Archive for the ‘VMware’ Category

vSphere 5 vRAM Entitlements Get Larger

August 7, 2011

To say the least it’s been an interesting couple of weeks in the world of VMware.  First – the big vSphere 5 announcement – Yay!  Then the realization that VMware screwed around with the licensing scheme again and added vRAM entitlements – not so Yay!  In fact, at least from the clients we’ve spoke with, most of them were straight up pissed off, and understandably so.  The screaming was so loud from the customer base that around a week later the details of the new licensing were, well, let’s say “re-evaluated”…… yeah that sounds nice.  Essentially for the Enterprise and Enterprise Plus products the vRAM entitlements were doubled and for the Standard Edition vRAM was raised from 24GB to 32GB per processor.  Truthfully this should eliminate any issues for most customers but the real question is how much damage has been done with this new vRAM brain child?

In a recent WebEx the point was made that with the new revision to vRAM entitlements something like less that 3% of existing customers will be affected.  That’s great but if that’s the case why create this new model in the first place and get everyone worked up?  On top of getting everyone worked up VMware also got many people thinking about alternatives such as HyperV and Citrix XenServer.  That can’t be a good thing.  In fact, I was hanging out with a buddy of mine just this weekend who works for Microsoft.   In his words, Microsoft is absolutely jumping for joy over this latest licensing announcement and they should be.

In my opinion VMware is still the best virtualization platform out there.  They make a great quality product and if this new version of vSphere makes them more profitable in a competitive market place -more power to them.  It just seems to me with companies like Microsoft and Citrix gaining market share and looking for ammunition – VMware just left the door wide open.  Let’s face it, price isn’t everything but in the current economy more and more people are paying closer attention to costs.

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Remove the Client from Your Thin-Client (Sort of)

December 12, 2010

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is certainly nothing new but it is becoming more and more common in the market place.  There are very good solutions from all the major technology players like Microsoft, Citrix and VMware.  With VDI you are essentially moving your “desktop” to the datacenter and basically controlling your desktop as a remote session.  To do this you still need some sort of “client” to enable you to connect to that session.  There are lots of options out there but most have traditionally been small, dumb, “Thin Clients” with very little memory, no hard drive and keyboard, mouse and monitor connections.  There are other options like converting your desktop to a thin client or using something like an iPad but for the most part the dumb little thin client box is the most common.  The thin client has little or no moving parts and draws very little energy compared to a traditional desktop.  I would say they’re “cheap” but that could be argued either way with the falling costs of desktops and laptops.  Lets just say they are, for the most part, “more cost effective”.

Looking at the biggest players in the thin client market you’ll probably come up with Wyse and HP as the largest and then serveral other smaller companies like ChipPC, Pano Logic and several others.  One you probably wouldn’t think of is Samsung.  For awesome flat screen tv’s, absolutely, but thin clients?  Samsung came up with a very attactive option for thin computing – just a monitor.  I’d heard of these a few months back but really never had any first hand feed back on how well they worked until recently. The idea is simple, build the thin client right into the monitor itself.  Let’s face it the monitor is the one thing you just can’t get rid of no matter what your solution.  So I talked to one of our clients last week that recently implemented a few of these new thin client and they have been real happy with it.  It is a very clean solution.  No little boxes with cables coming out all over the place – just a monitor with a keyboard and mouse hooked up and one power cord.

The TC240 is a  24” LCD monitor with full feature thin-client.  It is capable of at least 1280 x 1024 resolution, have 256MB of RAM a 1Gb ethernet connection and a USB hub built in.  The thin client OS is Windows XPe to give you great flexibility and power.  You can find full specs for the TC240 here:

http://www.samsung.com/ca/consumer/office/monitors/lcd/LF24MGSLBM/ZA/index.idx?pagetype=prd_detail

Looking for a PCoIP solution in a smaller monitor – they have that too.  Take a look at the 19” NC190 here:  http://www.samsung.com/us/business/monitors/LF19PPBCBNA/ZA

I really like these Samsung monitor/thin clients as a VDI option just due to their pure simplicity.  Slap a monitor on the desk and hook it into your Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View environment and your good to go.  The only downside I have noted is there isn’t a model with built in wireless available.

More Details on Per VM Pricing for Site Recovery Manager

September 19, 2010

VMware’s recent change to a per VM pricing model for some products, particularly SRM, has certainly stirred up questions among end users.  That being the case I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some of the details I’ve gathered over the past week or so.  Hopefully this will help reduce some of the confusion.

  1. “You will benefit from the new pricing model…”  – that’s straight off the VMware website but I’ll let you decide if you think its true for your particular use case.
  2. If you’ve purchased per processor license and want to continue doing this you have until December 15, 2010 to do so.
  3. After December 15, 2010 you will only be able to purchase SRM using the Per VM model.
  4. Under the Per VM licensing model, licenses with be sold in 25 VM increments.  If you only want to protect 5 VM’s you’ll still be buying a 25 pack.
  5. License usage is based on a rolling average of the highest number of VMs in the past 12 months
  6. With SRM, any VM that is part of a protection group is counted.  This is regardless of whether the VM is turned on or not.
  7. Per VM is only supported in SRM 4.1 and newer.
  8. Per VM license keys can not be combined with per processor keys.
  9. VMware will be moving everyone to the per VM model over time.
  10. You will be able to trade-in your per processor licenses for per VM licenses.  The trade-in allocation will be 5 per VM licenses per processor license.  If you have 6 processors of SRM licensing you would receive 30 per VM licenses.  I have no idea how that plays in with the 25 packs of per VM licensing yet.

So those are some of the high points but lets take a look at a hypothetical situation from the cost perspective.  I’ll use retail pricing and assume 15 VM’s will run on a server with 2 processors.

Per Processor Model:

License Per Proc          $1,750

Production Support   $438

Total                               $2,188 x 2 procs = $4,376

Per VM Model

License for 25 VMs     $11,250

Production Support    $2,813

Total                                $14,063

Lets take a vSphere farm now with 3 Hosts, each with 2 processors.  Under my previous assumption that would be 6 processors with the capability to run 45 VMs (15 per host x 3 hosts).  Now lets look at the pricing comparisons:

Per Processor Model:

Licensing/Support Cost    $4,376 x 3 = $13,128

Max Number of VMs protected   45

Cost per Protected VM  $291 per VM

Cost per Protected VM assuming only 25 VM’s are protected = $525 per VM

Per VM Model:

Licensing/Support Cost   $14,063

Max Number of VMs protected  25

Cost per Protected VM   $562 per VM

Total Cost to protect 45 VM’s   $28,126

So is there a breakeven point?  Maybe, it just depends on the consolidation numbers you can achieve.  I suspect however that most people will not “benefit from the new pricing model”.  At the end of the day, unfortunately, all the calculations in the world won’t change the fact that you eventually will end up with per VM pricing for SRM whether you like it or not.

If you want more details you can view the official VMware details here:

http://www.vmware.com/support/licensing/per-vm/index.html

Change, Change, Change – VMware per VM Software Licensing

August 13, 2010

If you haven’t heard yet, VMware will be changing its licensing model (yeah, again) for some of its vCenter based products like Site Recovery Manager.  At least the per processor licensing model for vSphere will stay the same.  When I first heard about this change my first thought was, WT* is VMware smokin’ over there!  Maybe they’ve been hanging out with the guys from Microsoft’s licensing geniuses too long because it certainly seems like they’re going down the “complicated and confusing is best (at least for VMware)” licensing path.  Of course they put a nice spin on the new licensing scheme when it was announced.  Something to the effect of, “to better align licensing with the way our customers do business” or “to provide a more cost effective model for our software”.  You know, the kind of stuff that generally pegs your BS meter right out of the gate.

Now all that being said, as I had a few converstations with various clients over the past few weeks I realized there are some benefits to this new licensing. Let’s look at a situation and how it would affect you financially.  I’ll be using LIST pricing for licensing and 25% of that cost as 1 Year Maintenance cost, so keep that in mind.

Client X:

  • 3 VMware Hosts (dual proc) at Site A
  • 30 VM’s
  • 3 VMware Hosts at Site B

If we look at traditional SRM pricing for this scenario it would look something like this:

  • 6 Licenses of SRM                            $1750 x 6                              $10,500
  • 6 Production Support                     $1750 x .25 x 6                  $2,625
  • Total                                                                                                         $13,125
  • Total VM’s protected = 30
  • Cost per protected VM = $437

If we run this same senario under the new licensing plan it looks like this: (pricing is not offical)

  • 30 Licenses of SRM (per vm)         $450 x 30                              $13,500
  • 30 Production Support                     $450 x .25 x 30                  $3,375
  • Total                                                                                                            $16,875
  • Total VM’s protected = 30
  • Cost per protected VM = $562

As you can see, the new licensing program really doesn’t benefit YOU, at least financially, in this case.

If we look at this from a standpoint of not needing to protect ALL vm’s then things look a little different.  Assume we need to only protect 10 vm’s instead of all 30.  The new licensing can help you in this case.  And, YES, I understand that you could restrict these 10 vm’s to one host and only license that host but in this case I’ll assume we’re utilizing DRS and need to license all hosts for SRM.

  • 10 Licenses of SRM (per vm)       $450 x 10                              $4,500
  • 10 Production Support                   $450 x .25 x 10                  $1,125
  • Total                                                                                                          $5,625
  • Total VM’s protected = 10
  • Cost per protected VM = $562

So if you were thinking about purchasing SRM for your environment now may be a good time to evaluate exactly what you need to protect and do some calculations around which licensing model best fits you.  As of September 1, all new purchases of SRM will be under the per VM model.  If you get grandfathered in prior to that you will be able to continue with the per processor model.

XenServer and VMware vSphere – A Cost Comparison

July 24, 2009

I work for a reseller of both Citrix and VMware products.  In many client meetings we often debate over which virtualization platform a client should use for server virtualization and which one is “better”.  Now, if I were to ask all of our engineers (and I have) which hypervisor they would choose (XenServer or VMware) if all things were equal (price, performance, features….) they would almost unanimously say VMware vSphere/ESX.  As we know ALL things are seldom equal especially pricing and this is where the debate gets interesting.

 Usually the statement “XenServer is free which saves us lots of money.  Why should we look at VMware which is much more expensive?” comes into play at some point.  There is no question that this is a very valid point.  So let’s take a look at the two solutions and see where they net out.

First off, the blanket marketing statement “XenServer is free” is, in my opinion, not completely accurate.  If you are just looking for a base hypervisor that will let you consolidate servers, simplify management and perform some other basic feature then yes the “free” XenServer will work, so will ESXi or HyperV.  In fact, you won’t get much argument out of me that XenServer has the most rich feature set of all the free hypervisors.  That being said in most production environments there are going to be certain enterprise level features that you will want and in most cases need, like High Availability and the ability to “vMotion” or move vm’s live between hosts.

For me I see the minimum level of enterprise features being present in VMware vSphere Advanced and Citrix XenServer with Essentials for XenServer Enterprise.  Both of these solutions give you High Availability and vMotion and some other functionality.  So let’s take a look at what each one really costs.  I’ll use MSRP pricing and an environment consisting of 3 hosts.

VMware vSphere                                                                           

Advanced Acceleration Kit (3 servers)                                                                                                    $10,495

Platinum Support (24×7 unlimited)                                                                                                           $2,395

Total                                                                                                                                                                      $12,890

  

Citrix XenServer with Essentials Enterprise

Essentials for XenServer Enterprise ($2500 each)                                                                              $7500

24×7 Support (5 incidents max)                                                                                                                  $3000

Total                                                                                                                                                                      $10,500

 Difference                                                                                                                                                          $2390

 

Now, $2390 is still a decent chunk of money but all of a sudden the price gap between the two solutions is not nearly as drastic as $12,890 vs. FREE and this is a much more accurate comparison in my opinion.  Both products are very good and capable of running in a production environment and have similar core feature sets.  You should look at competing products before your spend your or your companies money but in my opinion and experience vSphere Advanced is well worth the extra $2390.  So test them both and you decide. 

So I guess the short answer to “Which one is better?” is the infamous IT answer “it depends”!

In my opinion some things to consider above and beyond price should include:

–          How proven is the solution in production environments?

–          How stable?

–          How easy is it to use and maintain?

–          How scalable?

–          How does it handle backups and DR?

–          General availability of third party products?

–          How well does it integrate with your storage?

Here are a few links to compare products:

VMware

http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere/mid-size-and-enterprise-business/features.html – vSphere

http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere/buy/editions_comparison.html – vSphere editions chart

Citrix

http://www.citrix.com/English/ps2/products/subfeature.asp?contentID=1686942 – XenServer

http://www.citrix.com/English/ps2/products/subfeature.asp?contentID=1680964 – XenServer Essentials

WYSE TCX Flash Redirection

June 26, 2009

When it comes to Thin Client computing there are several questions that typically come up.  The big one is usually “What about video performance?”.   Video performance was typically subpar or “choppy”, how choppy usually depending on what protocol (ICA or RDP) you were using.  WYSE responded with it TCX Multimedia Redirection software which significantly improved video performance by redirecting the processing associated with certain video files to the local client.

Now with the advent of more and more flash content in web pages and web apps, “What about flash video performance?” is becoming a much bigger concern.  Yet again WYSE is answering the call with its new TCX Flash Redirection software (still in BETA).  Whereas TCX Multimedia redirects video files to the local client, TCX Flash redirects flash video.  Now your end users can watch YouTube videos all day at work with minimal irritation and stop calling the help desk to complain.

Speaking of YouTube…..there is a good YouTube video demonstrating the flash video performance both with and without TCX enabled.  You can check it out here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4rPs84-FgY

Here is a little technical documentation about the product as well:

TCX server components required for TCX Flash Redirection Tech Preview

–          Rich sound Server  ver.1.1.7

Supported Thin Clients:

–          V class and R class with XPe (WFR2 SP2 & WES) and

                                i) Rich sound Client ver. 1.1.7  (Only for Xpe Clients)

                                ii) MMR client ver.1.24.0.0  (Only for Xpe Clients)             

–          V class Wyse Thin OS client (6.3.0_25)

Supported 32-bit operating system platforms:

–          XP Pro SP3

–          Vista (all flavors)

–          Windows 2003 Enterprise SP2

–          XenApp 4.5 & 5.0

Supported Protocols:

–          Microsoft RDP

–          Citrix ICA

–          Citrix PortICA

Supported Connection Brokers:

–          VMware View

–          Citrix XenDesktop

Supported Browsers:

–          Internet Explore Version 6

–          Internet Explore Version 7

Why VMware ESX/vSphere Over Other Virtualization Platforms?

May 10, 2009

This week we had a client meeting where I was asked specifically, “Why should we go with VMware over Citrix or Hyper-V for server virtualization?”  It forced me to really sit down and map out what I see as the advantages to using VMware ESX/vSphere as an enterprise virtualization solution.  Let me just preface this by saying that we are partners/resellers of both Citrix and VMware and both companies make excellent products.  I’ve used and tested Citrix XenServer and the product worked great and was easy to use and let’s face it they have a very strong pricing model.  Price aside, if I was going to run my production systems in a virtual environment today they would be installed on VMware ESX/vSphere.  So in my OPINION here are some of the advantages I see to the VMware product.

–          True Enterprise Solution

  • Tested, Proven, very stable
  • 100% of Fortune 100 companies use it.  85% of them use it in Production
  • Huge investment in R&D
  • Capable of running the most I/O intensive apps

–          Higher Consolidation Ratios

  • Handles memory and resources better
    • Memory Ballooning and memory over allocation
  • Supports the most number of OS’s of any virtualization platform

–          Ease of Use

  • vCenter – Single pane of glass, simple and intuitive
  • Very configurable and customizable
  • Excellent alerts and reporting

–          Dynamic Resource Scheduling (DRS)

  • Active and automated load balancing using vMotion
  • Currently not available with other virtualization platforms

–          vMotion and Storage vMotion

  • vMotion type functionality is available with other products but with VMware it is virtually flawless and has been perfected over several versions of the product.
  • Storage vMotion to move VM’s live across storage platforms with no downtime

–          Backup / VCB

  • Better backup solution(s)
  • VCB integrates with most 3rd party backup solutions
  • Data Recovery in vSphere (new) – eliminates need for 3rd party backup software
    • De-Dupe enabled

–          Fault Tolerance (new in vSphere)

  • Real-time, zero data loss clustering solution
    • Enabled with a single checkbox

–          Thin Provisioning

  • Built in to vSphere and enables you eliminate over  provisioning of storage resources

–          vNetwork Distributed Switch

  • Centralized/Simplified management of networking
  • Nexus v1000 option – manage virtual switches like other Cisco switches
    • Excellent if your company has a Storage Team and a Network Team

–          Site Recovery Manager – automated disaster recovery

  • Only solution like it on the market.  Plug-in to vCenter
  • Simplifies DR testing, documentation and execution once replicated SANs are implemented for DR/BC

–          VDI Ready

  • Tight integration with VMware View VDI solution

–          3rd Party Tools

  • Currently more 3rd party tools available than other platforms

VMware vSphere 4 Launched Today!

April 21, 2009

Intro

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.

Efficiency

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.

Control

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.

Choice

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.

Summary

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

VMware Fault Tolerance

February 22, 2009

VMware Fault Tolerance

Currently the VMware Vi3 infrastructure has many features that make life a little easier for IT departments.  vMotion allows the hot migration of virtual machines from one host to another and allowing hardware maintenance to occur during business hours.  HA enable the automatic reboot of a VM on a new host should its primary host fail. Finally DRS allows us to load balance across multiple hosts automatically.  These features provide a lot of flexibility and can improve the overall performance and uptime of your environment but VMware is soon to release a new feature that is real cool. 

VMware Fault Tolerance (FT) will be released in the next version of the virtual infrastructure product.  In short it will provide real-time clustering for any vm’s that need it.  Anyone that has worked with Microsoft Clustering knows there are certain challenges to setting it up and managing it.  Applications also need to be cluster aware for Microsoft Clustering such as SQL and Exchange.  With FT you will now be able to cluster almost any application in your environment by simply selecting a check box.  A duplicate vm is created and runs in lock step with the primary.   I think this technology will really make clustering much easier and help to keep apps that are not cluster aware up and running.  Check out the link to the video below to see the VMware demo. 

http://download3.vmware.com/vdcos/demos/FT_Demo_800x600.html

VMware View 3 Multimedia Performance

February 15, 2009

VMware View 3 Multimedia Performance

Implementing a VDI infrastructure in your environment can have lots of advantages including simplified management and lower hardware costs.  This is attractive to most companies but one concern that almost always comes up is that of performance, in particular multimedia performance.  How well will video and other multimedia files perform over a VDI session and will they be tolerable to the end users?

The last thing any IT admin or manager wants is a bunch of end users screaming that their YouTube videos or Windows Media files (purely business related of course) are choppy and impossible to watch.  The newest version of VMware View 3 integrates a technology from WYSE called TCX to help overcome this shortcoming.  TCX has a server and client component which detects certain types of files and redirects them to the local device (Thin Client) and works with RDP.  More info on TCX can be found on WYSE’s website.  http://www.wyse.com/products/software/tcx/index.asp

VDI still has its challenges but the list is getting shorter.  Better multimedia performance and the ability to check out sessions and work offline (experimental) are just a few of the things that has addressed in its latest release of View.  Check it out.