MVA Challenge: ensuring Hyper-V is not lost in translation

The latest part of the Cloud Pro MVA challenge finds the editor hoping to get to grips with a new vocabulary.

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It's an experience that most people who have learned a new language have encountered.

You go into a situation in a foreign country confident that your linguistic skills will see you through, only to find that you're entering into conversations with a brand-new vocabulary and you're immediately struggling.

For example, I remember hitching a lift in Germany and chatting to the driver about his job he worked for the state health insurance agency and he completely lost me when he described the intricacies of his job.

That's the feeling I was having with the latest module from the Microsoft Virtual Academy. If you recall, I'm working my way through the virtualisation course and am inviting all readers to join me, trying to beat my score - I'm currently 425th in the UK's rankings. Remember, the best contestant will also win a Lenovo laptop and De Longhi coffee machine.

The subject matter of the course this week was networking, something that I felt pretty confident about. I know networking: I've written about it for years; done the Cisco CCNA course and set up plenty of routers and switches in my time. But I immediately found myself handling a brand new vocabulary and was transported back to the German health insurance scheme incident.

But then, that's why the Microsoft Virtual Academy is so useful: it's a chance to learn new concepts at your own pace. And, if you miss something or want to hear something again, it's easy to rewind the video and replay the relevant passage. All too often within the IT world, jargon is lightly used, with little attempt at explanation, by explaining everything so clearly and distinctly, students can insure that they're fully up-to-speed.

Of course, there's nothing stopping me (or anyone else) reading books or looking things up on the web. Indeed, I do that too. But the reason that the Virtual Academy works well is that it's that mixture of speech and slides, couple with on-screen demonstration that complement text-based learning and hands on learning via the Microsoft downloads.

In this week's courses the concepts came thick and fast. Teaming running two cables into a single host (it's a word I'd heard before but not got round to working out what it meant). Virtual Machine Chimney, an evocative phrase, describes a method by which VM Chimney in Hyper-V allows a VM to offload its network processing load onto the NIC of the host computer.

In the last video, there was a big chunk of time taken up with Dynamic Memory, which came out with SP1. This is an important feature that makes it easier to assign memory when setting up virtual machines. This was something I had come across before but it was instructive to see it presented in more detail.

In a demo, co-presenter Correy Hynes shows that all applications are allocated 512K from the start as he now no longer needs to calculate how much RAM to assign. What happens now is that Hyper V figures out what the application is using and issues more RAM if it's needed.

He also explains memory weight the method that assigns value to applications, this means that some applications could have RAM taken away from them if they run up against an application that has a higher priority.

Dynamic Memory is an important feature as a virtual machine rarely uses all of its allocated hardware resources all of the time. What has happened in the past is that IT admins have set VMs with more resources than are actually needed this is not an efficient way of working. By using Dynamic Memory, resources can be spread to where they're needed meaning that hosts are used more efficiently.

All of these operations are presented on-screen with a chance to see how the Hyper-V GUI operates. And, as such, we students are given a much clearer understanding of the whole process.

The only issue that I have with the Hyper-V Deployment module is that there's a lot of it to learn for the self-assessment test. Previous modules were based on one or two videos: this one has five and some of them are very dense.

I'll take the self-assessment test in the next few days. I want to have another look at the last two courses again and get more acquainted with SCVMM 2012. There's a lot to get a handle on but, still, I'm sure it's going to be easier than understanding working practices in the German health insurance business.

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