How Rackspace is Enhancing Microsoft Private Cloud

Now powered by Hyper-V Server 2016

Microsoft held no punches in its latest Server 2016 release adding a slew of new features and improvements to its Hyper-V virtualization platform, which have now been integrated by the Microsoft Private Cloud team at Rackspace.

[Download our whitepaper to read about the top 10 new features we are most excited about.]

And while the new operating system provides a ton of great Hyper-V advancements over Server 2012R2 it wouldn’t be fanatical to simply settle for a simple OS upgrade.

So the Microsoft Private Cloud team has gone a step further, adding industry leading capabilities to the Microsoft Private Cloud platform at Rackspace.

How is Rackspace further enhancing Hyper-V?

Hyper-V works as a turn-key ready virtualization platform out of the box. Its simplicity and ease of use will have dev/test workloads running in short order.

But if you have mission critical workloads that require the highest level of uptime, out of the box is simply not sufficient. Additional technical configurations are required — and that means customizing a wide array of technical aspects that improve availability.

These can include Switch Embedded Teaming, Virtual Machine Queuing, Data Center Bridging, SMB Multichannel, CSV redirection and even choosing the most reliable NIC model can all have an impact on your production workloads.

The Microsoft Private Cloud team at Rackspace has been running Hyper-V since 2014, and we’ve gained an unmatched level of experience on the Hyper-V platform. We’ve solved challenges for hundreds of customers across all types of industries. As we’ve worked with each of our customers through their deployments and challenges, our team continues to gain new insights, and our customers benefit.

We’ve applied our findings from the past several years to generate 117 independent settings that provides the most stable and high-performance Hyper-V configuration in the industry — and we’re using the power of Azure Automation to apply and monitor them.

Hyper-V combined with Azure Automation DSC

With our new release we are leveraging Desired State Configuration, or DSC, as an essential part of our Hyper-V deployment, configuration and management processes. DSC allows us to take those 117 best practice settings and fully automate the configuration of an enterprise class Hyper-V server. DSC ensures a perfectly configured Hypervisor every time, and has cut our deployment times down by a factor of 10.

When we combine DSC with Azure Automation, we get deep, rich insights into a Hyper-V servers’ state of configuration.  This allows us to immediately identify configuration drift that no longer adheres to best practices, allowing one of our experts to begin addressing the issue.

Azure Automation with DSC provides detailed reports of every setting, for every Hyper-V server, allowing us to ensure that every Hypervisor is released to our customers in a fully compliant state. Then it’s monitored for ongoing compliance while in production.

This also works toward improving ongoing support of the platform, as our experts no longer must spend time verifying that certain settings might be contributing to a problem.

A quick glance verifies that all best practices are already in place, allowing them to focus on where an issue really resides.

Even better, if we identify additional configuration improvements in the future, we can apply these via DSC to all Hyper-V servers with no downtime to VM Tenant workloads.

Server Core

We’ve made the switch; our Hyper-V Server 2016 deployments now run on Server Core.  This minimal server installation is a perfect choice for a Hypervisor, offering:

  • Improved stability – fewer running processes (less that goes wrong)
  • Reduced maintenance – much less to patch
  • Reduced host requirements – more can be allocated to your VM workloads
  • Reduced attack surface – more secure

Faster VM provisioning times

A lot of work has gone into streamlining the VM creation process. Base images for all popular guest operating systems are now deployed via replication to each Hypervisor. This allows easy sourcing, to rapidly build off a base vhdx optimized to work with Hyper-V. Our Microsoft Private Cloud experts also regularly updates these guest images allowing you to confidently build guest workloads quickly, and easily. For customers taking advantage of our supported VM offering, even faster deployment capabilities are available, with fully automated end-to-end VM provisioning.

Enhanced Hyper-V monitoring and metrics

Because we deal with so many customers across highly varied industries, we have encountered and solved dozens of unique challenges. The Microsoft Private Cloud  team at Rackspace took what it learned and created dozens of custom Hyper-V monitors, giving us industry leading insights into your private and hybrid workloads.

We also continuously strive toward providing more detail around performance and usage metrics of your environment. This permits our support team to preemptively identify potential problem areas and suggest improvements.

Rackspace + Hyper-V Server 2016: a winning combination

Microsoft has really hit it out of the park with the new feature enhancements for Hyper-V in Server 2016. Rackspace is further enhancing the platform by applying 117 settings via Azure DSC that configure complex items such as VMQ and CSV redirection, ensuring you are running performance optimized and enterprise stable hypervisors. Server Core continues to be the perfect choice to run your private or hybrid VM workloads and this is all backed by industry leading monitoring and VM provisioning capabilities.

Looking to the future, these upgrades have laid a solid foundation for Fanatical Support around two new features, Shielded VMs, highly secure VMs that take advantage of a guarded fabric, and Hyperconverged Storage, a high performing, lower cost of entry integrated storage solution. Look for more on these features in the coming months.

Microsoft Private Cloud 2016 is our strongest virtualization platform to date. Our customers continue to provide positive feedback on this release and we’re excited to discuss how your workloads can take advantage of this new offering.

Want to find more about Microsoft Private Cloud? Visit Rackspace to learn about how the MPC team at Rackspace can provide truly fanatical support of your private and hybrid workloads.

Jacob Morrison is the product engineer for Rackspace’s Microsoft Private Cloud team. With MCSE specialization in private cloud and MCSA in Azure, his efforts focus on providing a more fanatical experience for both private and hybrid workloads. He strives towards further enhancing automation capabilities and building a solid DevOps pipeline for Microsoft platforms at Rackspace. In his free time, Jacob sponsors the San Antonio PowerShell User group and blogs on various technology topics at TechThoughts.


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