Archive for October, 2010


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This week saw the last London VMUG of 2010. It featured not only the main session with a mix of updates from the mothership , presentations from users & sponsoring vendors , but a choice of 2 breakout sessions in the morning before the main session.

For the last 3 or 4 VMUG’s , Alan Renouf of virtu-al.net ( and lately vSpecialist ) fame has very kindly been running a PowerShell session , graduating from a presentation to a lab – this time hosted in the “cloud” ( also known as Al’s house! ) – I’m told from the guys who attended it , that it was yet another slice of command line gold.

While I enjoy PowerShell as much as the next man, the alternative breakout session being trialled this time appealed more to me as what Alaric Davies described as a bit of “beard-strokey high level strategy stuff” , namely a roundtable discussion with slightly less of a technical focus than some of the other VMUG subject matter.

As it turned out the subject of the roundtable was about VDI – not something I have a huge day to day exposure to as I’ve said before , but something that interests me as it represents some tough challenges for the virtualisation professional. In terms of workload numbers , a good sized Virtual Server estate could have 1000  workloads running , each reasonably predictable and trended. An equivalent sized VDI implementation could be tens of thousands of much less predicable workloads , raising a significantly different challenge.

In addition to the technical challenges offered by VDI – there is a far greater barrier from the finance department. Several of the delegates at the table found the case hard to justify to their management line, Not only could additional hardware need to be purchased in the server room , but potentially a whole new set of hardware for the desktop in the form of thin clients. It would seam there are potential pitfalls in other areas too, such as licencing , where if you are not careful you could end up attempting to licence your desktop twice , which is something we’d all rather avoid. One of the delegates at the table deliberately  avoided the thin client route – citing the reason that should the VDI project “crash and burn” then at least he would not have to go round and buy everyone a new PC ( presumably shortly followed by clearing his desk ? Winking smile )

In addition to user contributions from the table , we were also lucky enough to have a scattering of VMware staff who were able to offer clarifications / advice when required. on a personal note I felt they gave just the right level of participation, it would have been all too easy for them to have run away a bit with the conversation. Mike Laverick was running as an unofficial compere for the roundtable and I’m sure he’d have interjected if he felt things were loosing sight of their goals.

If you work in virtualisation anywhere around the south east, then I really do urge you to come and take part in the London VMUG. It really is a fantastic source of knowledge , networking and occasionally beermats ! Smile

 

 

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If you’d like more information on the London VMware User Group then check out the VMware Community pages or the LinkedIn Group.

http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=3256244

http://communities.vmware.com/community/vmug/forums/emea/london

My feet have hardly touched the ground since Copenhagen , after a hectic couple of day in the office I’m back on the road again , this time to IPExpo , a 2 day event held at London’s Earls Court.

 

imagePrior to hitting the show , myself and a few other bloggers (including Chris Evans from http://storagearchitect.blogspot.com/ and Barry Coombs from http://virtualisedreality.com/ ) where able to meet with with some of the Microsoft Cloud Team , including their General Manager , Zane Adams. As you may have realised from most of my posts, I’d say my flag was pretty firmly in the VMware camp , but I’ve been working with Microsoft products since I was in short trousers so still very keen to hear what they have to say , especially when it comes to their particular take on “what is cloud”

This was the first time I’ve ever done such a roundtable , especially one that’s been recorded – thankfully I was a little bit prepared by my chinwag with Mike Laverick, but somehow this felt a touch more intimidating than a Skype chat.

 

The session was pretty well organised , with a bit of a talk from Zane about Microsoft vision for the Azure platform and associated technologies, followed by some select questions with a more open Q&A afterwards. In a nutshell , the Azure plan is a platform as a service – if its something you want to take advantage of then now is the time to start to look at your applications and see how they might scale to fit that type of model. This has become a lot more than a pipedream for board level PowerPoint decks. With 70% of the Development effort at Microsoft devoted to something related to cloud technology , its something Microsoft are going to take seriously – past history as shown that usually when they do this , they tend to get results. I enjoyed the opportunity to be able to put some pretty tough questions to Zane and felt that I got some pretty good answers.

 

A short walk later and I arrived at Earls Court 2 for IPExpo – It was a very different show form VMworld , which of course was still quite fresh in mind , but it was interesting to see more than just raw vendors there. VAR’s and System Integrators where also present , making it a little more rounded. Virtualisation was also only a small part of the show , with sections dedicated to Physical Security , Networking & Storage amongst others , all with badge scanners at the ready for your attention. conversation ranged form a scan badge for freebie exchange to a much more in-depth chat with Magirus about their vBundle product – essentially a “my First vBlock” based on Cisco/EMC hardware with a vSphere virtualisation layer on top. I know that this wasn’t anything especially ground breaking but a neat demo of the integrated EMC management within the VI client and a good chat all the same!

 

A show wouldn’t be a show without a Veeam stand – today the intrepid man and women in green had something to celebrate , with the official launch of the v5 Backup & Replication product. v5 brings with it a host of new technologies based around being able to run a Vm directly from the compressed and deduplicated backup – allowing verification , item level restore and on demand test beds amongst others. What better way to celebrate it with Vodka & cupcakes ( green of course !! )

 

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Right at the back of the show was an ICE cube Modular datacentre 40ft unit from SGI which was pretty impressive , not having seen one up close before – its units like them that will go to be the backbone of much of the public cloud datacentres, just add water, power and network for a maximum of 40,000 cores of processing !

While I had a valuable day , I’m not quite sure IPExpo would be something I’d want to do both days for as a delegate – it seemed to be more of a lead generating event than anything else ( though it is great to catch up with current vendors and make sure I’m up on anything interesting they might be doing)

I’ve finally recovered from the non stop week that’s been VMworld Europe 2010. My feet no longer hurt, I’ve come down from the caffeine rush , and I can purchase a pint of beer for less than a week salary.

Its been a very different experience this year for me. I think that because its the first year that I’ve been more active within the community and as a blogger ( with the badge to prove it ) So the list of people to talk to has also snowballed.

Id badge with various "pins"

I attempted to compensate for this by extending my stay slightly to arrive on Sunday and leave on the Friday , giving me what I thought would have been more than enough time to meet , speak to and listen to what people had to say. I think I could have been there another week and still missed someone ! I was also able to spend a little time with some of my colleagues from around the world , which I’m sure will pay dividends both in the short and long terms.

I left my planner pretty open this year , having made the mistake from previous years of trying to fit too many sessions in , instead concentrating on the things that I wouldn’t be able to catch up online a few weeks later , such as the interactions at the solutions exchange, bloggers lounge & lab sessions.

 

 

There are 1001 other reports of what people did during their time in Copenhagen, so I wont dilute the blogosphere with yet another one but will leave you with a few things that I saw that hopefully will be worthy of some further investigation. 

 

Cisco UCS Express – the branch in a box issue is one that crops up time and time again. This could well be the perfect solution. I really want one to have a play with and if it comes in at the price point mentioned I’ll be impressed !

VAAI Integration – since the 4.1 release , the major storage vendors have been working hard to get this into place and working. Some great demo’s of this from IBM , EMC and 3PAR.

Veeam Backup Version 5 – I usually get a little annoyed at marketing of stuff you can’t actually buy yet , but with an announced release date of 20th of October, I’ll let them off. If you’ve managed to be on the web for more than a month without hearing about these guys , you probably don’t have your router switched on.

 

As well of plenty of things that got me excited , a few things left me baffled , confused and a little irate. They can be summed up by the Infrastructure Center from http://www.mysoftit.com/

I’m still a little bit confused by what this actually offers over using vCenter & a decent backup product. It claims to be able to manage Xen and Hyper-V in the next release but not under the same pane of glass. “in the next release” was a phrase used almost every second sentence , leaving me to wonder what actually was in the current product. The Guys on the stand were not native English speakers, but I have a hunch the pitch makes just as little sense in German as it did in English. Sorry to single you out guys , but perhaps you just accosted me at the wrong time Smile

 

The Party as ever was immense on its scale though like others I felt the venue was a little on the monolithic side – the Palais at Cannes offered the multi level , multi room experience that added the wow factor that the Copenhagen Party was slightly lacking in. I was impressed by the various acts , including a good old fashioned breakdance-off. As fellow bloggers have said, its the people that make the party and there were plenty of opportunities for networking with the other attendee’s

Its been a hectic week in Copenhagen , but as I checked my mail before I went to bed last night I discovered that the VCAP-DCA beta exam I took back in June was actually scored. I had previously thought the beta had been abandoned and had a voucher for a free retake as a result.

As you can imagine I’m over the moon at passing the exam – it was the most challenging technical exam I’ve ever sat. This will allow me to focus more on the VCAP-DCD Design exam , due for beta release quite soon.

 

(As a side note I’m sure this is completely unrelated to meeting the certification team including Jon Hall at the Copenhagen Show ! )

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I’m happily killing 2 birds with one Stone during my time at VMworld. In addition to the conference itself , I’m taking the opportunity to catch up with work colleagues across the world, to share war stories and compare solutions to see the excellence in each others endeavours.

In a typical office , the helpdesk is seen as the script based staff on the end of a phone who tells you to turn it of and back on again. What really impressed me about my hosts was that their helpdesk was the polar opposite. It could not have been put in a more prominent position if they’d tried.

Between the reception desk & canteen were a serious of booths , organised more along the lines of a Genius Bar , where users are encouraged to drop equipment off on the way to lunch. Loan kit is easy to obtain , from projectors to printers and above all an atmosphere of the IT function working with the business , not against it. I wanted to pinch myself and make sure I wasn’t in the middle of a Utopian dream. To put things in scale , this not a tiny SME – This is an office with 1000+ staff. I hear operations people these days complaining so much about a culture where IT felt they were on the back foot and had to “push back” against the business. This was a perfect example of how an IT function can operate when its had that light bulb moment of working with the business to enable them to do what the business does , which is make money !

I’d love to see a little debate around this – do you see IT as a function to accelerate the business , or do you see end users as a necessary evil ?

I arrived into a very foggy Copenhagen yesterday evening after good flight. It was looking initially as if early arrivals such as myself were going to have to brave the metro in order to make it to their hotels from the airport , but thanks to EMC’s Sponsorship of the airport shuttles , I was able to take a coach to the Bella centre ( even If I was one of 2 on board – goes a little against the green aims of this year! )

Once dropped off at the Bella centre, I was able to register and get my rucksack and badge. In addition to this I also got a Metro pass valid until Thursday. A short metro journey from the conference to my hotel, shared with some of the VMware guys running the lab setup – I don’t think I’ve seen such a concentration of VCDX’s on public transport before ;) I have to say on first impressions , I really like the Copenhagen Metro. Its clean , easy to navigate and runs 24/7. I’ll be making good use of to get between the various events over the next few days. I was able to meet up with some fellow Virtualisation Fanatics at Mike Laverick’s Tweetup to celebrate 10-10-10 ( or 42 in binary )

Today looks to be a pretty busy one , even for those of us not on the Partner / VCI / Developer track – The labs have been opened up early so I’m going to try and get a quick one in before taking a photo walk with Scott Herold.

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And you thought Part one had a Catchy title eh ? Billing – its a key part of the management portion of any virtualisation strategy , but how do you bill ? If you are a cloud provider then no bill = no revenue so its pretty key , but what about billing in the private cloud.

My employer deployed a chargeback model in an attempt to control virtual machine sprawl and persuade application team to “rightsize” their virtual machines. The implemented model was very straightforward and conservative , however it had very little effect when it came to controlling sprawl. Program teams , used to controlling significantly large budgets really didn’t worry about the costs of chargeback & could easily afford to “rent” 20 guests , where they only needed the one. Chargeback evolved into show back, as budgets shifted like kittens in a sack and hardware budgets became centrally managed. There was no need to charge op units for their VMs , but the reports were still produced for them. did anyone take notice of these ? I’ll leave it to you to decide.

So have we wasted our time ? Ultimately , no. There is still a lot of value in having a cost model for your virtual machines , even if you don’t bill based on it. It becomes an invaluable tool when designing a solution to illustrate potential savings by virtualising an application ( vs the additional application licence costs – see Part I ! ) There is also value for the operational teams when it comes to forecasting and financial planning.

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Not only will I be heading off to Copenhagen next week to try and cover as much of VMworld Europe as one Blogger can in 4 days , but I’ll have had barely time to get comfy on the Sofa before heading off to San Jose for the Fourth Enterprise IT Focussed Tech Field Day, Organised by Gestalt IT.

 

As of yet I don’t know who I’ll be meeting up with – San Jose not being short of a Tech Company or two, so there is a good chance they’ll be worth talking to! Going by previous delegates experiences it’ll be intense , but great fun with the chance to sit round with a number of vendors for some great conversation.

To see what the delegates from last year got up to head over to the Tech Field Day site !

http://gestaltit.com/field-day/2009-san-jose/

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This is one of those posts that started out at the title and content has developed in a somewhat organic fashion. There have been quite a few examples recently that have made me question whether everyone has fully bought into virtualisation as a scaling mechanism. In the traditional debate between scale up and scale out of a solution, Scale out has been thought of as the more complex option of the two , after all in the physical world adding some extra RAM or CPUs to a box is just a matter of powering it off and diving underneath the lid , screwdriver & anti-static strap in hand. Scaling out means you’ve got to think more about procuring an additional box , racking & building it – then you have the challenge of configuring the application. Once you move to a virtual infrastructure , that step is all but removed – being able to clone an existing machine or deploy from template means that you can scale out with ease.

This all comes at a price – traditional licensing models tend to carry a cost per server. In the physical world where a scaled out design was generally reserved for large deployments, the extra cost incurred by this was seen in proportion due to the additional hardware cost. That hardware cost is reduced significantly in the virtual world where smaller deployments would benefit from the agility of scale out.

A prime example of this would be Exchange – scaling out the Hub Transport and Client Access Server roles to small scale VM’s leaves the mailbox server to concentrate on hosting the information stores. An SME would traditionally doe this with a single physical box , but would be discouraged form virtualising an “all in one” box as it would end up as an unusually large VM within the estate. If you were able to split this down into smaller machines without a licence penalty, perhaps the uptake of virtualised exchange would be higher ?

 

Changing your licensing model to reflect the end user requirements , be it number of concurrent users / per VM / per mailbox etc. seems to be agnostic of the way you achieve those VMs / Mailboxes / User connections and promotes design flexibility. I understand the need to protect revenue streams , but should that be at the expense of end user choice ?