Sep 30

In the last four years the VMware sales channel undergo several transformations, some of them less appreciated than others by company partners.

The last one took place this September when VMware decided to allow each resellers in the channel to sell the entire product line, practically equalizing entry-level Professional partners with Enterprise and Premium ones.

The new channel configuration is still made by these three levels but the difference is now minimal: higher partnership levels benefit are now reduced to sales opportunity registration and a bunch of discounts for internal use software and technical training.

On top of that a VIP Professional partner is no more required to correspond an annual fee to maintain its status, and can sign-on after certifying one single person, which has to pass a very simple non-technical online exam. This basically means that almost every virtualization professional on the market may become a VMware VIP Professional tomorrow with almost no effort.

In March 2006 virtualization.info predicted a hard time for resellers in VIP Professional level because of free products (Player and Server) and VMware online store.

This move may be a try to save them, but it seems to damage the entire channel instead, increasing number of incompetent resellers at Professional level, and punishing Enterprise and Premium levels which invested a lot of money in staff certification, annual fees and business plans VMware requires.

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Sep 30

For October 22-23 Conductive, a Sweden firm focused on conferences and seminaries, arranged first edition of the Nordic Virtualization Forum 2007 in Stockholm.

I’ll be there to perform the opening keynote, talking about virtualization industry today, emerging and consolidated market trends (with some news from just passed VMworld 2007) and industry challenges.

I’ll also moderate the panel at the end of first day, trying to skake up the discussion about virtualization ROI, Management issues and implementation best practices.

The complete agenda is available here, while registration is available here.

This will be my first speech in Sweden and I’d be happy to meet any virtualization.info reader attending. Be sure to stop by and say hello.

(to see other events where I’ll have a lecture check my speaking schedule)

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Sep 30

At Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2007 eWeek interviewed Justin Rattner, CTO at Intel, which revealed how upcoming USB 3.0 is being designed to support virtualization:

We think that virtualization is a great, powerful technology that is at its earliest stage of its application. We’d now like to get back to the security application, which is where we started. We are just bringing out this trusted execution technology, which we used to call “LaGrande,” which guarantees that the image you load in the virtual machine is the image that you wanted to load. So we have this notion of secure boot, and we’d like to get back to that. We have focused a lot on processor virtualization, and there’s a lot of work to be done on platform virtualization. How do we virtualize the platform so we have to do less in software and do more in the hardware? One of the things that we are doing with the USB 3.0 development is to develop the changes in USB architecture to support virtualization and then you have to look at what we are doing with PCI Express and USB and graphics. We have an eye toward supporting virtualized environments…

Read the whole article at the source.

ExtremeTech reports some specification details and tentative dates for market launch of 3.0 devices:

USB 3.0 is built upon, and is backwards-compatible with, the USB 2.0 “High Speed” spec. It would be generous to even call the specifications “early” at this stage, but the group still had lots of information about how USB 3.0 will work and what features it will provide. The spec should be finalized sometime in the middle of 2008, with initial devices available in ‘09, and broad deployment by 2010.

The main two goals of SuperSpeed USB are to provide a 10X boost in transfer rate (from 480-Mbits/s in USB 2.0 to 4.8 Gbits/s in USB 3.0), while dramatically lowering power consumption. One example of their speed goals is to transfer a 27GB HD movie to a portable device in 70 seconds. The same thing would take 15 minutes or more with HighSpeed USB (2.0). The SuperSpeed devices will use the same connectors and the same programming and device models as existing devices.

Device virtualization will be an important part of the new USB spec as well. The Promotions Group wants to make sure that virtual machines can access USB 3.0 devices without software intervention. A final concern is over Mass Storage Device drivers. Currently, MSD drivers for USB 2.0 devices have enough overhead to limit performance to around 32 Mbytes/sec. The overhead in this driver model would just kill the great potential for SuperSpeed USB hard drives and flash storage performance, so a new, more efficient driver model is needed. This is out of the purview of the USB spec itself, but the teams involved want to work hand in hand with the driver specifications groups to make sure USB 3.0 Mass Storage Devices can live up to their potential.

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Sep 30

Quoting from the The Register:

We find a VMware with a market cap of $32bn - a figure rapidly approaching that of its big daddy EMC at $43bn.

Even with the analysts hyping EMC at the same time they hype VMware, the very real possibility exists that VMware’s valuation will in fact jump right past EMC’s…

Well, I’ve heard rumors that VMware CEO Diane Greene and EMC CEO Joe Tucci already have a strained relationship. These are only rumors, mind you, and nothing more.

Even if things have yet to reach Tension Point, however, they almost certainly will in the coming months should VMware’s stock keep soaring. Why should the flashy, nimble VMware remain controlled by a lumbering disk vendor like EMC, especially if VMware is mightier on paper than EMC? Why should Greene be bullied by five - out of six - board members with very strong - often direct - ties to EMC? Why should VMware be weighed down by EMC’s baggage? Let’s not forget that the company competes against VMware’s strongest allies.

VMware’s rocketing share price would seem to exacerbate any existing tensions. In addition, it may well create new tensions. Will Greene take any guff at all from Tucci and Co. when she’s responsible for the storage vendor’s Wall Street revitalization? I can’t help but wonder if Greene doesn’t eye that EMC CEO post…

Read the whole article at the source.

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Sep 30

VMware products are not the only ones suffering security vulnerabilities. The wider audience the bigger chances to find out developers errors in every software, in every industry.

So after bugs which obliged VMware to release new Workstation 6.0.1, Player 2.0.1, ACE 2.0.1 and Server 1.0.4, it’s now Xen turn.

Quoting from Secunia:

Joris van Rantwijk has reported a vulnerability in Xen, which can be exploited by malicious, local users to gain escalated privileges.

The vulnerability is caused due to an input validation error in tools/pygrub/src/GrubConf.py. This can be exploited by “root” users of a guest domain to execute arbitrary commands in domain 0 via specially crafted entries in grub.conf when the guest system is booted.

The vulnerability is reported in Xen 3.0.3. Other versions may also be affected.

Grant only trusted users “root” privileges to guest domains.

Read the whole securiy bulletin at the source.

Since Xen is used as virtualization engine by XenSource, Virtual Iron, Novell and Red Hat, all of their commercial solutions may be affected by the same vulnerability. Check with vendors to confirm this.

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Sep 30

Quoting from InfoWorld:

SWsoft, the company behind the Parallels Desktop virtualization software for Macintosh, expects to release a beta version of a server edition of the software in the next four to six weeks.

Some of the features of Parallels Server, such as full 64-bit support for host and guest operating systems, and support for multiprocessor VMs, should also appear in the next major version of the desktop edition, due in the first half of next year, said Rudolph…

Read the whole article at the source.

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Sep 30

Roland Piquepaille alerts us to research out of University College London in which virtual robots, trained to “see” as we do, were duped by optical illusions the same way humans are. Here’s one of the illusions the software system fell for.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

full article

Sep 30

In the last months Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) approach (as VMware use to call it, hosted virtual desktops elsewhere) got a lot of traction, with notable vendors like Sun jumping in the market along with new startups (Qumranet is the last one in the timeline).

Along with vendors, some customers start to consider VDI approaches as valuable alternatives to well-known terminal services approaches.

Dave Caddick, Enterprise Architect at Neoware (now acquired by HP), describes an interesting scenario where VDI seems better:

Greenfield Design Criteria for 5,000 Users:

  • 60% Task based workers suitable for Thin Clients = 3000
  • 30% Knowledge Workers suitable for VDI = 1500
  • 5% Developers or similar suitable for PC’s = 250
  • 5% Mobile Workers with Laptops = 250

Of the mobile workers with Laptops I would think that 60% (or more) of these could be provided with Mobile Thin Clients

60% of 250 = 150 with Mobile Thin Clients and 40% of 250 = 100 with traditional Laptops

Conclusion:

So on initial inspection we would appear to have:

  • VDI = USD 400 per user (exc. costs of Desktop License)
  • Citrix = USD 562 per user (exc. costs of TSCAL)

And to me this looks like it?s quite favourable to Citrix, when you add the cost of the Desktop License then the advantages of a Citrix deployment with it?s ease of use, readily available skills, mature product set and features, it?s almost a no-brainer?

However, as discussed above, if you change the figures to reflect that you can only achieve a max. of 40 users per server then it starts to tip the other way. Now we have a 17K server and 14K of Citrix Licensing only supporting 40 Users and the server cost per user now becomes USD 775.

Although VDI is currently ?in vouge? I would have not thought that VDI can match the ?Bang for the Buck? that can be achieved by Terminal Server/Citrix Installations, however I am now thinking that it’s quite likely that other people’s numbers won’t neccessarily be the same as mine and this could be based on a wide number of factors. So this then may be very influential in peoples perceptions and may well have an impact on what the numbers are calculated to be in ROI?s and TCO?s before commencing a project…

And even Brian Madden, well-known terminal services expert, is reporting a scenario where VDI was a better solution:

Let?s start at the very beginning. Gabe and I worked with this university six months ago. They were not using any server-based computing or streaming or anything like that. It was a brand new environment. They had four scenarios (or ?use cases?) they wanted to enable:

  1. There are 1200 lab workstations throughout campus. Users need to be able to walk up to any one of them and access any of 200 applications. The users also need access to their own data and profiles.
  2. They want to publish a remote desktop via server-based computing to people so that they can access the ?lab workstation? from their dorm rooms or off campus.
  3. They want to publish individual applications (as opposed to a full desktop like in Scenario 2) to users on their own computers.
  4. Longer term, they want people to be able to run these applications locally on non-university-controlled workstations (i.e. student laptops), and they want this to work offline.

Why no Citrix? (Well, other than Ardence, which is now owned by Citrix.) The problem with Citrix in the server-based computing market is that their desktop server product is a completely separate product from Presentation Server. Even when Desktop Server version 2 comes out, it?s still a separate farm, a separate database, and additional licensing on top of the $500 per user or whatever Presentation Server costs these days.

Provision comes in with their single product at something like $100 per user which supports Terminal Server-based and VDI-based SBC models in the same product, and it also provides the seamless application publishing from Windows XP VMs which is perfect in this case and not even on Citrix?s roadmap. So Provision is a no-brainer.

As for using VDI instead of Terminal Server for the published desktops and applications, this means the university gets broad application compatibility and can use the same desktop images everywhere, and it only costs them USD $6,000 per 50 concurrent users instead of $3,000. Really that?s not too bad from a capital cost standpoint when compared to the fact that they have a much easier time managing the thing and they don?t have to figure out local solutions and more servers for non TS-compatible apps…

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Sep 30

This year attendees of VMworld 2007 received a pleasing surprise: a 1GB USB key with a beta version of upcoming ESX Server 3i.

When one of 3i supported servers is not available for a trial deployment, users may want to install the beta inside a virtual machine, which is not exactly an easy goal to achieve.

To simplify the whole operation David Davis, created a nice 16-minutes webcast which explains how to extract the ESX Server 3i image from the USB key and run it inside a Workstation 6 virtual machine.

Watch the whole video here.

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Sep 30

InfoWorld published a comparison between the three most popular application virtualization platforms: Microsoft SoftGrid 4.2, Symantec SVS Pro 2.1 (acquired by Altiris) and the just released Thinstall Virtualization Suite 3.2.

Winner is Symantec SVS with a score of 7.5/10 but other products received very similar ratings. Bottom lines for each one are:

  • Symantec SVS Pro 2.1
    SVS gains in partner AppStream a much needed streaming capability to support its already robust virtualization layer. The combined solution allows applications to be launched from a Web browser, and headless services are supported. However, the level of integration between the OEM components is imperfect and simple deployment tasks require too many steps, not to mention the slow initial response time for virtualized applications. Still, it?s the closest thing to ?click ?n run? on the market today.
  • Microsoft SoftGrid 4.2
    SoftGrid has changed little since our previous review. Strong points are tight integration with Active Directory and a well-optimized streaming model. However, it still suffers from usability quirks and an overly complex sequencing process, and it lacks support for headless services. Nevertheless, Microsoft?s acquisition of SoftGrid, and its decision to de-couple the client from the server, point to an important role for the underlying technology in future Microsoft products and services.
  • Thinstall Virtualization Suite 3.2
    Thinstall continues to deliver a no-frills solution that makes the process of packaging and deploying virtualized applications almost trivially simple. The completely self-contained virtualization environment requires no client agent or back-end server, and it delivers excellent runtime performance. However, the acquisition of competitors Softricity and Altiris has left Thinstall as the lone pioneer in a rapidly maturing market. Previously overlooked deficiencies, like the lack of client-side caching and the inability to stream over non-SMB connection types, will become magnified in the light of this newly competitive landscape.

Read the whole comparison at source.

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