• The Virtual World

    Containers for Microsoft Hyper-V

    Containers are the future, and now, Microsoft has added it to Windows Server 2016.

    Containers Come to Hyper-V

    Virtualization Review – By: Jeffrey Schwartz – “Although Docker has a large lead in container use and hype, challengers crop up nearly every day. Add to that the newest offering from Microsoft, built around its core hypervisor, Hyper-V.

    Yesterday, Microsoft released Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 4, providing a first look at Hyper-V containers, an additional deployment option for those looking to create multitenant environments. Hyper-V containers offer a higher level of isolation, which offers better security, according to Microsoft. It’s available for download now along with the new System Center 2016 Technical Preview 4.

    In addition to the debut of Hyper-V containers, Microsoft has issued improvements to Windows Server containers and the Docker Engine for Windows, which made their appearance in the last technical preview, released back in August.

    ‘Hyper-V containers isolate applications with the guarantees associated with traditional virtualization, but with the ease, image format and management model of Windows Server containers, including the support of Docker Engine,’ according to Microsoft’s Server and Cloud blog post. ‘You can make the choice at deployment of whether your application needs the isolation provided by Hyper-V containers or not, without having to make any changes to the container image or the container configuration.’

    Microsoft acknowledges that while there’s still room for improvement, application compatibility is a key focus in the new technical preview. Among the applications and application frameworks that now work with Windows Server containers are ASP.NET 3.5 and 4.6. In addition, the new Nano Server deployment option allows for deployment as both a container host and as a container runtime in which the OS runs within the container. Microsoft said this is ‘a lean, efficient installation of Windows Server ideal for born-in-the-cloud applications.’ Microsoft also added support for shared folders support, which Docker calls volumes, as well as hostname configuration.

    The Nano Server, Microsoft’s reduced servicing deployment option, also includes support for Desired State Configuration, which is aimed at helping automate large server deployments, championed by Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Jeffrey Snover and lead architect for the server and cloud group. ‘These give you the tools for rapid iteration and lighter weight DevOps,’ Snover said.

    Nano Server can now run as a DNS Server or Web Server (IIS). Another key new feature added to Nano Server is the Windows Server Application (WSA) installer based on AppX, which Microsoft said provides a way to install other agents, tools and applications on the server.

    Microsoft also announced new software-defined datacenter improvements. Building on the Azure-consistent stack of the last technical preview, Microsoft has added high availability to the network controller, improved load balancing, container network and live migration support. Microsoft has also added Virtual Machine Multi-Queue to enable 10G+ performance.

    On the storage front, Microsoft has upgraded its Storage Spaces Direct feature to support all flash configurations with NVMe SSD and SATA SSD devices and Erasure Coding, which Microsoft said offers better storage efficiency. The Storage Health Service has improved health monitoring and operations, with one monitoring point per cluster. Storage QoS now supports adjusting the normalization size of the algorithm from the current default 8 KB settings, Microsoft said.

    The new security features include shielded VMs and Just Enough Administration, which restricts administrator rights. The latest preview also supports domain controllers and server maintenance roles.”

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  • The Virtual World

    Citrix Scales Back!

    Dropping XenServer, getting rid of the “GoTo” products… and laying some folks off. Ouch!

    Citrix Spins Off GoTo Lineup, Announces Layoffs

    Virtualization Review – By: Keith Ward – Citrix, which has been struggling for years to find a viable way forward in the current IT era, announced that it’s lopping off its “GoTo” product lineup along with about 1,000 employees, as it retrenches and restructures.

    GoTo Somewhere Else
    Citrix said in a press release that it was spinning off the products — which include GoToAssist, GoToMeeting, GoToMyPC, GoToTraining, GoToWebinar, Grasshopper and OpenVoice — to ‘focus on its strategic solutions for secure and reliable delivery of applications and data.’ Citrix said those products amount to about $600 million in revenue. Given that Citrix revenues for all of 2014 were $3.14 billion, the spinoff will take away about 20 percent of the company’s sales.

    In a separate press release discussing its financials for the future, Citrix said those ‘strategic solutions’ include the products XenApp, XenDesktop, XenMobile, ShareFile and NetScaler. The moves are expected to save Citrix in the realm of $200 million annually, the company said. It expects that about 75 percent of those savings will come in fiscal year 2016.

    The layoffs themselves will cost Citrix between $65 million – $85 million, mostly due to severance arrangements, the company said.

    Anemic Growth
    “We are simplifying our business in all areas – product, marketing, sales, operations and development,” Bob Calderoni, interim CEO and president, said in the release. The simplification and layoffs, Citrix says, should result in growth of 1-2 percent next year, and 4-5 percent through 2017.

    Brian Madden, a well-known blogger covering the virtual desktop infrastructure space, wasn’t impressed by those figures. ‘For 2016, Citrix is setting a goal of 1-to-2 percent revenue growth, which, let’s face it, is codename for zero,’ Madden wrote. ‘They’re targeting 4-to-5 percent revenue growth for 2017, which, again, seems darn close to zero. I mean really… saying your best case scenario is 5% growth in two years? Yeah… I’m calling that zero.’

    Downward Trajectory
    Citrix’s downward spiral has been a long, slow one, but has picked up speed since investment company Elliott Management came on board. Elliott is known for taking an activist role, and demanding swift and significant changes for floundering businesses. They suggested early on that GoTo be spun off as a separate company. A look at the changes in just the past year paint a portrait of a company undergoing radical surgery for its long-term survival:

    Serious revenue declines in 2014, along with approximately 900 layoffs at the beginning of the year. Those layoffs were predicted to save Citrix between $90 million – $100 million. Prior to that layoff of 700 employees and 200 contractors, Citrix ended 2014 with a little over 10,000 employees, according to S.E.C. filings.

    CEO Mark Templeton announced his retirement. He was named CEO in 2001.

    The killing off of several once-important products, including VDI-in-a-Box, and, more recently, XenClient.

    The renewed emphasis on application and data delivery was demonstrated in August with the unveiling of Workspace Cloud, which Citrix described as ‘A single unified, global, and multi-tenant SaaS platform to create complete workspaces.’ One of the aspects that most distinguishes Workspace Cloud is its focus on the red-hot area of enterprise mobility management. XenDesktop and XenApp are at the heart of Workspace Cloud, which is cloud agnostic, allowing customers to use it on the Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure public clouds, for example.

    So Long, XenServer
    One product with the ‘Xen’ prefix missing from the ‘going forward’ lineup is XenServer, which was once one of Citrix’s most crucial offerings. It was supposed to compete directly with hypervisors like VMware’s ESXi and Microsoft’s Hyper-V, but never had the uptake to make it a serious player in the compute virtualization space. The main competitor to those two now is KVM, which is carving out a niche in convergence and hyperconvergence products from up-and-coming vendors like Nutanix, SimpliVity and Scale Computing. It’s also used in most OpenStack deployments.”

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  • The Virtual World

    Dell Buys EMC for $67 Billion!

    And, EMC owns VMware! What does this mean?

    Dell Buys EMC For $67B In Largest Deal In Tech History

    TechCrunch – By: Ron Miller – “In the largest tech deal in history by far*, Dell and partners MSD Partners and Silver Lake agreed to buy EMC today for $67 billion or $33.15 a share.

    This is way over the $27 price being rumored last week, and makes the deal far larger than the $37 billion that Avago paid for Broadcom just last May.

    What makes this deal even more interesting is that Dell, with a valuation of around $25 billion, was by far the smaller fish at approximately half the size of EMC.

    The biggest part of EMC by far is VMware, which was included in the deal and will continue to be a separately publicly traded company, but EMC will go private and become part of Dell ending the company’s long history as a publicly traded company.

    The two combined companies will make the Dell and EMC the world’s largest privately controlled, integrated technology company, according to a statement released by EMC.

    As expected, Dell will lead the newly formed organization and long-time EMC CEO Joe Tucci will retire. Tucci has put off retirement a couple of times because of problems finding a suitable successor. Michael Dell will run the combined organization.

    The question is with any deal of this sort, how will two massive companies with entrenched cultures come together into a single entity — and that remains to be seen.

    Aija Leiponen, an associate professor at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management thinks the companies could have problems.

    ‘Many if not most mergers actually destroy value, and merging two companies that have had trouble renewing and reviving themselves rarely succeed when combined. The merger is thus extremely risky. EMC and Dell are in complementary segments of the computer industry and if all goes well the two companies might be more valuable together than apart. But that’s a big if,’ she said.

    Dell has been looking to move away from the server business, which has grown commoditized in recent years and get deeper into enterprise with private cloud computing and storage where it could compete with IBM, HP and other traditional vendors, as well as Pure Storage and newer vendors.

    ‘Dell looks like they want to be the last man standing in cloud infrastructure,’ R Ray Wang, founder at Constellation Research told TechCrunch.

    There’s no getting around the fact that this is a huge gamble on Dell’s part, forcing it to find a new financial partner to make the deal happen, but the fact is this is the only way it could get big enough to compete in this space.

    For EMC, it gives Tucci a way to retire on a high note after more than 15 years as the company’s leader, leaving shareholders with the maximum value they could have possibly hoped for. Even though CNBC is reporting Tucci said, there is a “go-shop” provision that will allow the data storage company to seek out other buyers and give EMC a discounted breakup fee if it finds a more desirable deal,” the chances of anyone offering this kind of dough for EMC are slim.

    The deal is expected to close in mid-2016 and is of course subject to regulatory approval. It also remains to be seen once this deal closes whether Dell will sell off some of the pieces of EMC, particularly VMware, to help pay for it.

    Rumors of this deal began surfacing last week, and as we wrote, when a rumor is this strong, chances are there is something to it. As it turned out, there was.

    * The acquisition of Time Warner by Aol (owner of TechCrunch) in 2000 for $106 billion was actually bigger, but it was a media/tech deal. Dell buying EMC is the biggest tech acquisition in history.”

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  • VirtZine - Video Netcasts

    VirtZine #50 – Video – “Container Computing, and Other News”

    Get ready for containers! Virtualize your AD Domain Controllers, Enterprise computing and Docker, Microsoft Hyper/V increases market share as Citrix market falls, VMware still king, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton to retire, will VMware buy EMC?

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  • VirtZine - Audio Netcasts

    VirtZine #50 – Audio – “Container Computing, and Other News”

    Get ready for containers! Virtualize your AD Domain Controllers, Enterprise computing and Docker, Microsoft Hyper/V increases market share as Citrix market falls, VMware still king, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton to retire, will VMware buy EMC?

    (Click on the buttons below to Stream the Netcast in your “format of choice”)
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  • The Virtual World

    Will VMware Buy EMC?

    VMware has put in an offer to buy EMC, it’s parent company.

    EMC Considers a Buyout by Its Own Subsidiary VMware

    re/code – By: Arik Hesseldahl – “Data storage and IT giant EMC is contemplating a deal under which it would be acquired by VMware, the software company in which it is a majority owner, according to sources briefed on the discussions.

    That is one of several options EMC’s board is exploring as part of a wide-ranging strategic review of its operations and as a partial response to pressure from an activist shareholder. Over the last several months it has explored selling the company to both Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems, as well as acquiring other companies and selling off assets. Pressure has also increased for CEO Joe Tucci, 68, to get the company on a solid footing before he names a successor and retires.

    The discussion to have VMware buy out its parent company comes after Re/code outlined the possibility that EMC could buy out its remaining stake in VMware as part of a more conventional deal. VMware’s shares jumped nearly 3 percent Tuesday after the story. EMC currently owns 80 percent of VMware.

    EMC board directors are now looking at a second scenario in which VMware would effectively buy out its parent EMC in a transaction known as a downstream merger. In this instance, VMware would issue new shares in exchange for EMC shares in combination with cash raised from the issuance of new debt.

    EMC shares rose by more than 3 percent to $26.85 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday. VMware shares fell by $4.82 or more than 5 percent to $86.12.

    The move to have VMware buy out EMC is being supported by activist fund Elliott Management, according to sources. Elliott, led by billionaire Paul Singer, had a hand in installing two new EMC board members earlier this year and owns a little more than 2 percent of EMC’s shares. Previously, the firm has publicly pressured EMC to divest its stake in VMware, arguing that the investment has left the parent undervalued and has caused the two companies to compete. Tucci has remained steadfastly opposed to selling EMC’s stake in VMware.

    Elliott has lately signaled to EMC’s board that it would oppose a move by EMC to buy out the remaining 20 percent of VMware that it doesn’t already own, according to sources. It’s unclear which way EMC’s board is leaning for the moment. A standstill agreement under which Elliott has agreed not to pressure EMC publicly expires next month. Spokespeople for EMC, VMware and Elliott Management all declined to comment.

    Specific terms of the downstream merger deal proposed — including prices and potential premiums — could not be learned, and sources stressed that no agreement has been reached and a deal may not ultimately materialize.

    However, the rough outline of the deal under consideration by EMC’s board would work like this, according to sources:

    VMware would issue somewhere between $50 billion and $55 billion worth of new shares. A portion of those shares — about $30 billion — would be used to cancel EMC’s 80 percent stake in VMware, which currently has a market value of $38.5 billion. The remaining new VMware shares would be issued to current EMC shareholders, who will also get some cash generated from the issuance of about $10 billion in new debt. EMC shares closed Tuesday at $26.01, valuing the company at about $50 billion.

    The downstream merger arguably makes better financial sense, because VMware’s shares currently trade at a higher valuation relative to earnings than EMC’s shares. EMC shares are trading at about 12 times estimated 2016 earnings, while VMware shares are trading at more than 20 times forward earnings. It’s unclear what the management structure of the new company would be or who would be its CEO.

    If EMC decides to combine with VMware in some way, the process would be driven by EMC’s board. While VMware has a measure of independence as a publicly traded company in its own right, five of its nine directors, including Tucci, also sit on EMC’s board. As of March 31, regulatory filings show EMC owns 80.6 percent of VMware’s common stock and has more than 97 percent voting control over VMware’s common stock.

    Once combined, the companies would likely save on operational costs. Amit Daryanani, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, estimated in a research note to clients last week that combining EMC and VMware into one company would reduce their combined operating costs by as much as $946 million in 2016. EMC pledged last month to cut as much as $850 million in annual operating costs by the end of 2017.

    Downstream mergers are rare. In one notable example, hard drive maker Seagate used the technique in a complex three-way transaction with Veritas Software and the private equity firm Silver Lake in the late 1990s. (As part of that deal, Seagate briefly went private, but returned to public markets with an IPO in 2002.)

    EMC acquired VMware in 2003, paying $625 million for the startup whose software is used to make one computer act like many, a technique called virtualization. Four years later, EMC sold about 15 percent of VMware’s shares in an IPO that valued it at about $19 billion, and retained most of the rest. (Cisco Systems owns a little less than 5 percent.) Today VMware is worth about $37 billion and accounts for about 75 percent of EMC’s valuation.

    The arrangement has led to an unusual corporate structure that EMC calls a ‘federation.’ Tucci has said the structure allows both companies to jointly approach customers and compete fiercely against shared rivals. EMC’s core business is selling data storage systems to large companies. Other companies in the federation include Pivotal, a big data and analytics software startup it launched in 2013 with an investment from GE. It also includes RSA, a computer security company EMC acquired in 2006.

    VMware’s software has emerged as one of the fundamental technologies that companies use in their data centers especially as they shift their computing operations to the cloud, and has recently branched into cloud services and storage hardware that arguably competes against some EMC products.

    ‘VMware has become one of the key companies that provide the glue that holds a data center together,’ said Pat Moorhead, head of the research firm Moor Insights and Strategy. ‘If you’re building data centers, VMware has to be part of the conversation.’ VMware ended 2014 with more than $6 billion in revenue, up 16 percent from the prior year.

    EMC’s core data storage business has been under pressure in recent years, as new storage technologies based on flash memory have emerged and challenged its dominance and sales of conventional hard-disk-based storage systems have leveled off. The business posted $16.5 billion in sales, up 2 percent from the prior year. It has acquired flash storage companies like XtremIO in recent years and has recently become more aggressive in that relatively new portion of the storage business, challenging upstarts like Pure Storage.

    Tucci’s successor hasn’t been named, and contenders include both David Goulden, CEO of EMC’s $24 billion (2014 sales) information infrastructure unit and Patrick Gelsinger, a former Intel executive who is VMware’s CEO.”

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  • The Virtual World

    Citrix CEO to Retire

    Mark Templeton is retiring from Citrix, the company he has led since 2001.

    Mark Templeton To Step Down as Citrix CEO

    Virtualization Review – By: Jeffrey Schwartz – “Citrix CEO Mark Templeton has announced his retirement from the company he’s led since 2001. It was one of several announcements that promise to shake up Citrix, which appears to be on the cusp of a new era.

    Templeton first joined Citrix 20 years ago as vice president of marketing. In 1998 he was elevated to president, and was handed the reigns three years later. Under his stewardship, profits grew enormously, but in the last few years Citrix has begun to struggle badly.

    Elliot Management Gets On Board
    Because of those problems, the company has agreed to give activist investor Elliott Management, which holds 7.5 percent of Citrix’s common stock, a seat on its board. The seat will be filled by Jesse Cohen, who will replace Asiff Hirji. Citrix also said the company’s board has formed an operations committee to work closely with the company’s management team to find ways to improve margins, profits and its capital structure.
    The board has also agreed to Elliott’s demands that it consider the sale or spinoff of the Citrix ‘Go To’ business, which includes Go To Meeting, Go to My PC and Go to Webinar, among other related product lines. Citrix said it will conduct a review of strategic alternatives for that business.

    Elliott last month sent a letter to Templeton and Citrix chairman Thomas Bogan, indicating it wants to see the company improve its operations and spin off some assets, arguing the Citrix is significantly undervalued, suggesting its stock could be worth up to $100 per share by the end of next year. The stock closed at $61.47 per share on Thursday, though rose on the news and slightly better than a better than expected second quarter report with $797 million in revenue, up 2 percent year-over-year, and $103 million in earnings.

    In addition to the new board director Cohen, the operations committee will include Citrix director Robert Calderoni, who was also named executive chairman of the board. Bogan was also named to the committee and he’ll become lead independent director of the Citrix board.

    ‘Fresh Perspectives’
    “We believe the addition of new and fresh perspectives to our board will ensure Citrix continues to lead in application networking and virtualization markets,” Bogan said in a statement. Added Elliott’s Cohen: “We are confident that the initiatives announced today and the addition of new directors to the company’s board will allow Citrix to build upon its position as an innovative industry leader, and to drive significant shareholder value.”
    Citrix, best known these days for its XenDesktop and XenApp desktop virtualization platform, is also betting big on its new Cloud Workspace platform. The company demonstrated Cloud Workspace for first time at its Synergy conference in Orlando, back in May. Citrix Workspace Cloud is the company’s next-generation digital workspace for Windows-based PCs, Macs, iPads, Android tablets, Chromebooks new Linux-based systems and even embedded devices that enable Internet of Things-type environments. It’s based on a cloud delivery architecture that provides orchestration across servers and nodes.

    Second Retirement
    This isn’t the first time Templeton has announced his retirement. In February 2014 he said he would retire later that year, but in June 2014 he reversed himself , and said he’d be staying on. He said in the press release at the time that “While I had planned to retire within the year following my leave of absence, my personal circumstances have changed, and I am more determined than ever to lead Citrix through its next wave of transformation.” It appears now that the transformation will happen without him, after all.”

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  • The Virtual World

    Microsoft Steps Up, Citrix Gives Up, VMware Still King!

    Citrix is now a “niche” player in server virtualization, and VMware is still King of the Hill, but Microsft is making headway, largely because it comes with the OS.

    Gartner Names Microsoft and VMware as Server Virtualization Leaders

    Redmond Magazine – By: Keith Ward – “Gartner has released its 2015 ‘Magic Quadrant’ for x86 server virtualization infrastructure, which found that Microsoft and VMware are leading the pack in that market.

    VMware was rated highest by a significant margin, ranking at the top for both ‘Completeness of Vision’ and ‘Ability to Execute.’ Microsoft was behind in both categories, but was still far ahead of the other five companies listed as important in server virtualization: Oracle, Odin, Red Hat, Citrix and Huawei. They had a place as ‘Niche Players.’

    VMware: Still King of the Hill

    As part of its analysis, every Magic Quadrant report lists strengths and cautions for each vendor. It’s still bullish on VMware: ‘VMware continues to have dominant market share, and customers remain very satisfied with product capabilities and vendor support,’ the report states, adding that the company is still growing at a healthy clip.

    Despite those strengths, the report points out a number of challenges for VMware, and many come from Microsoft. ‘Client inquiries have been significantly increasing about comparisons between VMware and Hyper-V, specifically,’ Gartner says. In the SMB space, especially, Microsoft is becoming a threat: ‘… as Microsoft gains marketing momentum, VMware will need to continue to offer low-price packages to remain competitive in this market.’

    Another concern for VMware is its lack of traction in public cloud, which Gartner says could have large ramifications down the road: ‘While VMware has a dominant share for existing enterprise workloads, its share of the newer, cloud workloads is much smaller — a major inhibitor to growth.’

    On the whole, though, Gartner gives VMware high marks for its vision that extends virtualization from the datacenter to the cloud, strong technology and customer satisfaction.

    Microsoft: A Solid Contender

    In what should be considered a major victory for Redmond, Gartner says that Microsoft ‘… has effectively closed most of the functionality gap with VMware in terms of the x86 server virtualization infrastructure.’ That’s good news for companies whose virtualization efforts are newer or less entrenched, as it means there are more comparable options.

    The issue then becomes one of saturation, as most shops have already put their server virtualization infrastructures in place. ‘Its challenge is neither feature nor functions, but competing in a market with an entrenched competitor, VMware,’ Gartner says. Microsoft is winning a ‘good’ percentage of enterprises still implementing virtualization, the report states, but there aren’t that many out there.

    One area in which Microsoft still falls short of VMware is in its virtualization management tools, which Gartner says ‘… have some ease-of-use weaknesses.’

    On the other hand, Microsoft has an advantage it’s maintained since the early days when it made Hyper-V free: price. How much of an advantage this remains is a debatable question, but enterprises that have a large percentage of Windows workloads virtualized are the most likely to standardize on Hyper-V, since it’s free.

    Citrix: A New Direction

    Citrix used to be in the ‘Leaders’ quadrant, but has seen that position slip over the years, to where Gartner now considers it a ‘Niche Player.’ The report this year has both good news and bad news. First, Gartner believes Citrix has thrown in the towel when it comes to the leaders: ‘… it is clear Citrix is no longer investing to keep up with market leaders VMware and Microsoft — at least for traditional server virtualization in the data center,’ the report states.

    However, Gartner sees this less as a failing than a new direction, into cloud computing. From the report: ‘For cloud infrastructures, the Xen hypervisor will remain the most widely used architecture for public infrastructure as a service (IaaS) cloud providers, if for no other reason than it is used by Amazon Web Services.’ Gartner sees Citrix’s goal as to grow its CloudPlatform business.

    Since 2012, Gartner has downgraded Citrix on a consistent basis. It started as a ‘Leader,’ dropped to a ‘Visionary’ in 2013, then tumbled again into the ‘Niche Player’ category last year.

    One interesting note is that Gartner estimates that ‘About 75% of x86 server workloads are virtualized,’ but adds that virtualization technologies ‘are becoming more lightweight.’ It doesn’t specifically say so, but it would be safe to assume that containers, like Docker, is at least part of what Gartner means.”

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  • The Virtual World

    Enterprise Computing Needs Docker

    I’ve been predicting that Docker will be big in Corporate Computing, check this out!

    Why Enterprises Need Containers and Docker

    Logicworks – By: Lindsay Van Thoen – “At DockerCon 2015 last week, it was very clear that Docker is poised to transform enterprise IT.

    While it traditionally takes years for a software innovation — and especially an open source one — to reach the enterprise, Docker is defying all the rules. Analysts expect Docker will be the norm in enterprises by 2016, less than two years after its 1.0 release.

    Why are Yelp, Goldman Sachs, and other enterprises using Docker? Because in many ways, enterprises have been unable to take full advantage of revolutions in virtualization and cloud computing without containerization.

    Why Enterprises Need Containers and Docker

    containersAt DockerCon 2015 last week, it was very clear that Docker is poised to transform enterprise IT.

    While it traditionally takes years for a software innovation — and especially an open source one — to reach the enterprise, Docker is defying all the rules. Analysts expect Docker will be the norm in enterprises by 2016, less than two years after its 1.0 release.

    Why are Yelp, Goldman Sachs, and other enterprises using Docker? Because in many ways, enterprises have been unable to take full advantage of revolutions in virtualization and cloud computing without containerization.

    Docker, Standard Containers, and the Hybrid Cloud

    If there ever was a container battle among vendors, Docker has won — and is now nearly synonymous with container technology.

    Most already understand what containers do: describe and deploy the template of a system in seconds, with all infrastructure-as-code, libraries, configs, and internal dependences in a single package, so that the Docker file can be deployed on virtually any system.

    But the leaders of the open-source project wisely understand that in order to work in enterprises, there needs to be a “standard” container that works across more traditional vendors like VMware, Cisco, and across new public cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services. At DockerCon, Docker and CoreOS announced that they were joining a Linux Foundation initiative called the Open Container Project, where everyone agrees on a standard container image format and runtime.

    This is big news for enterprises looking to adopt container technology. First, in a market that is becoming increasingly skittish about “vendor lock-in”, container vendors have removed one more hurdle to moving containers across AWS, VMware, Cisco, etc. But more importantly for many IT leaders, this container standardization makes it that much easier to move across internal clouds operated by multiple vendors or across testing and production environments.

    A survey of 745 IT professionals found that the top reason IT organizations are adopting Docker containers is to build a hybrid cloud. Despite the promises of the flexibility of hybrid clouds, it is actually quite a difficult engineering feat to build cloud bursting systems (where load is balanced across multiple environments), and there is no such thing as a “seamless” transition across clouds. Vendors that claim to facilitate this often do so by compromising feature sets or by building applications to the lowest common denominator, which often means not taking full advantage of the cost savings or scalability of public clouds.

    By building in dependencies, Docker containers all but eliminate these interoperability concerns. Apps that run well in test environments built on AWS will run exactly the same in production environments in on-premises clouds.

    Docker also announced major upgrades in networking that allow containers to communicate with each across hosts. After acquiring SocketPlane six months ago, the SocketPlane team is working to complete a set of networking APIs, it looks like Docker is hard at work making networking enterprise-grade, so that developers are guaranteed application portability throughout the application lifecycle. Read all the updates from DockerCon 2015 here.

    Reducing complexity and managing risk

    Docker does add another level of complexity when engineers are setting up the environment. On top of virtualization software, auto scaling, and all of the moving parts of automation and orchestration now in place in most enterprises, Docker may initially seem like an unnecessary layer.

    But once Docker is in place, it drastically simplifies and de-risks the deploy process. Developers have more of a chance to work on application knowing that once they deploy to a Docker file, it will run on their server. They can build their app on their laptop, deploy as a Docker file, and type in a command to deploy it to production. On AWS, using ECS with Docker takes away some of the configuration you need to complete with Docker. You can achieve workflows where Jenkins or other configuration integration tools run tests, AWS CloudFormation scales up an environment, all in minutes.

    This simplified (and shortened) deployment cycle is even more useful in complex environments, where developers often must ‘remember’ to account for varying system and infrastructure requirements during the deploy process. In other words, the deploy process happens faster with fewer errors, so developers can focus on doing their jobs. System engineers do not have to jump through the same hoops to make sure an application runs on infrastructure it was not configured for.

    Many large start-ups, like Netflix, have developed work-arounds and custom solutions to simplify and coordinate hundreds of deploys a day across multiple teams. But as enterprises are in the nascent stages of continuous delivery, Docker has come at a perfect time to eliminate the pain of complex deploys before they have to develop their own workarounds.

    Caveat: Docker in Hybrid Environments is Not ‘Easy’

    We mentioned it above, but it is important to note that setting up Docker is a specialized skill. It has even taken the senior automation engineers at Logicworks quite some time to get used to. No wonder why it was announced at DockerCon that the number of Docker-related job listings went from 2,500 to 43,000 in 2015, an increase of 1,720 percent.

    In addition, Docker works best in environments that have already developed sophisticated configuration automation practices (using Puppet or Chef), where engineers have invested time in developing templates to describe cloud resources (CloudFormation). Docker also requires that these scripts and templates change. Most enterprises will either have to hire several engineers to implement Docker or hire a managed service provider with expertise in container technology.

    On top of this, there are lingering concerns over the security of Docker in production — and rightly so. While many enterprises, like Yelp and Goldman Sachs, have used Docker in production, there are certain measures one can take to protect these assets for applications carrying sensitive data or compliance obligations.

    Docker did announce the launch of Docker Trusted Registry last week, which is a piece of software that securely stores container images. It also comes with management features and support, which meets Docker’s paid support business objectives. This announcement is specifically targeted at the enterprise market, that has traditionally been skittish of open source projects without signatures and support (e.g., Linux vs. Red Hat). AWS and other cloud platforms have already agreed to resell the technology.

    Over the next 12 months, best practices and security protocols around containers will become more standardized. And as they do, enterprises and start-ups will benefit from Docker to create IT departments that function as smoothly as container terminals.

    Logicworks is a enterprise cloud software and services specializing in enterprise hybrid and managed AWS solutions for the healthcare, financial, legal and commerce industries. Contact us to learn more about our cloud solutions using Docker.”

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  • The Virtual World

    Virtualize Your Domain Contollers

    I, personally, don’t find this as controversial, but I have a friend at work that argues this is crazy… so, I know it is an issue worth pondering!

    Time To Let Go of Your Physical Domain Controller

    Virtualization Review – By: Rick Vanover – “There was a time when it was taboo to virtualize critical applications, but that time has long passed. I speak to many people who are 100 percent virtualized, or very near that mark, for their datacenter workloads. When I ask about those aspects not yet virtualized, one of the most common answers is ‘Active Directory’.

    I’d encourage you to think a bit about that last mile. For starters, having a consistent platform for Hyper-V or vSphere is a good idea, rather than having just one system that isn’t. Additionally, I’m convinced that there are more options with a virtualized workload. Here are some of my tips to consider when you take that scary step to virtualize a domain controller (DC):

    Always have two or more DCs. This goes without saying, but this accommodates the situation when one is offline for maintenance, such as Windows Updates or a hardware failure of the vSphere or Hyper-V host.

    Accommodate separate domains of failure. The reasoning behind having one physical domain controller is often to make it easier to pinpoint whether vSphere or Hyper-V is the problem. Consider, though: By having one DC VM on a different host, on different storage or possibly even a different site, you can address nearly any failure situation. I like to use the local storage on a designated host for one DC VM, and put the other on the SAN or NAS.

    Make sure your ‘out of band access’ works. Related to the previous point, make sure you know how to get into a host without System Center Virtual Machine Manager or vCenter Server. That means having local credentials or local root access documented and available by IP (without DNS as well) is required.

    Set the DCs to auto-start. If this extra VM is on local storage, make sure it’s set to auto-start with the local host’s configuration. This will be especially helpful in a critical outage situation such as a power outage and subsequent power restoration. Basic authentication and authorization will work.

    Don’t P2V that last domain controller — rebuild it instead. The physical to virtual (P2V) process is great, but not for DCs. Technically, there are ways to do it, especially with the manageable services that allow DC services to be stopped; but it’s not recommended.

    It’s better to build a new DC, promote it and then demote and remove the old one. Besides, this may be the best way to remove older operating systems, such as Windows Server 2003 (less than one year left!) and Windows Server 2008 in favor of newer options such as Windows Server 2012 R2 and soon-to-be Windows Server 2016.

    Today it’s easier, with plenty of guidance. The resources available from VMware and Microsoft for virtualizing DCs are very extensive, so there’s no real excuse to not make the move. Sure, if it were 2005 we’d be more cautious in our ambitions to virtualize everything, but times have changed for the better.
    Do you still hold onto a physical domain controller? If so, why? Share your logic as to why you still have it, and let’s see if there’s a reason to virtualize the last mile.”

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