Sunday Aug 30, 2009

Three dimensions of Virtualisation

Another piece of, what I hope is wisdom, coming from my last three months of customer conversations is that virtualisation has three dimensions.

We use virtualisation to make large systems small. I call this “Atomisation”. We can also use virtualisation technologies to make many components seem as one, this is of critical use for horizontally scalable services, and I call this “Aggregation”. The third dimension is “Longevity”. Maybe I should play around with “Age” as a word, so each dimension has a mnemonic starting with “A”, but by using a Type II hypervisor, one can protect old software against platform innovation and continue to run it until its business case changes or expires.


Thursday Aug 06, 2009

Little Big Adventure

I have been struggling to get VRDP from Virtual Box working on my home network, of which more maybe later, but I took a break to install one of the greatest games ever on the home machines with the help of my younger son. We finally found a copy of Little Big Adventure that'll run on modern machines. This is hosted at LBA HQ. It runs native but recommends running under DosBox. So that is what I did...

LBA V1 running on the Alienware under DosBox

I now have two programs that run under DosBox and so place my command files in the Windows shortcut as -c arguments. For more see my bliki articles DosBox and Lba & dosbox. The downloaded archive contains a .iso but I have not worked out how to fool DosBox into thinking the .iso is a CD, but its probably possible so one wouldn't need the CD to be loaded into the cd reader, but unless you sort this out, you'll need to burn a CD.

Long time readers may remember that I put LBA2 on the machine a while ago.


Monday Sep 15, 2008

Laptop Diaries, Open Solaris

So while at the Lintlithgow EBC launch last week, I saw a demo'd copy of an opensolaris VM which looked really cool, and then Jingesh Shah, published this blog article on an Open Source ERP package, called "openbravo" running on Open Solaris. This has to be done.

Open Solaris running on my Laptop

I have downloaded the Open Solaris .iso from, and this is how I did it.

Start a VM using the .iso as the boot device.

Follow these installation instructions to define the locale and users.

Shut down the VM

Using the Virtual Box control panel, point the CD/DVD drive at the VX additions .iso, which is in the installation folder and restart the VM, then as root,

    cd /media
    pkgadd -d ./VBoxSolarisAdditions.pkg

I was using V1.6.4 of Virtual Box and for some reason, the "Add Guest Additions" on the Virtual Box command bar didn't work. The above trick seems to work quite happily, I have full screen mode working. Now to upgrade to Virtual Box 2.0.2.


Wednesday Aug 27, 2008

What's next for Virtualisation?

In discussing virtualisation, a speaker this morning suggested that the two biggest inhibitors to using virtualisation technology are security and scalability. Both of these are opportunities for Solaris. A number of security conscious customers use Solaris 10 with trusted extensions, to run a container, with a virtual box instance, hosting windows. They're delighted because it allows them to protect their network from windows vulnerabilities (It also allows them to protect their data from windows vulnerabilities; you can prohibit the container from acquiring data via any i/o device). The new scalability problem is to scale on a CPU. Sun's Niagara processors are the most threaded CPUs in common use, but Intel and AMD are also pursuing multi-threaded CPU designs. They and their customers need an operating system that scales across the new architectures. Some users/customers are now evaluating work/kwatt, and thus being busy helps you score high in these tests. Scalability = Performance, and Performance = Eco. You still draw power even when not busy.


Thursday Aug 21, 2008

Laptop Diaries, don't do this.

I feel a complete and absolute fool about this one. Longtime readers will know that I have from time to time mucked around with the operating system I use on my laptop, from single to dual boot, experimenting with various Windows, Solaris and Linux iterations. At home I have a couple of desktops running windows, (XP at the moment), primarily because they come with it, but it also runs games, and supports the UK education system's curriculum. I have been experimenting with Virtual Box; at home, mainly to give me x-windows access to my Qube. On my work's laptop, I have vm's running Indiana, Nevada and Ubuntu 7 & 8. I plan to do some pretty exciting things with it when I can find the time. At home, I installed an Ubuntu 8 VM, but i have a very important piece of advice for people using Windows as a host operating system, which I discovered on one of my desktops.

Don't use FAT or FAT32 file systems.

I made a mistake, I can't remember how, but my new HDD has a FAT32 file systems. This has a 4Gb file size limit, so while the virtual box manager will let you define the max file size as whatever you want, when the VM tries to extend beyond the 4Gb limit, the VM reports a disk full error. Fortunately I don't have very much on this disk yet, so the repair is fairly painless.

I documented this here at the virtual box forum, unfortunately the title's not so useful. As I said, I have been working with UNIX too long, I'd forgotten what 32 bits means.


Thursday Aug 07, 2008

Virtualising Sun Cluster, by Mike Ramchand

Mike Ramchand has published a blog article about deploying a clustered pair of virtual box containers on a Solaris host,

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Thursday May 01, 2008

Laptop Diaries, Goodbye to dual boot

A month and a half ago, Sun & Innotek, the authors of Virtual Box, an open source desktop virtualisation solution announced that Sun was buying them Virtual Box is a free type II virtualisation solution permitting the configuration of a number of popular x86 operating systems to act as guests and hosts. I have just today configured a Linux VM running on my Windows XP Laptop, here's how it looks, when its not full screen.


Dave's Ubuntu Desktop screen shot


I used Ubuntu 7.04 and this is how I did it. Firstly a friend cut me an ISO image on CD and I loaded it into the cd reader.

  1. I then created a VM. This has hardware virtualisation enabled, I created a new .vdi file. This must be big enough, and defaults at 8Gb. This is a limit on the file size. It does not reserve this space at install time, however if you make it too small, the install fails. The boot device order is floppy, cdrom and then hard disk. The cdrom has to be enabled in the 'settings -> CD/DVD' panel. I also defined the VM as a host of a Linux 2.6 image.
  2. I then started the VM using the virtual box control panel. This then boots a live cd of the cdrom, and I selected the 'Install' option. This then installs Ubuntu and offers you the opportunity to restart the system, i.e. the VM.
  3. I then used the update manager to update the software. It downloads, works out dependencies and then installs the new software versions. At the end of this stage, I then rebooted the VM. This took some time, over an hour and half, but I was using a wireless connection to a not very quick BT broadband line.
  4. At this point in time, it only offers 800x600 screen resolution, which is a bit pants, so, I used the VM window menu option, 'Devices -> Install Guest Additions'. This opened a nautilus window on the CD which exposes a script called "". I ran this from a terminal session command line in bash using root privilidge (see below). At this point, I then rebooted the VM again.
  5. I then needed to check that the xorg.config was configured correctly. In order to amend it, one needs a root user shell. Its been a couple of years since I used a Linux, so I tried to 'su' to root, but it was having none of it. A quick google found me this article this article about default passwords for the ubuntu super user. So a quick 'sudo gnome-terminal' and we're away. This artilce at, about guest additions, and this article details the checks and changes required of xorg.conf to permit full screen mode on a larger screen. The Toshiba M5 I am using has 1400x1050. I only had to add the additional resolutions. The device name agreements worked and the virtual devices had been inserted.

I should also thank the Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, who posted an Ubuntu 7, install walkthrough, which while not difficult, helped me debug the initial install failure.

I have downloaded some backgrounds and installed them, but it seems as I shall not be trying to build dual or triple boot solutions again; I have also got opensolaris nevada and indiana VMs. I just wish it had all been installed on  a single partition. I can run whatever OS I want on the laptop now.


Monday Mar 31, 2008

and in the rest of the world

After lunch, we listened to presentations from the US & Japan. The americans seem to be concentrating on systems issues and using virtualisation to deliver resources to individual researchers. When I get the slides we might discover how easy it is to join their network as suppliers which is an indication of how well they've addressed and solved the 'federation' issues. The presenter was Heidi Dempsey and the projects web site is Fumito Kubota from Japan presented on Project Akari, which is being run by the New Generation Network Research Centre of Japan, an interesting view on the growth of communication in Japan. The Japanese project has massive academic input, and is very focused on the network layer and bandwidth.

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Tuesday Nov 21, 2006

blackbox is a video star!

Jonathan announced Project Black Box at the end of last month. Its a Data Centre in a shipping container and expanded on its unique value in his blog article "A picture's worth.... Jonathan said that customer reaction has varied with

Jonathan:Equal measures of a) nervous laughter, b) incredulity, c) profound curiosity and a recognition that we're working on the right problems for the future of datacenters. And we have an enviably beefy pipeline of customers and integrators wanting to talk to us, which is the right starting point.

As part of the reaction by customers in the UK I have been asked to talk to two major UK based customers and have thus checked out the YouTube videos published by Sun (& others; the link queries Youtube for "sun+blackbox" tags). I have also uploaded the customer presentation I use to our media caster [.pdf]).

Its clear after some research that the big advantages are it can supply & cool 25Kw/rack, so racks can be full of modern space efficient computers; you don't have to spend your space budget on cooling. With a footprint, of 30'x15', and capable of hosting 250 n-way systems with between 1000 & 2000 cores, we claim it can save 80% of your space costs, and reduce the demand for space by 50%. The land is cheaper; it doesn't have to be air-conditioned, doesn't need a raised floor, etc., and Sun Blackboxes can be stacked, if you have the headroom!


Rack'em + Stack'em


All you need is power, networks and chilled water.


Monday Sep 25, 2006

Virutalising Computer Systems

The rest of the day we considered virtualisation technology. What we have to offer has not changed much since the last conference, (blogged here...), but it seems we have a lot more experience in using many of the currently available tools. Basically we're late to market with some of the competitively defensive technologies and the problem is being defined by Windows and the answer by VMware. Sun's broader range of technologies and the sophistication of the combining these tools into an appropriate new answers are inhibitor's to adoption. To my mind the simple answer is not enough, the data centre manager needs an architecture that supports both his or her applications portfolio, the businesses' change velocity and the technology platforms needed to support these, I don't think VMware does this, but I'm not convinced our story is yet sufficiently aligned. We have more work to do.


Tuesday Feb 28, 2006

Monday - Virtualising the Data Centre

Joost Pronk Van Hoogeveen, Solaris Virtualisation Product Manager presented. He had one rather excellent slide, showing Sun's technologies as a spectrum, from Dynamic System Domains, though a Hypervisor solution, to Containers and then the Resource Manager.

Virtualisation Spectrum

While this misses the aggregation dimension of virtualisation (and I know he understands this), placing these technologies as a spectrum and making the deployment decision accountable to the applications' non functional qualities is very powerfull. It allows better evaluation of technology choice and hopefully deprecates the "I'm only using one virtualisation technology" view and encourages people to use requirements driven design. It may also enable a richer solution design capability to solve the hetrogeneity question; data centre managers need to implement a "Real Time Infrastructure" delivering multiple APIs i.e. windows, J2EE, Oracle, Solaris & Linux etc. If performing architecture on the virtualisation question forces the explicit statement of an applications non-functional qualities, then a service will have been performed.

Joost kindly sent me this reference, which is a Sun Inner Circle article called "The Many Faces of Viurtualization", from which I have taken the picture. (I've put the link up; I think it'll be an interesting read).





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