vCenter’s Number – Is It Up?

(This is all based on information that’s in the public domain at the time of writing and is all my own opinion. I may very well be wrong!)

ESXi first saw the light of day as version 3.5 in 2007 / 2008. Rumours were rife after ESXi 4.0 was released in 2009 that the clock was now ticking on ESX “Classic”. With the release of 4.1 in 2010 VMware finally confirmed the rumours and, from 5.0 onwards it’s been ESXi only.

You know this already of course if you’ve been working with vSphere for any length of time. The reason that I’m bringing it up though is because I think it’s a clue as to what’s going to happen to vCenter in the future.

The vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA) first appeared as a technology preview called “vCenter 2.5 on Linux”. It became vCSA as of vSphere 5. Subsequent releases (5.1 and 5.5) have seen many changes and it’s becoming more compelling with each version. Could it be only a matter of time before VMware announce that vCSA will be the only version of vCenter available? I believe it is VMware’s intention, yes.

Consider VMware’s recently published convergence plan for vCD. It states that the functionality offered in vCD will gradually be separated and merged into either vSphere / vCenter or into vCAC. The timetable for this change isn’t clear yet but given that vCD is Linux based, it might be more logical (or simpler) to integrate some of its functions into vCSA rather than into vCenter for Windows.

Look at many of VMware’s other products and a good number are linux appliance based. Of course there are exceptions, with perhaps some of the biggest currently being vCAC and Horizon View, but they’re both acquired products.

Increasingly we’re also seeing a move away from a Windows vSphere Client to a Web Client. Some functionality in vCenter 5.5 is only accessible via the Web Client. Of course the Windows Client might be kept on as a means to administer the free version of ESXi – time will tell.

None of these things are concrete proof of intent but they, and other things, make my spider senses tingle. It might not happen with vSphere.next as there could be some challenges to overcome still. There would have to be complete support and integration with VMware’s other products as one example. As another example, some customers might want vCSA to support MSSQL before they’d consider it ready for production.

In short though, I think that vCenter’s days on Windows are numbered. What that number is though, I couldn’t say.

Google Hangout with VMware EMEA, Joe Baguley and Paul Saffo (& vSpecialist!)

As part of it’s 15 year birthday celebrations, VMware EMEA are hosting a Google Hangout where Jo, Paul and 5 other bloggers (including yours truly) will be having a live Q&A session about current and future IT trends. For more information from the VMware EMEA blog, see:

http://www.vmwareemeablog.com/events-uk/hangout-with-joe-baguley-and-paul-saffo-to-hear-them-discuss-technology-past-present-and-future-1

Attending the hangout live will be:

The hangout will be recorded and available to watch back on the VMware EMEA YouTube channel and also on the VMware EMEA blog once the Hangout is over.

Fusion HR Link: Process Workflows & Automation

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It’s not often that we here at vSpecialist write-up specific vendor technologies, or blog about our workplaces. This is, after all, a generic virtualization blog where we discuss all aspects of IT. However, once in a while, interesting pieces of technological integration comes along that transcends the specific target audience and appeals to the wider IT audience as a whole due to the way the different elements fit together or a new approach.

HR Link is one of those occasions.

Before I start, in the interests of transparency, I need to point out that I work for Fusion Business Solutions, the developers of the HR Link integration application.

HR Link is built on the BMC RemedyAR workflow platform. AR is short for the Action Request system, an under-pinning platform on which other applications like ITSM and other BMC products run.

The technology – whilst interesting in it’s own right – is not the most interesting aspect of this application to a wider IT audience. What is most interesting is the workflow approach taken as an overlay for process management plus the ability to aggregate information from multiple external data sources. Much like VMware Orchestrator, the AR System can take a decision tree and map it to business processes, which themselves map to IT process workflows as part of an IT operational context. This ability is becoming increasingly vital to Infrastructure Architects and Designers who need to balance the requirements of new systems and their integration with existing infrastructure.

HR Link is another example of a kind of enterprise messaging bus for Service Delivery – sitting between other shared services to aggregate and action self-service or fully automated workflows.

I am planning another few posts on this topic with a deeper look into how messaging bus operations impact service delivery – especially in Corporate and Cloud infrastructures. But, in the meantime, if interested in how HR Link works from a technology perspective, there is an up-coming webinar about HR Link, delivered by Fusion Business Solutions.

XP: The Final Countdown

People have been saying that “this is the year of VDI” for a number of years now. Could it be true this year? Windows XP will be 13 years old when Microsoft finally pull the plug on its support in 2014. That’s a decent innings for domestic pet dog let alone an operating system. Why has it lasted this long and will anybody miss it?

For me, the answer to that last question is “no”, but without a doubt there are users out there for whom it won’t be the case. Some of them will be home users, holding on to that creaking PC or laptop that they’ve had for years and that has always worked (except for BSODs, viruses, lost files and the lack of telepathic functionality that some of the less technically savvy wish was available). Others still may work in small businesses or enterprises that don’t have a very heavy reliance on IT. The remainder will be some of the bigger corporates, still using XP maybe because it’s too difficult to upgrade, too expensive or because XP just works. Or, perhaps more worryingly, there has been a woeful lack of strategic planning somewhere.

Unlike its successor, the much lamented Windows Vista, XP is fairly stable and was fairly easy to pick up and use. In an enterprise environment it could be configured and maintained fairly easily. I can understand why companies wouldn’t want to upset the apple cart by upgrading. Even after Windows 7 had been out for some time, I still received brand new corporate laptops with XP builds on them. And, the brief trend in netbooks in 2009 – 2011 kept sales of XP going strong too.

So, is the world going to end when support officially ends in April 2014? Not really. Having worked with and for software and hardware vendors for many years, their stock response when you buy, upgrade or raise a support ticket for their products is to recommend that you use the latest versions of everything. This will already have been going on for some time now. Some vendors have dropped support for XP already and any that still do will be killing it off over the next year. Companies that use XP won’t grind to a halt come next April.

That said though, despite its familiarity, using XP now represents an increasing risk. When the updates have stopped and the support is cut off, who are you going to turn to when things go wrong? When the office laser printers have run off their final pages and have to be replaced, where will the drivers come from to support XP with your new model? If you’re using XP, the time to think about migrating is now (actually, a couple of years ago might have been better).

The cost of migrating will start to take a back seat to the increased risk of inaction as this year passes. The problem that some may face though is what to do about their legacy applications. Cost, complexity and stability may not be keeping some on XP; it may be their applications that do not work on newer operating systems. What then? Some enterprises face very tough choices this year.

Virtual desktop infrastructure may very well be a sensible solution in many cases if enterprises are willing to invest in it. Careful planning is required but, if it’s done well, there are significant benefits that can be realised. So yes, it may well be the year of VDI after all.

Of course, there’s much more to End User Computing (EUC) than just virtual desktops. So much is going on in this space that I could rattle on for hours and it’d be out of date by the time I’m done. Rather than lament the inevitable end of the countdown, I look forward to the changes that its driving.

If you want to read around what’s going on in the EUC space, two of my favourite sites to follow are:

The clock is ticking on XP (and Office 2003)…

TrainSignal Online – 1 Month On…

trainsignalIt’s been just over a month since TrainSignal switched to providing their courses only via an online model and binned the idea of shipping DVDs around the world.

Although they kept their plans under wraps fairly well (at least they did as far as I know), it shouldn’t really have come as a surprise to anyone that they changed their model. You only have to look back another month or so to one of the UK’s big high street names going to the wall to see further evidence that physical media is just not as popular anymore.

I had been planning to purchase one of TrainSignal’s courses just prior to them making the switch. Good job I waited eh? But after giving it a week or so to bed in, I subscribed and I now have access to the whole training catalog.

Logging in, the dashboard (below) gives you the ability to browse and take courses, take practice exams, see what’s new etc.

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You can see my progress having a look at David Davis and Jake Robinson’s “VMware vCloud Director Essentials” course. There’s also a link that will let you download the Silverlight based offline player.

The offline player, as it says on the tin, allows you to download courses to view when you don’t have an internet connection handy. It requires you to authenticate using your TrainSignal account and you’ll need to connect the player to the internet every few days or so for it to re-authenticate. Once in, you can browse the course catalog and select courses for download.

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The player’s fairly responsive and I’ve had no issues with it… save one. As stated on their website, TrainSignal do not yet offer an offline player for mobile devices (e.g. iPads etc). For me, that’s a bit of a detractor.

Overall, I like what TrainSignal have done. I can pick and choose whichever courses I want and hopefully the catalog will grow nicely. I do want an iPad app for it though!

Note: I didn’t clarify when I first wrote this that TrainSignal have offered their courses online for some time but not as a subscription model. Thanks to Ricky El-Qasem.