For those who enjoy calculating potential ROI, VMware put out a new ROI calculator at http://www.vmware.com/products/vi/roi_calculator.html. In general, I’m not fond of TCO/ROI/FUD calculators, since they’re undoubtedly biased in favor of the company that puts them out, but they have some merit in that they can be the launching point for a REAL investigation into TCO/ROI/SNAFU calculations. The VRC is easy to use, offers plenty of data entry points for plugging in applicable numbers, doesn’t really rely on sketchy figures that can’t be validated, and most of all, it has the option to remove soft-costs from the final tallies.
I like that. I like that a lot. In fact, that’s the main reason I like it.
It’s also done in Flash, which makes it fairly universal across platforms (I live on an Intel MacBook Pro running Camino) with a simple plugin. The ability to remove individual line-items, in addition to ignoring all soft-costs, is pleasant, and the design is simple and elegant – graphical without being gaudy, and efficient without being complicated.
What don’t like about it? Two things, really. The first I’ve already mentioned… It’s very clearly a sales too, and that makes it biased by design when it comes to spitting out the final ROI numbers. While the bias isn’t as bad as you might find when comparing HP and Dell’s calculators, it’s clearly there. I found that by taking it down to two physical server, zero shared storage, and half the hourly numbers that there was still positive ROI when I had soft (aka indirect) costs included. It *did* calculate out negative dollar figures when I removed them, but it *didn’t* give me a negative percentage (giving instead a 0% figure). I was able to get a negative with soft costs, but I had to drop many of the numbers down to levels that fall even further outside the VI3 target-demographic range – like downtime costs and DR assumptions. The second thing I didn’t like was the customization page. There’s an option to enter your own figures if you need to (rack size, burdened costs of staff, number of admins per server, etc.), but it’s limited. It doesn’t go into the costs per server, which are hugely variable from company to company, and can severely affect the outcomes. Likewise, storage equipment costs wasn’t even a field, let alone something customizable, which means the huge differences in NFS, iSCSI, and FC storage aren’t accurately represented.
Those negatives aside, the fact that I was able to manipulate so many figures is a positive thing. So, on a scal of 1 to 10, with 11 being too good but not too loud, I’d give it a 7. I’d give most other tools a 5, if that means anything.
From Virtual Iron’s Website:
“Virtual Iron Software (www.virtualiron.com), a provider of server virtualization and virtual infrastructure management software solutions, today announced the general availability of Version 3.5 of its enterprise-class virtualization platform. The new release provides for more simple and cost-effective shared storage to facilitate the mainstream adoption of virtual infrastructure management capabilities such as LiveMigration, LiveRecovery, LiveCapacity and LiveMaintenance of virtual servers. The new release also adds single server installation to simplify deployment and configuration.
Version 3.5 provides comparable capabilities to VMware for one-fifth the cost. It is generally available now. Users can try it for free simply by downloading it at http://www.virtualiron.com/free.
‘Cost and complexity are the two major hurdles to broad adoption of server virtualization inside the enterprise,” said Chris Wolf, Senior Analyst, Burton Group. “During the evaluation process, organizations should strongly consider server virtualization platforms that support automated capacity management and virtual machine failover. Virtualization solutions that reduce complexity while automating virtual machine availability are best positioned for widespread adoption and long term success.’
Virtual Iron is one of only two virtualization vendors with the advanced workload migration capabilities required to support automated capacity management and virtual machine failover. With Version 3.5, Virtual Iron has made these capabilities easier to use for the mainstream market by providing support for simpler and more cost-effective iSCSI-based shared storage. This will facilitate the broad adoption of Virtual Iron’s virtual infrastructure management capabilities including LiveMigration, LiveRecovery, LiveCapacity and LiveMaintenance. With Version 3.5, Virtual Iron is also providing the mainstream market with a server virtualization solution that is easier to install, deploy and configure than comparable alternatives. It combines advanced virtualization and policy-based management to deliver all the capabilities and benefits of primary virtualization use cases.”
This is interesting. This is very interesting. Why? Because it signals a full-on challenge to VMware not from a marketing strategy, not from a licensing-hardball strategy, and not from a completely proprietary strategy. Those are the hallmarks of VMware’s battle with Microsoft. This is the first time a seperately available virtualization product, not tied onto the OS by an OS vendor (such as Red Hat and Novell w/ their Linux distros), and therefore single-server-oriented, product has been released that challenged VMware on its home turf.
Here’s a rough equation of the similarities in the products put out by VMware and Virtual Iron:
- VMware’s ESX / VI3 platforms are bare metal-installed. Virtual Iron 3.5’s virtual services is likewise bare-metal installed.
- VMware’s Virtual Center manages VMware ESX/Server/VI3 environments. Virtual Iron’s equivalent prodcut is called Virtual Manager (personally, neither name should have passed muster with the folks in marketing, but then again, who likes the folks in marketing?)
- VMware’s Conveter is meant to take a physical machine and move it across the divide into the realm of the virtual. Virtual Iron’s LiveMigrate is designed to do the same thing.
What has me intrigued the most is this bit of information from the Virtual Iron producti information from their Product Technology Overview paper:
From what I see there, it looks like most of the main features VMware’s VI3 offers are present in Virtual Iron 3.5 (VI3 vs. VI3.5… oh, no, that’s not confusing at all…)
Virtual Iron, according to several reviews I’ve read about the beta product, does lack some of the capabilities of VMware’s VI3 suite, but it’s not missing 80% of them, which is roughly the price difference. There’s even a free version similar to VMware’s Virtual Server (though I’m unsure of whether you can manage the free Virutal Iron product with the enterprise edition) It’s also an open-source application (the Xen hypervisor project) warpped in proprietary software. This has become an increasingly common business model amongst OSS companies who wish to get valuable free labor and remarkable community-driven insight while still trying to balance the need to live up to the OSS ideals of giving back to the community and the drive for corporate profitability.
So is it hype or huzzah? I’d say at this point it’s a bit of both. Hype because it’s not a solution that’s going to be everything-to-everyone, people aren’t going to be saying “hark-the-herald-angels-sing” because they’ve been delivered from some oppression in the marketspace, or anything like that… despite what the rhetoric coming out of Virtual Iron says. It’s huzzah because it really is a Small-to-Enterprise business product that will save a lot of money for organizations. It’s hype because it doesn’t have the sort of community built-up around it that VMware has (NOT that OSS community, mind you… I’m talking about the user and vendor community), and so the company isn’t offering virtual appliances, it doesn’t have the huge base of expertise in Net-land, and it doesn’t have the sheer volume of vendors supporting it that VMware has. It’s huzzah because Virtual Iron is going to open up the market as it builds these things. As they expand, and expand they will, VMware will be forced to come into line with a competitive market rather than what was a two-player field (VMware, MS, and that’s really it). Enomalous will grow too, and so will other Xen-based products, not to mention SWSoft and their interesting approach to virtualization (but thats for another time).
It’s time to take this for a spin and see what it can really do… a lot of questions remain. Not so much questions like “Does Virtual Iron Have X?”, but rather, “Is Virtual Iron’s X as good as VMware’s X?”. Is Virtual Iron’s virtual networking as robust as that within VMware’s Virtual Infrastructure? How about smooth VMotion-like migration between virtual hosts? Both of these, and more, remain to be seen, but for now, the product looks good, solid, and like a viable alternative for the Small-Medium business market, an perhaps the enterprise as well.
The huge cash infusion, the keeping-mum on a lot of deeper details… I think there’s something else going on aside from just a move by MS to set itself up for IP Power-Plays against Red Hat, Ubuntu, Linspire, etc. etc. I’d have to really re-read the fine print, well, ok, what little there is, but here’s my conspiracy theory of the day -
I think the whole thing reeks of payoff. It’s as if something like this (completely fictitious) conversation happened: “Oh, hello Novell… you found out about those huge chunks of stolen NetWare code in the Windows kernel, you say? You can prove it, you say? Oh, well, I understand your Linux business isn’t doing as well as it could have been. How would you like that to change? Well, yes, you’re quite right. We had been opposing Linux for a long time, but our opposition campaign isn’t doing well at all. So, here’s our offer, and sorry about the bad spelling, but as you can see we get to be non-litigating friends again!”
Complete bunk? Quite possibly. Rampant paranoia? Yes, maybe. But something else still stinks in that agreement.
I am (was) the unofficial Microsoft Entourage support person for my organization. Susie Q. is having a problem with Entourage losing her e-mail, “Call Andrew” her office-mate would say. Those days are no more. I now use Outlook 2007 on my Mac and let users know that until the next version of Entourage appears, this child of mother earth is not going to to suffer the burden of two computers any longer. No more do I have to keep a Windows box on my desk just to manage VI3 or play games. The days of this systems administrator keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to many machines is over — behold the power that is Windows on a Mac. Behold the power that is Parallels.
I know Windows on a Mac is nothing new. People have been doing it since almost last year at this time, however, it is only recently that it has been so easy to seamlessly run the latest version of Office or the VI3 client on OS X. As I type this I am also composing a message in Outlook, checking on one of my ESX hosts, and trying to get a 5-man together for the Mana Tombs. With the release of the Core-2 Duo Mac laptops last year as well as the very new Parallels release, I can do all these things on my MacBook Pro, at the same time, and still have honk left over. The recent release of Parallels is the first production release to include their feature Coherence. Coherence lets you hide a VM’s background, so that applications running inside the VM appear to be running as part of the host OS’s (in this case OS X) window manager. And it works very well. Copy and paste is supported between Windows applications and OS X, as well as drag and dropping files! You can even stick Outlook 2007 and Word 2007 in your OS X dock!
You may be wondering, “But that means he is still running a full version of Windows inside his copy of Parallels? How is that any better than two computers? And how does his laptop have any, what did he call it? Oh yeah, how does his laptop have any of this so called honk left over with a full version of Windows running in the background?” Those are very good questions, thank you for asking.
Yes, I am still running a full version of Windows. It is however far more efficient to do so in a VM than on real hardware because I do not have to keep up with 2 computers, a KVM, or using synergy, keyboard/mouse synchronization errors. I have one system to rule them all. Besides, I don’t have enough Tycho and Gabe stickers for all of my boxes, it is good to whittle the number down.
Yes, my laptop still has plenty of honk. It screams. It is so bright with power it out-gleams Mr. Cruise’s teeth from that volley-ball scene in Top Gun. Shiny! The reason for this is that I am using a modified, stripped-down version of Windows XP. I stripped out all of the unnecessary services and other miscellaneous junk out of Windows using nLite (http://www.nliteos.com/). nLite allows you to create custom versions of Windows without all of the fluff. Before I installed Office inside my VM, it was running in around 100 M of memory. Not 640K, but not bad. If you are going to go this route, it is my very sincere suggestion that you do not use Vista. It is a resource hog and the point of running a Windows VM in the fashion that I have described to you is for it to consume as few resources as possible. In fact, Windows has now become not unlike a Java Virtual Machine (JVM). It exists to make other applications possible on top of an existing OS.
You may have caught that I mentioned I am able to play games. Does this mean that the new release of Parallels supports DirectX inside of a VM? No, no it does not. That feature is exclusive to the latest beta of VMware Fusion. However, you can use Parallels to run your BootCamp (http://www.apple.com/macosx/bootcamp/) version of Windows inside of a VM. That way you can boot into Windows bare-metal when you need to and use it inside of OS X the rest of the time. How well does this work? Well, I do not know. I have no need to do this, because the only game I play is World of Warcraft (until Spore comes out) and it runs just fine on my Mac
I could keep typing, but I need to modify an Active Directory account’s attributes. Pardon me while I load AD Users and Computers from OS X. It’s evil, it’s delicious, it’s fun, and it’s a darn good business reason I can present my boss (the one I’m married too) that I should be able to buy a quad-core MacPro. Please honey?
I was doing some blog-surfing the other day and came across Christian Saborio’s virtualization blog. He mentions this really cool tool published by Microsoft that helps IT directors figure out costs of virtual machine licenses in different editions of Windows Server 2003 R2: Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter.
From Christian’s blog:
Riddle me this: How many licenses of Windows Server Enterprise Edition would you need if you are planning on running 20 Virtual machines inside a server that has 2 processors? Very, easy, you would need only 5 licenses. Too tough? How about this one…what would be the price difference if you were running 50 machines running Windows Server 2003 on a virtualization server with 2 processors if you chose to run the host machine with Windows Server Enterprise Edition vs. Windows Server Datacenter Edition? Very easy…running Datacenter edition would be $25,580 cheaper.
Of course, he didn’t make those calculations off-hand! Check out the nifty Windows virtualization calculator here.
VMware VI3, Microsoft Virtual Server, XenSource XenServer, Virtual Iron, etc… — Living Together in Harmony
Do you know how there are some questions that at first glance seem like they may generate long and complicated answers? Recently I was pinged with such a question, but then I came to realize that the my original answer, and in fact the question itself were both over thinking the situation. The question is, “What problems are there with running various virtualization solutions in the same data center?”
The answer is simple — there really are not any problems that do not already exist in any given data center that employs heterogeneous technologies. For example, there are the problems of redundancy, vendor support, free storage space, and staff expertise.
Imagine a data center that runs both Apache and IIS web servers. There are 2 Apache servers and 2 IIS web servers — the Apache servers run PHP applications and the IIS servers run ASP.NET applications. What happens if either all of the Apache servers go down or all of the IIS servers go down. Because all 4 servers do not use the same web server and the web applications are not based on the same language, the odds of quickly and successfully moving the load of the 2 downed servers to the other 2 are slim.
The same goes for a data center that implements various virtualization technologies. For every different technology employed, you potentially lose a little bit of redundancy.
In a given data center imagine there are Dell servers, HP servers, and IBM servers. That means 3 different vendors (unless you went through a VAR) for supporting your infrastructure. The same is true for virtualization software — having multiple virtualization solutions means having different vendors to contact when problems occur.
Free Storage Space
Available storage space is usually scarce in any data center. There is almost always someone or some system clamoring for more spindles. Throwing additional virtualization solutions into a single data center results in additional servers trying to grab whatever free space they can off of your storage device(s). Since most virtualization solutions use different file system types — NTFS, VMFS-3, ext3, etc…, different virtualization solutions cannot efficiently make use of other virtualization solutions’ free space. There are of course loop holes, such as mounting other file systems as a network file system, but these solutions result in a degradation of speed and also incur the overhead of a file system on top of a file system.
Implementing multiple virtualization solutions also means that your staff must now be experts on each piece of software used. This expectation is most likely unrealistic and can result in system administrators that are proficient in many areas but are experts in none.
While there are no technical reasons you cannot utilize virtualization solutions from multiple vendors in one data center, there are many reasons why it makes sense to stick to one vendor. However, there are always exceptions. The trick is to simply be mindful of the pros and cons in using heterogeneous technologies and to make the decision that makes the most sense for your environment.
The brouhaha over VMware’s attack on Microsoft’s virtualization licensing has brewed up some good blogs.
“I guess this marks the beginning of a crazy roller coaster ride,” writes Andrew Dugdell on his ‘Dugie’s Pensieve’ virtualization blog. He doesn’t think Microsoft’s licensing story is as full of “doom and gloom” as VMware says. “Obviously all forms of virtualization licensing and interoperability is going to get better,” Dugdell wrote. “It has to. I don’t think the market/customers will tolerate anything less.”
VMware is “foaming at the mouth”, says Alex Vasilevsky, founder and CTO Virtual Iron Software, on Virtual Iron’s Virtualization Blog. He thinks VMware is the pot calling the kettle (Microsoft) black. He wrote: “Of course, if VMware truly felt that ‘customers require an any to any interoperability model’ then wouldn’t their virtual disks be in an open format, as opposed to the proprietary format they continue to use? (For what it’s worth, we’re using Microsoft’s VHD format.)”
On his virtualization.info blog, Alessandro Perilli predicts that VMware may feel the ire of its parent company, EMC. “While suggesting a pacific resolution of this case (which would require a public rectification from VMware), Microsoft is clearly recalling its partner EMC for the unprecedented attack of its virtualization subsidiary,” Perilli wrote. He notes that EMC plans to launch a VMware Initial Public Offering (IPO) this summer, “and a compromising of Microsoft partnership could lead to a remarkable damage for stock performance.” That’s an “undesired risk” for EMC, which hasn’t been in Wall Street’s good graces for a while, Perilli concluded.
Dugdell wants to move beyond the age-old software licensing arguments. “Here’s the exciting burning question, how much better will Virtualization interoperability get? How aggressive is that curve going to be? I want to see that curve so steep, you can just feel the gforces kicking in!”
Yesterday evening, Microsoft’s PR team sent out a statement attributed to Mike Neil, its GM for virtualization, responding to the whitepaper posted by VMware last week:
“Microsoft believes the claims made in VMware’s whitepaper contain several inaccuracies and misunderstandings of our current license and use policies, our support policy and our commitment to technology collaboration. We believe that we are being progressive and fair with our existing licensing and use policies and creating a level playing field for partners and customers. We are deeply committed to providing high-quality technical support to our customers who are utilizing virtualization technology. In addition, we are committed to working collaboratively with industry leaders to foster an environment of interoperability and cooperation that best serves our customers.
I agree with Ashlee Vance at the Register when he said “Microsoft has fought back against VMware’s meat with something akin to marketing bologna.”
The idea that VMware’s paper contains “several inaccuracies and misunderstandings of our current license and use policies” is tantalizing to a reporter, except that Microsoft would not provide a spokesperson to elaborate.
Where things get interesting, however, is in the next paragraph, when Microsoft brings up… EMC, VMware’s parent company:
“We believe it’s better to resolve VMware’s claims between our two companies so that we can better serve customers and the industry. EMC is a long-time partner of Microsoft. We’ve extended this courtesy to VMware due to our mutual customers and partnership with EMC. We are committed to continuing to collaborate with VMware as we have been doing on regular basis. Consistent with this, Microsoft believes that we will be able to accommodate a mutually agreeable solution between our two companies and clear up any existing misunderstanding with regard to the points raised in the whitepaper.”
Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t it seem that Microsoft is invoking its “strong partnership” with EMC as a way of bringing the wayward VMware child back in to line?
VMware’s whitepaper Microsoft Virtualization Licensing and Distribution Terms has generated a flood of articles by the IT trade press, and SearchServerVirtualization.com is no exception (See ‘VMware criticizes Microsoft virtualization licensing‘). Now that the story is up, I’m left wondering whether in this case, is Microsoft really trying to stymie competition, as VMware contends, or is it also possible that Microsoft, like every other software vendor on the planet, is grappling with how best to approach software licensing in this brave new virtualization world?
In Microsoft’s defense, the company has made some very virtualization-friendly moves as of late. In October, it announced Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition, which allows for an unlimited number of Windows Server VMs running on a system. According to Microsoft’s Windows Server Virtualization Calculator, it’s more cost-effective to buy the unlimited virtualization license over Enterprise Edition after just nine VMs on a two-processor server. The company made a similar announcement last week with SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition — pretty cool.
The revelation that reassigning Windows Server licenses between hosts is prohibited more frequently than once every ninety days came as a surprise to everyone I talked to, so I’m wondering whether this is more of hypothetical threat than a reality? Have any actual VMware customers out there changed or discontinued their use of VMotion and Distributed Resource Scheduler to comply with this license provision? If that describes you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas Ptacek writes about two ways virtualization complicates life for systems security people in his blog entry, Dark Reading on Virtualization Security.
First of all, he says, “you now face the spectre of guest-hopping attacks, which are vulnerabilities in your hypervisor that allow you to beat VM protection and gain access to other hosts. The driver for these attacks is that a hypervisor has to provide at least the illusion of a ‘ring 0′ for a guest operating system to run in.” Secondly, he adds: “If you’re on the same hardware as your target, you have significantly improved timing channels to pry encryption secrets out with.”
Fortunately, he has some ideas on how to handle these problems. So do the other writers for Matasano Chargen, a blog about information security.
Virtualization security is on our readers’ minds, too, and we’re answering their requests for advice. Check out Chris Wolf’s advice on virtual switch security on Virtual Server, VMware and XenExpress and the virtualization security series by Harley Stagner, in which he suggests ways to improve Microsoft Virtual Server security.
What aspect of virtualization security is bugging you? What should IT shops really be worried about?