Little bump to my home lab–Crucial M500 mSATA Hard Drive

During the weekend, I have decided that I should be replacing one of the mSATA drive on one of my Intel NUC which I used primarily to run Virtual Machines on Hyper-V.

So I did some research and bought the cheapest available (> 200GB) mSATA. I chose the Crucial M500 240GB mSATA primary because of the price factor. It cost me SGD 189 for 240GB of space. This make sense because it just translate to less than a dollar per GB.

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If you are an owner of Intel NUC or Gigabyte Brix, please really consider a higher capacity one. I realize that in the market, anything that is more than 200GB and less than 400GB is worth while at this moment for the price per GB cost.

Cheers.

Milton Goh

Configuring KEMP Technologies Virtual LoadMaster

Hooray! It’s a Sunday today and I didn’t really do anything except for meddling around with my lab environment and completed some of the long overdue tasks. So one of the major milestone that I have hit today is that I have successfully configured my lab environment to use KEMP Technologies Virtual LoadMaster to simulate out how easy it is to use their solutions to create a load-balanced zone.

So, I started off with spinning up two virtual machines and perform the necessary such as getting the machine updated (the usual stuffs which I can’t live without having to do so even if I know I might screw the image up within days!).

So basically, the two virtual machine has IIS installed so that I can use it as a Web Server. For the basic, I will be using pure HTML pages and not going to dwell deeper in using customize ASP.NET solutions which I will be covering in future with a new project codenamed, NerdExpenses.)

Basic Web Servers Environment

Above is a simple architecture that I have deployed i my lab environment where the KEMP Technologies LoadMaster is running virtually on Hyper-V. At the point of writing, I can’t find any proper Visio Stencils from KEMP Technologies to represent the Virtual LoadMaster series so I have chosen to use one of the given ones which can be obtained here.

I remembered during the last Technical Summit that I have attended weeks ago, Benjamin Hodges shown us how easy it is to configure KEMP Technologies LoadMaster and through the technical deep-dive, it really proven that this solutions is really made so easy that anyone can simple click through the setup (of course, if it is your first time configuring it, it may take some time to get used to the user-interface – however, trust me. it’s really neatly done up!)

Take a look at the video below which I have done up, apology for the poorly done up work as this is the first time I am using Camtasia Studio 8.0. Will definitely learn it well and produce more quality video the next time!

That’s all for this time round, the next time I will be posting how easy it will be to replace the load-balancing feature in Microsoft Azure with KEMP Technologies one.

Regards,
Milton Goh

Automation: Using Synology Task Scheduler

As part of the continuous series about “Automation”, I took a look at how my Synology DS 412+ could be part of the story. The situation is where every Monday of the week, my lab environment will need to be shut down as my helpers will be cleaning up my desk area therefore based on my past experiences where they meddle with my electrical appliances and causes it to shut down; therefore I always shut down all my equipment on Monday. However, lately I am getting a little lazy of shutting them down via the readily available web-console so I took a look at the Task Scheduler within Synology NAS.

Let’s take a look at what it offers.

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It looks amazing with lots to offer with the hefty price to pay for the tip-top performance that I am enjoying!

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After navigating to “Hardware & Power”, I take a look at the “Power Schedule”.

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I am able to set the schedule freely!

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Within a few clicks, I am able to configure the NAS to shut down by itself at 3.15am on a Monday, prior to shutting down the NAS, I would have use some PowerShell scripts to shut down all the Virtual Machine that uses the NAS and the lab server to be shut down too.

It’s amazing to have all these automatically shut down without manual intervention!

Cheers!
Milton Goh

USB Ethernet Adapter–Becoming the norm

I realized that in certain weeks after I have converted my desktop server into multiple Intel NUC box to replaced as a farm of Hyper-V servers, I actually needed to purchase more USB-to-Ethernet Adapter converter so that I can connect to various VLAN (Virtual LAN) in my network. I uses different brand all the times because the local computing store do not usually carry the same brands all the time even though the intervals period that I made the purchase is just 2 weeks. It’s weird, I know.

Take a look at the one that I have bought recently.

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There are a couples of other brands available but I had affinity with J5Create products because I am currently using their USB-to-DVI converter and it is perfect, I would say.

There are many folks out there who said that it is a best practices to have at least 4 NICs when running Hyper-V for various purposes but since this is just my lab environment, I would definitely add in more, when needed. Since the convenient of just USB converter is so much easier now.

I still remember in the past when I was running my desktop server, what I did was to add in PCI NIC card which I could add to maximum of around 3 (2 x PCI card + 1 on-board LAN).

Cheers.
Milton Goh

Introducing Intel NUC into the Home Lab Family!

Just yesterday (after some series of incidents), I decided to pop by Sim Lim Square (Singapore Largest IT Retailers) to take a look at other alternatives of computers that can be added into my lab server family. So while doing window shopping, it allow me to chance upon this store that still have the i3 version of the NUC as shown below.

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One thing I find this packaging really unique is that, the music that plays when I open the box! The sensor is located at the bottom right hand corner of the box in the image below.

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So what’s come with in the package?

Here is the listing,-

  1. The NUC set
  2. Instruction Manual
  3. Back-cover Disk Plate (For mounting to the back of the monitor)
  4. Power Adapter (without the cable head)

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How do you compare that with Gigabyte Brix?

I have the luxury to have a Gigabyte Brix put side by side along with the Intel NUC for comparison purposes.

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Some of the obvious differences,-

  1. The Intel NUC is much more thicker (or taller) than the Gigabyte Brix
  2. The Intel NUC only have one USB port at the bottom while Gigabyte Brix have two in-front along with the earphone jack. (This may be useful for home-PC usage)
  3. Intel NUC gives me a feeling it is much robust, but that doesn’t mean the Gigabyte Brix is not robust. (After all it is just the looks that gave out the thoughts!)

I am going to do the installation of Windows Server 2012 R2 and add this Intel NUC as one of the Hyper-V Server into the farm and will comment more on the performance as a low-cost, low-power usage and small factored computer.

Regards,
Milton Goh

[Book Review] Hyper-V Replica Essentials

Couple of months ago, Packt Publishing emailed me after reading introduction of myself through this blog for the purpose of being one of the Technical Reviewer for the above mentioned book.

I couldn’t help but to accept the offer immediately because of the following reasons,-

  1. I want the best out of the book since Sharing is Caring; no harm wanting the best out of the food so that readers get the best out of it. This is a win-win situation for all parties.
  2. It enable me to test my skills that I have learnt earlier on and sometimes it kept me wanting to re-learn some stuffs so that I am sure the content provided to the readers are accurate.
  3. It’s awesome to part of a great team!

Here’s the preview of the physical book that I received this morning:

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Support this awesome release here,-

http://www.packtpub.com/hyper-v-replica-essentials/book

Cheers!

Milton’s Lab Environment

Since the release of Windows Server 2012 R2, I decided that I should blow up my lab environment and do some re-configuration. However, before I kick in some changes, I want to ensure that my current lab environment meets the bare minimum so that I can test different scenarios for the new features in Windows Server 2012 R2.

Therefore, I drew up a simple diagram or rather the high level architecture diagram of how my devices will talk to each other.

High-Level-Lab-Architecture

With this, at least I can setup the following basic features.

  • Failover Clustering
  • Live Migration
  • Disaster Recovery when I have another switch in-place *

Time to hoot some more hardware so that my Hyper-V Host 02 can be put in place…

Till then…

Leaving the comfort zone: From VMWare Workstation to Hyper-V

Ever since Windows 8 was on the Release Candidate (RC) phase, I have been trying to see if Hyper-V on Windows 8 could be a substitute my day-to-day operations and usage versus Windows 7 Professional with VMware Workstation. Some of the things that I need in my day-to-day would be…

  • Virtualization – I run a couple of Virtual Machine from time to time for the sake of development, testing or proof-of-concept (POC).
  • Office tools such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Access.
  • Internet browsers (I used a mixture of Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox but put more focused on the first two for a long time already)

So let’s drill down to the need for a Virtualization software, the client that power my needs, simple one though. What I always use, what I always need from VMware Workstation?

  1. Flexibility of running multiple virtual machines
  2. Resource hungry-ness.
  3. Speed
  4. Snapshots

When I first tried Hyper-V on Windows Server 2008, I always felt that the features aren’t rich enough. The only reason that I can probably cook up for the reason why VMware Workstation has such a fancy look is that since we are paying a premium for it (yes, it’s a premium for a piece of software but well, on the other hand it may not be since we now do pay a hefty amount for the OS in order to get the Hyper-V feature. After all, we are looking at OS + Feature versus Feature only).

I am not going to do a feature comparison post comparing Hyper-V and VMware Workstation as you can find tons of them online just by Binging it.

So what really stopped me in the past but now I have move on, out of the comfort zone that every single tiny winy feature that I enjoyed? Let’s drill down on some of them and see how I have overcome it…

Internet Connectivity for Virtual Machines in Hyper-V

What used to be as easy as create additional NAT adapter is missing out in the Hyper-V and making it difficult for my virtual machines running on Hyper-V to go without connection to the internet. Once I installed Windows 8, I do a search on the internet and I came across this article by Karsten Bott where he wrote “Share Internet Connection with Hyper-V Guests (NAT) on Windows 8“. The article can be found here.

If you follow the instructions in the article by Karsten Bott, you will definitely be able to setup internet connection for your guests easily.  With my above setup, my intention is as followed…

External Link – Will get an IP from the DHCP Server and get access to the internet.

Internal Link – Purely for my virtual machines that doesn’t require internet connection (Example, Active Directory, SQL Server)

Internet Link – Sharing – This is the one that I used to tap on the internet connection that are bridge via my Wireless Adapter.

 

Viewing of Virtual Machine within the Virtualization Client Software

One major thing that is missing in the Hyper-V is that since the whole intention is for Server usage and therefore may have neglected the user-experience that users receives. So the biggest drawback between the two is that I am losing the ability to do “Fit Screen Size” / “Full Screen Mode” and it will automatically change the screen resolution accordingly. Since I am a simple person and I wouldn’t mind losing that feature… So I know that the only way to achieve the comfortable level of viewing is to use Remote Desktop Connection via the Remote Desktop Protocol to connect to the virtual machine. This is obviously treating every single virtual machine as a physical machine.

For this, I would recommend getting Remote Desktop Manager which can be found here.

With this, the interface is almost similar to how VMware Workstation presented where the Virtual Machine library is on the left, while the session is spanning from the center to the right. Each virtual machine can be opened in full-screen mode or tabbed mode.

So how do I setup this and made my user-experience almost seamlessly integrated?

–> This shows all the available virtual machine on my workstation that I brought to work everyday. 

–> This is he left hand corner that I was referring to as the “Library”.

–> This is just one connection settings to the virtual machine loaded on the local drive. Take note of the IP that was used. This IP is used in conjunction with the adapter (Internal Link).

–> This shows all the network adapters (Physical + Virtual) that I have added.

–> This is to show that since I want to control all the virtual machine that uses all “Internal Link” connection, therefore on the host machine, that master adapter must hold a IP address and also the same gateway as those virtual machine instances.

 

Last Point (The most important one) – Speed

One thing that many couldn’t deny if they are the user of VMware Workstation is the speed. It’s really slow when you try to put your running virtual machine to hibernate mode where you pause the virtual machine. This would then write the current state down. The only thing is that the time it take to put the virtual machine to sleep and also resume it is super slow and super time consuming.

On the other side, virtual machine that are paused in Hyper-V resumes within seconds. (Gosh, I am serious, seconds!)

That’s about it for my sharing post, if you think you could make Hyper-V more user-friendly, please share with me by dropping an email to me at [email protected] or post a comment here.

Cheers!
MG