The imminent release of vSphere 5 was anything but a secret by the time VMware got around to formally announcing it this week, so it came as no surprise that Citrix, Microsoft and others also tried to steal some thunder by making news of their own.
Citrix got the ball rolling by unveiling the completion of its Cloud.com acquisition, which seemed to be a case of the company doubling down on open source cloud platforms -- CloudStack came along with Cloud.com, and Citrix recently joined Rackspace's OpenStack project.
The timing of the vSphere unveiling couldn't have come at a better time for Microsoft, which held its 2011 Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles this week. Highlights from that event included news that next week Redmond will release a new beta of the highly touted and long-awaited System Center 2012, and a sneak peek at the next version of Windows Server, aka Windows Server 8.
Microsoft also whipped up some gee-whiz numbers for the recently unveiled Office 365, saying that over 50,000 organizations have started trials of the cloud-based productivity service since it was introduced two weeks ago. This, Microsoft tells us, means that one trial has taken place every 25 seconds. Redmond did not, however, reveal how many copies of Microsoft Vista SP2 have been sold to date.
AppSense, another market leader that was recently on the receiving end of $70 million in funding from Goldman Sachs, took the wraps off version 8.1 of its AppSense User Virtualization Platform). Highlights included a new modular architecture, expanded policy and personalization capabilities, enhanced management and control, and end-user experience improvements.
Leostream also got in on the product parade by introducing its Leostream Cloud Desktops service, which was created to provide "reliable and secure cloud desktops for small and medium businesses and consumers, hosted on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud." The company claims its Leostream Cloud Desktops cost as little as $10 per month, adding they are also available daily or hourly for even less. Surely, this kind of pricing makes Leostream the no-tell motel of the desktop virtualization world.
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 07/14/2011 at 12:48 PM2 comments
By completing its acquisition of Cloud.com and its CloudStack platform, Citrix has re-emphasized its commitment to open source computing that has been demonstrated by its support of the OpenStack cloud infrastructure developed by Rackspace. Citrix also made it clear that it wants to build on CloudStack technology to offer large-scale clouds such as those built by Cloud.com for companies like Zynga and GoDaddy.com. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
CloudStack and OpenStack were developed in parallel, and Citrix says it has identified areas where the two can be collaborative while they become increasingly compatible. The company also said it will continue to support Project Olympus, which was created to be a tested and certified version of OpenStack.
Cloud.com has deployed some 60 large-scale clouds in the U.S., Asia and Indonesia, most of which are built on XenServer. In an effort to increase that number, Citrix will now offer "Cloudmaster Webinars" which will educate customers on the principles and concepts of next-generation clouds. It will also offer two-day "Build-a-Cloud Workshops."
Citrix further announced the creation of a Cloud Platforms products group headed up by former CEO of VMLogix, Sameer Dholakia, who is group vice president and general manager of the new group. Reporting to him will be Cloud.com CEO Sheng Liang, who will continue to lead the design, architecture and technology of the CloudStack product line.
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 07/12/2011 at 12:48 PM5 comments
In the course of a recent interview, I have come across some interesting information related to the job status of VMware CEO Paul Maritz. This information came to me during an interview with Raghu Raghuram, VP and GM of VMware's Virtualization and Cloud Platform Group, who told me, "Just to clarify, there's been no real change in Paul's day-to-day responsibilities. The co-presidents are just recognition of the work Paul delegates to that set of four gentlemen, and therefore, the responsibilities that they have for their respective, day-to-day jobs. But it's more a recognition of the level of responsibility that those gentlemen are doing than any change in Paul's responsibility."
The quote is a little twisted, but it is clearly saying that all four of these guys were doing a good job, so they got promoted, but they still take their marching orders from Maritz.
When I suggested to Raghu that this situation must have stimulated a flurry of press inquiries, he replied that to the best of his knowledge, "This has barely caused a ripple in terms of incoming questions for VMware. Certainly, it's not a distraction."
Still, you can't help but wonder.
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 07/07/2011 at 12:48 PM5 comments
It wasn't all that long ago that XenServer was on the ropes and headed for what many observers figured to be a career-ending knockout at the hands of VMware, but Citrix made a smart move by converting its beleaguered server virtualization product into a fundamental component of XenDesktop and XenApp, the latter of which is a mega cash cow to the tune of $1.5 billion-plus. Just for good measure, the company further enhanced the free XenServer by making it the foundation for the strategic direction of NetScaler, the company's app-delivery platform for Web apps and clouds.
Voila--from the doghouse to the penthouse in short order.
Now, as the free downloads continue rolling out, Citrix has announced XenServer 6.0 Beta, which is available gratis for download at mycitrix.com.(You'll need to have or start a mycitrix.com in order to take advantage of this right-priced offering.) You can also bone up on v6.0 this Thursday, July 7 at a live webinar.
Citrix is luring in beta users by telling them they will play a "critical role" by helping the product development team tweak v6.0 into top form before it becomes GA.
In this burgeoning age of simplification, Citrix has taken three notable steps with XenServer 6.0. They include simplifying the management infrastructure requirements for capabilities such as workload balancing, Citrix StorageLink--which enables virtual server infrastructures to leverage all the resources and functionality of existing storage systems--and Site Recovery.
On the architectural front, XenServer 6.0 is based on the Xen 4.1 hypervisor, and according to Citrix, the Open vSwitch (OVS) is now the default network stack for the product. The company also notes that OVS was first introduced in XenServer 5.6 FP1 as a post-install configuration option, and in this beta version is the "basis for the distributed virtual networking (DVS) features, NIC bonding improvements, and jumbo frames support."
XenServer 6.0 caters to the ever-expanding number of do-it-yourself users who are on the lookout for self-service and cloud-building tools by supplying its Self-Service Manager for private clouds. Self-Service Manager supports not only XenServer, but VMware vSphere (at least until the new vSphere 5.0 debuts very soon).
According to Citrix, "Self-Service Manager is easy to deploy and manage via a simple virtual appliance and web-based UI. It offers multi-tenant support for creating VM service catalogs used by delegated administrators to deploy and manage their own applications and resources."
V6.0 also jumps on the Microsoft System Center bandwagon by providing users with the ability to manage their XenServer hosts and VMs via the highly touted, but yet-to-be-released System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012. The value of this flexibility has yet to be proven, but given the close relationship between Citrix and Microsoft, it seems like a natural move. This integration will come with a "special supplemental pack" from Citrix.
XenDesktop users also stand to benefit from this rollout, as the company says XenServer 6.0 is the first release that includes HDX capabilities for optimal desktop virtualization. Specifically, Citrix notes that "a physical GPU can be assigned to a VM so the applications running in the guest can leverage GPU instructions, aka ‘GPU pass-thru.' This provides significant TCO benefits for the XenDesktop HDX 3D Pro technology used for delivery of CAD and other graphical applications via virtual desktops."
Other additions include guest OS support updates, a 1TB increase in host RAM support, and the localization of XenCenter into Japanese and Simplified Chinese. Also, Lab Manager has been superseded by Self-Service Manager, some StorageLink array support is being retired, and Site Recovery is no longer based on StorageLink.
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 07/05/2011 at 12:48 PM1 comments
A bunch of credible people recently got together and initiated a cloud computing survey that was sent out to 413 vendors and users, who reported their attitudes on the maturity of cloud computing, along with their perceived barriers/benefits to implementation. The primary survey backer was North Bridge Partners, but GigaOM and The 451 Group were also primary players. The effort was further enhanced by some 30 industry collaborators.
Overall, the survey addressed not only maturity, barriers and benefits, but a range of additional topics that included sourcing, hiring, TCO, cloud’s influence on business sectors and the appetite of users for an expansion of cloud service offerings. Survey details can be found in GigaOM Pro’s new report, Field Guide to Cloud Computing.
Not surprisingly, there are no revelations to be found in the key findings reported by North Bridge. For example, respondents indicated that “Cloud computing is clearly still in its infancy,” as 40 percent said they are still in the experimental stage, while another 26 percent said they are waiting for the market to mature before committing to a formal cloud strategy. Not everyone is sitting on their hands, however, as respondents have on average been using one cloud solution or another for 20 months.
The press release describing the survey results unfortunately does not mention how the 413 respondents were broken down by company size, which makes it impossible to get a clear picture of what is happening in the market. All I can say is that I have been on the receiving end of many press releases describing substantial cloud projects, and we all know that big companies usually lead the way into new markets.
When it comes to the primary cloud drivers, the survey found that scalability and costs were the most mentioned, followed by agility and innovation when implementing new applications. Longer-term drivers of up to five years were competitive differentiation, mobility and “ensuring application interoperability through the use of open cloud APIs.
Security, the perennial thorn in the side of cloud, again reigned supreme, along with compliance. Runners-up included interoperability and vendor lock-in.
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/30/2011 at 12:48 PM2 comments
It's very simple for vendors to commission surveys that demonstrate the needs for their products and services. Sometimes these self-serving surveys provide interesting information; sometimes they are so biased that they lose all credibility.
A recent survey conducted for automation software vendor UC4 among British IT decision-makers is different because it basically says that if IT shops don't automate their operations, they will not be able to initiate cloud projects.
The UC4 press release cites the burdens faced by admins, the abundance of siloed systems and the general malaise faced by IT organizations as they struggle to keep their heads above water. It also notes that 38 percent of respondents view automation and orchestration as key components of their cloud strategy.
In my opinion, this whole tack of blaming legacy infrastructures for the alleged inability of companies to initiate cloud projects smacks more of scare tactics than it does of benign benevolence. I'm not bad-mouthing the value of automation here -- its true value is widely understood and understandably valued by IT organizations that want to add business value by streamlining their operations.
Having said that, I am curious to know what percentage of companies that are implementing or have implemented cloud projects were only able to do so after significantly automating their operations.
I've been paying attention to this stuff for a while now, and I have yet to hear a great chorus chanting about how only God-given automation has been able to open the cloud doors that had been so securely locked in the past.
Actually, isn't one of cloud's key benefits its ability to enhance system performance by offloading a lot of the burdens associated with non-automated environments? Isn't it possible to kick off a cloud project and let it increasingly make life easier?
Automation: Yes. Automation as the only key to cloud: No.
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/28/2011 at 12:48 PM1 comments
Clogged-up I/O plumbing can be particularly nettlesome in high-performance virtualization environments, and IO Turbine has taken heed by announcing software using SSD/Flash that runs on the compute server and specifically targets I/O bottlenecks in VMware environments. Accelio works by transparently selecting the highest priority data and shifting IOPS from primary to Flash, where it delivers performance straight to designated VMs.
Laying the groundwork for Accelio's advantages, IO Turbine describes the all-too-familiar problems caused by I/O chokepoints in virtualization environments: subpar efficiency and application latency, which result in the twin bugaboos of mis-managed virtualization infrastructures -- cost and complexity -- not to mention bogged-down storage access. After noting the failures of competing alternatives (adding even more storage, via spindles or solid state) I/O Turbine lays out the Accelio approach:
"Accelio software addresses the issue at the source of the problem, i.e. at each machine, increasing application performance and throughput, host server utilization for higher VM density, improving overall storage performance, and providing optimum control for managing I/O."
The company goes on to note how enterprise-class storage vendors offer automatic tiering with data migration to and from the SSD storage, pointing out that such solutions typically occur well after the need for I/O acceleration has passed, and often add to an already stressed storage array. "Accelio software eliminates this problem by intelligently and automatically directing I/O requests away from overburdened primary storage to SSD/Flash for the most frequently accessed and critical data."
Following the new trend of quoting analysts who make generic product category endorsements without mentioning vendors by name, IO Turbine reeled in the following statement by Gartner guru/research vice president Chris Wolf: "Read and write caching can substantially improve VM performance and increase consolidation densities for both virtual server and virtual desktop workloads. Storage I/O acceleration in virtual environments is not a checkbox."
Accelio Software is available for testing here.
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/23/2011 at 12:48 PM1 comments
Embotics V-Commander 4.0 Cloud Edition is like comfort food for mid-size and large enterprise data centers. Its tasty treats include a set of easy-to-use management, provisioning and policy-driven automation features that enable users to break through capacity management and performance barriers that have previously stifled private cloud projects.
In addition to rapid provisioning--in some cases, reducing IT asset deployment times from days to hours--V-Commander 4.0 offers self-service, service catalogs, IT costing and chargeback, workflow automation, resource optimization, and lifecycle management capabilities. Looking for a quick ROI? The company said you can have one in "hours" through the reclamation and decommissioning of unused and underused VMs.
According to Jason Cowie, VP of Product Management at Embotics, his company is shifting its focus from virtualization management to private cloud automation. Citing Aston University as a shining example of V-Commander 4.0 in action, he said "Aston blew through stall points in a short period of time" by using the product's ability to economically pool resources with a management layer on top. Specifically, among other tasks, the school used V-Commander 4.0 to automate the formerly manual task of tagging and tracking VMs in Excel.
The venture-backed Embotics targets mid-market enterprises for 80 percent of its sales and large enterprises for the other 20 percent. Cowie said V-Commander 4.0, which provides "enterprise capabilities for the masses," is a boon to cost-conscious companies with limited staff and financial resources who can't afford to deal with "point tool sprawl and large framework solutions."
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/20/2011 at 12:48 PM0 comments
The Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) doesn't get a lot of high-level attention, but this primarily client-side management suite is producing some impressive cost and productivity numbers for its ever-growing worldwide user base, which is driven by some 26 million licenses. In an IDC study conducted in February the product, consisting of six separate technologies, was found to produce annual IT savings of up to $252 per year--or a 36 percent reduction in annual cost--for a PC utilizing all six solutions.
Beyond that, IDC said users see productivity gains as well, with cost savings associated with improved user productivity calculated at an additional $274 per PC per year. "Together with savings realized by the elimination of third-party software, hardware, and additional software licensing costs ($46 per PC per year), these savings can reach a combined total of up to $571 per PC per year," IDC stated.
Those six solutions help deploy apps, support virtualized deployment scenarios, recover damaged configurations, and diagnose performance or operational problems. The six are Microsoft:
- Application Virtualization (App-V)
- Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V)
- Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM)
- Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT)
- System Center Desktop Error Monitoring (DEM)
- Asset Inventory Service (AIS)
According to Niamh Coleman, who is lead on the MDOP product management team, the many benefits of MDOP include its ability to streamline Windows 7 migrations, adding that business customers should view this migration as a "once-in-a-lifetime inflection point" and use it as an opportunity to "rethink how they architect their desktop systems."
Regarding the number of seats per typical MDOP implementation, she says that number is dependent on the product the customer is using. "For example," she notes, "customers using App-V often use it on their full enterprise, but those using MED-V might only use it on a subset because MED-V is used for application compatibility and not all users may require access to the non-compatible application."
When asked how satisfied Microsoft is with the level of understanding within its target audience when it comes to MDOP, she replies, "Each customer scenario is a little different and they are therefore interested in various combinations of the product suite. Some of our customers, for example, may have purchased the suite for the Group Policy, Asset Inventory or virtualization components. We want them to be aware of all the technologies they get for the price they pay."
Not all Microsoft customers are even aware that MDOP exists. In a decidedly non-scientific reader survey conducted by Virtualization Review, 47.1 percent of Microsoft users (24 respondents) said they were not familiar with MDOP, while 27.5 percent (14 respondents) said they were aware of the product suite.
Someone definitely aware of MDOP is Citrix chief Mark Templeton, who, as you might expect, sees Citrix as the ultimate benefactor of MDOP proliferation. As he puts it, Redmond's strategy is to ensure that MDOP has a "broad basis--really broad" across Microsoft's customer base so that going forward, Microsoft will tend to drive basic implementations by small and medium enterprises toward a trial and adoption of VDI. This is good for Citrix, because it does not directly serve the SMB space, and it leads to more implementations.
"A first experience leads to a second and a third, and the more you want to do it in VDI, the more it points to Citrix, and then the more experience in VDI, the more it points to doing more virtualization at the desktop, which clearly points to Citrix," Templeton says. "That's the way it worked in the server environment, and I think it's working very much that same way in the desktop environment."
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/16/2011 at 12:48 PM0 comments
In preparation for my cover piece in the upcoming June-July issue on Microsoft's virtualization strategies with Hyper-V and System Center, we ran an admittedly non-scientific reader survey to find out what Microsoft customers thought about these two technologies, which have reached a point of maturity where they are becoming legitimate contenders with VMware's vSphere Hypervisor (which is free, and based on ESXi) and vCenter.
In order to ferret out the truth, I posed the following question: "Would you be willing to sacrifice some functionality in order to save money by using a Hyper-V solution instead of a VMware solution?" This question was sparked by an off-the-cuff comment made to me a couple of months ago by a Microsoft customer who had committed entirely to Hyper-V. When I asked him why he had made that commitment, he replied, "Because it's cheaper."
Twenty-two Microsoft customers responded to my survey question. Among them, 43 percent said they would be willing to sacrifice some functionality in order to save money by using Hyper-V as opposed to a VMware solution. Thirty-one percent (16 responses) said they would not be willing to make that trade-off, while 13 percent (17 responses) reported that they were not sure.
As I mentioned before, this small response rate produces non-scientific results that could be misleading, but I believe that if we expanded our survey audience, the overall findings would be similar.
There are obvious cost and convenience issues here, because Hyper-V is free with Windows Server 2008 R2, (which can be found in many VMware shops), and it is fully compatible with System Center (which is on an upward value swing with the favorably previewed System Center 2012 on the horizon). Still, no sane user is going to stand up a bunch of inferior hypervisors just to save a little time and money.
Question: Would you be willing to sacrifice functionality in order to save money by going with Hyper-V?
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/14/2011 at 12:48 PM11 comments
Microsoft announced today that Windows Thin PC will be generally available for download on July 1. Noting that it has responded to customer demand for the ability to repurpose their existing PCs as thin clients--significantly extending their lifecycles--Microsoft says WinTPC, which is built on Windows 7 and features RemoteFX, will also bolster the company's overall desktop virtualization strategy. The goal of that strategy is "to deliver the flexibility to work from anywhere, improve compliance and business continuity, and simplify management so that IT professionals can deliver better service to employees." Just to make it perfectly clear, another goal is to also drive down the sometimes prohibitive costs of VDI.
According to Microsoft blogger Karri Alexion-Tiernan, the company listened to feedback from its Community Technology Preview customers, which led to three noteworthy new WinTPC features. The first of those three is a Keyboard Filter which was designed to give customers the ability to have more control and security by preventing certain key combinations, such as Ctrl +Alt Delete from taking effect on a WinTPC.
Also included is International IME (Input Method Editor) support, which gives WinTPC the ability to support international keyboards. The third new feature is Key Management Server (KMS/Multiple Activation Key, or MAK), which allows WinTPC to offer "quick and easy activation mechanisms that customers currently use for their Windows desktops."
Because the product is built on Windows 7, organizations can leverage existing management strategy and tools such as System Center to centrally manage it. These management capabilities include accelerated role-based deployment of applications, security patches, updates, and data.
Alexion-Tiernan paraphrases Scott Valeri, Manager of Enterprise Desktop & Mobile Architecture & Engineering at Deluxe Corporation, saying that as Deluxe migrates additional users to virtual desktops, WinTPC will play a primary role.
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/07/2011 at 12:48 PM2 comments
Back in the not-too-distant past, before virtualization and cloud computing radically evolved into disruptive--if not revolutionary--forces, changes in the world of IT were largely limited to doing more with less, as opposed to totally rethinking and reshaping the traditional technologies that comprised the backbone of corporate computing. Back then, each major organizational entity had its own data in its own silos, and its own team of expert to protect and propagate that data. The more, the merrier.
It was a world where traditional job functions and titles like systems analyst and systems administrator were the bedrock of corporate computing, and career paths were easily predictable and defined.
Suddenly, that hidebound IT world of the past was blown away by massive server purges, and clouds--whether they be private, hybrid or public--became much more than simply unadorned outsourcing. Alien concepts such as self-service and software as a service came out of nowhere to assume prominent places in enterprise IT architectures. The ground was clearly shifting under the feet of IT departments in businesses of all sizes, and that instability fostered insecurity.
Smart guys like Sanjay Mirchandani, CIO and COO, Global Centers of Excellence, EMC, sensed the changes occurring around them, and started thinking strategically about how to take advantage. Speaking on a panel of CIOs at the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, he summarized the atmosphere of change by asking, "Why provision stuff when it can be automated?" and addressed future employment opportunities by noting "I think this is an incredible opportunity for IT pros. There are no longer well-defined IT tracks."
Anthony D. Christie, CIO and CTO, Global Crossing, another panel participant, also broke with the past when he said the time has come to re-evaluate and redeploy IT resources. In his words: "I don't want server admins, I want functional analysts who know the business."
VMware CIO Mark Egan also painted a picture of change, saying, "On the organizational side, the staff you have today is not necessarily the staff you need in the future."
Michandani stayed with the theme of opportunity, when he said of ambitious IT pros who want to work hard and get ahead, "Give them the room to make mistakes."
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/02/2011 at 12:48 PM0 comments
David Davis, The How-To Guy in both the print and online version of Virtualization Review, has a new video course on vSphere Performance, available through TrainSignal.com.
Figure 1. Sample screen grab from the vSphere Performance course demo. (Click image to view larger version.)
Speaking of performance, check out David's look at vCenter Operations -- where else? -- in his How-To Guy columns here and here.
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/01/2011 at 12:48 PM6 comments
In my "Synergy on My Mind
" blog, I mentioned that WhipTail had recently received $60,000 in funding, which created the impression that they were at the bottom end of the food chain. Actually, the $60,000 was spent on their new Web site. The problem was, the $60K was represented to me as a single block of funding, so I wrote about it accordingly. The fact of the matter is that WhipTail has to date received "multi-seven-figure" funding, and is doing just fine at the venture trough, thanks.
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 05/31/2011 at 12:48 PM2 comments
The talk on the Synergy exhibition floor was largely about the various aspects of VDI--most prominently management and storage--while a host of VDI ecosystem players such as AppSense, RingCube, Kaviza/Citrix, and Wanova, Liquidware Labs, and Atlantis Computing, among others had booths. I also had a briefing with Desktone CEO Peter McKay, and noticed Unidesk boss Don Bulens patrolling the floor. All in all, lots of great fodder for M&A rumors, not many of which seemed to be in circulation. What it all amounted to was a lot of companies with a lot of good technologies--some of which have a lot of customers, and some of which are more heavy on unfulfilled potential.
Regardless, It was interesting to me the way all these VDI players view themselves as one big family. Frequently heard platitude number one: "We're all in this thing together." Frequently heard platitude number two: "A high tide lifts all boats," followed by the unspoken, "And we'll torpedo each other later."
The clock is ticking on all these companies, of course, and you have to wonder if any of them are in desperate straits. When I was chatting with one CEO and I asked him about profitability, he smiled and replied, "We're venture-backed," as though that was some kind of magic bullet or long-term tonic.
Slightly off-topic, I ask in frustration, will someone from RES Software, please get in touch with me? In response to my entreaties, they keep sending me form letters, and I live in fear that I will start getting sales calls. All I want is a briefing, people.
Cheeky company of the show: WhipTail Tech, and here's three things going on with them: 1) They just secured some $60,000 in much-needed funding--hey, everybody can't feed at the Matrix trough; 2) Their business cards say "DISK IS DEAD"; and 3) Their motto is something along the lines of "Forget everything you've learned about storage in the past." Billing themselves as "a revolutionary technology company positioned 2,916 miles east of Silicon Valley, in seasonally sunny Whippany, N.J.," WhipTail claims to have engineered the first fully populated solid state SAN. They are telling anyone who will listen that all their competitors will have to close up shop once the word gets out about how the firm's XLR8r can slash the I/O demands of processors and applications to the bone. Whip it good, I say.
Posted by Bruce Hoard on 05/27/2011 at 12:48 PM2 comments