The Virtualization Room


January 2, 2008  4:49 PM

VMware goes on the offensive

cwolf Profile: cwolf

Note: Reposted with the author’s permission from Burton Group’s Data Center Strategies blog.

If you haven’t seen Mike DiPetrillo’s latest blog, “VMware Patch Tuesday,” it’s definitely worth a few minutes of your time. Mike’s post contrasts patch management on the ESX hypervisor with that of competing platforms. I think the picture DiPetrillo paints is much darker than reality (at least with Windows hosts) being that a given Windows Server 2003 host will not require every available patch (many are service-specific) and since not all updates require a reboot. The patch reboot requirements will further diminish in Windows Server 2008 thanks to hot patching support.

That being said, Mike’s latest post is about much more than VMware’s patch management strategy. Instead, consider it the start of the VMware Offensive. In 2007, VMware for the most part smiled and waved at their competition. That’s not going to be the case in 2008. Citrix, Microsoft, Novell, SWsoft, Sun, Oracle, and Virtual Iron all have plans to chip away at VMware’s market share, and rather than ignoring their competitors, I expect VMware to be much more aggressive at highlighting what makes their approach to virtualization different from the competition.

Read the rest of this post at Burton Group’s Data Center Strategies blog.

December 26, 2007  12:15 PM

VMware ESX 3.5, VirtualCenter 2.5: To upgrade or not to upgrade?

Rick Vanover Rick Vanover Profile: Rick Vanover

The virtualization world was very excited for the release of VMware ESX 3.5 and Virtual Center 2.5 last week. However, should everyone jump on to the new platforms quickly? I say no. To be fair to myself, I have performed a limited set of upgrades already within the week, and some are planned over the next few weeks. Yes there was a beta process. Yes VMware generally publishes good software. Yes I know these are not Microsoft products. But here is why I say no to ‘jumping’ onto an upgrade immediately for virtualization products:

Larger Scope

The inherent nature of virtualization reaches scope farther than one system as it has historically. With a single ESX server hosting upwards of 30 virtual machines, the magnitude is amplified should there be an issue. So, as with anything critical – a test environment is a must. The development environment may be a small number of ESX servers that hold non-critical virtual machines so you can accept any risks that may arise in your upgrade.

Cover Your Bases

Be sure you are able to execute all scenarios with great confidence before proceeding into the upgrades. One example I will deal with soon is I will have a large number of critical virtual machines hosted on ESX 3.02. If I take one server into maintenance mode, then upgrade it to ESX 3.5 can I migrate from the 3.02 to the 3.5 systems without issue while online? I did upgrade Virtual Center to 2.5, so that was a good starting point for my 3.02 to 3.5 upgrades. VMware has put out release notes with a list of Known Issues with ESX 3.5 and Virtual Center 2.5 that are a good starting point to identify your migration upward in the ESX and Virtual Center versioning.

Upgrade or New Install? You Decide

ESX is released as a full/new install (as a CD ISO) or an upgrade (tar file) installation. I personally will go for the new install mechanism rather than the upgrade. This is because I find the ESX install quite straightforward and easy and rebuilding an ESX host can be done in very little time at all. With the rebuild process very quick for ESX and most management and configuration elements configured from Virtual Center, ESX is unique in build time requirements.

Old School Wait and See

Many people offer the old adage “Wait six months before upgrading” or some other variable time frame when core updates or service packs are available. This is to let other people “work out the bugs” in software before you have to deal with them. There is little basis in virtualization for this logic, but many people have adopted it as a policy related to updates. VMware is unique as new core functionality like Storage VMotion is available with ESX 3.5 and I know I am very excited for this new functionality. This ultimately is your call, but the best advice before anything is to get informed on the product releases and the known issues instead of starting a blind installation.


December 19, 2007  5:23 PM

‘Twas the week before Christmas: Virtualization Log

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

Despite the impending holiday and our stubbornly long shopping list, SearchServerVirtualization.com and SearchVMware.com keep pumping out the virtualization content. Highlights of the week include the following:

One last thing: A story on SearchDataCenter.com finds that, despite growing industry concern about saving power, no one actually shuts down servers over the holidays. Or do they? If you’re planning on using VMware’s new Distributed Power Management (DPM) next week and shutting down some systems, let us know.


December 19, 2007  10:15 AM

Thoughts on the ‘top five’ trends in virtualization

Ryan Shopp Ryan Shopp Profile: Ryan Shopp

I recently received a press release from London-based TechNavio, the creator of a Web-based information and research tool, that outlines the top five virtualization trends. Here they are, along with my own thoughts on these trends:

1. Business process automation.
TechNavio’s take. “Virtualization is expected to speed up the wider movement toward business process automation and remote collaboration. The TechNavio findings appear to indicate that the market in general is expecting a major investment in this area within the next two to three years.”
My thoughts. On the subject of business process automation, if TechNavio means “scripting,” I can agree with this trend. SearchServerVirtualization.com contributor Andrew Kutz has received a few questions from readers about automation, which suggests that there are plenty of other IT pros with similar questions. Also, he increasingly writes tips about scripting for X or Y, often concerning disaster recovery or hot backups. Most recently I’ve seen questions about scripting virtual machines (VMs) to power on and off at a certain time.
Food for thought. If scripting VMs advances, what will happen to the number of system admins and data center managers needed to run a data center? Perhaps all you IT programmers should slow down the scripting process before you script yourself right out of a job!

On the subject of remote collaboration, I definitely agree with TechNavio. I wrote an article on emerging client-side desktop virtualization technologies. In response, I received comments from readers who said that they had found a surprising number of companies that are exploring client-side virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technologies for implementation in 2008. I think it’s due time for VDI; just consider the number of stolen or misplaced laptops, or CDs that went missing in the mail containing personal information. . . .I don’t know about you, but identity theft certainly isn’t on my holiday wish list. And I certainly would appreciate company investment in this kind of technology, considering the increasing mobility of technology.

2. Network-delivered computing.
TechNavio’s take. “Virtualization is also expected to boost the move toward network delivered computing or what is being termed PC-over-IP. This in turn will place vendors such as Cisco, NEC and Sun at the heart of the market, but interestingly leaves the door open for a host of innovative start-ups.” <br>
My thoughts. I would agree here as well. My aforementioned article discusses vThere, which focuses on primarily providing client-side virtual desktops via their own (i.e., third-party) servers that a client notebook would connect to when opening the virtual desktop. During interviews, my subjects all mentioned the trend of software vendors moving to providing their software via virtual machine. We have already seen a few virtualization companies provide beta versions of newer software via VM. As virtualization continues to grow in adoption, I can easily see all kinds of independent software vendors providing their products via virtual machine download.

3. Legacy applications and virtualization.
TechNavio’s take. “As application virtualization speeds up, applications development and maintenance or ADM, vendors have a real opportunity to grow into a new market defined as optimizing legacy applications for virtualization.”
My thoughts. We haven’t focused much on application virtualization on SearchServerVirtualization.com and SearchVMware.com, so I don’t have an informed opinion on this subject. Readers, do you?

4. Small and midsized businesses (SMBs).
TechNavio’s take. “The biggest long-term opportunity for virtualization vendors lies in the SMB space, specifically end-to-end solutions that allow SMBs to outsource and virtualize their entire network.”
My thoughts. I disagree here. Clearly. there is opportunity and space for virtualization in the SMB market, but to say it’s the biggest long-term opportunity? That’s a stretch. I doubt that larger businesses, once virtualized, will stop virtualizing. I think that a more accurate statement would be that virtualization vendors should target SMBs to further extend virtualization.

5. Labor market and skills.
TechNavio’s take. “As the market for server virtualization heats up, finding people with the right skills is set to get harder. With this environment TechNavio predicts that there will be increased opportunities for IT services companies as well as for IT staffing solutions providers.”
My thoughts. I don’t know if I agree that finding people with the right skills will become more difficult; it depends on the IT workers and their drive to stay on top of certifications that prove their worth. (Cough, the VMware Certified Professional (VCP) exam, cough, cough.) And whenever technology advances, desired skill sets change, so this prediction isn’t all that impressive. As far as increased opportunities for IT services companies, yes. It’s easier to go to a business and say, “Get me a sys admin with a VCP stamp of approval!” than it is to shuffle through résumés looking for those who are VCPs. And I definitely think that those who have the right credentials will find themselves in increasing demand: So stay on top of what you’re worth salary-wise given the move toward virtualizing mission-critical servers. Just because your current company doesn’t realize your worth, it doesn’t mean that Company Y — which has more virtualized servers and a greater need for those with virtual environment management experience — doesn’t.

TechNavio’s press release also included a quote after these “top five trends.” Co-founder of Chicago-based Infiniti Research S. Chand (who conducted the research for this report) said, “Currently the biggest beneficiaries of server virtualization are the enterprise users whose businesses tend to be dependent on running compute-heavy, high availability, application intensive data centers. These include: ISPs, hosting and managed service providers, bank’s trading divisions, gaming, online retailers and the like.”

So if you are looking to get the most (read: more money) from your virtualization experience, check job offers with companies that deal with these types of services.


December 15, 2007  10:51 AM

VMware’s busy week: Virtualization Log

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

VMware has made two significant news announcements of late: the long-awaited availability of ESX 3.5, and SAP’s blessings for its applications running within VMware virtual machines.

What we failed to mention, or at least to highlight, was the release of VirtualCenter 2.5, which now supports up to 200 hosts and 2,000 virtual machines (VMs); other new features are listed here. One, in our defense, John Gilmartin, VMware senior manager, product marketing, said that the 2.5 release was largely about enabling some of the new features of the Virtual Infrastructure 3 (VI3) suite, such as Update Manager and Distributed Power Management. “Sure, there was some work underneath that ensured the scalability was in place, but primarily [2.5] is about enabling these new features,” Gilmartin said.

Taken together, these announcements underscore just how far VMware has come as an enterprise software vendor. Contrast that with the big news from the latter half of the week: Microsoft’s unveiling of the Hyper-V beta. No huge surprises there, unless of course, you count the fact that it was released ahead of schedule. We’re eagerly awaiting reviews of the latest Hyper-V; if you were among its downloaders, don’t be shy, tell us what you think by leaving a comment.


December 13, 2007  12:28 PM

VMware competition nears; Microsoft ships Hyper-V beta

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

VMware, are you listening? Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor, formerly known as Viridian, is available for public beta, the company announced today. It can be obtained by downloading Windows Server 2008 RC1 Enterprise from http://www.microsoft.com/ws08eval.

The beta is shipping ahead of schedule, with Microsoft previously promising it for the first quarter of 2008.

This is not the first glimpse the public has had of Hyper-V; Microsoft released a Community Technology Preview (CTP) release of Hyper-V in September. With this release, Microsoft is demonstrating additional features, notably Quick Migration, high availability, Server Core role and Server Manager integration. The final release of Hyper-V is still scheduled for release within 180 days of “release to manufacturing” (RTM) of Windows Server 2008, currently scheduled for Feb. 27, 2008.

Writing on the Windows Server Division Weblog, Mike Neil, GM of virtualization strategy, also revealed that Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition will also grant one virtual instance of the OS — which is not the case with WS 2K3 Standard edition, he pointed out.

According to the post, specific new features of Hyper-V include the following:

  • Quick Migration and cluster high availability
  • Default integration with Windows Server management;
  • Support for running Hyper-V with Server Core in the parent partition;
  • Volume Shadow Copy Service, or VSS, support;
  • VHD tools support (compaction, expansion and inspection);
  • Hyper-V Microsoft Management Console (MMC)-only installation. The Hyper-V MMC can be installed on Windows Server 2008 without installing the complete Hyper-V role enabling remote management of Hyper-V servers;
  • Support for up to four virtual SCSI controllers per VM, with 255 VHDs per controller;
  • Support for multiple network adapters per VM;
  • Support for up to 64 GB of memory per VM; and
  • Guest support for Windows 2003 x86/x64 and Windows 2008 x86/x64 (support for other guest OS platforms will arrive before the Hyper-V RTM).

A webcast detailing the new Hyper-V beta is scheduled for next week, on Tuesday, Dec. 18, at 12:30 PST; interested parties can register here.

More to come.


December 12, 2007  10:01 PM

Virtualization planning…with a little help

Rick Vanover Rick Vanover Profile: Rick Vanover

Planning your virtual environment is critically important – and should not be taken on without the proper resources.  Sure you have IT colleagues that are giving you ideas and making you wish your virtual environment was where they are now, but make sure you select the correct solution.  And if you are new to virtualization, chances are you will need help in doing that.  Take, for example,  VMWare’s Plan and Design Services for the planning and design phases of your virtualization implementation.  It is not a free service, but you will have a VMWare certified professional (VCP) available to assist in your pre-implementation decisions.  This can be nothing in comparison to the costs of a solution that is undersized, oversized, or otherwise unable to deliver your performance and functionality expectations.

As the other virtualization platforms mature, these services will become more avialable there as well.  As virtualization technology is moving towards a commodity — and management tools lead the way in value — the planning and design phases will become more important going forward.


December 12, 2007  1:10 PM

So long, SWsoft; hello, Parallels

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

It’s no secret that SWsoft, the company known for its Virtuozzo OS virtualization software, and Parallels, of Apple desktop virtualization fame, are co-owned, but now the firm has decided to streamline its identity and use only the Parallels name.

“We needed to stop using our historical guerilla tactics where we would display to the world different faces of the company,” said Serguei Beloussov, CEO. “We needed a single name.”

Despite SWsoft’s strong name recognition among enterprise customers, the firm settled on the desktop-oriented Parallels’ brand “because it’s the easiest to spell, to remember, and it’s a natural English word,” Beloussov said.

The firm also has a new tagline –”Optimize computing” — and will gradually change its product names to what it calls “descriptive” names. Thus, SWsoft Virtuozzo will now be called Parallels Virtuozzo Containers and, ultimately, just plain Parallels Containers. The firm is also working on its Parallels Infrastructure Manager and Parallels System Automation suites, which will manage not only its own virtualization platforms but also VMware’s by late 2008.

“We think there is no such business as virtualization; virtualization is part of the platform,” Beloussov said. “Our management and automation tools are how you add value to the platform.”


December 10, 2007  9:05 AM

Virtual Iron 4.2 plays catch-up with VMware

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

Virtual Iron announced version 4.2 of its server virtualization platform today, adding new features that inch the offering closer to feature parity with market leader VMware ESX Server and that represent firsts for a Xen-based platform. The features include the following:

  • multipathing for Ethernet and Fibre Channel networks;
  • LiveSnapshot, a space-efficient way to create snapshots and clones of running virtual machines for hot virtual machine backup; and
  • storage capacity management features that allow virtual disks to be managed (increased, decreased, added) without downtime.

The new version also adds support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5 and Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 10. It also includes support  for “unmodified” native versions only, shunning the early “paravirtualization” mantra of the Xen community. “Our philosophy has always been around supporting unmodified OSes,” said Mike Grandinetti, Virtual Iron chief marketing officer. “Are you really willing to break the certification of your entire stack for a 1% performance improvement? It would have to be [a] pretty mission-critical [application].”

Virtual Iron also announced that its Virtual Server tools are now packaged as an ISO image, appearing to the administrator as a virtual CD-ROM, for simple deployment. The firm also announced that its platform had been certified for use with storage systems from Network Appliance, which is currently in use at Virtual Iron customer Meganet Communications.


December 10, 2007  9:02 AM

Down and dirty with storage and networking: Virtualization Log

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

Designing the storage to go along with your virtual environment? In this tip, Anil Desai explains a variety of ways to avoid storage (I/O) bottlenecks. In his analysis, Desai covers all the bases: analyzing a virtual environment’s I/O characteristics, designing RAID configurations and fault tolerance and, finally, planning for host and guest-level backup.

Meanwhile, over at SearchVMware.com, Scott Lowe regales us with a great tip on the ins and outs of VST, EST and VGT VLAN tags in VMware ESX. He explains why VST tags are usually your best choice but also describes cases where EST and VGT might be more appropriate. The Internet is awash in virtualization content, but IMHO, this tip really exemplifies why TechTarget launched SearchVMware.com: to provide VMware administrators with the nitty-gritty technical information they need to properly configure their systems. I hope it’s helpful to you.

Editors’ note: Virtualization Log is a regular feature of the Server Virtualization Blog, where we recap the news, tips and columns that were recently published on SearchServerVirtualization.com and sister TechTarget publications.


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