Wednesday Mar 25, 2009

Sun VDI 3 - How it all came together

There are tons of news around Sun VDI 3 since yesterday's launch. This is great. I typically tend to focus on hard technical facts in my blog, but I guess there is so much material out there that you have to digest, that I can shift my focus a bit.

VDI 3 was really hard work that started last year around the VDI 2 launch. At that time, the concept wasn't really that clear. However, in early spring 2008 we all of a sudden had couple of new technologies in the Sun portfolio, that were and are really interesting from a VDI perspective. The first one to mention is VirtualBox, that joined the Sun family in February 2008. Originally seen as a pure desktop hypervisor, VirtualBox had already many features being very interesting for VDI at that time. This is on the one hand the built-in RDP server, allowing to render every VirtualBox supported virtual machine to a thin client such as Sun Ray or to nearly any RDP client.

In addition VirtualBox had already a ready-to-go iSCSI initiator built-in. This storage protocol was a perfect start for the mission of developing a solution that reduces storages costs dramatically and being efficient and fast at the same time. Storage costs being the number one issue, we heard from our customers. This combined with the ZFS filesystem on top of OpenSolaris has been an excellent teaming. ZFS providing the management including snapshots and sparse cloning combined with iSCSI access through VirtualBox was a pretty impressive combination. And this all supported with the latest OpenSolaris 2008.11 release.

But another coincidence helped to even accelerate this combination. Using OpenSolaris 2008.11 as a storage backend is great, but the new storage appliances, the Sun Unified Storage 7000 systems, is even better. These systems provide a far better manageability and high availability story with an interesting price tag. From the storage perspective, things really worked out in the right direction. Excellent timing.

I've started talking about acquisitions and technologies. The next one to mention is MySQL. This acquisition happened also at the beginning of 2008. And again a perfect timing. Why? Well, each VDI solution in the market relies on at least one database or even more. The database is used to store the relationships between users and VMs, in case of vCenter they store all the configuration for the VMs and the hypervisors. So a pretty central technology that must be fast, reliable, scalable, high available ... The bigger your deployment gets, the more important is the underlying database. And for a supported solution VDI customers need to buy or own database licenses for the various databases in use. Which is kind of a hidden cost factor.

With Sun owning now a proven, widely used database product, MySQL, we had the perfect engine for VDI. We have chosen the MySQL cluster as the built-in database engine, which is fast, reliable, scalable and designed for high-availability. All built into the Sun VDI stack at no extra costs including support. That has been a big advantage and again a perfect timing!

So looking at the assets above the job to build a new VDI product might appear very easy and straightforward: 'The VDI engineering just had to assemble a solution out of existing, cool and strong technologies, with a lot of unique characteristics.' Well, not really. This was actually very hard work to build a real solution out of core technologies, requiring a lot of time, spare time, motivation and of course a lot of talent.

We started this effort from the engineering side in this Brazilian restaurant in Hamburg together with the VirtualBox team. And yesterday we closed the circle by celebrating the launch at the same restaurant. It was bit bizarre though yesterday, as the restaurant owners had a film team around to create a new advertisement video for their restaurant. Hard economic times require these sort of things, I guess. When this video appears online, you might have a chance to see the Hamburg part of the VDI engineering team. The Dublin VDI team had been at the same time following more Irish traditions, meaning having a pint in the pub after a good dinner.

- Dirk   

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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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