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Unidesk Virtual Desktop VDI technology

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This is a summary of Kris Midgely’s (Founder and CTO, Unidesk) interview by Brian Madden

Unidesk is a PC Lifecycle Management company planning to provide

  • Virtual Desktop Management
  • Personalization
  • Storage reduction

with no agent on the desktop.

Supports VMware ESX today. Intends to support Citrix XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-VVMware Workstation, VMware Fusion, Citrix XenClient. and application virtualization technologies such as, VMware ThinApp, Microsoft App-V, etc.

CacheCloud

CacheCloud: is a content delivery network (think Akamai) for pushing out VDI gold images to different data centers, laptops/desktops in branch offices or machines that connect intermittently. Cloud consists of  a large number of virtual appliances, called CachePoints, running one per blade or laptop. Each CachePoint stores user personalization locally as well as replicates it out. CachePoint appliances are made of Linux, have virtualized storage that supports

  • thin provisioning
  • replication
  • versioning

Windows and app code is shared, user personalization is unique. This makes scanning for AV really fast since there is only image of code

Block-level replication of deltas, file-level replication for compositing.  Personalization data can be written from several individual CachePoints to a  NAS/SAN in the data center which enables legal discovery of changes to data, which was not possible until today.

Composite Virtualization

Composite Virtualization understands the abstract layers, Windows’, apps and user data and knows how to merge them together (composite) in real time to create a bootable C: device and provide a rich desktop experience. Virtualizes each desktop into  layers

  • exe, com objects and dlls are apps
  • Registry – configuration 
  • everything else is data 

It will support encryption in the future: Shared keys for windows and apps code, personal keys for private data

Composting engine sits on top of the device driver and form the individual layers by merging individual IO streams with the namespace knowledge it maintains.

A virtualization storage layer implemented as a NTFS file system filter driver provides a high performance block IO device that talks to the CacheCloud. It loads early in the boot cycle. Once it is loaded, it loads a vmdk disk image which contains Just Enough Windows pre-composited to provide a bootable C drive. The latter can be served from the Cache Cloud.

It Snapshots the system automatically by auto detecting application installs/uninstalls, ActiveX control downloads. An admin can get a timeline view of user-installed software to reconstruct a hosed machine easily from the CacheCloud. Lets you recover system state while retaining your data.

Availability

Currently in Beta with 22 customers spanning Financial Institutions, Higher Ed and the Government.

Distribution through a channel strategy, working with Top Channel providers for VMware, Citrix, Microsoft. Can replace WAN acceleration, Backup and DR and Persistent Personalization products.

Chrome OS, 3G Netbook, Client Hypervisor Convergence?

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Sundar Pichai’s post Introducing the Chrome OS

Chrome OS is designed for people who spend most of their time on the web — searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends. Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS.

Chrome OS has generated a lot of excitement and buzz over the past few months. The driver for introducing Chrome OS is the widespread use of the Internet and the dramatic rise in adoption of NetBooks (called ultraportables by IDC) during 2008 – 2009.

Benefits for notebook and ultramobile device users

  • Fast boot, instant web access.
  • Worldwide accessibility of personal data, i.e., documents, pictures, MP3’s, videos, etc., since they are stored in the Cloud.
  • Promise of being able to run web apps offline and sync data with the Cloud when online (with the forthcoming HTML5 support).

Benefits for all users

  • Safe browsing – users don’t have to worry about viruses, adware, malware
  • Speed – no hidden services and extensions slowing down the computer while running in the background
  • Users cannot lose data that resides in the Cloud due to a computer disaster or forgetting to back up files.
  • No/Low administration overhead – users don’t need to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about applying software updates.

Essentially, Chrome OS’s key value is to convert a Netbook (or any computer for that matter) into a fixed- function web interaction device. This is a great vision and in all likelihood will be realized in 2010 when 3G notebooks become mainstream in the US and Europe – they already are in Asia. However, let us examine where Chrome OS fits within the landscape of products from Microsoft and Apple:

OS Vendor Netbook Tablet Notebook Desktop
Microsoft Windows 7 Windows CE Windows 7, XP Windows 7, XP
Apple None iPhone OS Mac OS X Mac OS X
Google Chrome OS Android None None

 

While Chrome OS is well-positioned for the 3G notebook market niche, its safe browsing and speed are particularly important benefits for users who browse the web from their notebook and desktops also. This installed base of users are not going to be migrating away from their notebooks and desktops because of “stickiness”of the apps, e.g., Outlook mail and calendar integration, Adobe’s Creative Suite or financial apps that use Dot Net technologies on Windows, the holistic user experience on a Mac. It is difficult to change user behavior!

How can Chrome OS extend to desktops/notebooks in home and business use today?

That’s easy, through the use of virtualization. Virtualization will let users

  • Run multiple disparate OS’s on the same hardware
  • Realize the Bring Your Own Computer model for VDI and maintain separation of work-related and personal, apps and data.
  • Create a safe and secure browsing environment at home or at work on their personal computers

A client hypervisor running on a netbook, notebook or desktop can permit Chrome OS to be booted in a VM for providing a fast boot, instant web access capability while Windows is still booting up in the background.

Written by paule1s

March 15, 2010 at 11:00 pm

BIOS-based Type 1 Client Hypervisors On The Horizon?

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Phoenix Technologies is offering a Linux-based virtualization platform called HyperSpace enabled by the HyperCore hypervisor embedded within the BIOS. HyperCore is most likely Xen-based and runs specialized core services side-by-side with Windows on Intel VT CPU’s.

Primary value

Its primary value proposition is that it is a fast boot environment. The concept is to boot the user into a VM running Linux and show him a Mozilla-based browser within the first 10 seconds, while Windows is booting up in parallel in another VM within the first minute or so. While the Windows boot in in progress, the user can connect (through Linux) with an available wireless network, browse the Internet, and switch between the two virtual machines using the F4 function key.

What do users think?

Here are some interesting reviews,

Some other fast boot environments are:

However, currently …

Phoenix was selling HyperSpace Dual (Linux only, no HyperCore) and Hybrid (Linux + HyperCore) in 2009 but they seem to have discontinued the Hybrid product line. Was the adoption poor due to limited hardware support? Or, shudder, was the product not fulfilling a customer need?

Perhaps we may see it once again in the near future, the HyperSpace front page hints that “HyperSpace 2.0 is coming soon”.

The technology is cool, but …

Fast boot alone is not a compelling need. There aren’t many times in life when users can’t wait an additional 30 or so seconds to have full access to Windows.

If you look at why Mac users have adopted VMware Fusion for running Windows, you’ll realize that there must be a compelling need for users to change their behavior and adopt something new and different. Users in corporate environments switched to Macs because they did not want a Common Operating Environment Windows desktop, which was locked down by IT. Using Fusion, they can continue to use Office, particularly, Outlook, and especially the Outlook calendar, to continue to meet the demands at work without missing a beat. Conversely, people who have always used Macs did not want to change their lifestyle when they joined a new company and using Fusion, they were able to assimilate into the corporate routine very quickly.

So the question at hand is, what is the compelling use case for a BIOS-based client hypervisor to gain adoption and market penetration?

What is the killer use case?

Perhaps the killer use case is the one that both HyperSpace and Splashtop are already fulfilling today for NetBooks and Nettops, using non-virtualized Linux to provide a Mozilla or Chrome browser as the primary interface for email, Facebook, Zynga, IM, browsing the Internet and using Microsoft Office compatible apps.

This begs the question, is there a compelling need for a Type 1 BIOS-based client hypervisor?

Gabe Knuth has an interesting twist to offer in his post

So what if Citrix, who’s already going to give XenClient away for free, were to partner with Phoenix and other BIOS manufacturers to find a way to include XenClient in the BIOS?

Dear Reader, What do you think?

Type 1 and Type 2 Client Hypervisors

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This post is based on insight gained from two of Brian Madden’s posts: A deeper look at VMware’s upcoming bare-metal client hypervisor and Bare-metal client hypervisors are coming — for real this time

Wikipedia distinguishes between two distinct types of hypervisors

Type 1 Hypervisor

Type 1 (or native, bare-metal) hypervisors are software systems that run directly on the host’s hardware to control the hardware and to monitor guest operating-systems. A guest operating system thus runs on another level above the hypervisor. Some examples are VMware ESX, Xen, Microsoft Hyper-V, etc.

Type 1 hypervisors are appropriate when you want to provide the only OS that is used on a client. When a user turns a machine on, he only sees a single OS that looks and feels local.

Type 2 Hypervisor

Type 2 (or hosted) hypervisors are software applications running within a conventional operating-system environment. Considering the hypervisor layer as a distinct software layer, guest operating systems thus run at the third level above the hardware. Some examples are VMware Workstation, VMware FusionMED-V, Windows Virtual PC, VirtualBox, Parallels, MokaFive, etc.

Type 2 hypervisors are appropriate when you want a user to have access to their own local desktop OS in addition to the centrally-managed corporate VDI OS. This could be for an employee-owned PCscenario, or it could be a situation where you have contractors, etc., who need access to their personal apps and data in addition to the company’s apps and data.

Client Hypervisors

Over the past 5 years, Type 1 hypervisors are dominantly used in the server market, whereas, Type 2 hypervisors are being used on clients, i.e., desktops and laptops. Recently, the need for a Type 1 hypervisor that runs locally on a client device, called the client hypervisor, has emerged for supporting the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure VDI).

Benefits

VDI’s promise lies in realizing a significant cost reduction for managing desktops. A client hypervisor is useful because it combines the centralized management of VDI with the performance and flexibility of local computing. It offers several advantages:

  • It provides a Hardware Abstraction Layer so that the same virtual disk image can be used on a variety of different devices.
  • The devices do not need a “base OS” when the client hypervisor is present. The maintenance overhead of patching a “base OS” frequently on each of the devices is greatly reduced.
  • Once a virtual disk image has been provisioned, it runs and the display is driven locally. This frees up the client from the need to support remote display protocols.
  • It decouples the management of the device from the management of Windows and the user; administrators can spend their time focusing on user needs instead of device maintenance.

Type 1 Server and Client Hypervisors

Server hypervisors are designed to make VMs portable and increasing the utilization of physical hardware. Client hypervisors are intended to increase the manageability of the client device and improve security by separating work and personal VMs.

The bottom line is that even though they’re both called “Type 1″ or “bare-metal hypervisors,” there are some philosophical differences in how each came to be. (This could help explain why it has taken over five years to extend the Type 1 hypervisor concept from the server to the desktop.)

Dimension Type 1 Server Hypervisor Type 1 Client Hypervisor
Design Goal Host multiple VMs and make each VM seem like a “real” server on the network. The user shouldn’t even know that there is a hypervisor or they are using a VM.
Virtualization Goal I/O: Disk and Networking Native device support that affects user experience, e.g.,
a) GPU and graphics capabilities
b) USB ports and devices
c) Laptop battery and power state
d) Suspend/Hibernate states
Tuning Maximum simultaneous network, processor and disk I/O utilization Graphics, multimedia and wireless connectivity
Hardware Support Narrow set of different preapproved hardware models Should (ideally) run on just about anything
Intrusiveness Controls most if not all of the hardware platform and devices and provide a near complete emulated and/or para-virtualized device model to the virtual machines running on top a) Should support full device pass-through to a guest VM.
b) Should also support dynamic assignment and “switching” of devices between different guests


Type 1 Client Hypervisor Vendors
In the Type 1 client hypervisor space, there are Neocleus NeoSphere and Virtual Computer NXTop. There are product announcements from both VMware and Citrix, however, there is no shipping product to date. There is also the Xen Client Initiative – an effort to port the open source Xen hypervisor to the client.

Editorial Opinion
Today, hypervisors are a commodity. While they are indeed foundational technology, they are “out of sight is out of mind”, i.e., most users do not perceive their presence and hence ascribe no/low value for this technology. Hypervisor developers will be hard pressed to build a lasting public company solely based on selling hypervisors.

Best Practice: Defrag VMDK, VHD, VirtualBox Virtual Disk

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Wikipedia describes defragmentation as

a process that reduces the amount of fragmentation in file systems. It does this by physically organizing the contents of the disk to store the pieces of each file close together and contiguously. It also attempts to create larger regions of free space using compaction to impede the return of fragmentation.

Generically, the defragmentation of a Windows guest within a virtual disk running on a Windows host (Windows on Windows) requires a three-step process:

  1. Defragment the guest
  2. Defragment the virtual disk
  3. Defragment the host

On a Linux host or guest, the ext3 and ext4 file systems are more resilient to defragmentation.

Windows on Windows

You should perform the following steps whether you are using a Microsoft VHD, VirtualBox VDI or VMware VMDK virtual disk,

  1. On a Windows guest OS, run the Windows Disk Defragmenter to defragment the files within the volumes stored inside the virtual disk.
  2. Next, power down the virtual machine and defragment the virtual disk using contig. Defragmenting the virtual disk simply reorganizes the blocks so that used blocks move towards lower-numbered sectors and unused blocks move towards higher-numbered sectors.
  3. Run the Windows Disk Defragmenter to achieve an overall defragmentation of all files on the host including the virtual disk.

VMware VMDK specific

The following steps can be used generically for VMware VMDK, for Windows on WIndows or any other suppoted platforms. vmware-vdiskmanger:is a standalone tool for defragmenting a growable VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion or VMware Server, vmdk when it is offline. Note that you cannot defragment:

  • Preallocated virtual disks
  • Physical hard drives
  • Virtual disks that are associated with snapshots.

The recommended steps for defragmenting a vmdk are:

  1. On a Windows guest OS, run the Windows Disk Defragmenter to defragment the files within the volumes stored inside the VMDK.
  2. Next, power down the virtual machine and defragment the vmdk using the command vmware-vdiskmanager -d myVirtualDisk.vmdk. Defragmenting the vmdk simply reorganizes the blocks so that used blocks move towards lower-numbered sectors and unused blocks move towards higher-numbered sectors.
  3. If the host OS is also Windows, run the Windows Disk Defragmenter to achieve an overall defragmentation of all files on the host including the VMDK.

How To Instructions for fatVM

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A How To Guide that provides instructions for using fatVM is available for your reference.

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