What's Up with VMware and Teradici?

As you probably know VDI -- what I tend to call hosted desktop -- was a big part of the VMworld buzz. CEO Paul Maritz is a lot more committed to building out this line of business for the company than Diane Greene had been. Ideally, a company zigs when it should zig and zags when it should zag. In my slightly jet-lagged opinion, jumping all over VDI in a big way is a good thing for the company overall and puts it in a great position to compete with Citrix in an area where many observers think the latter company is better positioned. VMware refers to this as its vClient Initiative.

One of the announcements around this initiative is a strategic licensing and co-development agreement with Teradici, a fabless semiconductor company based in Vancouver. Teradici has developed a technology called PC-over-IP which uses specialized graphics algorithms to up the performance ante for hosted desktop systems.

VMware’s VDI solution currently uses the RDP display protocol, the same one used by Microsoft for its server-based computing offerings. But RDP doesn’t have the same performance characteristics as Citrix ICA, the protocol used for XenDesktop and XenApp. I think we might well begin to see a real technology race in this area for several reasons. First, applications in general are still getting richer and more performance-driven as dual and quad core capability comes onstream. Second, real-time latency-sensitive apps such as multimedia, VOIP and videoconferencing will be increasingly prevalent. If hosted desktop is going to gain acceptance for knowledge workers as well as power users, VDI solutions will need to keep pace with these trends. With the Teradici collaboration, VMware is wisely trying to leapfrog ahead to gain a solid competitive advantage in this area.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 09/19/2008 at 12:49 PM1 comments

Leaving Las Vegas

Time to head back to Boston and digest a ton of input from this very busy show. It's been a few years since I've been to Vegas and the city has clearly changed. Looking out from my hotel window to the cityscape the other day, I was reminded a bit of Dubai -- new construction booming, a regenerated city rising out of the desert. It's unfortunate, however, that the entire city is still so pedestrian-unfriendly. (Of course, who would want to walk a Vegas city block anyway?)

The VMworld press and analyst reception on Wednesday was held at the Ghostbar atop the Palms Hotel, with an impressive view of the city as you stepped out into the open air deck. As we were talking with several VMware folks including the company's CIO, a rainbow appeared spanning the city and Keith came up with a great line asking "How much did VMware have to pay to get that arranged?"

Embedded within the floor of the Ghostbar's outdoor patio was a large pane of glass that you could stand on with an unobstructed view of the street some 55 stories below. It was a great conversation piece as people gathered around it with one attendee deciding to perform a stress test by jumping vigorously up and down on it, no doubt having something to do with the magic of imbibing. He's still with us fortunately but only because of the fine local construction work that was done on the outdoor deck.

I've lost count of how many conferences and trade shows I've been to over the years. Notches on the belt. But, by and large, this has been one of the more interesting ones I've been to in many respects. It certainly offered a buzz that was a nice counterpoint to the dismal economic news that now pervades the media. I'll credit VMware with putting on a well-run show and definitely making the trip worthwhile.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 09/18/2008 at 12:49 PM1 comments

More Clarity on Microsoft and Hosted Desktop

Las Vegas, September 17 --  Here at VMworld, Microsoft’s Scott Woodgate made some interesting comments about the company’s stance on the hosted desktop market. This is the competitive segment where Microsoft goes up against VMware’s VDI solution and of course VDI was given major emphasis by CEO Paul Maritz here at the show. I blogged earlier about my doubts and concerns about the company’s short and long term approach to having a competitive offering here.

Woodgate pointed out that laptop adoption, pushing a 50% threshold, is something that could be an impediment to this market. I think it’s a fair point. From my own perspective I also wonder how the increasing presence of real-time traffic on enterprise networks generated by things like unified communications, VOIP, and Cisco’s big push towards videoconferencing will affect this market.

Overall, the conversation only served to reinforce my perceptions that this is not a market segment where the company will be devoting a ton of resources in the short term. This was underscored by Woodgate’s comment that there “probably has been an overly significant focus on VDI."

Posted by Tom Valovic on 09/17/2008 at 12:49 PM0 comments

Cisco's Role in VMware's VDC-OS

Las Vegas, September 17 -- I managed to catch up with Ed Bugnion, CTO of the Server Access and Virtualization Business Unit at Cisco to get a little deeper dive on the announcement made in conjunction with VMware's VDC-OS, the centerpiece of the company's VMworld liftoff and the architecture and roadmap for the next generation data center.

Central to this is a new set of capabilities (not a product) called VN-Link. Explaining it would take far more time than I seem to have at the moment (it's a bit of a hall of mirrors) so I'll save that for another blog. But VN-Link the is foundation for a new product called the Nexus 1000V which is a networking linchpin of VDC-OS. The product was jointly developed with VMware and is slated for availability in 1HO9. Interestingly, when Bugnion announced at his keynote that it was the "the first third party ESX switch", there was an almost startling moment of spontaneous applause.

A few other interesting data points. Bugnion told me it was basically Cisco's first software-only switch. Second, Cisco has a WAN optimization product called WAAS which is likely to have an important role to play in VMware's vCloud initiative which will depend on robust communication links in geographically dispersed data centers (i.e. the Internal Cloud) as well as connecting to the federated Cloud that Paul Maritz addressed in his opening keynote on Tuesday. He revealed that Nexus, Catalyst, vSAN, and application delivery product lines will all feed into VDC-OS development going forward.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 09/17/2008 at 12:49 PM0 comments

VMware: The Vision Thing

Las Vegas, September 16 -- Arriving in Vegas yesterday, the first thing I did at the hotel was to have a long slow gulp of Fiji water (it was 98 degrees at touchdown) and the second was to fire up my laptop so that I could take in VMware’s slew of announcements. The piece de resistance of course was the unveiling of the company’s Virtual Datacenter Operating System (VDC-OS).

Trying to unravel this one will be interesting to say the least. (Hint: it's not really an operating system.) There’s not a whole lot new here at least conceptually. My take at this juncture is that it’s essentially more detail and some incremental forward movement on what VMware calls the "data center of the future" and Microsoft calls "Dynamic IT", a complex construct that's all about automating VM-based processes and making them “elastic, self-managing, and self-healing” to use VMware’s terminology. The telecom’s like to use the term “the intelligent network”. Think of this as the intelligent data center.

Nothing wrong with the vision of course or even that VMware is trying to articulate it. But the question is can VMware or any other supplier for that matter deliver on this within the time frame we are led to believe it will take place? Guess what, it’s not around the corner folks. Anyone who has studied the somewhat abstruse (and slightly scary) field of complex adaptive systems knows about how hard it might be to achieve a goal like this. Whether data centers, already burdened with increasing cost and complexity can get to this state of machine grace without creating even more complexity in the short term is another story.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 09/16/2008 at 12:49 PM0 comments

HP’s Approach to Desktop Virtualization

My former colleague Dan Kusnetzky  has made some interesting comments about HP’s approach to desktop virtualization.  As he correctly points out, overall the company’s got a very broad reach in terms of their potential hooks into the market. And while Microsoft and VMware have gotten a lot of industry attention over the last few months, the large system vendors are starting to get their ducks lined up in virtualization and will without a doubt become forces to be reckoned with. (Editor-in-chief Doug Barney wrote extensively about all these suppliers in our May/June issue.)

I recently had a chance to sit down with Roberto Moctezuma, vice president and general manager of HP’s Desktop Solutions Organization. The timing was perfect since I’m working on a feature on hosted desktop virtualization for our next issue. We had a free-ranging discussion but a few items were especially noteworthy. Roberto has HP’s thin client business under his purview as well as HP Blade Workstation, HP Blade PC, and partner-based solutions from VMware and Citrix. He sees a number of important drivers for what Forrester calls hosted desktop virtualization and what Gartner calls server-based client virtualization (glad we can all agree on the terminology!).

In addition to the usual drivers such as an increasingly mobile workforce and green IT, Roberto pointed out another: outsourcing abroad. HP customers with major outsourced operations (such as call centers) have been telling the company they need to better protect data and intellectual property and hosted desktop is a way to do this.

Roberto also showed me the HP phone he was using (who knew?). A few months ago, his group made an interesting announcement about mobile thin clients (this is iPhone territory folks), the HP 2533t Mobile Thin Client which weighs three pounds and provides both 3G and WLAN access. More recently, as part of HP’s virtualization blitz, the group announced the new HP t5630, t5545, t5540 and t5145 Thin Clients and enhancements to the HP Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Included in this are “Citrix Ready” blade PCs and thin clients certified for Citrix XenDesktop environments.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 09/14/2008 at 12:49 PM0 comments

Hosted Desktop: A Tougher Sell?

Ok so it’s off to VMworld next week for full immersion. It’s going to be an extremely busy show. If you haven’t tried out VMworld’s nifty Schedule Builder give it a try, it’s a great tool. (Just don’t make the mistake that I did and print out all of the sessions. Trust me, there are a lot and on just about every imaginable angle.)

Speaking of full immersion, I’ve been doing a lot of digging on the subject of hosted desktop virtualization lately and trying to scope out just where that market is headed. I’ll be having a lot of discussions about it next week so if any of you have any burning questions about this market, feel free to email them. I’ll do my best to get answers and post them here from the show.

Unlike server virtualization, this market has a lot of unknowns and imponderables. Jeff Jennings who heads up VDI products at VMware conceded that it's not going to be quite as straightforward a market sell as server virtualization since both ROI and deployment issues are more complex.

This is reinforced by a recent Yankee Group survey indicating that “just over one-third or 34% of the survey respondents indicated that they plan to virtualize their desktop PCs and laptops; and only 32% of the 34% said they have already deployed or are currently in the process of virtualizing their desktops.”

An upcoming feature in our Sept/Oct issue will do a deep dive on all the complicated issues associated with this interesting emerging market. By the way, if you're going to be at VMworld, please stop by the 1105 Media booth. It's always great to have a chance to talk to our readers.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 09/12/2008 at 12:49 PM0 comments

Cisco’s Approach to Virtualization

No doubt about it. Cisco is a well run company. Right down to the handshake. I remember going to an analyst event at Cisco East in Boxborough, MA a few years ago. After parking our cars in the visitor’s lot, we were very pleasantly assailed by “greeters” -- Cisco employees who were specifically tasked with glad-handing and welcoming us as we walked in the door. After the event, we filled out evaluation forms on the various speakers but the form also asked us to evaluate each greeter as well. (Do you take off points for the proverbial fishy handshake?)

Because Cisco is a well run company, when they start talking about virtualization (as they have been for a while now) it’s worth paying attention. And it’s also worth noting that the company is a minority investor in VMware along with Intel.

So what is Cisco’s play in virtualization? I’ll offer my own admittedly imperfect 50,000 foot view here and we’ll, of course, be doing some deep dives going forward in both the print publication and here in blogland. (Virtualization Review will be covering all major aspects of the virtualization market in due course. )

About a year ago the company announced an initiative called Data Center 3.0. This is all about the next-generation data center or whatever terminology you care to use. It’s where every single virtualization supplier on the planet is headed. (Microsoft, for example, calls it “Dynamic IT”.) Cisco’s play in all of this is of course network virtualization

As discussed in my last Cisco blog, there’s really a bright dividing line between doing network virtualization (NV) 1.0 via VLANs, VSANs, and other products, many associated with the Catalyst line of network switches and what I’ve somewhat unimaginatively called NV 2.0.

NV 2.0 (my construction) appears currently to consist of a ragbag of disparate elements. There’s I/O virtualization along the lines of what Neterion, 3Leaf, and Xsigo are doing -- basically products designed to virtualize NICs or HBAs and offering what is essentially dynamic provisioning of I/O capacity. Cisco does not currently have an offering in this market.

Other NV 2.0 products appear to be being developed specifically to support other types of virtualization such as server virtualization by basically making the supporting network more flexible. When we look at all of the resources in a data center being virtualized (i.e. servers, storage, networks, and applications) then it’s easy to see how the NGDC is going to need flexibility at all these levels. Cisco’s VFrame product has an important role here.

In other words, the dynamic data center is going to need to have all of these “resource pools” work interactively and flexibly as system requirements change on a daily or even hourly basis. The network, obviously, is an important but often underestimated link in this holistic value chain.  

Bottom line: I’d like to see network virtualization mainly discussed in this context. In other words, as either a) existing or future products supporting other types of virtualization or b) existing or future products supporting the next generation data center or NGDC. Put another way, I’d like to see the water not get muddied by Cisco and other vendors claiming in effect: “we’ve been doing virtualization for years, what’s the big deal?”

In any event, my grousing aside, I would expect to see some interesting announcements on all this from Cisco next week at VMworld.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 09/12/2008 at 12:49 PM0 comments

The Missing Link in Microsoft Client Virtualization

Listening to Bob Muglia and Kevin Turner speaking yesterday at the Microsoft virtualization launch more or less confirmed my perceptions (and doubts) about the company’s approach to hosted desktop virtualization or what it likes to call “centralized desktops”.

Hosted desktop virtualization is one of the four types of client virtualization as defined by Forrester, which also includes local desktop, local application, and hosted application elements. (Client virtualization tends to be a semantic wormhole, proceed with caution!)

One of the core messages from Microsoft’s event was that Redmond has an end to end portfolio of virtualization solutions in all major areas, the shot across the bow to VMware. But there may be a gap in this lineup.

When it comes to client virtualization overall, Redmond certainly has a good case, especially given the acquisition of Kidaro and Softricity. App-V 4.5, for example, has just been released. What I’m questioning is the company’s approach to hosted desktop or VDI where it does not appear to have a well-defined product currently or even what I would consider to be a well-articulated strategy or product roadmap.

Muglia put a lot of emphasis on presentation virtualization in his remarks yesterday (Think Terminal Services and the Citrix partnership.) and there was a reason for this. Clearly, for the foreseeable future at least, Redmond will rely on its partnership with Citrix for both a connection broker and XenDesktop to fulfill this area. But since hosted desktop is an important element in any company’s virtualization strategy, Microsoft may well be missing a major opportunity. Stay tuned.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 09/09/2008 at 12:49 PM1 comments

Server Virtualization Ratios: Getting It Right

Sharmila Mulligan is the chief marketing officer, Business Technology Optimization, for HP. On a call regarding the company’s latest announcement, I asked her about the major pain points they were hearing from customers about virtualization. At the top of the list: server virtualization ratios and making the right decisions about how many VMs to put on servers.

Some discussions that editor Keith Ward and I had later in the week shed some additional light on this topic. Talk to companies like Neterion, 3Leaf, or Xsigo and you’ll hear an interesting related observation, namely that I/O limitations can be a major inhibitor in terms of the number of VMs that can be configured on a single server. In this context, Jon Toor, VP of marketing at Xsigo recently told us the company has some customers who have managed to put as many as 40 VMs on a single server using their product, an I/O virtualization solution called the VP780 I/O Director. (An enhanced version, x2, was just announced.)

Not bad. Toor went on to point out that most capacity planning tools out there today don’t have the sophistication to factor in the possible changes in scenario planning that virtualized I/O can bring into the picture. As a result, a lot of I/O vendors are put into after-market mode (not surprising in an emerging technology space) simply because many IT shops will tend to deploy first and then, once some experience has been garnered, realize they need to attack the bottleneck problem.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 09/08/2008 at 12:49 PM0 comments

VMworld Sneak Peek

It’s dueling press releases time folks. Microsoft’s announcement today should be more than interesting but, in the meantime, VMware has issued a release previewing next week’s festivities. Don’t you just love competition? I’m a serious tennis fan and it’s great to see these two companies going at it the way Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal did in the outstanding conclusion of the US Open men’s semifinal yesterday.

VMware’s release today said the company expects a record 14,000 attendees, a 30% increase over last year. Also at the event will be around 200 sponsors and exhibitors including Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, Intel, NEC, NetApp and Symantec, all of whom will be delivering keynotes. Both Paul Maritz and the company’s new CTO Dr. Stephen Herrod will keynote. (Herrod replaces the company’s previous executive vice president of research and development, Richard Sarwal, who defected to Oracle earlier this month.) A number of VMware customers will be at the show including AT&T, Burt's Bees, Chevron, eBay, Nationwide, Qualcomm, and Siemens.

Several customer comments were cited in the press release. One that I especially liked was "When the price of gas forced me back on my Harley Davidson, VMware Workstation 6 allowed me to convert my laptop and run it from a usb drive that I carry around instead of heavy hardware."

Posted by Tom Valovic on 09/08/2008 at 12:49 PM0 comments

HP’s Virtualization Blitz

In looking at HP’s recent press advisories about a slew of virtualization offerings, I was a bit surprised by the decidedly downbeat nature of the announcement positioning. The hook for the release -- which urged us to “rethink” virtualization --  was a survey commissioned by the company on virtualization deployment. Here’s what it said:

“Recent global research conducted on behalf of HP revealed that while 86 percent of technology decision makers have implemented virtualization projects, the vast majority of respondents expect to have virtualized just 25 percent of their technology environments by 2010. While many of those surveyed anticipate eventually reaching 75 percent virtualization of their total environments, only one-third of these technology implementers recognize virtualization as a valuable business tool. Two-thirds of implementers relegate virtualization to the role of technology enabler.”

So what’s the subtext here?  Most press releases involving a new market, if they quote surveys, will reference ones that support the technology involved. This is a well-established messaging protocol within the industry. When a powerhouse like HP doesn’t  follow suit, it’s a signal.

While the announcements appeared to be fairly sweeping in the aggregate because they spanned a number of business units (mostly management platforms and thin clients), the “wrapping” makes me wonder about the company’s deeper stance and commitment to virtualization other than doing what’s necessary and sufficient to adapt existing products as appears to be the case here. I first raised this issue in an earlier blog:

“Shane Robison, HP's chief technology and strategy officer, was recently interview by Newsweek on his thoughts about the company's overall technology direction. While there was mention of HP's efforts in datacenter automation and IT outsourcing, the subject of virtualization didn't come up -- even in the context of a discussion about green IT. Curious...”

In this context, let me also share a conversation I had a few days ago (prior to the announcement) with Gartner’s Tom Bittman. Tom told me that in his view neither HP or IBM “get it yet”. He went on to say that “ I don’t think they’re seeing the big strategic picture…It [i.e. virtualization] is falling between the cracks at the very big vendors. In my view, VMM and System Center are huge threats. The big four management vendors are not acting fast enough. They’re doing tactical things to support physical as well as virtual, but missing an opportunity.”

Do you agree? If not, let me know your thoughts. As Editor-in-Chief Doug Barney likes to point out, we like strong opinions.

Posted by Tom Valovic on 09/07/2008 at 12:49 PM0 comments