BYOD is all about delivery

Remember the big push for BYOD laptops?  The theory was that people would get a credit for a laptop device and bring it in to work.  Now the big push is around mobile devices.  End users have voted and Blackberry is out.  iPAD’s, iPhones and Android devices are in.  This makes for a difficult set of choices for the enterprise.

The great advantage of Blackberry has been the combination of the device and BES management server.  But the end user devices got stale.  I have a BB Torch which is not a bad device but outside of corporate e-mail I don’t use it.  I’m pretty anxious for our corporation’s BYOD strategy.  A great deal of time has been spent on getting similar management capability to the BES management platform.  The 3rd party market around Android and iOS is settling.  This solves the basic problem of e-mail.

Now organizations need to solve the problems around application access and development.  For true cost savings the need is in building applications that are portable across multiple platforms.  The question now becomes is there a ROI for this compared to status quo?

The same question is said for the workstation end point.  As I mentioned in an early post end users don’t want VDI.  The solution has to be around applications that can be hosted in the cloud (public or private) so that users can take advantage of whatever endpoint device that they choose.  I believe the key will lay in SaaS provider’s such as that will offer API’s between SaaS solutions that entire organizational architectures can be built.  From back office applications such as content management to CRM and ERP.

Onlive to compete with Citrix?

The streaming game company recently introduced a managed streaming desktop service.  Currently the only client available is for the iPAD.  I’ve used several streaming Windows desktop products for the iPad including XenDesktop, Logmein and GoToMyPC and I have to tell you this is one of the more fluid and enjoyable experiences I’ve had to date.  I’m really tempted to sign up for the paid service once they release the PC client.

The long range business plan is to offer managed desktops for the enterprise.  IBM has been offering desktops in the cloud for a while and I’ve often wondered how this desktop delivery method would actually work from a practical since when the data exists within the enterprise and the desktop outside.  I can see a market for small business but as for the enterprise I’m not so sure at this point.  As far as the technology is concerned?  I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far.

Problems with XenDesktop? Check your time!


A colleague of mine called me the other day with a strange Citrix Profile Manager issue.  His production XenDesktop environment runs on a VMware 4.1 ESXi environment.  He pushed a new image to his test catalog and the Citrix profiles would not load or save.  The only changes he made to the golden image were installing the Microsoft patches.

After taking a look at the logs I saw two issues.  The first was in the Windows logs. I noticed that the virtual host was not getting NTP time from the network.  This was breaking the computers relationship with the domain which was forcing the request to copy the profile from the network share to fail.  I was able to validate this by Citrix user profile logs which had the error “Local Profile is not a UPM profile. Aborting.”

The solution was to run “GPUPDATE /Force” and “net time” for good measure on the golden image prior to deploying the image.  Lesson: One of the first places to troubleshoot XenDesktop image issues starts with time synchronization.  You need to ensure there are no time related errors in your system log of your virtual desktops.

OpenStack Administrative Interface

For an open source platform I think the basic interface provided out of the gate for OpenStack is OK.  A little sparse on options even for an end user interface.  Looks like a lot of development investment would have to be made to make the UI as clean as some of the other products I’ve seen.  It’s more important for them to get the automation process working correctly at this point in the project.  I like the key injection and the ability for dynamic volume provisioning.  Some other options I’d like to see would include cloning/snapshots.

I’m also not sure if you can create business rules for provisioning.  Some of the questions that pop to my head would be how do I limit the total number of resources available to this sample project.  A better question for this view would be how would the user know the total available resources left for his allowance for this project.  Reporting on if my project resources expire etc.

Developing Cloud Manager’s with the features needed for both a public or private cloud is a BIG project.  I’m sure the project team and Rackspace are up to the task.  I’ll continue to watch the progress of this project.

Configuring VMware Workstation 8 Networking for Nested VM’s

I’ve posted more than a couple of articles on running vSphere inside of VMware Workstation.  One thing we haven’t done a deep dive is how to setup networking in the environment to do things such as vMotion, DRS and Storage.  Also, the ability to access nested VM’s from your production network.

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In this post, I’ll show how to create the sample lab in VMware Workstation 8.

Just as in a production environment we have 4 isolated networks in this configuration.

Management: This network will be used for VMkernel traffic dedicated to the management of ESXi.

iSCSI: This network is used for SAN traffic.  This can be iSCS, NFS or NAS

vMotion: Traffic is dedicated to vMotion/DRS traffic.

Production: This network is for our Virtual Machines.

To support the hardware configuration in ESXi we need to add 3 additional NIC’s to our virtual ESXi host.  Each NIC needs to be in a dedicated vmnet as shown below.

I normally assign a NAT’d IP address to my management interface.  This isn’t required but since my vCenter is normally on a NAT’d interface my Management network ends up on the same interface. Once we’ve added the NIC’s we need to configure the virtual network to support our “Production” switch.  This is done by using the Virtual Network Editor that comes with VMware Workstation 8.  The vmnet we are utilizing for the “Production” network should be in Bridge mode.  This will allow access to the nested VM’s via your physical network.

This configuration will furhter enhance your value from VMware workstation 8.  If you have enough memory this makes for a great foundation for a VDI lab to test using physical workstations.

Update 7/20/12: I’ve added a tutorial video to my YouTube channel on how to setup this entire environment.


Cloud Manager Options

If you want to develop a Private or Public Cloud you have a couple of options for cloud managers.  Click here for a quick intro to why you need a cloud manager.  It seems that the defacto standard for VMware based virtualized environment has been vCloud Director.  The latest version has fixed the short comings of the previous version and is a solid choice for an all vSphere environment.  But what if you want to offer a tiered level of service for your compute stack?  Let’s say XenServer for development workloads and vSphere for production workloads or what if you didn’t want a vSphere environment for your cloud?

What are your options?

Novell Cloud Manager (Now NetIQ) 

But if you have a non-VMware environment or a mixed hypervisor environment then your options start to get thin for a simple to use and deploy solution.  Novell has a great product in their Novell Cloud Manager.  It’s based on Novell Orchestrator so, it’s not exactly simple to deploy.  But the interface is really slick and it’s a powerful solution.

It supports all the major hypervisors and has great list of features including Chargeback.


OpenStack is the open source cloud platform sponsored by NASA and Rackspace.  OpenStack has a long way to go before I would consider it simple at all.  It’s a typical open source solution.  There’s very little finish to the product.  You will need to dedicate development resources to the solution to get it installed and to maintain it going forward.  Hypervisor support is not as great either.  This is due partially to Microsoft lack of support in developing bug fixes for the interfaces to the project.  I’d put Eucalyptus in the same category as OpenStack. It’s much more mature than OpenStack but the out of the box interface is underwhelming.   You’d also have to get the Enterprise solution to support get support for vSphere.

Abiquo Enterprise

A solution for a smaller company I recently looked at is Abiquo Enterprise.  Abiquo claims that they have an open source project but I haven’t been able to get a distro of it for well over a year.  I did take a look at their enterprise solution.  It has one of the best interfaces I’ve seen and support all of the major hypervisors.  One area I found it lacking is Chargeback features.  There are no tools for provisioning based on cost of resources.  Overall I do like the product.

Do you have a different impression of these solutions? What other cloud managers have you used or recommend?

Book Review of Mastering VMware vSphere 5.0

I’ve been using Mastering VMware vSphere 5 (ISBN-10: 0470890800) as a jump start for my VMware 5 self-training.  Overall it’s a pretty good book.  It’s not an introduction to VMware and I don’t know if I’d recommend it for someone who is new to virtualization.  There’s not a lot of “beginner” information in this book that builds a basic foundation for general virtualization topics.

But if you are already familiar with virtualization and need a book that’s going to help you master the basics of VMware this is a great place to start.  Just like any major piece of software or system it’s not a single reference source for all things vSphere 5.  There are areas that it’s shallow by design.  If you are weak on networking in general you will not be able to design a 1000 node guest VM network at the end.  You’ll have a pretty good idea of the resources you need to enlist.

Storage is another area that if you are familiar with VMware’s approach to storage you will get the information you need to administer a vSphere 5 storage environment.  But you will need separate training on storage to truly have enough skill to design and build a storage sub-system for a substantial VMware environment.

I generally enjoyed Scott’s no nonsense writing style.  He offers the occasional observation from his work experience which you do get the feel that he really understands the technology and its application.  He demonstrates his years of experience in not just virtualization but also technology.  I would most definitely recommend this book for someone looking to upgrade their knowledge from a previous version of vSphere.

Citrix Doesn’t Want XenDesktop Used for Disaster Recovery

I read an interesting blog post on the Citrix website about how we should not use XenDesktop as a disaster recovery strategy.  My initial thought was “huh?”  Why in the world would I not want to use XenDesktop as a DR strategy? And why wouldn’t Citrix want to sell me product?

I’m not going to rehash the argument but I have to agree with Citrix on the topic of not designing for the exception.  When I think of the successful DR implementations I’ve done they’ve always leveraged or extended the primary technology.  For example, I’ve used SAN storage to provide Microsoft SQL to Microsoft SQL replication. I take the authors view that I wouldn’t design a DR solution that had a Microsoft SQL to MySQL concept of operations.

Your DR solution should be something that you can practically support in a DR situation.  The technology is only part of the equation for a successful DR implementation.  Remember you have to have a solid repeatable process that your IT staff and employees can follow.  If your employees have to use a method of access different than their normal procedures how will you even communicate this in a DR event let alone support it potentially with reduced IT support.

The Citrix post is a reminder to never let the technology get in the way of your business processes.

XenDesktop Lab Within VMware Workstation 8 Teaser

See if I can encourage some interaction between you guys and myself.  I’ll throw this nugget out and see who bites.  So, if you have a pretty beefy VMware ESXi server (16GB to 32GB) in your lab you should be able to build a pretty basic XenDesktop lab with a XenDesktop Studio Server, your physical ESXi server providing desktops and a vCenter server.  Yelp that sounds like an environment that would run pretty smoothly on a single host with 16GB to 32GB of RAM.

Update 7-11-12: For my VDI in a Box lab look here

But what if you are a mere mortal with only a similar setup to mine?  You are running a single workstation running Windows 7 with 8GB of RAM.  Does this preclude me from doing XenDesktop labs?

Answer: Nope.

One of the large challenges for running this lab within a VMware Workstation 8 is having an ESXi server with nested workstations.  It’s one of the practical memory limitations I’ve run into in trying to create this lab.  But remember that XenDesktop has morphed over the years.  One of the “new” features of XenDesktop 5.x was the addition of the Desktop Studio which allows provisioning of VM’s to the supported hypervisor (Hyper-V, XenServer and vSphere).  XenDesktop 5.x still supports a standalone Provisioning Server.

Actually as I’ve engaged folks out in the real world they still architect their XenDesktop 5.x environments with provisioning servers.  The single deployment I did I avoided using a Provisioning Server and used XenDesktop Studio’s sleek integration with vSphere.

You can use this “Legacy” technology to build your lab in VMware Workstation.  The basic components are a Citrix Provisioning Server, XenDesktop Studio (web interface and management) and your workstations.

If you want to play around with XenDesktop and get a feel for the technology this isn’t a bad approach.  This is a theoretical lab that I haven’t built.  Let me know the interest level and I’ll actually build it and blog my experience.

Update 05/23/12:  I attempted a similar lab here

Update 06/23/12: I was successfully able to get a work XenDesktop environment working inside of VMWare Workstation 8 running 16GB of RAM.  Post is located here.

Related Posts

Configuring VMware Workstation network for nested VM’s

Running Xendesktop inside of VMware Workstation

Running Citrix VDI-in-a-Box in VMware Workstation

Consumer Patch Management

Talking about having a safe and secure new year, one of my favorite security products is Secunia PSI (Personal Software Inspector).  I came by it via the recommendation of a lecturer in one of my DePaul graduate courses in IT Security.  The consumer download of the application is free and extremely powerful.  This is a product that I’d recommend to my family to help keep their applications secure.  It’s the Windows Update for all your non-Microsoft software products.  It will inventory your software applications and alert you to out of date software.

The console will actually let you launch the auto-update application for the relevant software product to apply any known updates.  I’ve come to rely on it myself to keep all those obscure application up to date.  I’ve set it up scan upon boot so I get a status in the notification bar on every boot.  I haven’t noticed any performance related hit as a result.  With the constant holes being found in what seems to be every application it’s on my must have list of applications.

Have a happy and safe new year.


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