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

 

 

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March 20

Problems with Windows 10 (1703) and VMware Guest Customisation

This week I decided to try and help out a fellow vExpert who was having an issue with carrying out guest customisation on a Windows10 system. I’ve not done much with Windows10. And I’m keen to expose myself new problems and issues, and I like trying to fix issues. So I offered to help. We went ALL around the houses looking at the usual suspects – DHCP, Administrator credentials, DNS and so on. Turned out it was a problem with with Windows itself. In nutshell 1703 is “bad” for VMware Admins, but 1709 is fine.

I’d not seen the problem because my lab uses 1709…. and once my fellow vExpert had ditched the 1703 build of Windows10 the problem went away. To be honest the build difference was the LAST thing I checked. I went round all the houses – looking at the usual suspects…

The problem was this – put simply – when ever guest customisation was taking place the customisation was stalling and triggering the setting of Regional Settings/Keyboard and such like. It’s worth saying that Sysprep is always been crock of poop. It’s primarily designed for OEMs who ship PCs with Windows pre-installed, and need to “depersonalise” the build ready for shipping to customer. It was never intended really for customer deploying Windows NT/XP/7/8/10 en-masse least of all Windows Server.

It is however all we have – and so we have to work within its constraints – once reason to make sure if your VDI broker (aka Horizon or XenDesktop) has their own “Sysprep” – they are MUCH more functional and 1,000 times faster to process.

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February 19

Vendorwag Reloaded: Liquidware Labs

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 13.52.00

It’s back – Vendorwag! So why the 3-year hiatus? Well, I felt whilst I was working with VMware that spending precious time working with other vendors wasn’t really very ethical. VMware employed me to promote VMware, not other vendors after all. Additionally, my first role at VMware was in the competition team – helping VMware folks handle competitive situations. It seemed a bit hypocritical in my day job, helping to defeat the competition whilst at the same time being all lovey-dovey with the same competitors here on my personal blog. Anyway, now I’m in my Adult Gap Year and a free-agent again, I felt it was finally OK to crank-up the Vendorwag. Plus I see it as a good way to keep in touch with the wider industry whilst I’m off being creative.

For those of you have been round the block for a while in the virtualization space like me, Liquidware Labs has an interesting pedigree. One of the co-founders is David Bieneman – who came to my attention when he found the VizionCore company (it went on to be acquired by Quest, and then Dell). I’ve had the pleasure of meeting David at the London VMUG – and that was in the previous decade. Yes. We are really getting that old…

Liquidware Labs positions themselves as a desktop transformation company (hence Transforming the Desktop!), and see themselves as solving the thorny problems of profile management (ProfileUnity), Application Layering (FlexApp), Monitoring and Diagnostics (Stratusphere) of existing environments in pre-transformation assessments, as well as diagnosing typical problems once the desktop transformation has gone live to users. The technology works for physical, virtual or cloud hosted desktops – as well as being compatible with the popular VMware and Citrix EUC suites.

The Vendorwag is slipping comfortably back into its original format – with an Elevator Pitch, Product Lowdown and Techknowledgy Demo strands. Each video is really intended for a different audience or character.

You can watch the videos embedded here on my blog, alternatively if you prefer you can subscribe to the Chinwag/Vendorwag podcast. If your specifically interested in the vendorwag I would recommend the videos – because they help complement the audio element substantially, and of course a demo without being able to see the screen – will stretch your powers of imagination!

Podcast Version Links:

The Elevator Pitch

The Elevator Pitch is a high-level overview of Liquidware Labs value proposition. It’s some elevator because the video runs to 30mins! That would be some skyscraper!  You can see the Elevator Pitch as the kind of video discussion you point your senior management at – for those people who aren’t concerned how the product works or indeed what it even looks like – just what it can do for the business.

J.Tyler “T. Rex” Rohrer is one of Liquidware Labs Co-Founders with a focus on strategic Alliances. Tyler Rohrer helped co-found Liquidware Labs after leaving a key role within VMware’s Enterprise Desktop Team. Previously, he was a partner at FOEDUS, which was acquired by VMware. Tyler heads up the Strategic Alliance program and is engaged in managing the company’s relationships with major platform and storage partners.

[Note: To see us in glorious TechnoColour and Panovision – make the video full-screen and make sure HD quality is selected]

The Product Lowdown

For the more ‘technically” mind the Product Lowdown talks about the product – what they can do and what their capabilities are. This video will be of interest to those who will eventually press buttons and knobs in the software, or the kind of person manages a team who will do that for them. Increasingly people are delegating tasks to others, but that can lead quickly to a “de-skilling” – or what I sometimes paraphrase as “I spend so much time doing high-level architecting, I don’t know how stuff works anymore!!!”. You know that anxiety we all have as we get older and “mature”, that our technical skills aren’t sharp as they once were. Hopefully this video will help you understand the technical challenges, advantages and disadvantages – and leave you being able to talk the talk (and be credible), even if you through with walking the walk.

JES05312011

Jason E. Smith, VP, Product Marketing. Previously an owner of Entrigue Systems, which was acquired by Liquidware Labs after its founding in 2009, Jason E. Smith currently heads the company’s Product Marketing team. In this role, he works strategically with Product Management, and focuses on go-to-market strategies for the company. Jason’s previous experience includes external strategic product and marketing consulting for Citrix, Red Hat, Scriptlogic, UltraBac Software, Internet Security Systems, and RES Software. Jason is a frequent speaker on technology trends in desktop computing. Recent speaker engagements include Citrix Synergy, VMworld, and VMware Partner Exchange, as well as numerous local CUGC and VMUG events.

[Note: To see us in glorious TechnoColour and Panovision – make the video full-screen and make sure HD quality is selected]

The Techknowledgey Demo

Like me you’re probably fine with a little theory, but all theory and no practical – can after while make you feel like you’re loosing grip with the real world. I don’t know about you – but once I have got the first principles of what technology does and how it works – I need to see it in action. That’s where the Techknowledgey Demo comes in. See the technology in action on screen, often visually illustrating the theoretical principals outlined in the Product Lowdown.

Jason Mattox, CTO is well-known in the virtualization community for his world-class knowledge and leadership in end user computing. In his role as CTO, Jason actively drives product development and product roadmaps for the company. What I personally love is the fact that Liquidware Labs selected their CTO to deliver the demo. How often does that happen now in our industry? Nowadays most C-class executives of software are so far removed from the coal-face of technology they would have to get one of their “minions” (the SE who actually does know how the product works!) to do it for them.

[Note: To see us in glorious TechnoColour and Panovision – make the video full-screen and make sure HD quality is selected]

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July 18

VMware Horizon View: A little Local Difficulty with Windows7 Error Recovery

windows-7-startup-repairLast night I softly (which sounds like was very gentle and kind to Windows) rebooted (to let Patch Tuesday do its work) my persistent Windows 7 virtual desktop (using Horizon View 5.2) and today I found I couldn’t connect to it. Why? In my View I run two of everything – two Security Servers, two Connection Servers and yes, two Windows 7 virtual desktops in case one stops working explicably. Opening the VMware Remote Console on the VM in question I discovered it was stuck in a loop attempting and failing an unwanted repair job. This is caused by the default when you get one of those ugly black screens in Windows being “Launch Start-up Repair”.

BPXHZ-OCAAEgFEi

I’ve had this happen to me a couple of times in my time of using Windows especially the more recent Windows /7/8/2012 releases which all display this functionality. 9 times out 10 the repair either is unnecessary or doesn’t work. So decide to consult the technical bible of the day – twitter – for suggestions on how to stop this ever happening again. Heck, I might even consider using in all my templates and parent VMs in linked clones.

Chris Neale of chrisneale.wordpress.com came up trumps first:

Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 15.24.23

Followed quickly by Marcus Toovey

Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 15.25.07

BCDedit is a utility for modifying what Microsoft call “Boot Configuration Data” (BCD) files provide a store that is used to describe boot applications and boot application settings. The objects and elements in the store effectively replace Boot.ini. Ahhh, boot.ini. That takes me back to when I was lowly NT4 instructor teaching RISC paths to hopeful MCSE candidates.

Whether the change should be applied to “current” or “default” is perhaps a bit moot – I imagine the default, is the current one – unless you selected a different boot option at start-up. What interested me was different settings being applied – and which was the right one. Chris quickly pointed me to a Microsoft MSDN article that summarises the differences:

Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 15.28.39

I was also interested to know what criteria triggers a Startup Repair job if one hasn’t been manually requested. I have a feeling there is some sort of intergar in the Windows registry which accrues on N number of dirty shutdowns, and then N number of dirty shutdowns has occured this triggers the repair option – perhaps regardless of whether there is anything to repair as such.

As for the settings the general verdict is to turn them all on – in a belt and braces approach to try and stop this happening again.

July 12

VMware Horizon View 5.2 Feature Pack 2 Released

I guess the blogpost title says it all. Here’s what’s new – for me the biggy is Flash URL Redirection – that’s something I used to be able to do on my ye olde MetaFrame/Presentation/XenApp Days…

  • Flash URL Redirection – Customers can now use Adobe Media Server and multicast to deliver live video events in a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. To deliver multicast live video streams within a VDI environment, the media stream should be sent directly from the media source to the endpoints, bypassing the virtual desktops. The Flash URL Redirection feature supports this capability by intercepting and redirecting the ShockWave Flash (SWF) file from the virtual desktop to the client endpoint.
  • Unity Touch improvements – You can now add a favorite application or file from a list of search results, and you can now use the Unity Touch sidebar to minimize a running application’s window. Requires users to connect to their desktops from VMware Horizon View Client for iOS 2.1 or later, or VMware Horizon View Client for Android 2.1 or later.
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June 21

Real-time VDI Management of VMware Horizon View VM’s without a Recompose

Guest Blogpost by Chas Setchell…

Centralized management of VDI vs. physical computers saves on time and resources however depending on which kind of VDI deployment you have you could be realizing even more savings. Ideally the most efficient deployment type is Non-persistent / Stateless VDI, this is when you have one or many golden master VM’s that are then shared by a VDI pool. When your VM’s are Non-persistent / Stateless the user gets a fresh VM at login and at logout the VM gets recycled.

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 15.44.43

In a Non-persistent / Stateless VMware Horizon View deployment with Composer the admin creates a base image and performs a VM snapshot that is used as the starting point for the VM’s. When patch Tuesday rolls around and the admin will boot the golden master apply the patch and take a snapshot, the admin then needs to perform a recompose that will update all existing VM’s, and depending on the urgency of the update you might need to have users log off. This process will can take 1 or more minutes per VM.

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Is there a better way?

Continue reading

June 3

EUCBook.com Free Chapter and 3-Month Eval of Bitdefender

I’ve been doing some updates to Chapter 23 of the eucbook – which I released with my co-author, Barry Coombs last year. The updates are ones that are centered around Chapter 13 which concerns the use of VMware’s vShield End-point solution. In case you don’t know this uses a management appliance (vShield Manager) together with 3rd party vendor (in my case Bitdefender) to offload the payload of AV protection away from your virtual desktops. Bitdefender has recently restructured their offering into what is called “GravityZone” which allows for protection of not just virtuals but physicals from their Control Center – interestingly it also supports the protection of mobile devices too.

Bitdefender GravityZone is the first security management solution to properly address the scalability and performance challenges that enterprises are facing today. Built from the ground up for heterogeneous environments, and using a unique design approach, GravityZone unifies control for virtualized, physical, and mobile endpoints. Organizations have the flexibility to deploy any or all of the three security services within GravityZone: Security for Virtualized Environments, Security for Endpoints, and Security for Mobile Devices.

Optimizing security management for the realities of cloud computing, virtualization, or BYOD is possible through innovation. The GravityZone approach provides organizations with a range of benefits including improved operations, simplified security workflows, increased performance, and reduced administrative efforts and costs. These are achieved through:

  • Accelerated deployment by simply importing a virtual appliance
  • Massive scalability – from the smallest to the largest installation, without performance issues
  • Integration with Microsoft Active Directory, VMware vCenter, and Citrix XenServer for simplified deployment of physical and virtual endpoints
  • Unified administration that eliminates point solutions and reduces administrative efforts

I figured there were enough changes to warrant spending my weekends updating the content.

Anyway, I’m free say that this chapter is now FREE to download (so no need to purchase the book). In conjunction with this promotion, Bitdefender have very kindly offered an extended 3-month evaluation for those in the community who want a chance to kick the tires of Endpoint – remember its now part and parcel of the vSphere release. I have 50 of these promotions available – and the first 50 qualify for PSO support.

GZ_3 months free_ML

 

September 13

The EUC Book – Paper Back Edition


It’s my very great pleasure to announce the general availability of the “Building End-User Solutions with VMware View” book is now available in hard-copy (paperback). To be honest it was a bit of trial getting there in the end, because for the first time I had issues with getting the PDF processed by LULU. I took 4 attempts at submitting our PDF, and each time it got bounced out of their system because of an issue. It took sometime to get to the bottom of the problem – but it turned out it was associated with a problem with both the file size and fonts. Yes, fonts. You’d think any PDF would be printable because its an encapsulated format – unlike say a Word .doc file which needs supporting “font” files to render the document for printing. According to our print the appearance of some Wingding3 Font types was the source of the problem!

Anyway, the whole business was wrapped up just before I left for Palo Alto a couple of weeks ago, and our sample copies of the hard-copy arrived whilst I was at VMworld. It was a bit of disappoint not have a hard-copy at the bookstore at VMworld. With that said it was more of a “physiological” thing. We would have probably only supplied about 50 books which would have raised about $500 for UNICEF. In the grand scheme of things we sell more online than we would at a conference. But it would have been nice to see it up there on the standards amongst my fellow authors!

The next step for us is sorting out a listing on Amazon – that means acquiring a ISBN for the book, and paying a small fee to LULU for handling the process for us. After that there is an opportunity to get the book listed on http://www.safaribooksonline.com/

For now the PDF and hard copy are now available. There’s two URLs.

Building End-User Computing with VMware View (PDF)

Building End-User Computing with VMware View (Hard Copy)

 

 

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