Monthly Archives: October 2007

My boss: “We should research Desktop Linux.”

What????  My boss dropped this bomb on us last week.  I was shocked.  There was no context for that remark.  No one had brought this up seriously before.  There was talk about migrating from Netware to AD.  There was talk of VDI.  There was even a rumor about Macs.  But this was new.  My first thoughts were:

  • how well did my boss think this out?
  • Am I willing to go to war with our users?
  • Am I willing to take such a high profile risk for really no return?
  • There’s a good chance that this is going to suck.

After the meeting adjourned, I took a moment to find out when Windows XP goes “End of Life.”  It turns out that XP goes End of Life April 8, 2014.  Also, I don’t foresee a justifiable reason to upgrade to Vista in the next three years.  That means that a Desktop Linux project doesn’t make financial sense until at least 2011.  That gives us three years to migrate off of XP.

I took the rest of the day to think about it and brought it up the next day.  I found out that my boss hadn’t really thought about it at all.  He was just throwing the idea out there as something to think about long term.  He understood my point of view and I think that’s going to be the end of that for a while.

Coincidentally, that afternoon I received the InfoWorld Editors Newsletter titled Is Desktop Linux for Real? from Steve Fox at InfoWorld.  Freaky huh?

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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, Client Consolidation, and Blade PC’s… Oh My!

I’ve begun researching VDI because I believe that the PC is no longer necessary in medium to large environments that can operate with less than workstation class performance.  The potential advantages of replacing PC’s with Thin Clients that connect to full fledged XP installations are compelling.  I’ve been researching all of this for a couple weeks now, and I have to say that VDI, CCON, CCI, is in a pre-1.0 state.  I’ll explain it all below.

There are three terms going around to describe Client Consolidation technology.  They are:

  • VDI: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
  • CCON: Client Consolidation
  • CCI: Consolidated Client Infrastructure

They all essentially mean the same thing.  My definition of CCON is centralizing desktop/PC systems by hosting them in the data center.  All computing functions other than KVM are hosted and managed in a computer room away from the user.  The user uses a client device or application to access the centralized computer.  There are multiple terms battling to be the methodological name for this technology.  VDI was the first term that I saw used.  VDI is the trendy name in my view, and has been co-opted by VMware and turned into a product.  CCON is the name used by an IBM employee named Massimo Re Ferre’ who is a heavy contributor to VDI technology research.  Client Consolidation happens to be the name of IBM’s implementation of VDI (what a coincidence).  CCI is a product name used by HP after they abandoned the use of VDI.  Another name that’s out there is “Centralized Computing.”  Centralized Computing is the term used to define the days of mainframes and dumb terminals. 

My preference for the academic name of this technology is Client Consolidation (CCON).  I believe that CCON is the most descriptive, most open name of all.  CCON is general enough to encompass all of diverse technologies in this area.

There’s a lot of overlapping information and noise out there.  I want to explain the bottom line as I see it.

The technology “models” (Re Ferre’, 2007) for CCON are:

  • Shared Services (Citrix)
  • Virtual Machines (VMware, Xen, others)
  • Blade PC’s/Blade Workstations (HP, ClearCube)

You will ultimately have to select one (or more) of those methedologies for a production rollout.

Client consolidation is all about the use of RDP to connect to Windows systems.  RDP is what it’s all about (some solutions prefer/support ICA).   If you know how to use Remote Desktop, you’re most of the way to understanding what CCON is all about.   Everything after this is about services and features built around the use of RDP accessed Windows systems (VM’s, Blade PC’s).

The components of CCON are:

  • Client Access Devices (thin clients, repurpossed PC’s)
  • Connection Broker (software)
  • Host Systems (VM’s, Blade PC’s)

 VDI-CCON

Client Access Devices are straight forward.  You need a device that can understand how to connect to remote systems using RDP.  The client device can be a full blown XP/Vista PC, or a thin client running the proper client software.  You’re going to hear a lot about Windows XPe in this space.  XPe is a stripped down version of Windows XP often used for development and loaded onto many thin clients. 

Host systems are also straight forward.  You can run your XP/Vista/Other hosts as VM’s or on Blade PC’s.

Connection Brokers is where all the fun is.  Connection Brokers handle the setup, and advanced features of CCON.  Brokers decide (based on policy) which VM/Blade should be assigned, the features that are available to the user, and in some cases the robustness of the service.  I think of Brokers as travel agents.  A client shows up to the broker with a request.  The Broker knows how to handle the request based on requirements and makes all of the arrangements including the connection.  The broker is usually finished at that point, though the broker is an intermediary in some solutions.

That’s basically what CCON is all about.

CCON is barely at a 1.0 level.  There’s very little information out there (other than Citrix) and all of the solutions are patch up jobs.  There’s no long standing, widely accepted solution.  Most of the solutions that I have found have been assembled piecemeal.  The absolute best information that I have found comes from Massimo at http://it20.info/misc/brokers.htm.  He’s created a table with extensive descriptions of all the features he’s been able to confirm for brokers and clients.  It’s not a complete list of brokers and features, so do your own research and testing (HP SAM, IBM TMP missing).  Regardless, it is a must read if you are going down the CCON road.

Two other items of interest are VMware’s VDI forum and HP’s CCI forum.  Notice that there is very little activity at those forums.  That’s because most people still aren’t working on this.  Also, VMware’s product is in Beta.  That’s right…VMware’s broker is vaporware, yet they’re calling it VDM 2.0.  Now that’s good marketing.

That’s it for now.  Please let me know if you have any questions or if you have something to add.  There is so much information out there that I’m positive there is more to come.

MTI Technology files for bankruptcy, going out of business.

***UPDATE 3*** A press release just popped up stating: “MTI also announced today that, due primarily to continued operational and financial difficulties experienced by its U.S. operations, it has filed for bankruptcy protection pursuant to Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.”  Bye bye MTI. 😦

My company has used MTI Technology OTC:MTIC.pk for some EMC storage and VMware projects.  There have been signs that they were in trouble since May.  I got a letter from their CEO in May stating that some sales people had left, but everything was fine and they were still the #2 EMC reseller.  That was weird, so I started looking around and found out that MTI was being de-listed from NASDAQ.  I was then contacted by some of the departed sales people who wanted me to do business with them at their new company.  Then more and more people that I dealt with from MTI left.  Finally, I wasn’t getting calls returned from MTI employees I know.  I eventually got in touch with someone I know that used to work at MTI.  That person told me that “no one really works for MTI anymore.”

My understanding is that MTI has let go of almost everyone and they are on their way out.  I’m not totally surprised.  MTI was an IHV that attempted to transform itself into a VAR.  They sold only EMC Storage.  They also sold EMC and VMware software.  They did a decent job with the EMC storage, eventually becoming the #2 EMC reseller behind only Dell.  They always behaved as if Sales and Project Services were different organizations.  They never behaved as if they were on the same team, which caused them unnecessary problems.

It’s unfortunate to see MTI go. 

*UPDATE* It appears that my info and instincts are correct.  MTI defaulted on a loan from Comerica and a prommisory note from Pencom Systems Inc..

*UPDATE 2* One of my sources confirmed what I learned last week.  They said that all sales and project people were let go.  The also said some support staff remains to deal with commitments.  They said that MTI will try to do the right thing for their customers.  That remains to be seen.

This post is based on information I have received from people associated with MTI that are in the know and my opinion of their services.  If you have information that proves MTI is staying in business, I’ll gladly retract this post.

Voodoo Problem launching Backup Exec for Netware Administrative Console

I installed the Backup Exec for Netware Administrative Console because I needed to administer some remote server.  The installation went well, but the program refused to launch.  I searched the Internet and came up with nothing until I searched for the executable path.  That led me to the only answer posted anywhere on the Internet (based on a Google search).   The search was for: “C:\Program Files\Symantec\Backup Exec for NetWare\JRE\bin\javaw.exe”.  The answer was posted here: https://forums.symantec.com/syment/board/message?board.id=16&message.id=11001

 Change the shortcut target to (include the quotation marks): “C:\Program Files\Symantec\Backup Exec for NetWare\JRE\bin\javaw.exe” -Xms64M -Xmx818M -jar clientUI.jar”

Must Bookmark: Blackberry FAQ

I came across a very helpful website while troubleshooting Blackberry issues.  It’s an extremely detailed Wiki about everything Blackberry.  Check it out here:

http://blackberryfaq.com/index.php/Main_Page