Exciting Weeks to Come for Me and the Lab

I haven’t done an off-topic post in a while, but I’m going to keep this one short.

Over the next couple of weeks, there’s going to be some exciting things happening that I’m looking forward to. I’ve got some great ideas about website deployments on Microsoft Azure which I’m trying to compile together into another one of my TechNet Guides to publish and the hardware for my home lab project is finally coming together after much waiting for a couple of critical pieces so I will be able to finish my series of the project. Once the environment is put together, I will be hoping to post a tonne about the things I get deployed in there: System Center, Windows Azure Pack, MDOP and more.

I’ve also got some personal news that I’ll be letting out in a few weeks too.

In the mean time, if there is anything you’ll especially like to see be build or document in my home lab relating to the Microsoft stack, drop me a line and I’ll see if I can fit it into my plans.

Project Home Lab: Goals

Since I’ve started working in consultancy, I have the constant need to challenge myself and spend more time working with the technologies that I promote. The only way to do this is learn and practice and the only way to learn and practice is to have equipment to do that on. I have embarked on a project to build myself a home lab and in this Project Home Lab series of blog posts, I’ll go through all that I am doing to produce my home lab.

This series will consist of the following posts. I will update the table of contents with the new page links in each post as I produce and publish the articles.

  1. Project Home Lab: Goals
  2. Project Home Lab: Existing Infrastructure
  3. Project Home Lab: Hardware Decisions
  4. Project Home Lab: Network Decisions
  5. Project Home Lab: Shopping List

Project Goals

In this first post, I will explain the goals of my home lab and what I want to be able to achieve with it.

The goal of the project is to allow me to work in an environment where I can break and fix, play, learn and explore the products I work with as a consultant, System Center primarily.

I need the project to provide me with a hardware platform which is well performing, not to the degree that an enterprise customer would expect it to be but enough to not make me want to hurt myself every time I do something in the lab due to a severe lack of performance. Functionally performing to summarise. I need the hardware I use to be cheap but suitable for the task, cost effective in other words. I also need it to be energy efficient where possible as I don’t want to be paying the earth to run this environment. Coupled to the energy efficient statement, I need it to not sound like a datacenter in my garage where I keep my kit so there may be a need for some post-work to add some sound deadening to the garage if things get too loud as noise output can’t be completely eradicated unless I spend a fortune on water cooling for it all.

Although my plans for the environment are small right now, I don’t want to be hamstrung in the future, stuck at the end of a garden path without options to either scale up or scale out the project. Virtualization is a given in this project and being that I work with the Microsoft technology stack, this is obviously going to be centred around Hyper-V. The primary goal is to run System Center in it’s entirety which will include some SQL Servers for databases. If I decide in three months time to add the Windows Azure Pack or in six months that adding Exchange or another enterprise application to the mix will help me understand the challenges that customers I work for have then I want to be able to deploy that without having to re-invent the wheel to do so but minor upgrades are to be expected: memory uplifts or more disks for increased IOPS perhaps.

Project Budget

To be honest, there is no real budget limit for this. I’m going to spend what is appropriate to make it work but the sky is not the limit. I’ve got a wife and three kids to feed so I need to make it all happen as cost effectively as possible which will likely mean the cost is spread with purchasing parts over a number of months.

DPM Replica Recovery Point Run Out of Space

If you receive an alert in System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) that a replica or recovery point volume has run out of space, you will probably find this is a result of your DPM Storage Pool being out of space and head off to talk to your storage administrator to get some additional disk presented. While this is obviously the correct thing to do, you also need to take into consideration the impact this may have on your Recovery Point and Replica volumes.

Once you have added a new disk to the server, you will add it to the DPM Storage Pool to extend the capacity of the pool. With the pool extended, it would be logical to assume that DPM will automatically extended the Replica and Recovery Point volumes and whilst this is true for normal operation that DPM will auto-grow these volumes if you have enabled the auto-grow feature, if you’re DPM Storage Pool completely filled before the new disk was added, you will need to do this manually. When DPM has attempted to auto-grow the partition on a previous attempt but been unable to do so due to insufficient disk space, it puts the Protection Group into a state where this operation is not attempted again automatically.

Imagine a scenario whereby a DPM server has a single 2TB volume in use for the Storage Pool. DPM creates many dynamic partitions on the disk to store your Protection Group data. When the disk fills and DPM needs to start using a new disk that you added, it will convert the existing dynamic partition into a spanned partition to allow it to span the multiple Storage Pool disks. If this operation occurs during normal DPM operation whereby there is sufficient free space to do so then it will happen automatically and you have nothing to worry about. If however, your DPM Storage Pool completely fills before it has a chance to convert it to a spanned partition, even once their capacity, DPM will stop trying to perform this operation.

Luckily for us, the fix is pretty simple. Locate the Protection Group which is reporting that the Replica or Recovery Point volumes are out of space and extend them manually using the DPM Central Console by any amount you like. It can be as little as 100MB if you need it to be. This manual extension will force DPM to read the data from the Windows Logical Disk Manager (LDM), it will see the new disk available and perform the span conversion operation.

If you can’t identify via the DPM Central Console which Protection Groups are faulting, another way is to look at the Disk Management console and look for partitions on the DPM Storage Pool disks which are not of type Spanned. Non-spanned partitions in this instance will be partitions which have not been pulled across both disks. This could be because that Protection Group hasn’t yet needed to be extended to make use of the new disk or it could be because it’s out of space but it’s a step in the right direct.

If you are extending the existing DPM Storage Pool disk instead of adding a new disk, I’m not exactly sure what would happen. If I had to hazard a guess, I would probably say that DPM will know about this uplift in capacity and extend the Protection Groups automatically as you are still working with the same disk, therefore no span conversion operation is required however I could be wrong? This is something for me to test in my new lab once I get it built.

Logical Network Creation Error in VMM 2012 R2

If you are working with System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) and trying to configure Logical Networks on a Hyper-V host, here is an issue you need to be aware of.

If the display name of the network adapters on your host contain the square bracket characters (Eg. [ or ]) then the creation of the Logical Network on the host will fail with a rather spurious error message. Check the display name of all of the adapters on the host and ensure that they do not contain the square bracket characters before you go through any other troubleshooting. You could save yourself an hour or two.

SQL 2012 and System Center 2012 R2 Guide

Over on the TechNet Gallery a great new guide has been published titled SQL 2012 and System Center 2012 R2. The guide delves into the configuration of SQL Server best practice, how to deploy SQL Server and how to protect SQL Server, all specifically focused around using SQL Server with System Center 2012 R2 products such as Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), Operations Manager (SCOM), Orchestrator (SCO). The guide also looks at SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn HADR, Hyper-V Replica and SQL Azure.

You can download the guide from http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/SQL-2012-and-System-Center-553b5161.

The guide has been published and largely written by Paul Keely, Microsoft Private Cloud and Datacenter MVP (@paul_keely). The guide is really good, however in the interests of honesty, the contributors on this book, aside from Robert all work for Infront Consulting, my employers. Paul Keely is also my Principal Consultant for Infront Consulting Europe.

The guide has been contributed to additionally by other people including myself, Craig Taylor (@LupoLoopy), Matthew Long (@MatthewLongUK), Pete Zerger (@pzerger) and Robert Hedblom (@RobertandDPM).