Author: Phoummala Schmitt

Just trying to survive in IT as a woman. I'm a Systems Engineer with a focus on Messaging & Collaboration, Virtualization, Storage and those nifty little devices called "smartphones". Always as why? When you stop asking why is when you stop learning and challenging yourself.

Current Status Podcast #28: The CTO Perspective on Workspace 2020

Join us Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 10:15pm edt for another episode of Current Status. During this Episode of Current Status co-hosts Theresa Miller, Phoummala Schmitt talk with guest Ruben Spruijt (@rspruijt), CTO of Atlantis Computing and Citrix CTP.   The IT landscape is always evolving and changing. History has shown that the technology trends of the past are not the trends of the future.  See the full post here

Source: Current Status Podcast #28: The CTO Perspective on Workspace 2020

 

 

How is the Pope’s visit impacting IT operations?

A hot topic recently is business continuance.  For businesses today, it’s more than recovering from a Disaster or failed systems. Businesses want and need to be operating seamlessly when issues strike. It’s about Business Continuance. Keeping the operations running. Continuing operations in spite of challenges that your business may face. These challenges can be anything from cloud outages ( AWS outage…), weather related or even an act of God like the Papal visit this week in Washington DC, NYC and Philadelphia. Organizations in these cities have been planning for this visit to ensure business operate as normal.

Developing Business Continuance plans takes time and many different departments must come together to develop the plan. It’s not a  one person job. It takes teams to ensure it is successful. From the IT perspective, it is beyond making sure the servers are running but also making sure users can still connect and will this have a $$ cost added to any existing infrastructure. Will the current environment and/or hardware be sufficient or does the BC plan require additional licensing and software?

As you may be aware, in my current position I work in Center City Philadelphia. The Papal visit has had us make some adjustments and prepare accordingly. Many things had to be planned because access to center city buildings were being closed Thursday & Friday. Roads and bridges into the city are limited or  even closed , which will last until Monday at noon. This means thousands of workers in the city of Philadelphia are not able to go into work as normal on 2 business working days. No work means loss of productivity and loss of $$$. As part of BC planning to ensure we operated as normal as much as possible, IT had to do some planning. Items that had to be factored included but not limited to :

  • What and how many additional remote access ( if any)
  • Licensing for VPN connections or remote desktop
  • Any impact to network or bandwidth
  • Additional access and security concerns
  • Any additional load on collaboration systems such as Skype/ Video conferencing due to remote access?

This wasn’t an easy task and took lots of planning from many people beyond IT, that spanned over the course the year. Many people have expressed to me how interesting this was and wanted to know more about what we did and how others planned for this sort of event. So… to answer some questions and gain insight into business continuance,  Why not have Current Status do an episode on this topic!? I think I can arrange that ….

Join us September 24th, 2015 @10:15pm EST  for Episode 27 of Current Status . We are joined by Jay Gagné, CTO Of Razor Technology (@jaytgagne)  to chat about the challenges businesses face with developing business continuance plans and what they can do to overcome them to maintain continuing operations. We will talk about how companies like the one I work for prepared for Pope’s visit and Jay’s insights on how other businesses can prepare for similar events.

 

RazorTech-FullColor

 

Prepare the Enterprise for Office 2016!

On September 10th, Microsoft announced the official release date for Office 2016 as September 22, 2015. According to a blog post by Julie White Julie White, general manager of Office 365 technical product management, Office 2016 will be “broadly available” starting Sept. 22 and Organizations with volume license agreements, including those with Software Assurance, will be able to download the new version beginning Oct. 1.

The blog post also mentions that Office 365 Home office and Personal edition will be able to manually update starting September 22, however automatic updates for these editions do not start until October 1st. These release dates do not leave much time for organizations to prepare to be updated. The new version boost of new features and changes that can have some administrators scrambling to attempt to control the nest.

What’s new?

Office 2016 takes on the new update process of Windows 10, with the updates through the concept of branches. For organizations that currently control how their Office 365 deployments are updated, using an internal source, this will need to determine which branch they will use. The three update options:

  • Current Branch – Monthly updates pushed out by Microsoft’s Content Delivery Network. The default setting for Office 2016 installation is to use Current Branch.
  • Current Branch for Business – Provides updates 4 times a year. This is for organizations that are not bleeding edge and need to have some control on when updates are installed and take some time testing compatibility with other products.
  • First Release for Current Branch for Business – Monthly patches that provide the ability to test patches before the rest of production users are updated.

Some additional enhancements to the new version of Office 365 is the support for Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS).  BITS helps control network traffic when updates are deployed by using idle network bandwidth in that it can increase or decrease the rate at which files are transferred based on the amount of idle network bandwidth available. BITS can be configured regardless of the source of the update, such as an internal source or Microsoft CDN. Microsoft has yet to release the specific details on how to configure BITS, according to the blog more details to come soon. Office 2016 also has added support for Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and Multi-factor Authentication.

Preparation yourself to be Updated!

As with any new software release there is always gotchas and Office 2016 is no different. Knowing the gotchas is have the battle to a successful upgrade and less headaches.

If your organizational uses the Office Deployment Tool or Group Policy to manage settings in Office 365 be warned you will need the versions of Office deployment tool and Administrative Template files (ADMX/ADML) for Group Policy. Microsoft has not released the new versions of the Office Deployment Tool and Administrative Template files (ADMX/ADML) for Group Policy yet so hang on tight.  You can continue to use the previous version of the Office deployment tool if you plan on to continue to deploy the Office 2013 version. If you choose to continue to deploy the 2013 version remember security updates for this version stops after 1 year of the release of Office 2016.

The Office 2016 install is bigger with core installation files at a whopping 850mb and an additional 200mb for any language packs. This means longer installation times. Monitor and review your network accordingly because who wants the network to go down because of office upgrades?

Support for installing other versions of office side by side with the Office 2016 version of Office 365 ProPus has changed. Installing the volume licensed version of Visio 2016 and Project 2016 on the same system of Office 2016 version of Office 365 is not supported. This means that if you want Visio 2016 and Project 2016 you will need to shell out the dough for the Visio 2016 and Project 2016 version of Office 365 ProPlus. If you have the 2013 version of Visio Pro for Office 365 or Project Pro for Office 365 installed on a computer that is updating to the Office 2016 version of Office 365 ProPlus, those versions of Visio and Project are removed during the update process.

Now that you know what to look out for on a successful Office 2016 update go get prepared to be updated!

Current Status – Live at VMworld 2015!

This year myself and co-host Theresa Miller  @24x7ITConnect  both attended VMworld 2015 and Tech Field Day Extra. While at the conference we were able to host a live stream of our weekly podcast #Current Status. Live streams are always fun because you never know what is going to happen, especially at a conference with over 23K attendees. We were also happy to have Justin Warren, @jpwarren from the land down under as a special guest co-host. Thank you Justin and though you brought us no kangaroos!

TFDE

#CurrentStatus Mimosa

VMworld_a

#VMworldSelfie with Steve Kenniston

 

In pure #Current Status style we even had glasses of adult beverages! Given the time of day our live stream was at ( 11:45 am local time) we had mimosas instead of our traditional wine. None of the less it was a fun show filled with plenty of surprises guests.

Check out the recorded stream to see guests such as :

Tintri – Yael Zheng CMO and  Merlin Boissonneault, Sr Systems Engineer @merlindb

Catalogic SoftwareSteve Kenniston

Spanning Gina Minks @gminks

MicronJanene Ellefson

AND of course the famous Head Geeks from Solarwinds!

Patrick Hubbard @FerventGeek

Thomas LaRock @SQLRockstar

Kong Yang @KongYang

and more surprise guests!

Check out the fun we had!

 

 

Skype for Business Mobile App Coming Soon to iOS!

Look out all you Lync 2013 mobile app iOS users, a new updated and renamed version of the mobile app is on it’s way! As announced earlier this year, Skype for Business for iOS  was set to be released this fall. It looks like Microsoft has kept their word and the new Skype for Business iOS app is expected to be released October 2015, according to a notification received on my mobile app this evening.

Skype For Business is coming!

Skype For Business is coming!

After clicking on the “Learn More” button, I was redirected to Microsoft’s support page which announces the new app and has some FAQs.

Some key take aways are:

  • The new mobile app has “Skype” look and feel similar to the desktop version
  • iOS version 8.0 or later is required- update now if you want to enjoy the new app
  • If you are running an older version of Lync mobile app, you can continue to use that
  • Skype for Business for Windows Phone is available now and the Android version is in technical preview.

Can not wait to see how the new version works compared to the somewhat buggy Lync 2013 iOS version.  Here is a preview of what the new mobile app looks like!

Skype For Business for iOS - New Look and Feel

Skype For Business for iOS – New Look and Feel

 

 

Using Group Policy to Manage Office 365 updates

Office 365 ProPlus deployments by default are configured to automatically update. This can be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. Good, because you are always current and up to date on the latest fixes and security updates from Microsoft. But bad for organizations that have an enterprise patching process that has testing and validation for patches and updates. These types of organizations need to have control to establish compatibility and support across many platforms.

There are several ways to manage updates in Office 365. During the deployment of Office 365 ProPlus you can configure the update settings the office deployment tool which modifies the XML file that is by the install process or you can simply skip that step and manage everything through Group Policy. In this post I will discuss how to use Group Policy to manage updates for your Office 365 deployments.

Getting Started…

Download the Office 2013 Administrative Template files (ADMX/ADML) and Office Customization Tool 

Once you have copied the Group Policy Administrative Template files into AD,  the policy settings will be located in the foloowing location in the Group Policy Managment Console:

Computer Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\Microsoft Office 2013 (Machine)\Updates

Some key settings to look at include:

Enable Automatic Updates – allows you to disable Office 365 from automatically updating. Be careful when using this option as you could miss out on security updates.

Update Path – This setting controls the source of where the Office 365ProPlus installs get their updates from. If this setting is not configured or left blank it will default to Microsoft’s CDN. If you have an internal source, such as network share, then you would include the path here.

Using Group Policy allows some flexible like applying patching sources for different groups of users, such as pilot users and production users. It also doesn’t require manual changes on each system and can make a change across multiple devices with 1 policy. Group Policy is useful when there are many deployment methods across your organizations but you want to manage the application without adding cumbersome deployment steps. If you decide to make a change later, update the Group Policy setting by using the Group Policy Management Console. The updated policy settings are automatically applied to Office 365 ProPlus, through the normal Group Policy update process.

What is this Skype for Business?

If you have not heard yet or been sleeping under a rock, Microsoft has updated Lync and the Lync client but most importantly a brand new name of Skype for Business. In a nutshell, Skype for Business is a re-branded and upgraded version of Lync Server with improved integration with the Skype Network and added new features. The first round of changes started with a Client update that was released on April 14th  2015  by way of Microsoft Office updates, with the second wave for the Skype for Business Server update which was released on May 4th.

However, between the announcement in March and the actual release dates a month later it didn’t leave much room to test the update and prepare users for the impending changes. Depending on the size of the organization this can be challenging and has caused some headaches for administrators like myself as we quickly tried to prepare. Today we will discuss these challenges and things to consider with the new Skype for Business.

Connecting more people together

The Skype for Business re-branding was a great marketing and business move for Microsoft. Leveraging a familiar consumer brand that has already shaped how people communicate and combining it with an existing enterprise unified communications platform, one can only expect an increase in business and easier user adoption. Making improvements and adding new features only sweetens the deal.

The new and improved features include:

  • New User Interface ( UI ) – A new look and feel to the Server and client interface that was inspired by Skype. For those that have used Skype the UI will be familiar, keep in mind this will look different to your users if they currently use the Lync client. The client update affects those using Lync Online with Office 365 ProPlus, Office 365 Business Premium or Office 2013.
  • The Call via Work – The former Remote Call Control feature that allowed users to make calls via the Lync client using their existing PBX telephony system has been re-vamped with the Call Via Work.
  • Larger Meetings – Broadcast Skype for Business meetings to up to 10,000 people at a time. This is a great way to hold town hall meetings, especially for companies that are geographically displaced.
  • Collaborate More – Meetings will now allow Pre-loaded meeting attachments and have In-call co-authoring. In-call authoring allows multiple people to work together on a single document right from within a meeting.
  • More High availability – There is now support with SQL Server AlwaysOn
  • Better Reporting – Call quality dashboard to provide richer reporting options
  • Modern meetings – Partnering with vendors such as Crestron, Polycom and Smart, the Modern Meetings will be connecting people and businesses together using meeting devices that will operate with the Skype Room Systems. If you are already using the Lync Room Systems no worries it will be able to upgrade to Skype Room Systems.

For those us not on the bleeding edge of change, thankfully Microsoft provided ways to delay the update. You can either block the update from being downloaded from Microsoft updates or use Powershell Cmdlets that would provide administrators to control the updated change to Lync clients.  Lync Servers can be prevented from being updated by not installing the update.

Spoiler Alert for anyone that has blocked the update from being downloaded!

As administrators found out the Powershell Cmdlets was only a half attempt of controlling the client’s interface, use the existing Lync interface or get the new Skype for Business. The update still changed the Lync icon to Skype for Business and the Lync Meeting plug-in button in Outlook was now Skype for Business. Every time you created a new meeting it was now reflected as a ‘Skype Meeting’ and not Lync Meeting.

 

My Skype is Broken!

Since Skype and Skype for Business are two separate products you can run both versions together on the same computer. In organizations that have BYOD or allow non-business applications to be installed on company computers, this could be a headache for the helpdesk. Take for instance a user calls in saying they have an issue with Skype. The help desk will need to remember to identify which version of Skype the user is calling about or they could be troubleshooting the wrong Skype.

Just an In-Place upgrade?

Skype for Business is easy to upgrade to using the in-place upgrade option but there are considerations that should be taken into account when you do in place upgrade. Does your current hardware meet the requirements for Skype for Business? An in place upgrade does not guarantee performance will be the same. The upgrade also adds the call the quality dashboard. A component that was not in the Lync deployments and requires an additional SQL database.

Let’s Skype!

Overall I think it’s a great move on Microsoft’s part with the re-branding, even with it’s a set of headaches, will allow companies to communicate better with each other and their partners they do business with. With some communication and planning an upgrade or deployment of Skype for Business can be successful.

Finding My Inner Goddess

Each and every one of us has a positive energy, a flame inside of us that exudes the greatness within us. It’s part of our beauty, our mind, and our soul that makes each one of us unique. It inspires and pushes us to go beyond our limits to follow our dreams and our passions. It’s our own magical power. The spark that ignites a flame in all of us is our “inner goddess”.

When the spark is lost

We all have this goddess inside of us, hence my alter ego Exchange Goddess. Some are stronger than others, but it’s still there. Our inner goddess helps us fights those battles that we have in our daily lives. Sometimes the battles defeat our goddess, and we give up. There are times when the fighting becomes too much, and we don’t realize that we have lost her. That was the case for me.

I have spoken openly about my struggles with sexism in IT. It is sometimes called unconscious bias or diversity issues, but simply put it is a form of discrimination. For many women in IT this can be a challenging experience, a daily battle that is fought, and I was no different. This type of negative energy can defeat a goddess. It took a friend asking me a question while discussing sexism in IT for me to realize that my inner goddess was lost.

Will you ever be happy in this field? Maybe this is the wrong field for you?

WHAT?! Why was this man asking me this question? I love my work. I love technology. Could this man not see my passion? How dare he ask me this question just because I am complaining about sexism in my field? I was angry. Was this man so naïve living his privileged life, never having to experience any struggles of his own, that he just did not understand?

After dwelling on this question for a few days, I came up with two reasons why he must have asked this question. It was because of who I had become and possibly his own passive ignorance. He was not seeing my passion or my love for technology. That spark, the positive energy inside me, was not burning. He was not seeing my inner goddess because she was no longer there. I had lost her. Misplaced or perhaps lost in my shoe closet. Wherever she was, she was no longer visible or as bright as before.

He saw frustration, anger, and disappointment, but I do not think he quite understood where it all was coming from. I am sure he understood what sexism, gender bias, and unconscious bias are; we have all gone through those HR sensitivity courses, nodding our heads and thinking, “It’s wrong and should not happen.” However, if someone has not experienced this struggle for him or herself or has not had someone close to them go through the experience, it really is hard to truly understand what it means and feels to be discriminated against.

The Journey…

I had to rediscover my inner goddess. Everybody has a different journey. We all have different struggles and a different path to follow on that journey. In my case, I needed to let go of the anger and pain that I had been feeling about how I had been treated. The people close to me know that the last few years have been tough, especially within the last year. I had so much built up anger that I let it consume me. Anger is like a poison that can eat away you and it was starting to do that to me. I was so afraid of forgetting what I had gone through that I kept holding onto the anger. I did not want to forget it. I did not want to repeat it.

But letting go does not mean forgetting. Letting go allows you to move on and find peace within yourself. This allowed me to accept that I could not change what was in the past but I could change my future.

Using Bad for Good

I know that I was not alone and others must have gone through something similar. What about the future for my daughter? Will she have the same struggles when she enters the workforce? I had so much anger that I needed to channel that negative energy into something positive. I wanted to make a difference and perhaps bring about change.

Using that negative energy to create something positive brought about the Current Status, a weekly podcast/webcast that I co-host with two other women, Theresa Miller (@24x7itconnection) and Melissa Palmer (@vmiss33). It’s a show we do live on air with video using Google Hangouts where we discuss technology with various guests in a relaxed setting. There’s even wine on the show. When I had come up with the idea it was to show the world that we, us women, know and can speak technology. We are more than the token female IT person on the team. We are technical people that just happen to be women. We are smart, beautiful, fun, and we are IT professionals. Current Status has become more than what my cohosts or I had ever anticipated. The show is really taking off and gaining traction within the IT community. It is amazing how much support we receive, and we appreciate every bit of it. To read more about our show check out our Current Status page or head over to our YouTube Channel to replay past shows.

That’s what Goddesses do

Beyond the success of the show, the most amazing thing about what has happened is the bond that has formed with my cohosts. I have found my sisters, the “others” that have gone through similar experiences as myself. I have found other goddesses.

If you have the seen the show, you will notice that we have such a great dynamic with each on air and it really is like that off the air too. We are there for each when someone has a bad day at work or when there’s a promotion. It’s just not all business because when I have a bad hair day, I know I can send a group text to them. When I see some really great shoes on sale, and I cannot decide which one to get, they will be there encouraging me all the way. That’s what goddesses do; we support one another through bad and good.

She’s Back…

For my friend who asked me that “awful” question, I have your answer; I am following my passion for technology and yes I am happy. But most of all thank you.

It has been an interesting journey to say the least, but I have found my inner goddess again. That spark that was once burning so bright, that could be felt across the room, is back. It is much stronger and wiser now. She’s back and she’s ready to take on the world. This time she’s brought allies.

 

Setting up Data Protection on Tintri T540 – Replicate and Restore

If you read my earlier post about Tintri’s VMstore T540 you know that setting up data protection on the T540 is very simple. There is not much to it really just a few simple clicks and you’re replicating between applicances.  Once you set the Replication settings ( assigning the replicating partner and password) and add the purchased license on the appliance you are ready to configure the vms for protection.

Follow the below settings to setup replication of a vm and restore it on another T540. You’ll find that it’s very simple to setup and takes just a few minutes.


Add Replication settings to appliance

Fig4_TintriD

Add Replication License

Fig3_TintriC

 


 Configuring VMs for Snapshot & Replication to another T540

  1. Login to your T540 using the url of the appliance http://x.x.x.x/
  2. Click on “Search VM” link (top right)
  3. A listing of all the VMs will be shown
  4. Find the Virtual Machine you wish to protect and right click and select Protect. Select Protect
  5. Select the snapshot schedule, retention period, and if you want the snapshot to be replicated and the alert threshold. When you are completed Click on Protect.Tintri_ReplicateA
  6. To verify the replication state, on the Virtual Machine list right click on the header bar and select Data Protection. This will refresh the Protection tab showing the replication state, schedule and retention.Tintri_ReplicateB

 


 Restoring a Replicated VM on another T540

  1. Login to T540 hosting snapshot using the url of appliance http://x.x.x.x/
  2. Click on “Search VM” top right
  3. A listing of all the VMs will be shown. Click on Snapshots and this will lists all snapshots held on the appliance.Tintri_Snapshot
  4. Locate the snapshot you want to recover. Right click and select Clone.Tintri_Restore
  5. Create new Virtual Machine window will open. Fill out the required fields and click Clone. The window appear at the bottom right informing you that the Virtual Machine is being added to the inventory.Tintri_RestoreA
  6. Sign into vCenter and find the Virtual Machine that you just cloned complete any needed configuration changes and power on.

 

 

Tintri T540 – Simple VM storage management

It’s the storage wars. Lots of new vendors on the storage array market doing their dog and pony show,  trying to get pieces of the pie over familiar giants like NetApp and EMC. Having  managed NetApp for a few years I was comfortable with their Filers so why change?

After spending a few years managing our VMware and it’s storage, our environment had grown and  started to show some performance bottlenecks. We needed to find a solution that would meet the demanding IO needs of our VMs  and  support the HA and DR requirements for our datacenter. This is where we decided to think outside of the box and look at all the new players in the storage industry. We started doing research and eventually decided on Tintri and their VMstore T540 appliance. If you haven’t heard of Tintri before they are a flash based storage array that was designed just to be used for datastore use of VMs. It’s purpose in life is storing VMs ,making it run better and faster. The storage array is designed to not only meet the demanding IO needs of VMs but also reduce the complexity of managing the storage the VMs.

The T540 not only met our requirements but also gave us simple storage management. Even though there isn’t very much to manage with the array it still offers features that were key to us such as NFS , hot cloning VMs, deduplication, compression and hardware replication. Tintri supports VMware vSphere 4.x and 5.x  using NFS, RHEVand even HyperV. VDI deployments of VMware Horizon View and Citrix XenDesktop can also run on Tintri.

The Tintri VMstoreT540 is a 3U rackmounted appliance that comes with:

  • Capacity: 26.4 TB (8x 300 GB SSD + 8 x 3 TB HDD) with 13.5TB usable space
  • Management Networking :  2x 1GbE (RJ-45)
  • Data Network : Option 1: 2x 10GbE (10GBASE-SR LC fibre or SFP+ direct attach copper) or  2: 2x 10GbE (RJ-45)
  • Replication Network: Optional: 2x 1GbE (RJ-45) or 2x 1GbE (SFP)

From start to finish it takes about 30 – 60 minutes to rack the appliance ( dependent on how fast you can rack it) in the datacenter and connect to vCenter. There is very little day to day management with the T540. Tasks such as  Hot cloning VMs and setting up replication takes minutes and is effortless. Once the T540 is racked you give it an IP address and you are off to configuring the appliance to connect to vCenter.

Easy and Simple

The following screenshots of the appliance’s settings  will show you how easy and simple it is to setup.

Datastore IP is just that, it where you assign the appliance with the IP address that the datastore will used when connected to vCenter
Fig1_TintriA

Datastore IP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Setup Snapshot schedules using the Snapshot tab
Fig2_TintriB

Snapshot Configuration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
After supplying the Licenses for replication shown in Fig3_TintriC you can setup replication to another T540 shown in Fig4_TintriD
Fig3_TintriC

Replication License

 

 

 

 

 

Fig4_TintriD

Replication Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow! I sound like an commercial for Tintri. There is no paid endorsement here, it’s just the  truth, the thing just works and does a great job at what it was designed to do. It runs just like they say it does.

To learn more about the Tintri and the their other products the VMstore T620 and T650 check out  Tintri’s website.