Home > Sample chapters

Preparing for Windows Server 2012 R2

Lesson 2: Assessing the readiness of your environment

The assessment phase is an important step of any server migration project. During this phase, you assess the readiness of your environment for the deployment of Windows Server 2012 R2. A key aspect of this phase is determining whether your current server hardware and the hardware you plan to purchase will support running Windows Server 2012 R2 and the various server roles and features you need to deploy in your environment. As this lesson demonstrates, performing such an assessment can be done in various ways, using different types of tools.

Manual assessment

If your current server infrastructure is very small (only a handful of servers), you can perform a manual assessment by using the documentation that came with your server hardware, viewing and recording server BIOS information, exporting system configuration information by using msinfo32.exe, inventorying roles and features by using the Get-WindowsFeature cmdlet of Windows PowerShell, and performing similar types of procedures. Once you have compiled information about your servers, you can validate them against the hardware requirements for the different Windows Server 2012 R2 editions.

Windows Server 2012 R2 editions

Microsoft has simplified the licensing model with Windows Server 2012 R2 by eliminating the Enterprise edition of previous versions of Windows Server. In addition, the Standard and Datacenter editions that are designed for midsized and large organizations now have feature parity, and they are both licensed by processor plus Client Access License (CAL). The only difference between the Standard and Datacenter editions is the virtualization rights included with the license:

  • Standard edition This edition provides full Windows Server functionality with two virtual instances.
  • Datacenter edition This edition provides full Windows Server functionality with unlimited virtual instances. The Datacenter edition also includes a new feature called Automatic Virtual Machine Activation (AVMA) that helps ensure Windows products are used in accordance with the Product Use Rights and Microsoft Software License Terms. AVMA enables you to install virtual machines on a properly activated Hyper-V host running Windows Server 2012 R2 without having to manage the product keys for each individual virtual machine. AVMA works even in disconnected environments and provides real-time reporting on usage and historical data on the license state of virtual machines.

In addition to the Standard and Datacenter editions, two other editions of Windows Server 2012 R2 are available that are designed for more specialized use:

  • Essentials edition This edition is intended for small business environments and includes a simpler interface, preconfigured connectivity to cloud-based services, a 25-user and 50-device limit, and no virtualization rights.
  • Foundation edition This edition is an economical, general-purpose server released through OEM channels only and has a 15-user account limit and no virtualization rights.

Further discussion of these two editions is beyond the scope of this book.

System requirements

The minimum system requirements for installing the Standard and Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2012 R2 are as follows:

  • A 1.4-gigahertz (GHz), 64-bit processor
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • 32 GB of available disk space
  • A network adapter card
  • A graphics adapter that supports Super VGA (1024 × 768) or higher resolution

Bear in mind that performance depends upon hardware, and your servers will need to exceed these minimum requirements to provide acceptable performance in most scenarios. For example, if you plan to install MAP 9.0 on your server to perform an assessment of your environment, you will need system hardware that meets the following minimum requirements:

  • A dual-core, 1.5 GHz processor
  • 2.0 GB of RAM
  • 1 GB of available disk space
  • A network adapter card
  • A graphics adapter that supports Super VGA (1024 × 768) or higher resolution

In addition, the inventory, assessment, and reporting performance of MAP are based primarily on the speed of the CPU and the amount of available RAM of the computer on which MAP is installed.

Windows Server Catalog

If you plan to purchase new system hardware and deploy Windows Server 2012 R2 on such hardware, you can assess the readiness of the new hardware before you purchase it by using the Windows Server Catalog website shown in Figure 1-2, which identifies system and peripheral hardware from different vendors that has been certified for Windows Server 2012 R2. For more information, see http://www.windowsservercatalog.com.

FIGURE 1-2

FIGURE 1-2 Use the Windows Server Catalog website to assess whether hardware has been certified for Windows Server 2012 R2.

Using the MAP Toolkit

The Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit is an inventory, assessment, and reporting tool you can use to assess your current IT infrastructure and determine the right Microsoft technologies for your business needs. MAP uses Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS), SMS Provider, and other technologies to collect data from your environment and inventory hardware, software, and operating systems. MAP does this without installing any agent software on the target devices. MAP then provides you with an analysis of the collected data to help you plan for server migration, desktop refresh, server consolidation through virtualization, or cloud-capacity and migration.

The latest version, MAP 9.0, can help simplify the planning process for migration to the following Microsoft platforms:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 7
  • Microsoft Office 2013
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Windows Volume Licensing usage tracking
  • Remote Desktop Services Licensing usage tracking
  • Microsoft SharePoint 2013 usage tracking
  • Microsoft Exchange 2013 usage tracking
  • Microsoft Lync 2013 usage tracking
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 usage tracking
  • System Center Configuration Manager 2012 usage tracking
  • Windows Azure Virtual Machines
  • Server and Cloud Enrollment (SCE)
  • Software inventory by means of Software ID tags

As Figure 1-3 shows, there are six phases involved in using MAP to perform an assessment of your environment. The first four phases are steps you need to perform before you run MAP in your environment. The final two phases involve running MAP to perform the assessment and generate a report of the results.

FIGURE 1-3

FIGURE 1-3 Six phases are involved in performing an assessment using MAP.

Phase 1: Choose goals

In this phase, you familiarize yourself with the different inventory, assessment, capacity planning, and software-usage tracking scenarios that MAP supports. You decide which wizards to use and what selections to make in these wizards.

Phase 2: Gather requirements

MAP uses various collection protocols to communicate with devices on your network to collect data to use in performing the various assessments. Because the communications performed by these protocols are subject to the administration and security settings of your environment, you must gather the user accounts and passwords needed to connect to and successfully inventory the devices in your environment prior to running MAP. In this phase, you gather this information required to configure MAP.

Phase 3: Prepare environment

MAP uses several different communication protocols based upon your goals and how your environment is configured. These include WMI, Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS), SQL Server commands, VMware Web services, and SSH with remote shell commands. In this phase, you prepare your environment to ensure that MAP can successfully connect to and gather information from the target machines in your environment.

Phase 4: Install the MAP Toolkit

In this phase, you download and install MAP using the options that best suit your environment and goals. The latest version of MAP is available as a free download from the Microsoft Download Center at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?&id=7826.

Phase 5: Collect data

key.jpg

In this phase, you use MAP to gather information about your environment. Figure 1-4 shows the new user interface of MAP, which has been redesigned starting with MAP 8.0. On the left is a navigation pane that enables you to choose from a list of scenario groups. A scenario group is a set of related scenarios for which you can collect inventory data and perform other kinds of assessment tasks.

FIGURE 1-4

FIGURE 1-4 The Overview screen of MAP shows that no assessment has been run yet for the environment.

The initial item in the navigation pane is called Overview, and it provides a high-level overview of all the data collected in your environment, short descriptions of the different kinds of scenarios for which you can perform assessments, and a list of supporting resources. The Overview screen shown in Figure 1-4 indicates that no assessment has been performed yet. If an assessment had already been performed, an Environment Summary tile would provide a brief summary of the results of the assessment.

To start your first assessment, you can just click the Perform An Inventory item under Where To Start on the Overview page. This launches the Inventory And Assessment Wizard, as shown in Figure 1-5. This wizard walks you through a series of pages on which you can select one or more inventory scenarios, configure discovery methods, specify Active Directory credentials, and perform other actions to configure how the assessment will be performed.

FIGURE 1-5

FIGURE 1-5 Select the Windows computers for assessment in the environment.

The Inventory And Assessment Wizard is not the only wizard available to you in MAP. There is also the Performance Metrics Wizard, which you can use to collect performance data such as CPU, memory, network, and disk utilization information. MAP enables you to collect such data for Windows servers and clients and for Linux- or UNIX-based servers. MAP then uses the collected performance data to perform capacity planning for scenarios such as server consolidation and desktop virtualization.

To demonstrate the capabilities of MAP, I’m going to use it to try to discover all of the Windows computers currently present in my test lab. Figure 1-5 shows the Inventory Scenarios page of the Inventory And Assessment Wizard with Windows Computers selected for assessment in my environment.

As the next page called Discovery Methods shows in Figure 1-6, there are a variety of methods MAP can use for discovering Windows computers in an environment. You could import a list of names of computers you want to assess from a text file. You could specify a range of IP addresses on your network and scan these addresses for the presence of Windows computers. Or you could query Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) for a list of Windows computers in an Active Directory forest. I’ve chosen this last option for this walkthrough.

FIGURE 1-6

FIGURE 1-6 Query Active Directory for computer names.

The Active Directory Credentials page shown in Figure 1-7 is used to specify credentials that MAP can use to connect to Active Directory to retrieve the names of Windows computers in the forest. The remaining wizard pages may vary depending upon the options selected on previous pages.

FIGURE 1-7

FIGURE 1-7 Specify credentials for connecting to Active Directory.

After you finish the wizard, the process of performing inventory and assessment of the environment takes place. Figure 1-8 shows MAP discovering the Windows computers in my test lab.

FIGURE 1-8

FIGURE 1-8 Computer discovery is currently underway.

When the inventory and assessment process finishes, the Environment screen provides summary information concerning the results of the inventory and assessment process. As Figure 1-9 shows, MAP discovered six computers in my test lab and identified three of these as Windows Server machines. MAP was unable to identify the nature of the other three computers because Active Directory was used for discovery and the other computers are not domain-joined.

FIGURE 1-9

FIGURE 1-9 The Environment screen shows the results of computer discovery.

Clicking the Windows Environment tile, as shown in Figure 1-9, enables you to drill down to view more detail about the Windows computers in my environment. Figure 1-10 shows this as the Windows Environment Summary screen. The pie chart indicates that two of the three Windows servers are physical machines and the third is a virtual machine. However, this screen does not tell which of my servers is running as a virtual machine. I need to generate a report as described next to view that level of detail.

FIGURE 1-10

FIGURE 1-10 The environment contains both physical and virtual machines.

Phase 6: Review reports

The final phase of the process is using MAP to generate reports. MAP can generate different kinds of reports depending on the scenario group selected and the way you configure assessment to be performed. For example, clicking the Generate Windows Environment Report option at the top right of Figure 1-10 causes MAP to generate a comma-separated values (.csv) file containing the detailed results of the assessment. This .csv file can then be opened in Microsoft Excel, as shown in Figure 1-11, for review and further analysis. From this figure, I can determine that the server named SRV180 is a virtual machine running Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise edition as its guest operating system.

FIGURE 1-11

FIGURE 1-11 The highest level of detail is found in the reports MAP generates.

Other tools and methodologies

Besides using MAP or performing a manual assessment, there are other tools and methodologies you can use to assess the readiness of your environment for migration to Windows Server 2012 R2. The tools you can use include the following:

  • System Center Configuration Manager System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager provides a comprehensive solution for change and configuration management for the Microsoft platform. Configuration Manager enables you to deploy operating systems, software applications, and software updates throughout your organization; monitor hardware and software inventory; monitor and remediate computers for compliance settings; and even remotely administer computers. By using Configuration Manager, you can collect detailed information about the hardware of client devices in your organization, including servers managed by Configuration Manager, and then use this information to determine Windows Server 2012 R2 migration readiness. Configuration Manager hardware inventory runs on devices managed by SCCM according to a schedule you specify in the client settings on the device. For more information on performing inventory by using Configuration Manager, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg682202.
  • Third-party products If you are using a third-party systems-management product for managing the hardware and software infrastructure of your organization, you will likely be able to use the product to assess the readiness of your environment for migration to Windows Server 2012 R2, provided that your systems-management product is up to date. There are also third-party dedicated inventory and assessment products available from different vendors that you can use if desired.
  • Outside help If you feel you need help assessing the readiness of your environment for migration to Windows Server 2012 R2, you can engage Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) and/or Microsoft Services Premier Support to assist you with this process and also with the migration itself if you feel it’s needed. For more information, see http://www.microsoft.com/microsoftservices/en/us/home.aspx.

Lesson summary

  • If your current server infrastructure is very small, you can perform a manual assessment of your Windows Server 2012 R2 migration readiness.
  • You can perform a manual assessment by using vendor-supplied documentation, built-in tools, information about Windows Server 2012 R2 editions and system requirements on Microsoft’s website, and the Windows Server Catalog.
  • For larger environments, version 9.0 of MAP helps you perform inventory, assessment, and reporting so that you can assess the readiness of your environment for migration to Windows Server 2012 R2.
  • Assessing your environment using MAP involves six phases: choosing goals, gathering requirements, preparing your environment, installing MAP, collecting data, and reviewing reports.
  • You can also use System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager, third-party products, and even outside help to assess your Windows Server 2012 R2 migration readiness.

Lesson review

Answer the following questions to test your knowledge of the information in this lesson. You can find the answers to these questions and explanations of why each answer choice is correct or incorrect in the “Answers” section at the end of this chapter.

  1. Which tool can help you ensure that new hardware you purchase will work properly with Windows Server 2012 R2?

    1. The msinfo32.exe utility
    2. The Get-WindowsFeature cmdlet
    3. System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager
    4. The Windows Server Catalog
  2. During which of the six phases of performing an assessment using MAP would you ensure that MAP can successfully connect to and gather information from the target machines in your environment?

    1. Phase 2: Gather requirements
    2. Phase 3: Prepare environment
    3. Phase 4: Install MAP
    4. Phase 5: Collect data
  3. When you generate reports after performing a Windows Server 2012 R2 readiness assessment using MAP, where can you find information about the IP address and current operating system installed on each system inventoried?

    1. On the Overview screen of the MAP user interface
    2. On the Environment screen of the MAP user interface
    3. On the Windows Environment Summary screen of the MAP user interface
    4. In the Windows Environment Report .csv file, which you can open to view in Microsoft Excel