A cool ‘Remote Desktop Connection Manager’ tip!

2017-07-27T00:01:04+00:00 April 3rd, 2013|Uncategorized|

I am constantly monitoring multiple Microsoft Windows Servers and XP workstations via Remote Desktop Connection Manager and having to switch between each console one at a time is a very user-intensive and time-consuming process.  Though, I have recently discovered a very useful and time-saving trick that I will share with you below…

First, by default, the Remote Desktop Connection Manager gives you a thumbnail view of all of your workstations when you click on any “group” of servers from the left server pane list.  I always thought this was a “gimmick” and never thought twice about using it for anything because the dimensions of the thumbnail views of the remote desktops were just way too small to be useful.

But after reviewing the program’s options I found that you can modify the size of the thumbnails (Tools > Options > Client Area > Thumbnail Size)!

But that isn’t all!

The thumbnails are actual “live” clickable Remote Desktop sessions; so if you set the pixel size of the thumbnails to 25%, 30% or 40% of your screen size, you can fit 4-12 active server connections into one very productive window (obviously depending on your monitor size and screen resolution!).  This screen cap should give you a good idea of what I mean:

screenshot

 

I hope you find this tip as useful as I did!  Enjoy!

 

 

Application Strategy in the New Enterprise…

2017-07-27T00:01:08+00:00 December 14th, 2011|Uncategorized|

Why is the right application strategy important?

Whether it is physical or virtual, the endpoint device won’t matter if you can’t get to your data; and it’s through applications that you get to your critical data.  But management of applications can be an administrative burden.  How can you take applications administration to the next level?

 The right application virtualization tool will:

  • Decrease your time to market by 20-40%
  • Decrease your software license spend by 30-50%
  • Reduce or eliminate your need to rewrite legacy applications
  • Allow central management of all your apps
  • Increase Software license management and compliance

For example, in the common case of having to reset a hung application, the average cost of a help desk ticket to reset an app is $345 without an application virtualization tool.  With the proper tool, an app reset can be done in 18 seconds; virtually eliminating that cost.  This has a two-fold benefit – decreased end user downtime, and decreased IT support costs.  But just having a tool to handle these situations does not — by itself — solve all your problems; you must have a strategy.

The right application strategy requires a 3-pronged approach

To arrive at an optimized virtual user-centric experience requires a three-part strategic focus that encompasses the following:

  1. Desktop Strategy
  2. Application Strategy
  3. User Strategy 

Each of these pieces is equally important.  While in some cases you can have an application strategy without a desktop strategy, you should never have a desktop strategy without an application strategy.  From this perspective, it becomes clear that an application strategy can actually be more important than a desktop strategy.  

How it can go wrong

My thoughts based on what I see from a sales and trending perspective:

  • Over time, server virtualization created such a positive ROI for both capex and opex, that it was assumed that desktop virtualization would be another no-brainer to implement.  Companies who have embarked on VDI pilots and initiatives have quickly become disillusioned; realizing that the same efficiencies that were gained at the server level do not necessarily apply at the desktop. Eventually, they are forced to rethink their strategy.
  • Companies that embark on Win7 migrations – and do not take the time to make a strategic decision about how they will manage their applications – may become disillusioned as well, as they are feeling the pain of long cycles to virtualize their applications for a new OS and new endpoint device.  And in addition to the long cycles to prepare the applications, there are the inevitable challenges with legacy apps and conflicting apps.
  • Aging infrastructures and desktop devices create projects driven by choosing an “endpoint strategy” (translated as endpoint device only) where the only thing taken into consideration is the device.  Their whole strategy is around making decisions about thin client, zero client, fat client, etc.; all without thinking about the delivery method or the user profile.

Overall, as companies make strategic decisions about their Virtual Desktop Strategy, there can be tunnel vision about the desktop piece as the only strategic piece, with applications and users being an afterthought.

How to make it right

Herein lies my mission:  To educate those embarking on a VDI initiative about the importance of choosing the right application strategy.

 

Recognition From Symantec

2017-07-27T00:01:08+00:00 November 2nd, 2011|Uncategorized|

Symantec recently posted an item to their Endpoint Virtualization Community Blog, calling attention to a couple very nicely-done instructional videos done by fellow Coretek team member, Jeff Blakely (a.k.a. on YouTube).

Of course, we couldn’t be more proud of this recognition of Jeff’s talent by such a valued partner as Symantec; but we knew it all along.

😉

 Check out the Symantec blog item here:

http://www.symantec.com/connect/blogs/symantec-workspace-virtualization-youtube-videos?om_ext_cid=biz_con_email_2011_oct_26_news_youtube_videos

Thanks Symantec, and thanks Jeff!

Symantec Workspace Streaming / Virtualization Overview

2017-07-27T00:01:08+00:00 May 24th, 2011|Uncategorized|

Understanding Workspace Streaming (SWS)

Symantec Workspace Streaming

Symantec Workspace Streaming is an application streaming solution that enables on-demand application provisioning, offline cache, license recovery and instant application upgrades. Symantec Workspace Streaming increases end user productivity with controlled, guaranteed access to any Windows based applications from any location at any time, including remote and mobile users.

Key Features

  • On-demand application streaming – simplifies OS image management by reducing the number and size of images
  • Dynamic license management – proactively insures license compliance by avoiding over-deployment and optimize software costs by re-harvesting licenses when they expire or after a period of disuse
  • Single-click application upgrades – upgrade and patch applications quickly and painlessly, or roll back applications to the previous version if required
  • Disconnected Usage Capability

Key Benefits

  • Reduce software license costs
  • Simplify Application delivery
  • Reduce application support costs/disruption
  • Improve utilization of existing hardware and software resources

 

Symantec Workspace Virtualization

Symantec Workspace Virtualization provides application virtualization that helps reduce application conflicts, testing requirements and support calls. Symantec Workspace Virtualization helps IT organizations improve management and control over endpoints to reduce the total cost of ownership of laptops and desktops.

Key Features

  • Virtual application layers – patented filter driver technology enables virtual layers that are transparent to the base operating system and other applications
  • Selective isolation – provides a solution for incompatible Windows 7 apps and insures system and application compatibility under any circumstance
  • Endpoint Management integration – Workspace Virtualization is a standard component of Symantec’s Client Management Suite (CMS), Total Management Suite (TMS), Symantec Workspace Streaming (SWS), Software Management Solution

Key Benefits

  • Eliminate conflicts between applications and base operating system, such as incompatible Windows 7 applications
  • Reduce application pre-deployment testing requirements
  • Provide instant reset for broken applications

Citrix XenClient – What is XenClient?

2017-07-27T00:01:08+00:00 December 8th, 2010|Uncategorized|

What is Citrix XenClient?

Virtual desktops… to go

XenClient is a client-side hypervisor that enables virtual desktops to run directly on client devices. By separating the operating system from the underlying hardware, desktop images can now be created, secured, deployed and moved across any supported hardware, greatly reducing the maintenance burden on IT and simplifying disaster recovery for laptop users. Optimized for Intel vPro XenClient delivers the high definition experience that users expect.

XenClient Video

Learn how XenClient can bring security performance and flexibility to both IT and your laptop users extending the benefits of desktop virtualization to users that need to work from anywhere at anytime.

Citrix XenDesktop

2017-07-27T00:01:08+00:00 December 8th, 2010|Uncategorized|

What is Citrix XenDesktop?

Citrix XenDesktop transforms Windows desktops into an on-demand service that can be accessed by any user, on any device, anywhere, with unparalleled simplicity and scalability. Whether workers are using the latest tablets, smartphones, laptops or thin clients, XenDesktop can quickly and securely deliver virtual desktops and applications to them with a high-definition user experience.

Why use XenDesktop to transform your desktop computing environment?

Innovative technologies in XenDesktop enable you to turn your vision for a more flexible, mobile and agile desktop computing environment into a reality.

Citrix Receiver, a lightweight universal client, enables any PC, Mac, smartphone, tablet or thin client to access corporate applications and desktops—easily and securely.

Citrix HDX technology delivers a rich, complete user experience that rivals a local PC, from optimized graphics and multimedia, to high-definition webcam, broad USB device support and high-speed printing.

Going far beyond the limitations of VDI-only solutions, Citrix FlexCast delivery technology gives each type of worker in your enterprise the virtual desktop that’s right for them—hosted or local, online or offline, standardized or personalized—through a single solution.

Members of your workforce can access any Windows, web or SaaS application on demand through a single interface. Simple, self-service provisioning reduces desktop management costs and complexity.

Built on an open, scalable, proven architecture, XenDesktop gives you the simplicity, flexibility and scalability to meet any requirement, while fully leveraging current and future investments.

XenDesktop Video

Citrix XenApp 6 Sets New Standard in On-Demand App Delivery for Physical and Virtual Desktops

2017-07-27T00:01:09+00:00 September 10th, 2010|Uncategorized|

citrix_logoCitrix Systems, Inc. announced Citrix® XenApp™ 6, the de facto standard for centralizing applications in the datacenter and delivering them as an on-demand service to both physical and virtual desktops. XenApp 6 offers major new enhancements that simplify computing for IT, including easier central management, enhanced enterprise scalability and seamless integration with Microsoft technologies like App-V and Windows Server 2008 R2. XenApp 6 also improves productivity for end users with extensive new high-definition HDX™ technology enhancements and simplified self-service access to apps from any device, including PCs, Macs, laptops and smart phones.

The new enhancements to XenApp 6 will also be available as an integrated feature of the company’s comprehensive desktop virtualization solution, Citrix XenDesktop™ 4. Mainstream adoption of desktop virtualization requires a proven, scalable solution with the ability to deliver any type of virtual desktop to any user on any device, and to be able to interchange delivery technologies at any time. With more than half the ROI of virtual desktops coming from centralized app management, this integration provides an unparalleled advantage over any other desktop virtualization solution on the market today. This powerful combination makes it easy for customers to deliver apps as an on-demand service to any user, on any device, across a broad range of both physical and virtual desktops.


Bill Burley, Group Vice President and General Manager, XenApp Product Group at Citrix

“Citrix XenApp 6 delivers an entirely new level of IT simplification and user experience that goes beyond anything we’ve ever done with XenApp. The new simplified management capabilities and increased scalability reduce the cost of application management by up to 50 percent for both physical and virtual desktop environments. Combined with Citrix Dazzle, the self-service enterprise app store, and broad new support for Macs, laptops and smart phones with Citrix Receiver, customers can now deliver apps as an on-demand service to any user in any location at a fraction of the cost of traditional application management.”

Garth Fort, General Manager of System Center Marketing, Server and Tools Business at Microsoft Corp.  

“With support for Windows Server 2008 R2 in XenApp 6 and new integration with Citrix XenApp and Microsoft App-V, we are providing increasing value to our customers and delivering a simplified yet powerful application delivery infrastructure. Customers can leverage their existing investment in Microsoft solutions while continuing to expand their ability to deliver applications on-demand.”

Key Facts and Highlights:

  • Simplified Management – XenApp 6 dramatically simplifies desktop computing with AppCenter™, a powerful new management console that makes it easy for IT to centrally manage all applications enterprise-wide from a single location.
  • Unparalleled Scalability – XenApp 6 has been verified to scale up to more than 100,000 concurrent users in a single farm, giving customers unprecedented levels of cost savings and datacenter efficiency.
  • Expanded Microsoft Integration – Seamless integration between XenApp 6 and Microsoft App-V makes it easy for customers to centrally manage applications using whatever mix of local and hosted solutions best fit their unique requirements. XenApp 6 also includes full support for Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2, adding a broad range of platform enhancements including simplified provisioning, easier automation, and more efficient power consumption.
  • Self-Service Apps – Through its integration with Citrix Dazzle™, XenApp 6 gives users an entirely new level of flexibility and mobility, allowing them to choose the apps they need on-demand, without costly manual IT support. Apps available to users through the Dazzle “storefront” can include those delivered by XenApp or Microsoft App-V, as well as IT supported SaaS or web applications.
  • Mac and Smart Phone Support – In addition to supporting PCs, thin clients and laptops, XenApp 6 now makes it easy for users to access Windows apps from Macs and popular smart phones such as Apple iPhone, Google Android and Windows Mobile.
  • Enhanced High-Definition HDX™ Technology – XenApp 6 includes broad new HDX technology enhancements that allow customers to deliver real-time media applications like voice and CD-quality audio with a rich, high-definition user experience. New HDX enhancements in XenApp 6 also expand support for a broad range of USB devices, including webcams, microphones, digital cameras and scanners.

Video: Highlights of XenApp 6
Pricing and Availability:

The new XenApp 6 release will be available for download beginning on March 24, 2010, and will be offered as a free upgrade to all XenApp customers with current Subscription Advantage agreements. Suggested list pricing for new licenses of XenApp 6 will begin at $350 per concurrent user. More information on the new features in XenApp 6 can be found at http://www.citrix.com/xenapp6.

XenApp 6 will also be included as an integrated feature of the company’s broader XenDesktop 4 product line, which is available to customers at a suggested list price beginning at $225 per-user or per-device.

Related Announcements:

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About Citrix
Citrix Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CTXS) is a leading provider of virtualization, networking and cloud computing solutions for more than 230,000 organizations worldwide. Its Citrix Delivery Center™, Citrix Cloud Center™ (C3) and Citrix Online product families radically simplify computing for millions of users, delivering desktops and applications as an on-demand service to any user, in any location on any device. Citrix customers include the world’s largest Internet companies, 99 percent of Fortune Global 500 enterprises, and hundreds of thousands of small businesses and prosumers worldwide. Citrix partners with over 10,000 companies worldwide in more than 100 countries. Founded in 1989, annual revenue in 2009 was $1.61 billion.

For Citrix Investors
This release contains forward-looking statements which are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  The forward-looking statements in this release do not constitute guarantees of future performance.  Those statements involve a number of factors that could cause actual results to differ materially, including risks associated with revenue growth and recognition of revenue, products, their development and distribution, product demand and pipeline, economic and competitive factors, the Company’s key strategic relationships, acquisition and related integration risks as well as other risks detailed in the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Citrix assumes no obligation to update any forward-looking information contained in this press release or with respect to the announcements described herein.

The development, release and timing of any features or functionality described for our products remains at our sole discretion and is subject to change without notice or consultation. The information provided is for informational purposes only and is not a commitment, promise or legal obligation to deliver any material, code or functionality and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions or incorporated into any contract.

Source: Citrix

Citrix Extends Client Virtualization

2017-07-27T00:01:09+00:00 August 30th, 2010|Uncategorized|

Virtualization software maker Citrix Systems last week unveiled the word’s first bare-metal client hypervisor, announced a new version of its server virtualization platform and welcomed news from several partners.

Citrix used its annual Synergy show, held this year in San Francisco, to let partners and customers know that it is aiming to extend its ecosystem.

The new XenClient product is a “super fast, 64-bit, bad-to-the bone hypervisor — a true Type 1 hypervisor that bonds to the laptop and delivers a bare metal experience to the apps, OS and things that run on top of it,” said Citrix CEO Mark Templeton, speaking in his keynote address. The company made an “express kit” trial version available for download and promised general availability later this year.

“Desktop virtualization is going mainstream,” Templeton said. “It’s becoming more and more of the fabric of enterprise computing.” Computer makers Dell and Hewlett-Packard disclosed plans at the show to roll out new laptops designed to support the new XenClient hypervisor. The bare-metal client hypervisor is essentially the same technology used on servers, but designed for a client machine.

Although it’s possible to use a server hypervisor on a client machine, it’s not made for that hardware, hence it lacks support for USB devices, graphics accelerators and other features essential to the client. Templeton declared that XenClient would “change the game” by adding a local hypervisor to the laptop, allowing a single-client box to run multiple VMs.

The advantages of running multiple VMs on a single corporate laptop are myriad: A user can, for example, keep personal computing files and apps on a corporate laptop securely isolated in a separate VM. IT can provide a temporary employee or contractor with VM loaded with corporate apps.

And client-side hypervisors make provisioning to mobile client machines much simpler. “People forget that last

[point],” said Ovum senior analyst Tim Stammers. “But if you talk to IT departments, they’ll tell you making images for machines is a real pain. The local hypervisor solves that problem.”

Both Citrix and rival virtualization company VMware promised in 2008 to deliver a client-side hypervisor in 2009. “The fact that they were both late shows that this is very hard stuff,” Stammers said.

Native Bare Metal Hypervisor

XenClient is a Type 1 hypervisor, a native hypervisor that runs on bare metal. Existing Type 2 hypervisors, which have been around for a long time and allow users to do things like run Windows on a Mac (such as Player and Parallels), aren’t as secure as the native versions, Stammers said. Type 2s run on an operating system that can be hacked.

The XenClient was developed in collaboration with chip maker Intel, and optimized for Intel Core 2 desktops and laptops with its vPro technology. The hypervisor serves as “a foundation for centrally managed OS/user environments to be streamed, cached and executed locally on desktop/laptop devices, including off-network mobility,” the two companies said in a statement.

According to sources close to the company, VMware is concentrating on refining its Type 2 virtualization technology, rather than pursing a bare-metal client strategy. VMware had not returned calls for comment at press time. But Stammers believes that VMware will probably come out with a native client hypervisor later this year.

Conference attendee Larry Cohen, a systems administrator for a Silicon Valley manufacturer he preferred not to name, was impressed by the XenClient technology, but said he wished the company would focus more on XenCenter, the company’s XenServer management console. In particular, he’d like to see a better event viewer and logging capabilities. “It would make troubleshooting issues on the physical hardware a lot easier,” Cohen said.

Server Upgrade

Citrix also launched XenServer 5.6 at the show. The latest version of its server virtualization platform mainly fills in some gaps in the previous version, Stammer said. Memory management was one of the key enhancements, he said, but also pointed to new features in the Enterprise and Platinum editions, including automatic work-load balancing, power management and storage integration with StorageLink, Citrix’s platform for providing linking server virtualization to storage resources.

“This market has become a constant race to add tools,” Stammer said. “I often say that server virtualization gives you great flexibility, but flexibility can tie you in knots. So we do need these tools, and different shops need different tools.”

XenServer 5.6 comes in four editions: Free, Advanced, Enterprise and Platinum. Each edition provides additional features.

The free version of XenServer has become an “entryway for new virtualization customers” for Citrix, said IDC analayst Al Gillen. IDC is seeing a growing number of infrastructure vendors using the “free-plus-premium”offering strategy (sometimes called “freemium”) to build market share, Gillen said. 

Stammer applauded both Citrix releases, but said that the future of XenServer is uncertain. Increasingly, this market looks like it’s going to come down to Microsoft’s Hyper-V and VMware ESX, he said. He points to statements by Citrix executives, who as recently as 18 months ago, said that in the future most of Citrix’s business will come from the sale of tools used to manage Hyper-V.

HP Readies XenClient Notebooks

HP made a splash at the show with demos of the industry’s first Citrix-ready XenClient platforms. “Using a local hypervisor, the ability to bring the virtual machine down and run it locally, allows you to be productive whether you’re connected or not,” said Jeff Groudan, director of thin client solutions for HP’s person systems group. “So you have the mobility, but also a lot of the management capabilities inherent of VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), such as being able to manage the image centrally.”

HP also gave a nod to Adobe’s recently beleaguered Flash technology with an enhancement of the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) 6. RDP 6 is one of the most common VDI protocols used by VMware View and Microsoft Remote Desktop Services environments, but it doesn’t Flash natively. The RDP Enhancements for Flash is a component that runs on the thin client machine and allows the server to redirect the Flash content down to the client, which also decompresses the file.

“One of the challenges of client virtualization, whether it’s Citrix or someone else’s VDI environment, is they don’t handle Flash very elegantly,” Groudan said. “The experience may not be very good, or it may overly load down the server when they do the decompression for the thin client. The RDP Enhancements fix that problem.

“It was clear to us that complexity of client virtualization has been an inhibitor of growth in this area, Groudan added. “So we have a laser focus on simplifying the process, but also on optimizing the end-user experience.”

HP also unveiled VDI reference architectures for XenDesktop and XenServer at the Synergy event. Joseph George, client virtualization business lead for HP’s infrastructure software and blades division, said the reference architectures are the fruit of his company’s ongoing strategy of “converged infrastructure.” HP believes that that strategy can accelerate the delivery of client virtualization.

“We’ve got the best portfolio out there when it comes to converged infrastructure and client virtualization,” he said. “And the expertise we have in our ranks has allowed us to put together these new reference architectures.”

The new HP and Citrix VDI reference architectures provide the functionality of a stand-alone desktop, George said, while enabling unified management of both physical and virtual infrastructures from the same centralized console.

The HP/Citrix VDI solution supports more than 1,000 users of XenDesktop 4.0, XenServer 5.5 or Provisioning Server 5.1, George said. It leverages HP BladeSystem’s c-Class or HP ProLiant servers with HP Flex-10 technology, HP storage and networking and a choice of HP t5740 or HP t5325 thin client machines.

The big gadget news at the event came from Dell CEO and founder Michael Dell, who surprised conference attendees by officially unveiling his company’s new mini-tablet PC during his keynote. It was actually more of a teaser than an unveiling of the device a MID (mobile Internet device) dubbed The Streak, which Dell casually pulled from his pocket while onstage.

“The device we use to access our information shouldn’t matter anymore,” Dell said. “Whether it’s a phone, or a notebook, a netbook or a desktop PC, your client image can follow you everywhere.” Dell then took the wraps off The Streak, which was loaded with the Android OS and Citrix’s virtual desktop software. Dell said The Streak would be available first in Europe in June, with a U.S. launched planned for later this summer. The carrier will be AT&T.

  • By John K. Waters
    • 05/17/2010

 

Source: Redmondmag.com

Top 10 Storage Virtualization Trends of 2010

2017-07-27T00:01:09+00:00 August 4th, 2010|Uncategorized|

The storage area network (SAN) is now an essential technology for many large and midsize enterprises. Over the years SANs have become more sophisticated as vendors have rolled out systems that deliver better storage utilization and functionality. Based on these positive developments, 2010 should bring new and interesting products in several key areas. Here are our top 10 trends to keep an eye on in the coming year — along with the insights of key IT managers who are looking to optimize their existing storage and virtualization strategies.

1. Integration of solid state with rotating media for higher performance and lower energy costs.
Product picks: EMC FAST, Fusion-io, Compellent Storage Center

In an effort to provide the best possible storage solutions, many storage vendors are looking for ways to marry the high performance of solid-data memory to the lower cost of rotating media. As prices continue to drop for all storage technologies — and as hard drives get faster and cheaper — vendors are specifically working to incorporate the latest solid-state drive technologies into traditional SAN arrays. EMC Corp. and Compellent both offer fully automated storage tiering, which is the ability to store data depending on the needs of the application. More-frequently accessed files are stored on faster-performing disks, while less-frequently needed files are moved to tape.

“We’re using the Compellent product as part of our new Savvis Symphony cloud infrastructure service offering,” says Bryan Doerr, CTO of St. Louis-based services provider Savvis Inc. “We like how it has a policy that sits between the application and the array to control how each block of data is written to the physical media, based on frequency of usage.”

Doerr is pleased that these decisions are made automatically. “We don’t have to map tables or keep track of what files are stored where, and that’s a very powerful benefit to us,” he says. “Compellent can move individual blocks from a low-cost and low-performing SATA drive to a solid-state drive for the most-frequently updated data.”

One of the more interesting products is a hardware accelerator plug-in adapter card from Fusion-io that can pre-cache data using solid data memory for SAN arrays and other large-scale storage applications.

2. De-duplication technology — on storage and backups — can help open unused space.
Product picks: EMC Avamar, Symantec/Veritas Netbackup PureDisk, IBM/Tivoli Storage Manager, NetApp FlexClone

De-duplication technologies can provide a powerful way to quickly reclaim storage and minimize backup jobs. When users first start applying these technologies, they’re frequently surprised at how much duplication actually exists. As depicted in Figure 1, with PureDisk software from Symantec Corp., users can drill into a backup job and see that they could save more than 95 percent of their storage by getting rid of duplicate data. This capability offers huge potential savings, particularly when backing up virtual machine (VM) collections and remote offices.

Part of the challenge when using VMs is dealing with the fact that they share many common files inside each virtual image — the boot files for the operating system, the applications and so forth. A de-duplication product can leverage this by making only a single copy of common files.

PureDisk is typical of de-duplication products in that it operates in two different ways. For starters, you can use a PureDisk client or agent that runs on each VM and reports the unique files back to the central PureDisk backup server. And PureDisk can also back up the entire VMware VMDK image file without any agents on the separate VMs. This offloads backup from the ESX server and enables single-pass backups to protect all the files — whether they’re in use or not — that comprise the VM.

“De-duplication gives us big storage savings,” says Chuck Ballard, network and technical services manager at food manufacturer J&B Group, based in St. Michael, Minn. “We have 30 machines, each with a 20GB virtual hard drive, on our SAN. Rather than occupy 600GB, we have about a third of that, and we can grow and shrink our volumes as our needs dictate. We use the

[NetApp] LUN copy utility to replicate our workstation copies off of a master image.”

Ballard stores his images on NetApp’s SAN arrays that have their own utility — called FlexClone — to make virtual copies of the data. “We had EMC and also looked at IBM, but both of them had limited dynamic-provisioning features,” he says, adding that a VMware upgrade that required 4.5TB on J&B Group’s old SAN now uses just 1.5TB on the company’s new storage infrastructure.

3. More granularity in backup and restoration of virtual servers.
Product picks: Vizioncore vRanger Pro, Symantec Netbackup, Asigra Cloud Backup

When combined with de-duplication technologies, more granular backups make for efficient data protection — particularly in virtualized environments where storage requirements quickly balloon and it can take longer than overnight to make backups. Backup vendors are getting better at enabling recoveries that understand the data structure of VM images and can extract just the necessary files without having to restore an entire VM disk image. Symantec Netbackup and Vizioncore vRanger both have this feature, which makes them handy products to have in the case of accidentally deleted configuration or user files. For its part, Asigra Cloud Backup can protect server resources both inside the data center and the cloud.

4. Live migrations and better integration of VM snapshots make it easier to back up, copy and patch VMs.
Product picks: FalconStor FDS, VMware vMotion and vStorage APIs, Citrix XenServer

VMware vStorage API for Data Protection facilitates LAN-free backup of VMs from a central proxy server rather than directly from an ESX Server. Users can do centralized backups without the overhead and hassle of having to run separate backup tasks from inside each VM. These APIs were formerly known as the VMware Consolidated Backup, and the idea behind them is to offload the ESX server from the backup process. This involves taking VM snapshots at any point in time to facilitate the backup and recovery process, so an entire .VMDK image doesn’t have to be backed up from scratch. It also shortens recovery time.

Enhanced VM storage management also includes the ability to perform live VM migrations without having to shut down the underlying OS. Citrix Systems XenServer offers this feature in version 5.5, and VMware has several tools including vMotion and vSphere that can make it easier to add additional RAM and disk storage to a running VM.

Finally, vendors are getting wise to the fact that many IT engineers are carrying smartphones and developing specific software to help them manage their virtualization products. VMware has responded to this trend with vCenter Mobile Access, which allows users to start, stop, copy and manage their VMs from their BlackBerry devices. Citrix also has its Receiver for iPhone client, which makes it possible to remotely control a desktop from an iPhone and run any Windows apps on XenApp 5- or Presentation Server 4.5-hosted servers. While looking at a Windows desktop from the tiny iPhone and BlackBerry screens can be frustrating — and a real scrolling workout — it can also be helpful in emergency situations when you can’t get to a full desktop and need to fix something quickly on the fly.

5. Thin and dynamic provisioning of storage to help moderate storage growth.
Product picks: Symantec/Veritas Storage Foundation Manager, Compellent Dynamic Capacity, Citrix XenServer Essentials, 3Par Inserv

There are probably more than a dozen different products in this segment that are getting better at detecting and managing storage needs. A lot of space can be wasted setting up new VMs on SAN arrays, and these products can reduce that waste substantially. This happens because, when provisioning SANs, users generally don’t know exactly how much storage they’ll need, so they tend to err on the high side by creating volumes that are large enough to meet their needs for the life of the server. The same thing happens when they create individual VMs on each virtual disk partition.

With dynamic-provisioning applications, as application needs grow, SANs automatically extend the volume until it reaches the configured maximum size. This allows users to over-provision disk space, which is fine if their storage needs grow slowly. However, because VMs can create a lot of space in a short period of time, this can also lead to problems. Savvy users will deal with this situation by monitoring their storage requirements with Storage Resource Management tools and staying on top of what has been provisioned and used.

Savvis is using the 3Par InServ Storage Servers for thin provisioning. “We don’t have to worry about mapping individual logical units to specific physical drives — we just put the physical drives in the array and 3Par will carve them up into usable chunks of storage. This gives us much higher storage densities and less wasted space,” says Doerr.

Citrix XenServer Essentials includes both thin- and dynamic-provisioning capabilities, encoding differentials between the virtual disk images so that multiple VMs consume a fraction of the space required because the same files aren’t duplicated. Dynamic workload streaming can be used to rapidly deploy server workloads to the most appropriate server resources — physical or virtual — at any time during the week, month, quarter or year. This is particularly useful for applications that may be regularly migrated between testing and production environments or for systems that require physical deployments for peak user activity during the business cycle.

Compellent has another unique feature, which is the ability to reclaim unused space. Their software searches for unused storage memory blocks that are part of deleted files and marks them as unused so that Windows OSes can overwrite them.

6. Greater VM densities per host will improve storage performance and management.
Product pick: Cisco Unified Communications Server

As corporations make use of virtualization, they find that it can have many applications in a variety of areas. And nothing — other than video — stretches storage faster than duplicating a VM image or setting up a bunch of virtual desktops. With these greater VM densities comes a challenge to keep up with the RAM requirements needed to support them.

In this environment, we’re beginning to see new classes of servers that can handle hundreds of gigabytes of RAM. For example, the Cisco Systems Unified Communications Server (UCS) supports large amounts of memory and VM density (see Figure 2): In one demonstration from VirtualStorm last fall at VMworld, there were more than 400 VMs running Windows XP on each of six blades on one Cisco UCS. Each XP instance had more than 90GB of applications contained in its Virtual Desktop Infrastructure image, which was very impressive.

“It required a perfect balance between the desktops, the infrastructure, the virtualization and the management of the desktops and their applications in order to scale to thousands of desktops in a single environment,” says Erik Westhovens, one of the engineers from VirtualStorm writing on a blog entry about the demonstration.

Savvis is an early UCS customer. “I like where Cisco is taking this platform; combining more functionality within the data center inside the box itself,” Doerr says. “Having the switching and management under the hood, along with native virtualization support, helps us to save money and offer different classes of service to our Symphony cloud customers and ultimately a better cloud-computing experience.”

“If you don’t buy enough RAM for your servers, it doesn’t pay to have the higher-priced VMware licenses,” says an IT manager for a major New York City-based law firm that uses EMC SANs. “We now have five VMware boxes running 40 VMs a piece, and bought new servers specifically to handle this.”

As users run more guest VMs on a single physical server, they’ll find they need to have more RAM installed on the server to maintain performance. This may mean they need to move to a more expensive, multiple-CPU server to handle the larger RAM requirements. Cisco has recognized that many IT shops are over-buying multiple-CPU servers just so they can get enough dual in-line memory module slots to install more RAM. The Cisco UCS hardware will handle 384GB of RAM and not require the purchase of multiple processor licenses for VMware hypervisors, which saves money in the long run.

James Sokol, the CTO for a benefits consultancy in New York City, points out that good hypervisor planning means balancing the number of guest VMs with the expanded RAM required to best provision each guest VM. “You want to run as many guests per host [as possible] to control the number of host licenses you need to purchase and maintain,” Sokol says. “We utilize servers with dual quad-core CPUs and 32GB of RAM to meet our hosted-server requirements.”

A good rule of thumb for Windows guest VMs is to use a gigabyte of RAM for every guest VM that you run.

7. Better high-availability integration and more fault-tolerant operations.
Product picks: VMware vSphere 4 and Citrix XenServer 5.5

The latest hypervisors from VMware and Citrix include features that expedite failover to a backup server and enable fault-tolerant operations. This makes it easier for VMs to be kept in sync when they’re running on different physical hosts, and enhances the ability to move the data stored on one host to another without impacting production applications or user computing. The goal is to provide mainframe-class reliability and operations to virtual resources.

One area where virtualized resources are still playing catch-up to the mainframe computing world is security policies and access controls. Citrix still lacks role-based access controls, and VMware has only recently added this to its vSphere line. This means that in many shops, just about any user can start and stop a VM instance without facing difficult authentication hurdles. There are third-party security tools — such as the HyTrust Appliance for VMware — that allow more granularity over which users have what kind of access to particular VMs. Expect other third-party virtualization management vendors to enter this market in the coming year. (To get an idea of how HyTrust’s software operates, check out the screencast I prepared for them here.)

8. Private cloud creation and virtualized networks — including vendor solutions that offer ways to virtualize your data center entirely in the cloud.
Product picks: Amazon Virtual Private Cloud, VMware vSphere vShield Zones, ReliaCloud, Hexagrid VxDataCenter

Vendors are virtualizing more and more pieces of the data center and using virtual network switches — what VMware calles vShield Zones — to ensure that your network traffic never leaves the virtualized world but still retains nearly the same level of security found in your physical network. For example, you can set up firewalls that stay with the VMs as they migrate between hypervisors, create security policies and set up virtual LANs. Think of it as setting up a security perimeter around your virtual data center.

Amazon has been hard at work with Elastic Computing — its cloud-based, virtualization-hosted storage — and last summer added Virtual Private Cloud to its offerings (see Figure 3). This enables users to extend their VPNs to include the Amazon cloud, further mixing the physical and virtual network infrastructures. It’s also possible to extend any security device on your physical network to cover the Amazon cloud-based servers. The same is true with Amazon Web Services, where customers pay on a usage-only basis with no long-term contracts or commitments.

Microsoft has a series of new projects to extend its Windows Azure cloud-based computing to private clouds. They can be found at here and include ventures such as “Project Sydney,” which enables customers to securely link their on premises-based and cloud servers; AppFabric, which is a collection of existing Windows Azure developer components; and updates to Visual Studio 2010.

Some of these are, or soon will be, available in beta. But like other efforts, more federated security between the cloud and in-house servers will require improvements before these new offerings can be dependably used by most enterprises.

Two new entrants to the cloud computing services arena are Hexagrid Inc. and ReliaCloud, both of which offer a wide range of infrastructure services, including high availability, hardware firewalls and load balancing. With these companies, all cloud servers are assigned private IP addresses and have persistence, meaning that users treat them as real servers even though they’re residing in the cloud. Expect more vendors to offer these and other features that allow IT managers to combine physical and cloud resources.

9. Better application awareness of cloud-based services.
Product picks: Exchange 2010, Sparxent MailShadow
It isn’t just about networks in the cloud, but actual applications too, such as Microsoft Exchange services. The days are coming when you’ll be able to run an Exchange server on a remote data center and failover without anyone noticing. Part of this has to do with improvements Microsoft is making to the upcoming 2010 release of its popular e-mail server software. This also has to do with how the virtualization and third-party vendors are incorporating and integrating disaster recovery into their software offerings. An example of the latter is MailShadow from Sparxent Inc. This cloud-based service makes a “shadow” copy of each user’s Exchange mailbox that’s kept in constant synchronization. There are numerous cloud-based Exchange hosting providers that have offered their services over the past few years, and Microsoft is working on its own cloud-based solutions as well.

10. Start learning the high-end, metric system measurements of storage.
If you thought you knew the difference between gigabytes and terabytes, start boning up on the higher end of the metric scale. SAN management vendor DataCore Software Corp. now supports arrays that can contain up to a petabyte — a thousand terabytes — of data. Savvis sells 50GB increments of its SAN utility storage to its co-location customers, which Doerr says has been very well received. “It’s for customers that don’t want to run their own SANs or just want to run the compute-selected functions,” he states. “There’s a lot of variation across our customers. You have to be flexible if you want to win their business.” Given that it wasn’t too long ago when no one could purchase a 50GB hard drive, he says this shows that, “we’re going to be talking exabytes when it comes to describing our storage needs before too long.” Next up: zettabytes and yottabytes.

Source: Redmondmag.com

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