It is Offical VMware and Digital Fuel Are One

If you haven’t heard yet VMware acquired a SaaS IT financial management firm, Digital Fuel. There was a quiet announcement in June but for the most part it flew under the radar as most people were not familiar with their offerings. As of July Digital Fuel has closed and is now officially part of VMware.

Digital Fuel has been around for a while and they focus on the ability for companies to plan, manage, report etc. on the value and cost of a cloud based environment. In other words, they allow for detailed reporting on each cost of a piece of a cloud system. So for example, if HR spins up a virtual machine and hosts on the same host as AP you could actually figure out their share of the project and bill it back to the appropriate department.

I like this purchase for a few reasons. First, managing any IT project is complex, let alone a CLOUD or SaaS model and most IT departments end up carrying the budget burden of undefined expenses. Internal departments love assigning misc. and technology cost back to the IT department. Management then can’t find the difference between operations, productions, or separate capital project. It sucks if you are IT director trying to explain mysterious charges to your department.

Second, it shows the new direction the VMware is heading. It is feeling more and more that they are getting out of the traditional hypervisor business. From the new products and other acquisitions you see them evolving to more of a virtualization management company focusing on the different aspects of SaaS, application development, and cloud infrastructure.

Thirdly, it shows VMware moving up the enterprise stack. While VMware has 250,000+ customers the vast majority or in the mid market space, contrasting with Digital Fuel who focused primarily on fortune 100 companies like Cicso, Dell, GE, IBM etc.  This will allow VMware to start to play with some of previous dominant players in this space, specifically IBM software, Oracle, and SAP. There very well could be a power shift in the core enterprise accounts over the next couple years.

Some More Details:

Below is some of the quotes from the press release and related documents.

“Cloud computing represents a fundamentally new model for IT, enabling enterprises to realize unprecedented gains in operational efficiency, while also understanding, managing and optimizing IT resources based on granular business metrics,” said Boaz Chalamish, VP and General Manager, VMware. “New levels of financial visibility and control in cloud environments will enable CIOs to engage with the CFO, line of business stakeholders and others around how IT investments translate to real business value. As an authority on helping organizations navigate the business operations of IT, Digital Fuel will add a significant capability to our portfolio, broadening beyond operational management to include business-centric capabilities.”

And

Digital Fuel’s portfolio for IT costing, budget, chargeback, cost optimization, vendor management and SLA management integrates with a broad set of systems, applications, data sources and third-party management technologies to deliver comprehensive, unified financial analysis.  These offerings, offered both on-premise within an enterprise datacenter and delivered via Software as a Service (SaaS) models for maximum flexibility, will complement VMware’s portfolio of management solutions including vCenter Chargeback and Service Manager. The acquisition of Digital Fuel will enable VMware’s enterprise customers to:

  • Engage more effectively with business stakeholders through meaningful measurements and reports, including a Bill of IT Services, chargeback, service level reporting, and vendor scorecards.
  • Gain complete, consolidated visibility into IT costs (Capex, Opex and Service costs) across a broad range of financial data sources.
  • Manage IT agendas with deep financial discipline, leveraging fact-based decisions across the IT portfolio to make informed financial trade-offs aligned to business priorities.

From Ramin Sayar, VP, Marketing, Blog:

This is why VMware is acquiring Digital Fuel. It’s about providing our customers with the deep visibility and the right measurement tools they need to manage IT in the right way. Specifically, I’m talking about the ability to measure the costs and SLAs associated with a particular IT service whether sourced internally through your private cloud or externally from a cloud or SaaS provider. So you can stand up and have a fact-based, numbers-driven discussion with your CFO or CEO. And the combination of VMware and Digital Fuel is a perfect fit for this. The acquisition brings together our deep insight into the dynamically changing virtual infrastructure which is the very foundation for cloud computing, as well as our growing portfolio of application and end user computing solutions that are re-defining how IT is enabling your business processes. The combination of these solutions with Digital Fuel’s pioneering capabilities gives you the unprecedented ability to manage every aspect of your services from a financial – and business – perspective.

vCenter Operations: Expensive? Maybe, But It Is Worth It!

If you didn’t know, today is national vCenter Operations day!

So I thought it would be useful to go over some of the finer points of this product. I am however, going to do things a little backwards. With some of the earlier reviews people were pointing out that the licensing and cost of this product is a bit high, its per VM again.  Now compared to other monitoring tools, I would agree, but what people are forgetting is that the model of per CPU will be going away across the board at some point and the all you can eat model is a thing of the past.

Price:

  • Standard: $1,250 for a 25 VM pack or $50 a server.
  • Advanced: $3,125 for a 25 VM pack or $125 a server.
  • Enterprise: $34,250 for a 25 VM pack or $1,370 a server, and not that isn’t a typo.

Why so much?

Because it is a useful and valuable tool, because too many people deploy their virtual environment blindly using excel sheets and homemade solutions, because people don’t know what is going on before it is too late, and many more good reasons. Some argue they have a monitoring solution; this will compliment the solution and add much more value. The truth is people of have a production server environment can’t afford not to have this solution. Slow performance cause slow productivity, which equals real lost dollars.

 Features:

 Standard

  • Designed to work with vCenter
  • Performance analytics, automatically identities building performance issues and their root causes
  • Optimizes resource usage and maintains configuration compliance
  • Real-time capacity metrics
  • Configuration Change Events (huge value here)

 Advanced

  • All of the above plus
  • vCenter CapacityIQ

Enterprise

  • All of the above plus
  • More advanced features
  • vCenter Configuration Manager

The real scoop

It is a must have if you have any high performance applications, more than 10 VM’s (25 packs I know) but still, or any tier one applications. Its true, in my opinion it should be included for free, but it is a high quality product that carries a lot value.

More Information:

http://www.vmware.com/products/vcenter-operations/overview.html

vShield 5: New Security Features Coming Soon

 

VMware vShield 5 was announced around the same time as vSphere 5 but for some reason it sort of flew under the radar. Some would say it had something to due to the licensing drama, but who really knows. What I do know is that 1) securing VM’s is an evolving problem that has been limited to hardware enforcement  and 2) VMware is starting to invest significant more resources towards their vShield suite since its launch in August 2010.

If your remember vShield includes vShield App, vShield Edge, and vShield Endpoint and if you curious what was included in more detail with that launch you can find more here from my previous post. In short it was a good start but not a full solution.

 So What’s New:

vShield App now includes Data Security designated for compliance confidence, think data scanning. This hypervisor-based application aware-firewall will create and enforce dynamic application boundries, aka trust zones based on policies vs. physical boundaries of yesteryear. This should help cut down on the hardware costs!

There is now a collaboration with RSA (Another EMC company, no surprise here) that is designed to “optimize the security for virtual and cloud environments.”  “This security protocol will enable enterprises to discover and classify sensitive data residing within the virtual machines.” So if someone is sending Social Security cards, credit cards, or personal information it can within the VM detect this leak. Plus it is host based and agent-less.

Also, based on pre-defined templates, 80 or so, you will now be able to select policies that affect your business, not sure yet if you can modify these presets or not. These policies scan the VM forsensitive data and report back the findings. You can even set a policy if it finds this data it will isolate this VM keeping the sensitive information in its trust zone. Performance shouldn’t be impacted much since it will be using a virtual appliance. The thing to note is that it will report and isolate, see below.

 Doe this solve our Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Problem?

Not so fast. They still have a long way to go. Remember detect, report and isolate not detect, report and block.  To be clear this is a just a detection tool with minor policy enforcement. It will be more clear come demo time at VMworld, but it is missing some key components to be a full DLP solution. For example it doesn’t detect data leaks in transit, won’t prohibit moving data to the cloud, and doesn’t go in-depth enough to protect ultra sensitive data.  It is a good start, and there will be a future release with API’s to integrate to other DLP software.

 Cost:

The VMware vShield 5 is expected to be available in Q3 2011 and individual products will be licensed per VM (noticing a trend?) starting at $50 per VM retail. The vShield products can also be purchased together as a vShield bundle for $300 per VM.

More Information:

http://www.vmware.com/products/vshield/overview.html

 

Running Hyper-V in vCenter!

With the announcement of vCenter Operations a few months ago I was thinking about how vCenter and how useful this interface has become over the last few years. For whatever reason I started to wonder if vCenter could handle the management of non-vSphere virtual machines. As I had a few conversations I was met with some weird expressions and utter confusion. “Why would you want to?” seemed to be a common response, more on that later.

I knew that Microsoft Virtual Machine Manager claims to manage VMware VM’s (I wouldn’t vouch for the performance ) so I was sure VMware had some sort of tool of their own, right?  After some research it turns out I was half right.

Why?

Lets back up and explain the why. First and my favorite response is always “why not?” If it can be done, why not prove it. Second and a more responsible and applicable reason is because hyper-v is free.* I am not saying replace your VMware environment, I am saying from a cost perspective if you wanted to spin up a few fully functioning VM’s for test/dev or branch office tier 3 applications hyper-v is a good and inexpensive choice.

The Solution

The part why I was only partially correct. So it turns out there is a program called vCenter XVP Manager and Converter, and it does just that.  As stated from their website.

VMware vCenter XVP Manager and Converter provides basic virtualization management capabilities for non-vSphere hypervisor platforms towards enabling centralized visibility and control across heterogeneous virtual infrastructures. It also simplifies and enables easy migrations of virtual machines from non-vSphere virtualization platforms to VMware vSphere.

But, and it’s a big but, it is part of VMware Lab’s department and isn’t fully supported. So while it is a tool that exists, I can’t claim it is a full-fledged product. With that said use at your own risk.

Fine Print

It is new and doesn’t look like it was tested very much as the forums are looking a bit full. The technical requirements are a little strict. For example you actually need Virtual Machine Manager running and the host must also have Windows Remote Management (WinRM) v1.1. Performance and features are limited with its primary purpose bridge to managing a mixed environment.

*I don’t want to get bogged down on true cost of Hyper-V, it has been overly communicated if you want more information feel free to Google it, but just know nothing is free and you do end up paying something for Hyper-V.

Below is some more details and I have provided some links.

Features

  • Management of the following Microsoft Hyper-V platforms:
    • Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008
    • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 (64-bit) with Hyper-V role enabled
    • Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2
    • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V role enabled
  • Familiar vCenter Server graphical user interface for navigating through and managing non-vSphere inventory
  • Ease of virtual machine migrations from non-vSphere hosts to vSphere inventory
  • Compatible with VMware vCenter Server 4.0 & 4.1
  • Scalable up to management of 50 non-vSphere hosts

If you find it interesting:

-Here is a link on a guide to Hyper-V Features for the VMware administrator.

VMware Licensing Changes, My 2 Cents

It has been a few weeks since VMware announced their new vSphere 5 licensing model and for the most part I haven’t said much nor expressed a strong stance on the issue. For you who are not familiar, VMware essentially provided a vTax associated with configuring licensing for pooled ram allocation. It is a bit more complicated, but you get the picture. Just know it basically doubled the cost for most large customers, particularly hosting companies and super dense virtual environments. To say the least it wasn’t well received by the partner community,  server OEM’s, customer etc.

My Experience

This changed caused some very uncomfortable conversations with my customers. From their perspective I am the one that sold them this solution, recommended it over hyper-V and unfortunately good or bad I am the face of this product. And it wasn’t just tough talk; customers were essentially asking for refunds and questioning my credibility. While it wasn’t fair, I didn’t fault them for their frustration.

This isn’t specifically a VMware issue, and I don’t mean to pick on them too much, it could happen with any vendor. Cisco could easily change their pricing model to a per port model, or amount of traffic per port, or some other consumption model. The point is, if there is a disruptive change to the basic pricing model of these joint technology solutions it sort of tips the whole thing off its axis. People make their budgets, TCO, ROI or other business decisions based on a predictable pricing structure and this doesn’t help their cause. It puts people on edge when they make these significant technology investments.

Now the great news is that VMware listened intently to their community and made some significant changes. Say what you will but this is a big deal. They didn’t have to, if they held their ground things would have blown over and whatever lost revenue would have made up over time. It was also changed with blazing speed. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, but to come up with a new pricing model in a week or two that everyone agreed on is pretty impressive.

My Stance

Officially, I don’t have one, however I am bit concerned how much impact a simple pricing change can have on my professional career.  Also, I am hoping that Cisco, HP, Microsoft, EMC, NetApp, VMware and anyone involved with this ecosystem are working closely together on their pricing strategy. I would be curious what Cisco had to say about their UCS servers and the new ram allocations. This considering their whole architecture was built around a condensed server with huge amounts of RAM vs. CPU’s. I am sure they weren’t too pleased.

Overall, I think VMware learned something’s about pricing changes and product launches, and in the end made things right.

Personal Update

“The only constant is change.” Heraclitus

It is funny how fast time can seem to go by. I took a small break from blogging due to my hectic work life and found that it ended up being months since my last real post.  This morning I was gently reminded of how long it has been and here I am back at it.

For my first post back from my unofficial hiatus I wanted to give a little background on some of my personal/work life that has shifted (positively) that prompted the forced break. Warning this has nothing to do with VMware, virtualization or Technology. Read at your own discretion.

First and foremost my amazing wife (hoping she is reading this) and I are expanding our family by one in November. This would be our first child and it has been, to say the least, a colossal paradigm shift full of excitement, anxiety, and accelerated transformation. We are more than thrilled, however it has made us (me mostly) think about every detail and different aspects of our lives and actually focus on the future with a much stronger intent.

This new and very mature train of thought led us down a path of some more immense changes.  For example, we decided to basically gut and remodel our house. I decided a minor career change was in order, more on that later, and we begin the adjustment period of preparing for a larger family. Our 2-year Boston Terrier has no idea what is in store. For that matter I don’t think I do either.

Ok, now back to the job change. I decided to leave my wonderfully cozy familiar office (with a view) and some amazing people to work from home (no view) for a very tiny, may not even be the right adjective, virtualization and storage consulting company. Let me put it another way, I went from a 5+ year job at a nationally awarded, highly recognized 1000+ person technology services company to a 20 person local, although well known, hyper focused consulting firm. It was an enormous professional adjustment. As time goes on I will post more on this change, overall it has been amazing and I am neck deep in the most advance and new technology that is out there. It is really cool.

So to recap: I have been exceedingly busy learning the new gig, putting my house back wall at a time, and trying to pick which college my child will attend that most of my “outside of work” things have been put on hold.

The good/great news I am settled and getting back to the swing of things and I have a lot to write about over the next few weeks. The industry had again changed, rapidly and with VMworld coming up there is a significant amount of new and exciting stuff coming!

Thanks for your patience during my vacation.

Phil

Some Helpful Citrix Pre-Implementation Questions

Think about taking the VDI plunge? Don’t know where to start? Well if you were thinking about XenDesktop and wanted a Pre-implementation checklist you are in luck! Below is pretty standard cheat sheet of things to consider before and during the architecture of  that VDI solution. Remember it is better to take a little time now and go over these questions and have solid answers vs. guessing as you go, food for thought.

  • Server Hardware that is Virtualization ready?
  • Is your BIOS up-to-date?
  • To have all of your storage and networking components operational?
  • Is your Active Directory set-up? Domain Account? Organizational Unit?
  • DNS?
  • DHCP?
  • Static IP Addresses for the XenDesktop Components?
  • What about sufficient Storage space to hold all the related data?
  • Is your License Server up and running? Do you have the XenDesktop license file available?
  • DVD ISO?  Or media? Don’t want to be caught without this…
  • Virtualization layer up and running? Optimized? Tested?
  • Have you set-up your Desktop Delivery Layer? Web Interface? Controllers?
  • OS Delivery Layer? Machine Creation Services? Provisioning Srvices?
  • Lets not forget the Application Delivery Layer? Where is it located; locally, hosted, streamed (app-v, XenApp)?
  • User Layer, Local, roaming, mandatory?
  • Are Policies defined in AD or the local database?
  • Is the database SQL express or SQL server?
  • What about High Availability options?
  • Will you be implementing Remote Access?
  • What are your Desktop groups? Win 7 XP? Vista?
  • RAM? How many vCPU”S?

I know its a lot I know, but its fun right?

Microsoft Extends VDI/Citrix Offer

Great news…if you were still looking at a VDI solution with Microsoft and Citrix they have extended their promotion.

The deal can help you save as much as 50% and help with a quick start launch of VDI in your environment. Or at lease help make the sell a little bit easier to management.

Details:

  • 50% off retail price of the Microsoft VDI suite and the Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition
  • Eligible customers will receive a 70% discount off the estimated retail price on Microsoft VDI Standard Suite subscription license and a 50% discount on Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition annual licensefrom their reseller of choice
  • This promotion is for up to 250 devices at $28 per device, so for around $7K you could have the base solution
  • To be eligible, you must have a Core CAL EA with active SA or a Select Agreement, it also open to Open Value customers as well
  • Offer Ends June 30th 2011

Details and link here: