Robert.stellinga

Microsoft Windows Server management in SLM : best practices

Blog Post created by Robert.stellinga Employee on Jun 28, 2018

Dear reader,

 

Based on the previous questions from the community asked about how to efficiently manage the lifecycle of Microsoft Windows Servers, I’ve decided to write a blog post about this specific matter. In this blog , I’ll try to explain and show ways to determine how to draw up an overview of Windows servers currently being inventoried in your environment, how to assign different Windows server licenses and which reports you should apply to maintain and manage the lifecycle of your Microsoft Windows Server environment – quantity, version, edition, location and of course compliance –

 

So…after reading this blog post you should be able to:

  • determine and create different overviews of Windows Servers running in your own estate.
  • collect important information about these Windows Servers (version, edition, business allocation, resources used, if it’s a virtual server or not and more interesting information).
  • add Windows Server licenses in SLM and assign these licenses accordingly based on the correct metric and other important settings & findings.
  • create and save easy-to-use reports specifically for your Windows Server estate, including compliance information.

 

 

MICROSOFT WINDOWS SERVER APPLICATIONS

First I would like to focus on creating interesting views of Windows Servers running in your environment. Snow License Manager contains different kinds of ways to determine how many versions and editions are actually discovered and inventoried within your estate. Before you actually start assigning Windows Server license entitlements and create useful reports, you might first wish to have a total overview and understanding of every server that is actually running some kind of Windows Server operating system. My personal approach would be to:

 

  1. draw up a list that contains Windows Servers, which are all part of my production environment*.
  2. and separate that list into (1) clusters that contain information about the physical hosts and the virtual servers that have a Windows Server operating system installed vs (2) stand-alone physical servers that have a Windows Server operating system installed locally.

 

* In general, one might expect to see a commercial production environment and a separated test, development & acceptation environment. The latter would normally be licenses with MSDN subscriptions - instead of commercial licenses -. Because I wish to keep this blog post as general as possible, I will only focus on the production environment, that needs to be licensed with commercial Windows Server entitlements!

 

Let’s have a closer look at some views that shine some light on our Windows Server estate, starting with the application list.

 

Applications list

When you browse to the Applications category and select “List all application”, you should be able to create the overview shown below (picture 1). Please note that I’ve added three filters to generate this list of Windows Servers (red rectangle)

 

Picture 1

 

In my environment, this creates a list of different types of Windows Server operating systems and the total number of installations. As you can see in picture 1, the Snow Software Recognition Service populates the metric column with the correct metric. Although, this list is a nice overview of all the different types of Windows Servers discovered, it’s not quite good enough to know how I should allocate my entitlements based on most cost effective coverage.

 

 

Single Windows Server applications

Let us have a closer look at one of the applications in this list. For this example, I’ve deliberately selected the applications: Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard. The reason for this is the metric that applies to this particular application (the same applies for the cores metric by the way). I think it is important to understand how Snow License Manager creates the numbers mentioned under “Processors” [1073] and under “License requirement” [1292], when looking at the screenshot below (picture 2). If we first focus on the accumulated number of processors, this amount is the sum of every actual physical and virtual processor that is used in every server that has a Windows Server operating system installed.

 

Picture 2

 

An example of this can been seen in picture 3 below. Selecting a particular server – in this case a virtual server – will highlight the information of the hardware that is assigned to this virtual machine. As you can see, the number of v-processors is “3”. Snow License Manager will analyze every individual inventoried Windows Server and calculates the number of processors of each server and presents the sum as the total value for the metric that applies, which in this case is the total number of processors (it will do the same for the core metric).

 

Picture 3

 

The total sum that is presented as a “License requirement” value, is actually the total number of processers which is automatically updated with a minimum licenses requirement  adjustment. Microsoft states that Windows Server operating systems licensed with processor or cores licenses have a minimum requirement, regardless if the server actually has these hardware resources equipped.

 

Bottom line; this means that you always need to assign 2 processors or 16 cores as a minimum to each physical machine!

 

Each server that has less hardware resources, will be adjusted until the minimum is reached. In this case, each server that has only 1 processor installed, will be adjusted with +1. In the end, this results in 1073 + 219 = 1292.

 

 

Datacenters and clusters

When you browse to the Computers category and select “Datacenters and cluster”, you should see the result of the integration with your hypervisor layer(s). The initial list will contain all of your Datacenters/Clusters, and after selecting one of them you should end up with the installation overview shown below (picture 4).

 

Picture 4

 

As you can in that screenshot I have selected the second tab and added a filter on "windows server", so that I can see all of the virtual servers running a Windows Server operating System. Although, I’m only looking at my virtual Windows Server estate in this way, I should already be able to distinguish between applying a Windows Sever Datacenter or Standard entitlement (based on the number of virtual server use rights). This would mean, that I need to analyze all of my Datacenters/Clusters one by one, and look for a separate overview of my physical stand-alone servers.

 

Important: please make sure that all of the virtual servers running in each of your cluster is actually inventoried by the Snow Inventory Client. In the screenshot (picture 5) below you can see that in this particular cluster a total of 33 virtual server are hosted, but 1 virtual server is not inventoried. This server might also contain a Windows Server operating system.

 

Picture 5

 

 

Application Family for Windows Server

Picture 6

 

In Snow License Manger each application that requires a license is a part of an application family. This is a very powerful section within Snow License Manager, that I wish to share with you all before we continue to the next topics. In order to find the application family for Windows Server, all you need to do is select one of the Windows Server applications from the List of all applications in your own environment. Then click on “Windows Server” as shown above in picture 6 (red rectangle).

 

This will bring you to the Microsoft Windows Server application family, as its presented in Snow License Manager. On this page you’ll find interesting information about:

 

Picture 7

 

  • [picture 7] the different kinds of Windows Server editions and versions.
  • [picture 7] the overall compliance status of your Windows Server estate (inventoried by Snow).
  • [picture 7] the total financial investment made on Windows Server entitlement (requires you to add financial purchase data).

 

Picture 8

 

  • the available Windows Server licenses in Snow License Manager, including quantity and active maintenance (SA).
  • [picture 8] each individual machines that has a Windows operating system installed, including hardware resource data.

 

Although, I personally would still rather use a Snow report to determine the best assignment of my Windows Server entitlements, I have to address that the last tab shown here in picture 8 does contain almost every information detail I need to create a compliance  delta for my whole Windows Server estate. The only thing I might not have in this particular view, is the distinction between the production environment vs the test, development & acceptation environment.

 

Nevertheless, I can determine the number of clusters (1), the total physical hosts in each cluster (2), each virtual server running on a particular hosts (3) and the physical hardware recourses used by each physical layer – either each individual host or as a total within each cluster (4). If I would scroll down in this view, I would eventually end up with all the physical stand-alone servers, which also need to be license accordingly.

 

 

MICROSOFT WINDOWS SERVER REPORTS

Up until now we have seen that we are able to gather lots of interesting information about our Windows Server estate looking at different applications views. However, my main goal is to assign my Windows Server licenses the best way possible, so that I’m able to create reports that will assist and guide me to easily spot compliance risks and possible optimization. Therefore, I would always use the reporting section in Snow License Manager as a starting point to create, store, export and share this information.

 

Focusing on Windows Server installations, the following reports (in the category "Reports" from the main top menu) are available to assist you with this -  please keep in mind, that many of these reports show information that you could use for creating a final compliance report for your Windows Server environment -:

 

  1. Physical and virtual servers per datacenter
  2. Applications installed on virtual machines in a datacenter
  3. Compliance summary (by application family)
  4. All applications
  5. All computers
  6. Applications per computer
  7. Hardware comparison for processor/core based applications
  8. Operating systems

 

The reports all mentioned above, might need some additional criteria or columns to present the information that you need. My advice would be to open each report and see for yourself, if it contains the information that you are looking for.

 

I’ve saved the best report for last, and I would like to specifically focus on this report with some examples. I’m talking about the report that is called “License tracking per computer”. This report is located in the group called Standard reports.

 

The beauty of this report is, that it will show you a compliance delta on machine level. I’ll try to explain and demonstrate this with two different examples. In the first example, I want to get a better picture of the large clusters that contain many virtual servers, so that I can license these areas with the Windows Datacenter licenses, because I want to capitalize on maximum virtualisation rights. Before I can analyse each cluster, I first need to add two report criteria to get the search results I need. Below you can which two criteria (picture 9) I have applied before I clicked the “show report” button.

 

Picture 9

 

I have decided to remove and add particular columns for a better overview of the Microsoft Windows Server installations on cluster level.

 

Removed columns:

  • Organisation (which you could consider to keep in the report, if you need to know the business unit the Microsoft Windows Server belongs to).
  • Manufacturer (because I already know that in this case I’m focused on Microsoft only)

 

Added columns:

  • Compliance
  • Datacenter name
  • Host computer name
  • License requirement
  • Requirement adjustment reasons

 

To start analysing each cluster, I can double click on the header called “Datacenter name” or add something in the field like I’ve decided to do, which you can see in picture 10. In my estate, each cluster has its own number, so I can easily add this as a filter to view them one by one.

 

Picture 10

 

Currently, there are no Windows Server entitlements in Snow License Manager, which means that I’m 100% incompliant on this application family. As you can see, the reports clearly tells me that cluster “VMware Datacenter 2” contains two physical host servers and a total of 16 virtual servers. The metric in this case is based on the information about the Windows Server edition that is installed in each individual virtual server. Because, I've not yet added any licenses in Snow License Manager and also did not assign any licenses, the "assignement type" column it totally empty.

 

As long as I apply the correct Windows Datacenter license edition and quantity, this cluster and every single virtual server will become compliant. I’ll pick this up, in the next topic. For now, I’ve saved this report in a new group and called it “Windows server Cluster License assignments and compliance report”.

 

For the second example, I wish to create an overview of all the stand-alone servers that have a Windows Server operating system installed. In the screenshot below (picture 11) you can see that I’ve used the same report as before (with the same criteria and column set-up). I want to focus on the columns that contains a server that is not a part of a large cluster / datacenter!

 

Picture 11

 

As you can see in picture 11, I’ve been able to drill this down into two separate kinds of stand-alone servers;

  • the physical server marked with “A” is a single host running 2 virtual Windows Servers, but is not a part of a cluster.
  • and the rest of the list marked with “B” are all single stand-alone servers running different versions and editions of a Windows Server operating system.

 

The compliance column informs me how many licenses I need based on the metric that applies to each installation, with a possible adjustment based on a minimum requirement. With this information, I can now assign the appropriate Windows Server licenses to each individual stand-alone server. I’ve saved this report in the same group as before and called it “Windows server Stand-alone License assignments and compliance report”.

 

 

MICROSOFT WINDOWS SERVER LICENSES (ASSIGNMENT)

With these two saved reports, I can now start assigning the Windows Server licenses our company owns. Going through numerous Microsoft Volume License Agreements, I’ve been able to gather the following list of Windows Server entitlements my company owns:

 

  • 2 Windows Server Standard 2016 licenses (8 core-pack = 16 cores in SLM)
  • 6 Windows Server Standard 2012 R2 licenses (2 processor-pack = 12 processors in SLM)
  • 8 Windows Server Datacenter 2012 R2 licenses (2 processor-pack = 16 processors in SLM)
  • 2 Windows Server Enterprise 2008 R2 licenses (metric = based on installations)

 

When I look at my current compliance summary for Microsoft Windows Server, I get the following list of Windows Server application and the compliance delta for each application (picture 12):

 

Picture 12 – taking from the report: Compliance summary with criteria set on Microsoft as manufacturer and Windows Server on application family -

 

I now need to add all my available Microsoft Windows Server licenses one-by-one and regardless of the license metric, assign each license to the correct machine. With this last remark, I mean that I advise you to also assign Windows Server licenses that might have the metric “based on installation”.

 

When you add a Windows Server license into Snow License Manager that has either a Processor or Core metric, it is mandatory that you assign them to a computer or datacenter. This is not the case, when the metric is set to “based on installation”. You’ll need to change the assignment type from “organisation” to “computer/datacenter”.  Before I demonstrate a couple of different examples of adding and assigning licenses, I need to address the following first:

 

“I strongly recommend that when it comes to adding and managing licenses in Snow License Manager, that this is carried out by persons with adequate knowledge and experience. Not only do you need to understand how Snow License Manager works from a compliance perspective, but that you also need to have some understanding how - in this case - Microsoft licensing works. You might wish to contact your Microsoft trusted advisor, reseller (LSP) or SAM partner to assist and advice you with this matter”

 

The first licenses that I want to add into Snow License Manager, will be my Windows Datacenter licenses. These types of licenses are meant to be assign to physical hosts that run lots of virtual machines. To maximize on my investment, I will assign the available Windows Datacenter licenses to “VMware Datacenter 2”. By clicking on “Add license”, I get the following view and fields I need to populate (picture 13):

 

Picture 13

 

When I search for the application – either by name or by SKU – and select the correct license, the metric will be defined automatically. I need to add the correct quantity, which basically means that I always need to double the quantity that I have actually purchased; I have bought 8 Windows Datacenter Licenses, which equals a total of 16 processors. I need to activate the downgrade rights and the cross edition rights. The reason behind this, is that I will eventually assign the licenses to a cluster that contains physical hosts running different kinds of virtualized Windows Server edition and versions.

 

The downgrade rights will cover older versions than 2012 R2 and cross edition will make sure that other edition are also covered! Editions like; Web, Standard or Enterprise that might be installed in your virtual servers.

 

I you have active maintenance (Software Assurance), be sure to add this accordingly in the second tab! Before I can save this license, I need to assign the right amount of processors first with the correct virtualization rights. To do this, I need to go to the assignment tab and:

 

Picture 14

 

  • A [picture 14] Click the add button, so that I can search for the correct asset
  • B [picture 14] Use the search options to find the asset (cluster) and select it
  • C [picture 14] Click the lower add button, to add the asset into the license

 

Picture 15

 

  • D [picture 15] Change the VM use rights, by clicking on the “Change button”
  • E [picture 15] In this case select the second option, because unlimited virtual machines rights applies

 

Picture 16

 

  • F [picture 16] Add the correct – even – number of processors. In my example the cluster contains two physical hosts, which combined have a total of 5 physical processors installed. This means, I need to assign 3 Windows Server Datacenter licenses, which is the equivalent of 6 processors.

 

I now also need to do the same for all of my stand-alone physical server. Lets first do this for the physical server (SERVER374) hosting two virtual Windows Servers. For the assignment, I could use any of the Windows licenses I have left, but I’ve decided to use one of the Windows Server Standard 2012 R2 licenses. For this example, I’m jumping straight to the assignment tab. The purchase tab is identical to the example already shown above, except that I’m now adding a Windows Server Standard license!

 

Picture 17

 

It is very important that I again change the VM use rights as shown in the screenshot above (picture 17). I need to set the quantity to “2” and also assign the correct number of processors, which in this case is also “2”. Now I can save the license, and continue doing the same for the rest of the stand-alone servers. I will use the same license to assign them to other servers. I can simple edit the licenses and add the servers in the assignment tab, as shown below (picture 18).

 

Picture 18

 

SERVER374 is the only server that is hosting two virtual servers, so in this case Snow License Manger will automatically cover these virtual installations. The rest of the servers all have local installations of Windows Server operating systems.

 

These are all stand-alone physical server without any virtual servers being hosted, as you can see in the column called “VMs (Inventoried)”. In this case the locally installed operating system will become complaint and the VM use rights are just there as a given. Please beware, that you need to assign the minimum number of processors for each server, which is 2 in my example.

 

All I have to do now is add the rest of my license entitlement to the rest of the servers, so I can see the end result and decide what to do next. With regards to the Windows Server Enterprise licenses, I do want address that you also assign them to the correct assets. This means, that you’ll need to adjust the “assignment type” as shown below in picture 19. Just change it into “Computer/datacenter” and then go to the assignment tab and add the servers accordingly.

 

Picture 19

 

For the latest Windows Server 2016 licenses with the core metric, I’ve added an example below (picture 20). With this screenshot I want to highlight the fact, that adding these types of licenses is exactly the same as before. Snow License Manager will automatically adjust the correct metric settings. You just have to make sure that you add the correct “core” quantity and activate downgrade rights. Also activate cross edition rights when assigning the licenses to a host.

 

Picture 20

 

What is important to point out is the assignment tab for these types of licenses. As you can see in the screenshot below (picture 21), Snow License Manager will automatically adjust the VM use rights and set it to “Fixed”. This basically means, that each license grant one virtual machine coverage rights. Because you need to assign a minimum of two licenses, you eventually end up with two virtual machine rights. One licenses represents a pack of 8 cores, which is the total sum of 16 cores.

 

Picture 21

 

Although, in the example shown above the server has only 1 physical core, I still need to assign 16 cores to the server. This is something that you need to do manually, as also done in the previous examples.

 

Now that I have finished assigning all my available licenses, I should be able to see the results:

 

  • in the compliance summary report (picture 22)
  • and also in my saved license tracking reports (picture 23 & 24)

 

I don’t have any more Windows Server entitlements left, so I could investigate if I have Windows Server installations running outside my production environment, that I might licenses by other means. If not, then I know I have a compliance issues I need to fix and keep managing 

 

Picture 22

 

Picture 23

 

The screenshot above (picture 23) is the result of assigning Windows Datacenter licenses to one cluster, in this case “VMware Datacenter 2”. In the last three columns you can see the reasons why each individual installations is considered to  be compliant. The very last column on the right even highlights the compliance for each asset. If for some reason my company would expand this cluster and add one more physical host server, I would see the results in this report! The assignment of the license to this cluster, also resulted in populating the "Assignment type" column,

 

Picture 24

 

I hope this blog post helps you out with getting a better grip on your Microsoft Windows Server landscape and the possible views you can create to analyze this. And also how to add your Microsoft Windows Server licenses the right way and create your own easy to use reports, so that you can track compliance on machine level or on company level.

 

Don’t hesitate to comment on this blog post or reach out to me or any of your local Snow contacts for more assistance and guidance.

 

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