Atlantis Computing in a VMware View environment

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Atlantis Computing. Atlantis would help solving the storage IO issues customers were facing when implementing VDI. Basically their solution would cache storage IO in memory so that disks wouldn’t be the bottleneck anymore. Nowadays, Atlantis does way more than that and they call it “storage optimization”.

Atlantis ILIO, the product name, comes as a virtual appliance and runs on the VMware vSphere hypervisor. You need an appliance on every ESX host. Traditionally, that appliance sits between virtual machines and storage (local storage and/or shared storage). The appliance is using physical ESX memory for its operation. The appliance caches storage IO and also does inline deduplication. By doing that, it boosts VDI performance, makes you able to run more VM’s per storage device and also, you don’t need a high performance storage device. With ILIO Diskless VDI, you don’t even need physical storage anymore. VM’s are running in memory.

The ILIO solution gives you a couple of possibilities:

  1. When you use ESX servers connected to shared storage, for VDI, you could lower the specs of your SAN. You need less performance and also less disk capacity from your array.  Pick a more mainstream array instead of SSD based arrays. Eventually this comes down to a lower price per virtual desktop. Also, the “fear” around storage with VDI becomes less important. VDI doesn’t need to be difficult anymore.  This solution is a good fit for stateful/dedicated full clone desktops
  2. More and more customers are running stateless desktops on local ESX storage (so no need for a shared storage array for those VM’s). For storage they often chose SSD’s or FusionIO for performance. To save on capacity, you could use ILIO purely for deduplication but also think about the ILIO Diskless VDI option: no storage at all. All VM’s run from ESX memory. The ILIO appliance takes ESX memory and uses it as a datastore.

This week I also heard the following: use local storage for stateful/dedicated full clone virtual desktops. Use ILIO for boosting performance and dedup and also use VMware Mirage as a backup tool, in case an ESX host would fail and to backup local data and apps. Interesting thought, isn’t it?!

Bottom line, there are several solutions which can absolutely help with the VDI storage IO issues. They all have a different price, purpose and maybe even give you additional advantages. Take a good look at these solution and chose which one suits you best and gives you the lowest price per desktop.

Book published: VMware ThinApp 4.7 Essentials

The first book on VMware ThinApp 4.7 has been published!! Specialist Systems Engineer ThinApp  at VMware Peter Bjork is the author of “VMware ThinApp 4.7 Essentials”.

What you will learn from this book is:

  • Concepts behind Application Virtualization
  • ThinApp architecture and vocabulary
  • Application Linking
  • Application packaging process and best practices
  • Various methods to deploy ThinApp packages
  • How to update your ThinApp project
  • ThinApp 4.7 design and implementation best practices
  • ThinApp troubleshooting

For more details on the great book and to order it, use the following link: http://www.packtpub.com/vmware-thinapp-4-7-essentials/book

VMware Workstation and Fusion: I do appreciate both more now

When I received my invitation for VMworld Barcelona 2012 as booth staff, I noticed I was scheduled for the VMware Workstation 9 and Fusion 5 booth. I honestly have to say that wasn’t my first choice. In VMware I mostly cover VMware View, ThinApp and Horizon. I considered Workstation and Fusion to be more “consumer products” and not enterprise. How wrong was I!

I had the pleasure of talking to the Product Manager of VMware Workstation/Fusion, Jason Joel but also the pleasure of talking to many end users during VMworld. Four things I noticed during my conversations:

  • I noticed that still, there are people who don’t know Workstation/Fusion. Well, let me quickly introduce Workstation and Fusion: Both products are, what we call, a type 2 hypervisor.  So, you install both programs on top of an Operating System. You install Workstation on top of a Windows OS (for example Windows 7 and/or 8) and you install Fusion on top of Mac OSX (for example Mountain Lion). It is called a type 2 hypervisor because you install the programs on top of an OS and not on top of bare metal. Installing a hypervisor on top of bare metal is called a type 1 hypervisor. vSphere/ESX is an example of a type 1 hypervisor.

After installing Workstation/Fusion (and yes, you can install WS on Windows 8 and Fusion on Mountain Lion), you will be able to create virtual machines on top of your desktop/laptop. To give you an idea:

You can run Windows 8, 7, XP, Ubuntu, Server 2012, Hyper-V and vSphere/ESX inside Workstation. Also, you can run Windows 8, 7, XP, Ubuntu, Mountain Lion, Server 2012, Hyper-V, and vSphere/ESX inside Fusion.

To know more about Workstation, read here: http://www.vmware.com/products/workstation/overview.html

To know more about Fusion, read here: http://www.vmware.com/products/fusion/overview.html

  • The second thing I noticed is that a lot of people are running either one or both products privately. User who are using Workstation and/or Fusion on their private laptops, testing software, getting familiar with new Operating Systems, following courses and have to do tests. Although I expected this use case, I still was impress with the amount of people who are using these products this way
  • The use case in #2 also expanded to the enterprise: users using WS/Fusion on their corporate desktops/laptops for testing purposes. I do have to admit, I didn’t expect this use case with this amount of users. I know many customers giving developers/testers a View desktop besides their “normal” laptop.
  • Fourth, I do expect WS/Fusion to become way more “enterprise”, meaning, both products are very separate from the rest of VMware EUC now, but I do think it is coming together. During the EUC keynote with Steve Herrod and Vittorio Viarengo, VMware View and Mirage merged. So, what is the place for WS/Fusion? BYOD!  Today, you could install Fusion on a private BYO Mac, install a Windows OS, Mirage agent and the company can stream a corporate image to your Mac. Yep, cool, but still too manual to my liking. I would like to see a system where, via Mirage, an image is being streamed with WS/Fusion wrapped around it. Yes, like WS Ace Edition had with VMware Player in the old days : ). Maybe it even is an idea to make a Mirage Image available via PXE: turn on Fusion, PXE boot and get the initial image. Another option is to manually install WS/Fusion, and IT sends you a link to a streamlined Windows package with the Mirage agent. Click, download, open and run it. Maybe thinking out of the box, maybe there are tools like Apple Remote Desktop to push Fusion and then the VM.

After spending a week with the VMware team and partners/customers I have the feeling WS/Fusion is a bit under estimated, under valued maybe not recognized although it won many awards. Both products aren’t just for people at home. It also is for the enterprise. I agree, both need more features around policies like expiration dates, policies around physical and virtual networks etc. Work to be done, yes. Know that WS/Fusion are evolving, are great products and can be used in the enterprise. Do read about the features like “restricted VM’s”.  Also, do understand both products are great test environments for View and vSphere.An example is the video driver. In all products this driver is the same and has been tested in WS/Fusion first before it comes into View/vSphere.

Lastly, do check out WSX. WSX makes it possible to remotely connect to your hypervisor/VM and show a VM’s content to, for example a tablet. Read more about it here.

I became to appreciate WS/Fusion a lot more after talking to Product Management, customers and partners. It is a great and mature products which will integrate with more products.

How much IO, CPU and RAM? VMware Rapid Desktop Appliance

Last week I received multiple VDI/VMware View sizing questions: How many virtual desktops can I host per server? How much RAM do I need? How much disk IO do I need to size per VM?

These questions are very hard for me to answer, without knowing details. The questions are very valid, though: You want to size your environment correctly. Under-sizing the environment will lead to performance issues for your end users and over-sizing the environment will lead to a high cost price per virtual desktop. Both results you don’t want.

I will not discuss how you can size a VMware View environment (maybe in another article). However, I can mention there are tools available like LiquidWare Labs Stratusphere FIT for assessments. Also, VMware partner with Desktop Competency and VMware professional Service can help you. Besides measuring or simulating loads with, for example VMware View Planner, you can also look at sizing an environment the other way around: look at devices which can support an x amount of users, more or less guaranteed. Devices, or I should say solutions, which consist of hardware (CPU, RAM and disk) and software (vSphere and VMware View). When your amount of users grows, expand your environment with another device and thus, scale out.

In this article I would like to make you aware of the VMware Rapid Desktop Appliance:

“a fully VMware certified, converged and scalable solution. Each certified and validated appliance delivers predictable units of performance and user experience”

Isn’t that great?! No more guessing about how much RAM, CPU and IO you need. Before I forget, the appliance isn’t a VMware appliance. Vendors like Nutanix, Cisco, Dell and HP are producing these devices, test and become VMware certified. In the past, the Rapid Desktop Program was intended for Proof of Concepts only but has extended to full production environments as well.

A while ago, I have posted an article about 1 of the vendors: Nutanix. They published the specs of their nodes/blocks and mentions a block could run 200-300 virtual desktops. If you have more users, just add a node/block. It is very scalable.

Be aware that this program is out there. Certified solutions, which will give you the power to host an x amount of users. Easy as that. The Rapid Desktop Appliance should accelerate your VDI deployment for sure.

View? No thanks, I’ll just use Appblast

The title of this article was one of the statements I heard last week. I also heard another interesting statements: “why use View? I will wait for Horizon”.

Back in February 2012, I published an article about VMware’s End User Computing vision and journey. In my opinion, that vision/journey hasn’t changed and still applies with the recent announcements at VMworld 2012. However, I have the feeling that the vision/journey need to be explained once again and maybe even more often, so people understand the vision and where EUC products fit in that vision/journey.

In a nutshell, VMware’s EUC vision starts with the future platform: The Horizon Suite- The Platform for the Mobile Workforce … applications, data and users in the post-PC era. Be aware that this Suite, or platform, contains multiple products/techniques, which are integrated with each other: View, ThinApp, Horizon Data, Horizon Mobile, Appblast and Horizon App Manager.

I have the idea that some people think they will be able to pick 1 product/technique and standardize on that: “All people will use Appblast for everything. There won’t be any need for VDI anymore”, as an example. That’s not true or even possible in today’s world. There isn’t 1 ultimate vehicle/technique to bring apps and data to any device in a secure and efficient way. A user’s workspace will deliver that user applications and data to any of his/her devices. Different products/techniques will be used to do so, to give that user the best experience to do his/her work on the device of that moment.

VMware calls it the Post-PC era but don’t think the PC, aka Windows is going away soon. Again, Windows won’t be as dominant as before anymore in the enterprise. The desktop (physical and/or virtual) won’t be the only place where users do their work. More devices, different platforms, less OS-dependent apps, but Windows will be there for a long time. That’s the reason for step #1: Optimize. That’s also the reason VMware keeps improving VMware View and introduce cool features like AppShift. Again, although Windows will not be as dominant, it still will be part of an enterprise user’s workspace environment

Now the journey: how do you get to that Post-PC era platform? VMware defined a 3-step journey:

  1. Optimize what you have,
  2. Embrace your/the Cloud,
  3. Escape to your/the Cloud

In my opinion, it doesn’t make sense to skip a step. You cannot “Embrace your/the Cloud until you have “Optimize what you have”. In other words, it doesn’t make sense to get Horizon (Suite and/or App Manager) before you use ThinApp and View. Technically, you could though. You could use Horizon App Manager for SaaS apps, you could use Horizon Data with the Horizon Suite with physical desktops. But, why wouldn’t you “Optimize what you have” first, virtualize applications, virtualize desktops, separate data and apps from physical desktops. Remove silos. Get savings out of that and become more efficient, more agile at the same moment. Then, invest those savings in more Cloud based apps: Saas or web service apps. Use a services broker like Horizon App manager. Distribute ThinApps via Horizon as well. Create a workspace where all techniques come together. Move to the your EUC cloud step-by-step.

VMware Horizon Mobile- IOS support

I have written several articles on VMware Horizon Mobile. My last article ended with the question if and when Horizon Mobile would move to IOS. During the keynote on day 2 at VMworld 2012 in San Francisco, that question got an answer… Yes, Horizon Mobile is moving to IOS.

The Horizon Mobile team posted a great video of its IOS support on Youtube. Also, Srinivas Krishnamutri posted a great article on this topic and in general why Horizon Mobile is a great solution when you talk about mobile devices, BYOD, data leakage and apps.

First thing I would like to mention here is the difference between Horizon Mobile on Android and Horizon Mobile on IOS.

As you have noticed, with Android devices, a complete virtual phone is pushed on a personal Android device. Inside that virtual phone, you will find your enterprise apps and data.

The IOS approach is different. Via Horizon Mobile you don’t push a virtual IOS phone but in stead, you push IT-managed, secure apps to a personal IOS device. These apps are wrapped in a container in which policies can be set and are isolated from personal apps. Data inside these apps is encrypted and also communication from and to these apps is encrypted. Because IT manages these apps, they can remotely wipe and update them as well.

I like this last approach a lot. At the end, all I want as a user are apps: personal and enterprise apps. That brings me to my last comment: why not use this approach on Android as well? One common way of handling mobile devices. Apparently that’s difficult to do on the Android platform. It is very fragmented. There are many different Android flavours versions, OEM/carriers/Google updating them at different times, for different devices. Creating a virtualization platform will normalize that complexity by giving enterprises a stable and secure version of Android. Maybe a Unity kind of view on Android devices will be an answer. The approach will still be different but the view/experience will be the same as on an IOS device. All that said, it’s great to see Horizon Mobile IOS support.

Project AppShift aka User Interface virtualization- very cool!

A little while ago I saw the first videos of Project AppShift at the office. My first impression: really cool but also very much needed. On day 2 of VMworld 2012 in San Francisco, Project AppShift was demo’d and the video has been posted on Youtube:

AppShift Demo VMworld 2012 

So, what is User Interface virtualization and what challenges does it solve?

Think about this: You take an iPad and you connect to a VMware View Windows desktop. Let’s assume this is your corporate desktop. Now, go to “Start” and then “Documents”, and open a document. How did that go? I always miss a button here and there, and I don’t have very large hands.

Basically, what you are doing here, is presenting a Windows desktop on a non-Windows tablet. You are using Windows, a point and click oriented system on a tablet, a gesture-oriented platform. Windows XP/7 aren’t designed to run on a tablet and my guess is that enterprise users will use Windows 8 like they use Windows XP/7: regular desktop, start button, menu’s and so on. We will have the same challenges with Windows 8 as we have today with Windows XP/7 on tablets.

With Project AppShift, key elements of the Windows and application interface should become more tablet friendly. Gesture is added to the Windows and application interface for the most common tasks: an easy way to access your documents, swipe through all your documents, switching between apps and more. This should increase the adoption of using tablets to connect to a VDI environment.

I know some people say it isn’t about Windows, it is about applications. Applications should be delivered to any device so you don’t have all these Windows issues anymore. Well, in a way that is true but although it is the post pc-era, Windows is and will be around for a long time in the enterprise, just not as the one and only workspace, not as dominant as before. Horizon Suite will help moving away but I’m still happy see cool features like AppShift are developed to solve current challenges.