Archive for the ‘New Products’ Category

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Short-Take: Windows 7 for iPad, Free

March 9, 2011
Windows7 running on iPad

Windows7 running on iPad

Remember that announcement about View 4.6 and the PCoIP Software Gateway (PSG) a week or so back? If the existence of PSG got your imagination drifting towards running Windows7 over PCoIP on your iPad or Android tablet, then some of you are going to be very excited and some of you will have to wait a little bit longer.

Today VMware is taking mobile desktop to a new level by announcing the general availability of the View Client for iPad V1.0 – Android tablet users will have to wait! This is a iPad-native, PCoIP-only client for View 4.6 environments (i.e. PCoIP w/PSG support) with  gesture-enabled navigation and virtual mouse pad. If you liked accessing your View desktop in Wyse’s PocketCloud for iPhone & iPad (RDP mode only), you’re going to love the View Client for iPad because it unlocks the rich, PCoIP goodness that you’ve been missing.

Last week a group of vExperts were briefed on the iPad app by its development team leader Tedd Fox who came to VMware in August, 2010 after nearly 8 years of work at Citrix (co-inventor/designer of Citrix Reciever for iPad & iPhone). To say Tedd knows iPad/mobile and remote app/desktop is an understatement, and VMware has committed to an aggressive “feature update” schedule for the iPad app on the order of every 1-2 months (typical of mobile application norms.)

Needless to say, we had a few questions. Here’s just a few of the responses from our Q/A and demonstration session:

vExpert: Will there be a iPhone link for touchpad control?

Tedd: No. Due to some patent-pending issues, we decided not to tread on that ground.

vExpert: Has it been enhanced for the iPad2?

Tedd: No. It’s [iOS] 4.3 “ready” but nobody’s got an iPad2 so no one knows if there application’s going to work. We’ve tested on dual-core architecture before, just not Apple’s dual-core architecture.

vExpert: Dual-core tested? So there’s an Android app coming?

Tedd: Android app is coming! We’re looking at mid-year for the Android. I just spent a few weeks in China getting that in alpha-alpha mode; so we actually have a UI and everything – we’re just building-up the bits… it’s going to be tablet only. It works on a 7″ right now, but we’re not sure if that’s a useful form.

vExpert: Is that because it’s too small [i.e. 7″ screen]?

Tedd: It’s because of the mouse pad and everything… it just doesn’t feel right – the resolution and everything.

vExpert: Not even with panning and side scrolling [small screen]?

Tedd: Not really. Panning a windows desktop is “okay” for like 10 minutes, after which you develop something like Tourette syndrome with curse words and all. We actually ran tests on that to figure that out, but it could change [given the right demand/use case.]

vExpert: Will it support bi-directional audio?

Tedd: No, uh, uni-directional is definitely on the roadmap so doctors can dictate and stuff like that. Otherwise, we’re going to see how the protocol matches up for [more complex] audio applications.

vExpert: Can we get more information on the Android app?

Tedd: I don’t want to get into the Android client because everything is still “in flux” and we’re still designing it…

vExpert: Will [View Client for iPad] work with bluetooth mouse and keyboard?

Tedd: Yes… You have to go into the iPad settings and pair them… then with you do the three-finger tap on the screen – like to activate the on-screen keyboard – that’s how you activate the bluetooth keyboard [only, no mouse support per Apple policy], and the [on-screen] toolbar drops down to the bottom of the screen… It’s very nice to use.

vExpert: Will it support multitasking, multiple sessions and session swapping?

Tedd: No. We’re working with Teradici on full-multitasking for one of the feature revs this year.

vExpert: It seemed that logging-in and getting to your desktop seemed pretty quick. What would you say?

Tedd: This [demo] is on 3G – by the way – so it’s fairly quick. The only [downside] is if you’re using RSA tokens: you’ve got to read the token and put it in… If the broker policy allows users to save their passwords, then you’d only need the token code.

vExpert: Is there a way to transfer data to/from the iPad from the [View client desktop]?

Tedd: Working on that – that’ll be in the next rev or two. There’s a grey area there with the shared foldering system in iOS – some people are like “yeah, awesome” but if you talk to DoD they’re like “heck no” so we’re working on an elegant solution.

vExpert: What about dropbox or something like that?

Tedd: If we have an internal solution then yes. I don’t want to be [bound by a third party] on our app – I want to keep it as “pure VMware” as possible. If the market screams for it in enough number, then of course I’m going to listen… If it’s allowed in your desktop’s environment [dropbox will work.]

vExpert: How’s the performance of the View client while other programs are in the background on the iPad?

Tedd: You don’t even notice it. If you know me you know I’ve constantly got white earbuds on. One of my test cases was working on a desktop while running on Pandora in the background.

vExpert: Price is free?

Tedd: Yeah, as long as I’m with VMware it will always be free.

Over the course of the demonstration, we saw Tedd put the application through its paces. It’s fast – even on the original iPad. The gesture interface looks well thought-out, has been thoroughly tested – Tedd says “rock solid” – and repeated three-finger abuses [rapid toggling the keyboard] won’t crash the View iPad app. Can’t wait to get it into SOLORI’s lab…

Gesture Help for iPad View Client

View Client for iPad Keyboard (three-fingers to pop-up)

View for iPad soft mouse pad and cursor keys

 

Client support for tap-hold loupe: zoom near mouse pointer.

Related Links:

[Update: View 4.x -> View 4.6 (iPad Client designed for View 4.6 and PSG). Added community blog link, virtual keyboard and loupe screenshots. Remote add -> Remote app. Added link to Andre’s VDI calculator. Clarification on bluetooth mouse support. Related links section with PCoIP off-load.]

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Short-Take: vCenter Operations, Launched

March 8, 2011

vCenter Operations Standard, Launced Today

I think “launched” is a good description of a product that represents a company’s first release from a product acquisition that was already somewhat mature. No surprising new features, no trend-setting advanced in interface or integration – just a solid, usable “pane of glass” to improve “visibility” into an existing product set. That’s how I’d describe VMware’s “new” vCenter Operations appliance for vSphere.

The product launches initially as a virtual appliance (similar to VMDR, vMA, vCMA, etc.) that enhances vCenter’s ability to track performance, capacity and changes in the vSphere environment. This initial offering is called VMware vCenter Operations Standard and is priced per-VM (I’ll get to those details later.) vCOPS Standard will be available for download and trial beginning March 14, 2011. Here’s how VMware describes it:

Proactively ensure service levels, optimum resource usage and configuration compliance in dynamic virtual and cloud environments with VMware vCenter Operations. Through automated operations management and patented analytics, you benefit from an integrated approach to performance, capacity and configuration management. You’ll gain the intelligence and visibility needed to

  • Get actionable intelligence to automate manual operations processes
  • Gain visibility across infrastructure and applications for rapid problem resolution
  • Proactively ensure optimal resource utilization and virtual/cloud infrastructure performance
  • Get ‘at-a-glance’ views of operational and regulatory compliance across physical and virtual infrastructure.

If you’re like me, that description won’t make you find a place in your strained IT budget for VMware’s new plug-in. Eventually, VMware will find the right messaging to sell this add-on, but let’s see if it can sell itself, shall we? Located deep within a “related whitepaper” there is an indication of how vCOPS differentiates itself from the crowd of “pretty statistics loggers” and delivers some real tasty goodness. I believe this is the real reason why VMware shelled-out $100M for the technology.

Dynamic Thresholds

Yeah, I thought that too. What the heck is a “dynamic threshold” and why do I care? For one thing, it takes VMware two pages of white paper just to describe what a “dynamic threshold” is, let alone describe how it adds value to vCenter. In short, VMware’s statistics logger applies eight proprietary algorithms to live and historical data to “predict” what “normal” operating parameters are for a specific VM, host, cluster, etc. and then make decisions as to whether or not anomalous conditions exist in the present operating state.

vCenter Operations' stats engine tries to see performance data as a seasoned admin would.

Effectively, VMware’s dynamic threshold takes a sophisticated look at the current trend data just like a seasoned IT admin would – except it does it across your entire virtual enterprise every 12 hours and predicts what the next 12 hours should look like. This “prediction” becomes the performance envelope, hour by hour, for the next 12 hours of operation. So long as your virtual object’s performance stays within the envelope, the likelihood of anomalous behaviour is low; however, when it is operating outside the envelope, outliers are likely to trigger performance alarms.

The following transforms are applied to statistical data every 12 hours:

•    An algorithm that can detect linear behaviour patterns (e.g., disk utilization, etc.).
•    An algorithm that can detect metrics that have only two states (e.g., availability measurements).
•    An algorithm that can detect metrics that have a discrete set of values, not a “range” of values, (e.g., “Number of DB User Connections,” “Number of Active JMVs,” etc.).
•    Two different algorithms that can detect cyclical behaviour patterns that are tied to calendar cycles (e.g., weekly, monthly, etc.)
•    Two different algorithms that can detect general non-calendar patterns (e.g., multi-modal)
•    An algorithm that works, not with time-series or frequently measured values, but with sparse data (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly batch data)

VMware claims this approach – to borrow a recently over-used term – “wins” versus typical bell-shape algorithm approaches many times over. In statistical analysis against real-world VM metrics, VMware says typical bell-shape analysis “barely shows up” and, in the few cases where it “wins” the bell-shape approach does so only slightly. In enterprise applications, being able to present “anomalous behaviour” of related systems in opposition can more quickly lead to root-cause identity. Here, VMware demonstrates how anomaly counts for separate, related application tiers can be compared and correlated visually:

Anomaly count comparison across separate tiers. Note "smart alert" gets triggered early in the process (Enterprise Edition).

Eric Sloof at NTPro.NL has posted a video (7 minutes) and screen shots that shows vCenter Operations Standard in operation. While Eric describes vCOPS as a “great new product,” Kendrick Coleman takes issue with VMware’s price model and questions its true value proposition (at least with the “Standard” edition.)

Do Fries Come with That?

From some of the back-peddling overheard in the vExpert pre-launch conference, VMware’s testing the waters on where the product fits at the low-end. Essentially, this is an enterprise class product offering that’s been paired-down to fit into a smaller IT budget. Like most VMware products, a generous “free” trial period will be granted to allow you to try before you buy. However, the introductory price (i.e. official pricing is not posted on VMware’s site) is set at $50/VM (hence Kendrick’s quandary) for up to 500 VMs (about $25K).

Since VMware intends to offer an inclusive pricing scheme, all registered VMs will need to be licensed into the Standard Edition’s footprint. In the vExpert call, there was “talk” about extending analysis only to specific VMs (and allowing for a paired-down licensing footprint) but that is conjecture today. In a typical enterprise where 70-80% of workloads are non-mission critical, the cost and license model for vCOPS could be an obstacle for some – or at least force the use of a separate vCenter and cluster arrangement. Let’s hope VMware comes-up with a mission-critical license model quickly.

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Quick-Take: iPad2 Launched, Features Left on the Drawing Board

March 2, 2011

The iPad2, Available in "Black or White" on March 11, 2011

No doubt that Apple is the 800lb gorilla in the room when it comes to mobile tablets and phones today. With lack-lustre acceptance of the first “official” Android tablet – Motorola’s Xoom – the new aspects of the Apple iPad2, announced today, will surely keep iPad adopters on-board for the next version. Coming March 11, 2011, the new iPad will come in three memory sizes (16, 32 and 64GB) and be available as an WiFi-only variant (802.11a/b/g/n) as well as a Wi-Fi+3G+aGPS variant (UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA/GSM/EDGE or CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A) – both with Bluetooth 2.1+EDR.

Besides coming in a “white” model from “day one,” the iPad2 sports the anticipated Apple A5 dual-core system on chip based on the ARM Cortex-A9 CPU. The 9.7 inch LED-backlit multi-touch display features the coveted IPS display technology that gave the original iPad such great color. Additionally, the iPad2 joins the iPhone4 in the dual-camera club with a front-facing VGA camera (suitable for FaceTime) and a rear-facing HD camera (suitable for 720p, 30 fps video).

Apple's HDMI "mirroring" connector includes pass-through 30-pin port for charging.

Rounding-out the features include HDMI output via proprietary 30-pin to HDMI+30-pin adapter (dongle) supporting video to 1080p. Missing from the “dreamed about” feature list are: high-resolution display, removable media, standard USB ports,  autonomous GPS and near field communications interface. At 0.34 inches thick and 1.33 lbs, the iPad2 shed 0.17 lbs and 0.16 inches in thickness by removing the additional display glass, but it kept the original’s 1024×768 display – a slip behind the standard 1280×800 display profile of Honeycomb-wielding 10″ tablets.

Out of the gate, iPad2 versions will be available for AT&T and Verizon Wireless in the US (although specific launch dates for either carrier are not yet available). The iPad in Business section of the release site looks impressive on the surface. The existing list of business oriented applications for iPad together with the obvious polish of the product represents a real obstacle for its competitors (like QNX-based Blackberry Playbook and Android-based Motorola Xoom).

SOLORI’s Take: The iPad2 represents a conservative update to the existing and wildly successful iPad (over 10M units in 2H 2010). Loyalist iPad users are early adopters, so it’s a no-brainer to predict that 3M iPad2’s will ship in H1/2011 to “iPad1” owners. If it happens, that makes for a solid supply of discarded iPads over the next few months which can actually HELP Apple entrench – giving them an artificial low-end product due to upgrades. Given that there is zero reference to the original iPad on Apple’s site, it’s safe to say that when inventories are gone, iPad2 will be the only game for Apple.

The shortcoming for iPad2 over its Android contenders is physical standards. I mentioned the screen resolution as compared to Android Honeycomb standard, but the Blackberry Playbook comes in under both devices at 1024×600 (last year’s “unofficial” Android tablet standard). While the Playbook is lighter at 0.9 lbs, it’s also smaller (and 0.1″ thicker) – more of a challenger for Galaxy Tab than iPad. Most of the Tegra2 tablets have mini-USB (some have full-size USB) and offer either mini-HDMI or full-size HDMI ports – either on-board or through a docking port. It’s rumoured that Apple has locked-up the IPS display market, but at 1024×768, those opting for higher resolution may turn to Android competitors for more desktop real estate.

Besides matching iPad2 feature-for-feature, Tegra2 Android tablets represent a serious threat (technologically) to iPad2. Another issue is storage: nearly every Android comes with both removable and built-in memory options – something neither iPad or Blackberry offer. In a business world, the ability to quickly exchange data without using WiFi or 3G/4G is huge – especially where remote access applications are concerned. That makes iPad dependent on its wireless carriers and WiFi/hot-spots for data exchange (or docking/undocking to notebook, laptop, etc.) The removable memory feature also allows enterprises to purchase the low-end memory configuration and supplement them with third-party memory or require end-users to supply their own.

Where iPad2 has the biggest advantage is turn-key applications through Apple’s iTunes market, and this is something they’re pressing heavily in today’s marketing message. Forget the clever iPad2 cover, its applications that ultimately make the product valuable to business. If Apple can stay ahead here, enterprise will follow. Unfortunately, Apple may find its “hatred” for Adobe’s Flash a position that could erode its market faster than anything else. Flash could be the great equalizer (or market accelerator) for Android and Blackberry, allowing businesses to rely on web-apps instead of native ones… in the meantime, Google has the clout and growth rate to compel all but the staunchest of application vendors to play both sides of the split market.

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Quick-Take: VMware View 4.6 and PCoIP Software Gateway

March 1, 2011

VMware View 4.6 has been released. Andre Leibovici has a nice summary of the PCoIP Software Gateway (PSG) functionality – new in 4.6 – that finally allows PCoIP to be negotiated without external VPN tunnels.

VMware View 4.6 has been just released and as everyone expected this release introduces support for external secure remote access with PCoIP, without requirement for a SSL VPN. This feature is also known as View Secure Gateway Server. VMware’s Mark Benson, in his blog article, does a very good job explaining why tunnelling PCoIP traffic through the Security Server using SSL was never a viable solution because VMware didn’t want to interfere with the advanced performance characteristics of the protocol.

Andre Leibovici – myvirtualcloud.net

Other enhancements in the 4.6 release include:

  • Enhanced USB device compatibility – View 4.6 supports USB redirection for syncing and managing iPhones and iPads with View desktops. This release also includes improvements for using USB scanners, and adds to the list of USB printers that you can use with thin clients. For more information, see the list of View Client resolved issues.
  • Keyboard mapping improvements – Many keyboard-related issues have been fixed. For more information, see the list of View Client resolved issues.
  • New timeout setting for SSO users – With the single-sign-on (SSO) feature, after users authenticate to View Connection Server, they are automatically logged in to their View desktop operating systems. This new timeout setting allows administrators to limit the number of minutes that the SSO feature is valid for.For example, if an administrator sets the time limit to 10 minutes, then 10 minutes after the user authenticates to View Connection Server, the automatic login ability expires. If the user then walks away from the desktop and it becomes inactive, when the user returns, the user is prompted for login credentials. For more information, see the VMware View Administration documentation.
  • VMware View 4.6 includes more than 160 bug fixes – For descriptions of selected resolved issues, see Resolved Issues.
  • Support for Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 operating systems

SOLORI’s Take: The addition of WAN-enabled PCoIP functionality takes VMware’s flagship desktop protocol to the next level. However, considerable tuning at the PCoIP desktop agent is necessary for most WAN configurations. The upside is the solution maintains PCoIP’s UDP basis without tunneling inside TCP.

Since PCoIP has always been AES encrypted by default, this is not really an issue of security but one of performance and delivery. Right-sizing the PCoIP payload for the intended WAN application will be challenging for most, so expect to see PSG use in campus-wide applications where security of PCoIP (UDP) has been difficult.

For a twist on PSG using Internet connections with dynamically assigned IP addresses, check-out Gabe’s Virtual World post – powershell included!

[updated to include links to VMware’s View release notes, and link to Gabe’s post.]

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Short-Take: New Oracle/Sun ZFS Goodies

November 17, 2010

I wanted to pass-on some information posted by Joerg Moellenkamp at c0t0d0s0.org – some good news for Sun/ZFS users out there about Solaris Express 2010.11 availability, links to details on ZFS encryption features in Solaris 11 Express and clarification on “production use” guidelines. Here’s the pull quotes from his posting:

“Darren (Moffat) wrote three really interesting articles about ZFS encryption: The first one is Introducing ZFS Crypto in Oracle Solaris 11 Express. This blog entry gives you a first overview how to use encryption for ZFS datasets. The second one…”

–  Darren Moffat about ZFS encryption, c0t0d0s0.org, 11-16-2010

“There is a long section in the FAQ about licensing and production use: The OTN license just covers development, demo and testing use (Question 14) . However you can use Solaris 11 Express on your production system as well…”

Solaris 11 Express for production use, c0t0d0s0.org, 11-16-2010

“A lot of changes found their way into the newest release of Solaris, the first release of Oracle Solaris Express 2010.11. The changes are summarized in a lengthy document, however…”

What’s new for the Administrator in Oracle Solaris  Express 2010.11, c0t0d0s0.org, 11-15-2010

Follow the links to Joerg’s blog for more details and links back to the source articles. Cheers!

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VMware Management Assistant Panics on Magny Cours

August 11, 2010

VMware’s current version of its vSphere Management Assistant – also known as vMA (pronounced “vee mah”) – will crash when run on an ESX host using AMD Magny Cours processors. This behavior was discovered recently when installing the vMA on an AMD Opteron 6100 system (aka. Magny Cours) causing a “kernel panic” on boot after deploying the OVF template. Something of note is the crash also results in 100% vCPU utilization until the VM is either powered-off or reset:

vMA Kernel Panic on Import

vMA Kernel Panic on Import

As it turns out, no manner of tweaks to the virtual machine’s virtualization settings nor OS boot/grub settings (i.e. noapic, etc.) seem to cure the ills for vMA. However, we did discover that the OVF deployed appliance was configured as a VMware Virtual Machine Hardware Version 4 machine:

vMA 4.1 defaults to Hardware Version 4

vMA 4.1 defaults to Virtual Machine Hardware Version 4

Since our lab vMA deployments have all been upgraded to Virtual Machine Harware Version 7 for some time (and for functional benefits as well), we tried to update the vMA to Version 7 and try again:

Upgrade vMA Virtual Machine Version...

Upgrade vMA Virtual Machine Version...

This time, with Virtual Hardware Version 7 (and no other changes to the VM), the vMA boots as it should:

vMA Booting after Upgrade to Virtual Hardware Version 7

vMA Booting after Upgrade to Virtual Hardware Version 7

Since the Magny Cours CPU is essentially a pair of tweaked 6-core Opteron CPUs in a single package, we took the vMA into the lab and deployed it to an ESX server running on AMD 2435 6-core CPUs: the vMA booted as expected, even with Virtual Hardware Version 4. A quick check of the community and support boards show a few issues with older RedHat/Centos kernels (like vMA’s) but no reports of kernel panic with Magny Cours. Perhaps there are just not that many AMD Opteron 6100 deployments out there with vMA yet…

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Quick-Take: vSphere 4, Now with SUSE Enterprise Linux, Gratis

July 16, 2010

Earlier this month VMware announced that it was expanding its partnership with Novell in order to offer a 1:1 CPU enablement license for SLES. Mike Norman’s post at VirtualizationPractice.com discusses the potential “darker side” of the deal, which VMware presents this way:

VMware and Novell are expanding their technology partnership to make it easier for customers to use SLES operating system in vSphere environments with support offerings that will help your organization:

  • Reduce the cost of maintaining SLES in vSphere environments
  • Obtain direct technical support from VMware for both vSphere and SLES
  • Simplify your purchasing and deployment experience

In addition, VMware plans to standardize our virtual appliance-based products on SLES for VMware further simplifying the deployment and ongoing management of these solutions.

  • Customers will receive SLES with one (1) entitlement for a subscription to patches and updates per qualified VMware vSphere SKU. For example, if a customer were to buy 100 licenses of a qualified vSphere Enterprise Plus SKU, that customer would receive SLES with one hundred (100) entitlements for subscription to patches and updates.
  • Customers cannot install SLES with the accompanying patches and updates subscription entitled by a VMware purchase 1) directly on physical servers or 2) in virtual machines running on third party hypervisors.
  • Technical support for SLES with the accompanying patches and updates subscription entitled by a VMware purchase is not included and may be purchased separately from VMware starting in 3Q 2010.

– VMware Website, 6/2010

The part about standardization has been emphasized by us – not VMware – but it seems to be a good fit with VMware’s recent acquisition of Zimbra (formerly owned by Yahoo!) and the release of vSphere 4.1 with “cloud scale” implications. That said, the latest version of the VMware Data Recovery appliance has been recast from RedHat to CentOS with AD integration, signaling that it will take some time for VMware to transition to Novell’s SUSE Linux.

SOLORI’s Take: Linux-based virtual appliances are a great way to extend features and control without increasing license costs. Kudus to VMware for hopping on-board the F/OSS train. Now where’s my Linux-based vCenter with a Novell Directory Services for Windows alternative to Microsoft servers?

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vSphere 4 Update 2 Released

June 11, 2010

VMware vSphere 4, Update 2 has been released with the following changes to ESXi:

The following information provides highlights of some of the enhancements available in this release of VMware ESXi:

  • Enablement of Fault Tolerance Functionality for Intel Xeon 56xx Series processors— vSphere 4.0 Update 1 supports the Intel Xeon 56xx Series processors without Fault Tolerance. vSphere 4.0 Update 2 enables Fault Tolerance functionality for the Intel Xeon 56xx Series processors.
  • Enablement of Fault Tolerance Functionality for Intel i3/i5 Clarkdale Series and Intel Xeon 34xx Clarkdale Series processors— vSphere 4.0 Update 1 supports the Intel i3/i5 Clarkdale Series and Intel Xeon 34xx Clarkdale Series processors without Fault Tolerance. vSphere 4.0 Update 2 enables Fault Tolerance functionality for the Intel i3/i5 Clarkdale Series and Intel Xeon 34xx Clarkdale Series processors.
  • Enablement of IOMMU Functionality for AMD Opteron 61xx and 41xx Series processors— vSphere 4.0 Update 1 supports the AMD Opteron 61xx and 41xx Series processors without input/output memory management unit (IOMMU). vSphere 4.0 Update 2 enables IOMMU functionality for the AMD Opteron 61xx and 41xx Series processors.
  • Enhancement of the resxtop utility— vSphere 4.0 U2 includes an enhancement of the performance monitoring utility, resxtop. The resxtop utility now provides visibility into the performance of NFS datastores in that it displays the following statistics for NFS datastores: Reads/swrites/sMBreads/sMBwrtn/scmds/sGAVG/s (guest latency).
  • Additional Guest Operating System Support— ESX/ESXi 4.0 Update 2 adds support for Ubuntu 10.04. For a complete list of supported guest operating systems with this release, see the VMware Compatibility Guide.

Resolved Issues In addition, this release delivers a number of bug fixes that have been documented in theResolved Issues section.

ESXi 4 Update 2 Release Notes

Noted in the release is the official support for AMD’s IOMMU in Opteron 6100 and 4100 processors – available in 1P, 2P and 4P configurations. This finally closes the (functional) gap between AMD Opteron and Intel’s Nehalem line-up. Likewise, FT support for many new Intel processors has been added. Also, the addition of NFS performance counters in ESXTop will make storage troubleshooting a bit easier. Grab you applicable update at VMware’s download site now (SnS required.)

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Quick-Take: AMD Dodeca-core Opteron, Real Soon Now

March 3, 2010

In a recent blog, John Fruehe recounted a few highlights from the recent server analyst event at AMD/Austin concerning the upcoming release of AMD’s new 12-core (dodeca) Opteron 6100 series processor – previously knows as Magny-Cours. While not much “new” was officially said outside of NDA privilege, here’s what we’re reading from his post:

1. Unlike previous launches, AMD is planning to have “boots on the ground” this time with vendors and supply alignments in place to be able to ship product against anticipated demand. While it is now well known that Magny-Cours has been shipping to certain OEM and institutional customers for some time, our guess is that 2000/8000 series 6-core HE series have been hard to come by for a reason – and that reason has 12-cores not 6;

Obviously the big topic was the new AMD Opteron™ 6000 Series platforms that will be launching very soon.  We had plenty of party favors – everyone walked home with a new 12-core AMD Opteron 6100 Series processor, code name “Magny-Cours”.

– Fruehe on AMD’s pending launch

2. Timing is right! With Intel’s Nehalem-EX 8-core and Core i7/Nehalem-EP 6-core being demoed about, there is more pressure than ever for AMD to step-up with a competitive player. Likewise, DDR3 is neck-and-neck with DDR2 in affordability and way ahead with low-power variants that more than compensate for power-hungry CPU profiles. AMD needs to deliver mainstream performance in 24-cores and 96GB DRAM within the power envelope of 12-cores and 64GB to be a player. With 1.35V DDR3 parts paired to better power efficiency in the 6100, this could be a possibility;

We demonstrated a benchmark running on two servers, one based on the Six-Core AMD Opteron processor codenamed “Istanbul,” and one 12-core “Magny-Cours”-based platform.  You would have seen that the power consumption for the two is about the same at each utilization level.  However, there is one area where there was a big difference – at idle.  The “Magny-Cours”-based platform was actually lower!

– AMD’s Fruehe on Opteron 6100’s power consumption

3. Performance in scaled virtualization matters – raw single-threaded performance is secondary. In virtual architectures, clusters of systems must perform as one in an orchestrated ballet of performance and efficiency seeking. For some clusters, dynamic load migration to favour power consumption is a priority – relying on solid power efficiency under high load conditions. For other clusters, workload is spread to maximize performance available to key workloads – relying on solid power efficiency under generally light loads. For many environments, multi-generational hardware will be commonplace and AMD is counting on its wider range of migration compatibility to hold-on to customers that have not yet jumped ship for Intel’s Nehalem-EP/EX.

“We demonstrated Microsoft Hyper-V running on two different servers, one based on a Quad-Core AMD Opteron processor codenamed “Barcelona” (circa 2007) and a brand new “Magny-Cours”-based system. …companies might have problems moving a 2010 VM to a 2007 server without limiting the VM features. (For example, in order to move a virtual machine from an Intel  “Nehalem”-based system to a “Harpertown” [or earlier] platform, the customer must not enable nested paging in the “Nehalem” virtual machine, which can reduce the overall performance of the VM.)”

– AMD’s Fruehe, extolling the virtues of Opteron generational compatibility

SOLORI’s Take: It would appear that Magny-Cours has more under the MCM hood than a pair of Istanbul processors (as previously charged.) To manage better idle performance and constant power performance in spite of a two-to-one core ratio and similar 45nm process, AMD’s process and feature set must include much better power management as well, however, core speed is not one of them. With the standard “Maranello” 6100 series coming in at 1.9, 2.1 and 2.2 GHz with an HE variant at 1.7GHz and SE version running at 2.3GHz, finding parity in an existing cluster of 2.4, 2.6 and 2.8 GHz six-core servers may be difficult. Still, Maranello/G34 CPUs will be at 85, 115 and 140W TDP.

That said, Fruehe has a point on virtualization platform deployment and processor speed: it is not necessary to trim-out an entire farm with top-bin parts – only a small portion of the cluster needs to operate with top-band performance marks. The rest of the market is looking for predictable performance, scalability and power efficiency per thread. While SMT makes a good run at efficiency per thread, it does so at the expense of predictable performance. Here’s hoping that AMD’s C1E (or whatever their power-sipping special sauce will be called) does nothing to interfere with predictable performance…

As we’ve said before, memory capacity and bandwidth (as a function of system power and core/thread capacity) are key factors in a CPU’s viability in a virtualization stack. With 12 DIMM slots per CPU (3-DPC, 4-channel), AMD inherits an enviable position over Intel’s current line-up of 2P solutions by being able to offer 50% more memory per cluster node without resorting to 8GB DIMMs. That said, it’s up to OEM’s to deliver rack server designs that feature 12 DIMM per CPU and not hold-back with only 8 DIMM variants. In the blade and 1/2-size market, cramming 8 DIMM per board (effectively 1-DPC for 2P Magny-Cours) can be a challenge let alone 24 DIMMs! Perhaps we’ll see single-socket blades with 12 DIMMs (12-cores, 48/96GB DDR3) or 2P blades with only one 12 DIMM memory bank (one-hop, NUMA) in the short term.

SOLORI’s 2nd Take: It makes sense that AMD would showcase their leading OEM partners because their success will be determined on what those OEM’s bring to market. With VDI finally poised to make a big market impact, we’d expect to see the first systems delivered with 2-DPC configurations (8 DIMM per CPU, economically 2.5GB/core) which could meet both VDI and HPC segments equally. However, with Window7 gaining momentum, what’s good for HPC might not cut it for long in the VDI segment where expectations of 4-6 VM’s per core at 1-2GB/VM are mounting.

Besides the launch date, what wasn’t said was who these OEM’s are and how many systems they’ll be delivering at launch. Whoever they are, they need to be (1) financially stronger than AMD, (2) in an aggressive marketing position with respect to today’s key growth market (server and desktop virtualization), and (3) willing to put AMD-based products “above the fold” on their marketing and e-commerce initiatives. AMD needs to “represent” in a big way before a tide of new technologies makes them yesterday’s news. We have high hopes that AMD’s recent “perfect” execution streak will continue.

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NexentaStor 3.0 Announced

March 2, 2010

Nexenta Systems announced it’s 3.0 iteration at CeBIT and in a press release this week and has provided a few more details about how the next version is shaping-up. Along with the previously announced deduplication features, the NexentaStor 3.0 edition will include several enhancements to accelerate performance and virtualization applications:

  • In-line deduplication for increased storage savings (virtual machine templates, clones, etc.);
  • Broader support for 10GE adapters and SAS-2 (6Gbps, zoning, etc.) adapters;
  • Replication enhancements to simplify disaster recovery implementations;
  • An updated Virtual Machine Data Center (VMDC v3.0) optional plug-in with VMware, Xen and Hyper-V support (storage-centric control of virtual machine resource provisioning and management);

Additionally, Nexenta is promising easier high-availability (Simple and HA cluster) provisioning for mission critical implementations. Existing NexentaStor license holders will be able to upgrade to NexentaStor 3.0 at no additional cost. Nexenta Systems plans to make NexentaStor 3.0 available by the end of March 2010.

As a Nexenta partner, Solution Oriented will provide clients with valid NexentaStor support contracts upgrade guidance once NexentaStor 3.0 has been released and tested against SOLORI stable image storage platforms. As always, Nexenta’s VMware Ready virtual storage appliance should be your first step in evaluating upgrade potential.