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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?

DropBox dedup only in the cloud

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I had observed in my earlier article that DropBox performs de-duplication in the cloud. This would mean that de-duplication is not performed at the client. In order to test my hypothesis, I performed the following experiment:

I first looked at the size of the DropBox folder on Windows and found it to be 1,723,871,232 bytes.

Next, in the DropBox client, I opened the DropBox folder and simply duplicated the contents of the Public folder by copying the 1.68MB file and pasting it as its copy. I looked at the size of the folder once again and it had doubled to 3,446,513,664 bytes.

If DropBox had been performing dedup at the client, then it should have detected the duplicate blocks between the parent and its copy at source and the folder should not have grown in size at all. As a result, my conclusion is that DropBox dedup’s only in the cloud but not at the client.

Wait, there’s more:

I repeated the same experiment on the Mac after deleting the duplicate file. Here’s what I started out with:

Last login: Thu Sep 17 15:30:58 on ttys000
mace1s:~ paule1s$ du -k DropBox
1152 DropBox/Photos/Sample Album
1516 DropBox/Photos
1682636 DropBox/Public
368 DropBox/sharevm
1684880 DropBox

Notice that the total size of the folder (the last line of the listing above) is 1.68GB.

Next, in the DropBox client, I opened the DropBox folder and simply duplicated the contents of the Public folder by copying the 1.68MB file and pasting it as its copy. I looked at the size of the folder once again and saw:

mace1s:~ paule1s$ du -k DropBox
1152 DropBox/Photos/Sample Album
1516 DropBox/Photos
2600140 DropBox/Public
368 DropBox/sharevm
2602384 DropBox

This is very interesting. I had expected the storage requirements to double to 3,369,760 however, they grew by approx. 1GB. What happened to the remaining 682MB? Did the DropBox client truncate the file? If so, why?

Readers, can you shed some light?

Written by paule1s

September 17, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Compressed VM file transfer using DropBox

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I am using DropBox for transferring compressed files including VM’s  between my environment at home, a Mac running Windows XP SP3 in VMware Fusion 2.0.5 and the test machine, a Windows XP SP3 system located in the office lab. Each machines has a DropBox  folder linked to the same account.

Neat product!

I love the simplicity and ease of use. A lot of thought has gone into making the product easy to install, the integration with the host OS (Windows and Mac) is seamless and sets a benchmark for how UI’s for downloadable products should be designed.

Usage model

I compress each file using the Mac’s native file compression and drop into into my DropBox folder. DropBox seems to follow a two-step file transfer process:

  1. It first uploads the file completely from the source DropBox folder to the DropBox folder in the cloud
  2. After the upload is complete, the file is then downloaded from the DropBox folder in the cloud to the destination DropBox folders.

Setup

Speed ratings are from here. I have been able to correlate these speeds with the end-to-end transfer times.

Transfer Type

Speed Rating for my ISP

Observed DropBox Transfer Rate

Upload

120 KB/sec

70 KB/sec

Download

360 KB/sec

210 KB/sec

Near real-time transfer for uncompressed files

DropBox transfers uncompressed files almost instantaneously between the two machines. The files are transferred sequentially and seem to arrive in order. For example,  I transferred a 1.72 GB folder containing 400 photographs and the photos started appearing sequentially 10 – 15 seconds apart.

Compressed files

Compressed files are transferred as a unit, although dedup applies to blocks contained within it. The transfer times are as recorded below:

Original Size

Compressed Size

Upload Time

Download Time

Total Time

4.30 GB

1.6800 GB

6h 40m

2h 12m

8h 52m

2.15 GB

0.6714 GB

2h 27m

0h 48m

3h 15m

1.10 GB

0.2371 GB

0h 56m

0h 18m

1h 14m

Dedup works well with compressed files

DropBox examines the file to be transferred and builds an index of blocks to be transferred. Its de-duplication technology is smart enough to figure out when not to transfer blocks that are duplicates, i.e., have already been transferred before. For example, when I tried to transfer two clones, the first one took a long time to transfer ( a few hours), but the second transfer was very rapid (under five minutes).

Since I am using the free account, I deleted a 2GB VM from my DropBox folder in order to begin my next transfer. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the next VM transfer was very rapid. I suspect this was because the VM that was transferred earlier was still residing in DropBox’s cache even though I had deleted it, so that DropBox discovered common/duplicate blocks and did not upload them from my Mac.

Summary

Nifty tool. Love it. Will use it a lot.

A few feature requests

  • Subfolders: I would like to organize the files by date and category.
  • Timers: I would like to time the uploads and downloads easily.
  • Profile my usage and suggest how long an end-to-end transfer will take
  • Speed up compressed file transfers – improve my effective transfer rate  from ~60% to ~80%- I would like to saturate the available bandwidth for uploads and downloads

Thanks 🙂

Written by paule1s

September 13, 2009 at 5:42 pm