Thursday Oct 31, 2013

What's New in SGD 5.1?

Oracle announced the latest version of Secure Global Desktop (SGD) this week with 3 major themes:

  • Support for Android devices;
  • Support for Desktop Chrome clients; 
  • Support for Oracle Unified Directory.

I'll talk about the new features in a moment, but a bit of context first:

Oracle SGD - what, how and why? 

Oracle Secure Global Desktop is Oracle's secure remote access product which allows users on almost any device, to access almost any type application which  is hosted in the data center, from almost any location. And it does this by sitting on the edge of the datacenter, between the user and the applications:

Architecure

This is actually a really smart environment for an increasing number of use cases where:

  1. Users need mobility of location AND device (i.e. work from anywhere);
  2. IT needs to ensure security of applications and data (of course!)
  3. The application requires an end-user environment which can't be guaranteed and IT may not own the client platform (e.g. BYOD, working from home, partners or contractors).

Oracle has a a specific interest in this of course. As the leading supplier of enterprise applications, many of Oracle's customers, and indeed Oracle itself, fit these criteria.

So, as an IT guy rolling out an application to your employees, if one of your apps absolutely needs, say,  IE10 with Java 6 update 32, how can you be sure that the user population has this, especially when they're using their own devices? In the SGD model you, the IT guy, can set up, say, a Windows Server running the exact environment required, and then use SGD to publish this app, without needing to worry any further about the device the end user is using.

What's new? 

So back to SGD 5.1 and what is new there:

Android devices

Since we introduced our support for iPad tablets in SGD 5.0 we've had a big demand from customers to extend this to Android tablets too, and so we're pleased to announce that 5.1 supports Android 4.x tablets such as Nexus 7 and 10, and the Galaxy Tab.

Here's how it works, with screenshots from my Nexus 7: Simply point your browser to the SGD server URL and login;

Login Webtop

The workspace is the list of apps that the admin has deemed ok for you to run. You click on an application to run it (here's Excel and Oracle E-Business Suite):

E Business Suite

There's an extended on-screen keyboard (extended because desktop apps need keys that don't appear on a tablet keyboard such as ctrl, WIndow key, etc) and touch gestures can be mapped to desktop events (such as tap and hold to right click)

All in all a pretty nice implementation for Android tablet users.

Desktop Chrome Browsers

SGD has always been designed around using a browser to access your applications. But traditionally, this has involved using Java to deliver the SGD client component. With HTML5 and Javascript engines becoming so powerful, we thought we'd see how well a pure web client could perform with desktop apps. And the answer was, surprisingly well. So with this release we now offer this additional way of working, which can be enabled by a simple bit of configuration. Here's a Linux desktop running in a tab in Chrome.

Chrome

And if you resize the browser window, the Linux desktop is resized by SGD too. Very cool!

Oracle Unified Directory

As I mentioned above, a lot of Oracle users already benefit from SGD. And a lot of Oracle customers use Oracle Unified Directory as their Enterprise and Carrier grade user directory. So it makes a lot of sense that SGD now supports this LDAP directory for both Authentication and as a means to determine which users get which applications, e.g. publish the engineering app to the guys in the Development group, but give everyone E-Business Suite to let them do their expenses.

Summary

With new devices, and faster 4G networking becoming more prevalent, the pressure for businesses to move to a increasingly mobile enterprise is stronger than ever. SGD is good for users, and even better for IT. By offering the user the ability to work from anywhere, and IT the control and security they need, everyone wins with SGD.

To try this for yourself, download SGD 5.1 (look under Desktop Virtualization Products) from the Oracle Software Delivery Cloud or if you're an existing customer, get it from My Oracle Support.

 -FB 

Thursday Oct 17, 2013

Cloning from a given point in the snapshot tree

VirtualBox.png

Although we have just released VirtualBox 4.3, this quick blog entry is about a longer standing ability of VirtualBox when it comes to Snapshots and Cloning, and was prompted by a question posed internally, here in Oracle: "Is there a way I can create a new VM from a point in my snapshot tree?".

Here's the scenario: Let's say you have your favourite work VM which is Oracle Linux based and as you installed different packages, such as database, middleware, and the apps, you took snapshots at each point like this:

Base system

But you then need to create a new VM for some other testing or to share with a colleague who will be using the same Linux and Database layers but may want to reconfigure the Middleware tier, and may want to install his own Apps. All you have to do is right click on the snapshot that you're happy with and clone:

Give the VM that you are about to create a name, and if you plan to use it on the same host machine as the original VM, it's a good idea to "Reinitialize the MAC address" so there's no clash on the same network:

Now choose the Clone type. If you plan to use this new VM on the same host as the original, you can use Linked Cloning else choose Full. 

At this point you now have a choice about what to do about your snapshot tree. In our example, we're happy with the Linux and Database layers, but we may want to allow our colleague to change the upper tiers, with the option of reverting back to our known-good state, so we'll retain the snapshot data in the new VM from this point on:

The cloning process then chugs along and may take a while if you chose a Full Clone:

Finally, the newly cloned VM is ready with the subset of the Snapshot tree that we wanted to retain:

Pretty powerful, and very useful. 

Cheers,

-FB 

Tuesday Oct 15, 2013

What's New in VirtualBox 4.3?

VirtualBox.png

Great news: Oracle VM VirtualBox 4.3 is available from today!

Let's take a quick look at what's new:

New Platforms 

We're at that time of year when vendors are releasing new versions of their platforms, ready to be installed onto new hardware offerings for the upcoming holiday season. So welcome Mac OS X 10.9 ( "Mavericks" ), Microsoft Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2, and all the new Linux distributions too. 

And so it is only natural that VirtualBox 4.3 should add support for these new platforms too.

But sometimes that is easier said than done. For example, some of the new platforms are designed for tablet, or laptop/tablet hybrid platforms and so use a multi-touch interface to navigate around the system. This all means that VirtualBox has to deliver a multi-touch virtual device that the guests can use, which is exactly what we did in 4.3.  So if you're looking to check out such a system, such as Windows 8(.1), remember to choose the correct pointing device:

multi-touch

Another similarity about the new platforms is the increased use of desktop "eye-candy", whether it is translucency, fade-in and out effects, or instant zoom. This means that we've had to improve our 3d acceleration support for guests such as Fedora, seen here on a Mac OS X 10.9 host, using a zoomed out view of running apps and a scaled workspace viewer on the right hand side:

Fedora 19

(Don't forget to update your Guest Additions to the 4.3 version to get this going.)

We also improved the multi-monitor support especially when you are using multiple virtual monitors with multiple physical displays in full screen mode.

Hypervisor improvements

Another significant, but largely invisible change in 4.3 concerns the hypervisor itself. We have significantly revamped the internals of VirtualBox as a platform for future performance enhancements. Today, this has mainly improved boot times of guests, but we'll be building upon this in forthcoming updates. 

Networking Improvements

In the Networking area we've got 3 bits of news:

  1. IPv4 AND IPv6 almost everywhere - Host-only, Internal, Bridged and our new NAT Network mode now all offer IPv6 to guests;
  2. IPv6 in VRDP - You can remotely connect to the consoles of your virtual machines via RDP over IPv6;
  3. New NAT Network mode - yet another way of configuring the network of your vm's...

Our existing NAT mode puts each guest vm on it's own private network. This is nice and easy and has served us very well over the years.

At the same time, many people use our Host-only networking to run multiple vm's on a private network that can talk to each other and also the host.

But what yet another group of people wanted was a private network where the guests could talk to each other but also to the internet too (or at least the network beyond the host). So this is what the new NAT Network mode offers. Diagrammatically, it looks like this:

Diagram

and the configuration dialog looks like this:

Dialogs

Hopefully you can see that this new NAT Network can be IPv6 or IPv4 and has an optional DHCP service. Also Port Forwarding is available to allow connections into the private network from the outside world.

Other Bells and Whistles

There are lots of other smaller improvements in 4.3 but 2 of my favorites are: 

Video Capture

4.3 comes with a built-in video capture facility to record the contents of your guest's screens. The resultant movie is stored in .webm format so can be played back by most movie players or even Google Chrome. 

Virtual Webcam

An extremely cool (but only experimental at this stage) feature is the VirtualBox virtual webcam device. This allows the guest to use the webcam of the host so that you can use Skype or Google Hangouts from within your guest. (Look for a separate blog on this feature)

What next?

In the time it has taken you to read this blog you could have downloaded 4.3 from the Oracle or community site to kick the tires yourself.

But there's still time, VirtualBox is only around 100Mb. Or if you were "born not to lead but to read" (apologies to Matt Groening), take a peek at the User Guide.

All in all, another solid release, one that we hope you'll enjoy discovering.

- FB 

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