Archive for April, 2009

VMware vSphere 4 Launched Today!

April 21, 2009


Today VMware announced the rollout of its newest product, vSphere 4, which will be the successor to ESX 3.5.  Via webcast the launch was broadcast live.  Once we got past the 45 minutes with the CEO’s of Cisco, VMware, HP and Intel all holding hands, singing kumbaya and professing their love for each other’s companies there were some real good demos and product details by the VMware CTO.  I’ll try to keep this blog much more geared to a high level overview of the techno stuff.

So here we go!

Some of main areas of excitement were around the amount of collaboration VMware did with companies like Cisco, EMC, Intel and HP.  From Cisco the anticipated release of the Nexus 1000 vSwitch functionality will be integrated into the new vSphere (for an additional license cost).  This new switch will enable network admins to manage virtual switches within VMware like they would other physical Cisco switches.

Intel talked a little about the release of their new Xeon 5500 series processor which will use less power and provide much more processing power.  A short demo was done showing how the new 5500 series processor enables companies to virtualize many apps that couldn’t be virtual before.  As an example they had both a highend ORACLE database and SQL database running at near 100%.  The system performance was illustrated both physical and then virtual on a 5500 series vSphere environment….. the performance improved.

The CTO of VMware eventually came to the stage and talked about the new product and its feature set.  Overall the new vSphere offers (according to VWware) ….. 150 new features.  The presentation was focused around 3 key areas that vSphere aimed to improve on….Efficiency, Control and Choice.


Some of the key new capabilities included:

          Support for 8 virtual processors per vm

          256GB RAM supported per vm (love to see the price tag on that!)

          Over 300,000 IOPS supported

o   One example shown was a single vm driving 510 disk spindles

          Support for 2048 processor cores

          vStorage – a thin provisioning technology that is estimated to save you as much as 50% in storage requirements

          Distributed Power Management – this is a cool feature that uses vMotion to collapse down server (host) loads to the minimum number of host when loads are idle (after 5 or 6 pm for instance).  When loads ramp back up more host are brought on line to support the demand.

o   This technology is estimated to save an additional 20% over the power savings generated by Vi3.

Finally due to these and other improvements in efficiency you can expect to see up to 30% greater consolidation ratios over existing ESX 3.5 infrastructure.  Combine this with other new technology like the HP G6 server using the Xeon 5500 processors and you could see very significant cost savings in addition to performance increases.


Here is where some really cool and useful features were announced.  The focus was on vCenter Host Profiles, Fault Tolerance and Security.

vCenter Host Profiles will give you instant provisioning of new hosts/hardware.  In other word you can guarantee that all of your VMware hosts are configured the same including DNS settings, NTP, hardware, etc.. The cool thing is it is all done right from vCenter via GUI in a new tab.  Through the use of green and red alerts the system tells you both when a host is out of compliance and what exactly is out of compliance.

VMware Fault Tolerance was shown as a live demo.  By simply right clicking on a vm and enabling FT, vCenter spins up a second exact copy of the vm to be protected on another host.  Once the second vm is running the system configures the two vm’s to run in lock step with each other.  If one dies the other takes over without missing a step.  This was demo’d using a Blackberry server.  A blackberry device, shown on screen using an emulator and connected to a local blackberry server running on a VMware host installed on an HP blade was configured for FT.  The original server blade was then removed (hot) and emails continued to stream to the Blackberry.  There will be an additional cost (license) for the FT feature but it essentially will enable you to cluster any application that can run on a vm.

The final feature set was geared toward Security.  There are now vm-safe APIs that have been made available to third party vendors to create security appliances and software for the virtual space.  vSphere now also has what were called vShield Zones which is a new built-in security feature that enables the creation and management of logical security zones (ie DMZ) with specific security profiles.


The final area discussed was Choice.  This had a lot to do with the flexibility that vSphere gives to IT departments.  The new vSphere touts supporting 4x more operating systems than the next nearest competitor.  The new Storage vMotion was also demo’d.  Now you have the choice, via GUI now, to vMotion vm’s via regular vMotion or Storage vMotion directly from the vCenter console.  Not only will the new Storage vMotion allow you to move datastores on the fly from one array to another should you need to replace you storage array but it is really geared more toward the ability to tier your vm’s and datastores between say SATA or high speed FC resources.


Overall the new vSphere is a very impressive product.  VMware has really made a huge leap forward in how datacenters of the future will operate and be designed.  vSphere will be a FREE upgrade to those of you who have ESXi 3 under current support.  There are several new licensing levels and some of the functionality listed above comes at an additional cost so check with your authorized VMware partner  like Varrow. J

HP’s New G6 Servers

April 13, 2009

Recently HP released its newest generation of server the G6.  As an HP partner we often recommended the HP DL380 G5 and DL360 G5 for many different projects.  Now that the G6 is out I thought I’d highlight some of the changes and benefits of the new system.


          A power savings of up to 2.5 times can be achieved using HP’s Thermal Logic technology formerly only found in its Blades system.

          HP has what they are calling a “Sea of Sensors” to help manage power and cooling and prevent over-cooling in real time.


          Insight Control Suite (ICE): Delivered via a single installer and simplified licensing.

          Improved virtual machine management capabilities including:

o   Ability to see physical host to vm associations

o   Easy identification of hosts or vm’s with high resource utilization

o   Increased flexibility in the ability to move vm’s between hosts

Virtualization Technologies

          Insight Dynamics – VSE:  An integrated solution that allows you to look at physical and virtual resources in the same way.  ID-VSE is supposed to give you a more centralized, unified way to manage your infrastructure.

More Processing Power

          The G6 uses Intel Xeon 5500 series processors which provide 2x the performance of previous quad-core processors.

          DDR-3 Memory gives 2x the capacity and bandwidth while using 25% less power.

          New HP Smart Array Controllers provide up to 200% better performance.

So in summary, the new G6 offers pretty much what you would expect from a new generation of product….. faster, easier to use and more efficient.  I’ll try to follow-up with a deeper dive into the specific technologies in the new G6 in a subsequent post.

Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server – Improved but No Replacement for XenApp

April 2, 2009

As a follow-up to my last post around the Windows 2003 TS / Citrix XenApp comparison I thought I’d create a high level summary of some of the changes made to Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server.  Most of this is summarized from a recent Citrix document that is very informative.  In general, most of the benefits listed in my previous post still apply to Windows 2008 and there is no question Citrix XenApp is still a much better solution for larger environments.  So let’s look as some of the improvements made to Windows Server 2008 from a Terminal Services standpoint over what is offered from Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services:

          Server Health Monitoring      

o   Ability to monitor and report on problems occurring in the environment. (XenApp adds automatic recovery options such as restarting the server)

          Printer Management Improvement: 

o   Ability to inherit existing printer settings of the local printer.

o   Ensures that local printers are isolated to that user specifically.

o   Client side printer can be restricted to only the default printer.

          Improved User Experience

o   Now capable of 32-bit color resolution.  (XenApp still limited to 24-bit)

o   More seamless application performance

o   Local audio playback now supported

o   Redirection of file types to the terminal server (client to server)

o   USB Printer and Storage support

          Performance Improvements

o   Session Sharing – increased application start time and reduces CPU and memory usage.

o   Display Data Prioritization – basically QoS for graphics apps.

          Application Compatibility

o   Basic SharePoint integration has been added.  (XenApp expands the capability)


o   SSL/TLS encryption now available

o   Policy-based control of client devices


o   Improved load-balancing

These are certainly good improvements over Windows Server 2003 but don’t even come close to the capabilities offered by the XenApp product.  Take a look at the complete 15 page document here to see the complete list of XenApp advantages.