Why Microsoft?

This is a question that can be explored from many different angles, but I’d like to focus on it from not JUST a virtualization perspective, and not JUST a cloud perspective, and not JUST from my own perspective as a vExpert joining Microsoft, but a more holistic perspective which considers all of this, as well

Top 6 Features of vSphere 6

This changes things. It sounds cliché to say “this is our best release ever” because in a sense the newest release is usually the most evolved.  However as a four year VMware vExpert I do think that there is something special about this one.  This is a much more significant jump than going from 4.x

vSphere 6.0 Public Beta — Sign Up to Learn What’s New

Yesterday, VMware announced the public availability of vSphere 6.0 Beta 2.  I can’t tell you what’s all in it due to the NDA, but you can still register for the beta yourself, read about what’s new and download the code for your home lab. There’s some pretty exciting stuff being added to vSphere 6.0 in

Will VMware Start Selling Hardware? Meet MARVIN

The Register is running a story that VMware is preparing to launch a line of hardware servers.

VMware Pursues SDN With Upcoming NSX Offering

Earlier this week VMware announced VMware NSX – an upcoming offering that takes network virtualization to new levels. NSX appears to be somewhat of a fusion between Nicria’s SDN technology (acquired last year by VMware) and vCloud Network and Security (vCNS – formerly known as vShield App and Edge). Since I already had intentions to

What Really Is Cloud Computing? (Triple-A Cloud)

What is cloud computing?  Ask a consumer, CIO, and salesman and you’ll likely get widely varying responses. The consumer will typically think of the cloud as a hosted service, such as Apple’s iCloud, or uploading pictures to Photobucket, and scores more of like services (just keep in mind that several such services existed before it

Agility Part 2 — The Evolution of Value in the Private Cloud

When an IT project is commissioned it can be backed by a number of different statements such as: “It will reduce our TCO” “This is a strategic initiative” “The ROI is compelling” “There’s funds in the budget” “Our competitors are doing it” Some of these are better reasons than others, but here’s a question.  Imagine a

Stacks, the Vblock and Value — A Chat with EMC’s Chad Sakac

…I reached out to EMC’s Chad Sakac to gain more insights from his perspective on how the various stacks…well…stacked up….

vFabric: The next disruptive technology?

A VERY interesting post by Stephen Foskett discusses VMware’s lab efforts to develop a virtual fabric.

Cisco offers their Nexus 1000 Virtual Switch which integrates directly with the vSphere hypervisor.  But what if VMware could create a rich virtual fabric infrastructure, that would allow 3rd party vendors to create their own virtual networking devices?

This is just in the R&D phase now, but it could be a very interesting development if successfully executed.

Backup Agents Are Dead

Well almost.  Within the virtualized datacenter, and especially with vSphere’s VADP, there’s so many reasons to move away from the old-school backup agent model.

Kendrick Coleman listed his Top 10 reasons backup agents are dead and I couldn’t agree more.  I’ll even add a few reasons like licensing, cost of ownership (ROI), scalability and DR-readiness.

Virtualization is a disruptive technology and that disruption is starting to grow in the backup space as the traditional model is increasingly tested.  These new backup technologies can often provide second wave ROI benefits in many cases.

Over the next week I’ll be making a series of posts which will cover the following:

  • A review of the vStorage API for Data Protection (VADP) and its benefits
  • An overview of several backup solutions and strategies
  • A look at some new and just announced capabilities from 3rd parties
  • Some architectural design challenges

There are some exciting new backup capabilities recently released, and others coming soon, that can really change how backups – and a bit of DR — are approached in the virtual datacenter.

Virtualization ROI Grows — Second ROI Wave Coming

Virtualization ROI Grows — Second ROI Wave Coming

When it comes to virtualization ROI, the traditional focus is on consolidation (run 15 servers on one box).  This is indeed the initial source of ROI for virtualization projects, but is there a second ROI wave?

First let’s look at the first wave – consolidation.  As CIO Magazine explained this month, virtualization ROIs based on consolidation are actually increasing as a result of hardware advances.  For example:

“We had one client that was able to justify a complete server hardware refresh because it could upgrade without having to buy any additional VMware server licenses,” according to Chris Wolf, infrastructure analyst for Gartner Group. “They moved from servers with four cores to servers with 12 cores and were able to run more VMs on fewer servers at a significant cost savings.”

This is a good example of an additional first-wave (consolidation) ROI benefit that was almost certainly not anticipated when the original ROI justification was done.  Continued advanced in both hardware and software (vSphere 4.1) are driving even better consolidation ratios (as well as overall performance).

As significant as first-wave (consolidation) ROI’s may be, I believe that for most datacenters there is a second ROI wave which in many cases is even more financially rewarding.  This second wave taps into the concept of the private cloud.  The private could is all about operational efficiency, flexibility and technology working as a business enabler.   

IDC estimates that by 2014 12% of all IT spending will be for “cloud” services, but I suspect this number will be much higher if one includes the private cloud concept.

What’s a Private Cloud?

The Wikipedia definition for cloud computing is enough to make your head spin.  My definition of the private cloud parallels what I’ve been referring to as the second ROI wave, but first we have to try to better define what the private cloud is.

Examples of the public cloud would include Amazon’s EC2, Google AppEngine and Microsoft Azure.  The difference between a public and private cloud is ownership and control.  Who is in control of the following? 

  • App selection and design
  • Deployment process and model
  • Service Level Management
  • Security

If you are in control of these elements, then you have a private cloud, regardless of where datacenters and firewalls may exist.

So how does an IT shop get to the private cloud?  The private cloud model I’ve been describing so far largely comes from EMC and this slide illustrates their vision of the private cloud:

Note:  the above slide uses Microsoft’s new Zoom.it technology.  Press the plus button to zoom into the slide with more detail.


So how does an IT datacenter get from the legacy cost-center model to a private cloud?  The basic premises are on the slide above.  When the above model is successfully implemented business becomes extremely flexible, getting closer to the “ Business At the Speed of Thought ” concept which Bill Gates made popular.

VMware and other 3rd party developers have a small army of products designed to help IT shops get to this private cloud model and reap the benefits of the 2nd ROI wave of virtualization.  For example, VMware offers the following products:

  • Site Recovery Manager (DR)
  • AppSpeed (ITIL , SLA management and root cause analysis)
  • Service Manager
  • Configuration Manager

 And that’s just a few.  These solutions enable the business to become more flexible,  enforce consistency , manage SLA’s and adhere to the ITIL model.  The other part of the equation of course is virtualization of the networking and storage components to complete the private cloud model, and reap the second wave ROI benefits.

Blue Shift will continue to cover these “second wave” ROI benefits in more detail in future posts.

New vShield capabilities on tap, plus agentless antivirus

SearchServerVirtualization.com is reporting that VMWare is previewing some upcoming enhancements to the vShield product.

vShield App can dynamically apply traffic rules at the application level.  For example it can automatically detect SSL traffic and apply a containment rule that transcends traditional VLAN boundaries.  In many cases this can help to simply security models (possibly eliminating some physical firewalls) and provide extra security and isolation for inter-VM traffic.  If PCI compliance is a concern, this is something to keep an eye on.

vShield Edge provides DMZ services, enabling it to be positioned on….well the edge of the external network.  It includes routing, NAT, DHCP, VPN and load balancing services.

Agentless Antivirus — this is mentioned in the article but I suspect that it is part of VMware’s VMsafe API to be introduced in a future release of vSphere.  In a nutshell, a driver at the VMWare kernel level would provide antivirus capabilities, eliminating the need for a  traditional agent inside the VM.  As many of us have likely experienced, filter level drivers can cause all manner of problems within an OS, so if this can be successfully implemented and off-loaded from the guest OS, it’s quite exciting (not to mention disruptive for AV sales staff!).  Trend Micro has already been developing an agentless solution for vSphere.

The beta site for the vShield technologies can be found here.

Operational Pause

Due to several factors, there won’t be many posts or tweets this week (one of our three loyal readers was becoming a bit anxious!). I have plans for several posts in the near future including a series (another) on backups and a few other items.

Good reasons to upgrade to Windows 2008 R2

Many companies don’t make upgrading from older OS versions a priority.  These servers are performing adequately such that they are not squeaking more loudly than the other wheels.  Sometimes this is cost-effective but the hidden costs are not always considered.

Paul Thurrott on his SuperSite for Windows quotes Microsoft Product Manager, Ward Ralston:

Windows Server 2003 is a power hungry, non-virtualized, x86 world….It’s the classic server sprawl problem. Newer versions of Windows Server are just so much more efficient.

That’s absolutely true and there are even more reasons:

  • Windows 2000 is officially end of life.  It is unsupported and there are no more security updates making it a security liability.
  • Windows 2003 just hit extended support status as of July 2010 which means that no new development is being performed, and leaves organizations with 5 years to migrate to something newer.

Also there’s the disk alignment problem which is discussed in detail in an earlier post.  Windows 2008 solves this problem as well, improving disk performance.

HTC EVO Android 2.2 (Froyo) Upgrade Available Tuesday, August 3

The HTC EVO 4G (Sprint) is my favorite smartphone (I say iPhones are overrated) and The Street is reporting that Sprint will release the  Android 2.2 (Froyo) upgrade for it on Tuesday, August 3.  There was indication that Sprint would post the update for manual installs, but for some reason Sprint has not posted the download yet.

The upgrade will offer many performance improvements as well as Flash 10.1 support and more.

Here’s a clip of The Street doing a comparison of the Droid X and the HTC EVO (they preferred the EVO).

The Street: HTC EVO vs. Droid X

What the heck is Twitter (and why would I want it)?

What the heck is Twitter (and why would I want it)?

I’m not interested in what Lady GaGa or Kanye West are doing nor am I interested in hearing about mundane moments of people’s lives such as the texture of their scrambled eggs earlier this morning.  There’s also the infamous “Cisco fatty” who lost a potential job on Twitter, and if you live in Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela, using Twitter can get you thrown in jail!  My feelings to Facebook were roughly similar as well.

I read a few business articles about the value of Twitter earlier this year and I started to envision some potential.  But I didn’t really “get it” until I broke down and created my first Twitter account (BlueShiftBlog) last week and later discovered TweetDeck.  While there still is considerable debate on how to use Twitter for marketing, Harvard and Columbia Business schools have added courses on social media within their MBA programs.  And just look at all the articles at Harvard Business Review about Twitter!

Marketing of course is just one angle to social networking.  Twitter is a great tool for networking and finding people who share a similar interest, profession or even hobby.   You can also learn a great deal about a market and/or competitors (today we learned via a tweet that Mark Russinovich of Winternals fame, has joined Microsoft’s Azure (cloud) team).  I used to rely on RSS aggregators to keep up to date with content I was interested in, but Twitter can often take this concept even further in many cases.  I’m still learning twitter and am still figuring out some basic things (including figuring out what that “#” symbol means 🙂 )

In any case Blue Shift is on Twitter as BlueShiftBlog.  Not only will new posts be tweeted, but some news items that may not be blog worthy will be tweeted and not posted here.  If you use Twitter, check us out.  If you don’t use Twitter…try it!

As for Facebook, I don’t fully have Facebook integration working yet and I’ll add I’ll get around to fixing that in the coming weeks.

IBM acquires Storwize

Storwize specializes in real-time compression and was just acquired by IBM who will be integrating their technology into IBM’s storage portfolio.

Earlier I posted on Nimble Storage which is offering innovative storage solutions with special benefits for Windows and VMware environments.  In-line compression is only a part of the Nimble Storage technology stack, but IBM could be attempting to move in a similar direction here.

SharePoint with VMware vSphere 4.1

When I get around to it, I’ll be writing an article about what servers are good candidates for virtualization, and I was planning on using some performance benchmarks from vSphere 4.0.  The folks at VMware’s VROOM! Blog just posted their first performance paper on vSphere 4.1 and it deals with Microsoft SharePoint.

The punch line is that vSphere 4.1 can support 171,600 heavy users (“heavy” as defined by Microsoft) of SharePoint 2007 on a single Dell R710 with 96GB RAM.  Let’s take a closer look.

The team started with 3 VM’s – one for SQL, one for the app server and one for the web server.  After a series of tests it was quickly revealed that web server was at 100% CPU at 72,600 heavy users.  The host server was only at 35% utilization, but the web server (2 vCPUs) was saturated:

The way to add more performance is fairly obvious – add more web servers!  When adding a 2nd  web VM, the number of users supported increased by 87% to 135,600 users.  At this point the 2 web servers were maxed out at 100% utilization but the host was only at 64%:

The host and other VMs seemed to still have more to give.  When a 3rd web server was added, the 171,600 user limit was reached, this time with the SQL DB starting to be pushed to its limits:

So how was this possible?  In the whitepaper, VMware credits 3 new performance improvments that were introduced in vSphere 4.1:

  • Memory Compression
  • NUMA-aware resource management
  • Inter-VM communication improvements

You can read more details on these and other performance improvements in vSphere 4.1 here.

One caveat here.  All of the VM’s were running on a single host.  This allows this scenario to benefit from some of the VM-to-VM network improvements introduced in vSphere 4.1.  I like to create anti-affinity rules in DRS for redundant application elements such as web servers, to better protect against hardware failure.  But in this case it’s not clear that forcing the network traffic over the physical network would have significantly lowered the results — there was still CPU capacity on the host (85% used) and the whitepaper suggests that there was only a 1% improvement in network throughput over a multiple-host scenario.   

This exercise also demonstrates the value of virtualization.  Without virtualization, it would be necessary to purchase 3-5 physical servers to support the same SharePoint environment.  When you add power/cooling, ports and overhead costs, it’s clear that there are very significant financial – as well as performance – benefits to virtualization.

The seven keys to the Internet

This isn’t about tips or ideas.  There’s now literally seven physical keys to the Internet. 

A new DNS security system has been implemented which consists of 7 physical smart cards.  If there was an “Internet catastrophe”, these smart cards would be required to “restart” the Internet.


A minimum of five of the seven keyholders – one each from Britain, the U.S., Burkina Faso, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, China, and the Czech Republic – would have to converge at a U.S. base with their keys to restart the system and connect everything once again.

The mind races with a variety of scenarios.  No word on whether the cards can be virtualized…

VMware PCI Compliance Checker (free tool)

PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance refers to a set of security standards (Data Security Standard)  required by the credit card industry for any applications that process credit cards (E-commerce, B2B, etc.).  As reported by Visa, many companies have failed to meet deadlines for PCI compliance of their applications.

VMware has a free tool — VMware Compliance Checker—  that will scan Windows servers and desktops for PCI compliance and suggest potential remediations for any gaps discovered.  The tool will run against either physical or virtual servers and desktops running a Windows operating system.

VMware Compliance Checker is a part of the VMware Configuration Manager Product, which was just released along side vSphere 4.1.

VMware Configuration Manager is a new product from the EMC Ionix family, which can be used to enforce configuration standards and prevent “configuration drift” across a datacenter’s virtual infrastructure.  It can also be used to automate the provisioning process, and extend configuration management to Microsoft’s Active Directory as well.

Some quick feature highlights:

  • Automated collection, analysis, remediation, and patch lowers IT audit costs by significantly reducing the time and labor associated with time-consuming manual processes
  • Discover, collect and detect changes and identify policy violations for more than 80,000 configuration settings
  • Remediate by detecting and fixing configuration problems and security vulnerabilities automatically across multiple systems
  • Streamline Active Directory management and compliance automation by collecting Active Directory configuration data, objects, and changes made
  • High-level dashboards provide the right level of information needed to make change, configuration and patch management processes more effective
  • Templates for Sarbanes-Oxley (SOx), HIPPA, best practices from MSFT, Apple, VMware and more…

VMware’s Compliance Manager is worth a look in helping to enforce consistency and automate related processes in your datacenter.