Citrix Releases Preview of iPhone App

Seeing as how I'm a big fan of both virtualization and the iPhone, anything that combines the two is going to excite me.

And this does. Citrix has released a technology preview for iPhone, called Citrix Receiver. Basically, the app (available now on the iPhone App Store) allows you to access applications stored in a XenApp (formerly Presentation Server) environment.

And since the applications aren't stored locally on your iPhone, you can open and edit documents in a way you can't currently do on the iPhone.

Citrix has been hyping this application for awhile now; it's great to see it finally available (as a free download.)

Remember that isn't Receiver's final version, so proceed with caution. In response to a security question on a thread, Citrix stated the following: "this release is a Tech Preview and so the feature set is limited. But I can assure you we fully understand that SSL and two factor authentication are critical features for the Receiver." This implies that more security controls are coming, so if you use this in a corporate environment, check with your IT department before downloading the app.

Now all I need to do is get my IT department to set up XenApp...

Posted by Keith Ward on 04/02/2009 at 12:48 PM1 comments


Random Virtualizationness

  • So who cares if "virtualizationness" isn't a word? It's my blog, and I'll create new words if I want to. It's the Internet, after all, where spaces between words are going thewayofthedinosaur.com.
  • Remember when IBM was going to buy Sun? Many of you told me why I was wrong to speculate that it wouldn't be a good marriage. You're probably still right, but I do note that there has been precious little mention of that since the initial burst of hype.
  • I bet you didn't know that Microsoft opened a Palo Alto campus. I wonder if Steve Ballmer is starting to feel like VMware is the new Google?
  • Speaking of Sun, you've probably seen that Sun's VDI 3.0 is out. My question: When is xVM Server 1.0 coming out? On the positive side, Sun is being very good about keeping us in the loop with its "xVM Central" blog. Number of blogs in March: 2.
  • I've been doing a lot of reporting lately on the economy and its effect on the virtualization community. My overall feeling is that virtualization escapes mostly unscathed. I don't think we'll see much folding of virtualization vendors; more than that, if you're a startup in virtualization, or considering a startup company with a virtualization focus, don't give up on trying to get venture capital funding. I had a chat recently with a VC expert, and he confirmed what I suspected: that if you have a strong management team and a solid vision, there's still money out there for you (more on this later.) Even now, there's money available.
  • Finally: keep an eye out on virtualizationreview.com for something new and cool coming really soon.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/31/2009 at 12:48 PM6 comments


Boom or Bust: The Virtual Economy

Sorry about the lack of blogging lately, folks. We're at production deadline for our next issue, and that takes most of my time. With that in mind, I wanted to give you the normal sneak peak at the upcoming magazine.

Our cover story is about virtualization and the economy. It's not exactly news that the economy is in a tailspin -- but that doesn't mean everyone is suffering equally. Virtualization vendors, in particular, seem to be surviving -- even thriving -- in these dark financial days. Our intrepid reporter goes inside the companies to find out why.

Another feature chronicles the "protocol wars". As you know, display protocols like RDP, ICA and others are critical to the end-user experience in a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. That's why VMware recently entered into an agreement with protocol vendor Teradici to make a software version of its PC-over-IP (PCoIP) hardware technology. We survey the landscape, and show you who's doing what.

Have you ever wanted to use PlateSpin Forge? It's a disaster recovery appliance that author and "Everyday Virtualization" online columnist Rick Vanover takes for a, well, spin. Does he give it a thumbs-up or down? Now, you don't think I'd spoil that surprise, do you? Also reviewed is the free V-Scout virtualization discovery tool from Embotics. Virtualization administrator Brian Mislavsky takes you on a tour.

As always, our columnists have fascinating insights to share. "Virtual Architects" Danielle Ruest and Nelson Ruest tackle the little-known, but growing, issue of end-user VM sprawl. Most "sprawl" issues deal with data center sprawl, but with the proliferation of products like VMware Fusion, Parallels for Mac and Microsoft Virtual PC, your users can get carried away, too. How will you deal with that? Danielle and Nelson walk you through a strategy.

"Virtual Advisor" Chris Wolf also tackles VDI. He reviews a free tool called WANem that measures the performance of your infrastructure to determine how well VDI would work in your environment.

My own "Take 5" column looks at the top certifications for the virtualization community. If you've been laid off recently, or are looking to break into virtualization administration, adding one of these certifications can give you a boost.

To subscribe to the print magazine, go here.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/31/2009 at 12:48 PM0 comments


New Virtualization Book Released

I received a copy of a new virtualization book the other day, and wanted to share it with you. It's called Virtualization: A Beginner's Guide, and is available on Amazon, among other outlets.

It's written by Danielle Ruest and Nelson Ruest, a writing team you're likely familiar with if you do the virtual dance. For one thing, they're columnists for Virtualization Review, writing the "Virtual Architects" column. They are top-flight technologists and writers, which is a hard thing to find. It's not too difficult to find folks who know technology, or to find folks who can write; to find folks who can do both is rare indeed.

I won't be reviewing the book, as that would be a conflict of interest. I can urge you, however, to check it out if you're getting into this industry, or need a refresher. Chris Wolf, our "Virtual Advisor" columnist, wrote the forward.

If you like the book (or didn't), let me know. Also, tell me which virtualization books you recommend to your friends. If I get enough response, I'll put together a "recommended reading" list.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/23/2009 at 12:48 PM3 comments


Hyper-Drive Your Management

A new virtualization management product has hit the streets, and this one has a lot of promise: Hyper9, which "Google-izes" your infrastructure.

I first saw Hyper9 in action at last year's VMworld, and liked what I saw from the demo that a Hyper9 executive walked me through. It immediately felt very Google-like, with a search window at the top for finding various aspects of a virtual infrastructure.

Hyper9 must have been much more complex to get out the door than the company anticipated; I was originally told that a shipping product was expected before the end of 2008. In reality, that doesn't much matter; it's more important to get it right than to hit an artificial GA deadline, a lesson Microsoft still doesn't fully understand.

Hyper9 recently made a wise move by hiring Andrew Kutz. Kutz is well-known developer of plug-ins for VMware's ESX hypervisor, and is a very smart guy who's written for us in the past. He knows his stuff.

A 30-day free trial of Hyper9 is available. If you're using Hyper9 in test or production, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/23/2009 at 12:48 PM2 comments


IBM Buying Sun?

It's looking like IBM may be buying Sun, for the over-inflated price of $6.5 billion.

My question is why? What exactly does Sun have that IBM would like to have?

Servers? Nope. IBM has plenty of those.

Software? Maybe. Although Solaris and MySQL are very nice products, they're not worth a $6.5 billion premium. Besides, IBM seems to be doing well with Linux as the core OS on the majority of its servers.

Virtualization technology? Hard to believe, seeing as how Sun is running in place on its xVM Server, which it can't get out the door. If anything, the delay in releasing a base hypervisor should scare off any suitors; would that give you confidence in a company's virtualization development capabilities?

Could this be a response to Cisco's entry into the server market? Possibly, but I'm not sure that makes sense either. It would make perfect sense if IBM didn't already make servers, or more specifically, didn't make blade servers. Of course, IBM makes a whole line of blade servers. So IBM can already compete very directly with the Cisco lineup.

So what does IBM hope to get out of this purchase? Beats me.

What are your theories behind this potential purchase? Comment below or e-mail me.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/18/2009 at 12:48 PM7 comments


Beyond the Test

You may have heard that our recent cover story, in which we tested hypervisor performance for Hyper-V, XenServer and ESX, caused some controversy. Everyone seems to have an opinion -- VMware thinks our testing stinks and our results can't be trusted, Simon Crosby at Citrix defends our testing, and Microsoft kindly applauds our journalistic integrity.

Burton Group Analyst and Virtualization Review columnist Chris Wolf does this debate a service by going beyond the test results and addressing the need for a more formalized set of benchmarks for testing virtualization. Good reading, and I couldn't agree with him more.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/17/2009 at 12:48 PM2 comments


Virtual Machine Manager R2 Beta Out

Microsoft has made the beta of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (VMM) R2 available. This release keeps it more or less synchronized with the Windows Server 2008 R2 development schedule.

The big upgrade, from a functional standpoint, is that it supports and manages Live Migration. Live Migration is the ability to move a running virtual machine (VM) from one physical server to another, with no downtime. Live Migration was a key upgrade for the Windows 2008 R2 beta. Without it, Microsoft can't really compete with its main rival, VMware, which has had its version of Live Migration, called vMotion, available for years.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/16/2009 at 12:48 PM1 comments


The Great Cisco Earthquake

So, Cisco's now a server OEMer. I'd say this qualifies as somewhat substantial news.

Wow. I must admit that I didn't think Cisco would be taking this step -- Nostradamus, I ain't. Does this make sense for Cisco? And what will it mean for the virtualization market? No one knows for sure right now, but it sure is a tremor-causing event in the hardware world.

I found it interesting that on a Cisco blog, Douglas Gourlay is downplaying the danger to HP, Dell and IBM. "This is not the ‘Clash of the Titans’ or us ‘coming after HP or IBM or Dell’," Gourlay wrote. Sure. I have no doubt that those vendors are delighted to have Cisco moving into their building. I bet that one, or all, of those "Titans" are now in meetings right now, putting up plans for their own routers and switches on a whiteboard.

Gourlay blows even more smoke when he says "Unified Computing is not going to be a single-vendor closed system for the entire data center.  We are not advocating going and doing a forklift upgrade or rip/replace on existing data centers customers have." Call me a dyed-in-the-wool cynic, but I have a feeling this is exactly what Cisco will be pushing. After all, unification gets easier with fewer vendors, doesn't it? More interop, fewer vendors to call for support, yada yada yada.

For the virtualization players, it's a cause for celebration. VMware, Microsoft, Red Hat (RHEL 5), Novell (SUSE Linux) have all partnered with Cisco on the Unified Computing System (UCS). vSphere looks like it will be supported out of the gate, while System Center Virtual Machine Manager support is in the works, according to Microsoft.

But I think the biggest winner on the virtualization side is VMware. ESX and VMware Virtual Infrastructure are the most enterprise-worthy products, and it looks like VMware has a significant networking virtualization lead, since it's been working with Cisco on the Nexus 1000V virtual switch for some time now. In addition, VMware has been working on unified datacenter architecture the longest, with last year's announcement of the Virtual Datacenter OS (VDC-OS), which has been renamed vSphere. Once again, VMware has the virtualization technology lead over the competition, and will probably have its solutions integrated with UCS first.

It's interesting to note that Citrix wasn't brought on board as a partner. That could be coming in the future, but apparently Cisco didn't feel the need to collaborate out the door with the company that some people feel is the third of the "Big Three" virtualization vendors, along with VMware and Microsoft. Of course, you'll be able to use XenServer with this architecture if you wish, but Cisco pushed the VMware and Microsoft aspects. Bob Muglia, president of Server and Tools for Microsoft, and VMware President and CEO Paul Maritz were both involved in a Webcast presentation about the announcement this morning, and Cisco announced that "The relationships with BMC Software, EMC, Microsoft, and VMware extend beyond technical integration to provide services and end-to-end support for the Unified Computing solution." The signs couldn't be much clearer that Cisco sees ESX and Hyper-V as the underlying platforms.

The Linux camp has a real opportunity here as well, with Red Hat and Novell on board at the starting gate. It will be interesting to see which flavor of Linux gains more traction: SUSE, using the Xen hypervisor, or RHEL, which is moving to the KVM hypervisor in its next release. Red Hat is developing a good enterprise story; I suspect that its recent announcement of an enterprise suite of offerings will give it the edge here.

Welcome to the server party, Cisco! I can't wait to see where all this leads.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/16/2009 at 12:48 PM1 comments


Hypervisor Test Fallout Continues

Well, the hypervisor test story is stirring up a hornet's nest, as I expected. The latest entry is from Alessandro Pirilli at virtualization.info. Unfortunately, some of Alessandro's facts are wrong. He states that "last week a group of brave reporters at Virtualization Review challenged VMware and published an independent analysis without asking any permission."

While appreciate his calling us "brave", his assumptions are incorrect. We talked extensively with VMware during the process, and an engineer in the benchmarking department approved our methodology before we went to press. Here's what I said on the virtualization.info blog posting in response to questions:

"Let me set the record completely straight on our communications with VMware: they were aware, beforehand, of what we were doing. One of their engineers in the benchmark section communicated with us via e-mail and a phone conversation. He asked a number of different questions about our methodology. We answered all of them. Thus, VMware had two different opportunities to grill us. We confirmed during the conference call that they were satisfied with our methodology.

We did not tell them the results of our testing during those contacts; we mainly wanted to honor the EULA by informing them of our intent to publish the results, and making sure they felt the testing was fair. They agreed that the testing was fair.

We worked through VMware's public relations department throughout the process, which coordinated the communications. That was important for us, so that VMware didn't feel like we were doing an "end run" around the company by finding some obscure engineer to validate what we were doing, while the rest of the company was kept in the dark. This was above-board the whole way.

Finally, we stand by the results of our testing. As was made abundantly clear both in the article and in my blog posting about it, this was not a test of which hypervisor was "best": it merely determined raw speed under a very specific set of circumstances. To read more into the results than that would be a mistake. As I mentioned, the author, Rick Vanover, is a fan of VMware software; it's what he uses in his datacenter. There was no axe to grind here."

We take end user license agreements (EULAs) seriously, which is why we stayed in communication with VMware throughout the process. This seems to be a point of serious misunderstanding -- that we went on some rogue quest to make ESX look bad. That is simply not the case, and anyone who implies otherwise is either mistaken or lying. (Note that I am not accusing Alessandro of this -- he is misinformed, relying on blogs from VMware when he should have come to me directly.)

He's not the first person I've talked to that's under the impression that we did all this on our own, however. It makes me wonder what FUD VMware is spreading in the community about this. And I don't know how I can state it any more clearly: This test only determined one aspect of these hypervisors. To make a buying decision based on this article would be foolish in the extreme. As Burton Group analyst (and Virtualization Review magazine columnist) Chris Wolf recently pointed out, ESX has more enterprise features than any other hypervisor on the market. Our tests don't change any of that.

All that to say we were not out to "get" any vendor. We thought it would be valuable to have some independent testing metrics on hypervisor speed. We did our due diligence every step of the way, including bringing in an independent testing expert. We think we did provide a service. Of course, anyone can disagree; no one likes free and open debate more than me, I can assure you.

But I won't allow misinformation about our methods to go unchallenged, no matter who's bringing the challenge. Our success depends on our reputation, which depends on our credibility. I will fight tooth and nail to maintain that credibility.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/16/2009 at 12:48 PM2 comments


Citrix Essentials in Beta

Citrix Essentials is now out in beta. I recently discussed the Essentials play for Citrix, and what I thought the company was trying to do. Combined with the newly-free enterprise version of XenServer, Citrix, with good buddy Microsoft, wants in your datacenter -- bad.

It will be very interesting to see what kind of uptake the Essentials beta garners, and how well the Citrix/Microsoft partnership is received in the enterprise.

I wanted to pass along something funny Brian Stevens, Red Hat CTO, told me in an interview the other day. We were discussing XenServer, and Stevens, differently from me, didn't see the boldness in Citrix' move to make it free. To paraphrase, he said "Hey, it's not risky to give away something you weren't selling anyway." Ouch!

Get the Essentials beta here. You'll need to register (free) for a Citrix account first.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/10/2009 at 12:48 PM0 comments


First Bare-Metal Client Hypervisor Coming

It looks like Virtual Computer will be the Neil Armstrong of the bare-metal client hypervisor space. They will beat everyone to market with a desktop management product that includes a hypervisor that sits on top of the hardware, instead of sitting on top of the desktop OS.

In a press release announcing its partner program, Virtual Computer said the application, NxTop, will be available "this month." That's pretty quick turnaround, considering the final beta/release candidate only came out Feb. 23.

I've been writing, and thinking, a lot about bare-metal client hypervisors lately, as have Citrix and VMware. The fact that a small company like Virtual Computer will get to market first is surprising, and a real feather in Virtual Computer's cap. How good is NxTop? I have no idea; company official have walked me through a demo, and it looks very promising. How well it works in the real world is another thing altogether, however. I can't wait to hear your feedback on what you think of it. If you've used it in beta, please let me know.

I'm specially interested in hearing your thoughts on whether or not a bare-metal client hypervisor would get you that much closer to a VDI deployment, and if this is something you'd use on smartphones. Whatever the outcome, we're about to enter the next phase of desktop virtualization. Will the new hypervisors be hype or a game-changer? Stick around...

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/10/2009 at 12:48 PM1 comments