Boot storms and VDI storage

We were having a discussion about virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environments the other day and the topic came around to boot storms.

When VDI first started coming out many storage companies were concerned about the effect boot storms, shutdown storms, AV scan storms, etc. would have on system performance. As such, they were keen to demonstrate how well their systems did against boot storms and other un-natural IO activity to support VDI environments.

But at last years SFD4 and during subsequent discussions around the storage round table noone mention boot storms as being a concern anymore. Nowadays it’s more that VMs in general create a sort of IO mixer and that discerning IO patterns in VM environments is neigh impossible without insight into the VM’s IO workload in isolation.

Why is it that boot storms are no longer a concern?

It seems that a couple of things have emerged as more VDI implementations are put in place. For example, not everyone in a company boots up on Monday morning at 8am, spreading out any potential boot storms over a much longer period of time than anticipated in boot storm simulations.

Also it turns out that a lot of people never actually shut down their desktops so the need to boot is drastically reduced for these people, perhaps once/week or once/month or once/bluescreen. Although, I don’t know this for a fact, someone mentioned that VMware View has a parameter that can disable end user shutdowns and just puts the VDI instances into suspended animation (I would say sleep but that seems to be a Mac term).

Another case in point is that VMware View Planner doesn’t simulate or even measure virtual desktop boot up activity. It seems that simulating boot storms is no longer a reasonable way to help measure how effective storage systems can handle VMware View implementations.

On the other hand, I am aware of at least one other VDI benchmarking tools that make a point of simulating boot storms and other similar extreme workload activities.

So are boot storms, no longer an issue for storage systems in VDI implementations or not?

Photo Credits: Storm cloud, Duncan, Oklahoma by chascar

VMworld day 2

At today’s VMworld keynote the subject was end user computing.  The start was all the work being done with VMware view to enable virtual desktops to execute anywhere it needs to be.  VMware has some special graphical functionality to enable View to interact even better with today’s touch screen UIs, allowing cut and paste between View desktop application on Android tablet to a native tablet application – pretty impressive.

Next, VMware discussed Wanova Mirage application which provides for centralized management of live desktops. The demo onstage had a laptop running Windows XP upgraded in real time (with Restart) to Windows 7 (just in time to move up to Windows 2012).  Then the demonstrator tripped and destroyed his ancient laptop. Mirage had synched an image of the laptop and was able to bridge the image to a virtual desktop which enabled the use of View on his Galaxy tablet to show the presentation he was updating on his laptop.  Next, the end user showed up with a Mac Air laptop and Mirage was able to extract the desktop image and have it run under VMware FusionPro natively on the Mac Air laptop.  Apparently Mirage maintains a synchronized version of the desktop as it changes and enables it to run/deliver it anywhere it needs to be used.

VMware has been talking about the new Mulit-Device world for a while now and this vision is being delivered in their Horizon set of applications.  They showed an alpha version of their Horizon Suite which joins Horizon App manager, Horizon Data (Project Octopus, Dropbox for enterprise data) collaboration data sharing, and Horizon Desktop.  It seems to me as an attempt to move vCloud director like management services to desktop users.  Unclear to me how this interacts with View and Mirage but it seems to be the next evolution.

With the alpha version Horizon Suite, they showed how easy it would be to create a new Horizon user and also how easy it was to add applications to the Horizon Apps manager that every user would be able to download or optionally could be pushed to all desktop environments. Apparently, desktop apps become vApps in this environment and can be pushed or pulled into any Horizon managed desktop environment.

They had previously showed how a Horizon virtual machine running on Android phones would enable the Enterprise app to run on mobile phones but today they also showed how a Horizon Encapsulated Application would run on an iPhone. It showed an enterprise email client running on the iPhone. The user had to login to access their email.  Also it showed an attempt to cut and paste from the enterprise application to a native iPhone app and it generate a stock statement that pasting from enterprise (Horizon encapsulated) iPhone apps was prohibited. The new app that was added to desktop support was able to be downloaded onto the iPhone and was immediately available as an iPhone app as well as a desktop app.

The end of the 2nd day keynote was a sort of Diamond Sponsor Hunger Games where each vendor got 4 minutes to present anything they wanted to show.  Cisco showed a package called LISP which with tunnel routers would enable Vmotion across continents, not exactly sure what Dell showed, but EMC demoed the new VMware Virtual Data Protection capability (Avamar light embedded into vSphere), HP demoed their 3par storage capability to configure VMs, NetApp showed cluster mode capabilities how a customer was able to create a Vsan in seconds, how that data could live on long after its underlying storage was gone.

NetApp won the demo wars.  VMware made charitable contributions to each of the vendors favorite charities.

That’s about it for day 2’s keynote, stay tuned for more…

EMC World 2012 Day 2a – VMware & VMAX


VMware’s vision

Paul Maritz CEO of VMware came up and gave his vision for the new transformations impacting the IT  world today. It all starts with infrastructure transformation and VMware’s build out of the cloud infrastructure suite (stack).  Paul described the backend transformation provided by VMware as follows:

  • vSphere – providing virtualization, pooling oand scheduling of resources across multiple physical boundaries,
  • vShield – providing software defined services across net, storage and server resources in the infrastructure,
  • vCloud Director – providing administration, self service and multi-tenancy for physical and virtual resources,
  • vCenter Operations Manager – providing automated monitoring and management of physical and virtual resources,
  • vFabric Data and Application Director(s) – providing app-aware and data (aware?) service provisioning.


20120522-122601.jpgPaul went on to discuss the frontend transformation primarily through VMware View 5.1 and VMware’s Horizon Suite covering any display out there. He finished up talking about application transformation keying on Spring framework, GemFire RAM database, and open source cloud APIs.


VMAX enhancements

Brian Gallagher did a keynote on the changes to the VMAX product line, with the new 10K, 20K and 40K storage systems supporting ~1PB, ~2PB and over ~4PB of capacity.

The new systems also support both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives and will now support eMLC SSDs. Brian talked about the many millions of run hours they now have on FAST VP in enterprises around the world.

He also introduced the VMAX SP, a new storage service offering where EMC owns the equipment and sells storage QOS to the customer with special SLAS associated with the storage.  Brian sees this as a step to increasing IT agility allowing for a quick turnaround deployment of enterprise storage without the high acquisition cost and complexity.

Brian also talked about Federated Storage Tiering where VMAX can now incorporate other vendor storage as a storage tier with VMAX advanced functionality in front of it.

More on VMAX new enhanced hardware and software in our free monthly newsletter (sign up above right).

… more to come.

VMworld 2010 review

The start of VMWorld2010's 1st keynote session
The start of VMWorld2010's 1st keynote session

Got back from VMworld last week and had a great time. Met a number of new and old friends and talked a lot about the new VMware technology coming online. Some highlights from the keynote sessions I attended,

vCloud Director

Previously known as Redwood, VMware is rolling out their support for cloud services and tieing it into their data center services. vCloud Director supports the definition of Virtual Data Centers with varying SLA characteristics. It is expected that virtual data centers would each support different service levels, something like “Gold”, “Silver” and “Bronze”. Virtual data centers now represent a class of VM service and aggregates all VMware data center resources together into massive resource pools which can now better managed and allocated to VMs that need them.

For example, by using vCLoud Director, one only needs to select which Virtual Data Center to specify the SLAs for a VM. New VMs will be allocated to the virtual data center that provides the requested service. This takes DRS, HA and FT to a whole new level.

Even more, it now allows vCloud Data Center Service partners to enter into the picture and provide a virtual data center class of service to the customer. In this way, a customer’s onsite data center could supply Gold and Silver virtual data center services while Bronze services could be provided at a service partner.


With all the advent of VM cloud capabilites coming online the need for VM security is becoming much more pressing. To address these concerns, VMware rolled out their vShield services which come in two levels today vShield Endpoint and vShield Edge.

  • Endpoint – offloads anti-virus scans from running in the VM and interfaces with standard anti-virus vendors to run the scan at the higher (ESX) levels.
  • Edge – provides for VPN and firewalls surrounding the virtual data center and interfaces with Cisco, Intel-McAffee, Symantec, and RSA to insure tight integration with these data center security providers.

The combination of vShield and vCloud Director allows approved vCloud Data Center Service providers to supply end-to-end data center security surrounding VMs and virtual data centers. Their are currently 5 approved vShield/vCloud Data Center Services partners today and they are Terramark, Verizon, Singtel, Colt, and Bluelock with more coming online shortly. Using vShield services, VMs could have secured access to onsite data center services even though they were executing offsite in the cloud.

VMware View

A new version of VMware’s VDI interface was released which now includes offline mode for those users that occasionally reside outside normal network access and need to use a standalone desktop environment. With the latest VMware View offline mode, one would checkout (download) a desktop virtual machine to your laptop and then be able to run all your desktop applications without network access.


vStorage API for Array Integration (VAAI)

VAAI supports advanced storage capabilities such as cloning, snapshot and thin provisioning and improves the efficiency of VM I/O. These changes should make thin provisioning much more efficient to use and should enable VMware to take advantage of storage hardware services such as snapshots and clones to offload VMware software services.

vSphere Essentials

Essentials is an SMB targeted VMware solution license-able for ~$18 per VM in an 8-core server, lowering the entry costs for VMware to very reasonable levels. The SMB data center’s number one problem is the lack of resources and this should enable more SMB shops to adopt VMware services at an entry level and grow up with VMware solutions in their environment.


VMforce allows applications developed under Springsource, the enterprise java application development framework of the future, to run on the cloud via cloud infrastructire. VMware is also working with Google and other cloud computing providers to provide similar services on their cloud infrastructure.

Other News

In addition to these feature/functionality announcements, VMware discussed their two most recent acquisitions of Integrien and TriCipher.

  • Integrien – is a both a visualization and resource analytics application. This will let administrators see at a glance how their VMware environment is operating with a dashboard and then allows one to drill down to see what is wrong with any items indicated by red or yellow lights. Integrien integrates with vCenter and other services to provide the analytics needed to determine resource status and details needed to understand how to resolve any flagged situation.
  • TriCipher – is a security service that will ultimately provide a single sign-on/login for all VMware services. As discussed above security is becoming ever more important in VMware environments and separate sign-ons to all VMware services would be cumbersome at best. However, with TriCipher, one only need sign-on once and then have access to any and all VMware services in a securely authenticated fashion.

VMWorld Lowlights

Most of these are nits and not worth dwelling on but the exhibitors and other non-high level sponsors/exhibitors all seemed to complain about the lack of conference rooms and were not allowed in the press&analyst rooms. Finding seating to talk to these vendors was difficult at best around the conference sessions, on the exhibit floor, or in the restuarants/cafe’s surrounding Moscone Conference Center. Although once you got offsite facilities were much more accommodating.

I would have to say another lowlight were all the late night parties that occurred – not that I didn’t partake in my fair share of partying. There were rumors of one incident where a conference goer was running around a hotel hall with only undergarments on blowing kisses to any female within sight. Some people shouldn’t be allowed to leave home.

The only other real negative in a pretty flawless show was the lines of people waiting to get into the technical sessions. They were pretty orderly but I have not seen anything like this amount of interest before in technical presentations. Perhaps, I have just been going to the wrong conferences. In any event, I suspect VMworld will need to change venues soon as their technical sessions seem to be outgrowing their session rooms although the exhibit floor could have used a few more exhibitors. Too bad, I loved San Francisco and Moscone Center was so easy to get to…


But all in all a great conference, learned lot’s of new stuff, talked with many old friends, and met many new ones. I look forward to next year.

Anything I missed?

PC-as-a-Service (PCaaS) using VDI

IBM PC Computer by Mess of Pottage (cc) (from Flickr)
IBM PC Computer by Mess of Pottage (cc) (from Flickr)

Last year at VMworld, VMware was saying that 2010 was year for VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), last week NetApp said that most large NY banks they talked with were looking at implementing VDI and prior to that, HP StorageWorks announced a new VDI reference platform that could support ~1600 VDI images.  It seems that VDI is gaining some serious interest.

While VDI works well for large organizations, there doesn’t seem to be any similar solution for consumers. The typical consumer today usually runs downlevel OS’s, anti-virus, office applications, etc.  and have no time, nor inclination to update such software.  These consumers would be considerably better served with something like PCaaS, if such a thing existed.


Essentially PCaaS would be a VDI-like service offering, using standard VDI tools or something similar with a lightweight kernel, use of local attached resources (printers, usb sticks, scanners, etc.) but running applications that were hosted elsewhere.  PCaaS could provide all the latest O/S and applications and provide enterprise class reliability, support and backup/restore services.


One potential problem with PCaaS is the need for reliable broadband to the home. Just like other cloud services, without broadband, none of this will work.

Possibly this could be circumvented if a PCaaS viewer browser application were available (like VMware’s Viewer). With this in place, PCaaS could be supplied over any internet enabled location supporting browser access.   Such a browser based service may not support the same rich menu of local resources as a normal PCaaS client, but it would probably suffice when needed. The other nice thing about a viewer is that smart phones, iPads and other always-on web-enabled devices supporting standard browsers could provide PCaaS services from anywhere mobile data or WI-FI were available.

PCaaS business model

As for a businesses that could bring PC-as-a-Service to life, I see many potential providers:

  • Any current PC hardware vendor/supplier may want to supply PCaaS as it may defer/reduce hardware purchases or rather move such activity from the consumer to companies.
  • Many SMB hosting providers could easily offer such a service.
  • Many local IT support services could deliver better and potentially less expensive services to their customers by offering PCaaS.
  • Any web hosting company would have the networking, server infrastructure and technical know-how to easily provide PCaaS.

This list ignores any new entrants that would see this as a significant opportunity.

Google, Microsoft and others seem to be taking small steps to do this in a piecemeal fashion, with cloud enabled office/email applications. However, in my view what the consumer really wants is a complete PC, not just some select group of office applications.

As described above, PCaaS would bring enterprise level IT desktop services to the consumer marketplace. Any substantive business in PCaaS would free up untold numbers of technically astute individuals providing un-paid, on-call support to millions, perhaps billions of technically challenged consumers.

Now if someone would just come out with Mac-as-a-Service, I could retire from supporting my family’s Apple desktops & laptops…