The Virtualization Practice

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The right approach to monitoring a virtual or cloud based environment is to start with a clean sheet of paper, determine your requirements, and assemble a horizontally layered solution out of best of class vendor solutions that address each layer. Vendors should be evaluated on their mastery of one or more layers, their ability to keep up with the change in that layer, and their ability to integrate with adjacent layers.

In my last post I was Exploring a Limitation of VMware DRS and I have encountered another situation that had similar symptoms but the resolution was quite different. This problem was occurring on a VMware ESX 3.5 cluster that was specifically affecting Windows 2008 R2 64bit virtual machines that were configured with four processors and eight gigabits of RAM. These virtual machines were taking an extreme amount of time to perform a reboot. During the reboot ESXTOP was showing insane %RDY with spikes climbing over 200. When the reboot would finally finish several services would have failed to start.

This years Innovation Sandbox at RSA Conference was won by a little know company to virtualization and cloud security vendors, its name is Invincea. However, it makes use of virtualization to aid in security. This years finalists once more included HyTrust for the inclusion of what appears to be complete UCS support within the HyTrust Appliance, Symplified which provides a unified identity within a cloud, CipherCloud which encrypts bits of your data before uploading, but not enough encryption to mess with sort and other algorithms. Plus other non-cloud like products: Entersect (non-repudiation in the form of PKI), Gazzang (MySQL Encryption), Incapsula (collaborative security to browsers), Pawaa (embed security metadata with files), Quaresso (secure browsing without browser/OS mods), and Silver Tail (mitigation).

While we may well be on the road towards VMware becoming the layer of software that talks to the hardware in the data center – removing Microsoft from that role, this is not the end of Windows. If Windows were just an OS, it would be severely threatened VMware insertion into the data center stack. But Windows is not just an OS. Windows is also a market leading applications platform with .NET have a far greater market share and base of developers than vFabric. Windows is also in the process of becoming a PaaS cloud – one that will be living at Microsoft, at thousands of hosting providers, and at probably every enterprise that is a significant Microsoft customer. This incarnation of Windows is at the beginning of its life, not the end.

With Microsoft reporting that Windows 7 VDI environments can be up to 11% more expensive than Windows 7 with traditional desktops when will desktop virtualisation give you a return on investment? Will performance taxes, license taxes and complexity taxes mean that desktop virtualisation will never be more than a niche service regardless of the clamour from VDI vendors hailing 2011 as the year for VDI as they did in 2010?

Or, is it that the taxation can be accommodated, all be it without short term gains because your business will benefit from the representation of a user’s application set not simply from their cubicle’s monitor?

Distributed Virtual Switch Failures: Failing-Safe

In my virtual environment recently, I experienced two major failures. The first was with VMware vNetwork Distributed Switch and the second was related to the use of a VMware vShield. Both led to catastrophic failures, that could have easily been avoided if these two subsystems failed-safe instead of failing-closed. VMware vSphere is all about availability, but when critical systems fail like these, not even VMware HA can assist in recovery. You have to fix the problems yourself and usually by hand. Now after, the problem has been solved, and should not recur again, I began to wonder how I missed this and this led me to the total lack of information on how these subsystems actually work. So without further todo, here is how they work and what I consider to be the definition for fail-safe.

At last year’s VMworld in San Francisco Stephen Deasy (Director, R&D, VMware) and Srinivas Krishnamurti (Senior Director, Mobile Solutions, VMware) announced VMware’s plans for a type II mobile hypervisor platform. Three months later VMware and LG have announced a partnership to install VMware Mobile Virtualization Platform (MVP) on LG smart phones starting in 2011. While significant questions remain about the viability of this partnership, the need for a mobile virtualization solution cannot be stressed enough.