vSphere 4.1 Flexes Muscles, Trims Costs

VMware introduced a souped-up version 4.1 of VMware vSphere, made it clear that the free ESXi Single Server Edition--renamed VMware vSphere Hypervisor--has supplanted ESX as the preferred hypervisor of choice, and said it has changed the licensing model for VMware vCenter management solutions by aligning licensing costs to the number of VMs under management.

Sounds like VMware is trying to dispel the notion that it is overly high-priced while continuing to hammer home the notion that it is leading the pack in cloud foundation infrastructures.

After trumpeting the results of a Forrester Research study that found 74 percent of virtualized servers in SMB environments are using VMware solutions, the company also announced that vMotion has been added to VMware vSphere 4.1 Essentials Plus and Standard editions, and that the price for vSphere 4.1 Essentials has been reduced.

Catering to large enterprises, but specifically service providers, The new vSphere 4.1 scalability enhancements doubles the capacity of compute resources in a single pool, and enables VMware vCenter Server to triple the number of VMs it can manage to 15,000. According to VMware VP of Product Marketing Bogomil Balkansky, "These enhancements matter to large customers, but particularly to service providers who may run millions of VMs."

Those service providers will also be glad to learn that v4.1 increases by a factor of five the speed of VM migrations, and supports up to eight live migrations per server pair, enabling 128 concurrent live migrations at any time in a cluster.
In another move that helps its customers economize, VMware endowed v4.1 with new memory compression technology under heavy load, "resulting in up to 25 percent better performance over previous implementations." Balkansky also noted that this memory compression adds 10-15 percent to consolidation ratios and reduces customers' cost per application.

vSphere 4.1 further takes advantage of new controls to dynamically allocate network and storage resources to VMs based on business priority. Balkansky says that without these controls, a "mundane workload" can block important database access and negatively impact Quality of Service guarantees. Finally, the company took the wraps off new storage APIs for array integration, increasing the "efficiency and performance of the platform in cloud environments."

VMware says the new VM licensing model for vCenter that bases costs on the number of VMs under management as opposed to physical hardware, is a byproduct of the increasing presence of virtualization and cloud computing in IT infrastructures. Balkansky says the scheme is user-friendly because rather than forcing them to license servers, it allows users of VMware Site Recovery Manager, for example, to "cherry pick" which VMs they would protect in their disaster recovery environments.

VMware vSphere 4.1 costs run from a low of $83 per processor up to $3,495 per processor depending on the environment. vCenter Application Discovery Manager and vCenter Configuration Manager are priced on a managed VM basis with typical base configurations starting at $50,000.

On the SMB side of the announcement ledger, VMware is singing to the choir with a new "lower price" for VMware vSphere 4.1 Essentials for businesses with fewer than 30 applications, and the new incarnation of the free VMware vSphere Hypervisor, which has increasingly become the heir apparent to the venerable ESX over recent months. VMware says "Essentials provides an all-in-one solution for small businesses for $495 for six processors, or $83 per processors." While SMBs are bound to welcome vSphere Hypervisor at the always popular, free-of-charge price point, veteran ESX users will probably keep mumbling under their breath for a while as they make the transition to the smaller footprint hypervisor.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 07/13/2010 at 12:48 PM1 comments

Tadpole Leaping Over Pano, Wyse?

You are forgiven if General Dynamics is not the first company you think of when the subject of conversation is thin client computing. After all, GD is one of the biggest defense contractors in the world, so you are much more likely to conjure up images of jet fighters and various weapons systems. And you probably do not associate the sprawling multi-national company with a product named Tadpole, but that is the name of GD's ultra thin client. Not "Project Tadpole," just plain old "Tadpole."

GD has in fact just released four new versions of the Tadpole family, which the company is quick to proclaim provides "PC-like" performance that includes local and global networking and high-speed computing capabilities. The company makes all the expected claims for its thin clients: no hard drives, memory OS or app software that can lead to security problems associated with stolen computers and viruses, and of course, they're green.

The Tadpole M1000 weighs a mere three pounds and was created for use by distributed, very mobile users, as well as general purpose computer users. From here on, things get heavier: The Tadpole M1500 high performance notebook includes all the capabilities of the M1000, and throws in a 15-inch LCD screen that enables high-def multimedia, video and 3-D imaging. The Tadpole Pulsar is a wireless desktop unit "configured for complex operations including dual displays, optical networking, high-definition multi-media, and 3-D imaging." At the top of the line weight-wise is the Tadpole Pulsar Premium, a "wireless desktop unit for general purpose computing."

Dave Miles, GD director of marketing, sees the M1000 playing a crucial role in the "big push" for virtual desktop solutions, and simultaneously declares his support for Windows 7, which he calls a "great opportunity" to refresh current desktops or push everything to the data center.

"We're talking about complete desktop replacements for up to thousands or tens of thousands of customers," he says. "Because everything is on central servers, customers expect two-to-three times longer refresh cycles because servers can be swapped out." Refreshment is not all that common around Miles' part of GD. According to him, the company is still supporting products that are 10-to-13 years old.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 07/12/2010 at 12:48 PM6 comments

Soundbyte City

I'm doing my darndest to use all the great information I gathered for my upcoming VMware profile. For example, Gartner VP Thomas Bittman had some interesting things to say about conservative users and private clouds.

According to him, users are seeking an "evolutionary" approach to the cloud--not a dramatic, big switch. "They want the ability to move in a very gradual manner, and to only move workloads they feel are ready for the cloud," he states. "They would like to move to the cloud in a hybrid model. That means if I want to use Google Apps engine, can I use that on premises? No I can't. What about Amazon? Well maybe with some help from middleware like Eucalyptus I can do that, but it's still a little hard. VMware makes it easy, so it gives them a gradual onramp to cloud computing that allows them to evolve at their own pace. That's very important, and that's where VMware has the best story right now."

Bittman also says according to Gartner's metrics, 75 percent of larger companies are pursuing a private cloud computing strategy, and roughly the same number say they are going to spend more on private cloud than public cloud over the next three years. "Private cloud, there's a lot of hype there," he says. "There's a lot of misunderstanding about what the term really means, and whether it's just virtualizing, or shared service, or if it's really creating a cloud-like infrastructure. But the enterprise interest is there, and VMware is set up to be the standard bearer in that market."

My favorite Bittman quote comes in response to a question about VMware's ecosystem being a major strength for the company. Bittman's reply: "Well, they're not the easiest company to work with, they aren't leaving a lot of space for partners, but it's a comet that everybody wants to ride."

He also discusses the importance of privacy and security to cloud users, saying "That's all they really care about."

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 07/08/2010 at 12:48 PM5 comments

What are the Five Most Pressing Issues for Admins?

In order to better serve the many down-in-the-trenches, admin readers of Virtualization Review, I reached out to our two blogger/columnists, Rick Vanover and David Davis, with a question: What are the five most important issues to admins?

First, Rick's responses:

  1. How to troubleshoot--It is easy to implement a virtual (or cloud) infrastructure, but when things go awry, what do you do?
  2. Revisit the workloads and applications--Too many times we have the "rocks" in the datacenter that cannot become virtual or cloud workloads. What do we need to do to get rid of them?
  3. Existing product lifecycles--Too many pieces are in place (primarily storage and networking) to rip it all out and go with a new infrastructure, as lifecycles may not be in sync.
  4. How to get to 10GB Ethernet--This will make the experience better as well as enable higher-performing iSCSI networks to help me migrate away from Fibre Channel.
  5. How to dump Fibre Channel--I want 10 Gig E to go down in price, and for the love of silicon, give me a reasonably priced 8-12-port 10 Gig E Switch.

Next, David's responses:

  1. Keeping tech hardware and software up to date--new security patches, virtualization software updates, new hardware announcements, etc.
  2. Keeping pace with education and certification.
  3. Balancing the virtual load--Use DRS to make sure that one VM doesn't over-utilize one server and slow down other VMs/resource management.
  4. Disaster recovery--Virtualization simplifies the planning and containerizes servers but also puts more eggs in one basket.
  5. "The Cloud"--Does this thing really apply to my company? Is this hype really valid?

Questions: Do you share any or all of these 10 concerns? If not, what are your most pressing issues? Comment here.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 07/06/2010 at 12:48 PM6 comments

Rip and Replace?

A while back, Citrix was running a program designed to induce disgruntled VMware customers to jump ship and sign on with Citrix. I asked Citrix to provide me with a VMware defector, but through various communications breakdowns, it never happened. I remember thinking at the time that it was hard to believe that anyone with a full-fledged VMware infrastructure was just going to rip it all out and start over again with Citrix, or any other virtualization vendor. Maybe they would start using XenServer as a second hypervisor, but there was no way they were throwing VMware under the proverbial bus.

More recently, I was interviewing Gary Chen, IDC Research Manager, Enterprise Virtualization Software, and the switching topic came up again during a conversation on the relative expense of VMware versus the rest of Virtualization Nation.

According to Chen, "The big problem now is that virtualization is not just tied to the server, but people have really customized their whole infrastructures around a certain platform, so they've integrated their storage and their networking. They've built up a history of skills and training, so reversing all that isn't easy. It's fairly sticky--even though people will always consider lower-cost alternatives in the office, I think it's much more than just the pure cost of acquisition, the upfront licensing costs. Going forward, the question may be less about do I rip and replace my existing infrastructure, but as I begin virtualizing more of my infrastructure--that Greenfield opportunity--do I start to diversity my platforms at that point?"

Getting back to the idea of installing a second hypervisor environment, as noted by Gartner Guru Chris Wolf, the most favorable circumstances for that may be in companies where there is a split between the server and desktop business units, because frequently there are separate management tools for those two environments, which makes it easier to install a second hypervisor.

According to Chris, "That's where we've seen the update, for example organizations using XenServer as a platform for their XenApp farm, and at the same time having long-term plans to seriously look at XenServer as a backup for their virtual desktop workloads."

Question: Would you like your company to install a second hypervisor--why or why not? Comment here.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 07/01/2010 at 12:48 PM5 comments

Chris Wolf Outtakes: Good as Gold

One of the many benefits/frustrations of interviewing Chris Wolf, Research Director at Gartner, is having so much good material left over after a relatively small amount makes its way into my article.

For example, in the course of interviewing Chris for my profile on VMware, I asked him about Kaviza's take on VDI. Noting that Citrix had invested in Kaviza, he told me that he had talked to a lot of his clients last summer who were upset at Citrix and VMware for producing 1080p video on their virtual desktop solutions at a time when what customers really needed was the ability to overcome WAN shortcomings that were making it difficult to connect users to their apps in distant geographical locations.

Speaking as one of his clients, Chris says, "What I need is an appliance that I can put in some of these remote facilities that can render the virtual desktops locally, but still allow me to centrally manage them. That's what Kaviza gives me. They give me VDI in a box, and it's very complementary to the existing solutions that are out there. The large enterprise can just drop the Kaviza box in that remote facility, my users get the virtual desktop performance over the LAN, and I don't have the high infrastructure costs because everything is self-contained in one server." And in the case of Kaviza right now, they have added support for Citrix HDX, so they're in a good spot.

There it is, neat, clean and succinct--the inside view on a company that has a solid shot at success.

Question: Are you interested in reading outtakes from interesting analyst and vendor interviews?

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/29/2010 at 12:48 PM0 comments

Defeating the Treachery that is VM Stall

First Embotics gave us virtual sprawl, and we covered it with gusto.

Now they have given us--more like dumped on us--Virtual Machine Stall, which I think I want to cover with something else. Other than rhyming with virtual sprawl, virtual stall has got cynical me thinking, "These guys want it both ways." Sprawl, stall, which is it, Embotics?

Not that VP of Marketing David Lynch doesn't make a plausible case for VM stall. He talks about how virtualization snuck in the back door of datacenters without rigorous vetting because it offered an immediate, tactical fix to Servers Gone Wild. "Usually, data centers add new technology in a very controlled manner in which everyone is consulted, and they do a proof of concept and start a progressive rollout," he says. "Virtualization is the exception to that."

So virtualization, this interloper without portfolio, worms its way into a cross-silo presence, and just sort of sits there because it's not ready for prime time--it's not an architecture that lends itself to the vision of the dynamic data center. This problem, Lynch tells us, is pervasive across the industry.

But how does he know this is true? Because he posed a question to visitors at the Embotics website, asking them if they were slowing their adoption of virtualization because of management control issues. As it turned out, some 30 percent of respondents responded in the affirmative.

This comes as something of a surprise to me because during the course of my weekly briefings I have been asking this same question of other vendors and consultants, who have all agreed that server virtualization is cranking up more than ever as VMware and others push for much higher penetration rates in target accounts. I have heard stories of 100 percent saturation in many instances.

When I inform Lynch of my own informal findings, he is briefly taken aback before allowing that, yes, in most large enterprises, they have got their virtualization strategy act together without slamming on the brakes for an extended management pit stop, and yes, some companies are 95 percent saturated, but still, these pesky structural and architectural problems persist. The litany goes on: Many management products are ineffective because they are not automated. Security, lifecycle management, provisioning, software compliance--iy!--they're all compromised.

Not to mention how the bad economy prevents organizations from buying tools, and beleaguered CIOs have pushed down management skills so there are only "pockets of expertise." According to Lynch, "There is a shocking lack of expertise in this space. Data systems managers are used to systems that raise red flags, but virtualization doesn't do that."

And the whole thing only gets worse as virtualized systems become more mission-critical.

Anyway, not to worry because Embotics can fix the whole mess right out of the box by keeping a close eye on VMs across the enterprise, enforcing controls, tracking individual histories to see where things have gone wrong, and automatically extending their stays or decommissioning any malingerers.

Lynch says that his company has "hundreds of deployments" and most customers upgrade every time Embotics comes out with a new product iteration. Say goodbye to VM stall with Embotics.

Question: Is VM stall for real?

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/24/2010 at 12:48 PM2 comments

UC4 Automates Hyper-V, vSphere and vCenter

Calling itself "the largest single-focused automation company," UC4 Software introduced rapid automation packages for Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere and VMware vCenter server designed to automate the deployment and management of applications and business-critical processing in virtual environments by providing a single, holistic view of their applications and processes running across hybrid computing environments.

The UC4 Agent for Hyper-V found in that technology's rapid automation package enables users to "integrate application and operating system processes running in physical and virtual environments into a single process flow, " as well as "dynamically configuring and/or provisioning virtual machines to manage peak loads." The product also "integrates Hyper-V-based virtual environments into existing administrative processes and enforce process dependencies."

The Rapid Automation Package for Hyper-V starts at $36,000.

The VMware product enables users to "dynamically provision, deploy or reconfigure virtual machines on demand to manage peak processing loads and meet SLAs. It also "controls VMware Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and VMware Distributed Power Management (DPM) based on business needs," while "reducing administrative costs by creating and deleting snapshots."

The VMware Rapid Automation Package for VMware Sphere and VMware vCenter server also starts at $36,000.

Like many other virtualization vendors, UC4 Software helps users keep track of their VMs as they are created—reducing sprawl—and can bring more of them online during peak processing periods, as frequently occur during month-end processing periods or in business intelligence environments. The difference is in the degree of automation that is enabled. By optimizing user infrastructures with this automated functionality, IT organizations can save money by reducing processing times and achieving "a faster time to market with information internally."

UC4, which has 1,800 customers around the world, is competing against major players like CA, IBM and BMC, which requires it to work extra hard "educating" the marketplace. According to UC4 Product Marketing Executive Matt Busch, the company is working on a pull-demand model. As he puts it, "We're trying to pull demand out of our customer base."

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/24/2010 at 12:48 PM0 comments

Unidesk 1.0 Hits the Streets

Unidesk Version 1.0 uses some very sophisticated technology to produce some very basic results. While 1.0--which is now generally available--employs a layering approach that was developed by diving deep into Windows, its true beauty is in its primary management benefits, including end-user flexibility that gives both end users and IT organizations the freedom and control they seek, along with 100 percent personalization, streamlined management and cost-efficient storage.

According to Unidesk, its Composite Virtualization layering technology separately captures and stores all users customizations in personalization layers. In this environment, Windows and apps like Office are created and maintained by IT in separate system and application layers. "By dynamically compositing these layers at boot time, Unidesk ensures that every desktop has the same set of patched and compliant base layers, while every user has a consistent, personal desktop and application experience," the company states.

The company makes it clear that they are competing in the management market, and toward that end, they empower IT admins to "efficiently create and update many desktops from single images of Microsoft Windows and applications, including applications with system services and boot-time drivers that application virtualization solutions cannot deliver."

The high cost of storage for virtual desktops is an issue for many companies, and one that Unidesk 1.0 solves by not allowing duplicate copies of Windows and affiliated apps such as Office to be stored.

With so many new companies flooding into one loosely defined market segment, it's not surprising that analysts and users alike are demanding real-life customer referrals, and Unidesk has stepped up to the plate with a happy customer--The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions at Central Michigan University, where they've implemented Unidesk with VMware View and vSphere (the product is initially available for VMware environments only). The school is successfully using the package to provide knowledge workers with highly customized desktops, while cutting way back on requirements for patching, provisioning and repair time. It is also helping to maximize mobility among faculty, staff and students.

CEO Don Bulens is a savvy industry veteran who was previously president and CEO at EqualLogic, and has been down the start-up road before. He's not about to say that his latest company will make people forget Microsoft System Center as the big dog in Windows desktop management software, opting instead for a humble assertion that Unidesk will assiduously strive to "fill the gaps and add value," which seems like a smart bet, based on his track record.

His credo is simple: "Building products for the enterprise is fun when you can make IT people smile."

Unidesk 1.0 is available immediately through Unidesk Solution Partners who are expert in VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft solutions, with pricing starting at $150 per named user, and going down with volume. Some of these channel partners include Cambridge Computer, Delta System Associates, GreenPages, INX, Ivoxy, Kovanus, Mainline Information Systems, and World Wide Technologies. The company is also partnering with Pano Logic and Leostream.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/21/2010 at 12:48 PM1 comments

How Do You Guys Keep Up?

I've been around long enough to know that keeping up with technology developments is a constant challenge for IT pros, but I can't begin to fathom how anyone could stay on top of all the changes--new concepts, new products, new companies--that are coming down the pike daily from what I would loosely term the desktop virtualization market.

From my perspective, I can tell you that being a one-man editorial shop for a publication and Web site whose coverage includes desk virtualization is a daunting task. Every day, it seems like there is an unending flow of new desktop virt product press releases flooding into my inbox. I try to do at least a couple of vendor briefings per week, but that is just scratching the surface.

The extreme state of this situation was really driven home to me when I read a March 3 brief about Unidesk, in which Rachel Chalmers, an analyst with the 451 Group describes how that vendor is relying on its "deep roots in storage" to simplify provisioning and maintaining state for virtual desktops. She then goes on to paint a crowded picture of Unidesk and a multiplicity of other virtual desktop companies trying to carve out space for themselves in this nascent but very competitive market.

To quote Rachel, "Unidesk's true rivals are other newcomers--themselves often drawing on storage expertise--that hope to help decompose the workspace in various ways: Ceedo, Endeavors Technologies, InstallFree and Xenocode around application streaming; AppSense, RES Software, Tranxition and SlickAccess around user virtualization; Kaviza and Wanova with new takes on the VDI model; and Atlantis Computing and Viewfinity with many-layered approaches that closely resemble Unidesk's own."

That was in March, and I'm sure the roster has swollen since then.

Question: How do you keep up with this kaleidoscope of companies? How do you make sure you don't miss the one outfit that fits like a glove with your organization and can drive it to new heights?

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/17/2010 at 12:48 PM1 comments

Altor 4.0 Will Hunt You Down Like a Dog

In the very unforgiving world of Altor Networks 4.0, if you're a rogue VM, blacklisted app, or turned-off anti-virus package, you're toast. No questions asked. No speedy trial. No time to lawyer-up. If you're lucky, you get quarantined, but don't make any long-term plans.

This is because 4.0--which almost seems like a living, breathing thing bent on some kind of demented revenge--leverages virtual machine introspection (sounds insidious, doesn't it?) to bring what Altor refers to as "X-ray like visibility" to internal VM states. The benefits of this insider access include ruthless compliance assessment, automated security enforcement meted out with the brutality of a third-world secret police force, and detailed, no-knock virtual infrastructure and VM risk-state audits. OK, end of cheesy analogies.

As Altor notes, "By leveraging introspection to collect VM attributes, such as installed applications, and coupling it with Altor's deep knowledge of the virtual network, Altor 4.0 creates a powerful database of control points by which security policies and compliance rules can be defined. Altor makes this rich data available in intuitive user interfaces (UIs) that let administrators build the entire range of policies, from corporate rules on global protocol handling to discrete regulation and compliance-driven policies for how VMs should be configured. Built-in templates help jump-start the process of building policies, while intuitive tools make quick work of customizing the rule sets."

Altor is on a bit of a roll, having won the 2010 RSA conference Innovator of the Year award, and secured $10 million in Series B funding. Now, it is leveraging its success by introducing a product they hope will push people forward from test-and-dev implementations to full-blown, datacenter virtualization that includes support for enterprise networks and cloud infrastructures--without VM sprawl.

According to Johnnie Konstantas, Altor VP of marketing, 4.0 can track newly created VMs that would otherwise get moved around and become unaccountable. It can also closely monitor VMs 24-7, enforce access control, and make changes if risk factors become unacceptable--all in accordance with corporate policies. As Konstantas puts it, "We just auto-enforce your will."

Which is a scary thing if you're an unauthorized change to a VM.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/17/2010 at 12:48 PM0 comments

VM6 Software Makes it Easy for SMBs

VM6 Software COO and founder Eric Courville has an impressive resume that includes stops at Embotics, where he was VP of worldwide sales and business development, and Platespin, where he was a founding employee in charge of establishing and executing their go-to-market strategy. The guy has gravitas, so when he invests his own money in a company--as he did with VM6--you know there is some serious potential waiting to be tapped.

It's taken a couple of incarnations, but now Courville and Co. are taking their best virtualization shot at the lucrative, ever-expanding SMB market with VM6 VMex 2.1, which aims to make life easier for small and mid-market companies by wrapping up virtualization, shared storage, advanced clustering and intuitive management and monitoring in one user-friendly package. No need to centralize infrastructure, bring in expensive experts, or integrate costly multi-point solutions for server and desktop virtualization, high availability, storage and management.

Now, rather than plunking down some $150,000 to get their virtualization infrastructures up and running--minus licensing costs--Courville say SMBs can realize a 70 percent lower TCO over three years by saying adios to the physical world.

In the way of high availability and storage recovery enhancement, VMex 2.1 includes a multi-array hub-witness that improves protection against unexpected crashes caused by power outage of entire sites. According to VM6, "This eliminates the need for manual intervention, which is required by competitive products to respond to certain crash scenarios."

The simplified event monitoring feature sends VMex 2.1 admins event monitoring via e-mail. "The configuration and management of alerts is now more integrated than in any other product on the market," the company claims.

The product's fully integrated dashboard contained in the storage virtualization manager provides "all the administrators need to understand the state of any storage virtualization object," and the management interface enables monitoring of VDI sessions via another fully integrated dashboard, allowing users to either view session state or reset sessions.

Worried about making the big leap to the virtual world? Courville says Microsoft Labs has VMex 2.1 and will be happy to demo it for prospective customers, adding, "Customers can start in a very non-obtrusive way in a test-dev environment." He also states that VM6 has 200 customers, no direct competition, and charges less than $1,000 for a low-end license.

"The biggest challenge we have now is getting known in the market," he concludes.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/15/2010 at 12:48 PM0 comments

CTO Blogosphere Debuts

[Editor's Note: See "Two New CTO Bloggers Join the VR Fold" for two new ones!]

It comes to my somewhat belated attention that I have not yet put in a plug for our new CTO Blogs, which I have been working on for a few weeks, and which can be accessed from our website home page. Like a lot of other good ideas, these CTO Blogs are the brainchild of my endlessly creative boss, Doug Barney, who absolutely adores good, free web content.

Just for the record, we have three blogs up and running, with two more on their way. The three active entries are "Virtual Snapshot," by Jason Mattox, CTO of Vizioncore, "Well Managed," by Doug Hazelman, Senior Director, Product Strategy, Veeam Software, and "App Delivery on Demand," by Karl Triebes, CTO of F5 Networks, an excerpt of which you can read below. (I'll mention the newcomers when their blogs are up and running.).

It wasn't all that long ago that I would no more have entrusted precious editorial space to any vendor than I would have jumped off the roof of my house (it's a big old house with a high peak). These days, however, most vendors have become media-savvy enough to realize that if they play it straight when offered an editorial opportunity, they can end up with some valuable--and free--exposure.

As a result, when you read these blogs, what you won't find is a bunch of shameless, self-promoting, vendor doggerel. What you will get is explanations of the latest technology going into cutting-edge virtualization products.

The way I see it, it's a win-win situation: The vendors get to subtly promote their products and strategies, while readers get a chance to familiarize themselves with technologies they may be interested in purchasing for their organizations. If they like what they read, they may want to make a financial commitment; if they don't, they've still learned something valuable, and no harm is done.

I look forward to your feedback on our new CTO Blogs.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/11/2010 at 12:48 PM0 comments

Deals and Diatribes

On Thursday, VMware and Novell announced that they were expanding their strategic partnership via an OEM agreement that would enable VMware to distribute and support the SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) OS. Under terms of the deal, VMware intends to standardize its virtual appliance-based product offerings on SLES.

After VMware and Novell announced, Team Virtualization Blog Microsoft reacted.

More on that reaction after a further description of the joint deal, which states that "Customers who want to deploy SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for VMware in VMware vSphere virtual machines will be entitled to receive a subscription to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server that includes patches and updates as part of their newly purchased qualifying VMware vSphere license and Support and Subscription."

According to the release, VMware and its extensive network of solution provider partners will also be able to offer customers the option to purchase technical support for SLES delivered directly by VMware for a "seamless support experience."

What's in it for customers?

According to Raghu Raghuram, VMware senior vice president and general manager, Virtualization and Cloud Platforms, "By delivering SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for VMware with every qualified VMware vSphere subscription, customers can more easily and cost-effectively virtualize Linux applications, accelerate their evolution to a fully virtualized datacenter and simplify portability of their applications to cloud environments."

Patrick O'Rourke, Microsoft director of Communications, Server and Tools Business, responded congenially by accusing the "vFolk," as VMware is evidently referred to in Redmond, of "further isolating themselves from the industry, " while praising Microsoft's relationship with Novell and pointing out that Microsoft's interoperability efforts have provided more "choice and flexibility" for customers, including Microsoft's work with Novell. (Please note that the key words "choice" and "flexibility" as used by Microsoft in this context are used judiciously to convey truth and meaning).

Continuing in the same warm spirit, O'Rourke declared--and not in a derisive fashion--that "It looks like VMware finally determined that virtualization is a server OS feature," adding that "The vFolks (I'm thinking hobbits here) have plans to ship a full version of a server OS with vSphere (which we all know sprang from the deepest depths of Hades), and support it, to fulfill their application development and application deployment plans (Feel free to insert the word "evil" between "their" and "application"). Finally--yes, nostalgically--O'Rourke notes calls the VMware-Novell agreement a "bad deal for customers because they're getting locked into an inflexible offer," and quotes from the terms and conditions as follows: "Customers may run SLES with the accompanying patches and updates subscription entitled by a VMware purchase only in virtual machines running on VMware vSphere 4.0 and 4.1 hosts that have vSphere SnS with VMware."

Of course, what's buried in the fine print of these same, seemingly innocuous terms and conditions is the fact that anyone taking advantage of this agreement must first turn over their youngest child to the vFolks for use as subjects in an extensive battery of experimental brain surgeries.

And if you think that's bad, you should see what VMware said about XenServer.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/10/2010 at 12:48 PM9 comments

Leostream Stays in the Fray

Leostream solidified its VDI credentials and made it easier for IT managers to get the most out of their existing IT infrastructures--an absolute requirement these days--by integrating a variety of clients, back-end systems and viewers into Leostream Connection Broker 6.5. V6.5 enables the company to hammer home its positive VDI user experience message and maintain its position in a market that is being flooded with vendors trying to get the attention of customers with their unique desktop virtualization solutions.

In addition to helping users optimize their legacy infrastructures, V6.5 plugs and plays with existing network infrastructures without requiring changes to essential data systems, such as authentication services and SSL VPNs. The company says that once its connection broker is implemented, it offers a flexible set of policies for exact implementation of business rules for administrators, users and machines.

The enhanced Web client that comes with V6.5 recognizes registry and printer plans, and user role settings, which Leostream says further enhances the user experience. Also included is a dynamic client display-matching capability which enables admins to create display plans that "automatically match the layout and resolution of the client displays for viewer protocols that support it, such as RDP and HP RGS. With this capability, end users' virtual desktops will automatically span and orient themselves correctly in multi-monitor setups."

In a nod to Citrix, Leostream Connection Broker 6.5 also enables rapid access to XenApp applications and desktops. "This Web client uses the Citrix Client for Java to launch an ICA session, which removes the need for an installed XenApp plug-in to be launched from the Web client," the company says.

The new product also includes several management enhancements relating to search capabilities, connection broker updates, logging, defining client locations, and Cisco VPN client support.

Leostream continues to have a good story to tell, and as long as they can ride the optimized user experience wave, and work on existing infrastructures, they will be a force to reckon with.

Question: Is Leostream well-placed for the VDI long-haul?

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 06/08/2010 at 12:48 PM1 comments

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