Managing networks in Windows Server vNext

Virtually Switched

Managing Physical Cluster Servers

Network Controller's functionality is not restricted to VMs. Physical servers that are part of a Windows Server Gateway cluster can also be managed and configured so that you can link data centers and disconnect or connect the networks of various clients in hosted environments. You can also provision VMs on the network that are part of a Windows Server Gateway cluster – referred to as the RRAS Multitenant Gateway.

In addition to provisioning VMs, you can manage, monitor, and create VPNs and IPsec connections between networks, which lets you configure the system for remote management by an external administrator. Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing allows managing of network traffic from hosted VMs to a company's corporate network – including in hosted environments. Microsoft provides some instructions on how to create such gateways and networks [1]-[3].

Of course you can do more than just integrate servers with Windows Server vNext; you can also integrate servers running Windows Server 2012 R2 (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1: After installing the server role, Network Controller is available in Server Manager.
Figure 2: The Network Controller service is integrated in Windows Server vNext via Server Manager.

Cluster Migration between vNext and 2012 R2

With Windows Server vNext, you can add cluster nodes from the new version to clusters with Windows Server 2012 R2 without interrupting operations. Of course, this hugely facilitates migration tasks and collaboration with Network Controller. As with VMs, it is again the case that the new functions in Hyper-V are only available if you have upgraded all cluster nodes to vNext (as is the case for Windows Server vNext). To do this, you need to update the cluster configuration with Update-ClusterFunctionalLevel. Keep in mind, however, that you cannot undo this process.

If you are running a cluster with vNext and 2012 R2, you can easily move VMs between nodes. However, you should only manage the cluster from vNext servers. For the VMs in the cluster, you can also only configure the new version for VMs with Update-VmConfigurationVersion VM if you have upgraded the cluster to the new version. Only then will the cluster work optimally with Network Controller.

Thanks to the Cluster Cloud Witness function, you can also use Azure VMs as witness servers in vNext clusters, which is especially important for cross-data center clusters. You can also manage your Azure VMs and associated networks with Network Controller. If a cluster node ever has any difficulties, the nodes are isolated, and all resources from problematic nodes are migrated, courtesy of Cluster Compute Resiliency and Cluster Quarantine . Network Controller also detects faulty physical and virtual networks and can intervene accordingly.

Network Monitoring with Network Controller

Microsoft's focus in Network Controller is on network monitoring. You can also expect the new service to cooperate closely with Microsoft Message Analyzer, the successor to Microsoft Network Monitor. You can use Microsoft Message Analyzer to monitor latency and package losses, and Message Analyzer also includes a tool for troubleshooting. Network Controller detects problems regarding latency and package loss and also keeps you informed about where losses occur and which devices on the network are causing problems.

Network Controller collects SNMP data and identifies the status of connections, restarts, and individual devices. You have the option of grouping devices (e.g., switches at a certain data center).

Another monitoring feature is detecting network overload attributable to certain services, servers, or VMs. If a specific server rack, for example, loses the connection to the network or can only communicate to a limited extent, Network Controller marks all VMs that are on Hyper-V hosts in this rack, as well as the connected virtual switches, as faulty. The controller also identifies provides information about other problems. If you want more detailed monitoring, you can integrate Network Controller with System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) vNext.

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