Tag : virtualization

5 New Tech Tested Products for Your Business

Ever wondered what the best in tech products are at this very moment? The experts at Network World weigh in and give us a little glimpse of the newest innovations on the market.

Vidder PrecisionAccess – By rendering applications invisible to unauthorized users PrecisionAccess does a fantastic job at preventing application hacking. Even with stolen credentials hackers can’t access protected applications with unauthorized devices.precision-vpn_clip_image002

VeloCloud SD-WAN – VeloCloud provides a hybrid WAN solution that works with MPLS private links as well as ATT-U-Verse with cable or any broadband DSL links. One tech pro reported an increase from almost zero network visibility to nearly 100% network visibility. A great tool for IT management across multiple locations without staff needing to be onsite at all times. Facilitates communication and network visibility.  velocloudlogo

Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) – With so many features that help with managing user-facing ports and devices, whats not to love about Cisco ISE. One huge factor reported by tech pros is the integration of TACACS within Cisco ISE, making it easy to run Cisco ISE as a Radius server or TACACS server for network devices. In addition to this, Cisco ISE significantly improves management of devices especially restricting machines from devices and sites they are not permitted to visit.Cisco_ISE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intermedia SecuriSync – For backup and file sharing SecuriSync is the way to go. As a two-in-one tool for consolidated file backup and management of continuous file backups, Intermedia SecuriSync makes relevant files easier to access as they are all stored in a secured shared folder. If you have team members spread across different locations, this tool is very helpful in making sure the data is always backed up and kept secure. One platform with a master source keeps project collaboration as safe as it can be.securisync-logo-247x300

OpenSpan Transformation Platform – OpenSpan collects all employee desktop activities both productive and nonproductive, including time away from the computer. This platform allows businesses to evaluate from employee activities how employees work best and what can be improved upon in order to drive down operational costs and maximize revenue. Providing data about employee activities takes away the need for manual employee logs. Lack of employee logs that need to be analyzed by supervisors for key performance indicators (KPIs), such as call volumes, proves to be a huge time saver. OpenSpan Transformation Platform takes working smarter to a higher level.

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If you would like to educate yourself in more detail about the information presented in this blog post please visit: Fave Raves: 29 tech pros share their favorite IT products 

Storage and Backup Products that Save the Day

Nasuni Cloud Storage – Leveraging the cloud as a primary storage component, Nasumi Cloud NAS combines local storage controllers and cloud storage to provide global access to data with local performance. The only file system of its kind that can scale from hundreds to hundreds of billions of objects without any degradation of performance. If your company is having trouble taking on highly data-intensive projects because of limited storage capacity that is costly to upgrade, NAS is the right solution.pic

DataCore’s SANsymphony-V – This software-defined storage option maximizes IT infrastructure performance by virtualizing storage hardware in a universally compatible format. The SANsymphony-V software runs on standard x86 servers, providing one set of common storage services across all storage devices even allowing communication between unlike storage devices. Customers and IT techs rave about the increase in performance and especially the 75% reduction in storage costs. “[It] meets our replication needs — replicates all critical data between two data centers. Also provides rich SAN capability.”says David Blaisdell, assistant IT director at the New London, NH, college.

Intermedia SecuriSync – Backup and File sharing with Intermedia SecuriSync is made easier by providing real-time backup and point-in-time restore for PCs and Macs. When data is the core of your business, you need to be able to retrieve and analyze data without delay. SecuriSync provides both consolidated file management and continuous backup of documents, while securing access to sensitive data. Going beyond read-only access, employees can edit documents from mobile devices without having to worry about version control. Real time backups give users the comfort of being able to easily restore corrupted files.

CloudBerry Managed Backup – This flexible and cost effective solution allows the user to choose the storage providers as well as provides remote management capabilities. For small to mid-sized businesses this is the perfect option. Cloudberry provides all of the benefits of cloud based storage, scalability, reliability and security but at a size attainable for small businesses. Backups are made both easier and less costly.


If you would like to educate yourself in more detail about the information presented in this blog post please visit: Go-to storage and disaster recovery products

 

Hyper-V: Shrinking a VHD

If you are using Hyper-V virtual machine, with thin provisioned (or dynamic) virtual disks, you may find yourself needing to compact those virtual disk files (.VHD) to reclaim free space.

Typically you would compact a virtual hard disk in situations such as the following:

  • After you install the guest operating system (which uses many temporary files)
  • After you delete large amounts of data
  • When you are preparing the virtual hard disk for archiving, for deployment to another computer or CD-ROM, or for distribution

To ensure that you get the smallest possible file size when you compact the virtual hard disk, you need to do some file system maintenance before you compact the disk. In the guest operating system of the virtual machine that is using the disk you want to compact, do the following:

  • Remove any temporary folders or unwanted folders or files.
  • Empty the Recycle Bin.
  • Defragment the disk.

Note that when running a defrag, you will actually grow the .VHD file prior to compacting, so make sure the host server has enough free space to accommodate it.

Shut down the VM, then go to the settings and go to the disk settings and click edit. This will bring up the disk edit wizard and the keep the first selected option, Compact.

Depending on the size of the .VHD file, and the available “white space” within the file, compacting may take a significant amount of time. So be sure to plan your downtime accordingly.

You may receive the error message “The system failed to compact disk.vhd. Error Code: The requested operation could not be completed due to a file system limitation” when attempting to compact the .VHD file.
First, check to see that there are no VSS backups on the VHD by running a “vssadmin list shadows” command in an elevated command prompt.

Second, delete any VSS backups that are present by running “vssadmin delete shadows /all“. If this fails to delete the VSS backups, you may need to resort to the “DiskShadow” utility in WS2K8 and WS2K8R2. (There’s some more information on DiskShadow here (free registration required) and also here.)

bva’s Recommended SAN for Virtualization

BVA has been performing many virtual implementations in recent months and over the course of 10 years we have been involved with many different types of SANs on the market.  Shared storage for the small to medium size businesses are starting to become a norm and with lower cost points for virtual server software it more advantageous for companies to go with that architecture. Our most common project these days are moving 6 to 15 production servers into a three-cluster virtual node architecture with shared storage leveraging VMware or HyperV.  After testing and playing with a few different SAN’s, bva favorite is the The NetApp FAS 2040.  It has up to 136 disks (136 TB) storage capacity, FC-SAN, IP-SAN (iSCSI), and NAS (CIFS/NFS) protocol support.

Full SAS capable which is more than capable to handle the typical i/o for small businesses today.  Full Fiber Channel capable, full SATA or FC/SAS/SATA disk mix.   Single and dual active-active controller models are capable for an aggressive price point. The SAN also has (2) two 4Gb FC ports as well as (4) four GbE ports and 1 SAS port per controller which is very versatile.  (4) Four GB cache per controller which is the standard configuration when we are doing our typical installation.

The NetApp 2040

The FAS 2040 systems offers unified file and block storage. That means one solution for CIFS, NFS, iSCSI, and FC SAN storage protocols. The units Data ONTAP operating system provides storage efficiency through higher utilization of capacity via thin provisioning and SnapshotTM technology.  The unit is also very scalable by way of having the option to add more drives to an existing original enclosure. It means being able to combine existing and expanded data-management resources in the fastest, most elegant solution.

Microsoft iSCSI Software Target available – Free Download

There is finally some productive news coming out of the Microsoft camp via making storage a little easier for virtualization with Hyper v.  Microsoft has made this software publicly available to all users of Windows Server 2008 R2.  The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target has been available for production use as part of Windows Storage Server since early 2007. It has also been available for development and test use by MSDN and TechNet subscribers starting in May 2009. However, until now, there was no way to use the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target in production on a regular server running Windows Server 2008 R2. This new download offers exactly that.

Now available as a public download, the software is essentially the same software that ships with Windows Storage Server 2008 R2. Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 and the public download package will be refreshed (kept in sync) with any software fixes and updates. Those updates are described at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg232597.aspx.

This release was preceded by intense testing by the Microsoft iSCSI Target team, especially in scenarios where the iSCSI Target is used with Hyper-V and with Windows Server Failover Clusters. We do imagine these to be amongst the most commons deployment scenarios.  Testing included running the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target in a two-node Failover Cluster and configuring 92 individual Hyper-V VMs, each running a data intensive application and storing data on a single node of that iSCSI Target cluster. The exciting part of the test was to force an unplanned failure of the iSCSI Target node being used by all the VMs and verify that we had a successful failover to the other node with all 92 VMs continuing to run the application without any interruption.

How to download and install

To download the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 for Windows Server 2008 R2, go to http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=45105d7f-8c6c-4666-a305-c8189062a0d0 and download a single file called “iSCSITargetDLC.EXE”. (Note: This was just released at 10AM PST on 04/04/2011, so the download might still be replicating to your closest download server. If the link does not work, try again later). This is a self-extracting archive that will show this screen when run:

Shared Storage

To use both LM and HA, these require shared storage. This shared storage can be in the forms of SAS, iSCSI or Fiber Channel SAN. For many environments this isn’t an issue, but there are some specific scenarios where customers need LM and HA and the cost of a dedicated SAN is a blocker. For example,

  • A branch office environment. It’s one thing to setup a dedicated SAN in a datacenter, but what happens when you have 100/500/5000 branch offices? That’s a huge multiplier to provide SANs in every one of those branch offices.
  • A small business. Small businesses are especially cost conscious and still want to deploy Hyper-V clustered for the benefits of LM and HA.
  • A test/dev staging environment. Perhaps you want to test your application with LM & HA, but don’t have the budget to pay for a SAN.

Wouldn’t it be great to have another option? bva think so too.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
==============================================
Q: The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target is now free. Is it supported in a production environment?

A: Yes. The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target is supported in a production environment. The Hyper-V team regularly tests with the MS iSCSI Software Target and it works great with Hyper-V.

Q: What operating systems is the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target supported?

A: The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target is supported for Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter Editions.
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Q: Can the free Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 use the free Microsoft iSCSI Software Target?

A: Yes and No. Yes, Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 can act as a client to access virtual machines via iSCSI. The way to do that is to type iscsicpl.exe at the command prompt to bring up the Microsoft iSCSI Initiator (client) and configure it to access an iSCSI Target (server). However, you can’t install the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target on a Microsoft Hyper-V Server. The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target requires Windows Server 2008 R2.

Q: Can I install the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 on Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2003?
A: No. The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 can only be installed on Windows Server 2008 R2.

Q: Can I install the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target on Windows Server 2008 R2 with Service Pack 1 (SP1)?
A: Yes. In fact, that’s what is recommended.

Q: Can I install the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target on a Core install of Windows Server 2008 R2?
A: No. The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 is only supported in a Full install.

Q: I don’t have a copy of Windows Server 2008 R2. Where can I get an evaluation copy?
A: You download an evaluation version of Windows Server 2008 R2 with Service Pack 1 from http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/dd459137.aspx

Q: Where is the x86 (32-bit) version of the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3?
A: The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3, is provided in only in an x64 (64-bit) version, as is Windows Server 2008 R2,

Q: What are these “iSCSITargetClient” MSI files included in the download?
A: Those are the optional VSS and VDS providers for the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3. You should install them in the same computer that runs the iSCSI Initiator if you intend to use VSS or VDS. For details on VSS, see http://blogs.technet.com/b/josebda/archive/2007/10/10/the-basics-of-the-volume-shadow-copy-service-vss.aspx. For details on VDS, see http://blogs.technet.com/b/josebda/archive/2007/10/25/the-basics-of-the-virtual-disk-services-vds.aspx.

Q: Where is the Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 documentation?
A: There is some documentation inside the package. Additional documentation is available on the web at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg232606.aspx

Q: Can I use the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 as shared storage for a Windows Server Failover Cluster?
A: Yes. That is one of its most common uses.

Q: Can I install the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 in a Hyper-V virtual machine?
A: Yes. We do it all the time.

Q: Can I use the downloaded Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 in my production environment?
A: Yes. Make sure to perform the proper evaluation and testing before deploying any software in a production environment. But you knew that already…

Q: What are the support policies for the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 on Windows Server 2008 R2?
A: The support policies are listed at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg983493.aspx

 

The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target Download:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=45105d7f-8c6c-4666-a305-c8189062a0d0

VMware View client for iPad

VMware has released a new VMware View client for iPad.  It’s available for free in the App Store:  http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/vmware-view-for-ipad/id417993697?mt=8

VMware View Client for iPad features include:

• Secure, Instant-on Windows Desktops – VMware View Security Server support for PCoIP allows for a simple, secure remote connection and authentication to a user’s Windows desktop over a WiFi or 3G network. Reconnecting to a View Desktop(2) is made even easier with the ability to select and connect to a list of recently connected desktops.

Modern Desktop Experience – The new VMware View Client delivers Windows-based virtual desktops while taking advantage of the superior user experience provided by PC-over-IP (PCoIP) display protocol, creating a highly responsive and flexible user experience.

Intuitive, Multi-Touch Support – Custom gestures on the new VMware View Client enable quick and easy navigation around the virtual desktop by taking advantage of iPad’s Multi-Touch display. An innovative on-screen track pad lets users leverage a more traditional mouse interface with the iPad’s keyboard for efficient text input.

Device and iOS Support – Support for the iPad Keyboard Dock and Bluetooth keyboards makes text input even easier while the iPad VGA connector allows you to connect to an external monitor. VMware View Client for iPad supports iOS 4.2 and iOS 4.3.

VMware, LG Implement Virtualization on Android Based Phone

As smart phones are becoming the standard these days, it becomes challenging for businesses to keep track of and handle all of the personal devices that are compatible with the corporate environment. Well that quite soon could become something of the past as VMware and LG have teamed up to bring you virtualization on the smart phone.

At the Mobile World Congress in Spain, VMware and LG showed off a technology that essentially allows you to run multiple instances of the Android OS on a single phone. You immediately think of virtualization and say there is nothing new here, but I would say you are wrong. Basically what this technology presents to businesses both small and large is the ability to easily manage and control access to their corporate systems. You can run your own personal apps, check email, and make calls on your personal profile while almost instantly switching to your corporate profile. This would allow you to then access work contacts, run business applications, and connect safely to your corporate network. The best part of this is that the virtualized instance runs directly from an SD card. Check out the video below.

Personally I think this is great news for IT firms and businesses that have tried dealing with the ever so difficult task of monitoring and managing smart devices and their access to the network. It allows them to simply load the necessary applications and email accounts onto the virtual machine that resides on the SD card and put it in a user’s phone instantly allowing them secure access to the network.

Then in case of termination, losing employees, and lost devices, the IT staff can remotely lock or wipe your profile. This all can happen without affecting any of your personal data. If you leave the company, all they have to do is remove your smartcard and they are done.

This sounds like a very cost effective and easily controllable solution for a lot of businesses that are worried about mobile security. I really would love to try this hands on if the opportunity ever presented itself and I am really eager to see where they go with this.

Check out the video here!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkUfKgsUbns[/youtube]

What is the Cloud? And What is Cloud Computing?

You can Google ‘cloud computing’ and read the various explanations you’ll find, and still not really understand what Cloud Computing is all about. The term is over used and misused so much that most people are confused about its meaning, and more importantly, how it can benefit them.

The word ‘cloud’ can mean several things all by itself. Some refer to the Internet as the ‘cloud’ and although it is a necessary part of cloud computing, just using the Internet to access resources does not necessarily mean a business is using cloud computing. For instance the internet can be used to access a company fileserver in a central office. That is not true cloud computing. It’s remote access, but not cloud computing in the real sense.

Cloud computing has a lot to do with the way the resources themselves are stored, managed and accessed. With the advent of virtualization and the ability to create virtualized servers, fileservers have become pieces of software that can be moved around between various hardware servers. And with the increase of available Internet bandwidth and remote access technology, fileservers are no longer location dependent as they once were. As an example, suppose your company has a remotely accessed fileserver that hosts your client database. Let’s say it’s virtualized in a Datacenter and you access it through a web-browser. Because the fileserver is virtualized, the datacenter can move your fileserver around to other locations in their facilities, or across the country, and you can still access its resources normally. You would not know that it’s moving around between various hardware servers. Why would they move it around? To alleviate bottlenecks in their infrastructure, to do maintenance or upgrades on hardware, or to better facilitate their internal administrative needs. The point of the example is that ‘resources move around’. One could say that your resources are somewhere in the ‘cloud’.

Within large organizations like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and others, resources are moving around constantly as their internal IT needs dictate. Your information or data stored in such organizations is readily available, but you’ll never know where it is physically. So virtualization and the dynamic movement of virtualized servers and resources is a key part of what makes up ‘cloud computing’.

Additionally, modern online business solutions have reduced or eliminated the need for many localized computer resources.  For instance, Microsoft’s BPOS offers online business applications that include office document creation & storage, email, and document management solutions. These services can eliminate the need for businesses to have localized fileservers. This then becomes true cloud computing.

As businesses evaluate their internal IT costs and compare those with the costs of cloud computing they will see that moving to cloud computing solutions makes more economic sense as time passes.  The benefits of cloud computing are many, some of which are listed below:

  • Resources can be accessed from anywhere the Internet is available
  • Resources are secure and reliable
  • IT expenditures become a fixed monthly expense, like a utility bill
  • Advanced IT solutions expenses are vastly reduced if not completely eliminated
  • The most current software versions are included in the service

Information Technology is constantly changing and accelerating in its rate of change.   Businesses that keep aware of how it can be used to benefit them will be closely watching the value of computing in the cloud.

Application Virtualization – The Basics

Application Virtualization is the future and it’s more clear today than it has ever been.  I always find it funny how people always revert back to the basics after every other form of architecture is explored.  Application virtualization refers to several techniques that make running applications more protected, more flexible or easier to manage.  Modern operating systems attempt to keep programs isolated from each other. If one program crashes, the remaining programs generally keep running. However, bugs in the operating system or applications can cause the entire system to come to a screeching halt or, at least, impede other operations.  Full application virtualization requires a virtualization layer.  Application virtualization layers replace part of the runtime environment normally provided by the operating system. The layer intercepts all file and Registry operations of virtualized applications and transparently redirects them to a virtualized location, often a single file.  The application never knows that it’s accessing a virtual resource instead of a physical one. Since the application is now working with one file instead of many files and registry entries spread throughout the system, it becomes easy to run the application on a different computer and previously incompatible applications can be run side-by-side.   Examples of this technology for the Windows platform are Cameyo, Ceedo, Evalaze, InstallFree, Citrix XenApp, Novell ZENworks Application VIrtualization, Endeavors Technologies Application Jukebox, Microsoft Application Virtualization, Software Virtualization Solution, VMware ThinApp and InstallAware Virtualization.

Technology categories that fall under Application Virtualization include:

  • Application Streaming-Pieces of the application’s code, data, and settings are delivered when they’re first needed, instead of the entire application being delivered before startup. Running the packaged application may require the installation of a lightweight client application. Packages are usually delivered over a protocol such as HTTP, CIFS or RTSP.
  • Desktop Virtualization/Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)-The application is hosted in a VM or blade PC that also includes the operating system (OS). These solutions include a management infrastructure for automating the creation of virtual desktops, and providing for access control to target virtual desktop. VDI solutions can usually fill the gaps where application streaming falls short.

Provided below are some basic terms as well as architecutral frameworks when considering in deploying a solution of this nature:

  • Application Streaming=  Rather than installing all applications in every user’s machine, applications are delivered to each user’s PC as needed. This enables the applications to be updated centrally and also provides a way to measure each users’ application requirements over time. See application streaming.
  • Terminals to a Central Computer=  The oldest network architecture, all applications and data are stored in a centralized server or cluster of servers. The user’s PC functions like a terminal to the server or dedicated terminals are used. The applications are said to be “virtualized” because they function as if they were running on the client. See thin client.
  • Partition the Hardware=  This is the traditional meaning of “virtualization” and refers to partitioning a computer in order to run several applications without interference, each in their own “virtual machine.” Deployed in servers and clients, this is more accurately called “server virtualization” and “client virtualization.” Contrast with OS virtualization. See virtual machine.
  • Write the Program Once, Run Everywhere=  An interpreted programming language enables the same program to run on different machine platforms, with Java and Visual Basic being the major examples (see Java Virtual Machine and Visual Basic). The applications are said to be “virtualized” because they run on any platform that has a runtime engine for that language.
  • Dynamic Application Assignment=  This approach treats servers in the datacenter as a pool of operating system resources and assigns those resources to applications based on demand in real time. The pioneer in this area is Data Synapse Inc. The applications are said to be “virtualized” because they can be run in any server.

Benefits of application Virtualization

  • Allows applications to run in environments that do not suit the native application.
  • May protect the operating system and other applications from poorly written or buggy code.
  • Uses fewer resources than a separate virtual machine.
  • Run applications that are not written correctly, for example applications that try to store user data in a read-only system-owned location.
  • Run incompatible applications side-by-side, at the same time and with minimal regression testing against one another.
  • Maintain a standard configuration in the underlying operating system across multiple computers in an organization, regardless of the applications being used, thereby keeping costs down.
  • Implement the security principle of least privilege by removing the requirement for end-users to have Administrator privileges in order to run poorly written applications.
  • Simplified operating system migrations.
  • Accelerated application deployment, through on-demand application streaming.
  • Improved security, by isolating applications from the operating system.
  • Enterprises can easily track license usage. Application usage history can then be used to save on license costs.
  • Fast application provisioning to the desktop based upon user’s roaming profile.
  • Allows applications to be copied to portable media and then imported to client computers without need of installing them.

Limitations of application Virtualization

  • Not all software can be virtualized. Some examples include applications that require a device driver and 16-bit applications that need to run in shared memory space.
  • Some types of software such as anti-virus packages and application that require heavy OS integration.
  • Only file and Registry-level compatibility issues between legacy applications and newer operating systems can be addressed by application virtualization.

Windows XP Mode

With the push to migrate to Windows 7, and the added urge to upgrade to 64-bit computing, a number of legacy programs are being left in the dust. Most 32-bit Windows apps will run in 64-bit Windows and on Windows 7, but a few will not – and sometimes these are important!

Fortunately, there is an answer: Windows XP Mode. With the advent of Windows 7, a specific version of Microsoft’s Virtual PC was introduced, and if you are licensed for either Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate, you can freely download and install Windows XP Mode to your computer. This is a licensed version of Windows XP Professional, running in virtual mode, and sharing resources with your existing computer. It is useful for running those legacy apps, or programs depending on 32-bit drivers that have not, or in some cases, will not be upgraded themselves.

For more information, and to get the download, go here