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Windows Server 2003 End of Life – Migration Tools and Methodology

Windows Server 2003 will reach end of life on July 14, 2015. Support and security patches will no longer be available after that date. If you are still running Server 2003 in your environment, hopefully you are already planning how to migrate your workloads to a supportable platform. If you are just beginning to consider your migration, a sample of tools and methodologies are outlined below to help you get started.


 

Tools

 Windows Server 2003 End of Life - Migration Tools and Methodology~ Windows Server Migration Tools

Windows Server 2012 offers a built-in migration solution called Windows Server Migration Tools (install as a feature). Use this tool to ease the process of migrating server roles, features, OS settings and data from Windows Server 2003. The source server must be running at least Server 2003 SP2 or R2. It will handle both 32bit and 64bit. Find the Microsoft guide to this tool here.

 ~ AppZero

Microsoft Partner AppZero offers a tool which extracts and encapsulates only the target applications you want to migrate. You can choose to run the application in the encapsulated form on the destination server, which enables continued portability. This is handy for use in hybrid environments where you might want the flexibility of running the application on a server in the cloud, or in your on-premises environment. With the application encapsulated, you can continue to easily move them between those environments. Or you can choose to ‘dissolve’ the application to the destination server. This enables it to run as if it were natively installed. Learn more about how AppZero can help migrate your workloads, and provide ongoing flexibility.

 ~ Windows Server 2003 Migration Planning Assistant

This isn’t so much of a tool as it is a workflow type assistant with will help you work through the steps you need to focus on to identify the applications you really need to move. You may find legacy applications which your organization isn’t using any longer, or that so few people are using them that you can help them find alternative solutions and not actually migrate those apps. Get started with the Migration Planning Assistant.


 

Methodology

 The Migration Planning Assistant steps you through a methodology which helps you identify the applications, features and roles, services and data which you may need to migrate to a supportable platform. Your team may also use this methodology independent of the Planning Assistant.

1. Discover

The first step is to identify all the servers and applications running on Server 2003. Use the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (MAP) to help with identification. You may also decide to enlist the help of Microsoft Partners to help with this, and the entire process.

 2. Assess

Now that you have identified your at-risk servers and applications, it’s time to take a critical look at what they are, and how they will fit into your migration plan.

Type – What is it? What does it do?

~ Server Roles

~ Native Microsoft application

~ Third-party

Criticality – How important is it to your organization?

~ Mission Critical

~ Important

~ Marginal

~ Retire/Replace

Complexity – How many resources and how much time do you need to dedicate to each app?

~ Low

~ Medium

~ High

Risk – How long can you live without the app if it is unavailable during the migration?

~ Low

~ Medium

~ High

3. Target

What is the destination platform? You may decide to move it to a Microsoft Server 2012 R2 server running in your own datacenter. Or you may want to leverage the flexibility and potential cost-savings of Microsoft Azure. Should the server be physical or virtual? Perhaps this is a messaging or collaboration solution you want to run in Office 365.

4. Migrate

You have combed through your environment and identified the applications you need to migrate. Now decide who has responsibility for actually migrating the apps and plan the move. Again, you may utilize tools for the migration, or identify a Microsoft Partner to help you with the process.


 

Conclusion

How you get there is definitely important and these tools and steps will help you. The most important thing is to get started now. With time on your side, this doesn’t have to be a difficult process. Good luck!

Making sense of the recent Internet Explorer announcement

Last week, Perficient’s Zach Handing wrote a post over on our Spark blog explaining what to make of the recent Internet Explorer announcement published on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer blog. In the article, Microsoft discussed their plans for supporting older versions of IE. internet-explorer-8-logoThere was quite a bit of racket across the web, as people interpreted the information in different ways, facts quickly turned into exaggerations, or straight fiction. As Zach wrote:

I have seen many eager Interneters making loud claims to the tune of, “IE8 is dead!  We no longer have to support older versions of IE!”  However, it’s very easy to get caught up in the pandemonium or start bandwagon-ing and miss the actual facts of what is and will be happening according to Microsoft.  I want to clarify some things and set the record straight before we all hang up our Windows XP virtual machines.

What did Microsoft write to cause this, you ask? From the article:

After January 12, 2016, only the most recent version of Internet Explorer available for a supported operating system will receive technical support and security updates.

Zach goes on to explain that there are two important things we can learn from this quote that are worth noting, one of which is the following:

The first is that Microsoft is only stating that they plan to stop providing technical support and security updates for all versions of IE except the most current available for each of their operating systems.  The table below shows exactly which versions they mean.

Windows Platform Internet Explorer Version
Windows Vista SP2 Internet Explorer 9
Windows Server 2008 SP2 Internet Explorer 9
Windows 7 SP1 Internet Explorer 11
Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Internet Explorer 11
Windows 8.1 Internet Explorer 11
Windows Server 2012 Internet Explorer 10
Windows Server 2012 R2 Internet Explorer 11

 

So where is Internet Explorer 8 in that table? What does the fact that it is missing mean?

…that doesn’t mean IE8 is going away.  All this means is that Microsoft is not going to provide updates or support for IE8 anymore; it does not mean that people are going to magically stop using it.  The article also mentions that “Microsoft recommends enabling automatic updates to ensure an up-to-date computing experience”, but recommending that it happens does not mean that everyone will do it.  Yes, this is a big leap towards a day when developers do not need to worry about IE8 specific styles, but that day is not here yet.

So what’s the second big part? Zach tells us to take a look at that date… January 12, 2016. That’s pretty far in the future… approximately a year and a half. So for the next eighteen months, Internet Explorer 8 will still be alive and kicking, as Microsoft will still be supporting and providing updates for the version. And after that, Internet Explorer will still be around.

You can read Zach’s full post here on our Spark blog. The Spark blog is Perficient’s perspective on all things innovative, and the crew that blogs over there has been posting some really interesting stuff around UX, UI and design. Check them out!

Microsoft Server 2003 to 2012R2 – More than just end of Life

With the end of life fast approaching, on July 14 2015, for Microsoft Server 2003 it will be hard for many organizations to make the move to a new Server Operating System, not unlike the pain many organizations are feeling with the move from Microsoft Windows XP.

End-Is-Ahead-Graphic-sm-570x350There are many business related reasons that companies need to start now with their migration to server 2012R2. For example when customers made the move from Windows XP, many found they should have planned more in advance, because many migrations can take 8 months or longer depending on the size and complexity of the environment. Security alone should be a big enough business reason to move to a supported platform, in 2013 Microsoft released 37 critical updates for Windows Server 2003, once end of life happens there will not be any more patches released.  By not patching the server environment, you now run the risk malicious attacks, system bugs and PCI compliance.

The good news is that while the move might be painful,  in the long run it will be worth the trouble. Microsoft Server 2012R2 offers so many enhancements and new features, that once you have completed the migration and become familiar with Microsoft Server 2012R2 you will probably wonder why you waited so long.

Microsoft Server 2012R2 offers many enhancements, including

  • PowerShell 4.0 – PowerShell 3.0 alone has 2300 more cmdlets than PowerShell 2.0
  • Hyper-V 3.0 – Supports 64 processors and 1Tb of Memory. Also supports VHDX format for large disk capacity and live migrations
  • SMB 3.02 – Server 2003 supports SMB 1.0
  • Work Folders – Brings the functionality of Dropbox to your corporate servers
  • Desired State Configuration – Lets you maintain server configuration across the board with baselines
  • Storage Tiering – Dynamically move chunks of stored data between slower and higher drives
  • Data Deduplication – Data compression and now with Server 2012R2 you can run Data Deduplication on Virtual Machines also is great for VDI environments.
  • Workplace Join – Allows users to register personal devices with Active Directory gain certificate based authentication and single sign on to the domain.

You can see from just these features how far Microsoft Server OS has come over the last 10 years. Scalability, Speed, Virtualization, Mobile Device Management and Cloud Computing have been vastly improved or were not possible with Microsoft Server 2003.

With  current trends moving towards organizations embracing a user centric environment and moving to cloud computing, Server 2012R2 is a stepping stone in the right direction.

So while the migration to Microsoft Server 2012R2 may be painful, all will be forgotten once the organization and Server Administrators, can utilize the new features and notice the new ease of daily management activities.

 

 

 

Virtualizing SharePoint 2013 Workloads

Most new SharePoint 2013 implementations these days run on virtual machines, and the question on whether to virtualize SQL servers has been long put to rest. Indeed, with the new Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V VM specs of up to 64 vCPUs, 1 TB RAM and 64 TB data, it is  hard to make a case for physical hardware.

Both Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware have published recommendations for working with virtualized SharePoint farms. The list of recommendations is long (and somewhat tedious), so this cheat-sheet aims to summarize the most important ones and provide real-world advice for SharePoint and virtualization architects.

  • When virtualizing SharePoint 2013, Microsoft recommends minimum of 4 and maximum of 8 CPU cores per VM. Start low (4) and scale up  as needed. With multiprocessor virtual machines, the physical host needs to ensure enough physical CPU cores are available before scheduling threads execution of that particular VM. Therefore, in theory the higher the number of vCPUs, the longer potential wait times for that VM. In every version starting 4.0, VMware has made improvements to the CPU scheduling algorithm to reduce the wait time for multiprocessor VMs using relaxed co-scheduling. Still, it’s wise to consult documentation on your particular version and see what are the specific limitations and recommendations.

 

  • Ensure true high availability by using affinity rules.  Your SharePoint admin should tell you which VM hosts which role, and you will need to keep VMs with same role on separate physical hosts.  For example, all VMs that host the web role should not end up on the same physical host, so your typical mid-size 2 tier farm should look something like this:

VMAffinity

  • When powering down the farm, start with the web layer, and work your way down to the database layer. When powering up, go in the opposite direction

 

  • Do not over oversubscribe or thin-provision PROD machines, do oversubscribe and thin-provision DEV and TEST workloads

 

  • NUMA (non-uniform memory access) partition boundaries: The high-level recommendation from both Microsoft and VMware is not to cross NUMA boundaries. Different chip manufacturers have different definitions of NUMA, but the majority opinion seems to be that NUMA node equals physical CPU socket, and not CPU core. For example, for a physical host with 8 quad-code CPUs and 256 GB of RAM, a NUMA partition is 32 GB. Ensure that individual SharePoint VMs will fit into a single partition i.e. will not be assigned more than 32 GB or RAM each.

 

  • Do not use dynamic memory: Certain SharePoint components like search and distributed cache use memory-cached objects extensively and are unable to dynamically resize their cache when the available memory changes. Therefore, dynamic memory mechanisms like minimum/maximum RAM, shares, ballooning driver etc. will not work well with SharePoint 2013. Again, your SharePoint admin should provide detailed design and advise which VM hosts which particular service.

 

  • Do not save VM state at shutdown or use snapshots in PROD: SharePoint is transactional application and saving VM state can lead to inconsistent topology after the VM comes back up or is reverted to a previous snapshot.

 

  • Disable time synchronization between the host and the VM: Same as previous point. All transaction events are time stamped, and latency during time synchronization can cause inconsistent topology. SharePoint VMs will use the domain synchronization mechanism to keep local clocks in sync.

 

  • Do not configure “always start machine automatically”: There may be cases where SharePoint VM is shut down for a reason, and starting it automatically after physical host reboot can cause problems.

 

  • TCP Chimney offload: Please refer to this VMware post on reasons why this setting may need to be disabled. This is not a setting unique to SharePoint and unless it is the standard practice for all web VMs or is part of the image, it should not be configured.

 

  • When configuring disaster recovery, virtualization has been a godsend for quite some time. Using VM replication to a secondary site is by far the simplest SharePoint DR scenario to configure and maintain.

 

  • Other settings that are not SharePoint-specific : things like storage host multi-pathing, storage partition alignment, physical NIC teaming, configuring shared storage for vMotion etc. hold true for all VMware implementations

 

 

End Of Life For Windows XP Or Is It?

Microsoft finally ended support for Windows XP, its end of life happened April 8th 2014. So what does this mean for those of us still on Windows XP?  No more support, hot fixes, and patches? Well not really, Microsoft will be creating patches and security updates for years ahead. But like everything it has a cost.xp_end-680x400

Most who know this, think ‘great I am glad I can still get support but how?’ Microsoft has Custom Support programs that are designed for large customers. According to the information I have seen there is an annual cost that increases each year, and is approximately $200 per machine for the first year. Now at first that does not seem too crazy, but this can get quite expensive if you have 10,000 Windows XP machines, that would cost a company $2,000,000 for one year of support “WOW!”. The expert analysts are saying that Patches rated at Critical  will be included in this support but Bugs marked as Important will come with an extra cost, and anything rated lower will not be patched at all.

Customers will receive hotfixes in a secure process, Microsoft will only make the information available to the companies that are enrolled in the Custom Support program. Typically Microsoft will enable Custom Support agreements for up to three years after the end of life of an Operating System.

What is interesting is that even though end of life has happened for Windows XP and Microsoft has the Custom Support Program available, they still seem to be doing some limited support. For example the vulnerability that was exploited in IE Windows XP machines.  Microsoft decided to patch Windows XP machines that are outside of the Custom Support Program for this vulnerability. Microsoft states that the patch was created and released because it occurred so close to the end of Windows XP, as stated in this BlogPost released by Microsoft.

It’s great that you can still get support for your Windows XP machines, but the cost associated with being a retired Operating System should make any company want to make a leap to Windows 7 or 8 as soon as possible. Fortunately Microsoft has many tools in place to make these moves so much easier then they were in the days of Windows XP. For example with SCCM 2012 you can keep your machines current with OS, Patches, Antivirus and Software just to name a few features, and it can all be automated.

If your company is still on Windows XP and you have not started to move off of it, now is the time to start moving from where you are today, to where you need to be in the future.  This starts with planning, proper infrastructure and tools. If done properly companies can stay current for many years to come.

 

 

 

XP end of life, migrate in a few simple steps

Now that Windows XP end of life is here, if you are one of those companies still hanging on, there’s likely a bit of panic on what exactly to do. Well there is good news, bad news, and then some more good news. If you are in an industry that has heavy governing compliance, like healthcare, you need to be a little more concerned because you are now in violation of regulations.

If you are not under the microscope of government compliance, then you need not fear. There isn’t going to be any major concern if you don’t jump immediately, but you probably want to begin planning, and make the move within the next year.

XP End of Life. Migrate in a Few Simple StepsIf you are one of those heavily regulated companies with big brother looking over your shoulder, than guess what? Time to get the show on the road. Since you don’t have a lot of time, here’s some good advice to get the job done smoothly and quickly without a lot of headache:

  1. System Center Configuration Manager 2012 – With this Microsoft tool, you will be able to perform Zero Touch installations for your whole organization fairly quickly. The key to leveraging this tool to its fullest is getting your SCCM infrastructure scaled properly and your applications packaged quickly. This product can also manage devices if a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) ends up being the path taken.
  2. Go with Windows 7 – With Windows 7, you’ll still have a similar look and feel to XP, which end users are used to. Going to an entirely new platform like Windows 8 requires more time and will likely also require a lot more training and transitioning with end users. Sticking with something familiar will reduce the shock to the end user base.
  3. Out with the old & in with the new – If it has been awhile since you have introduced new desktops and laptops, this would be a good time to bite the bullet and have it done. Most manufactures offer programs to preload your company images and apps, leaving only the task of migrating the user data. Also, this might be a good time to go with a BYOD solution, where you virtualize the apps and stream to the device the users choose. SCCM can manage this out of the box.
  4. KIS (keep it simple ) – Companies nowadays have allowed complexity to run riot. Unfortunately, I have seen an exorbitant amount of time and money spent because of bureaucracy, rather than the actual time doing the work. If you are one of those companies that fell into the trap of losing the balance between security and flexibility due to an absence of checks and balances, well… I feel your pain. This has become a disease that has infected the IT world and has become the cause of so much complexity and profit loss for very little benefit. It’s hard to fathom (and I will save this for another blog). Get the right project team, with individuals that are high enough up the corporate ladder to make decisions across multiple departments. In other words, your CIO might need to be little more involved in this one. Also, go with the new methods, approaches and technology platforms. The need for massive testing labs and creating a bare metal image for every department is over. All your testing and image development can be done through a few simple virtual instances, secured and managed by SCCM 2012 security.
  5. The right team – One of the biggest mistakes I’ve recently experienced was simply having the wrong people managing the project. Windows desktops are best managed by Microsoft Windows professionals, not by the guy who used to manage the development department that can only think Agile. Agile and Microsoft infrastructure don’t mix well, and you will only add complexity and prolong a fairly straight forward task that needs to be completed.

If you are looking for a consulting team, find one with System Center 2012 experience. This will make the job so much more pleasant and easy to carry out.

That said, I know I’m leaving out a lot of information, but I think I have touched on the most important things to consider if you need to get your company migrated quickly. The most important thing to remember is, go after the Goliath first, as once that is out of the way, everything else will likely run smooth. If you ignore the Goliath, well… good luck.

End of Windows XP Support What Now Windows 7 or 8

After a twelve-year run, the end of life for Windows XP is finally here. So what does this mean for those on XP still? Well in a nutshell support and updates will no longer be available, many machines will be unprotected, out of compliance and will open the door for vulnerabilities.

The big question going forward is do I make the big jump to Windows 8, and get the latest operating system or do I go with the small leap to Windows 7. Typically this comes down to company culture, strict business needs or are the architecture and deployment tools in place to make this all happen.

Jumping to a new Operating System is never easy or painless, there are many things to take into consideration hardware, application compatibility, deployment methods, training etc. Thankfully Microsoft has tools available to help aid in the process, ACT (Application Compatibility Tool Kit) MAP (Microsoft Assessment and Planning) SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) to name a few.

This is  all great, here I am stuck on Windows XP an Operating System that is no longer supported, what should I  do move to Windows 7 or go to Windows 8?

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Declarative data caching in .NET business layer

One of the most effective ways to improve application performance is to implement data caching. Most of the applications are relatively retrieving the same data from external sources like database of web service and if that source data is never or seldom changes then application is just wasting CPU time and I/O querying the source again and again. There are a great many ways to cache data in application, there are different software frameworks, standalone applications and even caching appliances, but probably the most widespread and easiest way to cache data is a built-in .NET MemoryCache class which is providing a simple in-process caching since .NET 4.0. cache

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Busy Pre-Build week for Microsoft and Azure!

The Microsoft Build Conference is set to kick off next week but the company got off to an early start this week with several different announcements.

Windows Azure now generally available in China
This may not sound like a huge accomplishment worthy of being called out individually but a little known fact is that Windows Azure is the first major public cloud service that China has made available.  This opens Azure up to an enormous user base that cloud competitors Google and Amazon don’t yet have access to.

Windows Azure will soon be re-branded Microsoft Azure
In an effort to strengthen the Azure brand, Microsoft is removing “Windows” from the name.  This is the help emphasize that the Azure platform is completely open and a variety of technologies can utilize it, not just Microsoft and Windows based technology.  The name “Windows Azure” has been a source of confusion since its introduction.  People who are new to cloud computing often did not know if only technologies supported by Windows were designed to work on the Azure platform.  This name change should clear up any lingering confusion.

Office for iPad debuts along with Enterprise Mobility Suite 
On Thursday Microsoft announced a fully functional, touch friendly edition of their Office suite tailored for iPads.  This has been a long time coming as millions of iPad users have had to find other methods of editing documents on their tablets.  The entire Office suite is free to download and use to view documents and presentations.  In order to edit documents an Office 365 subscription is needed, priced at $99 a year.  This subscription also provides you with desktop versions of Office 2013 as well as an Exchange Online account.

The Enterprise Mobile Suite is aimed to bring Single Sign On to all users for a variety of devices across services.  This would allow an Android tablet, iPad or Windows 8 machine using Azure Active Directory to authenticate against Office 365, Dynamics CRM and Windows Intune  as well as a variety of already available third party products.  This allows Microsoft technologies to be at the very core of the Enterprise Cloud while allowing users to “Bring Your Own Device”.

Microsoft is sure to provide more insight into this strategy next week at the Build Conference, in addition to their future road map for Windows!

#Lync and the Impacts of Windows XP

It’s no secret Microsoft is doing the same to XP as the bad boy trio from Office Space did to that poor Printer.
The deprecation of XP will have an impact on organizations for various reasons, some of which I’m not qualified to speak in depth about, but a key topics on the wire as of late is particularly around security. Without a steady stream of updates and patches, you leave your environment largely susceptible to attack.

Lync and the Impacts of Windows XPI can speak more intelligently and qualified around XP in the workplace and how it works with Lync…or how it DOESN’T really, kind of a little, maybe…work with Lync. Huh?
Let me explain. The Windows XP OS has been dropped from backward support-ability with Lync Server 2013. Microsoft knew long ago, XP was going to be killed off during the reign of Lync Server 2013, so they are essentially forcing your hand to upgrade. It’s a fair hand to be played in defense of Microsoft, at some point we have to move on and put to rest the aging systems to focus on improving existing and future releases, so don’t look at this as a strong arm play by Microsoft, it’s just simply evolution.

If you are considering the move to Lync Server 2013, understand that any pockets of existing XP machines need to be upgraded to at least Windows 7 for the Lync 2013 client to install. If you do not upgrade, your users will be left with Lync 2010 or OCS 2007 R2 (MOC) client and that’s not cool.
Start reviewing Client Interoperability and Support here.

Keeping Lync 2010 client in your environment because of XP is not ideal. It works and its supported, but its just not perfect. Expect that you will find feature and functionality caveats and shortcomings, plus multiple support streams and image packages. Yuck!

If you are upgrading from OCS 2007 R2 Platform to Lync Server 2013, another knock against replacing the MOC client with Lync 2010 client just to justify the retention the XP OS, is user adoption. If you introduce Lync 2010, then plan to introduce Lync 2013 or maybe even the next rev of the Lync client over an accelerated timeline to get your OS’s upgraded, you essentially press change upon your users more times than needed. Change would essentially happen like this for your users:
1.) Introduce new Lync 2010 Client
2.) Introduce new OS
3.) Introduce new Lync 2013 Client
Simply put, this is not ideal.

If you hit the OS upgrade button now, change would look like this:
1.) Introduce new OS and Lync 2013 Client at the same time during the same roll out of a single package.
This strategy has much less of an impact on your sensitive user base.

The MOC client, however, is much much different.
First and foremost, you can’t join a Lync Conference using MOC. ALL you get with MOC, is IM and Presence, so that is an incredibly big disadvantage of using the MOC client as a stop gap.

Second, the MOC client does not support DNS Load Balancing as the Lync Clients do. This could cause an impact as well if you feel your users need HA. If you keep the MOC client on the desktops and move to a Lync Server 2013 back-end, you will need to configure or purchase an HLB to maintain SIP communication HA, no exceptions. All of this JUST for IM&P?
If you move to the Lync Client immediately, you can take advantage of the DNSLB mechanism built into the Lync client to maintain SIP communication HA. Keep in mind, however, HLB is still required for load balancing the web communications required by Lync, but sizing of the HLB can be dramatically reduced.

So the moral of the story, please look to upgrade as soon as possible. Your organization is only limiting itself by trying to squeeze every last breath from XP. The OS is dead, time to move on and allow the grieving process to run its course.