It goes back to “it’s not what but who you know,” and Maritz knows Microsoft. He knows Ballmer, Gates and every other player there. He was one of the most influential and instrumental executives in Microsoft’s history. His reach is wide when it comes to pulling people into the fold — not necessarily by bringing ex-Microsoft folks in as employees, but rather by having high-level working relationships with all the partners that Microsoft has worked with and that EMC and VMware have worked with or would love to work with. He also knows the PC Revolution firsthand, having seen the rise and fall of Novell’s NetWare, Banyan’s VINES and the host of minis and mains that these replaced, only to be replaced by Windows a few years later.
Tucci also knows Microsoft — EMC’s storage products center around the Microsoft world as much as any other operating system. Exchange data stores, SQL databases, file shares — all of these are EMC’s bread and butter in selling storage to the modern data center. Its software, even though some products compete (like Documentum versus Sharepoint PS), is built around a Windows-centric world.
Then there’s the history — Microsoft knows how to win. It buys what it can’t make on its own, then drowns the competition in price wars and advertising battles. Novell, once Microsoft’s bitter rival for network OS sales, now sells Linux licenses to Microsoft. Netscape is gone and the ghost of its second cousin twice removed, the Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox, lives on to take what is really an insignificant chunk of Internet Explorer’s market share. Corel/Novell WordPerfect? Only if you’re working in a huge law firm will you see WP on an enterprise level.
Put these together and the fabled VMware versus Microsoft Hypervisor war starts to look less like an armed conflict between bitter rivals and more like a strategic partnership built through a demonstration of independence. Tucci’s no fool — Maritz is there for the day that the Redmond giant comes knocking. He’s there to build thin but sturdy roads between the two companies. He’s there to forge something like the Citrix/Microsoft alliance, where Citrix is an independent company but still acts in many ways like a subsidiary of Microsoft (or at least an extension). In Martiz’s VMworld keynote speech (not the parts about having “sins to atone for” in his early days of programming for the PC Revolution), he barely mentioned Greene and hardly touched on competition with Microsoft. He’s looking forward to the day when he can do what only Citrix has managed to do so far — preserve independence while under Redmond’s all-seeing eye.
In the end, we’ll see VMware’s VDC-OS as the dominant force in the virtualization space with Hyper-V as an acceptable but lesser alternative, much like Citrix’s MetaFrame/XenApp and Microsoft’s Terminal Services. I think this leaves one question: In the long run, what happens to Citrix now that it’s betting so heavily on Xen and taking on Microsoft and VMware directly in the systems virtualization market?]]>
As I sat in my cozy office, drinking from a VMware mug, wearing a SearchVMware.com t-shirt under my dress shirt, saving drafts of a SharePoint training presentation to a 1GB USB stick emblazoned with eG’s logo and watching Jan and Hannah go through their big bag-o-stuff from the conference, I mulled over something … what was the one thing, above all of the other schwag, that I wound up using most? The answer was the lowest-tech item there: Sun’s little black book.
Yup, just a small black notepad. I’ve already filled up ten pages of notes in just around two weeks, and I now carry it with me to all my meetings. I look less rude taking notes on paper than entering them into my Blackberry (the message most people get when they see that: “Is this person note-taking or is he texting?” You tell me!). It fits in whatever bag I carry, whether it’s a notebook case, organizer or nothing at all. It’s better than a USB drive due to the simplicity of “open and write” versus “boot and type.”
So, the Completely Unofficial Best of VMworld Schwag Award (TM, patent-pending, Copyright 2008, all rights reserved) goes to Sun Microsystems for providing such an elegant and simple tool.
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It was deep level, allowing IT staff to react quickly with appropriate (and relevant) technical information at their disposal to solve problems or initiate handoffs between departments if needed. The business view allows IT to conceptualize the impact of a problem or SLA failure, and thus better align itself with the business. The wide array of hosts, services and vendors supported by the product grants a big boon — having one tool to rule them all (LotR jokes are prohibited, thank you). It’s a tool that a seasoned sysadmin and an entrenched CIO can both love, and better yet, both use.
So … on my trademarked poker scale: EG gets a solid nine pokers. It’s hot, like a fireplace poker, and if you get jabbed by it, you will certainly know it!]]>
NEC’s got me piqued. It seems ready to re-enter the American market in a big way, reversing its trend of avoiding the U.S. as a full-systems seller like we all had monkey pox. The company also seems to have the best end-to-end VDI solution out there, extending VMware’s product on its own hardware, with multimedia and USB capabilities.
Cisco’s got me curious. I’m hoping for a product launch soon so I can see the inside of this new plug-in networking module architecture. I’m not holding my breath, however, because this has been in the pipe for a long time without much substance. True, the VMware virtual switches we all know and love today were originally co-designed with Cisco, but that just makes me wonder why there hasn’t been a formal product on the market before now.
On to the cloud. As I told the incomparable John Troyer in the podcast Andrew Kutz and I did … if your product is vapor, don’t call it cloud. Show me a Web OS client that can run virtualized apps. Show me federation over the Web with cloud services that integrate with internal services. Show me something!
The glitz was top notch. The glam was top notch. The parties — I think you see where this is going. Long story short, this conference was one about maintenance mode rather than being unveiling anything major, but it sure was fun.]]>
ThinLaunch can be cobbled together with a few Group Policy object edits in Active Directory without buying the product. Simply replace the shell with whatever VDI launcher (or other application) you want. Microsoft tells you how to do it here. True, ThinLaunch then monitors this process if it crashes and can automatically restart it, but this is also something that can be managed with an application or by copying the code from this site.
ThinLaunch is available as an MSI package, meaning it’s very easy to deploy via Group Policy. Then again, Group Policies are even easier to deploy via group policy. Duh. ThinLaunch requires .NET 2.0. and GPOs don’t. ThinLaunch supports Windows 2000 through Vista and 2K8. GPOs do too.
I can see the need for this package and I can even see some large enterprise customers who’d want a packaged application to handle the conversion of legacy desktops. I can even see using the product in small businesses with virtualization already in place but a lot of legacy desktops and a lack of cash. What I can’t see is how it’s innovative in its approach.
Sorry, ThinLaunch, but you get three out of ten pokers — there’s just nothing hot there.]]>
Having seen a lot of anti-VMware propaganda coming out of the Microsoft marketing machine lately, it strikes me that Microsoft is desperate to do anything to try to catch up and compete with VMware. One example is the VMwareCostsWayTooMuch.com website, which it recently launched in conjunction with passing out $1 chips and flyers at VMworld. What’s next, Microsoft? Late-night TV infomercials on Hyper-V proclaiming its greatness? You might see if George Foreman is available — you could call it the lean, mean, cost-reducing virtualization machine.
Microsoft’s tactics strike me as childish. Instead of trying to mislead people, the company should spend its time and money making a product that can actually compete with VMware. Microsoft tries to push the cost issue without looking at the big picture numbers and the features you get with each product. VMware costs more because you get more with it; you get a proven, mature and feature-rich product with many integration, management and automation components.
Microsoft is way behind in the enterprise virtualization game and has a lot of catching up to do. VMware’s recent announcements at VMworld puts Microsoft even farther back in VMware’s rear-view mirror. Microsoft should be doing everything it can to polish its 1.0 product and add some of the many features and functionality that ESX already has. Good products tend to speak for themselves. Once Microsoft has a product that can stand up to ESX, it won’t be forced to sink to the guerilla marketing level to sell its product. I guess at this point Microsoft has to do everything it can to try and achieve global domination of the virtualization market. Maybe it’s time for VMware to start its own website, along the lines of HyperVLacksFeatures.com — but then again, why sink to Microsoft’s level?]]>
To go to the start of why … a long time ago, back when my office primarily used VMware GSX3 for virtulization at the server level, I had a real need to do backups of the virtual machine disk files (VMDK). My GSX hosts were Linux servers and I used a simple cron job to launch scripts on a schedule, which triggered a suspension, tarring of the VMs and scp-ing of the tarballs to a network-attached storage (NAS) box before re-starting the guests. It let me avoid buying backup licenses for my guests (which were mostly pre-production units, image builds, etc.) and gave me a complete point-in-time recovery solution better than anything I could buy off the shelf (at the time). It ws so efficient that when my company joined the Core Customer Program, I was asked to give a webinar on the topic. Sadly, that webinar is now so out-of-date that it’s been pulled from VMware’s site and I can’t find it on archive.org.
Now why would I kick myself? Because that simple idea is at the root of esXpress. It does it a lot better than I did and focuses on ESX rather than GSX/Server, but at the core it’s very similar. It gets around the need for downtime and uses gzip under the hood rather than tar, but it has a Linux OS guest that essentially copies, compresses and offloads other guests. I was pretty impressed by how simply and efficiently the product works, though I must admit to being bit jealous — if only I had realized there was a <i>product</i> there in that idea.
So kudos to esXpress for taking a good idea and making a good product out of it!]]>
In response to Marathon’s blog dissin’ the upcoming feature, Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware‘s Mike DePetrillo, a principal systems engineer, wrote a blog defending VMware Fault Tolerance.
For starters, Marathon complained that VMware does not provide component-level fault tolerance. “The most common failures that result in unplanned downtime are component failures such as storage, NIC [network interface card] or controller failures. Yet VMware Fault Tolerance doesn’t do anything to protect against I/O, storage or network failures.”
DePetrillo noted that VMware already has features to protect again component failure. “If your NIC fails you’ve got NIC teaming built into the system. To set it up simply plug in both NICs to the server, go into the network panel and attach both of them to the same virtual switch. Done. Four clicks. Same thing for storage with the built-in SAN [storage area network] multipathing drivers,” DePetrillo wrote. “I absolutely agree with the author that component failures are the cause of most crashes and that’s why VMware added these features in 2002. VMware FT is not designed for component failure because there’s no sense in moving the VM to another host if you’ve simply lost a NIC uplink. NIC teaming will take care of that with ease and is a LOT cheaper than using CPU and memory resources on another host to overcome the failure.”
Marathon’s second beef: VMware’s fault tolerance is too complex. “In order to use VMware Fault Tolerance, you’ll first have to install both VMware HA [High Availability] and DRS [Distributed Resource Scheduler]. No small feat in and of themselves. Then, because VMware FT requires NIC teaming, you’ll also have to manually install paired NICs. Then you’ll need to manually set up dual storage controllers (with the software to manage them) because it requires multipathing. And to top it all off, you’re required to use an expensive, and often complicated, SAN.”
DePetrillo said the process requires checking off two boxes – HA and DRS. That’s it. “If that’s too hard then please comment and let me know how it could possibly be easier. Even my dog has figured out how to do this now. Granted, it’s a pretty smart dog.”
“As for setting up the dual NICs and dual HBAs [host bus adapters], well, yes, you have to actually plug the physical devices in. After you’ve done that the **built-in** NIC teaming and HBA drivers will take over and configure most everything for you. The NIC teaming does require four extra clicks. The HBA drivers actually figure out the failover paths, match them up, and set up the appropriate form of failover all auto-magically. They’ve been doing this since ESX 1.5 (6 years ago),” DePetrillo blogged.
“Lastly, yes, this requires shared storage. Pretty sure that most environments that want FT (no downtime what-so-ever because our business could lose millions) already have a SAN to take advantage of other things virtualization related such as DRS and VMotion,” he wrote.
Also, VMware FT does not require dual NICs or dual HBAs because, DePetrillo said, “This is something you should have in every virtualization setup that’s running VMs you care anything about, but it’s not a requirement to get VMware FT [Fault Tolerance] running.”
The last point Marathon makes that’s worth spending any time on is that VMware offers onlylimited CPU fault tolerance. “With VMware FT, you’ll need to set up what VMware refers to as a “record/replay” capability on both a primary and secondary server. If something happens to the primary server, the record is stored on the SAN and then restarted on the secondary server. … The whole thing depends on the quality of the SAN. Second, in the words of the VMware engineer who presented at VMworld, “this can take a couple of seconds.” So what happens to your application state in those couple of seconds?”
DePetrillo’s defense is that “if you’re the type of company that requires absolutely no downtime for an app — if the app is just that critical — then I’m pretty sure you’re going to have a decent SAN. … If you’re having so many problems with your SAN that you don’t trust it for FT, then you have much bigger issues at hand that VMware or Marathon or any of the other virtualization related vendors aren’t going to help you with.”
You can read more of VMware’s comments on DePetrillo’s blog, which gets into some details on how VMware Fault Tolerance will work, and vice versa for Marathon.
But I think it is obvious that Marathon is making VMware’s fault tolerance feature seem worse than it is, and VMware is making its new feature seem simpler than it is.
For the most part, this is a pissing contest between the incumbent fault-tolerance vendor and the “new guy,” but the fact of the matter is, if you use VMware virtualization, you can’t use Marathon Technologies because they don’t support VMware (obviously) and if you use Citrix Systems’ XenServer, you can’t use VMware Fault Tolerance, so these arguments are moot.]]>
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.]]>