Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing focuses upon how to construct, secure, manage, monitor and use public IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS clouds. Major areas of focus include barriers to cloud adoption, progress on the part of cloud vendors in removing those barriers, where the line of responsibility is drawn between the cloud vendor and the customer for each of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS clouds, (Read More)

as well as the management tools that are essential to deploy in the cloud, ensure security in the cloud and ensure the performance of applications running in the cloud. Covered vendors include Amazon, VMware, AFORE, CloudSidekick, CloudPhysics, ElasticBox, Hotlink, New Relic, Prelert, Puppet Labs and Virtustream.

Xeround – Free Database as a Service for PaaS

CloudComputingXeround is a SQL Database as a Service vendor which is aggressively targeting the PaaS vendors as a channel. It has established relationships with Heroku, Engine Yard, AppFog and AppHarbour so that if you subscribe to their PaaS you are offered an upgrade to their bundled MySQL database services through a service from Xeround.

Continue reading Xeround – Free Database as a Service for PaaS

VMworld 2012: A Contrarian Position on VMware’s New Licensing Model

VMworld2012150x27Given the level of applause that greeted the announcement of VMware’s new pricing model, I know this will open me up to criticism, but was the old VMware licensing model really all that bad? It certainly wasn’t perfect, and there’s an awful alot to like about the new model, but was the old license pricing model so bad that it could only be fixed by ripping it up and replacing it with something so very different? Continue reading VMworld 2012: A Contrarian Position on VMware’s New Licensing Model

VMworld 2012: VMware joins OpenStack

VMworld2012150x27In Open Source it’s impossible to keep a secret (and in any case Anti-Trust laws make it very risky). And despite the imminence of VMworld, the governance processes of OpenStack run to their own timetable, so some interesting news about VMWare was made public on Sunday 26th August – the day before VMWorld – that VMware joins OpenStack.

Continue reading VMworld 2012: VMware joins OpenStack

VMworld 2012: VMware Kills the vTax – Repackages and Reprices the Product Line

VMworld2012150x27VMware has listened to its community – which hated the vTax when it was introduced, and never warmed up to the whole idea over time. VMware has killed the vTax, removing the price on density which it represented.

More importantly, VMware has also gotten rid of the per VM pricing for its management solutions – a pricing model which exacted another tax upon success – as the cost of these solutions grew as the number of VM’s grew.

The New VMware Pricing Model

VMware has now standardized upon per CPU socket pricing for its key new product, the vCloud Suite. So now the product that combines vSphere 5.1, vCloud 5.1, vCenter Operations, and vShield is avaiable on one simple packaging and licensing model. There are no more virtual memory entitlements, no more core entitlements, and no more need to purchase licenses for management products as VM density increases.

VMworld 2012: vCloud Networking and Security Enhancements

VMworld2012150x27There are several improvements in virtual networking and security within the latest vSphere and vCloud products. vCloud Networking and Security lowers of the overall cost to implement endpoint security within a vSphere environment. VMware has accomplished this by including vShield Endpoint into vSphere. There by lowering the cost to offloaded antivirus and malware to just the product chosen to implement antivirus and antimalware.

By far the biggest change is the implementation of VXLAN, which is implemented with in vSphere. VXLAN allows the ability to create a software defined network.

  • VXLAN will span vSphere clusters, virtual switches, and layer 3 physical networks.  How does this work? Because VXLAN is a layer-2 overlay network using MAC in UDP tunneling.

vCloud Networking and Security

VMware has also renamed vShield Edge to vCloud Networking and Security (vCNS) Edge Gateway and vShield App to vCNS App.  But other than renamed products what has been added?

  • High Available vCNS Edge Gateway with 10 user defined network interfaces. While vShield Edge provided single internal and external interfaces vCNS Edge 5.1 will allow you to define up to 10 internal or external interfaces, as well as logical groupings for internal vs external which makes use of the 10 vNICs that have been available on virtual machines since vSphere 4.x.

vCNS Edge Gateway Improvements


vCNS Edge Gateway in addition provides an active standby high availability pair with stateful session failover, automatic configuration syncing.  In this way if one firewall dies, the standby firewall will take over in less than 10 seconds. This provides minimal loss of firewall functionality.

  • Advanced load balancing features are now part of vCNS Edge Gateway. While in the past there was simple load balancing vCNS Edge Gateway now includes round robin load balancing that will verify the health of the target VMs and not send traffic if the health check fails with session persistence. In other words, if a session starts on a target VM, continued traffic for a given session stays on the target VM. The vCNS Edge Gateway load balancer natively handles HTTP and HTTPS, but also provides a pass-through mechanism for other protocols.
  • SSL VPN is now a supported mode of VPN as well as the existing IPSec Tunneling protocols.  An SSL VPN could be used for management traffic for a hybrid cloud or to access your individual vCloud tenant, or management features of your virtual environment making use of the vCNS Edge Gateway.
  • The vCloud Service Automation framework allows the integration of third party security applications within the virtual environment. This framework provides a set of APIs for integration into the virtual environment.
  • Inside the VM via vCNS endpoint security version 2 (EPsec v2) APIs.
  • Edge of the VM via vCNS App APIs
  • Edge of the virtual network via vCNS Edge Gateway APIs
  • NETX 10 tuple based data redirection between physical and virtual or virtual and virtual security appliances.


  • vCNS also includes a few updates to the vNetwork distributed switch such as:
  • Netflow v9
  • Network Health Checks which is a limited set of health checks to ensure the network is healthy and that all hosts in a cluster have the same network constructs.

But what do all these improvements mean?

In a nutshell they enable the software-defined datacenter.

Simply put, VXLAN widens the capabilities of a single vCloud virtual data center to span multiple clusters instead of being limited to just 32 hosts in a cluster.  This will improve cloud implementations for service providers and larger private clouds. VXLAN may eventually allow for software-defined networks that span hybrid clouds. On the security side, the improvements and implementation of vCloud Service Automation framework allows for the creation of a software-defined security layer.

Both of these technologies are necessary if there is to be a software-defined data center.


VMworld 2012: Important New Features in vSphere 5.1

VMware100x30While not a major version release (we will have to wait for 6.0 next year for that), the new 5.1 version of the VMware products contains some significant new functionality, in addition to the packing of all of the components into the vCloud Suite.

New Features in vSphere 5.1

  • User Access – There is no longer a dependency on a shared root account. Local users assigned administrative privileges automatically get full shell access
  • Auditing – All host activity from both the shell and the Direct Console User Interface is now logged under the account of the logged in user
  •  Monitoring – Support is added for SNMPv3. The SNMP agent has been unbundled from the VMkernel and can now be independently updated.
  • vMotion – a vMotion and an Storage vMotion can be combined into one operation. This allows a VM to be moved between two hosts or clusters that do not have any shared storage.
  • New Windows Support – Support for both the Desktop and Server Editions of Windows 8/2012
  • Hardware Accelerated 3D Graphics – Teaming up with NVIDIA, vSphere can now map a vGPU to each VM on a system. Not only does this feature accelerate 3D graphics but provides a GPU for high performance computing needs
  • Improvements in Virtual hardware virtualization support – This brings Intel-VT/AMD RVI features further into the virtual machine which will improve virtualization within virtualization. In addition, more low level CPU counters are exposed which can be further used for high performance computing and real time style applications.
  • Agentless Antivirus and Antimalware – vShield Endpoint is now included in vSphere 5.1 and offloads anti-virus and antimalware processing inside virtual machines to a secure dedicated virtual appliance delivered by VMware partners. This change lowers the cost of entry for Agentless Angivirus and Malware.
  • New 64-vCPU Support – Virtual machines running on a vSphere 5.1 host can be configured with up to 64 virtual CPU’s and 1TB of RAM.
  • Auto-Deploy – Auto-Deploy is extended with two new modes, “stateless caching” and “stateful installs”. In addition the number of concurrent reboots per Auto-Deploy host has been increased to 80
  • SR-IOV Support – Single Root I/O Virtualization allows certain Intel NIC’s to transfer data directly into the memory space of a virtual machine without any involvement from the hypervisor. See this Intel Video
  • Space Reclaiming Thin Provisioned Disks – These types of disks add the ability to reclaim deleted blocks from existing thin provisioned disks while the VM is running. To reclaim space is a two-part function of first wiping the disk marking unused blocks as free, and then to shrink the disk. These two features have been a part of VMware Tools for a number of years but now do things differently for thin provisioned disks. The underlying hardware is not initially part a part of the reclamation process. Instead the vSCSI layer within ESX reorganizes unused blocks to keep the used part of the thin provisioned disk contiguous. Once the unused parts are at the end of the thin provisioned disk then the hardware is involved.
  • Tunable Block Size – Normally thin provisioned disks use a 4KB block size that is unchanging, however, this block size can be tuned indirectly as it is now based on the requirements of the underlying storage array. There is no method to tune this by hand.
  • All Paths Down Improvements – When there was an all paths down (APD) situation, the vSphere management service would hang waiting on disk IO, which would cause the vSphere host to inadvertently disconnect from vCenter and in effect become unmanageable. APD handling has been improved such that transient APD events will not cause the vSphere management service to hang waiting on disk IO, use of vSphere HA to move workloads around to other hosts if APD detects a permanent device lost (PDL) situation, and implement a way to detect PDL for iSCSI arrays that present only one LUN.
  • Storage Hardware/Software improvements – These improvements include the ability to boot from software FCoE, additions of Jumbo frame support for all iSCSI adapters (software or hardware), and support for 16Gb FC
  • VAAI Improvements – VAAI has added support to allow vCloud Director fast-provisioned vApps to make use of VAAI enabled NAS array-based snapshots.
  • vSphere S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) Implementation – vSphere has implemented SMART reporting via the esxcli commands so that SSD and other disks can report back on their status. In addition, esxcli has been upgraded to include ways to reset specific FC adapters directly as well as methods to retrieve event caching information such as link-up and link-down.
  • Storage IO Contral Statistics and Settings Improvements – Finding the proper value for SIOC has been problematic, now it is possible to set a percentage instead of a millisecond value to determine when SIOC should fire. In addition, SIOC will report stats immediately instead of waiting. This allows Storage DRS has statistics available immediately, which improve its decision process. In addition, the observed latency of a VM (a new metric) is available within the vSphere Client performance charts. The observed latency is latency within the host and not just latency after storage packets leave the host
  • Storage DRS Improvements – Storage DRS has been improved for workloads using vCloud Directory. Linked clones can now be migrated between datastores if there exists either the base disk or a shadow copy of the base disk. Storage DRS is also used now for initial placement of workloads when using vCloud Director.
  • Improvements in Datastore Correlation for Non-VASA enabled arrays – For storage devices that do not support VASA it is difficult to correlate datastores against disk spindles on an array. There are now improvements in the datastore correlation such that vSphere can now detect if spindles are shared by datastores on the array regardless of VASA support.


By exposing virtual hardware (Intel-VT/AMD RVI) virtualization as well as more CPU counters and components VMware has exposed more capability than ever before. Tie this with virtual graphics processing units and we now have the ability to implement virtualized high performance and real-time computing environments. Add to this the storage improvements and large scale big data applications as well as high performance computing environments can be virtualized. Both require low latency networking and storage.

Virtualization has long since been the bane of high performance applications whether that is 3D graphics, high performance computing, big data, or real-time applications. vSphere 5.1 provides a possible solution to use cases while improving integration with the VMware vCloud Suite.