Mailbox filling up harddisk? Turn Off Cached Exchange Mode

Microsoft OutlookThis came up in conversation at work earlier today- a user has connected to their own mailbox and those of other staff. They now have a whopping 35GB of Outlook files on their workstation. They are having performance issues. Here’s a 30-second highlight of the solution.

Solution: Turn off Cached Exchange Mode in Outlook, reduce the timespan mail is retained locally, or choose not to cache the shared mailboxes.

What is Cached Exchange Mode?
Cached Exchange Mode is used in Outlook to download a local copy of a mailbox on the workstation to allow for offline use. This is the default behaviour when connecting to Exchange and is great for most users, and in particular if you have a poor or intermittent network connection. However when used by people using massive mailboxes it can take up a lot of local hard drive space- you’ll spot some large “.OST” files in the users profile-  and Microsoft advise that performance can become an issue on large (>25GB) mailboxes.

Example:
My (default) settings on a workstation look like the screenshot below- Cached Exchange Mode is turned on and set to download the last 12 months of data from all mailboxes I connect to with that account and also the GAL. If I look in C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook I see that I have an OST file weighing in just under 1.5GB however my mailbox on the Exchange Server (Office365) is 10GB in size. With these settings I can access all the mail I need to, and if I need to look up anything earlier it goes off to the server to retrieve it- this process is barely noticable if I’m connected to the internet.

If I need to reclaim some local disk space, or hit performance issues, I can reduce this local retention time or disable Cached Exchange Mode altogether.

Cached Exchange Mode Settings


Advert:
VMware vExpert 2017

#vExpert 2017 Award

I’m honored to again be a member of VMware’s vExpert program following the 2017 award announcement yesterday evening.

[vExperts are] people who were particularly engaged with their community and who had developed a substantial personal platform of influence in those communities.

This idea of technical community is core to the award, and something that I believe VMware foster extremely well. The (separate but related) VMUG organisation is obviously a large part of this- I’m a regular at the London events – and between that and VMworld there’s the opportunity to meet fellow professionals in person. The vExpert Slack Channel is always busy but the wider VMware online community extends from Cloud Credibility, VMTN, VMware {code} and out into all the independent forums and blogs. Not forgetting Twitter of course.

So, much more to come from me through the next year and I look forward to continuing to be an active member of the vCommunity.

#vBeers – trying out a new gathering

vBeer1

vBeers- “an opportunity for virtualization enthusiasts and professionals to meet and enjoy discussing all things virtualization and anything else in the world of tech”

vbeers.org

Over the past year or so I’ve bumped into a number of fellow virtualisation pro’s in the community who live in the commuter belt around London. We’ve often met up for a #vBeer or two in the capital, and I’ve floated the idea of a “vBeers in the Country”- i.e. evening meetups in a pub to talk tech but held outside of the M25. The suggestion was generally well received, so I set about putting something together. Here’s an insight into went on to organise this in case anyone finds it useful in putting on their own event.

Working out Availability

imageWhilst I could have gone with the option of “My local, two weeks on Wednesday”, I decided to try and find out when people were usually available and where they were likely to travel to for a meetup. That way we could organise something with potentially better attendance. I chose a selection of locations that I could get to by train (I thought it would be nice if I could go too 🙂 ) and put together a survey on Google Forms to find out what night the majority of respondents would be available, and where they would be interested in going to.

Picking a time and a place

We had a number of responses, and the results clearly pointed to a Thursday night in Guildford being the favoured option. Picking a particular Thursday was the next step. I was keen to avoid clashing with other tech events (local VMUGs, Cloud Camps, AWSome Days, etc.) that people might be interested in, and also avoiding January – paychecks are often stretched that month and some people join in with the “Dry January” events for charitable or health reasons which don’t necessarily play well with an evening in a pub.

Next up was picking a suitable venue. Guildford is lucky to have a number of nice public houses and many are close to the train station. Carefully navigating the calendars of the various hostelries I discovered that one of the nice riverside pubs, the Britannia, was open for food and drink and didn’t have a band or pub quiz happening on the evening in question. One twitter and email chat later and the nice staff there even reserved a table for us- and seemed happy with my “I’ve no idea how many people will turn up” position.

Getting the word out

imageThe vBeers.org website (“Where vGeeks Come To Meet”) was my first point of call following a suggestion from Jane Rimmer.  Once the page there was published I started getting the word out on the Twitters and via tech Slack groups I’m in. We also had a London VMUG event before the date and Simon Gallagher kindly plugged the event in his opening slides and it gave me the opportunity to tell people in person.

The Results

Well, after a nervous 15 minutes sat in the pub wondering if I’d be spending the evening on my own with a beer (hey, even failure has it’s benefits!) Dave and Andy, both friends and fellow vExperts from the London VMUG, were the first to arrive and the evening got going. In amongst some excellent food and drink we discussed all manner of things technical- from the new VMware releases to our latest war stories and (as Andy was bribed with points to come along) the current batch of CloudCred tasks.

What Next?

Whilst the number of attendees wasn’t massive I think we all had a good time, so I’d like to carry on the idea and see if it grows. I’ll be thinking about organising another event later in the year, possibly moving the location around- if anyone knows of a nice country pub with good food, good beer, and a garden which is close to a station let me know and we might go there in the summer. Cheers!

London VMUG January 2017

Last week saw the first London VMware User Group of the year, another great meetup with many of the usual faces along with some new ones. This was another informative event at the TechUK site just off Fleet Street, and was again very community orientated. If you want to go and find out how people are using VMware products (and others in the surrounding ecosystem) then I’d thoroughly recommend these events- there’s just the right balance between real technical accounts direct from the coalface and marketing of new and interesting products

Rubrik

After introductions the sessions were kicked off with sponsors Rubrik showcasing their data protection tools and how they scale to support a virtual environment. It’s an impressive setup- Rubrik nodes within an organisation take policy driven backups of the virtual environment, their differentiator is the ability to spin up backups for test/DR purposes direct from the node- making restores almost instant. Entire VMs or individual files,SQL Tables, or exchange mailboxes can be live mounted from the device without the need for a separate restore step first. The on-premises nodes can be backed by AWS/Azure cloud storage for long term retention purposes.

vSphere 6.5 What’s new, what’s cool

Next up was Paul Nothard from VMware to talk through the new features of the latest vSphere. In true “Top Gear” styleee, Paul (and his glamorous assistant) used a Cool Wall to allow the audience to rate some of the new additions. Unsurprisingly, most of the features landed down the “Cool”/”Seriously Cool” end of the board- built-in vCenter Server Appliance HA, Encrypted VMs and vMotion, improvements in the VCSA monitoring capabilities, and good migration from earlier versions of vSphere for example. I do feel that some of the new features are perhaps only considered cool because of the uncool designs in some of their predecessors- the HTML5 client is cool because of the much-maligned Flash client it replaces, and the integrated VUM in vCenter Server Appliances is great but possibly it’s coolness is heightened by the awkward situation before where VUM required a separate Windows server.

An Admins Guide to AWS

A packed house saw the first community session of the day where Chris Porter and Alex Galbraith took the stage to give us an introduction to AWS. The pair covered all the fundamentals of the cloud architecture- from setting your account up (top tip- remember to enable MFA!) through to the networking, storage, and compute offerings. They also highlighted some of the different thinking required when deploying an application to AWS rather than an on-premises vSphere environment- using load balancing as vMotion is not available for example, and taking advantage of the incredible scaling abilities the worlds biggest public cloud offers.

image

 

StorMagic

After lunch I attended the second sponsor session, this time from StorMagic- talking about software defined storage and where their SvSAN product sits in the maturing hyperconverged marketplace. SvSAN sits as a Virtual Storage Appliance on 2 or more nodes (with a remote witness to avoid Split-Brain problems) within a Virtual Environment. Their take is that compared to VMware’s vSAN which sits in the hypervisor, the VSA approach allows more flexibility on storage and can even be hypervisor agnostic. StorMagic highlight their ability to measure storage needs and therefore size a storage solution close to the customers needs- meeting the demands but minimising wastage by playing to the strengths of each storage medium available.

image

PaaS

For my final session I chose Ricky El-Qasem’s PaaS marathon. Ricky guided us through the basics of microservices, Pivotal Cloud Foundry, 12-factor Cloud Native apps. He told us how PaaS was coming out of it’s niche and into the mainstream. The architecture of cloud native apps is API-driven and designed around scalability, not storing data locally (and hard-coded UNC paths to Access databases are now frowned upon 🙂 ), and microservices each doing a small task and capable of working independently of each other. Of the analogies used, the one that fit best for me was being able to fix/replace/upgrade a single carriage (microservice) on a train (application), rather than the entire train.

Ricky has also prepared a quick install guide for anyone who wants to try out CloudFoundry in their lab- PCF-Quick-Install-Guide-1.pdf

Thanks

Thanks to the sponsors Rubrik, iland, and StorMagic, and in particular to the London VMUG Committee who volunteer their time to put these events on. The next London VMUG will be on the 6th April 2017.

rubrik_logo     iland_logo     stormagic_logo

Checking Encryption Status of Remote Windows Computers

Using the manage-bde command you can check the Bitlocker encryption status on both the local Windows computer but also remote devices on the local area network. For example, to check the encryption status of the C: drive on the computer “WS12345” the following command could be used

manage-bde -status -computername WS12345 C:

and the results might look something like this:

BitLocker Drive Encryption: Configuration Tool version 10.0.14393
Copyright (C) 2013 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Computer Name: WS12345

Volume C: [OSDisk]
[OS Volume]

Size:                 237.99 GB
BitLocker Version:    2.0
Conversion Status:    Fully Encrypted
Percentage Encrypted: 100.0%
Encryption Method:    AES 256 with Diffuser
Protection Status:    Protection On
Lock Status:          Unlocked
Identification Field: None
Key Protectors:
    Numerical Password
    TPM

Expanding on this we could wrap some PowerShell around the command and read in a list of hostnames from a text file and report on the encryption status of each.

Firstly we need to format the output of manage-bde to only show us the value of the “Conversion Status” field- PowerShell’s string manupulation can come in handy here- we can locate the “Conversion Status” line, check that it is present (if the computer is not on the network, or access is denied the manage-bde command will not return a status), and then trim back the line so we only have the value of the field. For example:

#Check the Encryption Status of the C: drive, filter to the Conversion Status line
$EncryptionStatus=(manage-bde -status -computername "$hostname" C: | where {$_ -match 'Conversion Status'})
#Check a status was returned.
if ($EncryptionStatus)
{
  #Status was returned, tidy up the formatting
  $EncryptionStatus=$EncryptionStatus.Split(":")[1].trim()
}
else
{
  #Status was not returned. Explain why in the output
  $EncryptionStatus="Not Found On Network (or access denied)"
}

Once this is working, it’s just a case of reading in the text file using the get-content cmdlet and outputting a result. The full code (Get-EncryptionStatus.ps1) I used is available for downloading and/or improving on GitHub here- https://github.com/isjwuk/get-encryptionstatus

Dell Latitude Numbering- 2017 Edition

Ever wondered what those four-digit model numbers used on Dell Latitude devices (for example “Latitude 7275”) mean? This helpful guide should answer your questions.

Dell Latitude Laptop

First Digit

This shows the range the device belongs to. 3 is used the entry level “Essential” models, 5 on the mid range “Mainstream”, and 7 the high end “Premium” devices. Also referred to as the 3000, 5000, and 7000 series.

Second Digit

The second number indicates the screen size. A 2 means the screen is roughly 12” diagonal, 3 means 13”, 4 means 14” and so on. For example the Latitude 7280 has a 12.5” inch screen

Third Digit

The third digit indicates the generation. At time of writing (Jan 2017) we’re currently seeing the tail of the generation 7 models (primarily based on the Intel Skylake chipsets), and the start of the generation 8 (primarily “Kaby Lake” but some Skylake devices will be available for Windows 7 compatibility)being released. Models are roughly equivalent between generations- for example the 7270 is superseded by the 7280 both are premium laptops with roughly 12 inch screens.

Fourth Digit

The final digit currently denotes the type of device. A 0 indicates a traditional laptop, a 5 indicates a device with a detachable keyboard (the style of the Microsoft Surface Pro)- for example the Latitude 7275, and a 9 indicates the new convertible, fold-back, device (similar in style to the Lenovo Yoga devices).

2016, a year of industry friendliness

You may have seen various posts in blogs and social media over the past few days about VMware staff accounts being blocked from joining the Nutanix community website, and the VMware User Group- VMUG- blocking Nutanix staff from leadership committees. I’m not party to the detail or the reasons behind these moves, but I’m surprised at the developments with the backdrop of 2016’s collaborative direction. As an industry we managed so well being friendly in 2016 despite the divisive world landscape with things like the US Election and Brexit, what happened over the Christmas break to mess this up? Here’s a few things I picked up on in the past year which paint a picture of much more inter-vendor friendliness, hopefully the issues in this particular case will be ironed out quickly and we can revert to business as usual.

VMware (and Amazon Web Services)

VMware’s 2016 announcement that you will soon be able to run their hypervisor on AWS may have rubbed a few of the vCloud Air vendors the wrong way by picking a collaboration with their biggest competitor. However, look at the positives- VMware are creating a standard platform whereby customers can take the workloads they run on AWS and port them to one of the smaller vendors if it makes sense to do so. This could even be automated- if AWS is more expensive in a particular month than another provider, some or all of the customers workloads can be migrated across.

The Dell purchase of EMC (and therefore VMware) had a few people worried that the hardware side of the VMware ecosystem would be destroyed- DellEMC would push their own traditional , storage, compute tin and hyperconverged platforms at the expense of the competition. Both Michael Dell and Pat Gelsinger have been consistent in their message that this won’t happen.

There’s also other good signs from VMware with their VM encryption package in vSphere. Rather than providing a VMware Key Management System, or insisting on an application provided elsewhere under the Dell Technologies umbrella- the requirement is just for a KMIP compliant service.

Microsoft Loves Everything

Microsoft also surprised a few people with their friendly approach to former competition recently- even to the extent that Steve Jobs and Amazon’s Alexa featured prominently in a Keynote at a recent Microsoft event I attended.

We’ve seen for some time that Microsoft Loves Linux  and Open Source. And these days they get on pretty well with Apple and Google these days, focusing on their flagship applications on Android, iOS, and MacOS and sometimes adding features there ahead of their own OS.

#VMUGgate

So, I hope this current grumbling between Nutanix and VMware either turns out to be nothing or everyone turns around and agrees to just get on. The London VMUG team sound like they agree:

Events Calendar 2016-2017

It’s that time of year again, when we change the calendar on the wall, look back at what happened in the previous 12 months, and look forward to what might be coming in the next 12. Here’s some of the in-person events I enjoyed in the last year and some rough plans for 2017. The right sort of in-person events are a great opportunity to get out of the office, learn about new and existing technologies, and meet your peers. I find such events invaluable in my day job to avert the risk of living in a tech-bubble, doing things how they’ve always been done, and only using the kit that my preferred supplier’s sales department recommends.

 

2016

Aside from my playing far too much Minecraft, I went to lots of exciting places in 2016, for example……

VMworld Europe 2016
I was here as an official Blogger seeing (amongst other things) the release of vSphere 6.5. I also managed to squeeze in my first vBrownbag presentation – I think adding “International Conference Speaker” to my CV might be a little excessive, but it was a great opportunity.

VMUG
This was the first year that I made it to the full set of London VMUG meetings, culminating in the annual UK UserCon in Birmingham in November. At the UserCon I chaired a roundtable discussion about IT in Higher Education.

Insight Technology Show – I’ve been to this annual springtime event in London for many years now as it’s a great opportunity to see lots of different vendors in one day all under one roof. This years’ was a bit of a more subdued affair (I’m guessing because of the economic climate), but a useful day out none the less.

-Microsoft tech day in February titled- “What’s new in Windows Server 2016: Building a more flexible infrastructure”. A great Hands-on event

Microsoft Future Decoded returned to the Excel centre in November, I attended the Technical Day. Future Decoded has an interesting mix of content- in a breakout session you can watch SCCM and SQL Server being deployed with PowerShell, and then walk into the Keynote and hear about how scientists are able to detect sound from silent video footage (Watch this TED presentation)

 

2017

The following year has some good events already in the calendar, more of the same and maybe even something new. I’m hoping to make as many as possible:

VMworld 2017The European leg has been moved from it’s usual slot in October to 11-14 September and is again in Barcelona.

London VMUG – Dates are 19th January, 6th April, 22nd June and I expect a UK VMUG Usercon to follow in November.

I’m also trying to put together a local vBeers event – out in the “Countryside” rather than in London. Details to follow, event will hopefully be in February.

Microsoft pulled their big European tech conference back in 2014 and there doesn’t look like any hopes of a resurrection (especially as even more conferences are being folded into Ignite), but there’s usually some good content at the smaller scale local events.

And who knows what else the year will bring?

ESXi UNMAP not working on Replicated EqualLogic Volume

Symptoms

  • The VMware vSphere ESXi UNMAP command doesn’t release space on some or all volumes on a Dell EqualLogic SAN array running v8 firmware (may apply to other versions too). Using the following command in an SSH session to a 6.0u2 host (again, will apply to other versions):
    esxcli storage vmfs unmap –l MYVOLUMENAME
  • The volumes are VMFS5 (and always have been- they haven’t been upgraded from VMFS3).
  • Replication is enabled for the volumes that won’t rethin.

image

Cause

UNMAP doesn’t work on the EqualLogic when Replication is enabled. It doesn’t return an error to the SSH session, and the temporary rethinning file is still created, but the disk is not thinned.

Solution

Disable replication on the volume, re-thin the volume using the UNMAP command, then re-configure replication. Unfortunately this means the entire volume must be re-copied to the replication partner and this may impact bandwidth usage and replication schedules on larger volumes.

image

Learning with Minecraft

There’s been a lot of coverage in the press about teaching with Minecraft- Microsoft even releasing an Educational version. So when the kids were set a homework project about “Super Structures” this got me thinking- let’s give Minecraft a go to supplement the project work set by the teacher. The project brief was to produce an informational poster or model on a structure of their choice, in our case The Eiffel Tower and Big Ben (or at least the tower which contains the bell by that name to be pedantic). Suitable amounts of craft paper, lolly sticks, straws, matchsticks and PVA were obtained and they set about construction, but once that was done and the glue was drying they turned to the Xbox One.

image

I’d prepared for this and we sat down and spent some time building Minecraft impressions of our Super Structures. This led to discussions about the materials to use (or at least the colour and texture), how big to make the model, and the shapes of the buildings. For example we before building tall towers we noted that in this case they both have a square base, the Eiffel Tower is made of iron and looks dark grey/black, we need to make the base wide enough in each that we have space to slope in to a point at the top but not so wide that we spend all day piling blocks up to make them tall enough, and so on.

It also led to discussions about the differences between Minecraft and real life. Gravity and other forces aren’t as much of a factor in the Minecraft world, and Augustus Pugin and Charles Barry didn’t have to design their structures to withstand marauding Creepers.

A new superflat world had been set up in advance, using Creative Mode (so players have access to unlimited resources without spending hours digging underground) and with the difficulty set to Peaceful (so that players are not distracted by Zombies crossing Westminster Bridge). To give us a bit of setting a short length of both the Thames and the Seine were included along with some trees from Champ des Mars, although with more time I might have practised some better topiary.

Minecraft Screenshot

Big Ben, The Eiffel Tower, and some trees.

Once finished, flying around the landscape allowed some screenshots of their creations to be taken which could then be printed, cropped, and glued (real old-skool Cut-and-Paste) onto the posters.

I’m not a qualified teacher, and have no idea if this will directly get them “better marks” on their homework, but it definitely sparked some conversation about the design of the structures, their location and history, and the materials used, which is really the point of the exercise. For an hour or so we managed to play in Minecraft whilst getting a bit of extra education relevant to their schoolwork- remember Kids, Learning is Fun!