Azure Site Recovery Deployment Planner

As per the following Azure blog post, the Azure Site Recovery (ASR) Deployment Planner tool was released earlier this month, following previews earlier in the year. The tool aims to provide a friction-free way to assess your existing Hyper-V/VMware estates allowing you to understand the costs for compute, network, storage and licensing to protect your workloads to the cloud (including the difficult to understand ones, like initial replication costs..).

I’ve blogged before that I think the ASR solution is a great way to either provide secondary or even tertiary instances of your on-premises workloads in a secondary location with minimal effort and cost. Previously it has been fairly time consuming and manual to gather the information required to correctly estimate costings in Azure.

Let’s have a quick look at the tool from a Hyper-V perspective. The tool is command line based, and can be downloaded from here. Once downloaded you’ll need to extract it onto a workstation that has access to the environment you’ll be assessing. My environment consists of a standalone device with Hyper-V enabled and a couple of VMs. The tool can be executed against clusters if you were in a larger/production setup.

The following link provides additional detail and optional parameters that can be used.

Generate your list of VMs

The first thing I did was generated a .txt file containing the hostname of my Hyper-V host. This can either be IP, individual hostnames, or cluster name. I then executed the following command to retrieve an export of machines running on the host:

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Profile your VMs

Once you have a list of VMs, it’s now time to profile them. Profiling monitors your virtual machines to collect performance data. Again it is command line based and you have the option to configure settings such as how long the profiling will take place (minutes, hours, days) if you wish. Note: 30 minutes is the minimum duration.

In addition, you can connect an Azure storage account to profile the performance from the host(s) to Azure for additional info. As per the guidance in the Microsoft documentation the general recommendation is 7 days, however as always with any sizing tools 31 days is preferred to capture monthly anomalies. I used the generated list of VMs and executed the following command as a next-step:

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I created an infinite loop in PowerShell to simulate some CPU load on one of the VMs, rather than it just staying static:

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Report Generation

Once you have finished profiling, you can execute the tool in report generation mode. This creates an Excel file (.xlsm) which provides a summary of all of the deployment recommendations. To complete this example, I executed the following command:

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Job done! – The report is now saved in the location detailed above. The report contains a number of areas, with the opening page looking as follows:

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There are many tabs included which breaks down individual details. One thing to bear in mind is configuring the frequency of DR drills and how long they last, as that will affect the costings. The default assumes 4 test failovers per year, lasting 7 days each time. You will want to reduce/increase this accordingly.

This tool contains many good recommendations above and beyond cost, e.g. initial required network bandwidth to fulfil replication, the recommendation as to what VM type, and where to place storage (standard/premium) as well as the throughput from the host platform to an Azure Storage account. Give it a try!

Ditch Windows PCs for the Mac revolution…

A couple of articles (AppleInsider) caught my attention earlier this week (Neowin), regarding Walmart and their plans to ditch Windows PCs in favour of MAC to “save on employee PC costs”. Whilst it is important to point out that Walmart have since refuted the claim stating it had been misinterpreted , the underlying sentiment still applies, and in my opinion this is unfair for reasons I’ll go into below. 

Let’s take a look at what was originally quoted:

“We looked at TCO [total cost of ownership] for our technology,” Leacy said. “The cost of deploying and securing [a Mac] at this point is a lot cheaper than supporting a Windows box — it just makes good business sense.

Source: https://www.cnet.com/news/walmart-plans-to-add-employee-macs-to-reduce-costs/

Whilst the articles do not go into detail about how the TCO was calculated, clearly the claim here is that all the roundabout costs that go into managing a Windows box are higher than a Mac box.

Likely costs are in the following areas:

  1. Sourcing and procuring the hardware / peripherals
  2. Initially configuring and deploying a device to desk
  3. Providing on-going configuration,security and reports
  4. The amount of post-support required to ensure a user remains productive

My thoughts.

Windows devices have a long, organic history of badly configured Group Policy. Most (not all) organisations have decades of GPOs accumulated in their Windows environment which greatly affects the performance and usability of a Windows Machine.

The drivers behind these configurations have typically been security related and over-zealousness has led to devices being locked down to the point they are unusable and slow. This is in contrary to the Mac which has had much less time being used in enterprises, therefore has had less time to accumulate over the top configurations.

In addition, Windows operating system images have typically been accumulated over time and it has become hip to include as much corporate bloatware as possible, with oodles of bespoke configuration – as opposed to Macs which are typically delivered quite vanilla.

Finally there are many, many variances of manufacturers and device types that the Windows Platform can run on. This has led to the proliferation of devices within an organisation, meaning multiple deployment methods, driver packages, firmware upgrades, etc. Whereas with Mac this is obviously much more constrained.

It’s like saying –

“I’m never buying a Ford car again, because the one I brought in 1995 only does 15Mpg and kicks out black smoke every time I pull off. It’s 2017 and I’m going to replace it with A Vauxhall as that does significantly more than 15Mpg… ”

(Although with Mac that’s more likely to be Ferrari Winking smile)

So what am I saying here? Well firstly, compare Apples with Apples. Windows does not have to be all about badly configured GPOs, bloated images, 100s of driver sets because you can’t control the hardware catalogue and greater security than Fort Knox. There is many new technologies available in the Windows space that can enhance your device strategy and give you all the benefits of Windows whilst improving the usability and performance, such as:

  • Windows 10 AutoPilot
  • Microsoft Intune
  • Azure Active Directory
  • Azure AD Premium
  • Enterprise Mobility + Security
  • Office 365

You don’t have to configure things like you’ve always configured them. Take a look at the new technologies that Microsoft has made available. Yes, they won’t fit all use cases, but they should form part of a new strategy. This will help you to compare fairly against Mac, and I’d bet my last dollar you can come out favourably in a Mac TCO battle Smile

…And in any case, even if you move to Mac, you’ll still have to fork out for Windows licensing, as everybody I know uses Parallels to run it as a VM anyway.