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2014 has been a busy year for me for many reasons but I thought I would briefly summerise some of the highlights for me over the year as well as some musings with regard to the future of the industry.

Events

I have been lucky enough to attend a number of events this year, including BriForum, vForum and IPExpo in London, vForum in Manchester,  the Dell Enterprise Forum in Frankfurt, VMworld in Barcelona as well as a number of VMware User Group events. These events for me offer a great opportunity to meet individuals from the communities and the technical deep-dive sessions at these events really offer a valuable opportunity to get a better understanding on particular subjects from industry experts. I am looking forward to many events in the coming year including hopefully BriForum and VMworld again, I would also like to get a better understanding of Microsoft, Amazon and Google direction in the industry.

End User Computing

This year has been a year of improvement and maturity for end user computing, we have seen VMware acquire AirWatch for $1.54 billion, the aqcuistion of cloud volumes as well as the release of Horizon 6. The subject of end user computing is becoming ever more defined and mature, we should no longer be awaiting the year of VDI and the focus should be firmley around the user. There is no single right answer to end user computing, we should be concentrating on the users, their use cases and needs, what can we do to make our users more productive? This will be a hybrid mix of many technologies from desktop PC’s to VDI, Mobiles and tablets and more. From a user perspective we need to ensure they can easily access their applications and data on whatever platform and wherever they are. From an administrator perspective we need to ensure this can be done in a secure way that will meet the user’s needs, it needs to easy to manage, monitor and upgrade. For me I like to practice what I preach and my business processes and personal life is spread between a mix of devices and operating systems, I use a Mac Book Pro as my main business device but also use an iPad mini, Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 and a Windows 8.1 VDI desktop. For me the device should no longer matter and it doesn’t, but it is imperative that the applications and data are where I need them when I need them.

Applications

We are starting to see the ever growing importance of applications within the IT infrastructure, whilst they have always been important the focus of IT Administrators and consultants maybe hasn’t always been focused purely on the applications but the infrastructure used to run the applications. During 2014 it has become increasingly obvious that this is where the future of the IT industry lies, focusing on not keeping the cogs turning but ensuring our applications are meeting our business needs. Integration and automation not necessarily between infrastructure components but applications will be key in the software defined world, how are you going to get SaaS application A talking to SaaS application B? With the focus on the applications we are seeing growth in the areas that focus on the applications like Docker and Openstack, DevOps is key.

Hybrid Cloud

2014 for me was the year of the hybrid cloud, we saw VMware launch their first and second UK datacenter as well as a number of datacenters across the globe. From a customer perspective vCloud Air offers an easy way to understand how cloud will work within their business, with data residency guarantees that will suit their business needs, the ability to use the same tools they use to manage their existing private cloud as well as the ability to move workloads between private and public clouds when ever required. We have seen customers trial and start to move production workloads to the cloud using vCloud Air.
For me the future of the hybrid cloud is more than simply your private and public infrastructures, SaaS will make a big part of your infrastructure and moving forward will be ever increasing.  We are seeing Office 365 becoming the norm for many Exchange upgrades and new software installations will focus on SaaS first. Until we are able to replace all of our applications with SaaS alternatives, infrastructure is still going to be a key requirement and this is where vCloud Air offers the flexibility that businesses need.

I think it is going to be interesting to see what the next Server OS from Microsoft is going to bring, you would assume that cloud integration will be baked in as standard,  when deploying new roles you will get the choice to decide whether you want to deploy on premise or in Azure.  We will have to wait and see. I think they is particularly going to be a lot of power in a Dropbox alternative baked directly into to the Widows OS, imagine the simplicity of being able to access all your business shares that are on you Windows files servers from any device, anywhere without a VPN or similar technology but the power will have to be in data security.

Shared Storage Choice

As ever a focus this year has been on shared storage, no matter which way the industry is going there is always going to be a growing demand for storage, whilst at present that is largely on premise in the future we are going to see cloud storage options be ever increasing and important to our businesses.

We have seen the growth of many next generation storage vendors such as Nimble and Pure Storage, we have see the hyper-converged market become ever matured with Nutantix and Simplivity alongside the launch of VMware Evo:Rail and the announcement of Evo:Rack.

For me Nimble Storage has been really standout and we have seen some great reactions from customers when deployed in their infrastructures, it brings together simplicity and high performance with large capacity at a suitable price. Next year I am going to be interested to see how the adoption of Hyper-converged infrastructures grows, particularly with Nutantix and Evo:Rail / VSAN solutions within my customers.

Data Protection

As ever we have seen Veeam build upon their fantastic backup and recovery product with the release of V8, this see’s improved methods of recovery and replication amongst other new features. Next year I would love to see them be able to offer a product that allows you to back up your VMs no matter if they are on premise or in the cloud with vCloud Air, Azure or Amazon EC2. But for me the biggest challenge moving into a SaaS world is data protection. Many people seem to forget about data protection when moving their applications and data to the cloud, but is this correct? Should we be trusting these important assets with one provider, who ever they maybe, or is having 3 copies of your data ever more important? I think the challenge of data protection in the cloud era is having a platform that will allow you to backup, protect and recover your data from a variety or resources to a different set of resources. Let’s say you are storing important business information with SaaS provider A, what happens if they go bust or have a massive data breach or business continuity issue? Maybe you are taking a regular dump of data to a CSV file or similar, but what use is this to your business unless you can convert and recover your data to SaaS provider B? Without global standards between similar providers this is where protecting SaaS applications will become difficult and in my opinion a big challenge for our industry. Maybe until this is solved outside of the main players like Microsoft and Google etc companies will choose to turn to IaaS solutions and protect their data in a more traditional way or will they just take the risk and trust the providers?

Personal Achievements

I have really enjoyed taking part in a number of industry interview opportunities this year, I love sharing a my thoughts and visions for the industry as well as getting to discuss these subjects with others. I have presented at a number of events including the UKVMUG and my companies own events with a record number attending our most recent VMware event that is growing year on year. The biggest challenge for me this year has been working on a second book, this time with co-author Peter von Oven, we are nearing the end now and are hoping that our book Mastering Horizon 6 will be published prior to April by Packt publishing. my biggest achievement was to be made a director of the company I work for, I will be concentrating on pre-sales and operations for my business and this gives me a great opportunity to continue learning and evangalising about technology as well as getting involved with the internal processes and procedures within the business and understanding how modern applications will help our business. I am looking forward to helping the business grow and be better known within the technology industry as well as working on some exciting projects.

That’s all for now, there are so many more areas I could talk about, 2015 is going to be an exciting year for many reasons. I hope to be able to catchup with many of you in the new year.

Happy new year.

image

I pinched the idea for the sketch below from some of VMware’s presentations that I have seen, for me this really brings home why we need to change the way we have been managing are desktops and ensure we have not got just a desktop strategy but an end user computing strategy. Many would have you believe that the way forward is VDI, but VDI is simply one option for delivering a desktop and realistically not the right single answer for a whole end user computing strategy. 

By understanding the customers requirements there will usually be a hybrid approach to the way we deliver desktops across a business, but we need to ensure that there is commonality from a users perspective as too how they access their desktops, data and applications. Most importantly we need to enable our users to work in the best way for them, whilst still maintaing control of business data and assets. For example if we don’t enable our staff to work from home or work from personal devices such as tablets, it is likely they will find a way to do it and IT will have lost the ability to manage and protect the data. 

I am not naive enough to think that VMware is the only company that is aware of the issues facing our IT Teams and delivering the solutions, but from personal experience with VMware acquisitions in this space I am seeing how their Horizon stack can actually deliver not just a VDI strategy but a top to bottom end user computing strategy across multiple devices, in multiple locations. As mobile devices are taking a greater significants in our working day I am looking forward to understanding Airwatch further and also future planned integrations with Horizon.

Final

With the announcement of View 6.0, Mike Laverick and I have drawn to a close our end user computing book project. The book is now available for free download or cost price hardcopy on LuLu.

We in the end made two donations to Unicef, as Mike is a VMware employee we were able to increase these donations through the VMware Foundation. Mike also kindly rounded the donations up, to make the most out of the VMware employee matching scheme.

Mike and I would like to thank all the proof readers and VMware employees who without their support the book would not have been possible, also Teradici, F5 and and BitDefender who kindly supported us with their products along with support and advice. I must also thank Mike for allowing me to be part of this project and for all his hardwork working with the publishing company and VMware Foundation / Unicef sorting the donations

This project was my first foray into being an author and it certainly had its up and downs, initially trying to stay ahead of the technology was the most difficult with several re-writes along the way, secondly Mike and I found out shortly after release that the whole book had been copied onto Scribd with 500+ views prior to Mike and I having to send a cease and desist! But the plus side has been the fantastic feedback and visibility that the book has bought.

Mike is moving forward with plans for an updated online copy of the new book with the potential of a charity release printed copy again. At present I am at the early stages of another book project with another co-author and when the details are fully secured I will announce on the blog so watch this space.

See Mike’s blogs for the donation receipts http://www.mikelaverick.com/

Many thanks to all of those that bought the book.

I have recently purchased a Google Chromecast dongle and wondered who it would work alongside Horizon View Blast HTML access to a VDI desktop.

For those who haven’t yet heard about Chromcast check out this link >> http://www.google.co.uk/intl/en/chrome/devices/chromecast/

Essentially it is a small HDMI dongle that allows you to stream or “Cast” as Google call it streaming media from certain applications and tabs from the Google Chrome web browser. 

I wanted to check out how this functionality would work with Blast the HTML access to your VDI desktop built into View, now I must start with caveating that this is not listed as being supported anywhere but potentially in the future I can see this as an interesting use case especially in education.

I started by connecting to my view desktop using chrome

blast

You are then able to select the cast option in the top right of your browser and select your chrome castdevice, note you need to have installed the chrome cast plugin into your browser from here first >> https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/google-cast/boadgeojelhgndaghljhdicfkmllpafd 

castview

You will then shortly see that the contents of your browser screen will then display on your device with the Chromecast dongle connected

IMG 0021

Whilst this does work there is a small lag between typing and it appearing on the Chromecast connected device, it maybe good enough for projecting a presentation but not much more at this stage. It certainly shows promise and is extremely easy to connect and cast your desktop in this manner. 

It is also possible to Cast your whole desktop using the experimental feature shown below

fulldesktop

And by doing this you can connect using the standard View Client to your desktop as well. The lag when doing it this way does seem to be a little bit less but still noticeable. 

Of course you can already do this today with support on Apple devices and Apple TV but what I like about Chromecast is it is less device centric and you can use a number of devices with the same connectivity medium. I look forward to see how this improves and is supported by more applications in the future. 

During the evening reception yesterday at the Dell Enterprise Forum I spent some time speaking to some of the vendors and Dell staff on the stands on the show floor. Amongst one of the stands that grabbed my attention was the desktop virtualisation stand with Dell Wyse Thin Clients and the nVidia GRID technology on display. The Dell Wyse Cloud Connect is a pocket sized Thin Client Dongle, I had read about it when it was released but hadn’t had a chance to see it in action.

The Cloud Connect was demonstrated on a lovely Dell 27” touchscreen display (I really need to find out more about this), the Cloud Connect runs an Android OS and as well as supporting remote connectivity to all the usual VDI and Session Host providors it also supports local Android Applications and web browsing. The unit itself has built in WIFI, Bluetooth as well as a limited amount of storage, room to add further storage and USB host ports for external devices. 

With its mobile form factor and the fact that you can manage these devices via a cloud portal, this could potentially make a very interesting device for remote workers and education environments amongst others. I work with a number of companies that wish to enable staff to use their home PCs to connect into VDI environments, but due to legislation that dictates only company owned devices can connect to the VDI environment this isn’t possible. With a cost effective device like this, potentially this situation could be solved?

I need to spend some time with one of these units to figure out actually how feasible it is to use as regular thin client, but when I manage to get my hands on one I will post my results. If you are at Dell EF be sure to check it out on their stand. 

Dell Wyse Cloud Connect

Yesterday we saw the announcement of VMware Horizon 6.0 with over 150 new features including some major new features for VMware Horizon View. I am not going to spend long regurgitating information already available but the main new features in this release are as follows.

  • Remote Desktop’s through Microsoft RDSH have long been supported by VMware and View but it has always been treated as a second class citizen with no PCoIP support, now RDSH desktops are fully supported with PCoIP, even more importantly you can publish individual applications from remote desktop session hosts in a similar manner to XenApp
  • Horizon Workspace now not only supports SaaS applications and ThinApps but also RDS Hosted Applications and XenApp Applications!
  • Optimization and Integration with VSAN
  • Enhanced Monitoring and Automation capabilities with VMware vCenter Operations Manager and vCloud Automation Center
  • New cloud Pod and Block Architecture allowing high availability and scale out across multiple datacenters including VCHS
The image below shows the Horizon Workspace End-User App Portal, displaying VDI Desktops, RDS Desktops, ThinApps, RDS Apps and XenApps all in one seamless view
App Portal

I am going to dig into the technical features and how to’s in the coming weeks but in the mean time I would recommend checking out the following resources for more information

FAQ

Press Release

CEO Video Message

CTO Blog Post

The Future of End User Computing

If you look at the Horizon 6 release in individual components any one feature may not be classed as ground breaking or revolutionary more maybe evolutionary, but when you stop and consider what is actually happening within end user computing at the moment, I believe this sets VMware ahead of the competition.

If we go back 2 years or more ago we were all awaiting the year of VDI, which I think we have now come to realise is never going to materialise to the same effect that virtualisation had for x86 servers. More so end user computing has become more focused around freedom and flexibility as well as the importance of user experience, if we try and deliver this with VDI alone we are not going to be able to succeced in every situation and arguably alone in any situation. We need the flexibility to be able to deliver the end user experience in the right way for the given user and potentially in different ways for this user on different devices.

We have seen VMware over the years formulating their end user computing vision with many acquisitions namely Wanova and Airwatch to allow them to tackle much more than simply VDI, with Horizon 6 we are starting to see many elements coming together. The future of end user computing isn’t just VDI, isn’t just Tablets and isn’t just SaaS it is going to be a mixture of modern technologies and legacy to support our legacy applications and the methods by which we work. Organisations are still going to be using PC’s alongside their tablets and their legacy applications alongside their ThinApps and SaaS applications, we need a solution that can be as flexible as our users requirements whilst allowing us simplicity in management, monitoring and automation.

Why is having RDS Application Publishing Support Important? I have long said that Citrix’s biggest asset has been XenApp and I have been confused with their messaging over reason years of its on going support or lack of. Whilst session based desktops and applications can have their inherent problems they also offer simplistic ways to host and distribute applications. If you are able to publish applications individually, it allows the user to seamlessly work on the device that they want without having to chop and change between the native OS and a VDI desktop.

I am really excited by the vision of End User Computing that VMware are brining to us and I believe we are now seeing a suite of products that is able to assist with your end user computing strategy what ever that maybe VDI or not. They also aren’t shy to embrace the competition which we can see with the XenApp support, if you are using these systems you don’t need to do a forklift move from XenApp as Horizon Workspace will be able to seamlessly support these applications or Horizon View 6 will help you move away if you desire.

 

 

 

With a show as large as VMworld I think it is important to set your agenda and goals prior to attending, as well as the usual networking I have set myself a SMB VDI challenge.

As I find myself working in this space quite often I have decided to use VMworld to gather the thoughts and opinions of as many vendors and attendees that have experience or opinions of VDI specifically with Horizon View in the SMB / SME space.

Whilst there are now a wealth of products on the market that can help you with your VDI deployment sometimes it isn’t clear if these are all applicable to the SMB space, so I am keen to learn what does work and what doesn’t work when you are trying to virtualise your desktops in an SMB / SME environment.

When working in the SMB / SME space, budget is often one of the biggest constraints and this makes the importance of choosing the right components even more important, often solutions that claim the lowest cost per desktop may assume creating a larger amount of desktops than your typical SMB solution. Also making decisions about what is and isn’t really required to make a successful VDI solution are all more imperative.

Below are just some of the questions I will be looking to answer, of course from my own experiences I have my own thoughts on these matters and would love to compare notes, but I am looking to go with a open mind and gather the thoughts of many. I will then be looking to compile a complete SMB / SME VDI resource to share with your all, the must have tips and tricks and an A-Z of the vendors you need to be considering in this area and why.

Example Requirements

Small

100 desktops for a small SMB or as a building block for a larger company. Existing vSphere Essentials + for server virtualisation.

Medium

300 desktops for a medium SMB

Large

800 – 1500 desktops for a large SMB / small SME.

Scale

SMB VDI projects come in all shapes and sizes, from the smallest sub 100 desktop deployments up to the larger 1000-1500 desktops rollouts. But all of these solutions will tend to start with a proof of concept and a gradual rollout. I am interested to know how people move from proof of concept to full roll out and interested from the vendors how to the deal with scaling deployments.

Assessment and Monitoring

Is it needed? Do you know the tricks of the trade to virtualise hundreds of desktops without assessment? Failing finding this magic trick what are the best tools to use and once your desktops are virtualised how do we ensure there continued success?

Storage

I think most people are aware that one of the key components to a successful VDI project is the storage, what does work, what doesn’t work. Is flash a must have and what is the average IOPS per user.

Persona

Just how do you manage the user persona? Is View Persona management good enough or is a dedicated persona management solution a must have, if so what product?

Persistent or Non-Persistent

One of the constant debates when it comes to VDI is persistent or non-persistent, I think we would all like to live the non-persistent dream but is it realistic and if it has to be non-persistent what technologies need to be used to enable this, how is patch management managed, how much storage is required? 

Desktop Optimization

Have you got the secret ingredient to optimizing your View Desktops, did you take a step too far?

Applications

What is the right recipe for dealing with applications in VDI, installation in the golden image or application virtualisation with View or maybe a hybrid approach?

View Configuration

Just how many View Connection Servers and Security Servers are required, how much memory and CPU do these need in the smallest of deployments, what load balancers will bring these components together?

Thin Clients

Are they all the same, does one product really stand out from another?

Deployment Strategy

I am a big fan of utilising departmental champions to ease the deployment of VDI, but what has and hasn’t worked for you?

So if you are a vendor in this space that would love to tell me about your successes and share your must have white papers, or if you work with SMB’s or for an SMB and want to share your experiences I want to hear from you at VMworld. Likewise if you are just heading down this journey lets catch up and compare notes.

I’m really looking forward to VMworld and I look forward to sharing with you all my findings of my SMB VDI Challenge!

Who’s up for the challenge? Contact me on twitter @virtualisedreal or fill out this form

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1OvNKuHJkTWR4xIP7PnCK5quqgUH9k3TnjgeEgpROV1Q/viewform

Vendors Currently on Board

Below is a list of vendors who are up for the challenge and I will be catching with at VMworld.

Name Product VMworld Stand #
Nutanix Converged Storage and Compute G318
Fusion IO NAND Memory and Software Based Storage Solutions S217
Nimble Hybrid Storage Solutions E513
Atlantis ILIO In memory storage technologies S108
Dell Cloud Client Computing Wyse / Dell DVS Solutions D208
SimpliVity’ Building block approach to virtual infrastructures P308