VMware PowerCLI 6.5.1 was released on April 20th and it contained some significant improvements and changes! Whether you’re an occasional PowerCLI user or a power user, you’re not going to want to miss this special briefing!
It’s been some time since I blogged about things Droplet Computing. The main reason is we have been so busy with customers and product development (and documentation work!) I’ve had to focus purely on supporting new and existing customers. We have seen a spike in activity and engagements before the whole Coronavirus thing, mainly caused by the EOL of Windows 7, and folks being forced to decommission and get those apps into either Windows 10, Apple Mac, Linux, Chromebook or environments like VMware View, Citrix Virtual Apps or Amazon WorkSpaces. We are experiencing another spike of interest because of the Coronavirus, as customers look towards their nascent Work From Home (WFH) capabilities, and try to scale them to unprecedented demand, that few if any could have envisaged even a couple of weeks ago. I suspect when this is all over (and it will eventually be over) folks are going to have to think again about their WFH capacity.
So, in this blog post, I want to talk about what’s been happening in product development…
The first bit of news is we recently GA’d a new version of our software that through a co-incidence of versioning has the number 1.2.3. Back in the early 1990’s Lotus 123 was the first application I taught as a fledging IT trainer fresh out of university. Back then Windows 3.1 had just gone mainstream and folks were being ported off their old DOS PC programs to this new-fangled thing that needed a “mouse”. I recall one delegate left a course because the creepiness of moving a pointer on the screen freaked them out, although they had no issue with moving the cursor on the screen!
I suggested our new DCA release and the Droplet Container Image (DCI) should not include Notepad as our default sample app but a DOS version of Lotus 1-2-3 as a nod to the past, and a little tongue in cheek joke – ostensibly to show how Droplet Computing Containers can run all sorts of apps, not just modern ones but Jurassic ones too! So here’s a screengrab of Microsoft Excel 365 and Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS running side by side…
The Spreadsheet Wars live again! 😀
Customers actively engaged in PoCs should consider upgrading to the latest version, to take advantage of all the new features, as well as fixes and performance enhancements. Existing customers obviously qualify for the upgrade as part of their support and subscription, but it’s not mandatory.
A couple of weeks ago we GA’d the first release of our software for Chromebook. Initially, validated the solution with our DCI-X container (The X stands for cross-compatibility suitable for older Apps) container, and then last week – after substantial testing and QA – we were confident of the performance and stability to support our DCI-M container (M stands for modern, and I’ve had the DCI-M running Office97 and O365 suitable for modern and less Jurassic apps). If you’re not familiar with Chromebooks, Google has had a project called “Crostini” it’s called “Linux Beta” in the UI. Our regular .DEB file installs natively to this environment that we would usually use with Ubuntu. We have had this capability for more than a year, but recent changes in Crostini enabled by Google (THANK YOU GOOGLE, DROPLET LOVES YOU!) meant that finally, the performance was acceptable to us such that, with a modest amount bugfix es and testing, we were ready to GA.
Crostini has come on leaps and bounds in terms of performance in recent months, but the “killer moment” was the turning on of the access to Intel-VT instructions via the KVM /dev/kvm device. Performance is, from an end users’, perspective near native. From an end user experience perspective, it’s a “blink and you’ll miss it” level of performance. With our new development, we have been able to ramp up our relationship with Google directly, and I’m pleased to say that a recent tests conducted by Google engineers came back with a resounding thumbs up – not least because I was able to pull out the stops and build both a 32-bit and 64-bit container for their testing purposes, as well as an update to make things like Visual Studio 2019 work.
It is actually a feature that’s been around since the 1.2 release, but functionality that’s often overlooked by customers. So, I want to take this opportunity to highlight and focus on this feature. DirectLaunch something very simple – the ability to create shortcuts in Windows 10 that launches applications within the container. The syntax for DirectLaunch is very simple:
This will start the container using the configuration held in the per-user “settings” file:
“C:\Program Files\Droplet\Droplet.exe” launch
This will start the container (if not already started) and launch excel.exe, assuming MS Office of whatever flavor has been installed:
“C:\Program Files\Droplet\Droplet.exe” launch excel.exe
This syntax can be used to put shortcuts on folks’ desktops using a variety of methods such as AD Policies or your UEM of your choice such as VMware DEM or Liquidware ProfileUnity. They can also be used in “Application Publishing” solutions such as Citrix Virtual Apps, VMware Application Pools or Amazon AppStream. For example, in Citrix Virtual Apps 7.x you express the parameter in the command-line arguments section.
As part of my engagement with Google Support staff, I was asked if we had, or supported, a 64-bit edition of our container image. The answer is we have always been able to support a 64-bit OS, currently supported on Linux and Google Chrome OS platforms. We are currently working on developing 64-bit support for Windows 10 and Apple Mac containers. With the updates that are coming from Intel we will be able to QA this support at some point in the future.
With that said, I haven’t actually seen a huge demand for 64-bit containers, mainly because there is usually a 32-bit edition of the software that offers the same functionality and performance. This was the case recently with a financial institution that had a legacy Java application. Initially, the customer said they “had” to use the 64-bit. Turned out this was just some “corporate standard” that because they had 64-bit Windows, they thought they “had” to use the 64-bit version of Java. Turned out the 32-bit version was just as good. So much for that “had”. I know that someday a customer will have an application that was only compiled and encoded in 64-bit. So, I feel it’s better to be ahead of that requirement.
Application Tiles is the term we use for the icons available in the Droplet Workspace UI that only allows the end user to launch their applications and for the administrator to configure. Essentially, these act as read-only shortcuts. Administrators can now easily export this application tile configuration to an apps.json file and reuse that configuration. In the case of AD GPO’s, it’s one of the core configurations files I push down to the user profile, so everything is configured for the first logon.
Next to the export functionality we now can disable “Shared Folders”. In case you don’t know we have our own internal file replication service (strictly speaking not a share as such as its not driven by SMB/CIFS/NFS). Occasionally, customers don’t want any file access – this is especially true when the containerized app is a DB application and all the end users changes are written to a DB backend from the client.
Droplet Computing 1.2.3 demonstrates our commitment to pushing our containers into every nook, cranny, and platform. With the incorporation of Chromebooks to our stable of support platforms, this opens new vistas and opportunities before ourselves as a company and our customers alike. I’m confident that this will provide a firm foundation from which we can focus on ceaselessly improving the user experience and creating ever increasingly seamless integration by which legacy and modern applications co-exist in the same instance. We have demonstrated our commitment to future-proofing the Droplet Computing platform by developing our capabilities to run 64-bit instances of our containers – as well as introducing the kind of administrative controls that befit a mature technology. I’m very excited about the future of technology.
You can learn more about what we do by checking out these resources, and if anyone would like to engage with me directly to stand up a ‘proof of concept’ just reach out to me thru the usual channels.
Case Studies including our very latest with Oxford University:
Product Admin Guides and Integration Guides:
Getting Started Videos:
Well, you might have noticed my last couple of blog posts have been about this company, Droplet Computing.
I wondered if there was a bit of hint of a possible new direction for me? You’d not be wrong. I’m pleased to announce (sounds a bit grand, I’m not sure people are hanging on every one of my pronouncements!) that I’ve joined the company. I guess it’s like that old Victor Kiam ad from the 80s (70s!?!?) I liked the company so much, I decided to join. If you don’t get that referrence then you really are infuriatingly too young. Be gone with you! :-p
I first came across Droplet Computing more than a year ago when they came “out of stealth” (to use a bit of Silicon Valley-speak) at Cloud Field Day in Silicon Valley. I was immediately taken by their pluck and chutzpah. For me, it’s not just about the technology, although that plays an important part in the equation – but also the spirit of the company. What attracted me to Droplet Computing was how they were approaching the challenge of delivering applications in an entirely new, and novel way. In a crowded marketplace of server-based VDI, application sequencing and application virtualization – that is important. For a new company to stand out from the crowd and “move the needle” (more Valley-speak) you have to hit the target in three main areas.
(1) Offer the customer a net-new method of solving a problem, and net-new opportunities to take a new approach.
(2) Offer value-for-money to customers especially if you’re looking at unseating an incumbent or making sure that you win out in any vendor drag race (even more Valley speak)
(3) Offer performance improvements, whilst at the same reducing the complexity associated with server-side solutions that inevitable incurs multiple servers or virtual machines, fault-tolerant load-balancers, and high-availability solution to protect data center infrastructure.
If you been around for as long as I have – you will have heard the “any, any, any” pitch original espoused by Citrix, and then co-opted by VMware…
Droplet Computing supports Windows, Apple Mac, and Linux. This achieved by leveraging the client-side resource of the Windows PC, Apple Mac or Linux Workstation. It might not have escaped your attention but many modern laptops now have the kind of resources servers used have a decades ago. Those resources are vastly underutilized, so that platform offers great opportunities to more the workload from the MOST expensive place to run any computing activity (the data center) back to one of the most cost-effect places to run applications. There are other host devices on our radar, but for now, it’s important not to bite off more than we can chew. OR if you enjoy Valley-speak, not “boil the ocean”.
[Incidently, Droplet Computing is a UK start-up so hopefully, we will be short on Valley-speak, and long British classic understatement. 😉 ]
Here really isn’t the place for me to “pitch” Droplet Computing. All that remains to say is I’m really excited to be joining the company at such a critical point, and I know it’s going to be a great experience, mainly because I will have SO many different things to do. Initially, I will also be responsible for creating and reviewing technical documentation (Hello Grammarly!), be a liaison between the customers and development for product feedback and contributing to the overall product strategy. I’m excited to be working back in “vendorland” and moreover getting my hands dirty with technology at the coalface.
One of my first tasks will be to develop and deliver technical channel enablement program. That will mean getting to know all the partners really well, and really listening to their concerns and priorities, and help them deliver the technology to customers. I’m sure over time as we grow, my role with develop – in other words I will be asked to even more with the same amount time! :-p
Finally, I’d like to give a shout out to my former colleagues at SureSkills in Ireland. You guys are a great bunch of people and for me were a great illustration of what being in a team really means. I wish you every success in the future. 🙂
Disclaimer: I’m not paid or engaged by Droplet Computing. And I wasn’t offered any trinkets or inducements for writing this series of posts. I’m just interested in what they are doing. The CTO is a former colleague of mine from VMware, and admire anyone’s hutzpah to walk away from the corporate shekel to do their own thing.
This is going to be series of blogposts about Droplet Computing. I’m trying to eschew my usual TL:DR approach to blogging in favour of an approach that more reflects the gold-fish style attention spans that scrolling news has engendered in the population at large.
In case you don’t know, Droplet Computing does “Containers for desktops”. This is the kind of typical “company-as-sound-bite” that is used as shortcut to describe what a company does. If you want to some more technical detail check out the blogpost that will join this series.
The simple idea is delivering end-user applications for Windows, Mac and Linux in a container. This is NOT your 2006 desktop virtualization (so not “Year of VDI” narrative that vendors have being flogging like a horse deader than Mrs May’s Brexit Deal), and nor is it the application virtualization that involves “capturing” and “sequencing” applications into a special runtime (aka AppV, ThinApp and dozen other wannabees).
With Droplet Computing, applications are installed natively to an OS library held within the container, in such a way that anyone who knows how to click “Next” could build the environment.
So, the newslets are this.
No, not me. I’m not that special.
That very special person has joined Droplet Computing as non-executive director.
None other than Bill Gate’s former technical advisor. That’s who.
This is “big” for a number of reasons. It’s a vote of confidence in Droplet Computing. It’s big because Droplet Computing is tiny (I think there’s less than 15 people currently engaged – I could be wrong about this figure) So the arrival of such an industry heavy weight is relatively and cosmic significant. Adam’s the kind of figure that would convince folks being paid hefty sums working at some oil tanker corporate to do something infinitely more interesting – and riskier… But there’s something more as well. It’s about sending a message that Droplet Computing is in it for the long game. I mean who knows what the future brings, but when heavy weights like Adam join there’s something take note of…
This is what Adam has to say about himself on Linkedin…
“Technical strategist and architect with proven software delivery skills. Over 25 years’ experience with Microsoft in varied technical roles, the last 22 in its corporate headquarters in Redmond, USA, and including a 3-year stint as assistant technical advisor to Bill Gates. Led teams of over 100 people with multi-million-dollar budgets and delivered products used by 100s of millions of people around the world. Deep technical knowledge, thorough strategic thinking capabilities and extremely quick learning. Significant customer-facing work, oriented around developer strategy, working to ensure customer success and gathering feedback to improve Microsoft’s products. Presented and communicated at CxO-level, at 5 to 5000+ attendee conferences, and published books, magazines and blogs. Recently led the evolution of Microsoft’s platform strategy around Windows and its derivatives.”
This is a chap who hasn’t just management stuff. See I told you it was vote of confidence. That’s about as much as I could glean from Google aside from….
The other thing that’s nice about Adam is his natty selection of bowties. Bowties are super cool. And have been ever since Dr Who announced this that it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a bowtie.
Photo courtesy of Linkedin. Bowtie source unknown.
The 1,000 foot of this NewsLet is that they passed with flying colours. Okay, case closed… Well, not quite. The whole point of this sort of testing is to shout it out from the roof tops so folks are convinced your product is safe to use. This is especially true of Droplet Computing since their first use case is about allowing legacy applications associated with legacy operating systems to continue to run on OS’s that are still current and patched.
A couple of years ago the UK was hit by WannaCry, by a wave of WindowsXP instances that could not be protected (because Microsoft saw fit to keep the patch to themselves). Our beloved National Health Service was perhaps the most impacted, as they have a LOT of applications still in use that are too expensive to refactor and rebuild for a new OS. Sadly, the whole thing got politicised by the media and others, and the narrative became dominated by wider concerns around underfunding our NHS. The situation is somewhat more nuanced. Even if the government’s cup of money was overflowing, it would probably still be decided that to maintain the older system was the best use of resource.
Incidentally, some might say this use case is dangerous because it means Droplet Computing is chasing a diminishing market of legacy applications that will one day be so redundant they will be switched off. I think this thinking is a bit woolly. Firstly, what is current today will be legacy in 5 years’ time, and IT history has a habit of repeating itself – the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. But secondly, I could easily see customers loving Droplet Computing so much they choose to make it their de facto method for deploying new and current applications. Okay, so I know that’s a grand claim. And it remains to be seen. We will have to see if customers bite the Droplet Computing cherry.
Anyway, Droplet Computing engaged the services of NCC group to do the tests. The assessment was conducted from February 14 to February 18, 2019 on a Windows 10 laptop with two Droplet Computing containers, one containing Windows XP, with a variety of outdated software, including Office 2010, and the other with Kali Linux containing a large number of malicious tools useful for breaking out of the container. The main outcome of the report was that the container service was not accessible remotely, a huge advantage for organisations in securing enterprise applications. Here’s what NCC Group reported…
“The system being assessed allowed organizations to run existing applications within a secure containerized environment within a browser. The portability of running in a browser would allow these organizations to decommission unsupported and vulnerable operating systems in place of fully updated and supported versions, while still being able to use production software.”
Stop! Read that quote back again. Now read the bit in bold and italics again. Interesting, huh?
Droplet Computing is now using these results and working with NCC and Public Sector clients to achieve Cyber Essentials PLUS accreditation. Cyber Essentials is a UK Government-backed, industry-supported scheme to help organisations protect themselves against common online threats. The idea is make the UK the safest cyber location on the planet. Assuming some civil servant doesn’t download everyone social security details to a USB stick and leave on a commuter train to Northholt.
Admittedly, a lot of these cases are more than a decade old now. Things have moved on, except for government ministers who persist in carrying important documents of state in full view of the media.
So, a senior Microsoft guy onboard, and PEN Testing complete. Pretty handy dandy. I think Droplet Computing is finally positioning it to release their first 1.0 product, less than a year after showcasing “minimal viable product” or proof-of-concept at last year’s TechField Day when they came out of “stealth”. The PEN Testing is interesting. I figure it will be constant balancing act between providing the features customers desire, against maintain the security credentials. However, as VMware demonstrated with ESX. It helps if you can set a good baseline of security from the get-go, rather than retro-fitting it once the horse and your credit card details have bolted.
Next up, and practical and technical hands on walk thru of the product today
In a couple of weeks I’ll be heading out the States. It will be my first trip across the pond since I attended VMworld in 2016, and had brief but memorable vacation in Shenandoah region of West Virginia. I’m in the Silicon Valley/Bay Area and the guest of Ravello – who as you recall were acquired by Oracle some time ago. If your a vExpert you might interested to know that team at Oracle Ravello Free Lab Program for vExperts will continue again this coming year. I’ll be there because as their team to host Oracle Ravello Blogger Day 2018 (aka #RBD2). It’s a day long event scheduled for March 8, 2018 hosted at the Oracle Conference Center in Redwood Shores, CA. The event will be educational, so I hope to share what I learn on the day with my readers here – and I hope to able catch-up with many of my friends from the community too. As you might know Revello developed what is called the HVX hypervisor – a hypervisor designed to run in a virtual machine – which then allow other hypervisors to run with it – this “nested configuration” is something that has been popular in the world of homelabbers for sometime – but it was Revello who made it commercial available. The concept allows you to folk lift an entire vSphere environment that maybe running on a bare-metal setup – and have it run nested. I know a number of people who switched to in preference to having to maintain and operate physical environment at home. That appears to be just the start – and the company has developed the ability to do this without the VMware ESXi component.
Given the distances involved I opted to spend the week out in the area – mixing catching up friends, a little site seeing (I’ve got an idea to visit the Museum of Computing – as its one of those things I’ve never had the time to do whilst I was out there before) – as well catching up with my former colleagues from VMware. On the Tuesday I will be meeting a friend and former colleague of mine from my time in the hyper-convergence team at the VMware campus. If anyone wants to hook-up and say hi on the day – and catch-up it would be my pleasure to see you there.
My good friend, Neil Anderson has been bizzy again. He’s found the time to write a free Cisco CCNA Lab Guide. Readers can use it to pass the CCNA exam or as a configuration reference for Cisco routers and switches. There’s a few free guides online but they all cover old out of date exam topics and aren’t great quality, which I guess isn’t surprising when they’re being given away for free. So Neil wanted to produce a guide which is more complete (350+ pages), up to date, better quality and simple to use than all the paid guides out there, but which people can use completely for free. He also has put together a video course, but the PDF stands alone as a complete lab guide which could really help your audience further their careers.
The guide can be found over at this URL: http://www.flackbox.com/cisco-ccna-lab-guide
Vembu is a leading software product development that has been focussing on Backup and Disaster Recovery software for data centers over a decade. It’s flagship offering- the BDR Suite of products consists of VMBackup for VMware vSphere and Hyper-V, Disk Image backups for Physical machines, Workstations. Backing up individual files and folders to physical servers and cloud can be performed with Vembu Network Backup and Online Backup respectively.
Moreover, it has multiple flexible deployment like on-site, off-site and to the cloud through single user interface. Another offering of the Vembu BDR Suite is to be able to configure item level backups like Microsoft Exchange Servers, Sharepoint, SQL, My SQL, Office 365, G Suite etc., This latest version of Vembu BDR Suite v3.8.0 has come out with the few notable features in two major offerings- one unlimited features for three virtual machines and the second thing being able to backup unlimited virtual machines with restricted features.
The UK-based charity Aquabox (which is listed as a beneficary on the VMware Foundation) has been heavily involved with relief efforts following widespread floods in South Asia, which have killed more than 1,200 people and affected millions. The severe flooding from monsoon rains has devastated communities and destroyed crops across India, Nepal and Bangladesh, raising fears of food shortages and the risk of disease.
Since its formation in 1992, Aquabox has distributed more than 110,000 humanitarian aid boxes to countries around the world suffering from natural or man-made disasters, helping hundreds of thousands of people, and the charity has been particularly active over the past few weeks.
Within days of the floods, Aquaboxes were airlifted to those areas in dire need of support. Each Aquabox is designed for a family and contains a filter for providing safe drinking water as well as over 70 humanitarian aid items, including shelter materials and tools, blankets and sheets, cooking utensils, personal hygiene items, baby and children’s clothing, educational items and toys.
Aquabox Trustee Roger Cassidy revealed that these boxes had been held in stock in Nepal. “Sadly, the country endures disasters on a regular basis,” explained Roger. “Aquabox has long-established partnerships with Rotary Clubs in Nepal, the British Gurkha Rifles, Nepal Armed Police, Nepalese Army and other agencies, and we were able to work through these organisations to respond quickly and effectively after the floods occurred.”
Aquabox is now sending more aid to both Nepal and Bangladesh over the coming weeks to provide safe drinking water and humanitarian aid to the communities affected, but urgently needs to raise funds for these follow-up shipments and to replenish the strategic stocks held in Nepal.
If you can, please donate through the Aquabox website (www.aquabox.org), or if your company, organisation or club would like to organise a fundraising event and needs any help or advice. Of course when the time comes round again, you can always donate via the VMware Foundation too!
Aquabox is a charity affiliated to Rotary International and is based in Wirksworth, Derbyshire. Established in 1992, Aquabox has shipped over 110,000 boxes of humanitarian aid and filters to provide safe drinking water to communities affected by man-made and natural disasters in more than 50 countries around the world. The charity relies entirely on donations and fundraising to purchase the aid boxes and their contents. With over 70 volunteers and only one part-time paid administrator, the proportion of donations contributing directly to humanitarian aid is amongst the highest achievable. Aquabox received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in June 2016, in recognition of the contribution made by the charity and its volunteers and many supporters in helping those in need at times of crisis.
Vembu has released a new version of their BDR Suite (Version 3.8) with a whole host of new features – here’s a round-up!
Disk Image Backups can now be configured and managed via Vembu BDR Server. Relying on proxy agents is no longer required, unless it’s a distributed deployment which require individual proxy agent installation.
File Level Recovery(FLR) is now available for both backup and replication jobs where user can choose specific files and folders from VMware/Hyper-V/Disk Image backups and VMware replication, to be restored in a quick fashion.
Storing copy of backup data for DR requirements is now an easy task to be accomplished by seed loading backup server data to desired offsite data center. This save loads of time and bandwidth from being consumed.
Enabling Auto authorization in Vembu BDR allows proxy agents to get registered to backup server using unique registration key generated by respective BDR server.
Users can now provide additional security to their disk based backup jobs by assigning custom-password to backup server, such that all their backup data will be encrypted and can be restored/accessed only by providing the custom-password.
Storage Pools are used to aggregate the space available from different volumes and utilise them as a storage for specific backups. The hybrid volume manager of Vembu BDR Server supports scalable and extendable backup storage for different storage media such as Local drives, NAS(NFS and CIFS) and SAN(iSCSI and FC). Vembu BDR provides storage pooling option for both backup level and group level.
MSI Installer : For all Clients
Users will now get the client agents installer as .msi format also.The installer will check for the following packages based on the OS types (32 bit or 64 bit) and it will install the following (if not installed previously),
Neil Anderson has been in touch to again to let me know that he’s produced a NEW extensive guide to building a complete vSphere Lab with NetApp ONTAP 9 as the backend. So its essentially a free eBook to cover the new version. Neil is kinda tooting his own horn but he’s confident my book blows the NetApp setup guide out of the water – He’s got full step by step instructions with screenshots about how to build a fully networked two cluster lab with Windows and Linux clients. I’ve taken a quick gander and I can tell its a quality ‘product’ that might have once found a home on my old “RTFM Education” site from the good old days!
Readers can download it from Neils blog (it’s free of course) and the goal is to help people get their first hands-on look at the new OS
It’s downloadable from http://www.flackbox.com/netapp-simulator/
If you interested with connecting to Neil here’s followable (is that word now?) on twitter here: https://twitter.com/flackboxtv
VMware PowerCLI 6.5.1 was released on April 20th and it contained some significant improvements and changes! Whether you’re an occasional PowerCLI user or a power user, you’re not going to want to miss this special briefing!