Lawyer Bait

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Three Tier Virtualization

In my travels the past couple of weeks I have some interesting discussions with folks from the purely hypothetical - Where do you think Virtualization will be in a year or two - to basic blocking and tackling discussions - How do I figure out chargebacks and what should I virtualize first?

What struck me was that these are the same types of discussions that have happened in IT since I have been dealing with it and they center arount architecture, and more specifically eating the Elephant in Bites by using tiers in our approach.

So on the VDI or Virtual Desktop front I have had discussions with some fairly large companies about VDI plans. The bulk of them are going to Virtualize Windows and the two approaches seem to be to use Citrix/Xen or one of the new startup management tools to do this. Why Microsoft never provided a way to manage desktops better in the first place is beyond me - they figured out how to deliver a security patch every Tuesday a while ago and RDS (Remote Desktop Support) has been around a while too. Alas - I am off on a tangent already.

I am going to go out on a limb here and propose my own approach for the desktop and not because it's the shiny new toy, or because it is hipper and can generate more buzz, but because it solves a number of problems and I cannot find money to fund the project to get it out of my dining room and its 'nights and weekends' status. Ready? Here goes:

1. Grab a copy of Ubuntu. Save yourself $200 in license fees out of the gate for Windows Vista Upgrade (Business SP1)
2. Brand it, hack it, and lock it down
3. Save the image to a server (or servers) for download
4. Link to it and email the link
5. Script an update tool so that upon login image is checked to insure there are no updates. If there are the OS grabs it, if not it stays as is.

Why Ubuntu - It's so easy to install even I can do it, and I have marginally more grey matter than a caveman. It comes with a browser, email client (although who doesn't have OWA, Gmail, Yahoo, etc now anyway), and doesn't have over 500,000 pieces of Malware, Spyware, etc. written to mess with it on a daily basis.

What do you gain - a more ecure OS, savings of $200/per desktop, no investment in RAM upgrades ($75 for 2 GB per machine), and what about agents used to keep the crap off the machine (5 agents at $100 per is $500/per machine), and support calls dealing with 'My Internet is Broken' to the 'What does a Fatal Error mean? That's not good - right?' questions. Even offshore support will set you back ~$20 call in hard costs plus lost productivity.

Net-Net you're at $700-1000 per device. You decide how much you want to save.

Gotchas - Not every app runs on Linux. Duh. That won't change and you will always have users running Windows. But you probably don't buy a new car when your tires are bald and you need to pass inspection either. Save money where you can.

That's the Desktop. How about Servers?

Server Virtualization is marching right along and has been for a few years. I think it may be eclipsed by Desktops on sheer numbers alone - I'm just not sure when. This is another Tier for Virtualization and what I see is similar to what is going on in the desktop space to some extent...

Applications were built to run on physical servers, and many application vendors haven't figured out how to certify their applications for virtualized servers. This will tap the brake pedal a few times on a server virtualization scoping exercise when you start looking at what is and is not supported for your existing apps. Also don't forget that if you virtualize 1,000 boxes and some sweet new gear, that you still have 1,000 OSes to patch and you won't save a lot if any on labor. I won't even get into licensing applications since you have sockets, CPUs, cores and everything else to factor in if you'r a software vendor. Do us a favor - figure out a per VM price and sell the heck out of it.

Then there is the Network Layer and looking at virtualizing the physical footprint of network gear. This is a third tier where things are heating up. I met with one of the Vyatta guys this week, and anyone who follows this blog knows I am pretty hopped up on this company's Linux based firewall product that will go head to head with a Cisco 7200 and they have the data to prove it. Their product runs fine on my 486 box at home. That is a lot of space, power , and cooling for my data centers, and If I am fortunate enough to run A Crossbeam Chassis, I can load Vyatta onto a blade and slap it in the chassis and go for a zero footprint increase, and measurable but not noticeable power suck.

Anyway there are a bunch of sub tiers and other points I will make, but I have a conference call to jump on... Have a great weekend!

mark @ virtualizationstuff

Friday, July 18, 2008

VMWare - Entering the rapids?

I blogged after my trip to the VMUG yesterday, and this morning was up early to read a couple of blogs that I frequent:

Burton Group's Chis Wolf's take on the Change in Leadership at VMWare
and Alessandro's coverage at from the inside because an employee leaked a few emails and shared their thoughts.

It appears that based solely on what I have heard and read in the past 18 hours that VMWare is entering the Class III rapids and they may see Class IV before too long.

I will echo Chris Wolf's sentiments that VMWare need to take some crucial steps quickly, and I will explain my take on why. His points:

- Lower the prices of the entire VMware product line
- Accelerate development on a soup-to-nuts solution for the SMB space
- Accelerate development on VMware's virtual desktop solution
- Focus the company's messaging around the application and the total solution

1. VMWare needs to drop their price immediately. Totally agree. When companies compete on price against you there is a reason - typically lack of product maturity - so you take this key competitive point away from the competition. Then you compete on product maturity and functionality. If price is no longer a valid argument to a CIO asking the question - Why Change? - then they need to find another way to compete.

2. The SMB space is tricky, having been in it for 1/3 of my career. They want all of the functionaliy of an enterprise solution with the ability to CONFIGURE not CUSTOMIZE a solution. This is a key point. Think HTML templates vs Notepad. The SMB wants to be able to roll out something useful and meaningful quickly using their mouse as opposed to consultants. They want best practices rolled into the product vs the almight toolkit that can do anything if only they had the expertise, time, and money to do it. My suggestion - build a base or core offering that is simple to deploy and captures the most obvious benefits of virtualization, and then offer widgets and/or bolt ons for the rest of the functionality. If ANY company goes into an SMB to sell a car when the company only needs tires will get their hat handed to them and a firm handshake on their way out. Been there. Done That. Have the T-Shirt.

3. Accelerate the VDI solution. Agreed, with a MAJOR but - do something other than Windows. I have been incubating a VDI solution that uses Ubuntu and while it won't be for everyone, if you could save $1100 per endpoint converted off of Windows, stop paying the Microsoft tax, improve security and risk at the endpoint, shave 60% of support costs off the books, and own and control the Desktop OS, brand it and make it your own - wouldn't you? I will gladly license this to anyone who is interested, and I just signed an NDA with a Fortune 3 to explore it.

4. Focus the Messaging. One of my closest friends CEO/author Michael Cannon at the Silver Bullet Group points out how important messaging is. Michael may want to chime in here, but insure the messaging speaks clearly to the audience for which it is intended. In other words a CIO and a VP of Marketing and a VP of Sales will respond differently to different mesaages. Duh. The key is to make sure you know who you're selling to and why you and your products matter to the audience you are in front of.

So long story short - VMWare has its work cut out for itself. From the outside competitors and the passionate anti-Microsoft internal mindset. It's time to grab a paddle dust off that Kevlar underwear and jump into the rapids...

mark @ virtualizationstuff. com

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Observations from the VMUG New England

I am at the VMWare User Group meeting

A quick poll by me earlier and what I saw at the presentation was that there is a lot of tire kicking going on between the VMx vendors. Xen and VMWare ESX are clearly the leaders, but for different reasons - especially in the channel. VMWare was claimimg that their 3.5 ships with a lot of features that Citrix/Xen does not so from a channel view there is less money to be made for the VAR with VMWare since they bundle in a lot of stuff that you can make margin on with Citrix/Xen by augmenting the Citrix/Xen solution with other products. The downside is for the customer that if you have to license comparable products to what 3.5 ships with thats a lot of vendor relationships to manage (isn't that what the VAR's do?). Makes me wonder if VMWare's channel strategy will mimc Novell's... They need to fix that messaging in my opinion if they are to be successful in the channel and garner their channel's support, otherwise MSFT will kick the crap out of them because they figured out the channel a LOOOOONG time ago and it drives their business. StongChannel with a hot new product could gobble up market share quickly.

the next question was answered by saying 'we'd be stupid to think that VMWare won't see increased competition and some market share loss to MSFT, but we believe we are 16-18 months ahead of them in product development' - in other words, they'll get there, we're still better for the next 1-2 years, so stick with us. They also threw up some slides that I will try to get over to you if I can.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

VMUG New England - See you there!

I thought I would get the word out and see who else was going to the VMUG in Brunswick, ME on Thursday July 17th. You need to register so follow the link and get signed up!!!

I will be there, I just haven't decided if I will be wearing my kilt or not. What do you think - kilt or no kilt?

mark @

Friday, July 11, 2008

Vyatta - geek for 'Wow this is cool'

So I have been playing around with the Vyatta solution for a few days and here are my observations:

1. Their support was awesome even for me who downloaded the free 'kick the tires' version. I was pretty embarrased as well since I had imaged a CD, forgot I did it (because I was on a conference call and replying to email when I initiated the whole process), and thought I had blown away my OS on my home machine. I just had to eject the CD. and drink more coffee. and take more Ginko Biloba to improve memory.

2. It works as advertised. Since it's based on Debian even my marginal skillsets (rusty too) were able to navigate around the product. The install took maybe 10 minutes and I was navigating directories and playing with configs in 12.

3. My only request would be a nice UI so guys like me with rusty memories and skillsets can point and click.

So in short - nothing bad to say. In fact I have been out touting it to my friends in the business world because I do think it's worth a look and if I can do it, antone who knows that there is no 'Any' key on a keyboard should do just fine. If not the support is great.

mark @ virtualizationstuff dot com

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

VMWare shakeup - so?

There has been a bunch of handwaving out there and Chicken little sky is falling for VM commentary and I don't get it. It's like those 1-20-09 stickers letting me know that it is Bush's last day.

What happens on 1-21-09? Do I get my home heating oil bill paid? Do I win the lottery? No!!! It's Wednesday - trash day. I will bring out the trash and freeze while doing it. And I will still be saying, its Congress people. Give those schmucks their walking papers. They make laws, the president either signs them or Vetoes them.

So the VMWare management team gets shaken up. So? Did you get your VMWare 50% off ESX coupon in your cereal box this morning? I didn't. What I did get was a sense that the company is entering a new phase of it's development and the board wants a different skillset and mindset driving the boat for a while.

If anyone knows of any ex-employee blogs out there, post the URL. That's where we'll see how it effects the people that built the company and maybe what to expect. In the short term, we can all watch the politics from afar and be glad it's not us, or continmue to armchair quarterback a company vs. start one on our own.

mark @

Monday, July 7, 2008

What isn't being virtualized?

I hope my friends in the US had a nice long weekend. Hard to believe July 4th has come and gone...

While boogeyboarding the other evening I got to thinking about my time at Catalyst and the presentations I went to and what it meant. The sound byte I kept coming back to was - What isn't being virtualized?

Servers, desktops, and firewalls are all on a path of being virtualized at most companies. Some faster than others. What I keep wondering about is the security in all of this virtualizing and had a few thoughts/questions:

1. Is a VM akin to a VLAN - get into one and you get the keys to the kingdom?
2. Why would a company want to virtualize Windows? The same problems exists with malware, viruses, etc. and the inherent security issues.
3. Are virtual firewalls an answer or just the next new (virtualized) thing?

If I think about it, here is what I come up with:

Virtualization can create a more porous environment that breaches can exploit far easier and most likely faster.

It is the equivalent of checking into a brand new hotel and because the processes that have been in place at other properties have not been followed to excruciating discipline in a rush to open, capture excitement, etc. new holes exist, and we get a master key vs. a room key as a metaphoric example.

Why not virtualize a desktop on Linux. With close to 1,000,000 exploits out there for Windows, and only a handful for Linux - why not push Ubuntu out to a desktop and have the control you want and take 999,999,990 threats off the table at the OS?

Add a firewall (I played around with Vyatta and was impressed), and that will help, take a virtual firewall and put it in between VMs, apps, etc. and you may be on your way to taking the best practices we know and love to the virtualized world.

Thoughts? Comments?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Vyatta - Check it out

So I am just back from the Catalyst conference in San Diego and digging out from a week away, catching up on the stuff I care about, and a buddy of mine clls me and says that I am one of his references and that I should expect a call. Ok. No problemo.

My day ends, and I jump in my wetsuit and hit the beach for some Boogey boarding at high tide. Killer waves, tons of fun, voicemail. It's Greg from Vyatta. I dry off and return his call.

I do the reference conveying that he is crazy to not hire my former colleague - he is the best networking guy I have met in 15 years in the IT business hands down. Then I ask the question - so what does Vyatta do?

Well Vyatta makes an open source (Linux based) virtual router. It has firewall capabilities and very few achilles heels that I could uncover immediately. Long story short, on my home machine I am downloading it to play around with it because I haven't been this excited about a piece of technology in some time.

Hopefully this will be the 'blind date' that surpasses expectations. Ok it's done. I am off to go find out how much I have forgotten about networks... Stay tuned.