Thursday, 16 December 2010

It's that time again

We're closing down for Christmas on the 23rd and will be back on the 4th of January 2011. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support in 2010 wish you all a Merry Christmas and see you in the New Year.
Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

All the best from Nick, Steve, Andy & the VMC team

Citrix XenServer 5.6 ESG Lab Validation Report

The Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) has released a report titled: Lab Validation Report, Citrix XenServer, Complete, Cost-effective Data Center and Server Virtualization.

The 20 page report which contains hands-­‐on testing of Citrix XenServer 5.6 with a focus on manageability, consolidation, and cost effectiveness.

The following features were tested: Initial deployment, managebility, XenConvert, OVG Appliance Import, Dynamic Memory Control, Workload Balancing, XenServer HA and StorageLink with Site Recovery.

Bit of light reading :0)

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

DCIG 2011 Virtual Server Backup Software Buyer's Guide Now Available

DCIG is a great resource for information on products and services in IT and I particularly like their technology reviews. I've been waiting for this report on Virtual Server Backup Software for a while and it was released today and is free to download from here.

The 2011 Virtual Server Backup Software Buyer's Guide weights, scores and ranks over 20 virtual server backup software products. It's worth a read.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Virtual Machine Company Webinar Recording and download

One of our partner companies 360IS recorded a Virtual Machine Company seminar is which is now available for download. For details of the agenda and material covered please see the original invite here.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Visionary analysts over-egg Cloud adoption

If we're not going to own any infrastructure in 5 years, how come the latest surveys suggest that only 5% of organisations polled have plans to go Cloud.

I suspect that Garnet, IDC et al are still overstating the situation when they say that 40% of organisations are using 'Cloud' today. It is more that many are using SaaS applications, managed email, as well as off-site Storage & Disaster Recovery.

I work with plenty of organisations who are delivering ICT as a service and referring to it as 'Internal Cloud' and many more who use Virtual Private Clouds to centralise their companies business applications they use a mix of their own equipment in colocated datacentres and mash up of SaaS applications, like and hosted email/exchange services.

Don;t get me wrong I think that the future for much of IT is in the use of 3rd party services and organisations will be pragmatic adopting new "Cloudy" services as they become cost effective and add value to/remove costs from their businesses. But, franky I don;t see Millions of businesses dumping their IT in the next 2 years do you?

I have often thought that the true value of industry forecasting and punditry is to make astrology look respectable...

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Clouds over London Evaporating

As co-location requirements soar providers are struggling to keep up with demand.
New data from TeleGeography’s Colocation Database reveal that colocation service providers are struggling to keep up with demand. Despite significant new construction, colocation site capacity is more constrained in 2010 than it was in 2009. More than 41% of sites surveyed by TeleGeography were at least 80% full at mid-2010, up from 34% of sites a year earlier.

Among the worst hit areas are London and the South of England, where surging power costs and a squeeze on physical space are causing colocation costs to rocket.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Plug into your local Cloud

At the turn of the 20th century most big businesses owned their own power sources. It was very expensive, increasing the business costs dramatically and the ability/inability to generate power became limiting to the growth of business generally. Which was bad for the economy; as we all know that increased business costs effect the cost of the product to the consumer. If the cost of the product is too high then it won't sell and the business will fail. The solution was clearly a shared power resource - a main power plant that could rent power a piece at a time to the business, hence the creation of the electric companies. A positive spin off was the wide adoption of power to the home and the eventual arrival of home working.

Cloud computing offers the same type of service to businesses and people at home. There is no longer a need for a business or organisation to front the cost of building or maintaining their own data centres, because now you can rent a moment in time to perform the processing you need, and pay for what you use - that's why power companies are helping Cloud providers design their billing systems.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Orange joins Cisco, EMC, VMware to form cloud computing alliance

In what is clearly the biggest news story of the week it's reported today that Orange Business Systems, the network service provider and mobile operator, is to provide the billing know-how for the 'pay as you go' cloud offering from the increasingly borg'd industry triumvirate of Cisco, EMC and VMware.

The Flexible 4 Business Alliance expands on the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition that Cisco, EMC and VMware established early last year and allows them to deliver complete Cloud Solutions.

EMC has clearly learned some valuable lessons from the closure of it's Atmos Cloud service in July this year:

1) If you make hardware that allows people to build Clouds, stick to the knitting.

2) Work with people you trust to deliver integrated offering - it's an open secret EMC & Cisco are engaged.

3) You need specialist expertise to collect the money - Like Amazon, Orange has extremely efficient microbilling capability

I predict this will be a great success amongst Global organisations and governments who want their own private cloud infrastructures, and for service providers looking for a one stop shop for the delivery of what will become core infrastructure.

Monday, 13 September 2010

European IT Managers cool about Cloud

In February this year Computer Associates released an interesting report titled ‘Unleashing the Power of Virtualisation 2010_Cloud Computing and the Perceptions of European Business’ rather long title but actually a very interesting survey I would recommend downloading a copy from here. The survey covered the attitudes to virtualisation and cloud computing at 550 IT managers in 14 European countries with 65% of those surveyed having over 3000 employees and the remainder between 1000 and 3000.

After several readings of the results conclusions I would draw is that the growing confidence that is coming from the rapid and successful rollout of virtualisation projects is pulling the Cloud concept up the adoption curve very quickly. Evidenced by the fact that was only 17% of European IT managers identified “Cloud Computing” has been transformational to their business 47% of them are adopting cloud type delivery models for internal ICT services.

It is quite clear that the delivery of internal Cloud environments facilitated by increasingly robust virtualisation technologies is seen by European IT managers as a way of regaining control of the corporate computer environment thereby forcing down runaway IT costs that are widely acknowledged as a drag on the bottom line.

Monday, 23 August 2010

HYPER-V Support for Red Hat Linux paves way for ISVs to migrate away form VMWare

A while back Microsoft suprised some in the industry by taking the unusually pragmatic approach of supporting the Novell SUSE Linux under Hyper-V. This week they have gone a step further by extending suport to one of the most common commercial Linux platforms Red Hat a platform that was often pitched as the successor to Windows Server.

Really this should come as no surprise - Microsoft are secure in their market position. According to IDC in the tail end of 2009 over 50% of servers delivered as a VM or virtualised workload were Microsoft Windows Server 2008, and I don;t see Citrix doing a lot of Apple Desktop virtualisation, it's all Windows. By expanding the range of supported guest OS's and giving it away for free, Microsoft will continue to take marketshare as organisations new to virtualisation (or not keen on spending on VMWare licenses) will undoubtedly try if not take the easy option.

By starting to support the linux community Microsoft are setting the stage. Making it easy to quickly expanding the number of ISV delivered applications for provisioning, management, HA, DR, security et al. that are needed to setup run a successful virtualised datacenter. Applications up to now only available for VMware

Microsoft have history here - in the mid '90's companies like FTP, Woolongong & Sunsoft had a very nice business selling TCP/IP stacks for PC's, until Microsoft introduced the Winsock API, which allowed every ISV with an terminal emulator or printing app to access Microsofts own free-to-download product - all three companies disappeared in one way or another over the next 4 years. I'd also contend that it led to the demise of Netscape - but that's another story.

So todays VMYak 'take-away' is - Remember, whilst VMware has hundreds of thousands of customers for VMWare - Microsoft has millions customers of Windows server out there. Windows Server is in almost every service provider, commercial organisation and public agency in world, and for them virtualization is just a free download away.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Myths about managing virtualised infrastructure

Interesting post by Rupert Collier, Product Manager for Visualization over at specialist distributor Computerlinks worth a read if you have a couple minutes;
Managing virtual environments: Common myths dispelled: discusses particularly the need not to manage virtualized and physical infrastructure separately from one another.Whilst on the surface this may sound contrary to the ideas of cloud computing, it is in fact Central to the delivery of cloud computing. In order to deliver an environment where virtual machines are able to be migrated seamlessly around it is essential that the underlying infrastructure runs like a Swiss watch, for whilst the infrastructure may be virtualised, adaptive and self healing you can guarantee that when something goes badly wrong the problem will be physical; RAM squeeze, CPU core failure, Network IO contentions or just simply the power going off...

Yep, all those things we lived with for the last 40yrs of business computing.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

EMC Closes Cloud: Atmos'phere has changed says analyst

As they close almost without warning their Atmos storage cloud, it seems that EMC has woken to the fact that the cost of infrastructure in any telecommunications project is unbearable for a company that makes it's money from selling products. Read EMC announcement here.

The announcement is bad PR not just for EMC but for Cloud computing in general as it leaves customers in a position where they have no support, no service level agreement and no guarantees that their data will be there tomorrow!

If you have five minutes it's worth reading the critique by cloud blogger Nicole Hemsoth over at her Behind the Cloud blog where she takes to task the analyst who just a few months ago rated him seize Atmos storage cloud has one of the rising stars of Cloud Computing.

Having spent many years working for, or with, service providers of all types & sizes it's very clear to me that the financial model required to deliver Cloud computing environments runs counter to that of a hardware or software manufacturer no matter how big they are. Infrastructure is by definition “a massive upfront investment funded by debt paid back over many years that generates cash flow which is used to fund operations, pay back the debt and pay dividends to investors, which is about as far as you can get away from the model of a company that sells product.

You can't blame EMC for wanting to be at the forefront Cloud computing wave as is a defining period for the industry in which EMC is an undoubted leader, I think they have done the right thing in stepping back before it impacts their core business as I foresee that a number of other companies who have jumped too early with too little consideration of the financial model that needs to be employed following suit, or the conflicts of interest that may arise with customers who can 'do it better'.

My advice to anybody thinking of moving to cloud infrastructure is to proceed with caution:

1) Look at whether it is a core element of their business, is it what they do all day every day?
2) Look at the providers ability to sustain the business model; 'can they stand the level of long term' debt?

Do this “before” deciding who to trust your precious data to.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Breaking news: VMCo offers embedded Check Point VPN-1 VE security

Working together Virtual Machine Co and CheckPoint remove the final barrier to virtualization of enterprise-wide, tier-one computing. This is a new and unique offering

June 29, 2010 Cambridge, UK
Read more here

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Great Server-Centricity Con Job

Hardware today allows for higher and higher consolidation ratios “even if it is not our hardware”. More and more dense ram configurations are available but according to IDC the average number of VMs run on a single piece of physical hardware remains stubbornly at 'seven'.

Economics means we're incentivised to increase this ratio but fear stops us from doing so.

The concentration of risk that comes from the consolidation of more and more applications/ workloads/ services, call them what you will, onto fewer and fewer machines runs completely contrary to everything we have learnt to do in the last 20 years.

But, to our predecessors in the 80's and 90's this was considered normal everything ran on the Mainframe, a Couple of SuperMini's or on half a dozen VAXs.

What's happened is that we have been fooled into believing that the answer to needing to run a new application or service is to buy a new cheap server, and lets face it it's never been cheaper to buy servers - it's the spiraling cost of running them that is killing us!!

Do you think that the major Cloud providers are using 10's of thousands of those hot little 2CPU 16GB systems that DELL & HP are shoving down everyones throats?

No, they are built on RAM heavy, massively scalable 'custom designed hardware' with 'custom designed' capacity management software. With, of course, 'custom designed support'.

Just what we're offering to you, everyday... only with the Virtual Machine Company it's our standard design..!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A straightforward DR configuration

In a virtualised environment DR is always top of the agenda.

One of the pre-sales team put together this simplified network infrastructure overview of a DR config' that he recently installed at one of our customers.
The diagram shows the logical networks in both office and the DR site. IP addressing provided for illustrative purposes and simplicity of understanding only. In practice certain aspects of IP addressing will have to be changed to fit in with the clients pre-existing international office to office VPN.

Failover modes with this config'

In the event of Internet connection failure in the office, the default route for traffic will be via the DR site. Should two shared storage drives fail in one storage device, there is no interruption to service (Raid6). Should one physical Xen server node fail in the office, the other office node can continue running workloads. Should both virtualisation platforms fail or their storage then DR VMs can be accessed at the DR site.

If the entire office fails (both links down because of complete power outage, building on fire or whatever) DR is accessed over the Internet via VPN. Normally, the public Internet Router (or its firewall) provide the default route.

Should the Internet connection fail, the default route is the LAN extension service router. This fail-over routing can be achieved manually or automatically via technologies like HSRP/VRRP.

Hope you find this useful and I'm sure we'll post other snippets and suggestions in future.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Citrix XenServer & VMware ESX Common Criteria Certification

As some of you already know, Citrix have sponsored XenServer, XenDesktop, XenApp, and Netscaler into the Common Criteria program for Information Technology Security Evaluation (CC). We have had several questions about the announcement and what it means for both VMware and XenServer in particular. Since 1 or 2 of us at VMCo were there way-back when Common Criteria & ITSEC first started seeing mainstream IT products submitted for evaluation, we thought we would take this chance to answer some of your questions in this posting.

What is Common Criteria (CC)?
CC is an attempt to reduce duplication of effort of the IT security evaluation functions of several governments (6 in all). CC is an international standard that describes how product vendors may make claims about their security software or hardware, and have independent laboratories investigate these claims and certify the product has been designed and built in a way that meets the vendors claims and can be relied upon to function as described.

What is EAL?
Within CC, products are examined to an Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL). EALs are numbered currently from 1 to 7, with 7 being the most detailed, most stringent level of scrutiny that a product is put under. VMware ESX and ESXi 3.5 were certified to EAL4+ in February 2010. Citrix have submitted their products for the EAL2 process this month.

So An EAL4 Product Is More Secure Than An EAL2 Product?
No. This is probably the most common misconception about CC. A higher EAL number means only that the product passed a deeper level of scrutiny of the vendor's claims. For example, I might have a simple weak encryption application that passes EAL7, because it was found to meet my claims without fault, and its design and execution was found to be exemplary even when "put under the microscope" of EAL7. A much stronger encryption application, that would protect my data better using a strong algorithm, might only be submitted for EAL2, because I want to get some kind of basic certification quickly so I can sell to my government customers. There are also a number of misconceptions around how vendor claims are tested. In our experience, code review is only done at EAL 6 or 7 for example.

What Claims Might A Vendor Make?
The scheme allows for vendors to tailor their claims based upon their product and the way it is to be used. This means that a Firewall is not subject to the same investigation as an Email system or a Desktop OS. A vendor with a Firewall might claim that in order to administer the device you must pass 2-factor authentication, and can only do so over a strongly encrypted connection, and that there are no other possible way of gaining admin access. Such a claim would be investigated to the required depth as part of the CC certification. Another example of a popular claim might be "the admins can't automatically read everyones Email". CC tests these claims are true to a certain depth. Documentation is a vital part of passing an evaluation.

Does It Matter What Version Gets Certified?
Yes. It matters very much. Just because version 1 of a product received certification, it doesn't mean that v2 or even v1.0.1 is certified. The product must be resubmitted into the evaluation process for it to be re-assessed. This is because CC evaluates vendors claims for a given version and even a given configuration of the product. It is normal for a product to be obsolete by the time it passes certification. You could argue this is made worse by the pace of change in commercial software, with many companies pushed to make 1 major release per year and 2 functionality patches, alongside the 4 critical security related hotfixes, all of which take a product outside its certified condition.

How Long Does It Take?
For product of similar size/complexity, the higher the level of assurance the longer the evaluation takes. Expect to see an XenServer (we presume v5.0 or v5.5) certified within the next 6 months. A CC certification can be an expensive business, in our experience of the process (mainly CheckPoint-FW1 and Harris CyberGuard) the cost is £200K-£400K.

Who Cares If A Product Is Certified?
Mostly it is government buyers or those who have to work closely with government agencies, exchanging information with them, or connecting directly to them. Often such customers are restricted to choosing products from the catalogue of evaluated solutions. However, depending on the sensitivity of the information being handled by the IT, an EAL certified may not even be required.

Where Can I Find Out More?
As ever, Wikipedia is a good start.
Check the Portal for certified products.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Hot as Hell Data-Centers Impact Business Values

With energy consumption from ICT systems now accounting for over 40% of average office energy bills it is essential for business to consolidate their computing requirements through virtualisation of resources onto fewer more powerful systems.

The UK’s new Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme came on line on the 1st of April - but according to consultancy Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) this is no joke.

As energy costs for business already set to soar over the next 5 years PwC suggest that the CRC could act as a costs multiplier - with poorly managed energy systems adding up to 20% to those increased energy costs.

As part of the governments scheme, participants will have to purchase allowances to emit CO2 and report their emissions. On the back of this reporting scheme, results will be published in a league table with bonuses paid to the best performing companies, and fines for the profligate.

PwC estimates that 5,000 businesses with energy bills in excess of £500,000 p.a will be affected with a typical company with a £1m p.a. energy bill seeing an additional £500,000 added to the already increasing energy bills over the next 5 years.

Bottom line for investors is that with CRC adding 2-6% to the annual operating costs, a large power hungry data-centers directly impact the companies value.

Monday, 22 March 2010

VMware slashes price of vSphere Essentials

VMware has announced that they have halved the price of vSphere Essentials, the entry level version of their core virtualisation product. Which is effectively a license for upto three Dual CPU machines.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Online Webinar

One of our partner companies 360is is hosting an on-line webinar titled

"How Virtualization Demands Are Changing Hardware Choices, The Emergence Of A Virtualization Appliance"

Why not stop by it's 15 minutes long and nicely to the point - if you can't make it on the day the recording and slides are up on line as well.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Cloud Computing: It's like computers on the Internet innit!

It's the future of technology! A disruptive shift of computing stack to online services! Well what ever we think it is it'll all be clearer after this word from Simon Wardley from Canonical...

Loved it...

Sunday, 21 February 2010

What is a Cloud?

There's been a load of debate over Cloud and what it is... Thanks to Pete Peterson of Wells Fargo Bank for providing this useful extract and link to the NIST source

This NIST definition is the most concise and "share"able definition I've read. My favorite so far. Clip included:

"Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models."
- NIST Definition of Cloud Computing

Whilst virtualization technology is an obvious aid to 'Cloud' computing. It's probably worth saying that virtualization is not The Cloud - to the users I speak to it's clearly a way of describing computing as a utility or outsourced service delivery; which includes pretty much all the traditional managed services, some new ones and layered under SaaS, IaaS and PaaS.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Customer furore as Dell Disable non-Dell HDDs and SSDs

A short note on Dells recent moves to ensure that only Dell HDDs and SSDs are used in their Servers.

For a number of years Dell's systems have posted a warning that a HDD is non-approved, not that it's rubbish, or some unrecognised dodgy clone - just that it's not from Dell. Now in the latest 'generation' of the PowerEdge Server Range they have gone a step further and the PERC actually blocks the use of 3rd party drives.

This Register article has sparked a lively debate the general consensus of which is that
1) they should have told people before they did.
2) It's ok for a vendor to say what they're prepared to support but not stop people from using their product of choice.
3) They'll be looking at other server options

DELL has issued a white paper "Why Customers should insist on DELL Hard Drives" - clearly the real answer is "...we need your money and in order to get it we'll stop you having any choice!!" great customer service message.

It reminds me of the battle between IBM and Hitachi Data Systems & IBMs customers in the 80's. Which was over the use of 3rd party HDS disk packs in IBM Mainframes. IBMs insistance that only their peripherals (remember external disk packs weighed about a ton) would be allowed to work with their mainframes almost brought the company to it's knees as the US Gov' sued over anti-trust activities. But more importantly it pushed customers to consider alternative hardware vendors such as DEC, Compaq, and Sun. oh nearly forgot DELL...

NB: Dells RAID controllers are made by LSI and rebadged/BIOS'd their servers are designed and made by Hon Hai Precision Industries as are HPs and the Nintendo WII

Monday, 1 February 2010

Zimbra - Clouds gather in an Azure sky?

Interesting moves in January with the announcement that VMware would acquire Zimbra. For those who don;t know Zimbra they are a credible alternative to Exchange Server, in my opinion not as rich, but if you're a business a darn site better than GoogleApps.

By combining Zimbra with the SpringSource technology looks to be a lot more than an extension of the ongoing virtualization spat it, looks like a move against Microsoft. Take a look at the blog post by VMware CTO Steve Herrod it has zero to do with virtualization.

Bringing together all the components necessary to compete with Windows Azure and Micorsoft Hosted Services.

From an ego standpoint you could understand it if they launched a vCloud service themselves, but if they really want to challenge/irritate Microsoft it would make a lot more sense to make this competing technology cheaply available to Azures true cloud competitors: Amazon, IBM, Salesforce.Com who have the customers now. Let's watch and see, no doubt we'll return to this one again.