Thursday Oct 21, 2010

Oracle VDI 3.2.1 available for download

A number of people have been asking, when the new update of Oracle VDI is available: Well, now, it is done. You can get the release from the good old Sun download center. It will appear on Oracle eDelivery soon. This release contains a list of important bugfixes as described inside the release notes. Besides the bugfixing work, we have some other interesting improvements, such as:

  • Oracle Solaris 10 (10/09) or later guest support
  • VMware vCenter 4.1 support
  • Black&White listing of AD Domain Controller for Kerberos based authentication. This allows to have fine grained control of the Domain Controller that are considered for authentication requests.
  • Removal of the Swap space requirement: Oracle VM VirtualBox host don't need to have swap space equal to, or greater than the host's physical memory size. What a relief ;-)

And of course, the latest available patches and updates of embedded products are included, such as Sun Ray Server 5 Patch 5 or VirtualBox 3.2.10.

Have fun,


Monday Oct 18, 2010

Back on the blog - VDI Forums

It has been a while since posting a blog entry :-( Not, that nothing has happened. Anyway, I'm back with more frequent contributions. And the new Oracle L+F. However, main reason of the post is actually to talk about the VDI forums.

Some of you may have noticed that the Sun VDI forum and the Sun Ray Server forum have been turned into readonly forums. Not that useful when you have a question that not has been answered yet. This has been fixed. We have created a new forum at a different location (OTN), that combines VDI and Sun Ray content: Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and Sun Ray Clients General Discussion. So far it contains only a few entries, as we haven't been able to transfer the history yet. Until this has not been done, please visit also the old Sun forums to check if your question has already been answered.

See you at the new forum,


Thursday Mar 25, 2010

VDI 3.1.1 has been released


This is our first update to VDI 3.1. In incorporates a number of fixes, as you can read from the Release Notes. But the most important thing is really the support of the latest and greatest Storage 7000 firmware 2010.Q1. Now VDI supports the COMSTAR stack, now you see a storage utilization that you always wanted to see. Way better CPU numbers, much better IOPS, online deduplication for those who look into application streaming. This storage/VDI combination really rocks.

Other improvements to be mentioned:

\* Win 7 support through the latest included SRS patch

\* VLAN support for Hyper-V

\* Loads of fixes included in VirtualBox 3.0.14

\* and many many more things.

The software download is available from the download center. Finding this yourself is a pain. We'll fix this soon. However, the direct download is here.

I'm sure you will like it.


Monday Mar 08, 2010

Application streaming


It has been very quiet for the last couple of months. Main reason is the workload that has increased quite noticable. However, having a blog post every now and then is a good habit I intend to continue. In one of my last posts I've touched the idea of VDI Image Layering and some pros and cons. One aspect of it was application streaming for VDI. The idea of using a core image/template that is applicable for the vast majority of the users. And On top of this core image there is then a mechanism to entitle applications to users. These applications are streamed on demand based on the individual user needs.

This idea resonates with many IT operations as it promises to limit the management activities of the core image(s) on the one hand while on the other hand giving hugh flexibility to provision the application to users that are needed by them. And not just everything anybody in the corporation might need eventually.

In reality there are a number of downsides to this approach. First of, application streaming does not work with each and every application. It works fine with an office application, but no vendor can guarantee that any sort of homegrown app will work with this approach. Another important aspect is the impact on your storage backend when using application streaming:

As many admins have realized in the meantime, the storage system in your VDI solution is the component, that needs the most focus in order to get the sizing right and to guarantee satisfactory user experience. Just because of the fact that the vast majority of VDI deployments are I/O bound, more or less by definition. If you add application streaming to the mix, you gain more flexibility at the price of additional, expensive storage I/O.

What happens with application streaming in VDI is, that once a user opens an on-demand streaming application, the application is downloaded and prepared for execution to the client, which is the virtual desktop running typically on a shared storage. In other words the streamed application moves from a shared storage, the application repository, into the virtual disk of the virtual desktop, again on a shared storage. This causes significant network and storage traffic, mostly hitting the storage box that serves the virtual disks.

The impact through application streaming on the storage side is manifold. First you see that every streamed application instance will consume additional storage capacity. At least if you are using technologies such as thin provisioning or linked cloning. And besides the raw capacity needed it will take additional CPU cycles on your storage box away for processing the streaming load, it will take time on your spindles to write each and every streamed application instance. And also on the network side you have to factor in the additional storage traffic for streaming.

Of course, if your storage system supports offline deduplication, the initial storage capacity requirement will shrink eventually, when the offline dedub jobs starts eliminating duplicate blocks. But this is happening way too late, as capacity is typically not your problem in a VDI deployment. The limited resources are more the CPU, the cache, and the number of spindles of your storage box, all impacted directly by each and every streamed application.

The only thing that can give some relief in this situation is online deduplication. Currently there are no storage systems out, that provide this capability. But there is one filesystem, that includes this feature: ZFS. Online deduplication starts before any data is written to the spindles. It provides an index of blocks with references to all written blocks. At the moment when a block is about to be written to the disk, a lookup in the index is done. If the block already exists, only a reference counter is increased and no data is actually written to disk. You get the idea. There is also a great article from Jeff Bonwick on this subject for more details.

So with online dedup you will not experience additional need for capacity and need for more write IOPS as deduplication is handled before these things matter. However you still will encounter higher network load and some impact on the storage CPU. Once this functionality is available on SAN or NAS systems you can expect some very positive impact on scenarios that tend to write the same data many times to disk. A scenario such as the application streaming one.

That's it for today,


Sunday Nov 29, 2009

VDI Image Layering


There is been quite some hype around "Layering" of desktop images. Where Layering means being able to assemble an VDI image more or less on the fly with different parts overlay each other or where the final image is just patchwork combined from different sources. There are a few articles on Brian Madden around this topic, with the most recent one being a "technical" description.

Technically I really think this is an interesting problem to solve. It needs a lot of engineering brain to be able to assemble an image of various pieces, such as the OS, standard apps, user apps and user data. But this is just one side of the coin. The flip side is, that all solutions are simply not manageable because of the involved complexity. With each new potential combination of OS and apps, independent of how the final layering is done, you create a resulting VDI image, that would need to be qualified before releasing it to the user base. There is a good example from Brian on what happens if a new Windows Service Pack is deployed.

A lot of Windows admins have already a sense of the implied complexity. Just think about your experience with the Windows Group Policies. Group Polices can easily be layered and overlaid. But how long does it take to understand the so 'called' result of operation, so which policy setting applies to the end user at the end of the day when he is logged on a certain desktop. This can really create headaches.

And headaches will be even worse when companies start to make big bets on image layering technology these days. The increased flexibility of being able to define which user gets which app on demand is paid by the price of increased qualification effort and dealing with incompatibilities. From my perspective this is a huge investment risks.

So, what remains. I'm a strong believer in strictly separating the problem of replacing PCs with Thin Clients in order to centralized the image management in the data center. This can be done in a first step while still applying the same image provisioning techniques as in traditional PC environments.

And the second problem can be addressed by various means such as delivering certain apps through terminal services or through application streaming. Of course with the known issues that this is not possible for every app and that there is additional infrastructure and bandwidth needed to serve or provision these apps. And there is also the possibility to focus more on managing templates instead of all individual rolled out virtual desktops. This at least requires a separation of the user data, if the user data is important. Or you do a mix of App virtualization and VDI template management. Again doable with more complexity.

At the end of the day there is no way to manage all apps completely flexible as it would be desirable. And the only way out for enterprises is to get rid of those apps that have such a strong dependency on the OS, that you can't run them in an App-Vitualization manner. Convert them into Web or Java apps. Sounds simple, but I understand that this is nothing near or mid term. But this is more than ever the future. Reduce your dependency on the OS and you gain all the flexibility in how you deliver the apps to your users and how you entitle your users to use them.

Enough opinion for today,


Untold secrects about Sun VDI 3.1: Surving without a directory


Imagine the following situation: You have to prepare a demo with Sun VDI. Equipment is available. Software is there. You have the guest desktop at hand. Installation and configuration works just like a charm.

Well, and then you start the admin console and the first thing you see is, "Please configure a user directory". Damn, totally forgot about this one. Okay, get OpenDS ...

But there is also another way. Sun VDI has 2 in-built tokens: AnySmartCard.000 and AnySunRayClient.000.


Just look at their names and you get their meaning immediately. Use these 2 default tokens to assign a desktop pool to any smartcard inserted or to any Sun Ray connected to Sun VDI. Very handy for demos. We used this e.g. at JavaOne. This feature has been integrated into VDI 3.1. Give it a try.


PS. You find theses default tokens by selecting the token section and hit simply the search button in the admin UI.

Understanding people from South Sweden ...

Sorry, just German, but only a few words ...


and ...


and finally ...



Thursday Nov 26, 2009

Point and Shoot Sizing: Sun VDI 3.1, Sun VirtualBox 3.0.12, Sun Fire X4170

Although we have just released the 3.1, we are very busy these days. We had planned to do some sizing of the virtualization and storage layer, but there is simply not enough time to do it right now.

However, we have done a 'Point and Shot' sizing for the X4170 running VBox 3.0.12 under Sun VDI 3.1. We have taken an X4170 and wanted to understand how many VMs can be executed with a defined workload. The workload has actually been the same as with previous load tests. You find the definition in the VDI 3.1 deployment guide:

The exact setup has been:
  • 3 VDI core server managing 1 VBox host (X4170) connected to a 7210 Open Storage.
  • X4170: 2 CPU (2.5 GHZ), 32GB RAM
We had 2 test runs:
  1. Image Win XP SP2, 512 MB, 12 MB Video RAM: Goal: Start as many VMs as possible and continuously execute Office workload
  2. Image Win XP SP2, 256 MB, 12 MB Video RAM: see above
Results for test run 1:
  • 48 VMs running, executing load, tests showed that VMs are responsive (connecting with the console to selectedVMs)
  • Memory consumption: 96% or 31GB
  • CPU consumption: 40-50%
Results for test run 2:
  • 95 VMs running, executing load, Tests showed that VMs are responsive (connecting with the console to selected VMs)
  • Memory consumption: 97% 31,3 GB
  • CPU consumption: 50-80%
  • The Nehalem CPU in combination with VBox 3.0.12 has much better performance. 12 VMs per physical core seems possible for modest Office work still leaving some CPU headroom.
  • The memory overhead of VBox is closer to 20%. In previous tests we have calculated 10%. Plus roughly 1 GB for the OS.

Although this was just a 'Point and Shot' sizing it has a clear message:
The economics are way different with the Nehalem CPU. A 10VM per physical core seems to be a good and conservative starting point, when customer workloads are unknown. An X4170 (2 CPU, 64-72 GB RAM) seems to be an ideal platform to host 80+ desktops of 512MB memory. Going over the 72GB memory limit will require to use 8GB DDRs which are way more expensive.

We will continue sizing once we are less busy. Stay tuned,


Wednesday Nov 25, 2009

The hidden major update: Sun VDI 3.1


We have released Sun VDI 3.1 yesterday. There are already many posts about it, such as this one from Chris about it. The most confusing about this release is the version number, which suggests that Sun VDI 3.1 is just a minor update. Well, it is not.

It has many new things inside that together offer a number of very compelling and unique solution stacks. I've summarized these solution stacks in a presentation that I gave yesterday:

Vdi3.1 Technical Update
View more documents from Dirk Grobler.
So, don't hesitate to give it a try.

Monday Oct 12, 2009

Sun VDI for the Education Market


Today I want to have a brief look at Sun VDI with the focus on the education market. And this just because the interest in that segment is quickly raising for VDI solutions. There are some specific requirements for this market:

  • Costs are important for everyone, but budgets in the education market are typically the smallest.
  • Non Windows desktops have a big footprint driven again through costs and also as students are more open and flexible towards alternative desktops.
  • Administration needs to be straightforward. In schools or training setups you typically find the teacher doing the administration and setup.
  • Especially the clients need to be zero managed. Or in other words clients need to be installed in a plug and play manner.
  • Noise reduction, students and trainees simply need to concentrate on their work.
  • All data and configuration should always be on the server. Only interface for the students might be a USB stick to transfer their homework.
  • Students should learn how to use certain applications but also to control and administrate their own desktop. This requires a sandbox for the students where they can experiment without impacting the IT environment or other students.

Sun VDI is specifically suitable for the requirements of the education market. The solution is completely server based, meaning all desktops are hosted on servers, while the desktop display and interaction is done on ultra thin clients - called Sun Rays - that do not hold any state. Or in other words you can unplug the device from the network or power without losing your session or any data.

The way how such a deployment is operated is quite simple. After the setup of the system the administrator imports a desktop that he has previously created on his laptop using VirtualBox. This desktop is called a template. Thereafter, the administrator typically just replicates (clones) the template to as many instances as he needs. This replication is completed within minutes. Finally the administrator assigns his users to the new replicated desktops and the setup is done. Now the students can login into a system, select their desktop and are ready to work. How long the desktop belongs to the student depends on the policies that the administrator defines. This can be a one time usage, so desktops are deleted after logout, desktops can stay permanently with the student or something in between. Below I have a couple of examples how Sun VDI can be deployed from small to larger deployments:

Sun VDI for schools


This is an example of an VDI deployment in a school in Italy. The school has just a single server and about 10 Sun Rays deployed into various rooms in the school. The desktops deployed are based on the Edubuntu distribution. The server itself can a be workstation such as the Ultra 27, with 12 GB of RAM and 2 hard disks. The VDI demo guide explains pretty well, how such a setup could be done. For a final rollout just a few adaptations need to happen.


Sun VDI for Training Centers


A second use case is actually a training center, where the students learn about a certain piece of software. Here are aspects such as rolling out fresh training environments (desktops) within a short amount of time important. And it is also important that the setup can be reverted in a short amount of time. This is all covered by Sun VDI in a very flexible manner. An example deployment of a training center for 100 students would require 3 servers, such as the X4170 configured with 2CPU, 48GB RAM, 2 \*146 GB disks and 4 Ethernet ports. In addition you would need one storage server, that stores all the desktop images. Here a 7110 could be suitable, but this depends on the type of training that should be executed. It is important to note, that such a setup would allow one of the servers to be down, while the other servers still manage the remaining load to large extend.


Sun VDI for Universities

I don't have specific pictures of large cross campus deployments. But the principal remains the same. This can actually best be documented by one of the Sun VDI deployments that we did at the JavaOne event last June. More than10000 conference participants could use their own personalized desktop for the duration of the event. And a deployment for a university would not look that much different.
I hope this has been some valuable information and actually has not been too techie. If you want to try it out, just have a look at our VDI 3.1 EA and the related documentation.

Monday Sep 21, 2009

Why would you want to give Sun VDI 3.1 EA a try?


Sun VDI 3.1 Early Access has been released last Tuesday. This is not just a minor update, but we have added a number of new things that might be of interest for people:

  • Microsoft Hyper-V support:
    Sun VDI introduces Hyper-V as a new desktop provider. Virtual desktops are provisioned using ZFS, which allows a fast deployment based on ZFS cloning and copy-on-write semantics. Far more scalable than any other VDI storage solution in the market.
  • Microsoft RDS support:
    It is possible to run mixed environments of VDI and Terminal Services. All under the same management infrastructure.
  • VirtualBox 3.0.x
    Most prominent feature is the guest multi processor support (guest SMP)
  • Template Management module
    Template management has been introduced for better keeping track of template revisions and controlling the staging and rollout of new template revisions.
  • Integrated webconsole for VirtualBox
    The webconsole allows to do in-place modifications of templates and desktops with the management UI. It can run in any browser that supports Adobe Flash.
  • Host and Storage Maintenance
    There is a new module that takes care of controlled outages of hosts and storages. You schedule outages and suspend running virtual desktops or migrate them to other available hosts.  
  • Virtual Networking
    There is now the option of isolating the virtual desktop network traffic per desktop pool. Or you can assign multiple subnets to virtual desktops.
  • RDP client configuration per desktop pool
    The access for Sun Ray clients can now be configured on a per pool basis. All RDP configuration settings can be controlled.
  • Sun Desktop Access Client
    There is a new client, the software version of the Sun Ray included in the release.
  • Flash acceleration for MS Windows XP and 2003 desktops
  • USB redirection for MS Windows XP desktops and all hosted VirtualBox guest OSs

These are just the highlights. Many more things went into the EA. Just have a look. The download is here. Documentation can be found on the VDI Wiki. If you have some questions or issues you can contact us on the VDI forum. And of course your feedback is important to us. Please take the EA survey, it takes just 5 minutes. Loads of the features are there because of your feedback.



Monday Aug 31, 2009

How to use existing storage with Sun VDI 3


As I have started on the storage with the last article I can continue with another interesting topic, which comes up quite often: "I already have an existing NAS/SAN. How can I combine this with Sun VDI 3 connecting to VirtualBox?"

ZFS is the filesystem that is used in combination with VirtualBox, as introduced in various blog entries and in the Sun VDI documentation. ZFS is included in Solaris 10 or OpenSolaris. It is also the foundation of the Sun Unified Storage. ZFS manages the physical storage attached to a server, but it is also capable of managing remote storage, e.g. through the iSCSI protocol. In the following I want to quickly demonstrate how this could be done:

Assuming you have a LUN and want to use it with VDI 3. And you have a spare Solaris 10U7 or OpenSolaris box. This can also be a box that you are using for VDI 3, but keep in mind, that you need RAM for utilizing external storage. Instrumental for linking the LUN into the ZFS filesystem is the iSCSI initiator:

  1. First thing is to tell the iSCSI initiator to accept static iSCSI connections:
    iscsiadm modify discovery --static enable
  2. Thereafter you can connect the initiator with your LUN. This can be done through providing the IQN of the LUN and the IP of the external storage host:
    iscsiadm add static-config IQN,IP
  3. Next step is to list the new iSCSI target linked into the system
    iscsiadm list target -S
    The output list a number of things among the last line is most important:
    OS Device Name: /dev/rdsk/c1t600144F04A94DD370000144FEE09D000d0s2
  4. Finally you create a new ZFS pool:
    zpool create VDI-Extern c1t600144F04A94DD370000144FEE09D000d0
    Note: Take the bold part without the trailing s2! as your parameter to identify the disk

That's all. Now you can use the external LUN in the same way as an internal one. Performance characteristics will be different with this storage proxy. The more RAM and CPU you have, the better.


Friday Aug 28, 2009

Exporting a virtual disk from VDI 3


VDI 3 with VirtualBox is a self-contained system. However there are situations where you have the need to extract a certain image/virtual disk from VDI 3. As there is no in-built functionality yet, here is a procedure how to do it:

  1. First thing is to tell the iSCSI initiator to accept static iSCSI connections:
    iscsiadm modify discovery --static enable
  2. Find out the IQN of the iSCSI target. The easiest way is to look at the VM as it is registered on the VirtualBox hosts. Here you can use the command:
    VBoxManage list vms
    It will show also the IQN and the host of the connected LUN
  3. Mount the LUN into your Solaris VBox host:
    iscsiadm add static-config IQN,IP - Note, take the IP not the host name
  4. List the new target
    iscsiadm list target -S
    The last line contains the important output: OS Device Name: /dev/rdsk/c1t600144F04A97EBB50000144FEDF91800d0s2
  5. Make a row copy of the content:
    dd if=/dev/rdsk/c1t600144F04A97EBB50000144FEDF91800d0p0 of=/var/tmp/test.out
    Note replace the s2 at the end of the raw disk with p0. Don't ask me why ;-)
  6. Convert the raw file into a VDI file:
    convertdd /var/tmp/test.out /var/tmp/Ubuntu-test.vdi

That's it. Very simple and intuitive ;-). We will work on getting this a bit smoother, promised.


Thursday Aug 13, 2009

Sun VDI 3 - Patch 2 released


Long time, no post. This doesn't mean that we are not around anymore;-) It's basically vacation period. However, during the last 2 months parts of my team have been working on a project that is called Sun VDI 3 - Patch 2. It sounds small, but it turned out to be a bigger chunk of work. It includes a number of enhancements:

  • Performance improvements for desktop provisioning and user desktop access
    That is a big step forward, as we have removed quite some slack in the code.
  • Recycling of Unix desktops
    This has been a missing feature for desktop life-cycle. Now all types of desktops can be controlled by recycling policies.
  • Support for SuSE 11 desktops with the VirtualBox hypervisor.
  • All-in-one configuration
    Similar to the evaluation setup. We've added a configuration option that allows to configure everything on one host using a remote DB. This is a supported configuration for production use.
  • Customization of the login screen.

The x86 version of the patch is: 141482-02

And the related Sparc version is 141481-02

You find also a new VirtualBox 2.0.10 installation set on the Sun VDI 3 download page. An update is generally recommended. You must update, if you want to benefit from the SuSE 11 support or the expanded recycling capabilities.

- Dirk

Wednesday Jun 17, 2009

How about playing football with SunRays?


Yesterday evening I came back from a crazy 48 hours trip Hamburg-San Francisco-Hamburg. I had to cover a left over from my last trip. Anyway, arriving at home I've looked at something yellow, a ball, I guess, but too tired to pay more attention:


But something stuck in my head. So in the morning I've had a closer look:


So I thought this is a prototype of a new Sun Ray device? Well, I've tried to find a smart card slot to get my desktop session and to see what will will happen. But there is no slot as such ;-)

It is more a Sun Ray for kids, as my son explained later to me when we played a bit football.


PS. And of course the name is 'Sun Ray' and not 'SUNRAY'


This one is about VDI, Sun Ray, SGD and sports, in particular basketball, and any combination of it. And of course other interesting stuff.


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