Category Archives: PC’s

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.

Trend Micro: Possible Internet Attack Imminent

An alert just came in from Trend Micro that says they are concerned about a potential Internet attack.  This is vague and I know it sounds like it’s coming from the US Department of “Homeland Security.”  Here it is:

High Probe Traffic Seen on ServerProtect Port 5168

PSP Announcement – 8/23/2007 6:53:13 AM – Proactive Notification: High Probe Traffic Seen on ServerProtect Port 5168 – Dear All:ICS [1] has reported a spike in the probe traffic on port 5168 which is used by ServerProtect. This might be an indication that hackers are preparing to launch an attack against this port. At this point however, we have not received any reports or samples which demonstrate the exploit.Please ensure that your Server Protect Systems have applied security patch 4 to ensure that known vulnerabilities are patched.

Please download the latest Server Protect Patch from the Trend Micro URL:

http://www.trendmicro.com/download/product.asp?productid=17

spnt_security_risk_notification_aug232007.pdf

Safari 3 Beta for Windows was released today, and I’m wondering why I should care.

Apple released Safari 3 Beta for Windows today and the link got over 8000 Diggs.  I just can’t understand why.  Who cares if there is another browser for Windows?  Is it just BS Apple fanboy hype?  Is it Windows users that are excited to have another alternative?  Windows only users have no idea what Safari is.  I can’t imagine that they’d be so excited about it. 

I’m also wondering what this means for Apple, Windows, potential future browser wars. 

Apple must have learned that there is more money to be made where 90%+ of internet users reside rather than with their 5%.  I find it interesting that Apple created Safari for Windows.  It’s the first time that I remember (please correct me if I’m wrong) Apple creating an app for Windows that wasn’t either coupled with hardware (iPod) or required for compatability purposes (Quicktime).  Apple seams to be spreading out from their little closed world of Macs, iPods, etc.

And does Windows need another browser?  Maybe.  IE has been badly neglected by Microsoft.  IE7 is working fine for the sheeple, corporate environments, and MS fans.  Other than that, it’s lacking in innovation.  Firefox has been developed relentlesy and it has paid off (33.7% browser share in May).  Apple is a much bigger name than Firefox and they might be able to steal some browser share (currently at 1.5%).

So is this the first shot in the new browser war?  That’s up to Microsoft.  Do they want to develop IE anymore?  It doesn’t seem that way.  Is IE still important to Microsoft’s success?  I don’t think so unless Firefox and Safari intentionally don’t work with MS technologies.

Microsoft is Dead. Long Live Microsoft.

Last night I saw an article pop up on Digg titled: Vista sales propel Microsoft’s profits to almost $5 BILLION.  It states that “Microsoft Corp. posted a 65 percent rise in quarterly profit Thursday, topping Wall Street estimates thanks to better than expected demand for its new Windows Vista operating system.”

What?  This can’t be true.  Some guy on the Internet just announced that Microsoft Is Dead.  Then some more people got together, declared victory for Apple (Apple’s role in Microsoft’s downfall), and pissed on Microsoft’s grave (gotta love Slashdot).

The blogosphere loves bombastic, NY Post worthy headlines about Microsoft’s demise; especially where Apple fanboys hangout.  The fact of the matter is that Microsoft is flawed, but fine.  Microsoft isn’t going anywhere.

Here’s a prediction on the future of the home PC/OS.  Apple and Microsoft will both have a stake in it, and a large number of Mac buyers will kick in a few extra bucks to run Parallels/Fusion/Boot Camp/etc..  People will do this because they still want to run their Windows apps as seamlessly as possible while playing with their Apple toys.

Greenpeace: Apple is the worst envrionmental offender out there

 I was tipped off to this by InfoWorld.  Greenpeace just concluded their quarterly Toxic Tech rankings of the most environmentally friendly big electronics companies.  Lenovo finished in first place.  Who finished in last?  Apple!  Apple is more toxic than a sink full of dishes in the The Sims.  Check out the rankings and encourage Apple to clean up their act.

 BTW, Apple fanboys shouldn’t forget that Apple is the home of Trash as opposed to Microsoft’s Recycling Bin. 🙂

What’s going to happen to the PC?

I want to begin studying the future of the PC as we know it.  I have a potential answer, but I want to avoid jumping to conclusions.  That wouldn’t be fair to me or you (my beloved reader).  My general feeling is that the PC is headed for the museum, especially in corporate settings.  And if so, what replaces it?  We’ll see if that holds up.