Microsoft Masterminds Episode 8: Aidan Finn, MVP (Most Valuable Professional) Virtual Machine from Ireland

Welcome to the new episode of tech talks with outstanding Microsoft community members from all over the world. Most interviews are with Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), and if you are not familiar with that program yet, I recommend you reading my recent introductory interview. In this episode I talk to Aidan Finn, a Ireland based MVP, Virtual Machine. I interviewed him during E2EVC in Hamburg and we were talking about his the books he wrote together with other MVPs, Hyper-V improvements and opportunities for Hardware Vendors. Enjoy reading!

This post has no relation to my job or my employer. Everything I post is my personal opinion and I write complete independent.

Editorial processing done by Rafael Knuth


Me left and Aidan right

Me left and Aidan right


Flo: Aidan, can you please introduce yourself and your company?

Aidan: I am an MVP in Virtual Machine; I am an author in my free time and a blogger about Hyper-V and System Center in Windows. I work for a company called Microwarehouse which is a Microsoft value added distributor and actually a seller of open licensing to Dell in Ireland.  My job is Technical Sales Lead; I also help promote Windows Server and Hyper-V System Center.

Flo:  You wrote together with Hans Vredevoort, Patrick Lownds and Damian Flynn an impressive book “Microsoft Cloud Computing” … tell us about that publication, please.

Aidan: It’s a deep technical book on using System Center Virtual Machine Manager to deploy and build and manage a private cloud, so you are building the fabrics of the private cloud compute cluster with storage and networking. I have to give the credit to Damian, Patrick and Hans, as they did most of the work in the book, to be honest I did a few of the fluff chapters of the cloud stuff at the start.

But like I said, it’s a deep technical book and if someone wants to learn how to use System Center 2012 Virutal Machine Manager to deploy and manage Hyper-V or to build bigger fabrics in the cloud and a compute cluster in a cloud … this book is a good starting point.

Flo: Do you plan further books in the nearest future?

Aidan: We are currently writing a book together with Patrick Lownds, Damian Flynn and Michel Luescher from Microsoft, titled “Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Installation and Configuration Guide” and it’s a deep, deep dive into current Hyper-V, and we expect the book to be out in February or March 2013.

It’s targeted both at people who are new to Hyper-V as well as to experienced users. I am writing half of the book and … when you look at Hyper-V … there is so much in it. Chapters that we expected to have 30 to 40 pages are turning out to be 80 pages long. In our book there will be a lot of step by step, how things work under the covers, we will tackle real world scenarios and … there will be a lot of PowerShell because Hyper-V has support for PowerShell.

Flo: I already had the chance to interview Jeff Wouters who has a very strong reputation as a PowerShell expert within the Microsoft community.

Aidan: Jeff has actually helped me with some problems I have been encountering, because I just started to learn PowerShell in March 2012. Only very few people know PowerShell … Jeff is definitely one of them.  Jeff will be getting credit in the book for the help he has given us.

Flo:  I know it’s not your focus area but let’s switch to System Center. How will System Center 2012 SP1 support the Windows Server 2012 release? Did you test drive some features? Can you share some first hands on experience?

Aidan: I didn’t have too much hands on, because I have been spending so much time working on Hyper-V … there is so much to it … it’s such a huge release.

But if you want to manage a number of Hyper-V hosts, the best way to do it will be using System Center 2012 with Service Pack 1.

Service Pack 1 is required to manage the 2012 release. If you want to use System Center you will need to wait for Service Pack 1 to support Windows Server 2012. Where you are really going to see the massive feature improvement or even new feature is in the cloud scenario. System Center Virtual Machine Manager is really required to light up those features like network virtualization, private VLANs

Although these can be managed using PowerShell … if you get Microsoft to talk quietly and honestly will say: “Yeah, you can do it using PowerShell … but you really don’t want to.  You will want System Center to manage these features because it is the cloud management and deployment solution for Microsoft’s technology.”

Flo:  Let us go back to Hyper-V. Do you miss any feature at the moment or features that should be improved? Also … what’s your view on VMware in that context?

Aidan: VMware … wow … I suppose history is a great teacher, and we all know what happened to Netscape and Novell. You don’t want to get into a knife fight with Microsoft in the datacenter because  it’s their territory. They are going to defend it, and Hyper-V has always been considered the underachiever or the underdog in the past. However, those tables have turned now. If you look coldly at the facts we can see that Hyper-V does more than ESXi. System Center does more and cost less than these vCloud packages that VMware sells. Microsoft at this point is the leading product, and I can’t see VMware really retaining the leadership in the market for very long. We already know in some European markets that Microsoft has actually started to outsell VMware. We saw that from Microsoft Turkey. The tables have definitely turned and we should see over the next year or two headlines about Fortune 1000 companies who VMware claims to have 100 % penetration of … we will start to see stories of these companies starting to migrate to Hyper-V. I don’t think we expect any big bang switch overs in those environments, because they are too big. But we will see gradual switch over, because people will look at the bottom line and say: “Listen, Hyper-V is free, System Center less expensive than the VMware package and … well Microsoft is now doing more. They understand what business wants from IT because … it’s all about the service and not about the servers.”

Flo: You mentioned servers … what do you think what role hardware vendors will play in the future? What challenges and opportunities do you see for these companies?

Aidan: Dell have actually done a great job with their current line of service, I have to say that. Their support for things like 10 GB networking, SR-IOV cross, almost the entire line of servers is fantastic, and the scalability you can achieve with 10 core processors or larger than that in just a 2U server with over  1 TB of RAM … it’s amazing.

Opportunities? I would love to see Dell do two things. Dell obviously sells networking infrastructure components for the datacenter. I would love to see them come along with a solution to extend their network footprint into the Hyper-V extensible switch and come up with an extension similar to those some other companies have done. There is an opportunity for Dell to expand their presence in the computer room and help Dell customers have a single point of administration for the network – both physical and virtual.

But the other thing I really, really hope Dell do, is come up with a Cluster in a Box solution that is good not just for the enterprise which is where most of the OEMs are focused,  but also for the SME. Where I come from Ireland, Dell has a very large market penetration in the SME. They have a lot of partners working with Dell and selling Dell hardware. These companies would love to sell a Cluster in a Box solution … as SAN alternatives. Small and medium business can’t afford SAN. But also as a Hyper-V Cluster in a Box … in a single 2 or 3U chassis … you have an entire Hyper-V cluster at a fraction of the cost of a traditional cluster. Small and medium customers have been putting in no cluster host, that’s what they can afford. This would be a great opportunity for Dell. If they do it quickly, they would be first to market. I would really hope that they do that.

Flo: Thank you very much for the interview, Aidan.

Aidan: You’re welcome, Flo.


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