Are VMware Getting Desperate?

I just received this spam email from a VMware sales rep.  It was sent to a mail list <undisclosed recipients>:

“I tried to call you this morning in relation to your interest in our virtualization technology. I just wanted to know if you have any virtualization projects at present, or planned for the future. In Vmware we can help in terms of technical assistance, commercial advice, hardware setup etc. if required.

Please drop me a line when you have a moment and don’t hesitate to ask any questions that may be helpful to your objectives”.

So, VMware is cold calling people and then emailing them to drum up business.  Hmmm ….

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PubForum: Virtualization Buzz – Comparing Products

This is the first session I am attending this morning.  It is being presented by Saša Mašić.

3 comments for ESX from the audience:

  • OS Support
  • Administration tools easier to use
  • Available appliances from third parties

Some incorrect comments from the audience about backup at the host level.  Claims that only VMware supports this with third party products.  Untrue.  You most certainly can do this with Hyper-V.  It’s even better because it has cascading VSS from the host/file system, into the VM and then into the VM’s VSS writers.  I make a brief response/correction but leave it there … I smell fanboyism and am not here for an argument.

The speaker rarely gets customer requests for XenServer implementations and asks the audience about their experiences.  It appears that it tends to be restricted to organizations who are heavily invested in Citrix licensing.

1 person has done Xen in production – using Essentials for management.  The conversation has switched to management.

Only a few of us (including me) think Storage VMotion is a valuable feature.

It turns out that I am the only Hyper-V user in the audience.  I’m not very surprised – PubForum folks are very ahead of the curve and they would have been invested in VMware a long time ago.

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PubForum 2010: What Has Citrix Done Lately?

The theme is move work to a more optimal place.

We were going to get a demo of a Citrix client on an iPad but the projector interface just woulldn’t work.  Guess it’s dodgy hardware 😉 OH you know the fanboys will flame me over that.

XenClient

72% of corporate machines will be laptops.  Synchronized VDI VM’s will be critical.  Citrix launched XenClient, a client hypervisor.  Question/Comment: There are only a few models of computer that have support for the client hypervisor.  I guess it is monolithic.  No AMD support.  The adoption rates of this will be quite limited without massively expanding the supported hardware list.

Synchronizer allows you to check out a VDI VM to your laptop running XenClient.  Nice.  Imagine that with OVF – could check out a VM to any client virtualization then – assuming OVF support in all products.

XenClient can passthrough the graphics card for 3D.  This is experimental and only supports 1 VM at a time. 

CItrix pitch the idea of the user having a public and private VM.  Good luck with that.  A user will not do that.  They’re either too lazy, will forget or find it to be a waste of time.  Another idea is that the user can supply their own laptop and a corporate build VM can go onto it.  Uh uh! THe hardware list is too limited, mainly to pricey h/w I guess, and end users will bring non-supported hardware in.  Also, the drive will be wiped when a XenClient will be done.  A P2V must be done before hand of the user’s build because thew will have an OEM install with no media, not to mention their personal data.  There will be a compliance issue regarding access and retainment of that P2V image on the corporate network.

Nice idea – but it needs to be a complete solution that is fully thought out.  I don’t believe it is anywhere near that yet, based solely on what I am hearing here

XenApp 6

Windows applications on demand, anywhere.  Out since March.  Dazzle provides serlf0service apps.  HDX provides “RealTime” and plug’n’play.  We may see some System Center integration.

FlexCast for Apps is a streaming solution including support for services.  A next release may include support for streaming drivers.

HDX provides USB PNP, 3D graphics, etc. 

NetScaler VPX

I guess VPX is their network traffic optimisation solution?

NetScaler VPX for Hyper-V will run as a service for Hyper-V to accelerate it.  Hmm, interesting.

Virtual Appliances

Workflow Studio, XenApp EVA and XenDesktop EVA are appliances that are based on Hyper-V.

XenServer 5.6

Citrix have 11% of the market share.

I see XenServer for the very first time.  It appears to have something like Dynamic Memory: minimum and maximum RAM setting per VM.  No shared paging in XenServer – the response to a question from a VMware user I guess.

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VMware Takes A Shot At Azure

I just read this (part of a larger article) on VMware in the cloud:

Jackson also took the opportunity to get in a dig about Microsoft‘s Azure cloud computing initiative.

Microsoft is painting a beautiful picture about cloud computing, but according to its own internal documents is not using its own Hyper-V virtualization platform because it cannot easily pool CPU, memory, and networking resources, Jackson said.

“Azure represents a one-way ticket to a desert island,” he said.

Hyper-V, VMware, Xen All Compared

Techtarget has a short article that lists the pros and cons of the hardware virtualisation solutions from Microsoft, Citrix and VMware.  It’s a quick read and gives decision makers a high level comparison of the big 3 solutions.  The author does a good job of staying neutral and gives good advice.  Each solution has benefits and advantages that are unique.  Find what your real requirements are and then map those to the features.  My add-on to that: do lots of research.  Don’t take the word of a marketing or sales person.

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VMware ESX 4.0 Update 1 Issues

I’ve just read a forum post where a VMware expert (a real one) has been reporting issues with the recent vCenter 4 and ESX 4 updates.  The latter one is scary; it can kill a host and lose some of your VM’s.  The problem happens on ESX if you manage the host using 3rd party agents.  VMware is advising that you remove the agents before an upgrade.  Another article is posted about the vCenter issue.

This is a bad play by VMware.  They’ve built up a loyal customer base but dodgy releases like this will get people interested in the possibilities of using VMM 2008 R2 to V2V migrate their VM’s onto a Hyper-V platform.

The expert in question has been advising people to stay clear of new VMware releases; let someone else test them on their own production environment.

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Deploying Windows XP Mode

I’ve blogged about this application compatibility solution for Windows 7 before.  Ben Armstrong has blogged that Microsoft has released some guidance and scripts to help you deploy the solution to a corporate environment.  Note that they prefer you use MED-V from MDOP (an additional purchase for desktop SA customers) instead in large environments for easier management.  Ben also mentions that there is a video with a demonstration.

The document gives you a little bit more, including how to plan your deployment of Windows Virtual PC and XP Mode.  Note that XP Mode hardware requirements are:

Processor

Hardware-Assisted Virtualization (HAV) enabled Intel, AMD or VIA processors (32 or 64 bit)

Memory

2 gigabytes (GB) for Windows 7 32-bit systems, 3 GB for 64-bit systems

Hard disk space

20 megabytes (MB) of hard disk space for Windows Virtual PC installation

15 GB additional hard disk space available beyond Window 7 minimum system requirement

 

Allow for additional space in XP Mode depending on your applications and data storage plans.  Note that XP Mode only runs on Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate or Enterprise editions. 

The document then goes on to show you how to extract the base image (base.vhd), customise it and sysprep it.  In the deployment section it tells you what file must be moved where.  The scripts zip file appears to include a script for deploying the solution using Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr).  MS does not recommend including XP Mode in your custom Windows 7 images.  This is because you get nested images making maintenance more difficult. 

Finally, there are some group policy settings that must not be changed.  They are configured to allow the XP installation to work correctly in XP Mode.  You’ll need to be wary of these (Appendix A in the document and below) when adding the VM into a domain.

The following are in Local Computer PolicyComputer ConfigurationAdministrative TemplatesWindows ComponentsTerminal Services:

  • Allows users to connect remotely using Terminal Services: Enabled
  • Remove Disconnect option from Shut Down dialog: Enabled
  • Client/Server data redirection: Not configured

Some of the GPO settings are also on the Windows 7 host and are found at Local Computer PolicyUser ConfigurationAdministrative TemplatesWindows ComponentsRemote Desktop ServicesRD Gateway:

  • Set RD Gateway authentication method: Enabled or Not configured
  • Enable connection through RD Gateway: Enabled or Not configured (Allow users to change this setting: Enabled)
  • Set RD Gateway server address: Enabled or Not configured

Microsoft Licensing For Virtual Environments

This is not fun reading.  It’s complex as hell.  Go read the SPUR documents if you have insomnia or you want your world to start spinning.  Microsoft just published this:

“Licensing Microsoft Server Products in Virtual Environments (Word file, 4.30 MB) is an overview of Microsoft licensing models for the server operating system and server applications under virtual environments. Licensing Microsoft Windows Server 2008 to Run with Virtualization Technologies (Word file, 1.39 MB) describes how Windows Server 2008 and other Microsoft server products are licensed when they are used with other virtualization technologies.”

Played With App-V For The First Time

We’ve been talking to a potential customer who currently has a complicated infrastructure because of the need to run Terminal Server “application silos”.  An app silo is when you have incompatible applications/versions and you need to roll out additional servers to run them on.  There’s no other resource utilisation need for the servers so it becomes a waste of hardware, licenses and power/cooling just to have those applications.

Back in 2006 I did some work for a Northern Irish company that tended to be ahead of the rest of the Irish pack.  They were just starting to sell a product called SoftGrid from Softricity when Microsoft bought Softricity out.  Then MS rebranded it a few times until we currently have App-V.

Where I really heard about it first was at PubForum.  The delegates there raved about it because it allowed them to get rid of their app silos.  Instead, they had virtualised their applications.  That meant Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003 could all run on the same machines!

That’s what I saw we could do for this potential customer.  I fired up a network on our Windows Server 2008 R2/VMM 2008 R2 test machine in a matter of minutes and went to work.

Normally with App-V you look at running some sort of server infrastructure.  The full installation is AD integrated, uses MS SQL and streams applications to users based on group membership.  The lightweight installation dispenses with AD and MS SQL.  The standalone installation allows you to install just the agents on the machines and either run the sequenced (a special kind of application package) application from a file share or from an MSI “installation” (not a real installation). 

Thanks to App-V I can cut this company’s need for Terminal Servers down to 2 nodes for fault tolerance.  They can run their two current versions of their LOB app and be able to run the next version which is already in the works.  With that few machines and only a handful of applications, the standalone installation seems the logical choice.  So that’s what I ran in the lab.  Pretty quickly I had sequenced an application on a test box and deployed the application “sandbox” to another machine.  It loaded the application without any installation.  Super!

I’m going to do some more work tomorrow.  A big limiting factor now is the lack of 64 bit support for App-V.  That’s a real shame.  The current release is 4.5.  4.6 recently went into a public beta.  It’s on the cards for 2010 and will have x64 support.