Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
Sadly, today Microsoft announced that they would be ceasing development of the Drive Extender feature that was to be part of SBS 2011 Essentials and the new Windows Home Server version. No – Microsoft are NOT cancelling SBS 2001 Essentials OR Windows Home Server, but they are removing what I consider to be a key feature to those products. They announced it today here on their blog.
Why would they do this? Honestly – only Microsoft know. What I know is that I’m disappointed that the feature is gone, particularly from the Home Server product as this was a very cool way to easily expand your drive storage pools without needing to have drives all of the same size. From what I saw, it worked pretty darn well in Windows Home Server v1 – sure there was a hiccup with storing certain types of data on it, but for music, videos and photos it seemed to work pretty well indeed.
What do we do now? Well – we do what we have always done. We use either Software RAID built into Windows Server that underlies all of this (yuck) or Hardware RAID to give us the protection we need for our drives.
I know that a few of my fellow MVPs were told of this recently and sworn to secrecy under our NDA, and we honestly were dumbstruck as to the fact it had been cancelled. I can only assume that the powers that be at Microsoft know what they are truly doing by removing this feature. On the flip side however, it means that any server backup or antivirus product that worked with Windows Server 2008 R2 will now most certainly work with SBS 2011 Essentials without modification! See – there is a silver lining there somewhere
Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
SBS 2008 uses the inbuilt Windows Server Backup under the covers of their wizards. This backup is a block level backup that stores it’s information as a VHD file on the destination disk no matter if it’s on a USB hard drive or a remote drive share. The SBS team have placed a wizard over the top of this for configuration, but essentially under the covers, it’s just Windows Server Backup. Other vendors such as BackupAssist have also done a great job to make it easier to use the inbuilt Windows Server Backup.
When the SBS 2008 / Windows Server Backup runs for the first time, it backs up each logical drive on the server to a separate VHD file on the destination media (in SBS this will be a server connected USB hard drive). The first backup of any logical drive is a full backup where each block is effectively copied over to the VHD file. The next backup to the same destination media includes just the incremental blocks that have changed since the full backup. Subsequent backups are only of the changes since the last backup. All of these blocks/changes are stored within the VHD file for that logical disk.
Ok – so here’s the rub. VHD files are limited in size to 2TB. That means that the 2TB VHD that is your destination VHD for any given volume can only contain the base image and changes up to 2TB in total. That’s pretty much like saying you have a 2TB tape and that’s all you can fit onto it. Once the VHD is full, there is NO OPTION to backup anything more as SBS 2008 / Windows Server Backup only allows FULL VOLUME backups. There is a process that will kill older snapshots from within the target VHD, but there is no way to determine exactly what will be in any given backup in advance (ie no way you can guarantee that the backup from Monday 2 weeks ago will be on that hard drive).
In Windows Server 2008 R2 and therefore SBSv7 and SBS Aurora, things change a little. Windows Server 2008 R2 backup has both a block level engine and a file level engine in it. If the source drive is a 2TB drive then it will automatically switch to file level backup to back it up. Files will be sent into the target backup device (VHD) until that device reaches 2TB. At that point it will attempt to prune some older backups. However the destination backup device is still limited to 2TB in total.
What this all means is that if you are using the standard backup engine in Windows Server 2008, then you are limited to 2TB for your backup devices. It does not matter that you might have a 3TB Hard drive, you simply cannot backup that much data. Ok – so how do we solve this problem? The only solution is to use third party products such as StorageCraft ShadowProtect. ShadowProtect does not have this 2TB limit as it stores it’s files in it’s own file format and also compresses the data that is being backed up. If you are designing servers that have more than 2TB in a single volume then you will want to think carefully about this aspect of your design. The standard Windows or SBS backup won’t cut it at all and will leave you without a solution.
Microsoft for their part do not yet have a solution for this problem. Given they based the destination file format on the VHD format, they have not as yet released any indication of when they will have the ability to extend the VHDs beyond the 2TB limit that they currently have. You have been warned.
Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
Today Microsoft announced what I think is some very cool reuse of their technology that will have massive benefits for SBS 2011 and even non SBS environments.
Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials is a great new product from Microsoft that uses the combination of Windows Server 2008 R2 as a base and adds in the Client Backup technology from SBS 2011 Essentials. This new hybird was codenamed Breckenridge and was one of the most closely guarded secrets in the new Small Business family. I’ve had the chance to play with this now for many months and I love what I see. Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials (SS2008R2E) is a box that can be domain joined and will support backup for up to 25 client PCs. You can use it as a NAS however for an unlimited number of users. This box can be joined to both SBS and non SBS environments and gives us great potential to use it for things like remote branch environments where we need a small NAS for local file sharing AND it can backup the local client PCs as well. What’s more is that you can add multiple of these units into a domain to cater for backup of hundreds of PCs (limited to 25 per box however). It also has the very cool Remote Web App (formerly Remote Web Workplace) interface that SBS 2011 Essentials and the new version of Windows Home Server (codenamed Vail) has.
The SBS team have also announced the device here on their blog and have provided screenshots too. Check it out.
Friday, November 5th, 2010
With the announcements this week from Microsoft about SBS 2011 and SBS 2011 Essentials, we now know what the US pricing will be for the product. That’s’ great so I’m now waiting to see what the Australian Pricing will be. The Australian dollar has been doing VERY well lately compared to the US. Today as I write, the AUD is above parity with the US Dollar. What does this mean for Australian Pricing of SBS 2011? Will Microsoft listen to this and make SBS 2011 more competitive than they did with SBS 2008? With SBS 2008 we paid a 40% premium for the product despite the Aussie dollar doing so well for the past few years. We’ve not (as far as I recall) seen ANY price reduction in SBS 2008 even though the Aussie dollar has been so high. So Microsoft Australia… what will you do?
Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
Microsoft this morning finally announced the proper naming, pricing and availability for the new SBS product family additions.
Windows SBS 2011 Essentials is the proper name for the hybrid cloud/on-premise solution that was called SBS Aurora and Microsoft have set an RRP of $545 USD which includes all 25 CALS that the user will need to be correctly license. In fact you can’t buy it with less CALs.
Windows SBS 2011 Standard is now the proper name for the “traditional” SBS replacement that was called SBSv7. This product includes Windows Server 2008 R2, Exchange 2010, Windows Sharepoint Foundation and the new Remote Web Access components that are in SBS 2011 Essentials. This version of SBS follows the more traditional CAL model with the base version coming with 5 CALs and users needing to purchase additional CALs as needed. It’s still got the same upper limit of 75 CALs though which is disappointing as many of us feel Microsoft should have increased this limit given the complete absence of the older EBS product which was cancelled in March this year.
Microsoft have also changed the model for the Premium edition of SBS. The SBS 2011 Premium edition is now an add-on that can be purchased and added to either the SBS 2011 Essentials or SBS 2011 Standard edition and includes a copy of Windows Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server 2008 R2 for Small Business (basically SQL 2008 R2 with a modified EULA that specifies it must be in an SBS network). CALs are required to be purchased for this as well regardless of if you add this to SBS 2011 Essentials or SBS 2011 Standard editions.
Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard, download the datasheet.
Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, download the datasheet.
Windows Small Business Server Family, download the family overview brochure.
To download previews of Windows SBS 2011 Standard and Essentials you can visit here.
If you’ve not played with either product, well your time is about up now. December will mean that SBS 2011 will be here with us very soon now and by the end of June 2011 (H1 2011) so will SBS 2011 Essentials. I’d suggest you go get hold of these preview versions now and see what Microsoft has in store for your customers quick smart.
Friday, October 29th, 2010
Here’s a gathering of SBS MVPs from around the world, for training by the SBS CSS team in Dallas. We’ve got representation here from the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Netherlands and of course Australia. These chances for us to get together and receive training like this are rare and so very worthwhile. Personally it’s given me an opportunity to learn not only from Microsoft, but my peers based on their experiences in many different environments. I should say too that this is not some all expenses paid junket. No – we all paid our own way to get here – which for me was over $4500 in airfares alone.
Thank you Microsoft – we appreciate the effort you put into this. They’ve provided training by the most qualified people in the globe and that has to be a very high value.
Friday, October 29th, 2010
Today I’m in Las Colinas, TX working with the SBS PSS team. One of the traditions that we have as SBS MVPs is that Susan Bradley loves to get us grown men and women in matching T-shirts… yes it’s a little freaky, but we let her have her way to keep her happy We do it too because it allows us to have a dig at the SBS team in different ways.
This year I asked my daughter (Alicia) to do a design for us and basically told her that the theme was “growing and developing”. The SBS Family has been growing and changing now since 1997 when SBS 4.0 was a released. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been involved with it for that long
She came up with the design below which shows the growth and development of SBS over the years from a baby product in SBS 4.0 through to Cloud based Aurora and more mature SBS7 products.
In my daughters words…
I was asked to re-design the logo for the SBS family. I was given the original logo and from here I came up with the concept of the growth of humans and the development of technology. I incorporated the growth process of humans, as well as the development from sketch, to outline, black and white, simple colour, full colour and shading. I decided to do this as technology is an ongoing growing and developing process.
Yes – I’m pretty proud of my daughter and yes she is available for hire for graphical design work – contact me here if you are interested. She has other examples of her art and photo manipulation on her site – http://little-miss-artist.com but below you can see some of the cool photo work she’s done…
Source Picture (stock photo she got from a library)
End result – she called this Siren Caller
Wednesday, October 13th, 2010
Last night at the SMB IT Professionals meeting in Sydney, Michael Leworthy presented on the next generations of SBS 7 and ABA Aurora. Michael highlighted about how Microsoft are making things simpler for us with the new version of SBS by not having both Standard and Premium versions of each product. Instead, Microsoft will release an SBS Premium Add-on pack that can be added on to either SBS 7 OR SBS Aurora. This add-on pack will include Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard and SQL Server 2008 R2 for Small Business. Positioning wise, this will be priced around the point of you getting a “free” copy of Windows Server 2008 R2 for the price. You’ll need to purchase SQL CALs for however many users you have that require SQL Server acces which is pretty much the norm.
I like this idea – I think it’s a good compromise as to how our customers tend to grow over time, they’d start with the standard edition of the products and then later as they upgrade their line of business applications. Well done Microsoft. Now we wait to see the pricing
Michael also suggested that we keep an eye out for later this year for more information as to release dates, pricing and product availability.
Tuesday, August 17th, 2010
The public can now get access to the first public preview of one of the next versions of SBS known as SBS Aurora. You can get the preview from the Microsoft conenct site here
This beta is very important for the SMB space as it contains a number of new technologies not used before such as the enhanced Drive Extender technology that provides easy methods to extend disk space using disks that are not the same capacity. You’ll want to be testing out things like this with your common line of business applications to make sure that there’s no issues. I know that Microsoft have already done a huge amount of testing in that arena, but there is no substitute for public testing.
The SBS team have blogged about it here with more info too.
Get your hands on it today!
Friday, July 30th, 2010
With the upcoming beta for SBS v7 and SBS Aurora, Microsoft have released a number of videos that give you more of an idea of what is inside each product. You can check out the videos below. Make sure you register for the beta program here to be able to play with the new products before they are released.
Still no name on what they will call SBSv7 – so for now I’m calling it SBS 2008 R2 as it seems to fit in the MS naming range the best. Microsoft will in due course announce the proper names for both of these new products.
Becky Ochs talks about Aurora
Michael Leworthy talks about Aurora
Beck Ochs talks about SBS v7
And to give you an idea about who Becky Ochs is check out her biography here.
Once the public beta is out there, I’ll be recording a number of my own videos on these two new products so you can get my real world spin on it