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Virtual Storage Appliances VS. Desktop Replacement Virtualization

January 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Lately, I have had customers asking me about VDI architectures that use VSAs (Virtual Storage Appliances). The reason for using VSAs as local storage for virtual desktops is usually to avoid using expensive Storage Area Networks (SANs). In response, first let me define what VSA is, and then I’ll discuss why people should always reconsider a VSA approach, especially when thinking about replacing physical desktops with virtual desktops. 

A VSA is a software product that transforms the internal local storage from several server hosts into a single shared storage volume resource.  Sounds like a dream piece of software right?  The benefit of VSAs is that they allow a virtualized environment to take advantage of local storage, along with a multitude of different applications, without incurring the high cost of shared storage. They assert themselves by taking all the local storage resources and making them appear as if they are a single volume for all the hosts to use. VSAs accomplish this by re-routing all the traffic to utilize the virtual storage.

In the past, VSAs were generally intended for small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) that wanted to circumvent the high costs associated with SANs.  VSAs have many limitations, including the number of VSAs that can be reliably managed, so scalability becomes an issue.  The typical guidance has been, if you are small – use VSA, and if you grow – get a SAN.  However, some VSA vendors have now moved past the SMBs for a stab at mid- and enterprise markets.

Unintended Consequences of VSAs

Because of the way that VSAs are implemented, extra overhead is added via software to re-route requests from the virtual desktops to the storage.  One of the very misunderstood unintended consequences of the extra overhead is an increase in context switching. A context switch is the computing process of storing and restoring the state (context) of a CPU so that execution can be resumed from the same point at a later time. 

Unfortunately, the addition of increased context switching via software is like putting ice skates on a track star and asking him to sprint. It’s simply not needed and plagues the performance of the machine.  VSAs do this and therefore cannot work in a world clamoring for true desktop replacement grade virtual desktops, which need to be as fast as or faster than physical desktops.

In this attention-deficit world in which we live, I want on-demand highly responsive computing whenever and wherever, on whatever hardware is accessible. VSAs simply add to the slow inflexible computing world and cannot live in a fast desktop replacement virtual desktop world.

For V3 Systems, VSAs are not an acceptable approach for the high performance demands of virtual desktops. Why not just communicate directly with the storage? If your storage is local, fast enough, and has the needed capacity, why would you ever put another layer of software in front of it? V3 and desktop replacement grade virtualization is no respecter of persons. Every organization can take advantage of the benefits of our V3 Appliances with amazing results. We at V3 have successfully helped many organizations overcome the hurdles of legacy VDI thinking and move forward to true desktop replacement grade virtualizations.  

V3 is in the business of replacing all types of physical desktops with faster virtual desktops. Put simply, our goal is to liberate people from the tyranny of slow inflexible computing and provide virtual desktops for every human on the planet.

This revolution of desktop replacement grade virtualization is the liberation of the physical desktop, and V3 Systems is leading the way.

Categories: Uncategorized

From Desktop Administrator to Virtual Desktop Administrator

January 9, 2013 Leave a comment

To risk sounding like Yoda: “Needs bring change, change brings progress, progress brings evolution. Evolution brings balance.”  Say good-bye to desktop administrators as we now know them.  

The desktop administrator’s role in the computer world is evolving on a major scale.  Why the change?  The desktop admin’s current role will increase greatly in a world full of virtual desktops that replace physical desktops.  This role will have to evolve and change in order to manage all the new cloud services demanded by future users. 

The new world of desktop replacement virtualization (DRV) invites the true concept of ubiquitous computing, where users will have the ability to consume computing resources anytime, anywhere, on any device, always tailored to them. These on-demand virtual desktop services will simply be accessed from the cloud, much like storage or networking today. As you can imagine, the management of these services will grow exponentially alongside the skills needed to manage these services.  

I believe that we already have the foundational skills needed, and they are found in a role common to all organizations: the desktop administrator.  To understand, let’s take a quick recap of who currently owns the world of virtualization and on-demand computing resources today.

Unbalance of Power in today's Virtualization

The Current “Unbalance” of Power in Virtualization

In today’s server virtualization environments, all the power and decision-making responsibility currently sits within the storage and infrastructure roles.  That is, all the decision-making happens in the server and infrastructure areas because this is where all the components of virtualization live. This is always going to be true for server virtualization.

 But what about desktop virtualization which enables personal cloud computing? Ironically, today’s desktop administrators have little or no decision-making role in this area, and yet they are the ones asked to create the images and policies needed for the virtual desktop environment.  In virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) today, the technology decision-makers are the SAN and Infrastructure administrators. As shown in the “balance of power” pyramid below, we live in a world dictated by storage needs and not desktop computing needs.

Balance of Power for VDI Today Where Storage Rules

Balance of Power for VDI today where Storage Rules

The “Re-Balance” of Power

Simply asked, why should virtual desktop decisions be dictated by storage admins?  Virtual desktops and specifically DRV virtual desktops should be managed in the same management ecosystem or perspective as the physical desktops. Control over virtual desktops should be dictated by need and placed squarely with the virtual desktop administrator, where it belongs. The relevancy of the desktop admin now grows exponentially and evolves into a virtual desktop administrator.

Change and evolution of this role is a good thing — it means that we are getting better and more refined skill sets and job opportunities. In the world of true desktop replacement virtualization, where virtual desktops run as fast as or faster than physical desktops, the new virtual desktop administrator can also put to rest any fear or uncertainties around job obsolescence. As shown below, a “balance” of power will return to the virtual desktop administrator. Everyone will play their own key role in desktop virtualization. Just as the virtual desktop administrator will manage the virtual desktop resources, the storage, network, and infrastructure admins will do the same for their responsibilities.

Re-Balance of Power for Virtual Desktops in the Future

Re-balance of Power for Virtual Desktops in the Future

The New Virtual Desktop Professional

I see the virtual desktop administrator of the future as having the lion’s share of power over his or her area of responsibility, making sure that people using these virtual desktops are in the correct pools, which are mapped with the correct resources. Storage, infrastructure and network admins will be there to offer services working together as equal parts of a team, but not dictating how the virtual desktops should be architected or implemented.

Unbalance always feels off and generally yields the same results.  Those of us who already use a DRV virtual machine from a V3 Appliance as our primary desktop have already experienced this balance. We are done with an unbalanced virtual desktop world which, at its best, can only yield virtual desktops acting as a supplement to a physical desktop or laptop. 

Gartner forecasted this shift many years ago in their infrastructure optimization model as, “enabling increased efficiencies derived from a balanced infrastructure by moving from cost center to strategic asset.” The combination of DRV managed by a virtual desktop administrator on a V3 Appliance out-of-the-box will enable any given organization to become a strategic asset, and the desktop administrator to re-affirm their role as a vital 1st class citizen in the IT organization.

I believe 2012 will truly be the year of the virtual desktop administrator. Congrats to those desktop administrators who are currently making the transition over to a virtual desktop administrator, and a warm welcome to those on their way!

 

Desktop Cloud Computing for the Cloud Generation is Now On-Demand

January 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Early in my career at Microsoft we all received a book called, “Business @ the Speed of Thought” by Bill Gates. In it he described many of the factors and business decisions that made Microsoft what it has become. One of the chapters was titled: “Adopt the Web Lifestyle.” In this chapter, I remember reading an excerpt that, at the time, seemed very far reaching and yet describes our world today.

“Within a decade most Americans and many other people around the world will be living the Web lifestyle. It will be a reflex for these people to turn to the Web to get news, find entertainment, and to communicate. It will be just as natural as picking up the phone to talk to somebody or ordering something from a catalog is today. The Web will be used to pay your bills, manage your finances, communicate with your doctor, and conduct any business. Just as naturally, you’ll carry one or more small devices using a wireless connection to stay constantly in touch and conduct electronic business wherever you are.”

I think we can all agree that Bill Gate’s vision of the web lifestyle was right on. Quite simply, Bill’s description of the web lifestyle is how many of us live today. I also believe that he and many other visionaries have helped set the stage for the next generation, which is even more exciting than the web lifestyle. This next generation user is growing up in a world being defined as the “Cloud Generation”.

The Cloud Generation has demands.

My children are a part of this growing cloud generation where they don’t need to care where their data is stored as long as it can be accessed at any time. Everything is now on-demand. This new cloud generation persona dictates when they want it, where they want it, on whatever device they choose, and it is always where they left it. Dropbox, iCloud, and Amazon are part of this daily computing experience. The only issue is that most of the current cloud services used by people have been centered on data storage and data connectivity. What about data creation?

Unfortunately, we still live in a world where many data creation devices are stagnant legacy physical computing devices like laptops and desktops.

Meanwhile, we also have this convergence of a new breed of cloud-connected devices like tablets, e-readers, and smartphones. To get what they want out of the web today most people have both old and new devices, but I believe that this comes with a price. The price we pay for this is that we have data in multiple locations, both local and in the cloud. Where is central data management at the personal level? Why is this still acceptable? While there are apps that help with this, they are not being developed at the rate people are acquiring new devices.

I am frustrated every time I look for a file and can’t find it because it was created and stored on another device.

Convergence will force us to evolve.

I know that this cloud means something different to everyone, and yet that is the best part about it.  Clouds are formed by convergent winds rising from a low pressure area.Desktop

Convergence, converge, converging is defined as

Verb:

1- (of several people or things) Come together from different directions so as eventually to meet

2- Come from different directions and meet at (a place)

Technology Clouds.

Infrastructure clouds, application clouds, and data clouds are either already here or being developed as I write this. In the past, the convergence of users, devices and infrastructure has been a delicate balancing act. Today, the cloud allows us to get all the benefits without the balancing act. This means that in a cloud, users get to dictate what they want. While in the case of a corporation, they also get central data management. It will still take time and careful steps to ensure that this happens correctly.  So to sum it up, in the immortal words of “Dr. Leo Marvin,” we need to take “baby steps” to make sure the evolution and access to, and interaction with, the cloud is correct. I cloud, I clouded, I am clouding, I am a clouder…

I believe the first step in this evolution requires defining a new way to offer end user computing in the most flexible and simple way. Yes, virtualization technologies will shape the underlying foundations here, but a different perspective is needed to make this happen. We have always taken proven technologies and evolved them to meet the needs, not the demands, of the day.

The technology is here to make this a reality. But in order for it to work as the primary computing for the cloud generation, it first must adhere to some fundamental elements.

Fundamental elements:Desktop Cloud Computing

User Experience

Application Flexibility

Device Variety

On-Demand Availability

Offline Compute

User Experience: The cloud generation demands performance and quick response. A cloud desktop must have the ability to outperform a physical desktop in order to get used; otherwise it will turn into a supplemental desktop at best. Applications of all types (doesn’t matter which) should enable increased productivity.

Application Flexibility: Applications must still work in the way that users are familiar with, regardless of whether they are in the cloud or not. The cloud should enhance the way a user interacts with the applications, making users more productive.

Device Variety: The cloud generation places very high demands on the many types of devices in the marketplace, but each user dictates what device they want to use and where they want to use it.

On-Demand Availability:  The cloud generation will not accept any downtime. The end user dictates when they use the computing resources, regardless of the time of day.

Offline Compute: A user may choose online or offline options for computing. This allows users to compute even when there is no connection to the cloud. When an offline connection is being restored, a cloud desktop will automatically synchronize the user’s data in the cloud so the user always has the latest up-to-date changes. The user will never have to worry about multiple copies of data again.

I realize that these are the first of many fundamental elements that will shape, define, and enable how we use and manage the cloud. The cloud is a very exciting place to be. It’s like the first time I made my first web service calls across the web. Sure it was SOAP (simple object access protocol), but who cares because it was so cool to interact with an application across the web. Today I fear that those who don’t embrace these cloud concepts, or those who want to hold onto old methods for computing, will find themselves having it defined for them. That, or they can hang with those who embraced the mainframe lifestyle and now live on some secret government installation off the grid.

I work at V3 Systems which is in the business of providing Desktop Cloud Computing and buddy, business is a-booming. The wave of the cloud generation has their demands and we at V3 are up to the task of providing the first wave of desktop cloud infrastructure which enables desktop cloud computing. Simply, here at V3 we believe that in order for this to begin to work, we must guarantee that users will have the correct user experience, device flexibility, on-demand availability, with offline capabilities (if the user chooses).

The guarantees we now deliver will help usher in this wave of cloud computing and the generation of cloud users. Don’t believe me? Call us, and we’ll get you a test account so you can experience it for yourself.

Pinterest Verification Added to Webmaster Tools

January 9, 2013 Leave a comment

nice work.. pinterest taking over..

The WordPress.com Blog

Pinterest Verification Lots of you have been asking about website verification for Pinterest — the process that tells Pinterest that you own the website listed in your profile. Once your site is verified, your blog’s URL appears on your profile and in search results alongside the nifty little “Verified!” checkmark.

We’ve now added Pinterest to the list of webmaster tools we support. Verifying your blog with Pinterest is as easy as cutting and pasting a single line of code and hitting “save.”

(There I am, all verified. Don’t I look like a power user?)

If the idea of having to deal with code makes your nervous, don’t worry; our simple instructions tell you exactly what to put where. In less than a minute, you can have a checkmark of your very own, letting your followers know that you’re a trusted source of finding awesome stuff on the internet.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Application Liberation from Costa Rica

I thought this was awesome to show the flexibility of a virtual desktop from V3 systems. Just to set the stage, I was sitting in a yoga retreat style resort called DoceLunas in Jaco.. and I needed to get some work done. I pulled up pandora on my ipad and it said sorry not available in this country. Bummer!  So i fired up my virtual machine to get some files and pandora was already loaded in the browser.. This was my experience:

Categories: Uncategorized

It’s Official – I am leaving Fusion-io

March 1, 2011 1 comment

In the midst of all the great stuff happening in the tech industry I have made the decision to leave Fusion-io and start the next chapter. I grew up in the tech as a developer and so focusing on hardware has been a huge, yet valuable learning curve. This has led me to my next move which is to build VDI solutions using technologies like Fusion-io. I have chosen to work with a company called V3 Systems who has created a VDI purpose-built appliance to deliver the fastest virtual desktops in the marketplace. This is the last frontier of items targeted for the cloud.

VDI is nothing new in fact its been around for the last 10-15 years or so  which makes this move even more compelling. The problem that has plagued organizations is that Virtual desktops have not worked as well as the many vendors claim. They are slow and clunky and do not offer the cost savings or simplicity needed deploy such a solution. Pilot, fail, pilot, fail is a very common theme among those who have tried VDI.  They are slow because of de-coupled or network attached storage as well a latency added by the networking needed. The soaring costs of  current VDI solutions add to this intense issue of which organizations cry out for a VDI that works. I know that was a little dramatic, but it’s still real.

V3 systems offers a new direction and architecture to VDI that allows it to work very very well.  The key breakthrough here is using local storage instead of network attached, second a combination between hardware and software. Hardware that allows for insanely fast access and software to manage and optimize the hardware.  Their single appliance approach eliminates the need of over complex networking ,  hosts with HBAs, and SANs to provide VDI. The power is in the fact that a single stratosphere appliance from V3 to serve 50-400 virtual desktops.

Anyway there are some great things to come and I am very grateful for the opportunities in front of me. I want to thank everyone that I worked with at Fusion-io and wish them the absolute best of luck in the upcoming months. My last day at Fusion-io will be Friday March 4th..

 

Categories: Uncategorized

V3 Systems at Demo

March 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Yesterday marked a huge milestone for V3 systems where we launched the general availability of the Stratosphere line of VDI Appliances. Peter Bookman, CEO of V3 Systems did a great job explaining what the benefits are as well as what the Stratosphere appliance does. Here is the video:

http://www.demo.com/alumni/demo2011/234784.html

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized