You may remember reading in this blog about Virtual Computer, whose NxTop PC management suite relies on a — surprise!! — Xen client hypervisor. But don’t think for a minute think that Citrix is paying Virtual Computer to do its development dirty work. “We’re not doing the investment in VCI so that they can build our client hypervisor for Intel,” said Andy Cohen, Citrix senior director of strategic development. Rather, the investment has more to do with the relative dearth of Xen experts in this world. “There’s are only so many really smart Xen guys in the world,” Cohen said, and one of them — Virtual Computer’s CTO Alex Vasilevsky, formerly of Virtual Iron — is one of them. Citrix’s “Xen guys”, meanwhile, include its vice president of special products Ian Pratt and CTO Simon Crosby, both formerly of Cambridge University and XenSource. Thus, the focus of the investment will be on “getting some really smart guys around the table.”
But Dan McCall, Virtual Computer president and CEO, acknowledges that VCI has a wealth of expertise about building a hypervisor for the wild-and-wooly world of client computers. Unlike servers, “PCs are complicated devices,” McCall said, that support a bewildering number of graphics and network cards, USB devices and the like, “and all of these different chips and technologies need to be virtualized.” VCI’s job, therefore, “is to make sure that the [virtualized] PC runs as well as it possibly can.”
However, it’s s “a little too soon to know” exactly which elements of the joint Citrix-Virtual Computer hypervisor will go back in to the open source Xen hypervisor, and which will stay proprietary, said Citrix’s Cohen. “There are a number of strategic questions about what goes in to the Xen open source hypervisor, and what part remains commercial,” Cohen said.
For its part, Virtual Computer hasn’t given up hope on its own NxTop PC management suite. “Our goal is to help Citrix get a ubiquitous Xen-based hypervisor out there,” said Dan McCall, the company’s president and CEO. That done, “there’s a whole bunch of intellectual property that is uniquely ours,” he said, for example, NxTop’s provisioning and patching, integrated backup and persistent end user personalization technologies.
The hypervisor itself, is less important, McCall said. “As we built out the product, we always intended to be able to use other hypervisors. So far, we’ve used the iTunes/iPod model where you can control both ends of the user experience, but if someone else’s hypervisor comes around, we’ll plug in to it.”]]>
The site gives users a way to annonymously compare their virtual machine (VM) configurations, by application category, with peers to see how others are allocating resources, and hopefully, take something useful back to your own environment.
vKernel’s Founder and CEO, Alex Bakman, came up with the CompareMyVM idea to help the IT community learn from each other about allocating resources for specific application VMs.
“How to properly allocate resources in a virtual environment is still a trial and error process. Simply using the same allocations of a physical server when virtualizing it can quickly lead to resource capacity issues caused by either over or under allocations,” said vKernel’s communications director, Christian Simko. “Ultimately, users can come to the site to learn how to ‘right size’ VMs so that they can drive higher VM densities without impacting performance.”
By setting Compare My VM up as a community site, visitors are more apt to share with and learn from their peers, than to have a product vendor tell users how and what to do, Simko explained.
So far, Compare My VM has around 300 submissions. Users typically enter their VM info either because they think their VM set up is da bomb, or because they need some help, which is why vKernel added a peer to peer ranking system on the site, Simko said.
“One person may think their set up for an MS SQL VM supporting X number of users is allocated just perfectly,” but it might not be so hot when viewed outside the four wall of that users data center. “We give others a chance to rank what they think is the right way, much like how Blog sites give others the ability to rank stories,” Simko said.
As is vKernel’s style, the site is designed so that it is simple to navigate and submit information to, allowing users to find similar profiles and compare them.
“It is a tool to help admins learn, share, and improve,” Simko said. “VKernel has only set up the framework of this site; we are not populating it or dictacting how people should be doing things. It’s purely a community tool.”
I encourage you to check out the free CompareMyVM.com site and anonymously compare your VM resource allocation profiles with that of your peers. You will either feel pretty good about what you are doing, or really bad – and in that case, you’ll probably learn something.]]>
At Virtual Computer, a new startup in Westford, Mass., the thinking is that for desktops, the virtualization layer belongs directly on the client, in the form of a bare-metal hypervisor. There the hypervisor brings management benefits like simplified provisioning and patching of images, but without of the mobility and performance limitations of VDI, said Doug Lane, Virtual Computer’s director of product marketing and management.
When VMware announced its intention to deliver a client hypervisor for “offline VDI” this fall, the company tacitly acknowledged VDI’s shortcomings, according to Lane. Meanwhile, the company is still focused squarely on delivering the desktop from the server.
“With VMware, offline VDI is the niche case,” he said. But when Virtual Computer looks out at the enterprise, it sees a preponderance of laptops and thick clients. “Our model starts there, and we think that server-hosted desktops are the niche case.”
To that end, Virtual Computer is developing NxTop, a PC management suite pronounced “nextop.” It consists of a Xen bare-metal hypervisor called NxTop Engine optimized for laptop-class hardware and that runs Windows virtual machines. Those are managed by its NxTop Control console from which administrators can configure and provision images, set up access and protection policies, and the like. NxTop is currently in beta and is scheduled to ship by the end of the first quarter of 2009.
Without making a stake in the ground and validating one strategy over another, Gartner senior research analyst Terry Cosgrove agreed that there several issues with hosted virtual desktops (Gartner-speak for VDI). “Hosted virtual desktops are an immature, adolescent technology” that won’t be ready for mainstream use for a number of years, he said. In the meantime, “there’s a place for alternative architectures to achieve the same thing – centralized management and control, but that gives users some autonomy.”
Cosgrove also said that several stealth-mode startups working on VDI alternatives will emerge over the next couple of months. There is also speculation that Microsoft and/or Citrix are developing client hypervisors of their own, and questions about which tack laptop OEMs like Dell and Lenovo will promote. One thing is clear, though: With laptop sales now exceeding desktop sales, those OEMs “are highly motivated to have a solution that will not prohibit the sales of laptops,” Cosgrove said.]]>