Archive for category Virtualization

TEC 2011: Virtualization Approaches and Storage Presentations

imageAs I mentioned in a previous post, I’m scheduled to speak at The Experts Conference 2011 in Las Vegas (April 17 – 20, 2011).  I’ll be giving two presentations in TEC’s new Virtualization and Cloud track.  My sessions abstracts are below.  In addition, Session Abstracts for each of the tracks and the Conference Agenda are now available online.  Let me know if you plan to attend or if there’s anything you’d like to see me cover (either in the presentations or on this blog).

Storage Considerations for Virtualization

Key considerations related to successful virtualization deployments revolve around provisioning highly-reliable, cost-effective solutions to meet business and technical needs. The challenge for IT is in consolidating and optimizing infrastructures while staying within budgets. The primary concerns – including storage capacity, performance, and reliability – can drive the success or failure of virtualized deployments.

This presentation begins with recommendations for designing a storage environment based on business and technical requirements and a solid understanding of application workload requirements. Strategies for collecting storage statistics through historical and real-time performance monitoring can provide valuable insight into real requirements. Based on this data, IT departments can compare different storage approaches, including centralized network-based storage, and cloud-based options. Important features to consider include data de-duplication, thin provisioning, high-availability, clustering, and disaster recovery. Attendees will learn methods by which they can best plan for, implement, manage, and monitor storage for virtualization in their own environments.

Evaluating Virtualization Approaches

The term "virtualization" can apply to a broad range of varying technologies, ranging from storage to networks to servers to applications. The primary goal of these approaches is to simplify management, increase efficiency, allow for scalability, and meet reliability requirements. With recent improvements in virtualization technology, the challenge for IT professionals is in deciding which approaches are the most relevant, given specific requirements.

The focus of this presentation is on understanding the technology behind various virtualization approaches, including presentation-, application-, session-, user state-, desktop-, and server-virtualization. The topic will begin with information on understanding business, technical, and service requirements. These details will then be used to compare a wide variety of different approaches to solving common IT problems. Attendees will receive information that will help them choose which approaches make sense in their own environments.

Virtualization and Storage Presentations at The Experts Conference

imageI’m currently scheduled to speak on two topics at The Experts Conference 2011 in Las Vegas (April 17 – 20, 2011).  The conference has tracks that focus on Directory Services, Exchange, SharePoint, and Virtualization. 

The two topics I’m planning to present are tentatively titled Storage Considerations for Virtualization and Evaluating Virtualization Approaches. I’ll post more details and abstracts here as the conference gets closer.

Mozy Support Nightmares: A Cloudy Forecast for Online Storage and Backups?

Over the last year, I have been frequently asked write and speak about storage and cloud-based service offerings.  Remote storage is a compelling technology for consumers and IT departments, and it’s a good starting point for those that might be interested in dipping their toes (or heads) into the more-ethereal-than-Ethernet “cloud”.

Trouble in Cloud City

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post about the virtues and benefits of online backups (see Online Backup Options).  Since then, I have recommended cloud-based storage (and, Mozy, in particular) to a rather large number of IT professionals, friends, and family.  The idea itself is compelling: Online backups have the potential of simplifying the backup process for most users, while providing secure remote storage.  But what happens when something goes wrong?  Or if you just have a technical question?

I don’t often highlight specific companies for poor customer service – it’s almost to be expected from many organizations these days – but a recent interaction I had with Mozy’s Customer Support has ended in my completely giving up on trying to resolve what should have been a very simple issue.  Without getting into the technical specifics, I have been trying to perform backups of Encrypting File System (EFS)-encrypted local files to the cloud.  From the latest information I could find, Mozy supports both local and online backups of EFS encrypted files.  That wasn’t my experience, though – I received cryptic error messages and overall backup failures.  So, I decided to contact Mozy’s Customer Support, creating a case that included my log files and a detailed description of the problem. 

A Little Rain Must Fall…

In summary: It has been over two weeks now, and after three escalations, I’m no closer to resolving the problem.  Just about every response I have sent to Mozy (along with requests for escalation) have been ignored.  In fact, a US Escalations Customer Support Manager has barely managed to feign any interest in my issue at all.  An hour-long phone call with a Level 2 Customer Support technician resulted in his disabling of several necessary services on my primary Windows 7 workstation (I had to keep records of this so I could reverse the changes myself), and poring through log files that provided little useful information.  The response to my most recent request for support has been a request for me to (again) restate the original problem (it’s thoroughly documented in their support system – I just can’t get anyone to read it).  I do plan to escalate this issue to the Director- or VP-level at Mozy as I somehow hopeful that someone at the organization will care.

Cloud Compatibility

One of the most promising aspects of cloud-based service offerings is a reduction in complexity.  Rather that relying on complicated application deployments (the story goes), we can leave all of the details to services that are provided off-site.  But what about support and compatibility issues?  What happens when two or more cloud services vendors decide that their services are incompatible?  My case with Mozy might be that type of issue, though it doesn’t seem like there’s any official documentation or support boundaries related to which products can peacefully co-exist on the same system with it and which options are supported.  And what if the vendor decides that features and functionality I require aren’t important to them?  Sure, I could run into the same problems with local applications, but workarounds are far easier to find when I control both communication endpoints.

Risk Mitigation

I understand that I’m hardly the first person to suffer from poor technical support, but this experience has made me reconsider the risks of cloud-based services in general.  I’m hardly an important customer for Mozy, but I am paying for their service and I really do rely on the sanctity of my backups.  My typical response to organizations that doubt the cloud is to first compare the reliability of their own datacenter infrastructure against that of an online service provider’s.  However, in this case, I’m completely stuck – I either need to reduce security at my file system level, discontinue the use of Mozy (and transfer 25 GB of data to a competing service), or revert to local backups.

All Eggs in One Cloud?

As the entire world moves to a greater reliance on Internet connections and online services, it becomes harder to create fall-back plans and alternatives.  It’s simply not practical or cost-effective to expect your service providers to fail you.  What’s the point in online backups if I need to have a backup plan for my online backup provider?

That makes me curious: Who else has had a recent experience that has questioned their value in hosted services?  Was it downtime, client application issues, availability, poor customer support, or all of the above?  And how safe do you feel when your mission-critical IT infrastructure is resting on clouds?

Microsoft Thrive: IT Pro of the Month!

It’s no secret that IT professionals and their organizations have been significantly affected by the downturn in the economy.  Those of us that have been through the so-called “dot-com” days can see how much things can change within a few years.  Fortunately, at least some companies are developing resources to help IT professionals weather the downturn.  I’d go a bit further in saying that these otherwise dismal times can provide significant opportunities for those that are willing to invest in their skills and their profession.

MicrosoftThriveThe Microsoft Thrive web site is a free resource that is designed to help IT professionals in a variety of ways.  For example, the site includes the following goals and areas:

  • Advance Your Career
  • Enhance Your Technical Skills
  • Align IT with Business

Some of the content is Microsoft-focused, but much of it applies to just about any area of IT specialization.

I’m honored to say that I’ve been chosen as the Thrive IT Pro of the Month (see Thrive IT Pro of the Month: Anil Desai)!  I recorded a brief (~9 minutes long) presentation that covers, among other things, some recommendations for IT pros to get ahead, how IT pros can demonstrate their value, details on technology-focused topics and even a mention of the importance of hobbies.

The entire audio presentation is available from download using the previous link.  Here’s an excerpt from the written transcript:

As an independent consultant, I’m fairly diversified in the area of IT. I’m also used to the ups and downs in the IT industry, starting from the dot-com days in the late 1990’s to today. I use a variety of different specializations to fill in the inevitable downtime between projects. So, I’m fairly fortunate in that I’ve been able to maintain my business through the recent crunch.

However, the downturn in the economy has certainly had an impact on my clients, especially in the area of prioritization. Many organizations have focused on cost-cutting and many organizations have removed or scaled-back many of their non-essential projects. Those changes can sometimes translate into lay-offs, increased work for remaining staff, and short-term changes at the expense of long-term gains.

All of this provides some serious challenges (as well as some opportunities) for IT professionals. One change is that it really puts the emphasis on IT professionals’ ability to work as a strategic part of their businesses. I’ve heard it said that people know when IT departments are doing their jobs when they don’t know that IT departments are doing their jobs. The idea here is that IT is traditionally seen as a behind-the-scenes force (or sometimes just as a cost center). Business leaders might feel that IT provides little strategic value to the overall business.

Tough economic environments bring this issue to the forefront: IT professionals must understand overall business goals and must be able to apply the right technical solutions to solve business problems. And, they need to demonstrate their value within and outside of their IT groups. For those IT pros that have been able to focus on just the technical aspects of their skillset, this is a good time to branch out into the rest of the business world.

Feel free to e-mail me if you’d like the entire transcript.  And please post here if you have any questions, comments, or recommendations for your IT peers.

Live Webcast: Data Center Cost-Efficiency, Security and Compliance

IT operations groups and datacenter managers are always searching for new ways to reduce costs while still meeting security, configuration, and compliance requirements.  Fortunately, there are numerous methods by which organizations can achieve these goals.  On February 25th, I’ll be presenting a free, live webcast on the topic of The 2010 Data Center: Driving Cost-Efficiency, Security and Compliance.  Here’s an overview of the topic from the webcast’s web site:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

With the new decade comes new opportunity to implement the best technologies and practices for IT.  Join this FREE live webinar to learn how to cost-effectively plan, implement and manage a 21st century data center to drive greater efficiency, security and compliance.

You’ll hear from leading experts about ways organizations are leveraging technologies such as virtualization and configuration management to build flexible, resilient, cost-efficient and high-performing data centers for 2010.

Join now to:

• Get a blueprint to plan and implement IT best practices to modernize, consolidate, and secure your technology environment
• Hear how to cost-effectively drive improved security and compliance across your IT infrastructure while staying agile and competitive
• Learn about the benefits of a combined solution for configuration assessment with configuration change auditing for improved data center operations


The presentation is arranged by and is sponsored by TripWire.  I’ll begin the presentation with an overview of technical best practices.  Then, Barak Engel from EAmmune will provide specific information on products, technologies, and approaches you can use to achieve these goals.  We’ll wrap up by taking live questions from the audience.  The entire webcast should last under an hour.

Webcast: “Understanding and Managing VM Sprawl”

The idea of virtual machine “sprawl” – the rapid proliferation of VMs without adequate IT oversight or management – seems to be a popular one.  I have written and spoken on this topic before, but there have been enough changes in the tools and implementation methods for server virtualization to merit an updated presentation.  That’s the topic of a recent webcast that I recorded for TechTarget’s site. 

The webcast is titled “Understanding and Managing VM Sprawl”.  An archived version is available for viewing at no cost (though registration is required).  Here’s a brief abstract of the topic:


Virtualization can help address many of IT’s biggest headaches, but it can also lead to a problem known as "VM sprawl" – the rapid proliferation of VMs without sufficient IT oversight.  The result is an environment that doesn’t meet security or administration requirements, putting applications, services, and data at risk.

This webcast will provide an overview of VM sprawl – its root causes and related issues, along with ways to mitigate the main issues.  Specifically, it will provide best practices for managing the entire virtual machine life cycle (from deployment to retirement) and details related to tracking VMs in the environment.  The webcast will then describe how automated virtualization management solutions can help provide all of the benefits of virtualization with minimum administrative overhead.

The content is targeted towards IT managers and higher-level IT people.  It focuses on virtualization management strategies, though there’s a good amount of technical depth.  The presentation is roughly 45 minutes in length.  I hope you find it useful, and feel free to post questions or comments here.

Virtual Event: Next-Generation Networks

Network Computing is hosting an online, virtual event that focuses on next-generation networking technologies.  Here’s a brief blurb from the event web site:


This Next Generation Networks virtual event will bring you up to speed on networking state of the art by discussing the technologies that are going to drive network design and implementations today and in the future. You will learn from peers, analysts, and vendors about where the technologies are today and how you can prepare for a network overhaul.
Attendee Benefits:

  • Download informative research, white papers, and other resources straight to your Virtual Briefcase.
  • Access insightful webcasts  featuring industry experts, Network Computing editors, and analysts.
  • Interact with our guest speakers, other attendees, and exhibitors through real-time chat tools.
  • Visit vendor booths and browse through products and solutions in our unique, interactive and entertaining environment.

Use the Event Registration page to sign up to attend.  In addition to the virtual conference booths, you can view a list of presentations on the Distinguished Speakers page.  I’ll be attending and will try to answer as many technical questions as possible in the Microsoft booth. 

Microsoft Virtual Event: The New Efficiency

If you’ve been following some of the latest keynotes and presentations from Microsoft, you’ve probably run into the theme of “The New Efficiency”.  Microsoft has been using this term to describe the benefits of Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange Server 2010.  While listening to presentations can be useful, it’s also valuable to spend some interactive time with other technical professionals and experts.  To that end, Microsoft is hosting another live “Virtual Conference” on October 27, 2009.  Visit the Event Overview page to see details of the virtual conference.  Here’s an excerpt that describes what’s covered and who will be presenting:

Join renowned Microsoft technologies expert Paul Thurrott, Windows IT Pro senior technical director Michael Otey, Exchange guru Paul Robichaux, and Windows IT Pro editor in chief Jeff James for an in-depth, spin-free deep dive into the new efficiency.
In just three hours, directly from your own computer, the keynote and three technical sessions will provide you with:

  • an overview of everything that Windows® 7 has to offer
  • a deep-dive into enterprise-oriented features such as AppLocker, Branche Cache, DirectAccess, federated search, and BitLocker to Go
  • a complete coverage of all of the new features and functionality brought by Windows® Server 2008 R2, including Hyper-V virtualization with live migration and PowerShell 2.0
  • an in-depth presentation of the rich user experience, the many deployment options, and information protection and control capabilities offered by Microsoft® Exchange Server 2010
  • a clear understanding of the ways Windows® 7, Windows® Server 2008 R2, and Microsoft® Exchange Server 2010 work better together

This event is presented in an interactive, real-life simulation! You will experience a lifelike visual environment, networking and interactive tools, staffed sponsor booths, and educational chats to complement each conference session.

I’ll be available to answer technical questions in the Microsoft booth during the morning sessions (from 9:30am to around noon Central time).  Feel free to stop by and ask questions or view the materials and presentations that are available online.

For more details, see the Agenda and Speaker Info pages.  Be sure to Register – it’s free, and you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home or office to attend. 

Convert Physical Hard Disks to VHDs using Disk2VHD

There are numerous free and commercial physical-to-virtual (P2V) conversion tools on the market, but often they require some setup or at least a minimal initial investment.  Sometimes, all you want to do is make a copy of a physical disk and then attach it to a virtual machine.  The Disk2Vhd utility is a simple program for doing just that.  Here’s the info from the TechNet site:

Disk2vhd is a utility that creates VHD (Virtual Hard Disk – Microsoft’s Virtual Machine disk format) versions of physical disks for use in Microsoft Virtual PC or Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines (VMs). The difference between Disk2vhd and other physical-to-virtual tools is that you can run Disk2vhd on a system that’s online. Disk2vhd uses Windows’ Volume Snapshot capability, introduced in Windows XP, to create consistent point-in-time snapshots of the volumes you want to include in a conversion. You can even have Disk2vhd create the VHDs on local volumes, even ones being converted (though performance is better when the VHD is on a disk different than ones being converted).

You can download Disk2Vhd directly from the Microsoft TechNet SysInternals site (it’s only 704KB).  You can then run it directly from your file system to launch the GUI.

While it’s easy to create a VHD, it’s important to keep in mind potential issues with using this approach to “clone” an already-running machine.  Depending on your environment, you might need to consider the impacts of network addresses, MAC addresses, computer names and Security Identifiers (SIDs).  Most of this only applies if you’re using this approach to clone a non-OS hard disk.  Overall, the utility makes it really simple to perform a P2V conversion of a hard disk.

Application Virtualization for Servers: Enabling Cloud Computing

To me, one of the more interesting aspects of virtualization (as a generic term) is the many different ways in which technical layers of abstraction can be combined.  The short list of technologies generally includes the following types of virtualization:

  • Sessions / Presentation
  • Server
  • Application
  • Desktop
  • Network
  • Storage

While these areas all differ widely from the standpoint of technical implementation, they all share the common goal of abstracting the physical implementation of a service layer from its technical components.  One case in point is the use of application virtualization on the server side.  My recent article, The benefits of application virtualization for servers and clouds provides some details on how this technology can be used to enable cloud computing.  From the article’s introduction:

Some combinations — such as peanut butter and chocolate — just go together. Similarly, with myriad virtualization options, several methods can work well together.

Virtualization has proven effective in addressing many of the challenges of data center management. But organizations that have invested in virtualization often encounter new and different problems. This tip discusses using application virtualization for server-based virtualization, the problems application virtualization attempts to solve and how this virtualization approach can improve virtualization administration and the management of data center resources.

The article is available for free online (registration is required).

Combining Virtualization Approaches

While server virtualization seems to get the bulk of virtualization mindshare, there are several other approaches that are worthy of consideration.  Examples including presentation, application, storage, and network virtualization.  In fact, you can effectively combine these different approaches to find the best performing and most cost-effective solutions to common IT problems. 

That’s the topic of my article, Combining virtualization approaches for a data center’s ‘secret sauce’.  From the introduction to the article:

Being an IT professional is similar to being a good cook. Even if you have great ingredients, success is realized only when you combine these ingredients in the ideal way. The same holds true for virtualization — many technologies can work well together. The art is in determining which applications and services will benefit from one another.

The good news is that virtualization doesn’t come in just one flavor — administrators have numerous options from which to choose. You can combine different virtualization approaches to address some of the more difficult data center management tasks.

As long as you can handle some cooking-related puns, I hope the information provides to be useful.

Best Practices to Prevent and Manage Virtual Machine Sprawl (White Paper)

Sun-manage_vm_sprawlOften, new technology tends to bring with it some new problems that need to be addressed.  Granted, the problems are “better” ones to have, but they’re important concerns nonetheless.  Server virtualization is no exception.

It’s somewhat ironic that one of the main problems that server virtualization is designed to address, server sprawl, is often replaced with a similar problem – VM sprawl.  It’s a topic that I’ve written a lot about in the past and on this blog.  I recently revisited the topic and expanded on it in a White Paper that I wrote for Sun.  Here’s the introduction from Best Practices to Prevent and Manage Virtual Machine Sprawl:

While server consolidation using virtualization can significantly decrease costs and improve efficiency, organizations often find that they need to deal with an associated issue: the rapid proliferation of VMs with inadequate management. This article will provide best practices for addressing the issue of "VM Sprawl", including the following:

  • Creating and enforcing deployment policies
  • Detecting and addressing unauthorized VMs
  • Managing security and compliance in virtual environments
  • Managing the entire VM lifecycle and Planning for VM retirement
  • Sidebar: Steps to gaining (or regaining) control of a virtual environment.

The White Paper is available for free, but registration on the Sun Web site is required.

Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award for 2009 – 2010

MVPLogoI recently received a notification that I have again received the Microsoft MVP Award for 2009 – 2010.  My area of expertise has been updated, as well, and is now focused on virtualization.  This is more in-line with my areas of focus, and I’m looking forward to working more closely with Microsoft’s virtualization teams.  

During my recent visit to Redmond for the MVP Summit, I had a chance to meet with the groups that are responsible for creating and promoting Hyper-V, and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM).  I’ll have much more to say about these products and virtualization in general in the coming weeks.  Until then, you can find more details (including upcoming presentations and a list of articles and publications) on my MVP Profile

VDI: Virtuality vs. Reality

The idea of virtualizing desktops (often referred to as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI) would appear to be gaining traction and mindshare.  Indeed companies like VMware and a host of other smaller virtualization technology provides are spending large amounts of their budgets on promotion and enabling VDI.  However, many IT pros (myself included) are skeptical.

A recent article written by Christina Torode, Users eye VDI but may wait for client hypervisors is now available on TechTarget’s SearchWinIT site.  I was interviewed for the article and got a change to provide some of my input.  Here’s an excerpt of some of my comments quoted in the article:

Cheaper alternatives to desktop virtualization

For independent consultant Anil Desai, VDI presents a dilemma. It promises to address security problems such as lost laptops and give IT better control over remote workforces. But he doesn’t see virtual desktop technology as the best way to solve these and other business problems.

He said there are more cost-effective ways to reduce security risks and gain control over user devices with existing technologies. There is the ability in Windows to restrict access to the USB drive or to improve manageability with remote management tools that lets IT cut physical visits to desktops and use the Remote Desktop Protocol, just as VDI uses.

Another example is the alternative of Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services for resource, hardware and management consolidation versus using VDI. Terminal Services in Windows Server 2008 lets IT run a single application in a virtual environment, in turn centralizing application management, he said.

Then there’s the overall cost for a virtual desktop infrastructure versus buying desktops. "When you see how much infrastructure, power and server resources go into a VDI solution versus getting desktops that have come down so much in price, I just don’t see the justification for that kind of investment," Desai said.

Desai said he is backing the concept of a client hypervisor and is waiting to see what the big three — VMware, Microsoft and Citrix — will do in this area. "It can reduce potential application conflicts and speed up deployments on many operating system platforms," he said.

Overall, it will be interesting to see what happens here – will VDI be just another over-hyped technology that never made significant inroads into corporate IT?  Or, is this is a real technology that will start replacing full desktops?

Webcast: What is Microsoft Hyper-V?

I recently recorded a free podcast that introduces listeners to Hyper-V: What it is, why it matters, and how it works (without getting into a lot of technical details).  It’s titled (appropriately enough), What is Microsoft Hyper-V?.  Here’s the abstract:

In this podcast, virtualization expert Anil Desai talks with’s Alex Howard about Microsoft’s Hyper-V, a new virtualization platform from the Redmond-based software giant. Listen to this podcast and learn:

  • Exactly what Hyper-V is, how it works, how it fits in with other virtualization products and how you can use it.
  • The advantages and limitations of Hyper-V, its system requirements and an overview of the installation process.
  • How to create virtual machines (VMs) and use Hyper-V’s integrated features to address VM sprawl.

The podcast was sponsored by Dell and is available for free (registration is required).