A couple years ago I was troubleshooting through a Versioning and Merge VHD issue with Provisioning Services (PVS) 7.1 and Windows Scale-Out File Server (SOFS), which resulted in my recommendation to create a Maintenance store for vDisk Versioning. I am happy to see in the last two years this has completely improved and dare I say is fully resolved, specifically with the recent release of PVS 7.7. In this blog post, I’m going to share a little bit of testing data from my experience with PVS 7.7, along with a couple recommendations. Let’s get started!

A couple notes about PVS 7.7 before we begin. If you take a look at What’s New in PVS 7.7, you’ll see a couple highlights that I’ll cover in this blog post:

  • In-place upgrade of target device software. Rather than reverse-imaging, you can install a new version of the target device software without having to manually uninstall the previous version. To do an in-place upgrade from version 7.6 to version 7.7 you must first install version 7.6.1.
  • Streaming VHDX formatted disks. This feature adds flexibility and efficiency to image and merging operations by letting you stream VHDX files as well as VHD files. Provisioning Services recognizes and uses the file format .vhdx as the extension for base disks and .avhdx for differencing disks (also known as versions). No configuration of this feature is necessary. You perform all image manipulation functions, such as deleting or merging vDisks, or creating new versions, in the Provisioning Services console the same way for both formats.

The in-place upgrading feature is fantastic, and I wanted to call that out before moving on. I won’t be showing any test data from that feature, but my experience with it so far has been fantastic!

For performance testing and results, I’m going to be sharing PVS 7.6 vs. 7.7 and VHD vs. VHDX during image capturing and Versioning merging. The other capability that should be called out as a specific feature of what’s new in PVS 7.7 is the Target Image Creation Wizard and new option to create an image file. This feature allows you to capture directly to a local disk or file share to import directly into PVS. This is actually pretty huge from an admin experience perspective, so I’m not sure why the PVS team didn’t feel this should be called out.

The following is an updated visual of my testing environment. If you compare to my previous blog post, you’ll see I’ve removed the Maintenance Store requirement as this is no longer needed for PVS 7.7 when using with Scale-Out File Server. You’ll also see a couple shadowed SOFS and PVS servers showing the linear scale-out performance for these two components in the architecture:

A couple details about my testing environment:

  • Flash volume presented as iSCSI CSV to my SOFS Failover Cluster (high performance)
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 for all server components (Two SOFS VMs, two PVS 7.7 VMs)
  • 2 vCPU / 4GB RAM for all server components (including PVS to remove possibility of heavy NTFS caching)
  • Windows 7 64-bit vanilla gold image (non-optimized) Master VM for capturing. Windows installed, but no applications or updates. Roughly 20GB thin provisioned size.
  • 4 vCPU / 8GB RAM for all targets for capturing vDisks
  • Continuous Availability disabled for the SOFS Share
  • PVS 7.7 GA binaries on servers/targets for any 7.7 tests
  • PVS 7.6 GA binaries on servers/targets for any 7.6 tests (no hotfixes or updates)
  • All virtual machines are on VMware vSphere 5.5 with VMware Tools installed (using VMxNet3 network adapters)

Continue reading my original blog post at itvce.com…