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AMD No Good For Virtual Desktops? August 23, 2013

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I wrote some time ago that virtual desktops were not ready for civil engineering firms. I then reversed myself by saying that perhaps they soon will be after seeing that there were going to be advances in graphics hardware for virtual desktop graphics. In fact, this year at VMWorld I see that there are several sessions dedicated to this very topic. Still, at our firm, our physical desktops are still running quite well, and I see no compelling reason to make the move to virtual desktops just yet. However, for the clients of our electronic debris ticketing system, virtual desktops could be quite useful. It is for that very reason that I was tasked with creating a very small View environment so that we could present virtual desktops to our clients, giving them quicker access to their data. Along the way, I discovered something very interesting.

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Living Under a Rock August 21, 2013

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I feel like I’m starting from scratch. Life happened, and had me in maintenance mode for over a year (you like that? maintenance mode? ehh, ehh, ehh….ehhhh no,). My work duties took a weird shift for a while, and I’ve had precious little time to explore virtualization as I once did. In the midst of it all I spent three months in Long Island helping a county there with our company’s electronic debris ticketing system. Even though I was tasked during that time with creating a very small view environment for our clients to use to access Filemaker, between my client support roles and everything else that has been going on, I’m only now nearing completion of that project. I fell off the face of the virtual planet. I didn’t even go to VMWorld last year. Now that I’ve decided to try to give it another go, I feel like I’ve been left behind. I even tweeted earlier that I wish there were some sessions at VMWorld this year for guys who have been living under an IT rock for the last year or so, and that’s precisely what it has felt like. It’s been more than a year of mere maintaining and sweating the small stuff. Now I’m trying to crawl back out from under that rock – and not just with this blog or my twitter account or any of the other superfluous stuff. I need to be updated like a standalone Windows XP SP1 box, and this blog is going to be my WSUS server (man, I’m on a roll with the metaphors). (more…)

Traveling Light – Surviving VMworld by Eliminating Excess August 19, 2013

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Now that I’m done exploring what kept me from blogging, on to the helpful stuff!

This year, I will be attending my 3rd VMWorld conference. It will be my second time attending in San Francisco (the last time I attended was VMWorld

2011 in Las Vegas). My expierences with the last two conferences I attended have given me some things to think about regarding travel and preparation
for the trip. As always, what follows is what works for me, but hopefully it will be helpful to others as well.

I’ve recently been bitten by a bug, metaphorically. I get bitten by lots of bugs – the “clothing nerd” bug, which bit be very badly last year, the “I
want a new computer bug”, the “alternative OS” bug, etc. We’ll call this latest bug the “minimalist” bug. I have developed a very strong desire to
attempt to live with less, and to see how far I can push it. As I think about the more miserable points of traveling, both to VMworld and to other
places a few things come to mind – luggage, my feet, and swag. My issues with all of these things stem from being inadequately prepared, which
in most cases actually means having an excess of some sort. Let’s explore these three pain points: (more…)

Picking up Steam August 19, 2013

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I started this blog a couple of years ago in an attempt to fill a void in the world know as virtualization blogging. I wanted to provide a voice for who I believe are the underrepresented in this scene – small business IT guys. I was doing what I thought was a fairly decent job for a short time. However, it seems that the very thing that prompted me to start this blog, coupled with a few other things is what ultimately let to is’t demise (or terrible neglect anyway). I have thought many times about resurrecting this thing, but I just haven’t been able to pick up the steam to do it. Now, on the eve of this year’s VMworld conference (which I will be attending), I feel a stronger than usual urge to try again. Nonetheless, I feel like I need to explore some of the things that led to my abrupt exit from the world of blogging and social media. Perhaps if anyone reads this they can provide me with some suggestions. After all, I did rather enjoy contributing and participating in the virtualization community.
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Virtual Networking Part 2 – Goals and Considerations December 21, 2011

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A bit of pretense first… What I really admire about the virtualization scene is the community of people who are involved in it. Nowhere else have I seen a group of people so dedicated to their craft and who are as willing to offer assistance to those who need guidance than in the virtualization community. Quite often, if you tweet about an issue you are having, and use the right hash tags (like #vSphere), people will come out of the woodwork to help. It was one such interaction that really opened my eyes to the broader possibilities in virtual networking. (more…)

Managing Storage Without a Dedicated Management Interface December 5, 2011

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A conversation this past weekend with a colleague of mine (at my other job) who is new to Virtualization prompted me to write this.

Although virtualization is often touted as the most cost effective way to run your datacenter, the initial costs involved in rolling out a proper vSphere environment can actually be cost prohibitive. The largest part of that cost is, of course, storage. A SAN can be very expensive, and often after purchasing the servers, there is little left in the budget for proper storage. Sure, you can leverage local storage using a VSA like the vSphere storage virtual appliance, but to truly take advantage of all that virtualization has to offer, the best way to go is to find some way to obtain proper shared storage (plus, the vSphere storage appliance is expensive). There is no shortage of devices to fill this gap. A great many NAS boxes will do iSCSI. Boxes, such as the ones available from iOmega can be excellent alternatives to larger, enterprise class SANs, especially for the small business looking to virtualize.

In a proper virtual network design, you should keep storage traffic, such as iSCSI separate from the rest of your LAN. Still, you need a way to manage the storage device from the LAN. The larger SANs make this possible by providing dedicated management interfaces in addition to redundant interfaces for the actual storage traffic.  The problem with the smaller NAS solutions is that they usually only have one or two network interfaces. In the case of a NAS box with two network interfaces, you could dedicate one to storage traffic, connecting it to your storage network, and the other for management, connecting it to your LAN. However if you want redundancy in your storage network – using both interfaces for storage traffic, or if you just have one interface on your NAS, you will be left with no easy way to manage it. Sure, you could temporarily connect a laptop to your iSCSI switch, assign it an IP address in the same subnet as the NAS’s interface(s), and manage it that way, but that could be inconvenient sometimes – or even impossible if you aren’t physically in the datacenter where the storage is located. Not to fear, though. I have come up with a trick! (more…)

VMTN Subscriptions, Anyone? November 16, 2011

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I know this is sooo last week, but I must show my support…

My vSphere trial license in my lab environment is about to expire. No problem, I’ll just start over. After all, vSphere will run for 60 days un-licensed, so I can just start over. I can back up all of my VMs, reload ESXi on my hosts, re-configure vCenter, put my VMs back on, and completely re-do all of the work I already did. Not a big deal at all – reload everything, and I’m good… for 60 days! (I hope you can detect that this is dripping with sarcasm). If only VMware had a way for hobbyists and enthusiasts, as well as IT professionals to legally run VMware software in their lab environments without having to pay full price. (more…)

Virtual Networking Part 1 November 14, 2011

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Recently, I have had the opportunity to assist several friends of mine through their first endeavors into virtualization. Now, I’m not far removed from being a vNoob myself, but having made it my goal to live and breathe virtualization lately, I find myself struggling to find ways of effectively explaining what, in reality, can be difficult concepts to explain. Chief amongst these concepts is virtual networking. In fact in every case, it seems, virtual networking is the most difficult concept both to explain and understand – and rightly so! There are about a zillion ways to configure your virtual network. While there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do it, there are definitely some good and bad ways to go about it. To compound the problem, even the bad ways of doing virtual networking will usually yield the desired result – and that is to get some VMs running and accessible from the network.

There’s more to virtual networking than can be covered in a single blog post, so this will be the first of several. Bear in mind, that I am certainly not an expert (hence the name of my blog) at virtual network design. Also, since my focus here is, as always, small business, I will try to focus on implementation of virtual networking in what I’ve found to be typical small business environments. In this first post, I shall attempt to de-mystify virtual networking concepts, and give sort of a broad overview. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on virtual networking on a single ESXi host rather than vSphere as a whole. (more…)

Maybe Virtual Desktops ARE Ready For Us… October 21, 2011

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I just love putting my foot in my mouth. No, I still haven’t solved any of the problems that I ran into during our experimentation with virtual desktops, as mentioned in my previous article. However, a little while ago I saw something tweeted by @Dutch_vMaffia that has the potential to finally make virtual desktops a real possibility for users requiring high end graphics.

Apparently, just one day before I wrote my article entitled “Virtual Desktops are Not Ready for Us”, it was announced at VMworld in Copenhagen that nVidia and VMware are teaming up to provide a way for virtual desktops to leverage nVidia’s quadro graphics processors installed as cards in the physical ESXi host. The technology is being called “Quadro Virtual Graphics Platform”.

I have not seen many details as to when the technology will be available, pricing, or which servers are supported for the Quadro Virtual Graphics Platform. Although, I do know that it will require one card for each VM that will be using the  technology. This will limit the number of “Virtual Workstations” that can run on a particular host to the number of expansion slots available in the host server.

This is exciting news to those of us who are IT admins for civil engineering firms (or maybe just me?). Ever since the first time I learned about virtual desktop infrastructure, I have been saying that there needed to be some way to leverage graphics hardware from within a VM in order to make it a viable option for graphics and CAD professionals. I though that perhaps in the future this would become a reality, but it looks as though the future is closer than I thought!

Links

An article on vmguru.nl with some good information about the Quadro Virtual Graphics Platform – this is where I first read about it. Thanks, vmguru!

nVidia’s blog post regarding the Quadro Virtual Graphics Platform

A Press Release from VMware about the Quadro Virtual Graphics Platform

Virtual Desktops Are Not Ready for Us October 20, 2011

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On the road to “The Cloud”, one starts by virtualizing server workloads. The logical next step, then, is to move away from traditional physical desktops and into virtual desktops. Having become somewhat of a VMware fanboy of late, I decided to explore that next step down the road to “The Cloud”. It actually started with an email, in which I responded to one of my more influential user’s complaints of a certain application being slow over the WAN, with “if we had virtual desktops located in the data center here, we wouldn’t have that problem”. This piqued his interests, and while my above statement about virtual desktops is true, the civil engineering business (the business for which I work) presents a whole slew of challanges that, simply put, desktop virtualization is not quite ready to meet. We ran into those challanges during a month-long test in which we put a VMware View virtual desktop throug the paces of life in a civil engineering firm. (more…)