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Monthly Archives: November 2006

Hardware appliance dinosaurs

Mitchell Ashley of Still Secure (disclosure: StillSecure Strata Guard virtual appliance available in Virtual Appliance Marketplace) lays out his view of the effects of commodization and Moore’s Law on the hardware part of hardware appliances. Why appliances are dinosaurs:

Virtualization offers other capabilities interesting to networking and security – the ability to migrate and move network and security functions without changing hardware. Imagine moving your IPS from one edge appliance to another via a management console on your desktop.

We’re not far away from such a scenario. So get ready to rethink your appliance strategy.

Mike Rothman of The Daily Incite isn’t so sure about virtualizing his networking appliances, but does admit that at this point most of them are running on Intel-based hardware. Appliances are not T-Rex:

Yes, large enterprises (and even some small ones) are increasingly
virtualizing their data centers with products like VMware. But do I
want VMware running in my perimeter? Not so sure about that. I do
believe that appliances targeted at data center security applications
will need to evolve to work in a virtualized environment. BUT, not
necessarily on the perimeter. I may have a box that virtualizes
security applications (which is what Crossbeam does), but it’s still a
box. But let’s be clear, most "appliances" are software running on an
industry-standard (read Intel) appliance platform.

The security blogosphere is very active, with lots of shouting and hand-waving. Great fun. Mike Rothman’s Daily Incite is a good place to start, and I’ve been enjoying reading StillSecure’s Chief Strategy Officer Alan Shimel as well. The virtualization blogosphere could probably stand to step up our level of two-way conversation, although I’m not sure about the shouting.

VMworld 2006 Conference Sessions

Last week, we posted slides and audio from many of the sessions at VMworld 2006. This week we also added the lab manuals.

I think it’s unusual to package up most of a conference and make it available on the web to everyone. We
hope this content is useful whether you came to VMworld or not. We track
the downloads, but we’d love to hear from you in the comments if you found it valuable.

We haven’t packaged these up in a podcast feed for several reasons.

  1. Most people won’t want to download and listen to 100+ hours of audio.
  2. The audio isn’t nearly as useful without looking at the slides, although I know of one person who listened to all of VMworld 2005 while painting his house.
  3. This is pretty much the full list we will be publishing this year — there won’t be additional sessions coming out over time.

Link: VMworld 2006 Conference Sessions

Over 7000 attendees came to VMworld 2006 on November 7-9 in Los Angeles to participate in the leading virtualization industry conference.

The following selection of presentations and associated podcasts highlights the breadth and depth of the technical sessions presented at VMworld 2006. Enjoy!

VMware Server on Windows

Andrew Kutz has been writing some nice material about VMware Server at SearchServerVirtualization.com. His latest: VMware Server on Windows vs. VMware Server on Linux.

On to happier topics. The biggest reason to host VMware Server on Windows is the host operating system’s manageability. When joined to an Active Directory, Windows can take advantage of centrally managed domain accounts, group policy, SMS and many other must-have features for controlling large pools of servers. The stand-out reasons to run VMware Server on Linux are an easy-to-use command-line interface and the fact that the host OS is free.

And SSV has put up a nice table of contents to Andrew’s recent 8-part series, VMware on Windows, which includes

  • Introduction: How VMware Server Works
  • Components and preparing the host server
  • Installing Windows and configuration tips
  • Windows security and Internet Information Server
  • SMTP and VMware Server
  • Configuring VMware Server
  • Creating a virtual machine
  • Installing a guest operating system and conclusions

New Red Hat virtual appliances: RHEL4, Application Stack with JBoss

And speaking of long-awaited cool virtual appliances, check out the new Red Hat Enterprise Linux Version 4 Update 4 and the Red Hat Application Stack, featuring Red Hat Enterprise Linux, JBoss Application Server with Tomcat, JBoss Hibernate, and a choice of open source databases: MySQL or PostgreSQL, and Apache Web Server.

It’s a good time to be a developer.

Long-awaited Solaris Enterprise System virtual appliance now available

First they open source Java, and now we get a Solaris 10 + Sun Enterprise System virtual machine. Somebody at Sun is definitely not getting coal in their stocking this year. VMware’s Andy Tucker writes:

I’ve noted previously that one of the non-Sun distros of OpenSolaris (Nexenta) is available in a VM.  Now, Sun has now quietly added the Solaris Enterprise System Virtual Machine 1.0
to the Sun Download Center (as a free download).  This is Solaris 10
Update 1, plus the Studio 11 compilers, plus all the Java Enterprise
System software – app server, web server, directory server, etc. – all
in a VMware virtual machine.  No OS or application install, just
download and untar, fire up VMware Player/Server/Workstation (take your
pick), and power the VM on.

Treat this as a 1.0, at least as far as fit-and-finish inside a virtual machine is concerned. Our alliances and appliances teams are working with Sun to install VMware Tools and implement other virtual appliance best practices. Most tweaks you can do yourself once you download it. This will be listed within our Virtual Appliances Marketplace very soon.

VMware Infrastructure 3 – 3 months in

Christian has a great post on their VMware Infrastructure 3 experience so far. He talks about VMware Converter and their 12-step program for moving their Domino server and databases.

VMware Infrastructure 3 – 3 months in

We have virtualized 20 servers, including a few test servers, and all of them behave very nicely without any problems at all. Two seperate instances of Oracle, one Lotus Domino server, several domain controllers and other application servers have all been either reinstalled as virtual servers or migrated using VMware Converter (beta). .

We haven’t had a single hiccup or serious problem with any of our virtualized servers nor the physical servers running our infrastructure. Another very welcome output of our virtualization project is that our cooling systems now have a lot less heat to fight with, which makes my datacenter much better to work in. I haven’t seen any numbers yet, but I’m pretty sure our power bills are also seeing this benefit. …

BTW: If anyone knows a way to move a vmdk from one VM to another inside
the Virtual Infrastructure Client, please let me know. I did it by
SSH’ing into one of the VMware servers and moving and renaming it there. The ability to do this within
the VI Client would be welcomed though, as portability really is one of
most attractive features with virtualization.

OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) now available as Virtual Appliance

From Richard Garsthagen: OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) now available as Virtual Appliance.

Well the machines just started rolling out of the factories, but if you are interested to know what the childeren in the poor african countries will have to their disposal, you can check out the OLPC as a virtual appliance. Tom Hoffman has made the OLPC images available on his blog.

The OLPC Image for VMware
Read more about the OLPC project

But it’s not all kids with laptops. Last month, Tarry Singh went to Africa and showed off some virtual tools to the university crowd. Go ahead and click through to the pics from his trip.

TarryBlogging: Virtual Appliances in Africa? Just ask Jessica!.

They say a pictures speak volumes. So I’ll post some pics here on my tour to the Uganda Technical College, Elgon. Here I am letting Jessica open up the Virtual Appliance OTRS and log on to the helpdesk system and filing a complaint! :-)

Using VMware Converter

Craig Pringle walks us through some steps of using VMware Converter, now in beta, wih very nice screen shots. Craig Pringle – Converting a Physical Machine to a Virtual Machine.

After that I installed VMWare Converter onto a Windows 2003 Server that is alreadly running VMWare Server.  After installing I launched VMWare converter.  Basically from there I just clicked on Import Machine button and followed my nose.

Don’t know about Converter? Here’s a few more links:

  • Download Squad: VMware Converter: Turn your computer into a virtual machine
  • Friends in Tech: VMware Converter Beta
  • 4sysops.com: Resize a virtual disk with VMware Converter
  • baeke.info: VMware Converter Beta. Geert Baeke takes Converter through its paces, and has a few things to watch out for:

    First of all, make sure you have name resolution correctly configured so that the name of your target ESX server can be resolved to an IP address. That should not be an issue in a production environment but in a test environment, that is easily overlooked (as I did). I also had an issue with the imaging process itself. Apparently, VMware Converter uses Volume Shadow Copy services on operating systems that support it. On my test source machine, these services were disabled and naturally, the imaging process failed. After starting the Volume Shadow Copy service and the MS Software Shadow Copy Provider services everything worked like a charm.

Turn your app into an appliance

Earlier this month, rPath put out a nice offer to ISVs: they will do a free "Application to Appliance" conversion to turn your commercial software application into virtual appliance. The application process begins here, and there’s just three qualifying questions:

  • Is the application built to run on Linux (any Linux distribution)?
  • Is the application server-based?
  • Is the application currently commercially available?

rPath currently powers some of the entries in the virtual appliance marketplace, and in general gets good marks for creating a turnkey, customized OS tuned to your needs — and adding must-needed services for virtual appliances, like handling OS updates. If you are working with a non-commercial app, or just want to try to do it yourself, rolling a new custom distribution with rPath isn’t hard at all, but you do have to get used to some of their jargon.

Also check out Billy on Open Source, their CEO’s blog. On his latest entry, he talks about their experiences moving 2 Terabytes of data to Amazon’s S3 system. I’ll be interested to see what they do with Amazon’s virtualized utility compute service EC2.

Our first experience with Amazon’s computing services was when we
migrated all of our virtual appliance images from our NAS at our
datacenter site to Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3). We transferred
1.7 terabytes of images (it has since grown to over 2 terabytes),
redirected all of our web services that control access to the images,
and our rBuilder Online users began receiving their disk images from
Amazon instead of from rPath. Our first monthly bill from Amazon was
about $300, which includes the cost of the bandwidth to serve the
images. We eliminated the need to purchase a very expensive NAS disk
array (about $80K), and freed up our existing NAS storage for other
uses. Amazon is amazing.

Virtual Grids and Resource Pools

If you clicked through on the last post (There is No Spoon), you’ll see that Paul, our intrepid blogger, finished his rant with:

The Von Neumann Architecture is not so much going to die as it is going
to replicate itself so many times it is going to force us to consider
other, more simple and basic ways to configure and run these things we
call computers.

Apropos of this via virtualization.info comes an interview with Kate Keahey of Argonne National Laboratory in GRIDToday:

Converging Virtualization with Distributed Computing.

Virtualization introduces a layer of abstraction that turns the question around from "let’s see what resources are available and figure out if we can adapt our problem to use them" to "here is an environment I need to solve my problem — I want to have it deployed on the grid as described." For a user this is a much simpler question. The issue is whether we can implement the middleware that will map such virtual workspace onto physical resources. One way to implement it would be to provide an automated environment installation on a remote node.

But what really gives this idea a boost is using virtual machine technology to represent such a workspace. This makes the environment easy to describe (you just install it), easy to transport, fast to deploy and, thanks to recent research, very efficient. Best of all, virtual machine management tools nowadays allow you to enforce the resource quantum assigned to a specific virtual machine very accurately — so you could for example test or demo your application in a virtual cluster making sparing use of resources, and redeploy the virtual cluster on a much more powerful resource for production runs. This is another powerful idea behind virtualization: the environment is no longer permanently tied to a specific amount of resource but rather this resource quantum can be adjusted on-demand.

See also the Grid-Appliance from the University of Florida, which won an Honorable Mention in the Ultimate Virtual Appliance Challenge earlier this year. Expect to see much more about resource pools, utility computing, and virtualization over the next year.