ESI Just Keeps Getting Better, Announcing Support for Microsoft Exchange & Replication

How do you improve on a free tool that simplifies storage provisioning for Microsoft workloads and already includes many advanced features such as virtualization, clustering and monitoring? You add support for Microsoft Exchange provisioning, Microsoft Database Availability Groups (DAG) and EMC RecoverPoint management…while still being free of charge!

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If you've read my posts before you'll know that I am a HUGE fan of EMC's Storage Integrator or ESI (see Exhibits A, B, C & D). ESI was originally created as a tool to simplify the storage creation and management in a Windows environment. By answering a few simple questions using the wizard based option, ESI will create a new storage LUN, set the proper disk alignment, format the drive and mount it in Windows all in a matter of minutes (or less than a minute). Additional versions provided virtualization support, System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) and Orchestrator (SCO) integration. And now with ESI 3.0, there is extended application and data protection support!

So why include support for Microsoft Exchange? Many customers are deploying consolidated storage for Microsoft Exchange workloads and while Microsoft promotes other server based deployment methods, customers do have large capacity requirements for Exchange and more users are considering virtualization as a way to consolidate all of the different servers especially when creating multiple copies of the database via Database Availability Groups.

ESI 3.0 takes aim at two birds with one stone – helping to simplify the management of storage creation for Exchange environments while also providing easy to use wizard based menus to extend DAG replication with EMC RecoverPoint. Even for customers who have already configured EMC storage for Exchange, ESI provides detailed information about the location of the database and log files such as the storage properties, the log file in use, if a database is being replicated and much more as seen in this screen shot.

Interested in creating a new storage drive for Exchange database and log files? Simply click on the Create Mailbox Database option and follow the wizard as seen in the following screenshot. At the end of the wizard the storage will be created, formatted and mounted with a new Exchange database deployed and available for use.

Creating a Mailbox Database Copy is also an easy process with selections such as specifying the type of replication whether it will be asynchronous or synchronous and then selecting the appropriate source and target pools. Once complete ESI will update the replication status in the main window and will update the Exchange server indicating that the database is being replicated by a non Exchange replication method.

Dbcopy

And if you have spent any time with the Exchange management tools in the last few versions you know that Microsoft has made all of the Exchange management operations available via PowerShell and encourages administrators to use these. ESI includes full PowerShell support for all of these operations including creating new mailbox databases, configuring failover or initiating a database failover from one site to another.

ESI 3.0 supports Exchange 2013 or Exchange 2010 SP3 for DAG support and EMC RecoverPoint/SE or EX version 4.0 with the applicable splitters for the EMC storage systems.

Where can you find more information?

Visit http://support.emc.com to download ESI or access the ESI product documentation (search for EMC Storage Integrator).

Also be sure to view the latest product announcement on the Everything Microsoft Page including an updated demo of the Exchange database wizard and configuring third party replication with RecoverPoint!

EMC & Microsoft TechEd 2013 Recap

Last week was Microsoft TechEd 2013 and what a show it was! Microsoft announced SQL Server 2014 including in-memory OLTP (or project "Hekaton") in addition to features such as big data analytics. Microsoft also announced changes to their Windows Azure pricing and R2 releases for Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012.

What generated the most buzz at TechEd? Significantly reduced pricing for Microsoft Surface tablets (Pro and RT) resulted in very long lines so attendees could get their hands on these hot items and according to a few people I talked to…then turn around and put them on eBay for a profit (no one ever accused an IT professional of not being smart).

We at EMC had a great week! I was able to meet with many customers and partners! EMC hosted a small intimate dinner with some of our customers on site and I had a great time talking to everyone there! I also had the chance to hang out with some of The Krewe, a great group of guys who get together every year at Microsoft TechEd to hang out, trade stories and build relationships!

The EMC breakout session was PACKED with standing room only! I'm not surprised considering our speaker Txomin Barturen, he is both technical and an excellent speaker. His session (MDC-B391, Practical Implementation of Windows Server 2012 Storage Technologies) covered many of the new features found in Windows Server 2012 and how EMC supports and extends these features. For instance, with ODX or Microsoft's Offloaded Data Transfer EMC has been able to reach transfer speeds of 25 Gigabytes per second! Wow!

Finally, EMC gave away fedora hats with blinking lights that were a hit! We had a huge line at the booth all week and I saw people wearing these hats on Bourbon Street all week and even people wearing them on my airplane ride home! In other words, EMC was everywhere!  

For a full overview of everything EMC at Microsoft TechEd, be sure to check out a couple of excellent video recaps by EMC's Sam Marraccini and Alex Almeida:

And for those of you in Europe who will be attending TechEd Europe in Madrid June 25th-28th, EMC will be there too so be sure to come by and see all of our latest demos or meet our on-site experts!

EMC, Microsoft TechEd & All That Jazz

Next week is Microsoft TechEd in New Orleans, LA and we at EMC are busy planning for a great show! TechEd is my favorite tradeshow because of its large size and the different type of people you can meet including infrastructure managers (virtualization, servers, network or storage), application specialists, developers and even IT management.

This year doesn't look like it will disappoint either. Microsoft has 9 different tracks covering everything from Cloud, Datacenter, Collaboration and Social, Windows client and Windows phone. Add in Birds of a Feather, Hands on Labs, Certifications, Ask the Experts, Jam Sessions and much more!

EMC is a platinum sponsor of TechEd and planning a big show as well! At the booth we are showcasing our support and integration for key Microsoft technologies including Hyper-V, System Center, Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track, Windows Server 2012 including ODX and SMB 3.0, Microsoft clustering, Exchange, SQL Server, and SharePoint to name just a few. The EMC booth will be featuring the following demo stations with top EMC specialists for all things EMC and Microsoft:

Accelerate to the Cloud

  • Flexible/ Cost-Effective Hyper-V Solutions
  • Optimize Performance with Tiering
  • Private Cloud Fast Track and EMC VSPEX

Datacenter Management

  • System Center 2012 Integration
  • Support for Windows Server 2012 ODX
  • Dynamically provision Exchange, SQL, SharePoint

Software-Defined Data Center

  • Deliver Application Aware Management Solutions
  • Simplify / Automate IT Infrastructure Management
  • Enable Self-service with policy-based Automation

Application & Cloud Protection

  • Build a trusted IT infrastructure
  • Smarter Backup and Archive
  • Deliver DVR-like recovery to any point in time

Building your schedule for the week? EMC has a breakout session entitled Practical Implementation of Windows Server 2012 Storage Technologies (MDC-B391) on Tuesday, June 4th at 1:30PM. This session will cover many of the new features of Windows Server 2012 and provide a series of demos to show the advantages to using EMC's integration and extension of Microsoft Windows.

EMC has plenty of fun prizes and giveaways planned for the booth! We'll be giving away fedora hats to ensure the attendees walk down Bourbon Street in style. We'll also have a fun prize pad game where you can spin the wheel and see what prize you win! We have plenty of different giveaways for everyone so come by and try your luck!

We'll also have a technical area called the Genius Bar where you can meet with any of the EMC Microsoft Specialists, have a whiteboard conversation or have a customized demo depending on what you are interested in. There will be "Tech Talks" scheduled every 30 minutes in the booth covering a variety of topics on EMC and Microsoft. These tech talks will be delivered by technical specialists and will include whiteboards, demos and dialog with whoever is there!

For more information, the full schedule of events and the schedule of Tech Talk topics – be sure to visit the Everything EMC for Microsoft TechEd 2013 page!

Finally are you a customer or partner coming to TechEd and you're interested to meet with one of our many Microsoft Specialists or product specialists who will be on-site? Feel free to drop me an email at Adrian.Simays@emc.com and I'll be happy to arrange some scheduled time with EMC! See you there!!

EMC VSPEX Solutions for Microsoft

What's blue, has six wheels and delivers highly available virtual Microsoft workloads?

That would be the Avnet Mobile Data Center Solution for EMC VSPEX voted one of the Top 10 Hot Products from EMC World according to CRN!

What makes the new mobile data center solution a top 10 product? It is pre-configured as a fully functional compute, network and storage solution allowing customers to have a virtual private cloud up and running in no time. It includes high-availability and disaster recovery so applications remain always available. It can be used as a long-term private cloud solution, as a temporary data center in the event of a disaster or to assist in a data center move.

At the heart of this device is VSPEX, EMC's program that combines the best of breed in virtualization software, server compute, networking stack and EMC storage arrays and backup devices. EMC VSPEX includes solutions for Microsoft workloads including Microsoft SharePoint, Exchange and SQL Server. EMC VSPEX is also key to programs such as the EMC Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track program.

The EMC VSPEX solution allows customers avoid the risks and complexity of building their own cloud infrastructures by providing simple, efficient, and flexible virtualization solutions that scale to meet their needs. VSPEX solutions are designed to provide the utmost in flexibility and because the solutions are tested and validated by EMC, they are proven to work so customers can deploy with them in confidence. Customers can even leverage existing hardware, software, licenses, and skill sets to build a VSPEX that is tailored to their specific needs and environment.

Included in the VSPEX program are technical documents such as solution overview, best practices, detailed technical validation, storage and virtualization design and layout information as well as sizing tools and solution whiteboard videos. In other words, all of the necessary components for EMC's partners to easily build and deploy an end to end fully functional virtual datacenter such as the one by Avent.

To learn more about the VSPEX program including the many Microsoft solutions, visit the VSPEX page on the EMC Community Network. There are several videos available on the program including one highlighting the Avnet Mobile Data Center solution in action and another providing an excellent whiteboard overview of the EMC VSPEX Microsoft SharePoint solution.

And if you're coming to Microsoft TechEd in just under two weeks, be sure to stop by the EMC booth to see and learn more about these solutions at the show! Stay tuned for more updates on Microsoft TechEd in the next few days!

Leveraging Flash Across the Microsoft SQL Server Stack

Earlier this week, EMC's Sam Marraccini wrote a guest blog on Microsoft's SQL Server team site highlighting the benefits of Flash technology with Microsoft SQL Server. In short, flash continues to be a game changer and with the introduction of EMC Xtrem products including XtremSF (PCIe server flash), XtremSW Cache (server side caching) and XtremIO (all Flash array) is helping to improve performance for key application workloads.

When using flash technology to either extend the cache of the storage array or using flash PCIe cards in the server itself (or even better, using both!) – you can dramatically increase the amount of total IOPS while also improving response times to sub-millisecond! Think about that, drive more I\O while significantly improving performance at the same time.

Interested to read more, be sure to check out Sam's blog post and be sure to come to the Solutions Group booth (#1035) or the Xtrem Flash booth at EMC World next week!