VMWare and Citrix: please stop the BS.

Now that VMWorld is over, first of all I must thank God and Jesus Christ it is indeed over. The amount of crap I have seen posted on Twitter thanks to VMWorld was simply amazing. Of course it was not all terrible stuff. There were some nice things to be seen like the vSphere client on the iPad. Seriously, great stuff.

Also, I must, one more time, say that I have nothing against VMWare (or Teradici for that matter – some see me as the Anti-Christ for all PCoverIP related things, what I am certainly not). I still think they have some GREAT products and some GREAT technologies and more than that, I do run my company on top of their server virtualization platform for the simple fact I still think it is the best one out there as of today.

My gripe with both VMWare and Teradici is very simple. They distort certain definitions to make their products and/or technologies look good in all scenarios and as any smart person knows, especially on IT, there is no silver bullet. So there is no solution that can work perfectly in all scenarios. As I work mostly with Remote Display protocols of course that is what I am most interested about any VDI solution out there and how these perform on our new, always connected, world (remember, the WAN is the new LAN). And in this particular area Teradici and VMWare are usually full of bull (FoB). What I really dislike.

Back to the topic, Citrix as well is at fault here, not really helping the industry by throwing more shit at the fan. I do like them (and also give them shit when deserved – just read my posts about my XenDesktop issues in the past and also about the Citrix Receiver for the iPad/iPhone – gimmicky and for many customers I have, useless) and do like a lot of people that work there but I do think this week, Harry’s post was really not needed and simply stirred the shitty pot a little bit more. The same goes for Simon Crosby and his terrible YouTube video. People in this kind of position should be more classy when posting. Even when throwing shit at the fan (what can indeed be done in a classy, polite way).

Sure VMWare is no angel either. The abstract for that session they had at VMWorld (the one I posted a picture on Twitter, PA9449, was simply low. I mean very low). I have no clue what their marketing shitheads were thinking about posting things like ‘how to set RFP/POC traps for Microsoft and Citrix that will make it impossible for them to win the deal’. If they were in Canada I would definitely sue their asses big time.

The bottom line is this: both companies are wasting useful resources and time just bullshitting each other. Instead of getting together and coming up with something the whole community can benefit from (like a common framework for load/performance testing of their VDI platforms, preferably using third party tools like Login VSI, WANEmu and so on) and discuss the issues, again, with the community, so we all learn what is great and not so great with their products and technologies. One more time, please stop the BS.

I am certain not only myself but several other people are indeed getting tired of this crap. So please do something to stop this.

And for everyone else, please no fanboyism either. Be grown up enough to admit VMWare View is not perfect and in certain scenarios it may be crap and make no sense whatsoever. Same goes for XenDesktop. Each one has its own merits, benefits and drawbacks. And we all know that.

No more bull please.


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My iPhone. Goodbye.

When Apple announced the iPhone three years ago, I was excited. It was truly a revolutionary product, way ahead of everything else at the time (sidenote: sorry but I do not see the iPad on the same league – it is just a ‘bigger’ thing that has a three year old OS/Interface on it). I told myself that day, January, 9th that I would be buying one (even though I live in Canada and things do move very slowly up here when compared to the US) when released. And once I managed to find my way to the Microsoft MVP Summit in the following year I got one.

Great device. At the time. Three years ago.

Fast forward three years and the latest and greatest iPhone is indeed VERY similar to the one released that year. In many ways the platform became stagnant. Sure there are tons of apps on the AppStore. But that does not mean the platform itself is evolving.

Looking at the iPhone today, now the ‘reality distortion field’ effect worn out, I can clearly see all the flaws on the iPhone, after using it for over three years. In many ways, it is a PAIN IN THE ASS phone.

First of all the thing is totally tied to Apple (and I do not like Apple for several reasons, even though I do have four Apple machines at home) what means ‘you, peasant, use what we Apple want you to use’. It is almost like a ‘Porschesque’ experience. When I got my Porsche, at the time there was no way to hook up an iPod to the vehicle due to a proprietary fiber optic bus. No bluetooth either. When I asked Porsche why, they told me in a Porsche all you want to hear is the engine, not music from your iPod. Great. Same approach applies to Apple and their products. If you ever wondered why you cannot arrange your music library into ease-to-follow folders, it is because you do NOT need it. Trust Apple on that. They know what you need/want better than you or your mommy.

Adding to that, the freaking phone, three years later has no Flash support. Exchange sync is simply mediocre (did you notice when you have rules to move emails to folders and get a new email in one of these, the iPhone mail app does not show that?). The whole app sync with iTunes is another major PITA. The list goes on.

So yesterday when I saw the announcement of Windows Phone 7 I was impressed. The same way when I saw the iPhone announcement. Beautiful interface (and logical), Zune/Xbox Live integration, several manufacturers to choose your phone from and perfect Exchange/Office support out-of-the-box. So long iPhone. I am dumping you as soon as Windows Phone 7 is out.

Add to that: Flash will almost certain be there once the phones start shipping and Microsoft does allow you to develop/add things like bluetooth keyboard/mouse support, what the iPhone does NOT support officially – three years LATER – making it a piece of shit thin client, no matter what Gus Pinto or Chris Fleck, with their own reality distortion fields, say. I am not saying the Windows Phone 7 devices will be better thin clients but for sure companies like Celio will be able to release accessories that support Windows Phone 7 out-of-the-box making it a much more viable thin client at the end.

Finally, a critical thing Microsoft has in its advantage is the three years the iPhone has been out. If they are smart, by now they understand everything the iPhone has NOT delivered and its shortcomings, having learned with Apple’s mistakes in this space (and successes as well).

This will allow Microsoft to deliver not the Jesus phone.

But God’s one.

Let’s pray.


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Citrix and the iPad

No matter how much I try not to write about the iPad, there are several crazy things I have been reading lately about the Jesus Tablet and many have the word Citrix cruising along.

For some people, for unknown reasons, the iPad is seen as the tablet God himself handed out to Moses, or Steve Jobs for that matter. The solution for all our problems and the device that will bring VDI to the masses.


And I will explain why and complain about Citrix later.

Screen. It is awesome to see a bigger screen in a device that can be potentially used as some sort of thin client. There are a couple issues there. The resolution is fixed at 1024×768 and some apps, in this day and age, refuse to work on less than higher resolutions. Two options: you either keep moving around the screen (painful) or you scale the resolution down to match the native display one (what technically is bad and if you know anything about video you know the reasons why). So, yes, better than the iPhone but still not that incredible. But I could live with that.

Keyboard. Here is where the big problems start. The on-screen keyboard may be great for a quick ‘checking my email’ thing but to use that to reply to long emails or to write a document, that is just unbearable. Fanboys will say go and get an external keyboard! Yes, great idea. Now I need to carry a freaking iPad PLUS a keyboard. Awesome.

Mouse. No word so far if a bluetooth one is supported. As of today, based on what we know, no support. Even if it is added at a later date, great, another device to carry with the iPad and the keyboard above.

Ports. Where are the USB ports so I can plug headsets, webcams, scanners, etc (remember, this is the Moses’s tablet that will bring VDI to the masses as per God’s predictions)? Yes, there are none but for sure you will be able to get a cable that costs $40 that will give you USB ports. Yay, another thing to carry with the keyboard, the mouse and the iPad itself.

Local OS. Sure the iPhone OS was revolutionary. For a phone. For a tablet, are you kidding me you are putting an OS that cannot even multitask on that? Not to mention that several things that make XenDesktop a decent thing, are NOT supported as the local OS cannot do shit about them. Examples? What about Flash redirection? Oh, did I mention that 9.7″ screen cannot even run Flash movies or access Flash websites? Not that I love Flash(it). But the reality is a huge percentage of the web relies on that (Citrix included – have you tried Citrix.com/tv on your iPhone/iPad? Yes, it does not work).

As I mentioned to Chris Fleck, who called me a Nay-Sayer on his blog, sure I can see certain vertical markets using it for several reasons. One is healthcare, where for doctors, using a Win32 app that has an interface designed for touch input, it would be perfect. Small, light, relatively cheap and able to run their Win32 apps that require no flash, no decent video performance and no physical keyboard/mouse. It could be the same case for insurance companies (although the lack of a camera is potentially a big show stopper), warehouses and so on.

The thing is all the above use cases mentioned above are NOT the ones that will bring VDI to the masses. So how can such device do that as several people in the industry are bragging now I have no crazy idea.

As a final note, what really pisses me off is to see Citrix spending all this time twittering/blogging/working on the iPhone/iPad receivers while IGNORING the bugs still there on BOTH Win32 and OS X clients, MUCH bigger markets when compared to all the iCrap stuff above (at least I think that is the case; correct me if I am wrong).

So Citrix, before you keep promoting all these savior, God sent devices, please fix what we, the lower class citizens, use every single day: the Windows and Mac OS X clients. Once you get that going, go nuts with your iPad plans to take over the VDI world.

Riding the ‘what is cool/on the spot’ wave for marketing purposes is not cool. VMWare at least is not doing that.


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Perfect IT Storm.

I guess it is the perfect day for such topic. Most of you may not be aware that I live in Ottawa, Canada and to celebrate the upcoming winter, today we got blessed with a nice, 12″ (30 cm) snow storm. As I will have plenty of time until I get back home and clean up the driveway, I decided to put in words something I have been thinking for a long time, since this wave of craziness started with people like Brian Madden, Michael Keen and Harry Labana. Yes, I am talking about User Installed applications and I will explain why this may be the worst idea to ever be considered in IT land.

First of all I do understand that users do have needs and I am cool with that. And that sometimes they may need a tool that is not readily available for them. But to stretch that and say that user installed apps is the solution is asking for HUGE problems down the road and here is the reason: legal issues.

As you all know, there are several companies that on their EULA will explicitly mention their application must NOT run on Terminal Services. If you do it, you are violating the EULA. Now, between you and me, how many of you IT people actually read the freaking EULA for an application before deploying it on your TSs AND (note the word AND here) consulted your legal department to clarify the EULA (do not try to tell me you, an IT person, understood 100% all the legal bullshit written in an EULA and the legal implications/ramifications – that is why lawyers exist)? Answer: none I am almost certain.

So if you leave the decision on what to run on his desktop to the user, are you guys thinking they will read and understand the EULA? For God’s sake these people do not even read the user guides that come with their brand new HDTVs. Do you think all of the sudden they will start reading EULAs? For sure you can get a lawyer to help the user do that what will drive that Winzip license from $20 to $20,000 as soon as the lawyer finishes his work and gives you a report if there are any legal issues on running WinZip on a hosted VM under XenDesktop 4 running under vSphere 4 running under HP C-class blades in a datacenter in Oregon. Yes, the lawyer will consider all this.

The real issue here goes deeper than that and is really tied into how IT is seen or works in most companies. IT is seen as a team of firefighters, always fighting some fire inside the company. Logon times that are way too slow, applications that refuse to work, machines that crash, printers that do not print and so on. And that is exactly where the problem is.

If your IT team spends 80%, 90% of their time doing what I described above, there is something wrong with your IT infrastructure and/or planning/directions. Sorry to rain on your parade but that is the truth. IT should be way more than that. A group of people that understand the business needs, the user needs and comes up with the right tools to deliver these requirements. If users do have all the tools they need (note that ‘need’ does not mean ‘want’) why do they need to install anything else on their machines to do their work? They do not need it. Please do not tell me that fucking iTunes is a requirement. It is not and we both know that.

That brings us to the fact that IT and Technical Support are seen as synonymous. They are not. Another group must exist and this is the one that will find the real needs and come up with the real tools. Some could say this is the CIO/CTO and that could be the case but putting all this weight in one shoulder is not smart. A single person, you and me included, will make mistakes. Guaranteed. A CTO/CIO title does not mean “Technical/Business God/Jesus Christ”. Actually in several large companies I worked with, that was exactly the opposite. This person had really no deep understanding of the business and/or the technologies. Another recipe for a disaster. That is why I think these decisions should be handled by a group, something like ‘IT Architects’ and these guys would be of course connected to the ‘Technical Support’ so they understand what is coming and prepare themselves to support the users and the expected issues. Yes, there are issues, no matter how well you plan/deliver your dream environment.

Another thing that came to my mind this week is the whole BYOPC idea that is closely tied to the whole user installed crap idea. I like it and I can see the benefits. But again, I am sure there are legal issues with that approach. Legally I would love to hear what a lawyer has to say. For example if a user brings in his own machine to the office (company property) and somehow that machine that is not owned by the corporation happens to do something like burning down the office, having a bomb inside, steal files, whatever where there is financial damage that an insurance company has to step up and pay the bill, will they actually do it or will they say in court that as that machine was not part of the corporation and the whole damage was caused by a third party (the user with his own PC), would they have legal grounds to give the corporation the finger? Or even sue the user and make him pay for all the crap in damages? Has anyone consulted their legal department/lawyer/insurance company to clarify this? Again, almost certain no one did it.

The legal issues such approach brings are huge, especially considering that you can interpret the law in several different ways. Plus, as all I wrote above, I think this hides under the rug a bigger issue that is not having an IT group that is actually working as they should: looking for ways to make the business more efficient, by clearly understanding user AND business needs. If this is all working as it should, user installed apps are not required. Sorry.

Users/companies should be able to work efficiently with a common toolset as per my post here.

If you cannot deliver that, look under your rug. I am sure you will find a load of crap there.

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My take on VDI.

In the past year if I could get a penny everytime I heard the word VDI I would not be here writing this post anymore. In the Server Based Computing/Virtualization industry, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is “the” topic and as mentioned, has been like that for a while.

Some people in the industry (mostly the Microsoft MVPs for RDS – the new name for Terminal Services) do know what I think but as not everyone is part of that group, here you have my take on this:

1. I am not sure why people like Brian and others do not compare VDI to real desktops. In a typical VDI scenario virtual machines running a desktop OS like Windows XP or Windows Vista are accessed by users using some sort of protocol (RDP, ICA, etc). For example Citrix XenDesktop uses ICA and Provision Networks/Quest uses RDP. But today, with client hypervisors (a local hypervisor installed on your PC) you can run all these virtual machines directly on your own PC and not on a remote server. So VDI in a way is evolving. In the future I do see users using their VMs over ICA/RDP when at work and when disconnected, using them locally through a local hypervisor. Get back to the office and all changes are replicated. Cool.

If we think about how many companies simply skipped the whole Server Based Computing thing, that never ran any application or desktop off a centralized TS/Citrix farm and how many companies are just now taking off the ground I do think it is simply natural their IT guys willing to compare how a VDI solution compares to a full blown desktop (real desktops/fat clients – whatever name you want) approach. Especially now that local hypervisors can be seen in the wild.

Again, these companies simply missed the SBC bandwagon. Like several companies I know that never deployed Windows 2000. Jumped straight from NT 4.0 Domains to Windows Server 2003 Active Directory. For them, whatever Microsoft introduced or did with Windows 2000 was completely irrelevant. The same applies here. These companies never cared about SBC/TS/Citrix. They are/were a full blown PC/Desktop shop. Now that virtualization is becoming widespread they simply want to know how a regular PC environment compares to a virtualized one. Dead simple. And I can totally see and understand their reasons.

2. So far, there is always some performance hit associated with VDI. The problem here is simple. If you are trying today to deploy a VDI solution for running Windows 2000 or XP, with a 4-7 years old application, chances are scalability will not be that bad (meaning you will be able to squeeze quite a lot of users in one big server, reducing the cost per user at the end). But if you are always trying to keep up with technology and if your company always goes for the latest and greatest, this means you may be going down the road with Windows 7 with Office 2009 sometime soon. And probably your applications will be written relying on the .NET Framework 4.0. Yes, I do know these are not out today. But keep in mind that with cheap hardware comes lazy programmers and huge frameworks. Long gone are the days when we had to squeeze as much performance as we could out of a DOS app because an extra 1MB of RAM on each PC would break the company.

I cannot see .NET ZZ getting leaner or faster; same for Office 20XX, Windows YY (replace X, Y and Z with any integer). They may look faster but that is the result of much faster hardware with much more memory. That is why I came up with the ‘Claudio’s Law’ like in the ‘Moore’s Law’ (that old dude from Intel): “The time it takes for Windows XXX to boot and load Office YYY on its current generation hardware is constant” and you can try that for yourself. Get an old PC (PII 266MHz with 64MB RAM) with Windows 98 and try loading Office 97. Now fast forward to today and get a typical machine running Windows Vista with Office 2007 and do the same. The time it takes to load is virtually the same!

Where do I want to go with all this? If you keep running the latest and greatest I cannot see VDI being a scalable solution. It is a solution for sure but if scalability is not there it means a much higher cost per user as you cannot run hundreds of VMs in a single box. Plus if you want to do it properly, you will not be hosting 100s of users on cheap hardware. You will go for the good stuff. And good stuff comes at a price. An 8-CPU box with 32 cores and 64GB RAM, RAID and fast hard disks does not come cheap. And now, in a recession, I am 100% sure costs will decide the fate of several IT initiatives out there. The bottom line in many places will be indeed this: money.

Unless Microsoft/Intel/God comes up with a new way of doing things that will allow us to run 100 VMs on the above hardware, all running the latest and greatest OS and apps, I cannot see this changing.

3. Local Hypervisor. Ok this adds quite a bit to the picture as now you can run the VM directly on your PC, without sharing resources with anyone else. Sounds great, doesn’t it? The problem here is there are several OS enhancements that are now dependant on the hardware. For example, Snow Leopard and Windows 7 are now offloading certain tasks to the GPU. Several other components on the OS rely on that low level direct access to the hardware. When a hypervisor layer is present, as of today, several of these enhancements are lost. This means a performance hit. Of course there are several benefits with that approach (i.e. your ‘master images’ become hardware independent, running pretty much anywhere, as long as the hypervisor is there) but in an age where users can go to Best Buy and get a decent, fast PC for under $600, are they willing to work on something that is slower (potentially much slower depending how OSs evolve) than what they have at home? If hardware manufacturers start implementing changes that will allow things like a virtual GPU and so on that will probably be minimized/eliminated and VDI may take off.

But then we may break the whole cycle of software/hardware Wintel upgrades and the industry behind that. Companies like Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc do rely on users and companies buying and replacing computers every couple years. So at the end, what impact such approach will have in the industry? I do know we, human beings, always adapt and I am sure these companies would have to adapt to survive the new way of doing things.

Well that is what I think. As you can see I do not think VDI is bad, ugly, beautiful or great. I do think it has its own merits, it is capable of solving problems other approaches may not work well and it is still in its infancy. But I cannot simply see how all its drawbacks/issues/costs will be addressed by 2010. Sorry Brian.


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