Category Archives: Virtualization

Introduction to Cloud Computing – Cloud Manager

So, I normally teach this class as a two hour session and I had a heck of a time cutting out material and getting it down to something digestible for Internet (and slide deck) viewing. It’s a quick introduction to cloud managers and a continuation of my introductory cloud computing course.

“VMLimted” Microsoft taking pretty good shots at VMware

Microsoft’s VM-Limited campaign has pitted VMware’s cloud strategy as just more virtualization masked as a Cloud solution.  Microsoft hits on some of the pain points of VMware’s customers including the change in licensing model which the faux VMLimited sales person explains it as “The more you use the more you pay” model.  From the density you look to get from a cloud solution Microsoft may have a valid point.  The new model for vSphere 5’s licensing does at face value makes you believe you may pay more if you offer really dense nodes.  I’ve looked at the licensing model and you really do need to have a specific use case to exceed the current memory limits.  I could see how cloud provider who look to get the most density out of their physical hardware would be at risk.

Another knock on VMWare is one of my main grips with vCloud which is its inability to support any other Hypervisor other than ESXi.  I interested in helping organizations build private and hybrid clouds and it is very easy to make a case for creating a private cloud based on more than one hypervisor.  I could see ESXi being used to host critical non-stop workloads and KVM, XEN or Hyper-V being used to host less critical workloads (not that they aren’t capable).   It seems to reason that a mixed hypervisor environment can save organizations deploying private clouds money.   I think VMware would answer by saying if you need to service those use cases then you could always use ESXi free.  However, you can’t manage ESXi free with vCloud Director.

The third point I get from the video is that VMWare doesn’t give your insight into your application.   I’m not too sure about this point.  Even if you just consider virtualization there are plenty of tools that help you with application performance.  I think this was more a reference to Microsoft’s Azure cloud solution which is more of a PaaS.  VMware does have its CloudFoundry project platform which addresses PaaS.  It is fair to say that Azure is much more mature than CloudFoundry at this point.

Whether the campaign is accurate or not it is one of the funniest campaigns Microsoft has put on.  I do believe you have to be a virtualization geek to get the references and may fly over the head of some decision makers.  Too the cloud indeed Microsoft

XenDesktop 5 Provisioning Server support for vSphere 5.0

I’m a pretty big fan of XenDesktop.  It’s a slick and power VDI platform.  A while back I helped a small company deploy XenDesktop and they’ve really appreciated the migration from XenApp.  They are accessing the environment locally, remotely and via iOS devices.  It just works (for the most part).

One design consideration I had to make was if to use MCS or a Provisioning server.  The Provisioning server is a powerful application that could easily be (and was) a standalone application.  Powerful useually means complicated and Provisioning server doesn’t disappoint it is complicated.

For a small deployment MCS is a nice alternative.  It integrates well with vCenter/VMWare and gives all the functionality needed for a small environment.  Another advantage I just discovered via Citrix’ Twitter feed is that MCS supports VMWare 5.0 unlike Provisioning Server.  I’m glad I made the design choice because I could just imagine the panicked call from that manufacturing company after they upgraded to vSphere 5.

Review of PHD Virtual Backup 5.4

Sponsored Post

What is PHD Virtual Backup?

PHD Virtual Backup is a virtual server backup application that comes in two flavors – A version for Citrix XenServer and a version for VMWare ESXi.  This solution is geared toward a virtualized environment.  So, if you have a mix of physical and virtual servers you will need a combination of solutions if you are looking to backup both environments.

PHD Virtual offers a plugin for the vCenter client which allows the elusive single pane of glass for both the administration of your vSphere environment and backup.  Another feature is the ability to replicate data across physical hosts.  PHD Virtual accomplishes this by doing block level delta replication between data sets.

PHD Virtual Backup has all most of the features you’d expect in a modern virtual host backup application.

–        Block level backup to allow reduced space on your backup medium

–        Data deduplication for reduced backup time and addition disk space savings

–        File level restores of files within the guest file system

–        Backup to NFS and CIFS shares or local storage

PHD Virtual obviously adds its own take on these features we’ll focus on backup and restore.


Installation is pretty straight forward.  There’s a plug-in for vCenter and an OVF file for the virtual machine.  If you’ve deployed a virtual appliance and installed a plug-in for vCenter you will have no problems with this install.  However, I find it common with applications designed to work with either VMWare or Citrix that when you run it for the first time it asks for the “Hypervisor” address and credentials.  In the case of VMware it’s your vCenter’s address and credentials.

There are more than a couple of options for target backup resources.  PHD Virtual allows you to backup to NFS, CIFS, LUN and iSCSI targets.  Basically, any storage medium you can mount or access via the network on PHD Virtual’s VM can be used as a backup target.  It also has an exporter application that allows you to move backup files tape and yes this is still a critical enterprise need.

Note that some requirements that need to be taken into account.  PHD Virtual is using VMware’s vStorage API’s which are not available in ESXi free so you need a vCenter environment.  Also, if backing up 64-bit machines Intel VT or AMD-V is required.


As stated above PHD Virtual uses vStorage API’s to backup virtual machines.  It takes a snapshot of the target virtual disk and creates a disk based backup that’s then deduplicated.  I found this to be pretty straight forward and standard.  This is exactly one of the use cases for the vStorage API’s and will make support between the two vendors manageable.


You have basically two options for performing restores.  You can restore an entire Virtual Machine instance or individual files.  The process for restoring an entire virtual machine basically creates a newly named virtual machine in your vCenter directory.  You can of course select the target and name of the new virtual machine.  You then have to go in and verify the restored virtual machine is the desired version and manually delete and rename the restored machine.

Restoring individual files is enabled by basically restoring a VMDK and mounting that virtual disk via iSCSI and copying the files to your target directory.  This is a novel approach that works well.


PHD Virtual is a capable backup application for an all virtualized environment.  The single pane experience is nice for smaller environments and it’s not complicated to manage.  If you are in need of item level backups and restores for databases or mail you will need an additional backup solution.  Also, this application is focused on a virtual environment so, if you have physical servers like a vCenter server you will need an additional solution.

All in all this is a very nice niche backup application. You get a good deal of features that are simple to manage. If your use case supports it then it is a great solution.  If you are a larger enterprise you may be better served with a more general VM aware backup solution that has more advanced features.

Why do we even need VMWare’s CloudFoundry?

ImageI live in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS).  Most of the projects I’ve been involved in have been around either building these services or deploying applications built on these services. It’s also easy to get customers to relate to single instances of VM’s hosted in the cloud or e-mail as a service.  So, when you talk about Platform as a Service (PaaS) we are getting a little out of my element.  However, I believe the real value in cloud will come from PaaS. PaaS is the plumbing that will allow organizations to build true cloud aware applications.  Popular application providers like Instagram, Tumblr etc. have built great applications on IaaS services like Amazon’s AWS.  However, this isn’t the best long term strategy for the enterprise.

IaaS is just another way to host your application on virtual machines.  Sure if you re-write your application you can build it to take advantage of scalable virtual machine instances.  Same thing with SaaS, it works great just as long as your use case matches well with the features of the service.  But when model doesn’t fit your 50,000 users/1,000,000 customer enterprise where are you going to turn?

When you talk about building your next generation custom supply chain application or CRM, PaaS is where the enterprise can see value.  The ability to point your application at a database, web or messaging service in the cloud has great appeal.  You are now outsourcing the performance and maintenance of these subsystems to your cloud provider.  No need to worry about disk, CPU or memory performance for the underlying infrastructure as the Cloud provider now takes care of all of the plumbing for these components. Your organization can focus on application innovation which will help gain a competitive edge.

So you may say, “Show me to this PaaS of which you speak?” The challenge today is that there is no standard across PaaS providers.  You have to pick a provider, a language and marry your success to the viability of the single provider as you are locked in to the provider’s framework.  You no long like the service you are getting from your current provider?  Well what are you going to do re-write your application for a new provider?  This is a problem that the Cloud is supposed to solve.  If you wanted vendor lock in you would have gone with Oracle or SAP.

Ideally PaaS services would be just as portable as virtual machines.  That’s where the VMware sponsored CloudFoundary comes into play.  CloudFoundary gives you a consistent framework across different cloud providers.  You say you like Amazon’s database instances but want to have messaging in your private cloud – no problem.  You write your application to the CloudFoundary framework and it will be a seamless experience across the two clouds.

Same goes for building a redundant application across multiple public clouds.  You can put your production services on Amazon’s cloud and have it backed up by any other provider that has a CloudFoundary service.  There are countless use cases for this type of application environment.  You could have your development environment provided by a value player or your laptop and your production served by Terremark.

That’s the dream.  The reality is that the platform has a ways to go.  VMware has made great strides over the past year but similar to the OpenStack this is a big and complex problem.  VMware cannot be the only major contributor to the project (at least brand wise).  They need more heft to get this to critical mass and wide adoption.  OpenStack brought on major open source contributors in IBM and Oracle.  I believe CloudFoundry needs another big name to continue the momentum.

VMware isn’t going to let network virtualization pass it by

I haven’t gotten excited about anything network related in a long time. Most of the changes in the last few years have been evolutionary. The idea of a programmable network is revolutionary. I think Cisco and Juniper have protection for market share on the high end but I see this as getting “good enough” sooner than latter and challenging the big guys on the low end.
I’m more excited about this from a cloud provider’s prospective. This will give providers the ability to create the same multitenant administration constructs for customer networks on commodity hardware similar to server virtualization.


VMware(s vmw) teamed up with Stanford and Berkeley on Tuesday to create an industry consortium around software defined networks, called the Open Networking Research Center. The company, famous for hypervisors that virtualize servers isn’t about to watch while companies attempt to build the same disruption in networking. The consortium counts CableLabs, Cisco(s csco), Ericsson, Google(s goog), Hewlett-Packard(s hpq), Huawei, Intel(s intc), Juniper(s jnpr), NEC, NTT Docomo, Texas Instruments(s txn) and VMware as its founding sponsors.

Much as server virtualization abstracts the hardware for the software that runs on it, allowing people to put different virtual machines on top of one server, virtualizing the network abstracts the cables and ports from the demands of the applications. But that’s not enough. To really achieve the flexibility that webscale and cloud companies demand, the network must be both virtualized and programmable.

The current enabler for this shift in networking is OpenFlow, a…

View original post 482 more words

Why Citrix Dumped OpenStack Support

I haven’t had time to review or weigh in on Citrix’s announcement on dropping support for OpenStack and embracing CloudStack.  I know since the announcement OpenStack has had a couple of major wins but I don’t think they come close to offsetting the loss of Citrix in the camp.


Citrix really wants to compete in the datacenter with VMware.  At the same time VMware is making a compelling argument for their Cloud ecosystem.  If you are looking at rolling a private cloud and you already have a vSphere infrastructure it’s difficult to weed through all the commercial options and the basically non-existent open source options for a VMWare environment.  vCloud becomes the defacto option when you don’t have months to research alternatives.  This puts Citrix at a handicap when it comes to competing in the data center and the private cloud.

I believe the Citrix move is positioned to help those who haven’t already invested heavily into VMware and are considering both a virtualization and cloud strategy a compelling option.  I commented earlier on the progress of the OpenStack platform and how far they have to go.  Citrix can’t afford to wait on the platform to mature.

If Citrix executes well they will have a great story to tell customers about potential seamless integration with AWS.  I think Citrix looks at Amazon more of a partner than VMware does.  The ability to provide surge capability of your XenServer based private cloud to AWS is enticing.