The Virtualization Room

February 29, 2012  10:27 PM

Red Hat: The T-Mobile of virtualization?

KeithKessinger Keith Kessinger Profile: KeithKessinger

Red Hat hit a milestone, posting $1 billion in revenue for the fiscal year. Not bad for a company that originally made money by selling telephone support for an upstart open source operating system. Despite this success, Red Hat has floundered in the virtualization market. By most estimations, it’s battling Oracle for fourth place, behind VMware, Microsoft and Citrix Systems, respectively. In many ways, Red Hat is the T-Mobile of virtualization.

Looking beyond their positions in their respective markets, both Red Hat and T-Mobile share a number of similarities.

In a recent interview with Ars Technica, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst admitted that VMware virtualization is ahead of his company’s offering – which isn’t much of a shocker. Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization 3.0 does some nifty stuff, but it still lags behind vSphere 5 in a number of areas, including storage live migration and the amount of RAM you can assign to VMs.

The same argument can be made for T-Mobile: It’s playing catch-up with the competition. For starters, T-Mobile hasn’t deployed a true 4G network. Unlike AT&T and Verizon, which are rolling out nationwide LTE networks, or Sprint, which uses WiMAX, T-Mobile uses HSPA+ to deliver faster wireless speeds, but that technology is still considered 3G. (For all the nerds out there, I understand that LTE isn’t theoretically 4G. But that’s a discussion for a different day.) Also, T-Mobile’s selection of handsets leaves much to be desired. For goodness’ sake, it’s the only U.S. carrier that doesn’t offer the iPhone!

But the Red Hat and T-Mobile comparisons extend beyond both companies’ shortcomings. They provide a cost-effective and viable alternative to their competition. For example, a RHEV subscription nets you enterprise-grade features, such as high availability and distributed resource scheduling, for a fraction of VMware’s price. For organizations that are just beginning to virtualize or looking to add a second hypervisor, it’s hard to ignore the allure of a cheap and stable virtualization platform. (Although, I wonder if those IT shops would prefer Hyper-V, which comes with Windows Server.)

T-Mobile, for its part, offers dirt-cheap voice and data plans. When I look at its Classic Unlimited Plus plan, I’m ashamed of my monthly AT&T iPhone bill. T-Mobile makes sense for people who don’t want to fork over $100 a month for a smartphone. Ultimately, it’s great for customers and the wireless market, as a whole.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seem to agree. They recently opposed a $39 billion merger between AT&T and T-Mobile for antitrust reasons. The FCC even said that T-Mobile was a “disruptive force” that keeps wireless carriers from raising pricing.

I won’t go as far as calling Red Hat a disruptive force in the virtualization market. But the capitalist in me believes that competition is good for buyers and sellers. And T-Mobile and Red Hat promote greater competition and apply pressure on their respective market leaders.

February 21, 2012  7:04 PM

Veeam users, prospects unfazed by Symantec litigation

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Symantec Corp. is locked in a court battle with virtual backup vendor Veeam Software over patent infringement, but Veeam customers don’t expect the suit to affect them. Some prospective users also say it won’t stop their evaluations of Veeam’s product.

Symantec accuses Veeam as well as another competitor, Acronis, Inc. of doing “irreparable harm” in its lawsuits, and the security and storage software company seeks monetary damages. It is also attempting to stop Veeam and Acronis from using certain technology in their products.

Symantec claims that Veeam infringed on patents for “Disaster Recovery and Backup Using Virtual Machines,” “Computer Restoration Systems and Methods,” “Method and System of Providing Replication,” and “Selective File and Folder Snapshot Creation.”

Users considering a move to Veeam are undeterred. “Isn’t that what every backup vendor does?” said Femi Adegoke, IT Director at the West Gastroenterology Medical Group in Los Angeles, Calif., of the alleged areas of infringement. “[The lawsuit] doesn’t bother me — Symantec’s product has a lot of moving parts and legacy stuff involved. I prefer to go with some of the newer guard [in Veeam].”

Current Veeam shops were blase about the news. “It doesn’t concern us — we don’t work for them,” said Kevin Stephens, infrastructure specialist for the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DoDD), which uses Veeam’s Backup and Replication software. “We use both Symantec and Veeam products.”

One Veeam customer that uses Veeam’s full suite of software, including Backup and Replication and Reporter said he’s not concerned, either – “at least, not yet.” “We live in a litigious society, so you never know how it will work out,” said Barry Blakely, infrastructure architect for Mazda N.A.

Some in the market see the suit as ‘patent trolling’ on Symantec’s part, brought on by competitive products’ popularity, but it’s more likely a prelude to some form of partnership or even acquisition, said Greg Schulz, founder and analyst with the StorageIO Group.

“Maybe the outcome down the road is some cross-licensing or a partnership between Veeam and Symantec,” he said. “We’ve seen a long list of things like this eventually get settled out of court.”

January 30, 2012  9:18 PM

Virtualization skills pay the bills – or do they?

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Tech professionals enjoyed their largest annual salary growth since 2008, according to a report released by Dice last week, but cloud and virtualization skills were not among the most fortunate.

After two straight years of wages remaining nearly flat, tech professionals on average garnered salary increases of more than two percent, boosting their average annual wage to $81,327 from $79,384 in 2010.

Virtualization as a skill also saw jumps in pay, up six percent to $86,669.

Continued »

January 23, 2012  3:49 PM

VMware VSA capacity increases with new RAID requirements

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

The vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) released with vSphere 5 now supports more usable capacity per host thanks to relaxed RAID requirements, according to a VMware blog post.

RAID, or Random Array of Independent Disks, refers to the way data is striped and / or mirrored across disks to achieve redundancy. Higher RAID levels afford better data protection, but can eat up more disk capacity. Previously, the VSA required RAID 10, which offers high levels of data protection, but contributed to a 75% capacity overhead for the overall VSA.

Now, the VSA supports RAID 5 or RAID 6, which use fewer disks for data protection, resulting in more available capacity for users.

Continued »

January 20, 2012  4:55 PM

VMware previews cloud-based customer lab at NEVMUG

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

VMware officials unveiled a new offering designed to help IT pros run proof-of-concepts in the cloud at yesterday’s well-attended New England VMware User Group Winter Warmer at Gillette Stadium.

The new program, called Virtual Customer Labs, will use the same underlying technologies as the Hands-on Labs at VMworld, according to a lunch session presented by Josh Liebster, a systems and sales engineer for VMware. It will allow users to test various VMware products “without having to worry about any Active Directory mishaps or storage being misconfigured.”

Continued »

January 18, 2012  7:27 PM

Shoring up vCenter in Auto Deploy environments

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

One example of the growing criticality of vCenter comes with vSphere 5’s Auto Deploy feature. In certain disaster scenarios, its dependency on vCenter can send users down a ‘rabbit hole’ of availability issues if the environment is not designed correctly, experts say.

Auto Deploy can be used to deliver host and VM configuration information across the network, while an Auto Deploy server manages state information for each host. It stands to be most appealing in large environments where quick deployment of new VMs is a must.

In an environment where vCenter, the vCenter database and the Auto Deploy server are all virtualized in the same vCenter datacenter, and all hosts and VMs are totally reliant on Auto Deploy for their state information, Auto Deploy cannot set up vSphere Distributed Switches (vDS) if vCenter Server is unavailable. If the host can’t connect to vCenter Server, it remains in maintenance mode and virtual machines cannot start.

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January 10, 2012  8:32 PM

Whither VXLAN?

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

I’ve been looking more deeply into the proposed IETF standard VXLAN of late, but my reading has left me with more questions than answers.

VXLAN, or Virtual eXtensible LAN, submitted to IETF last fall and talked up at last year’s VMWorld, is a protocol for routing Layer 2 traffic over Layer 3 networks, with the goal of either expanding the available VLAN address space, or supporting inter-data center VM mobility, depending on who you ask. It’s also important to note that VXLAN, for now, is still a proposed standard that remains largely theoretical.

Recently, a blog post by Scott Lowe caught my interest by pointing out some key differences between VXLAN and Cisco’s Overlay Transport Virtualization (OTV) protocol, which also encapsulates layer 2 frames in layer 3 packets. Continued »

January 10, 2012  8:25 PM

Virtualization in 2012: Automation on the horizon

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

The following is an expansion on our 2012 predictions piece on virtualization management, which ran on last week.

As server virtualization becomes mainstream, vendors like VMware have to come up with a new return on investment (ROI) proposition to sell to customers, and experts say to be on the lookout for a new sales pitch around automation and operational savings.

“The purpose of automation is to create a new hard-dollar ROI for virtualization, basically opex savings by streamlining operations, as opposed to the old ROI which was capex savings that came from server consolidation,” said Bernd Harzog, analyst with The Virtualization Practice.

Consolidation ratios won’t be as high as mission-critical apps are virtualized, and so “in order for the virtualization freight train to keep rolling down the tracks, VMware needs a second, new incremental hard dollar ROI,” he said. “That’s going to come from this automation-driven opex savings delivered by vCenter Operations. And that’s going to shake up the management software industry in an extremely profound way.”

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December 19, 2011  6:38 PM

VKernel throws down automation gauntlet for VMware

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

With today’s release of version 4.5 of its vOps management software, Quest subsidiary VKernel is challenging VMware to an infrastructure automation duel.

“[Paul] Maritz from VMware has been discussing automation for the better part of a year,” said Alex Rosemblat, product marketing manager for VKernel. With vOps 4.5, Rosemblat claims, “we’re really starting to deliver on the future vision that VMware has laid out.”

An example of VKernel’s first foray into capacity management automation in vOps 4.5 is ‘Zombie VM’ deletion – the automatic removal of VMDK files deemed waste by the software. By default, vOps marks a VMDK as waste if it has no connection to anything in vCenter and has been sitting in storage for more than 90 days. Users can also customize these criteria.

“What users have had to do in the past, after they receive this list of waste files, is go through and manually find these waste files and delete them,” Rosemblat said. “If you have a couple hundred files, that can turn into several hours’ worth of work. We can do that basically with the click of a button.” In the next release, users will be able to schedule Zombie VM deletions.

Other new automation features introduced with 4.5 include snapshot auto-merge, and more “one-click issue remediation” similar to waste file deletion, but for memory limit sizing. Previously, vOps could address memory allocated to particular VMs, but not memory limits, another setting within vSphere which restricts the amount of allocated memory a VM actually uses. This release adds visibility and automated remediation for memory limits to existing support for memory allocations. vCPU sizing is also supported with this release, in addition to physical CPU resource sizing.

Also new with this release: a new way of doing reports designed to shave down the amount of time admins spend on this task. Now, an extended custom URL generation process allows admins to send management a link that shows a real-time view of the environment, rather than repeatedly generating and sending reports.
Finally, vOps 4.5 also includes the ability to forecast how much hardware will be needed to support an environment based on the current growth rate; common trend alarm warnings delivered by default; application type tags and resource sizing configuration groups; plus vSphere 5 and raw device mapping (RDM) support.

“VMware’s strategy for operations management is to combine performance management, capacity management, [and] configuration management…with the self-learning analytics that came with Integrien for the purpose of automating IT operations,” said Bernd Harzog, analyst with The Virtualization Practice. “Quest is coming out of the gate, in terms of a response [to VMware], better and faster than anybody else in the ecosystem.”

But it’s still too early to pick a winner in this race, Harzog said. “Right now we’re on chapter one of a twenty-chapter book.”

December 7, 2011  5:05 PM

VMware sneaks out vCenter Chargeback 2.0

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

With little fanfare, VMware introduced version 2.0 of its chargeback tool last week, and the release notes include more “known issues” than new features.

vCenter Chargeback has been renamed Chargeback Manager and folded into the vCenter Operations suite. According to the release notes issued Nov. 30, version 2.0 contains more than a dozen new features, including support for vSphere 5.0 and vCloud Director 1.5.

Continued »

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