The Virtualization Room


September 23, 2008  5:00 AM

Server virtualization in the age of mergers and acquisitions

Joseph Foran Profile: Joe Foran

Last week at VMworld ’08, while living in the glitz of Vegas for a week of product news, press releases, interviews and judging the Best of VMworld entires with my TechTarget colleagues, my constantly buzzing BlackBerry delivered the latest financial news — the collapse of Lehman, the fall of Morgan, the implosion of AIG — all saying the doom of the market is upon thee.

As an investor, this wasn’t my happiest week (I always felt it was odd to invest money in people who invest money), but for a lot of others, last week must have been miserable indeed. Among those who are feeling miserable right now are IT staffers at Bank of America, who must now acquire a global IT infrastructure as their company acquires Morgan Stanley. And of course, federal IT staff are now worrying about how to oversee the essentially nationalized AIG. That’s not to mention the IT teams at numerous other companies engaged in mergers and acquisitions.

This is the time for server virtualization to shine. Bank of America should lead the charge in making efficient use of virtualization in their acquisition of Morgan Stanley. BofA is going to inherit an immense quantity of hardware, not to mention enormous heating/cooling/electric bills, colossal real estate costs and a titanic regulatory compliance project as it tries to integrate its own IT infrastructure with Morgan’s. If BofA (or any acquiring company for that matter) is smart, it will use virtualization to physical-to-virtual (P2V) every possible asset, transport to its own data center and import those virtual systems.

Bank of America shouldn’t just P2V low-hanging fruit, either — it should reach for the stars. Then it should shut down that physical hardware, wipe it and sell it to help offset the project costs. There are obviously a lot of nuanced steps involved in making this happen, but all the major pain points to which virtualization presents solutions are all the major pain points in integrating a new IT infrastructure:

1) Server move/change/add/remove
2) Power costs
3) Real estate costs
4) Heating and cooling
5) Configuration management
6) Asset management

The difference between the slow-rolling projects in most companies and the aggressive plan I recommend is night and day. The ROI in a progressive rollout can be achieved over time, integrated into the budget and then applied over that time. The costs of an acquisition and the integration of that acquisition’s IT assets are immediate and immense.

Virtualization can provide those long-term benefits in the short term — the elimination of real estate, cooling and power costs alone will offset the cost of licensing and storage. The enhanced backup and retention possible with virtualized systems will go a long way towards easing regulatory concerns of data retention.

September 23, 2008  4:10 AM

Using blades as virtual hosts

Eric Siebert Eric Siebert Profile: Eric Siebert

Blades have come a long way since the early days of very few options and limited expandability. Most early blade servers only had one or two NICs, limited storage, no Fibre Channel support, and limited CPU and memory, which made them poor choices for virtual hosts. That’s all changed in recent years as blade technology has evolved and no longer has the limitations of earlier blades, making them ideal for virtual host servers. Modern blade servers can support up to 16 NICs, four quad-core processors and multiple Fibre Channel or iSCSI HBA adapters. When considering blade servers in your environment as an alternative to traditional rack mount servers, you need to know the advantages and disadvantages of each and why you might choose one type over another.

Some reasons you might choose blade servers over traditional servers:

  • Rack density is better for data centers where space is a concern. Up to 50% more servers can be installed in a standard 42U rack compared with traditional servers.
  • Blade servers provide easier cable management as they simply connect to a chassis and need no additional cable connections.
  • Blade servers have lower power consumption than traditional servers because of reduced power and cooling requirements.
  • Blade servers can be cheaper than traditional servers when comparing a fully populated chassis with the equivalent number of traditional servers.

Some reasons you might choose traditional servers over blade servers:

  • Traditional servers have more internal capacity for local disk storage. Blade servers typically have limited local disk storage capacity due to the limited drive bays. Some blade vendors now have separate storage blades to expand blade storage, but this takes up additional slots in the blade chassis.
  • Traditional servers have more expansion slots available for network and storage adapters. Blade servers typically have very few or no expansion slots. Virtual hosts are often configured with many NICs to support the console network, vmKernel network, network-attached storage and virtual machine networks. Additional network adapters are also needed to provide failover and load balancing.
  • Once a chassis is full, purchasing a new chassis to add a single new additional server can be costly. Traditional servers can be installed without any additional infrastructure components.
  • Traditional servers are often less complicated to set up and manage than blade servers.
  • Traditional servers have multiple USB ports for connecting external devices and also an optical drive for loading software on the host. They also have serial and parallel ports, which are sometimes used for hardware dongles for licensing software. Additionally, tape backup devices can be installed in them. Blade servers make use of virtual devices that are managed through the embedded hardware management interfaces.

Many people that use blade servers as virtual hosts often take advantage of the boot-from-SAN feature so they don’t need internal storage on their blade servers. The choice between blade and traditional servers often comes down to personal preference and what type of server is already in use in your data center. Some people like blades, others don’t. Regardless of which server type you choose, they both work equally well as virtual hosts.


September 22, 2008  12:49 PM

Managing the virtual machine lifecycle with an expiration date

Rick Vanover Rick Vanover Profile: Rick Vanover

Having a virtual machine expiration date is an important procedural step in successfully managing a virtual environment. Managing the expiration date in VMware environments is challenging without adding pricey tools such Lifecycle Manager or other commercial management products. In this video blog, Rick Vanover discusses one way to get the expiration date into your virtual environment without adding direct costs:


September 22, 2008  11:38 AM

Vizioncore’s VMworld product deluge

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

Vizioncore, the company best known for its virtualization backup software vRanger Pro (formerly known as esxRanger) hoped to make a strong impression at VMworld with lots of new products being unveiled.

On display was the next vRanger release, version 4.0. Highlights of the new release are a faster engine, a redone GUI, more granular file-level recovery and the new vAPI 1.0 that allows third-party software providers to leverage the Ranger technology. Expect to see news about partners writing to the new application programming interface after VMworld, said Chris Akerberg, Vizioncore’s president and COO.

The company has also delved into the virtual sprawl reduction business with the introduction of vOptimizer, a new tool that enables administrators to easily shrink and expand VMware Virtual Machine Disks. The tool targets the masses of overallocated virtual machines and provides an easy alternative to what is otherwise a cumbersome, manual process, Akerberg said.

Last but not least, the company has announced the version 4.0 of vConverter, its physical-to-virtual migration tool. New features include synchronized cutover, continuous protection via incremental replication, automated remote cold migration, task profiles and the so-called Quick Convert feature.

One caveat: While Vizioncore showcased these products at VMworld, the offerings won’t be generally available until later this fall.


September 17, 2008  4:59 PM

At CTO keynote, VMworld crowd starts to understand vClient

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

With all due respect to VMware’s new CEO Paul Maritz, the portion of yesterday’s keynote discussing VMware’s new vClient initiative didn’t seem to register much with VMworld attendees.

After the address by VMware CTO Steve Herrod, however, was a different story. Assisted by VMware’s Jerry Chen, Herrod and Chen finally got a rise out of the audience, who applauded loudly to a demonstration of 25 virtual machines being provisioned out to thin clients and laptops, then updating the master VM image with Google Chrome using ThinApp.

“I need that right now,” said the attendee sitting behind me at the conclusion of Chen’s demonstration. “Heck, I needed that yesterday.”

I think part of the crowd’s enthusiasm simply had to do with finally “getting it.” Unlike Maritz, Chen used the word ‘hypervisor’ to describe the “thin-client virtualization layer” that drives VMware’s vClient idea of being able to manage disconnected laptops as well as connected VDI thin clients. By saying the H word, 14,000 VMworld attendees had a collective aha moment.

Whatever the case, with vClient, VMware has once again taken a top-down approach, tackling the enterprise’s “desktop dilemma” rather than that of the consumer or SMB. In a subsequent conversation with VMware senior director of product marketing Bogomil Balkansky, he said it’s not that those segments don’t have desktop dilemmas of their own, rather, “the problems of the enterprise are very well identified,” and thus, for VMware, the enterprise is “a much easier entry point.”

Looking out a few years, however, Balkansky described a distinctly consumer-focused scenario. Home users today run full-fledged PCs, complete with a host OS, and all the attending management issues. At the same time, home users engage largely in web-focused activities. “Given that everything I do is Web-connected, why isn’t that part of my DSL service?” Balkansky asked rhetorically.

In other words, Balkansky is insinuating that someday, users’ personal desktops will run as VDI images hosted by the Verizons and Comcasts of the world rather than locally on their home PCs. For a small monthly fee, users will enjoy the convenience of a centrally managed, backed up desktop that they can access from anywhere, and easily recover even if their disk drive fails or laptop is stolen. That’s an idea that just about everyone can get their head around.


September 17, 2008  3:53 PM

SixApart and JumpBox go virtual with Movable Type

Rhianajay13 Rhiana Ruiz Profile: Rhianajay13

On Sept. 17, 2008, SixApart and JumpBox announced the release of a jointly developed appliance named Virtual Movable Type. The product can be installed on a server, PC or in a cloud infrastructure and is compatible with the majority of the major virtualization platforms on the market.

As opposed to installing its predecessor Movable Type on a web server, Virtual Movable Type is installed from software and exists as a single virtual machine (VM) which eliminates the need for configuring all of the applications in the server environment. According to JumpBox CEO Kimbro Staken, “It takes minimal technical skill and just minutes to deploy, regardless of whether it’s on your laptop, in the data center or in the cloud. This strips away the barriers to using server based applications like Movable Type and allows a less technical customer to take advantage of this great software.”

For more information on Virtual Movable Type, check out both www.sixapart.com and www.jumpbox.com.


September 17, 2008  12:03 PM

vmSight releases version 4.0

Rhianajay13 Rhiana Ruiz Profile: Rhianajay13

This post was written by Keith Kessinger, Editorial Assistant.

Alpharetta, Ga.-based vmSight has released the latest version of its virtualization management platform, vmSight 4.0.

The new offering gives administrators new tools, responses and controls in order to monitor desktops and applications running in a virtual environment. Some of vmSight 4.0’s new features include the following:

  • customizable alerts;
  • customizable and scheduled reports; and
  • the ability to automate administrative responses.

“We are at the beginning of a transformation in end-user computing – one that involves the convergence of virtual desktops, virtualized applications and cloud computing,” Jonathan Alexander, president and co-founder of vmSight, said in a statement. “This creates new challenges to ensure a good end-user experience. VmSight 4.0 is the only solution that focuses on this problem and provides the full set of capabilities across technologies and platforms that administrators need.”

For more information on vmSight 4.0, visit the company website at www.vmsight.com.


September 17, 2008  11:02 AM

Verizon Business to offer new virtualization services

Rhianajay13 Rhiana Ruiz Profile: Rhianajay13

Verizon Business has announced that it will begin offering services to enterprises seeking to virtualize their data centers. In a statement released this morning at VMworld 2008, Verizon Business will offer a package called Virtualization Consulting and Management Services that consolidates physical data centers into virtual ones. Along with the consolidation service, Verizon Business will also offer remote backup and restore, hosted and instant messaging, an IT service desk, Akamai services, IP application hosting and remote IP service.

In addition to announcing its virtualization initiative, Verizon Business also revealed that it has attained Gold Partner status in the VMware Authorized Consultant (VAC) program. The designation allows Verizon Business access to VMware tools and the newest offerings in order to bolster capability to offer virtualization services to enterprise level IT departments.

For more information on Verizon Business’ Virtualization Consulting and Management Services, visit the company website at www.verizonbusiness.com.


September 16, 2008  8:40 PM

VMworld is packed! Good God … who’s manning the servers?

Bridget Botelho Profile: Bridget Botelho

When you walk up to the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas this week, it is obvious something big is happening, and it sure as hell isn’t me winning the jackpot on those God forsaken slot machines.

When VMware Inc. announced there would be 14,000 people attending VMworld 2008 this week, they weren’t blowing smoke. Last year’s show in San Francisco held about 10,000 attendees and that seemed like a lot. Apparently, that was just the beginning.

The volume of IT administrators who are here in Vegas this week makes me wonder in a slight panic, who is manning all of the servers?

It reminds me of an episode of the cartoon American Dad, where the main character, a CIA agent named Stan Smith, storms into a Sci-Fi convention looking for someone and sees a place swarming with stereotypical techie types. “Good God, who is manning the Internet?,” he gasped.

Joking aside, the not-subtle point I am trying to make is that the huge turnout at VMworld 2008 signals how popular virtualization is today, reminiscent of the earlier days of Linux when LinuxWorld was a huge show.

Though the LinuxWorld organizers claimed there were 10,000 people at the show in San Francisco last month, it didn’t seem that way. “When Linux was an emerging technology that people were excited about, those LinuxWorld shows were like [VMworld] is today,” said AMD’s commercial products director Margaret Lewis. “But now Linux is mainstream, so the excitement is gone.”

She said AMD didn’t set up a booth at the LinuxWorld show floor this year because turnout the previous year was low. And by the way, AMD has a monster booth set up at VMworld this year.

Which means that when virtualization becomes mainstream, VMworld will no longer be “the place to be.” Maybe VMware 2015 will be held at a small conference center in a small state, like Rhode Island (which is great, by the way).

But for now, VMworld Las Vegas is it.


September 16, 2008  3:19 PM

VKernel to support Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V

Rhianajay13 Rhiana Ruiz Profile: Rhianajay13

At VMworld 2008, VKernel announced that it will partner with Microsoft to offer several management tools for Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V. VKernel will modify its line of management tools to better handle Microsoft-based environments.

Although VKernel already supports the majority of VMware platforms, this will be the first foray into tools that are supported for Microsoft Hyper-V. “We see this as an opportunity for VKernel to differentiate ourselves and enable our customers to best manage their environments and assure optimal performance regardless of whether they are using Microsoft or VMware,” VKernel CEO Alex Balkman said in a press release.

Initially only some of the tools that make-up VKernel’s Performance Lifecycle Management bundle will be available for use with Hyper-V. They include Chargeback, a cost analysis tool; Capacity Analyzer which monitors resources; and Modeler which tests new additions to an environment and, prior to launch, analyzes the impact they might have on the environment.

For more information on VKernel’s new initiative with Microsoft, check out the company website at www.vkernel.com.


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