command-Line Interface
This is kind of a secret, so don’t let on that I told you. In reality, PowerShell is a set of .NET Framework classes – an “engine,” if you will. The cmdlets you’re used to seeing are also .NET Framework classes, written to a specific standard. PowerShell’s engine instantiates those classes, and calls methods within them to make stuff happen. 

One way – just one, mind you – for you as a human being to interact with PowerShell is through a command-line interface. You type cmdlet names (e.g., instantiate classes), add parameters to them (setting properties of the class instances), and press Enter (thus calling the methods that make that class do stuff). 

I guess it’s fair to call PowerShell a CLI, since that’s it’s most visible means of interaction. But the fact that it really isn’t a CLI is kind of important to understanding why everyone is so excited about it.

The full article contains many other nuggets of useful information. Definitely worth reading. I also enjoyed Mark Minasi’s article on what he’d like to see from Windows 8 and that’s another interesting commentary to consider.

Now on to October…

– Tony

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About Tony Redmond ("Thoughts of an Idle Mind")

Exchange MVP, author, and rugby referee
This entry was posted in Cloud, Email, Office 365, Rugby, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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