Sep 18

IT/DevConnections Day 3

dc14-header-logoWell, day three has come and gone. It has be a fantastic ride. I’ve learned a lot and it has been a great ride.

I started my last day with Jeff Guillet (http://www.expta.com) and “Build a Super-Fast Lab Exchange Lab for under $2,000.” I took copious amounts of notes for this; so much information. For Jeff’s presentation, he had a system which he outlines in his own blog (http://www.expta.com/server). Jeff was very thorough in his talk. He went over the pieces and parts as well as buying resources and sites he liked and didn’t like. What memory he liked and why he liked it. I’m not going to regurgitate as I’m sure he has already talked about much of this on his own site (http://www.expta.com).

We also had some great discussions about setting up the environment and the tools he uses (I may see about tackling the setup using DSC). If you want to setup your own environment I’m going to suggest hitting his site for all the info you’ll need. I think of all the presentations I’ve been to this is probably the one I’m most interested in getting started with.

Next I went to “Rock your .NET coding” with David McCarter (http://www.dotnettips.com). Now, this presentation was a bit out of my league as I’m not a professional developer. I do however write a lot of PowerShell code and I’m always trying to improve my code. Therefore a presentation on standards is a great place to go. While much of what was discussed is not directly applicable to me, it does make me think a bit harder about the code I do write, and that is not a bad thing. I will say, if you are a professional coder, you should take a look at Dave’s books and dvds. There was  room full of professional developers there and I feel like he stumped a lot of them with his examples. Proof positive that we can all learn more.

Next I went to “Building Custom tools Using PowerShell” by Kaido Jarvemets and Greg Ramsey. a good portion of this presentation was based around Configuration Manager which, unfortunately, was not mentioned in the description. That being said there was some great topics being discussed. Adding right-clicking capabilities to Configuration Manager which calls PowerShell scripts, Utilizing WPF to easily generate PowerShell GUIs, great for the not-so-PowerShell-Friendly-Admin. Lastly they talked about WMI events and creating actions based on those events (send an email, log the event…). I’ll probably need to go over this stuff myself as some pieces went very fast.

20140918_154654_2The last event was the most fun! “Ask the Exchange Experts” with a panel of Experts and some of the production team in the back of the room piping in as needed. Lots of questions and lots of level-headed answers. This was a lot of fun and I picked up a few things to think about.

And with that I have to say good-bye to IT/DEV Connections for 2014. I learned a lot of stuff that me and my company will be able to benefit from. I’m glad I did it. I wish I could do it more. In this industry you can never stop learning. Fortunately for me, I like the learning.

Thanks everyone and I hope to see you next year!

Gene

Sep 17

IT/DevConnections Day 2

dc14-header-logoLots of stuff being crammed into my brain.

Started today with a Jeffry Snover (@jsnover) presentation on Just Enough Admin (JEA) which I had seen in passing but hadn’t really delved into too. Once the explanation got going, I realized the name really was a good identifier of what JEA is. JEA is, basically, not so much taking away admin privileges, but more about only giving the admins what they need to fulfill their role. Just because someone should be able to patch a system or reboot or change an IP doesn’t mean they should be able to read all the (potentially confidential) files on that system. So the “Super-User” should probably go away in favor of the role based administration and JEA is used to make that kind of configuration easily available.

The JEA makes creating a server role for patching, or setting up SMB shares easier to setup the same way Desired State Configuration (DSC) makes it easy to setup a farm of IIS servers with a specific configuration. In fact, JEA uses DSC for it’s implementation. Jeffry was quick to point out that the JEA toolkit is in an Experimental stage (denoted by the ‘x’ in the front of the module name ‘xJEA’) so it may not be 100% for production environments but the concept is solid and, I think, one that should at least be investigated.

The second half of the presentation was a 400 level breakdown of some of the pieces and parts that I’ll need to go over and experiment with before I really have it down. As a bonus, there were some Segways into some of the new features of PowerShell v5. Again, most stuff to learn.

All in all, a great presentation. Just the time with Jeffrey is worth the money for the convention. I dare you to walk away from a Snover presentation on PowerShell and not get excited about it!

After the JEA presentation I went into Rick Claus (@RicksterCDN, http://RegularITGuy.com) on Storage Spaces, Scale Out File Server and SMB 3.0 (the “Fire-breathing Dragon”). Lots of great insights here on the state of things. Also, found out that according to Rick, Amazon and Microsoft don’t use any SANs in their cloud solutions because they are cost prohibitive at that scale. It is much easier, and easier on the wallet to have these large JBODs (Just a Bunch Of Disks) and utilized the storage capabilities of Windows Server 2012.

Rick’s presentation had side by side feature comparisons for SANs and Windows Server 2012 also a good discussion on disk tiering which is using SSDs for busy I/Os (Hot disk) and standard spinals for less busy I/O (Cold disk). The system can move data from one set of disks to the other without the accessing system having any idea of what was going on. Best part, he gave us the scripts and requirements to set these environments up with a USB SSD on a regular ol’ laptop. I love takeaways like that!

Next, I went to this “Mary-Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott on the State of Microsoft” presentation. Now, I’m not really familiar with Mary-Jo or Paul and I may have had preconceived notions of what their presentation was going to be but I found that in the first 10 minutes or so and more “We don’t know but…” statements than I wanted to. “We don’t know if Windows 9 is going to have feature X or not but we have  a screen shot from the [always trustworthy] Internet” or “We’re looking forward to a Microsoft presentation on [datetime]. We don’t know what they’ll say but…” So, I was less than interested in what they didn’t know so I left early.

As a result I found out where I should have been from the beginning, and that’s in Tim McMichael’s “Exchange 2013 Site Resilience” presentation. Boy if you wanted to know about Exchange DAGs and Clustering, Tim is the guy to follow (http://blogs.technet.com/b/timmcmic/). Unfortunately for me, I haven’t looked into Exchange 2013 very much, because there isn’t a plan at my company to move to it at this time so I haven’t spent the cycles. Tim went through a whole host of scenarios for Exchange 2013 DAG and cluster failures including the option for a third site <shock>.

I ended my day with Brian Desmond (AD MVP, http://briandesmond.com, @BrianDesmond) talking about all things ADFS and Federation and Microsoft’s new tool which will replace DirSync AADST (Azure Active Directory Sync Tool). It was good to go over this stuff and to know about where AADST isn’t as mature as DirSync and what kinds of things to expect.

Brian made a good point during his presentation, He said ADFS servers should be treated with the same level of security as domain controllers. After all they are holding on to potentially important information which, just like a DC shouldn’t be available on the Internet.

Another great day and I still feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth. One more day for me. I’ll have to try and get everything I can out of it.

Gene

Sep 16

IT/DevConnections Day 1

dc14-header-logoToday was day one (for me) of ITDevConnections 2014 held in Las Vegas. I wanted to do a quick post of some of the sessions I went through and some of the things I learned.

It started at breakfast I started talking to a couple of guys who work for a company doing a new form of marketing which I thought was interesting. I may not be saying this correctly, but the gist was they link banks with various companies such that when you use your ATM card at, in the example we talked about, Home Depot, you would automatically get a coupon applied to your order. Not exactly at that time, but some time down the road, the bank would apply the money you saved back to your account, like a refund. Couponless coupons I think they called it. Anyways, interesting.

My first session was a presentation Mark Minasi (http://minasi.com, @mminasi) called “Windows Clusters for Beginners: From Highly Fearful to Highly Reliable in 75 Minutes!” Now, I’ve used clusters before but generally only how the pertain to Exchange. I went to this one hoping to get some new info maybe I didn’t know before. It’s always good to go over things, especially from an expert like Mark.

Mark has a great presentation style, very clear very concise and very engaging. He took the time to talk with everyone before the presentation to get a little info on them and what they wanted to get out of the presentation. The presentation was very much a starting point for learning about Clusters. For me, it was good to go over things. Like I said, I don’t really live in Clustering, and it was helpful to hear the history and how the bits and pieces worked. Mark is very good at presenting complex material in a straight forward way. If you get a chance to see one of his presentations, I would do it. He also presents on pluralsight.com (If you don’t know what pluralsight is, check it out).

Next, was a presentation by Andy Malone http://www.andymalone.org/ @AndyMalone. Andy is an MVP for Security and now a published Sci-Fi author (The Seventh Day). Andy’s presentation “Office 365: Migrating Your Business to Office 365” went through all the various ways in which mailboxes can be migrated from using pst files to hybrid. There was only so much time, and really a lot to cover and Andy got it all in, complete with demos. Along the way Andy gave out some key pieces of intel. which anyone doing a migration to Office 365 would like to have.

  • 9 out of 10 errors come from DNS issues (IMAP migrations)
  • OST files are recreated so be ready for that.
  • Where DirSync is needed and when it is not.
  • Dynamic Distribution Lists don’t migrate in a staged migration nor is Send-As rights.
  • And more…

Lots of things to go over. There is a Hybrid migration presentation coming up that I’ll have to go to (If there isn’t something else I’m interested in more)

During lunch, the conversation was about land owners not having mineral rights in the North Dakota areas where they’re doing fracking and how much Cobalt coders are making because no one wants to code in Cobalt! You meet interesting people at these conventions.Bxr0anxCMAAfAi5

After lunch was a REAL treat. One of the reasons I came to the ITDevConnection convention… Jeffry Snover with Hemant Mahawar presenting on “PowerShell Desired State Configuration for Securing Systems.” Jeffry called it “Chewy,” as in lots of information to chew on and boy was he right. The rough concept is you’re environment is hacked <period, end of story>. Here is an easy way to create a secure, cocoon-like area where people can do their work. In short, you create a subdomain of the current domain and, using PowerShell and DSC, create a new environment where “the bad guys” can’t get into. basically strip out the domain admin permissions on systems, setup a “Jumpbox” (a system that administrators need to go through) using PowerShell remoting that is stripped down to only the commands they need and only the end users can read/edit/delete files. In the example we were working with file systems. Here is a slide Jeffry retweeted from someone in the audience: PowerShell DSC for securing systems slide.

I’m sure I’m not doing his presentation justice, so please don’t go by what I say alone. It was a great presentation plus we got to talk about some of the great new features in PowerShell v5 like classes! Such great stuff here. If you’re not using PowerShell you’re wasting your time.

The last presentation for the day, for me, was “MAPI/HTTP in Depth” with Bhargav Shukla who works for Kemp Technologies. This may have been a bit too in-depth for me for the end of the day. I may still have been thinking about the DSC presentation previous. Bhargav did go over a lot of information about the transition from MAPI wrapped in RPC wrapped in HTTP to MAPI under HTTP and where the pros and cons of it is. It seems as though you get better performance and better end-user experience with MAPI over HTTP but there is a higher processor cost on the Exchange CAS servers. In the long run, it may be worth it to make this change. I would speculate the change isn’t going away anytime soon.

So, It was a great day, I learned a ton of stuff and I feel like my first day alone was worth the trip. Did I mention I’m paying for all of this and not my employer or anyone else. I’m doing this for me, so I can be better at what I do and it is totally worth it. Should have started doing this years ago.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for day 2 & 3!

Gene