August 1

Hello Droplet Computing

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. 🙂

Category: Announcements | Comments Off on Hello Droplet Computing
April 11

Droplet Computing: Drops Some NewsLets

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.

A Special Person joins Droplet Computing

No, not me. I’m not that special.

That very special person has joined Droplet Computing as non-executive director.

Who?

Adam Denning.

Who’s he?

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.

 

Droplet Computing Security Testing

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.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/oct/28/terrorism-security-secret-documents

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/government-staff-lost-more-than-600-laptops-phones-and-usbs-in-last-four-years_uk

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7449927.stm

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.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8731143/Minister-accidentally-reveals-Afghanistan-documents.html

Summary

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

 

 

Category: Announcements, Droplet Computing, TechFieldDays, View/EUC | Comments Off on Droplet Computing: Drops Some NewsLets
February 19

Lalala… America… Lalala… America

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.

Category: Announcements | Comments Off on Lalala… America… Lalala… America
October 17

Free Cisco CCNA Lab Guide (neil@flackbox.com)

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

Category: Announcements | Comments Off on Free Cisco CCNA Lab Guide (neil@flackbox.com)
October 13

A word from my sponsor… Vembu

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.

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September 3

VMware Foundation Update: Aquabox responds to flooding in South Asia

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!

About Aquabox:

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.

Category: Announcements | Comments Off on VMware Foundation Update: Aquabox responds to flooding in South Asia
August 3

Vembu BDR Suite v3.8: What’s New?

 

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 Backup from BDR Server

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.

FLR from GUI (Backup & Replication)

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.

Seed load backup data to OffsiteDR

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.

Auto Authorization

Enabling Auto authorization in Vembu BDR allows proxy agents to get registered to backup server using unique registration key generated by respective BDR server.

Encryption Settings

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 Pooling

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),

  • Visual C++ 2008 redistributable packages x86
  • Visual C++ 2008 redistributable packages x64
  • Visual C++ 2013 redistributable packages x64
  • Visual C++ 2015 redistributable packages x86

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Category: Announcements | Comments Off on Vembu BDR Suite v3.8: What’s New?
June 16

Updated: Check out Neil Anderson’s (@flackboxtv) “How to Build a NetApp ONTAP 9 Lab

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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

Category: Announcements | Comments Off on Updated: Check out Neil Anderson’s (@flackboxtv) “How to Build a NetApp ONTAP 9 Lab
May 8

VMware {code} Briefing: What’s New with VMware PowerCLI 6.5.1

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!

https://blogs.vmware.com/code/2017/05/05/vmware-code-briefing-whats-new-vmware-powercli-6-5-1/

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April 10

What Next?

So I’m back from my family holiday in Wales with my Mum and Big Brother (no relation to George Orwell). And my thoughts have been turning to what I do next with my time, now that my grown-up gap year feels properly over. I’m not the kind of person who likes to sit on my big fat butt waiting for opportunities to wash up on my shore. So I’ve been thinking about what I can do to ease my way back into the world of work, after my time way. I guess this is always a concern or anxiety that anyone would have during time away from gainful employment. So it’s not just finances that stop people from taking time out from work, as well as those other commitments – mortgage and family usually!

For some months I’ve been volunteering in my local area. Volunteering is a great way to give back to wider society whilst giving your week a focus, not least getting you out and about in the big wide world. I currently volunteer at Derby Museum as well as a local National Trust site called Eyam Hall. I’ve been asked by some what this work is like. The work at the museum started by supporting their recent exhibition on the History of Children’s TV. That was a fun exhibition as we got all age groups coming through, and it really was a little snapshot of how British Culture has changed. My role there as a “Volunteer Ambassador” was just to meet and greet people, and ideally engage with them about the exhibits. It makes such a difference to persons visit- to have a chat with someone, rather than walking through silently through a gallery speaking to no-one. Eyam Hall on the other hand is different kettle of fish. It’s a National Trust property and built around the 16th Century in a village that cut itself off from the world when the plague hit the country. The NT’s approach is to let people wonder and discover, and not ‘impose’ an interpretation on visitors – but its great when folks do ask questions as that means I get the chance to do my best Lucy Worsley impersonation!  My last piece of volunteer work is for local charity called Aquabox. My role there is more work-from-home – in finding new source for fund-raising. So far I’ve managed to get Aquabox listed on the VMware Foundation (and I’m on the look out for other corporate style foundations to add to the list) and applying to official bodies like UK-AID. Anyway, the moral is simple one. If you seeking new employment after being out of the circuit for a while – get volunteering. There are no shortage of areas or opportunities. When I do find employment again – I will probably reduce the time I spend volunteering and move them to the weekend. If you are an employee of big company remember lots of these business now have programs that encourage you taking ‘service hours’ to help good causes. For instance VMware calls this “Service Learning” – http://www.vmware.com/company/foundation.html For the moment – my plan is to ring-fence Thursday and Friday as my volunteering days (these are always times when there is a shortage of people), and use the remainder of the week doing something more IT related.

So one questions I’ve been asking myself is what do on the technical front. Things have moved on since I’ve been away, but they also moved on whilst I was at VMware. If you have a full-time job with a large software vendor – it’s full-time job just keeping up to date with your own responsibilities, never mind peaking over the cube to look at what the rest of the company is doing. So there question has been – do I throw myself in learning more VMware stuff and refreshing existing knowledge OR do I branch out and do something totally different give myself an entirely virgin field to explore? I mean I don’t want to lose my connections with VMware because that’s been such an important technology and company to me in the last 14 years (2003 is when I opened my first VMTN communities account!). But if I’m going to learning its important to learn some brand new to me. The other consideration as well as ever to someone who is on their own and learning without the backing of an employer is what pre-reqs (physical, virtual, software, knowledge) are needed. Do you play to strengths or try to plug gaps in your knowledge that may not be your strengths?

One thing I’ve noticed in the community is significant rise in folks working towards the AWS Certifications. I guess that’s testament to Amazon’s dominance in the Public Cloud space, but also reflects that fact that many in the enterprise world are users of VMware on-premises and Amazon in the off-premises (is that actually word? it feels so odd to type it!). The other interesting thing to me that happened last year – was the collaboration between VMware and Amazon that was announced last year (http://www.vmware.com/cloud-services/vmware-cloud-aws.html) This is currently in a techpreview format, and I think it’s an interesting pivot. There have been lots of different partnerships of this ilk over the years – but I do think this one is significant. The appeal to me is the possibility of cross-over of skills. As we all know find someone who is equally strong in two areas is tricky – and being someone who can comfortable talk about VMware and Amazon with equal authority could be an interest area.

Right now my knowledge of Amazon is pretty thin. Like many I had an account for testing purposes usually of things like VMware vRealise Automation, but also test products that leverage AWS as it related to VMware technologies Revello (now owned by Oracle) and Velostrata. On the plus side, as recent vExpert I have as benefit access to PluralSight’s library of courses. So plan is to use my Mon/Tue/Wed to work through these course, and maybe do the exams associated with Amazon certification. I don’t suspect that this will lead or even relate directly to finding a new role – but what’s important to me is getting my “IT Brain” moving again. The other thought I had is that learning something new will inspire some blogging on my part as well, and that blogging will help (re)build my presence in the community. But also In the spirit of –  learning something new can never hurt….

Category: Amazon, Announcements | Comments Off on What Next?