Oct 20 2008

I wrote more books than I remember

Well kinda, I contributed to more books than I was aware off. Couple of weeks ago we were having some fun Googling for pictures of collegues when Mario came up with a Link to a bookcover that had meta information with my name on.

"The Best Damn Server Virtualization Book Period"

I had never heard of the book, but it was published by Syngress with whom last year I worked on the Virtualization with Xen book. As the cover of the book on Amazon told me that I was involved in the book I set on to find a PDF of the book which one of the collegues quickly found. And indeed my name was in the book , and also the chapters I had written for the Xen book seemed to be inside.

So I contacted my editor at syngress again to get some more information and hopefully also the book.
And eventually they got back to me and send me a copy of the book

So with 2007 being on of my most busiest years so far I managed to do even more than I knew of .. I didn't write a significant part of just 1 book but 2.

Whow .. and all of that while I became a father, started a new company

Still not sure what to think about it ..

Jul 10 2008

Fired because of Open Source

When Dana Blankenhorn asked yesterday if Open Source was one of the reasons why Diane Greene was fired at VMWare I had to smile a bit .. obviously the economy is changing and Open Source is a real competitor to proprietary software ... but to fire the CEO , nah .

Firing developers that are working on an almost obsolete product however is a relevant thing to do. IBM just let go 150 , 30 of which in their Tivoli department.

Tools such as Tivoli, HP OpenView (what were they smoking when they chose that name) , and others are obviously feeling the heat from opensource. With frameworks such as Nagios and tools such as Zabbix, Zenoss and HypericHQ their fate has been written already .

Jan 31 2008

VMWare Revisited

Last century I was sometimes noticed to be using VMWare to run a weird platform on my Linux Desktop , or to run some test installations. With the introduction of Qemu and later Xen there was no need for me to use the proprietary closed alternative.

So I got the question earlier this week to build a virtual instance of our bootstrapping environment so that field engineers could take that virtual machine on their laptop and do installations from there.

One of the collegues told me that booting a fresh VMWare instance of the network would be no problem so I took up on the challenge.

First of all a registration procedure so the nice folks over at VMWare can spam me with their marketing stuff during the next couple of months. I needed to register as I seemed to need a Serial Number.. whow .. that was ages ago since I last needed such a beast.
A full 101Mb download later I had an RPM ready to be installed.

"Cool an RPM" I tought, that means that I will be able to clean up all the mess they leave behind with a simple rpm -e.
Wrong guess. it seems like VMWare starts copying around files in different places on your filesystem and actually even wants to compile stuff against your running kernel. All fine and well, but the result is a bunch of unidentified files that are cluttering my filesystem.

The next step required me to start the gui to create a virtual machine, suddenly the load of my machine skyrocketed. Load 11 whew.. yep the VMware process was the guilty one.. luckily it went back to normal after a while .. but I`m still not sure what happened there.

Click, click, click and before I knew it VMware was allocating 4Gb on myfilesystem for an empty VM. Noo.. don't allocate it yet.. retry.. ok .. take it when you need it .. that's better. And why do you think I only want 256Mb for this machine ? Hmm.. where's that config file.. aah.. clickerdy click again .

Start VM, F12 to boot of the network, wait, reboot done.

And thus we joined the era of transferring an unmanagable image that everyone will copy around wile slightly modifying things and never placing them in version control . hence ending up one day with something nobody knows how we got there..

What did we learn, that the way I bootstrap a Virtual machine or a physical machine really doesn't matter, and is still just a matter of mapping a MAC address to a HOSTNAME.

When working on the system, to check if the install was done correctly it felt like I was on a remotely bad connected machine, not really slow, but really slow but still (could have been because I logged on via the gui). Certainly not like the paravirtualized Xen machines I`m used to work with, more like the VirtualBox experience.

The big problem with giving someone an image to play with however is that you loose all control over what is being deployed , configured or changed and it just becomes a change management nightmare. At least reinstalling won't take much time.

But I`ll go back to KVM and Xen for my daily work.. I've seen enough GUI's for this month :)

Jan 25 2008

Ian Pratt to leave Xensource(Citrix) for VmWare

Is what could be the title of a blogpost if Ian felt he was qualified for the job


Nov 06 2007

Vendor Lock vs Vendor Lock

Henning Sprang seems to have a different view on the concept of a Vendor LockIn than I do

On his blog The daily laziness: OpenQRM vs. vendor lock in??? , he describes how openQRM Locks into using .. openQRM.

Well, not really .. at least not in my opinion, although openQRM still has a long way to go and the proposals for a meaner and leaner Henning gives are certainly valid,

openQRM however does not force you to do anything you don't like. The source is available and free, you can modify its behaviour , you yourselve can spend time on in, learn and modify the platform no one .
(given the complexity I agree you won't dive into it in just 5 minutes but you nothing (b)locks you)

Certainly in the virtualization field openQRM gives you the freedom to migrate your machines from one virtualization technology to another, Today VMWare, tomorrow KVM, the week after Xen
or all 3 or them from one management console (can come handy after a merger) all with the same interface. None of the commercial products out there will even think about giving you a GUI to manage their competition.

On top of that when you go out and buy VMWare , you can only manage VMWare instances and you get a framework that will also force you to work in a way you can't change. You have only one company to talk to, VMWare, (maybe via its integrators but they can't fix issues , they don't have the source) with openQRM you can hire other people besides Qlusters , you can change to another organisation to support you.

Try that with VMWare , I fear you are Locked In

Nov 03 2007

VMWare feels the heat

Lots of people are commenting on VMWare's vision on Open Source
With statements like
What we want to do is fund ourselves to be able to build new stuff. If you're purely open source, there is no way you can do new stuff.
you'll lose credibility pretty fast.
It's clear that proprietary software companies can't keep up with the speed of open source development so they need to spread more FUD on a daily base.

Half a decade ago Open Source indeed was catching up on proprietary software and trying to implement features that the other side already had. We have long passed that moment .. Xen and KVM are the technology leaders of the pack. The rest is trying to keep up. (And it's not only in the Virtualisation area that we see this evolution)

Yes VMWare does similar things under the hood with a more fancy GUI as Tarry notes but in a way indeed they are heading the way Microsoft showed them they way. Or aren't they..? Apple did nothing really new with the iPod, apart from its slick interface. But today Apple is feeling the heath from people not wanting their DRM, wanting to play OGG , and people wanting to use their device from non Apple platforms.
So people clearly want something more open, not one tool that locks them in with a vendor. If you really are looking for a GUI to manage your platforms you'd better choose for one that can manage them all

Oct 17 2007

Virtual Machine Replication

I don't know on which planet I have been for the past couple of years , days or hours but since when do
VMware’s Vmotion, XenSource’s Xenmotion or Virtual Iron’s Virtual Iron support Replication ?

Live Migration yes, but Replication , No.

I discussed this kind of technologies with Mark and Vincent , Moshe and others already a zillion times.. Continuously mirroring or realtime replication of a virtual machine is really difficult to do. And I haven't heard from a working scalable solution yet .. (Shared Memory issues such as we had with openMosix still are amongst the issue to be tackled)

Live Replication would mean that you mirror the full state of your virtual machine realtime to another running virtual machine. Every piece of disk/memory and screen you are using has to be replicated to the other side of the wire realtime. Yes you can take snapshots of filesystems and checkpoints of virtual machines. But continuous checkpointing over the network , I'd love to see that.. (outside of a lab)

So with a promise like that .. our good friends the CIO will be dreaming and the vendors will be blamed for not delivering what was promised to them.

But on the subject of using just Live Migration features as an alternative for a real High Availability solution , I know different vendors are singing this song, but it's a bad one.

Using Live migration in your infrastructure will give you the opportunity to move your applications away from a bad behaving machine when you notice it starts behaving badly, hence giving you a better overall uptime. If however you don't notice the machine is failing, or if it just suddenly stops working, or if your application crashes you are out of luck.
Live migration won't work anymore since you are to late, you can't migrate a machine that's dead. The only thing you can do is quickly redeploy your virtual machine on another node, which for me doesn't really qualify as a Clustered or HA solution.

Real HA looks at all the aspects of an application, the state of the application, the state of the server it is running on and the state of the network it is connected to. It has an alternative ready if any of these aspects fail. Session data is replicated, data storage is done redundantly and your network has multiple paths. If your monitoring decides something went wrong another alternative should take over with no visible interruption for the end user. You don't have to wait till your application is restarted on the other side of the network, you don't have to wait till your virtual machine is rebooted, your filesystems are rechecked and your database has recovered no it happens right away .

But Virtual Machine Replication as an alternative for HA ? I'd call that wishfull thinking and vapourware today