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BriForum London kicked off yesterday taking place near St Paul’s Cathedral at the ETC Venues conference facility. Once I stopped trying to follow google maps to get there (Which was trying to take me somewhere about a mile away) I joined the registration queue and quickly headed into the opening keynote by Brian Madden. The first part of the keynote was a review of what was said last year during the keynote, with the end concentrating on the improvements that have happened since, that are starting to make VDI a more cost effective and viable solution from where we were in the past. These included hardware offloaded graphics processing and single instance block storage.

Brian was keen to push that VDI only works in persistent mode, as users want to customise their desktop and install their own apps as they always have done amongst other reasons. I don’t agree fully with this sentiment, whilst having a persistent desktop is certainly an easier option to get you VDI project off the ground we won’t be making full use of the benefits of a VDI solution and moving forward when we are looking to allow the user to become decoupled from one device (or desktop source) the movement of data, apps and customisations will be increasingly important. Admittedly if you are a power user and need to be installing your own applications that aren’t part of an enterprise app store like Horizon Workspace a persistent desktop maybe your best and only option unless you are going to look into solution like Liquidware Labs Flex Apps, but most task and knowledge workers in companies from my experience are not concerned by not being able to install applications (or potentially have ever been able too) or only being able to select from the enterprise catalogue. With the wide variety of persona management solutions around there is no reason why user customisations shouldn’t be persistent between non persistent desktops. By having a non-persistent desktop configured correctly with persona management and application layering technologies we are able to refresh the base image for security and consistency on a regular basis without issue and the desktop itself becomes worthless meaning there is no requirement to back it up, unlike a persistent desktop which presumably is persistent because it has some worth to an individual or the business.

After the keynote we were given the opportunity to engage with the vendors attending the conference, I was very disappointed to not see VMware and Citrix attending this year, this event is a great showcase for these companies especially when there is so much focus on end user computing from VMware at the moment. I really enjoyed chatting with a number of vendor’s especially, AppSense regarding their DataNow and MobileNow products, Atlantis ILIO, nVidia with their GRID GPUs, Nutanix with their block based compute and storage platform and Xangati with their Virtualisation monitoring product. The vendor hall in my opinion could be 2 or 3 times the size for this event, what better opportunity is there for End User Computing focused vendors to have a dedicated audience of End User Computing professionals to talk too and wow with their wares, where are the likes of Dell Wyse, DevonIT, Liquidware Labs amongst others?

A key part of any BriForum is the breakout sessions, where industry experts share their knowledge, in the morning I joined Jack Madden’s session regarding Enterprise Device Management (EDM) this is a relatively new subject area for me so I was pleased to learn more as Jack walked us through his new book that will be out shortly. My next sessions was AppSense’s Bring Your Own Dad (Device, Application, Data) session. I was keen to attend AppSense’s session after enjoying theirs so much last year, they seem to know how to engage the audience and mix knowledge with live demonstrations, a lot of vendors need to learn from these guys, as when talking to a technical audience the sales pitch won’t cut it. My remaining technical sessions of the day were regarding RDS 2012 and Storage improvements in vSphere 5.1 which I really enjoyed and I am hoping to catch up with presenter Jim Moyle today to discuss further how Atlantis ILIO assists in VDI solution as Jim works for Atlantis. I also attended the vendor session by Nutantix and Streamcore, I’m not sure what went wrong in this session as it appeared to finish 45 minutes early and I would have loved to have seen a live demo by Rob Tribe during the Nutanix presentation as his passion for the product and technology always comes across really well. The StreamCore presentation was just that “a number of slides” and unfortunately wasn’t very engaging.

Overall I had a good first day and even managed to pop into the new Giant bike shop downstairs during a break, I know Brian is a cycling fan (after discussing over beers at the last BriForum) and would recommend he pops down! Today I will be looking forward to attending Ruben Sprujit’s from PQR’s sessions as they were amongst my favourites last year.

BriForum is once again coming to London for 2013, it will be taking place on the 16th to 17th of May at the etc Venues St Pauls Conference Center.

For those of you who haven’t been to a BriForum before, the conference exclusively covers end user computing from an independent stand point. Hosted by Brian Madden and TechTarget it is a must attend event for anyone involved in the administration, configuration or design of end user computing solutions. Expect the show floor to be filled with companies demonstrating and talking about their latest technologies, the conference rooms to be packed while there are presentations on how to get the most out of your environment or find the right solution for you and the whole conference jam packed with likeminded individuals.

I covered last year’s event and you can find my blog posts here >> https://virtualisedreality.com/?s=briforum

Of course I will be covering this year’s event with more information and more photographs than before so I hope you can make it and I look forward to catching up and of not be sure to join in on twitter and va my blog.

Today was the second and final day of BriForum taking place in London, today’s main focus was the breakout sessions. Again I sat on a number of sessions and spent a lot of time catching up with VMware and other vendors in the main hall.

My best session was that by Ruben Spruijt for a second day, this time Ruben was joined by Login VSI, they jointly contribute to the site and whitepapers of Project VRC. They were presenting the initial findings of a year long piece of work to understand the impact of various anti virus software on VDI and SBC saturation. If you haven’t check out project VRC I highly recommend you do, those that have know that the analysis so far has concentrated on the saturation point of a HP DL360 G6 with various VDI and SBC workloads. The initial findings that were presented cover Trend, McAfee, Symantec and Microsoft Forefront, one of the biggest findings was the impact of not completing a full scan prior to rolling out your VDI desktops from the golden image, without this initial scan the saturation point of the server was near instant. The surprising winner at this time appears to be Microsoft Forefront with the least impact on the saturation point. Many including the presenters pointed out however this maybe inline with the features offered from the products and no comparison of features was carried out. They are currently completing this analysis and you should see the white paper on their site soon.

Another session I enjoyed was that of Nutanix, who were launching in EMEA today, as mentioned yesterday Nutanix is a building block approach to delivering compute and storage, the CEO Dheeray Pandey was presenting around the subject of big data and how their product takes from the learning’s of Google Approach by adding storage locally alongside compute. Their technology uses a number of new technologies to ensure the storage is highly available (Appearing as a NAS to vSphere) but ensuring the storage is kept local to the VM where possible. They do this not in a traditional VSA way but by using their controller VM on each host to directly interact with the local, Fusion IO, SSD and SATA storage using RDM’s and Direct Path IO. They went on to talk about their unique distributed metadata service medusa and distributed disk maintenance service curator to help allow them to scale but keep availability and performance at the forefront of the solution. I was also lucky enough to have a hands on demo with Rob Tribe the new Regional SE Manager EMEA , I was pleased to see that not only is Nutanics addressing a need particularly for VDI I have seen for some time but they are doing it with a very simple user interface. Watch my blog for a dedicated post on this subject as I dig further and get access to their lab.

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The day was rounded off with Brian Madden thanking the attendees announcing that they were looking into doing a BriForum in Australia in November (To the surprise of Gabe and the TechTarget staff, as I understand its only in the investigation phase at present) A large number of attendees then went over to the Nutanix launch party at The Grand Union Bar where announcement’s were met with beer and food. It was good to catch up with fellow vExperts Darren Woollard And Greg Robertson as well as chatting with Brian Madden about everything other than work including Gin and Curry amongst other things.

All in all I have had a very good couple of days, picked up some good tips, made some good contacts and caught up with some familiar faces, I’m looking forward to watching the sessions I was unable to attend. All I would hope for the next year is that the vendor sessions could be tweaked, I know these guys sponsored the event but a number of the vendor sponsored sessions were over an hour of a sales presentation rather than the subject that was in the show guides.

If you get the chance to go there is another BriForum in July in Chicago and Brian suggested that they would be back in London again next year.

Resources

www.briforum.com

www.nutanix.com

www.projectvrc.com

Today was the start of the 11th ever BriForum taking place in London at the Hilton Metropoliton near Paddington and I have been lucky enough to have been able to attend.

The morning started off after registration with a welcome from Brian Madden himself, Brian reminisced over previous BriForum’s remembering the first that took place in a cinema with many members of his family including his Mum helping with the running, back in those days BriForum was all about Terminal Services, todays focus is desktop virtualisation.

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Brian covered how many people including himself spent many years trying to loose the responsibility of the “desktop” and spoke about the great pleasure he had when he gained the key to the datacenter and lost the responsibility of the desktops. Today virtualisation is the sexy bit of desktop virtualisation.

Brian spoke about what the desktop actually was with many people referring to the desktop as the white / black / grey box in front of the user or others the background and icons on the screen, the truth is the desktop hasn’t changed much over the last 10 years, we’re all still staring at the same background with icons, the only difference is today we are trying to wedge Windows onto any device possible whether it is really suitable or not.

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Consumerization of IT was then discussed or as Brian likes to call it FUIT, the fact that IT needs to ensure what they are delivering to there end users is a good solution or the end user will soon end up going to the App Store and downloading a touch friendly equivalent. The example that was used was presenting Word to a user on an iPad via VDI, whilst it maybe used for the first week, the user will soon get fed up of not having a mouse, they will search for Word in the App Store download docs to go, soon realise they couldn’t save their apps to their network drive and be using dropbox. We are finally getting to a position where we can have a hybrid outlook to our applications allowing our user to use a mixture or native and legacy applications using the technologies available to us, one example of this would be VMware’s Project Horizon.

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Brian went on to discuss the important elements of the desktop, these where summed up under 6 headings, Device HW Interface, The UI, App Runtime, App Launcher. Provisioning Target, App Integration, Security Container, Configuration Container.

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Following the welcome the breakout sessions began, my favourite sessions throughout the day were both of the sessions by Ruben Spruijt @rspruijt CTO at PQR, the first was The VDI Smackdown covering many aspects (the bad and ugly) of VDI with common points of failure, the second being Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 demos, Ruben was a great presenter with a lot of passion around his subjects. I highly recommend you read some of his white papers on the project VRC website http://www.projectvrc.com. I also enjoyed the AppSense session where the demonstrated a number of products that they had available for free, in the works or currently in beta these included Data Locker a free DropBox encryption tool, DataNow a corporate DropBox replacement and Project Acorn User (Persona) virtualisation solution for the Mac, I will cover these products in more detail in a later blog post.

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In the main hall there were a number of vendors, the main vendor of interest to me was Nutanix who were launching their EMEA team at BriFroum, Nutanix make a storage and compute based product encapsulating both technologies into a build block approach. Nutanix utilise Fusion IO as well as SSD’s and Spinning Disks in their nodes to build a solution that can be quickly and easily scaled for VDI solutions amongst other workloads. I also enjoyed catching up with Atlantis Computing who make an IO accelerator and digging into Liquidware Lab Stratusphere UX for VDI user experience monitoring.

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It’s been a very long day for me 5.30am 09.30pm and I will be heading back down to London again for 8am tomorrow, but it has defiantly been a worthwhile visit. I hope to follow up on a lot of the elements learnt at Briforum in more detail over the coming weeks.

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.

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Today is the first day of the Dell User Forum taking place in Miami Florida, unfortunately for me I’m not lucky enough to be at this one in person. But I was lucky enough to be able to take part in the bloggers briefing that took place prior to the event.

The first major announcements from today is the worldwide release of the Dell Storage SC4020, Dell bill this as them being able to offer high-end storage capabilities to mid-sized deployments. The SC4020 is an all in one SAN head and shelf, offering two controllers, running the Dell Storage Center 6.5 array software and 24 disks in a compact 2U form factor. The SC4020 is limited by scale to 120 disks but until that point should be able to keep up with its big brother the SC8000. Dell are also including its all flash technology with the SC4020 offering all flash configurations featuring SLC and MLC flash with tiering across both to suit the read and write workloads that each type of SSD favours.

Dell see the SC4020 being used in a number of use cases but particularly for mid sized customers that require more granular control over performance tuning than EqualLogic offers and it would also offer a great array for branch offices when the SC8000 is being used in HQ. I am going to be interested to see how it is priced to understand if the all flash configuration would be an affordable solution for VDI desktops and their workloads.

The Dell Storage SC4020 is planned for worldwide availability during Q3 2014

Dell Storage SC4000 Series

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The second announcement and the biggest surprise for me was Dell’s announcement that they would be partnering with Nutanix to deliver the Dell XC Series of Web-Scale converged appliances. Read that as Dell and Nutanix partner to bring the Nutanix Software intelligence to Dell Hardware. I have been interested in the Nutanix proposition since their EMEA launch at BriForum 2012 and I think this is a great move for both companies. For Nutanix to get the name of one of the big players putting its name on a platform running its software is a massive vote of confidence for a start up and for Dell being able to offer its customers a forward thinking scalable platform. I’m really looking forward to the units being available working for a Dell partner this will give me even more reason to be talking and learning about the Nutanix platform.

The Dell XC Series is planned for worldwide availability during Q4 2014

Dell, Software-Defined Storage and Nutanix

Below you will see my doodles from the conference call with Bob Fine of Dell and Greg Smith of Nutanix.

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I have now been using my Surface for around 3 months, and I’m pleased to report I’m still loving it as a device. I wanted to post a short blog post specifically about my use case while traveling with it as a primary device during BriForum.

I had originally planned to get on with some work on the train to London but unfortunately my lack of access to my business documents and poor internet connection had meant I was unable to collect them via VMware View, this does highlight the importance on the availability of users data to be productive on mobile devices, as even though I had a device capable of editing and working on my documents I was let down by the fact they were only stored on a CIFs share rather than another more available platform or at least a method for receiving one document over a low bandwidth connection. There are of course a number of solutions to this such as a VPN, Sharepoint Server or something more modern like Horizon Data, AppSense Data Now etc.

During my day I was able to effectively use it for tweeting, emailing, connecting into View sessions to catch up with work where needed, taking notes, I was surprisingly also able to charge my iPhone twice without draining the surface and also download my photos via the USB cable to use in a blog post written in Word. So far I have no regrets only bringing my RT based device.