How does VMware vSphere 5.5 compare to the competition?

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Yesterday VMware release vSphere 5.5 which includes many new features and enhancements, again raising the bar for the competition.

But how does VMware vSphere 5.5 relate to Microsoft Server 2012 Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer 6.2 or RedHat RHEV 3.2? Check out our new Enterprise Hypervisor comparison in which I added the new vSphere 5.5 features and enhancements.

What’s the impact of Microsoft Office on VDI?

Project VRCI regularly get questions from customers what the impact is of the Microsoft Office version on their VDI deployment. It’s a common misunderstanding that the sizing and performance of a VDI deployment is equal when using Microsoft office 2007, 2010 or 2013.

But until now this was based on a feeling compared with different customers running different Microsoft office versions.

Today, at TechEd Europe 2013 in Madrid Spain, Project VRC published phase 6 of their Virtual Reality Check which addresses the impact of Microsoft Office in a VDI environment.

The goal of this new white paper was to investigate and document the VDI performance impact of Microsoft Office 2013 in comparison to the previous two versions of Microsoft Office, 2007 and 2010. The comparison of Office 2007 with Office 2010, showed only a 1% performance difference in favour of Office 2007. The comparison of Office 2007 and Office 2013 showed a significant performance decrease of over 20%. This leads to the conclusion that to maintain the same performance levels with the newest version of Microsoft Office, about 20% more infrastructure capacity may be needed. Office 2013 also consistently uses more CPU and over 272% more memory than Office 2007. In comparison, Office 2010 only uses 26% more memory. Optimizations such as turning animations and hardware graphics acceleration off did not influence the performance in any way.

Another key finding published in the white paper is that running x64 versions of Windows and Office will have substantial impact on Storage IOPS and memory footprint in comparison to x86 versions.

If you want to know the details, you can download the whitepaper at the Project VRC website.

Look at the Horizon! VMware’s Horizon Suite is finally here

vmware_horizon_suite logoFor years VMware has been busy creating a range of Horizon-like products. At VMworld 2009 there was already a preview of what the folks in Palo Alto were working on.
Since then a lot has changed, AppBlast was shown, Octopus came (and went again).

30 minutes ago VMware finally launched their new range of end user computing products called the VMware Horizon Suite.

So, what does Horizon consist of? Well, actually Horizon is the new name for the collection of ALL End User Computing (EUC) products VMware has to offer, some of which you already know and love, like VMware View and ThinApp. But now the new cool products are finally here!

So, what is VMware Horizon Suite? It consists of these products:

Horizon Suite

VMware Horizon View

View box

VMware View is now as part of the new Horizon Suite and it got a new name VMware Horizon View 5.2. It is just a minor .2 release but VMware put a lot of effort in this new View version and added

significant number of features to improve View performance, scalability and user experience.

  • Improved storage efficiency with SEsparse Disks
    Horizon View 5.2 uses a new vSphere capability that implements a new disk format for virtual machines on VMFS that allows for reduction in size and utilization allocated blocks more efficiently by filling it with real data. Unused space is reclaimed and View Composer desktops stay small.
  • Unified Client with View Desktops in Horizon
    When co-installed with Horizon Suite the View Desktop pools are connected into Horizon Suite after they are provisioned. The Horizon Suite provides a single point of access for end users to their desktops, data and applications. Horizon Suite supports SSO brokering user to the available desktops based on entitlement policy.
  • Clientless HTML5 Access to View Desktops & Apps
    Access to View desktops and applications via Horizon is possible from any modern device using a remote protocol delivered through any HTML5 capable web-browser.This is the technology previously code-named AppBlast. It will direct users to existing View desktops leveraging Horizon View Security Server for network routing when available. This is a true install-free access to virtual Desktops.
  • Hardware Accelerated 3D Graphics
    Horizon View 5.2 uses a new vSphere capability that enables shared access to physical GPU hardware for 3D and high performance graphical workloads. Virtual desktops still see abstracted VMware SVGA device for maximum compatibility & portability, but use Accelerated 3D Graphics , enabling truly high performance graphics in a cot effective manner with multiple VMs sharing a single GPU resource. The solution is fully compatible with hosts lacking physical GPUs (for vMotion, DRS, etc).
  • Improved Video Chat with MSFT Lync Support
    Horizon View 5.2 provides Microsoft Lync 2013 client support, including full support for UC VoIP and Video on both RDP and PCoIP. This new feature enable a tighter integration between Microsoft Lync and Office applications with full collaboration capabilities. Some of the features are compresses USB webcam traffic upstream for reduced bandwidth usage,leverages UDP based channel for improved WAN performance, enabling improved performance of USB media devices.
  • Windows 8 Desktop Support
    Horizon View 5.2 now fully supports Windows 8 virtual desktops as guest OS. It also comes aligned with the Windows 8 Client Support.
  • PCoIP New Features
    • Support for MITM (Man-In-The-Middle) network devices
    • PCoIP GPO settings take effect immediately when changed (host side only).
    • Relative Mouse enablement (supported by latest Windows View client)
    • Multi Touch enablement (supported by latest Windows View client)
  •  PCoIP Security Improvements.
    • Port scanners that scan PCoIP Security Gateway now pass successfully.
    • OpenSLL upgraded to a more secure version.
    • Weak SSL ciphers removed.
  •  PCoIP Performance Improvements
    • Image caching supported on Teradici APEX card and Tera2 Zero Clients
    • Improved image cache management and compression
    • Bandwidth reductions in both the LAN and WAN environment
    • Support for vertical offset caching
    • Improved responsiveness and fluidity during scrolling
  • Horizon Based ThinApp Entitlement for View
    Horizon View 5.2 provides a tight linkage of View ThinApp Entitlement to the Horizon Workspace and includes a migration tool to help admins to import the current pool-based entitlements to the Horizon Workspace user/group entitlements. This approach unifies application entitlement across all end user devices & virtual desktops.
  • Large Pools with more than 8 hosts
    The 8 host cluster limit for Linked Clone pools using VMFS has been removed. The new limit is 32 hosts per cluster across the board for all pool types, Linked Clone or not. The added feature may completely change how VMware View deployments are designed and deployed for many customer.
  • Support for 10,000 virtual desktops per vCenter Server
    Horizon View now supports 10,000 virtual desktops per View pod with a single vCenter Server instance. In previous versions VMware had only validated 2,000 virtual desktops per vCenter Server.
  • Multi-VLAN support
    Multiple Network Label Assignment is being introduced with Horizon View 5.2. This is a powerful feature that allow administrators to utilize a single base image and assign it to multiple different VLANS or PortGroups. This first release comes only with PowerShell support; no Admin UI integration.
  • Provisioning, Rebalance, Recompose performance increase
    • More than 2X improvement on end to end provisioning time
    • Significant improvement on pool re-balance time
    • Availability of Rolling Refit Maintain allowing for a configurable minimum number of READY desktops during refit operations that support both automatic and semi-automatic linked clone pools

VMware Horizon Mirage

Mirage is VMware’s way to manage the physical world. These are the features that come with Mirage:

Simplified Desktop Management

Layered PC Image Management

Manage your PC image as a set of logical layers owned by either IT or the end-user. Update IT managed layers while maintaining end-user files and personalization. Then, if a PC is simply malfunctioning, IT can restore the system layers on an end point to fix an issue without overwriting user layers. Or, quickly migrate a user from an old PC to a new PC without losing any of their user data, profile, or user-installed applications during a hardware refresh cycle.

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Desktop Recovery

Full PC snapshots and synchronizations of any IT or end-user initiated changes to the datacenter ensure quick desktop recovery. Minimize end-user downtime when an end user’s PC has been lost, stolen or damaged and quickly restore the end-user system to a new device.

Application Layering *NEW in 4.0*

Easily deploy applications or VMware ThinApp packages to any collection of end users by leveraging Horizon Mirage’s app layering technology.

Scalability with Low Infrastructure Footprint

Designed to support up to 1,500 end users per Mirage Server and can easily scale up to 20,000 end-users per server cluster.

Branch Office Optimization

Enable any Mirage Client endpoint into a Branch Reflector to optimize branch office management. Mirage Branch Reflector allows you to download any updates once from the Mirage Server and allow peer to peer updates to other Mirage Clients in the branch office. Advanced algorithms ensure that only required data is ever sent between the Mirage Server and Mirage Clients in a remote location or office.

Empowering End User Productivity Across Boundaries

Optimized and Adaptive Experience

The VMware Horizon Mirage client monitors the resources being used on an end user’s PC to make sure that the backup and synchronization processes never interferes with their productivity. Horizon Mirage will automatically throttle CPU, RAM and network usage up and down as needed to guarantee a seamless end user experience.

Personalized Performance

Allow end-users to leverage the local computing resources of their desktops and laptops and maintain offline productivity. VMware Horizon Mirage managed images can install natively onto the Windows PCs, or as virtual desktops on Mac or Linux desktops and laptops with Fusion Pro. Image layering gives end-users the flexibility to personalize and customize their systems.

Self-Service File Access & Recovery

The Mirage File Portal allows end users to access any file on their endpoint from any web browser. An end user can also restore any file or any directory on their own with just a few clicks on their PC.

VMware Horizon Workspace

Horizon Workspace is designed to bring everyone and everything together. It is designed to accomodate people with iPhones, Android phones, Windows laptops, Mac laptops and even Linux users, to sync data, access applications and desktopsand In itself, Workspace consists of three main modules:

  • Data Synchronization (formaly known as Project Octopus)
  • Web applications and Thinapp Packages (formaly known as Project AppBlast)
  • View desktop access from mobile devices

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Combined with a single sign-on engine, Workspace offers a single webbased portal. From here your users can shared files, web based applications like Google Docs, SalesForce or Gmail, access your thinapped programs and connect to their View based desktop. The portal supports users with Windows, IOS, Android, Mac OS X and Linux. The next paragraphs describe the features of Workspace.

Simplified Workspace Management

Combine applications and data into a single aggregated workspace

  • Manage files, devices, applications and data through a single management console
  • Add, update and delete users via active directory. Manage internal and external users
  • Entitle and provision web applications through single sign on (SSO). Entitle and manage ThinApps
  • Quickly deploy new applications with data-as-a-service to stay competitive and build future growth opportunities
  • Offer user self-service application provisioning through an application catalogue

Complete Security and Control

Enterprise-grade security to meet industry compliance and security requirements

  • Fully on-premise solution gives total control to IT (security, SLAs, backups, upgrades, etc.)
  • Individual and group-based management to set policies and govern usage over files and data accessed and shared by and between end users — Prevents a security breach or compliance violation
  • Policies for data quota, allowed file types, max size, domains, expiration, external, version, hierarchical storage management
  • Ensure compliance with privacy regulatory and governmental policies
  • Inspect and audit file access, sharing and all other aspects of the service

Empower Employees with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Seamless access to enterprise applications and data, anywhere, anytime

  • Everywhere data access – in the office, at home or on the road
  • Full collaboration (folder/file sharing with anyone, external user access, versions, comments)
  • Improve end user productivity by providing end users with secure access to applications and files on any device from anywhere: iOS, Windows, Android, Mac, and all major browsers (including high-fidelity preview capability)
  • Reduce end-user downtime and service interruptions
  • Access to files each time users login (stateless desktop)

VMware Horizon – Suite

So, how does this fold into a suite? Take a look at this table:

Horizon Suite Products Overview

Now, there’s a point to pay attention to. VMware Horizon View is still licensed on a concurrend user basis. Mirage, Workspace and the whole suite, however, are per NAMED user.

More info can be found at VMware’s website.

VMware View 5.2 specs courtesy of Andre Leibovici of MyVirtualCloud.net

NEW Enterprise Hypervisor comparison

Two weeks ago VMware released the new version of their vSphere hypervisor, so it’s time to update our Enterprise Hypervisor comparison. It very impressive to see how quick VMware has reacted to the Hyper-V 3 announcements and has taken most of the wind out of the Microsoft sails.

I hope you find the new Enterprise Hypervisor comparison useful and feel free to contact us when you have feedback for us to improve the list.
The information on Microsoft Server 2012 Hyper-V features is very inconsistent, many different values out there.

In this version I added 10 new criteria. Many of these criteria should, in my opinion, be available in hypervisors suitable for enterprise environments.

You can find the new and improved Enterprise Hypervisor comparison here.

Last update: August 27th, 2013

Microsoft SQL 2012 Licensing in a VMware environment – Part One

More and more Microsoft SQL Servers are being deployed virtually in a VMware environment, but how can you license them correctly?

Microsoft changed their licensing again on April 1st, 2012. With the general availability of SQL Server 2012, the changes around SQL licensing are live.

 Some highlights are:

  • There are three main editions now:
    • Standard
    • Business Intelligence
    • Enterprise.

The Web edition is now only available for Service Providers through the SPLA license agreement.

  • Per CPU licensing is no more. You have two types of licensing only:
    • Core-Based
    • Server+CAL licensing.

Microsoft chose this way because virtualization is on its way to 100%, server hardware gets more powerful over time, doubling cores every 18 months. Also companies demand more flexibility with workloads traveling between private and public clouds.

  • Furthermore Microsoft tries to simplify and make licensing more predictable for customers with evolving infrastructures.

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Cisco UCS: What’s maximum number of VIFs per blade?

As one of the largest Cisco Partners in the Netherlands we do a lot of Cisco UCS implementations and as the first company in the Netherlands with the Cisco Advanced Data Center Architecture Specialization, where the place in the Netherlands for Cisco UCS troubleshooting. Last week a colleague was called to a troubleshoot a customer problem.

The customer was unable to create a 14th Virtual Network Interfaces on their Cisco UCS Virtual Interface Card and 13 interfaces is far from the maximum of 128 or 256 possible virtual interfaces per Cisco UCS VIC. Fortunately the solution appeared to be simple.

In a Cisco UCS environment all centralized intelligent occurs in the Fabric Interconnect. When using Cisco UCS Virtual Interface Cards (VICs) you can create Virtual Network Interfaces (VIFs) which can be presented to individual virtual machines. All of these virtual interfaces that are created show up in the Fabric Interconnects. They are called VIFs (Virtual Interfaces) and use VN-Tags.

The number of VIFs per blade is limited by the most restrictive item in the following list:

  • the network connectivity from chassis I/O Module (IOM) to Fabric Interconnect;
  • the Adapter VN-Tag namespace;
  • the OS/BIOS version.

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VMGuru.nl at Microsoft’s Techdays 2012

Last weekend I received an invitation to attend the Microsoft Techdays 2012 in The Hague (Netherlands).

Because I’d like to keep a broad view and I want to be able to evaluate and judge techniques based on a complete solution, I changed my calender and accepted the invitation.

Unfortunately I missed the keynote session because traffic was a nightmare that morning.

Configuring & deploying a private cloud with System Center 2012
The first session I attended was “Configuring & deploying a private cloud with System Center 2012″. Looking at the demo, System Center Virtual Machine Manager is very much like vCenter Server 5 but with a touch of vCloud Director in it. This requires administrators to use a different, cloud based mindset. Based on my experience with vCloud Director and the fact that cloud based solutions elevate the complexity level, I think this may be an obstacle. Also, because a private cloud is nothing more or less than a private datacenter setup, I don’t prefer a cloud based approach here. On the other hand, this approach eliminates the need for a different method for private or public cloud solutions.

The item I really like is the application template functionality. With this you can create a template for a SQL, Sharepoint or Exchange server, which further reduces service implementation time and quality. This is really an area where Microsoft benefits from being the application owner/developer.

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How to: Upgrade to vSphere 5

On July 12th, VMware announced the release of vSphere 5.

With the release comes the challenge to upgrade your existing installation.

However, there are a few caveats:

  • vSphere 5 is the first version which comes in a ESXi version ONLY! ESXi 5 is available in an embedded or installable version. If you’re running ESX 3.x or 4.x you should do a clean installation. You can find more information here.;
  • VMware changed their licensing method. Familiarize yourself with this and check if you need to upgrade/extend your licenses. You can find more information here.

Because I run a VMware vSphere 4.1 environment, this is a upgrade from vSphere 4.1 to 5.

The upgrade is a straight forward five step process.

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How VMware is listening to their clientele: new vRAM limits

Sometimes a company rethinks its strategy and thinks it has found a new edge. This was, or better, is the case with the new licensing model for vSphere 5, that was announced 12th of July.

Actually, vSphere 5 has a lot of new and exiting features, but all were pushed into the shadows by this new licensing model. Comments varied from ‘it will not hurt us right now’ up to ‘this is opening the door for HyperV and all other competitors!’.

Fortunately, VMware also is a company that quickly learns and as they watched the storm run through virtualization land, they came to the conclusion that a slight adjustment would silence the competition, reinstate lost faith (if that happened at all :)) and, most of all, bring peace of mind to their customers.

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How to license Microsoft Windows 7 for VMware View deployments

I often get questions about how to license Microsoft Windows 7 in a VMware View VDI deployment, I will try to elaborate what is needed in general and for specific scenarios. By understanding how they apply to common VMware View scenarios you can calculate and try to get the most out of existing and new licenses needed.

Every device you want to use to access the VMware View environment, with Windows 7 Desktops, needs to be licensed. It does not matter if it is a PC, a Thin or Zero client, an iPad or similar devices, every device accessing Windows 7 via VDI needs to be licensed.

You have two ways to license the environment, you can utilize the Software Assurance Windows Virtual Desktop Access Use Rights benefit at no additional cost; or you purchase Windows VDA subscription. Windows VDA is licensed per access device. There is currently no option to license Windows VDA per user.

VDA through SA or VDA subscription?

Certain devices, such as thin or zero clients, do not qualify for Software Assurance coverage for Windows. To license these devices for use with VDI you will need Windows VDA subscription. The rule of thumb is that if it isn’t a full blown Windows Desktop Operating System with Software Assurance (SA) you will need VDA subscription licenses to access the VMware View vDesktops.

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Rumors on vSphere 5

The release of VMware vSphere 5.0 is almost visible on the horizon now.
In the online communities and when talking with colleagues the term ESXi 5 and/or vSphere 5 keep coming up.

The general expectation is that the release will be announced at VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas.
(no promise just a wild guess)

Version 4 of VMware vSphere/ESX(i) is quite suitable for most of our needs, but other players on the hypervisor market (Microsoft, Citrix) are closing the gap fast. So VMware needs to keep innovating to stay ahead and the reputation of VMware demands a new and improved version which will again stun the world. Packed with features with which Microsoft will ‘quick’ it’s customers again until they got it themselves in 2-3 years.

But fortunately the rumors on VMware vSphere 5 look very promising. Of course the configuration maximums will be improved again, not that anyone will come even close, but the added value must be in the new and improved features in my opinion.

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How to: Optimize guests for VMware View

We’ ve been doing quite a few VMware View POC’s and the question that colleagues keep asking me is:
‘How do I optimize my Windows guest OS for use with VMware View?’.

First of all, I primarily use x86 versions of Windows XP and 7. The disk usage is much less, I seldom need more than 4 GB of RAM and application compatibility is still an issue on x64 systems.

After installation of the guest operating system in the template virtual machine I do the following to optimize the operating system for use with VMware View.

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How to: License Microsoft Windows Server in a VMware environment – Part 1

Last week I had another nice discussion around the 90 day assignment rule for Windows Server licensing on a VMware environment.  To answer this shortly: You may move running instances between licensed servers without acquiring additional licenses. However you cannot exceed the maximum number of instances each server is licensed to run.

Microsoft Operating System Environments (OSE)

Microsoft defines Operating System Environments for allocating licenses. This is a nice and flexible way to accommodate customer demand.  To understand how licensing works under virtualization, it is important to understand how Microsoft defines an OSE.

An “operating system environment” is:

1 all or part of an operating system instance, or all or part of a virtual (or otherwise emulated) operating system instance which enables separate machine identity (primary computer name or similar unique identifier) or separate administrative rights, and

2 instances of applications, if any, configured to run on the operating system instance or parts identified above.

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Add additional drivers to ESXi

Last week I have been struggling with  the installation of a vSphere 4 infrastructure on Dell hardware at a Belgium client site.

I have done many many many VMware installations and encountered my fair share of issues but apart from the HP USB sticks the hardware never gave me this much trouble.

It all started with a very difficult BIOS/firmware upgrade which, after various downloads and trials, ended with an old-school DOS boot USB and a DOS based BIOS update. Real 1980′s stuff.

With this fixed I installed all ESX hosts and left for the hotel, ready to start the configuration the next day. However, when I started with the first ESX host and wanted to configure the network, I noticed that I only had eight NICs when I should have had twelve. We use Dell PowerEdge R805 servers with two Intel quad port 82576 Gigabit Ethernet Adapters, the first card was already in the server, the second card we added just before the installation.

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VMware View sizing & best practices

November 4th we published an article on Virtual Infrastructure best practices and the response was overwhelming. During the last month we received a lot of questions regarding best practices on VDI/VMware View. When I then read a comment from VMware’s evangelist, Richard Garsthagen, that the attention on blogs for VMware View was minimal I thought well let’s extend our View articles/knowledge base.

So, VMware View best practices. First of all check the article on Virtual Infrastructure best practices to create a good understanding for the underlying virtual infrastructure challenges.

So hereby my list of best practices which I gather from VMware KB articles, instructor led VMware View design training and the VMware community:

  • CPU sizing;
  • Memory sizing;
  • Storage sizing;
  • Network sizing.

If you have additions or new insights please reply.

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Virtual Infrastructure best practices

[Updated: 8-11-2009 10:00]

Lately I keep receiving questions from colleagues regarding virtual infrastructure design using VMware products. So I decided to sum up the best practices I use when designing a new virtual infrastructure. Some of the best practices are based on numbers and calculations but others are pretty obvious. Nevertheless you would be surprised how many environments I’ve encounter were the most basic best practices have NOT been met.

So hereby my list of best practices on:

  • ESX(i);
  • vCenter;
  • Licensing;
  • Storage;
  • Networking;
  • Virtual machines.

If you have additions or new insights please reply.

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